For a moment, silence greeted Fumiko’s knock. Well, near silence: I knew my dad was in the room, because I could hear him breathing and his heart beating and a distant shuffle of shoes on carpet and a handful of other tiny noises that I just couldn’t place. Then, after that moment, we both heard him call “Who is it?” faintly from somewhere in the room on the other side of the door.
“Fumiko and Abby, Sir,” Fumiko called back through.
Again there was a brief pause, and then the door clicked open — just a hair. “Well, hurry up; come in,” my dad said. I was confused, because I hadn’t heard him approach the door and it still sounded like he was on the far side of the room. I didn’t hear anyone else in their, either.
Fumiko glanced at me — I could tell that even without super human senses she’d picked up on something odd — then turned forward and pushed the door open. She entered the room first, and I followed close behind her.
The lights were on, but I couldn’t see much with Fumiko in front of me. Dad wasn’t at the door, though. When I stepped through I could see that he’d duct taped the handle down and tied a cord around it so he could tug the door open without being near it.
“That’s far enough,” dad said before we could come any further into the room. We were in a little mini-hallway between the door and the hotel room proper, just long enough to match the width of the little bathroom on our left. “Go ahead and close the door behind you,” Dad added. “I think we’ll want our privacy for this.”
I pushed the door shut. Then, because I’m me, I shredded the tape over the handle like it was tissue paper so the door would properly latch. I barely refrained from turning to flip the dead bolt, too — but since Dad was pretty clearly spooked if he was trying to keep his distance from us, that would’ve probably been a bad idea.
“Sir,” Fumiko said cautiously, but Dad interrupted her.
“No,” he said. “First of all, I know I’ve told my daughter’s friends to call me Will. Second: I want to talk to Abigail, Fumiko. So you should just back up and let her forward.”
Fumiko swallowed and took a step back and to the side. I got my first look at Dad since we’d arrived.
He was standing at the far end of the room, by the windows and directly opposite of us. His face was drawn with exhaustion: for the first time, I thought he actually looked old. He looked at me unflinchingly, but I knew he was upset. The last time I’d seen Dad wear a poker face it had been at grandma’s funeral.
He’d pulled the hotel room’s table away from the wall and arranged it as a sort of barricade between us. He was also holding a gun in a two handed grip. It was pointed down, and I could see that the saftey was engaged and his finger wasn’t on the trigger — but I’d seen Dad in the practice range and I knew how quickly that could change. He used to tell me, when I was a little girl, that no one you would ever want to use a gun on would give you a warning they were coming if they could help it — and so he’d drilled on drawing, aiming, and firing down the range. I used to watch him, wide-eyed, and think he was like a wild west gunslinger.
Now I just thought Fumiko was smart for stepping to the side where she could dive into the bathroom for cover. Mostly because I didn’t want to think about the fact that my dad was worried enough about his safety that he’d arranged to meet me with a gun in his hands.
“Hi daddy,” I said, and my voice cracked. I thought I was about to start crying.
“Abby,” Dad breathed out. His expression softened and I thought he might start to cry, too. But he visibly steeled himself. “Alright,” he said with forced gruffness. “Fumiko says I have to see you to believe whatever it is you’re going to say — but I know what I saw at noon. It doesn’t make sense and I don’t want to believe it, but I know what I saw. So, show me something. Prove that I’m wrong.” The last was a plea.
I shook my head. “I don’t think you are,” I said. “If you saw everything I thought you did… I’m dead, Dad. Undead. I’m a vampire.”
Dad swallowed. His arms trembled so slightly I never would have noticed if not for my enhanced senses.
I looked up at him. “But I’m still me!” I protested desperately. “I’m still your little girl, I swear. Please, Dad, you have to believe me…”
“You struck your mom,” he said and I could hear his resolve hardening. “My daughter would never behave like that.”
I couldn’t help myself. I started to cry.
Fumiko shot Dad a glare and immediately stepped back beside me, her arms wrapping around my shoulders. I probably should have appreciated the hug, but it barely even registered. “I’m sorry,” I babbled. “I’m so sorry. It was the sun. And the stress, and everything eating into my reserves. I’m me, Dad, I swear, but I’m a monster too, I’m a monster.” I sobbed. “Oh god, I’m a monster.”
Fumiko cradled my head with one arm, turning me toward her. I clung to her and let her pull me close for comfort while I broke down. She spoke to Dad in my stead.
“She’s still who she always was, Will,” Fumiko said sharply. “As long as she’s recently fed and isn’t being beset by others, Abby has the vampire side under control. She’s herself. Her normal, living self. It’s only when she’s being bullied, or starved, or burned by the sun that her self-control slips. I was there when Helen called, you know. I heard Abby trying to explain that she couldn’t go out. I watched her break down over it because Helen wouldn’t take no for an answer. So tell me: does that sound like your daughter?”
Through my tears I could see Dad’s expression slip — just a little. I turned away and buried my face against Fumiko’s shoulder. Being beset and bullied by mom — that did sound like me, and I’d seen the look that passed through Dad’s eyes as he tried and failed to deny it, and I didn’t want to see more. He’d looked so disappointed and it had to be with me: I’d been too much of a wimp to stand up to Mom, even though caving had put her in danger.
