Two: a Rite of Passage
I closed my eyes, but not before I saw the crinkled lines of Billy’s eyelids closed over his own. In his hands he held my left wrist and raised it to meet his descending lips. At first, I thought he had merely kissed me. But then the whirlwind rode my very veins.
Shooting through my bloodstream like the pre-coital fuzz of aggravated, anticipative nerve-endings my forearm tingled. Whatever the vampiric equivalent of orgasm is, I felt Billy have it as his knees buckled. A sweet smile kissed the corners of his closed eyes…and he drank.
A pleasant numbness froze my elbow and shoulders, before spreading across my whole, damp frame. If it was his choice to take my soul there and then and leave my carcass a withered husk, then so be it. I neither had the power nor the will to stop him.
And then he broke free. In the same way that I never felt the puncture wound of his fangs into my limp wrist, neither did I feel their exit.
My head was all full of Anne Rice. I was still alive, which meant Billy did not mean to kill me. So now, I guessed it was my turn. I should drink from him, as Louis had done from his maker, Lestat. But no. One look told me “No!” and I closed my gaping mouth. The tip of my tongue ran over my canines; the only difference therein was a tiny bristle that protruded from otherwise flattened points, as they had always been. I was confused.
We left my brother behind, still restless (he would have more to worry about later than he could ever imagine as he lay there in disturbed half-sleep) and descending the attic ladder. Billy held his powerful arm across my chest as my step-mother, strangely translucent and glowing white as mortals would paint a ghost in their fairy stories, carried a washing basket into the bath room at the top of the stairs. The large bare bricks of the house, of ancient construction, shone through the latter-day plaster and paint and wallpaper that hid their raw beauty. My world was still there but lost against an altogether more Victorian backdrop.
And so it was as we stepped out onto the street. What greeted us stunned me.
The time was most definitely midnight in the room we had just left, but the world into which we stepped, me for the first time into what would now be mine forever, was either dusk or dawn, I could not decipher which. And the streets were thronged with all manner of being. Mostly human to behold, but you would never have guessed without the benefit of the knowledge with which Billy had recently endowed me.
Before us, a vermin-faced urchin, reminding me of both Peter Faulk and Moe Szyslak in the same instant, turned in our direction. He smiled. Directly at me. Rather than be repulsed – which was the reaction I even anticipated myself – I smiled back a huge, genuinely warm grin. He flicked a one-fingered salute off his temple as if to say “Welcome, brother!” And that’s exactly what I felt. Welcomed into this world. This was my old, glossed-over world, only now I could see the bare brick of it all, as if my new eyesight stripped away all of the fancy trimmings, showing people and places as they truly were.
I looked up at Billy, eyes full of questions: Was this all there was to it? Was I now part of this scruffy, beautiful world?
His head dipped toward my wrist and I knew that it was not. Not yet.
What Billy had given to me in return for my blood, blood for which he had waited for such a long time, year after year as I remembered now the encounters in our past, was a Rite of Passage. That I could walk these streets with fear of neither reprisal nor attack was his gift. I had not let him down when his time had come to take what he had subconsciously promised he would, but my real test, the qualificant into this existence, lay ahead.
I took one last look and then the street disappeared – I know not to where – but I next came to in an altogether more eerie place, far removed from whence last I held consciousness. Columns that looked to be made of charcoal we passed as the setting sun – yes, I now guessed that we had walked in twilight and not the sunrise – cast their long shadows into the darkness ahead. Was that where we were headed? Of course it was.
My test – and destiny – lay ahead. Do or die. Even then, I knew not which I had the stomach for. I was very soon to find out.