Oh, god: I’d hit my mom. I’d almost killed my girlfriend, and she might still die. And now I scared my dad so much that he felt like he had to have a gun in his hand and me in a kill zone just so we could talk.
I felt a wave of lethargy wash over me. It rose up, flowing after my despair and joining my body’s insistence that I give up and collapse for the day. And this time, I couldn’t fight the impulse off. The willpower I’d been using to hold my dormancy at bay drained out of me. I felt numb, then cold. I sagged against Fumiko, and my last sob came out with a dry gurgle.
And then I lost track of Dad because I wasn’t looking out my eyes anymore. Like the last time I’d gone dormant, I’d entered some sort of semi-omniscient out-of-body state. I could ‘see’ in all directions — but the range was short and I couldn’t ‘see’ out of that bubble. So I saw Fumiko’s expression change when she realized something was wrong, heard her call my name — saw her lay my corpse down so I was sitting against the wall.
This time my awareness seemed larger than before, so I did hear my dad’s cry of anguish after he started toward us, and saw him slap the gun down on the corner of the bed while scrambling forward, past his barricade and to my side.
“She’s dead,” Fumiko said. She sounded stunned. She hadn’t ever seen me dead before.
Dad ignored her. He was already checking my pulse in my neck. Then he laid me out flat on the floor. “Call an ambulance,” He told Fumiko. His voice was crisp and devoid of emotion — it was his own autopilot, something he’d explained to me once without actually calling it an autopilot. He would disengage emotionally so he wouldn’t be distracted by the horror of the trauma that came into the ER; disengage so he wouldn’t hesitate to do whatever he could to save his patient.
In this case, that patient just happened to be me.
Fumiko didn’t reply, but Dad wasn’t paying attention to her. Instead he produced a disposable rescue mask from his pocket. He stripped it out of its sealed pouch and fixed it over my face, then flipped open my cloak and prepared to do CPR. It wasn’t like you see in TV, where someone does a few compressions, then a couple breaths, then a few compressions and then whoever it was miraculously gasps and wakes up. Actually, Dad hated when that happened on TV because it was bullshit. Thumping someone’s chest a couple times wasn’t going to do much — and it particularly pissed him off that none of the other bystanders on TV ever seemed to think to call emergency services.
And that was what CPR was really for — to keep someone alive until more capable or better-equipped help arrived. It wasn’t a miracle cure in and of its self, but it was pretty damn impressive for what it did do. Dad performed thirty compressions in less than half a minute. Then two ventilations through the pocket mask, and then he was back onto the next thirty compressions.
“I said call an ambulance,” Dad called to Fumiko more firmly while he worked his way through those. I couldn’t feel them — I couldn’t feel anything from my perspective as a floating, disembodied entity. I was surprisingly okay with that, though: as before, a profound tranquility had fallen over me when I’d gone dormant.
Fumiko still didn’t reply. She wasn’t done blinking away her shock. She didn’t even move again until Dad got ready to start the second round of rescue breathing. Then she interrupted him.
“That won’t help,” Fumiko said softly. Dad performed the ventilations anyway. “Sir, that won’t help. She died days ago, Will.”
Dad froze in the midst of the third round of compressions. He turned to stare at Fumiko. He seemed to sag. “This is… this is normal?” He asked, and his voice sounded broken with confusion, grief and hope. Or maybe just desperate for solace but unbelieving of what was offered.
Fumiko nodded fervently. “It happened yesterday, too. She told me about it. She would have awoken again at sunset, but Hans revived her early with some of his blood.” Fumiko knelt beside my dad and took hold of his shoulders. “She isn’t gone, sir,” Fumiko said. “She’s just ‘dormant’ because the sun is out.”
Dad swallowed, but nodded. “Because she’s a vampire,” he said. He looked down at me, then pulled my corpse up into his lap. Almost reluctantly he pulled off the rescue mask. “Oh god, my little girl. What was done to you?” Dad swallowed again, then looked up at Fumiko. “Should we… if we give her some blood, will she wake up?”
Fumiko fidgeted anxiously. I knew she wasn’t keen on the whole being a blood donor thing. But she was still an honest soul. “I think so,” she said. “But I don’t think we should. From everything she’s told me, her curse is particularly voracious. It could take a lot more out of us than we intended to give, which would mess up our auras or souls or something… and with all the supernatural forces arrayed against us right now, that would put us at a huge disadvantage if we were caught out. I think we just have to wait until she wakes up on her own.”
Dad didn’t argue. He just bowed to Fumiko’s decision and turned his attention back down to me. He closed my corpse’s eyes and brushed some hair from my face — which promptly bounced back out of place. “What happened?” Dad asked. This time he didn’t look up from my dead body. “The best I could guess was that one of her other friend’s — Megan’s — paramours turned out to be a vampire. He turned her, but then your boss — the one who went ‘crazy’ — caught on to it. But he didn’t catch on fast enough, or didn’t believe it soon enough, to save my little girl from being turned by Megan — or whoever turned Megan, whichever.” Dad’s breathing had become slow and ragged. His poker face was rapidly slipping now that there was nothing for him to do. “So their boss, Salvatore, tried to kill them by burning down Abby’s apartment with them inside, but they escaped. I have to assume he’s in hiding or they… killed him.” He swallowed. “In self-defense,” he added insistently. “I don’t care if she is a vampire: if he tried to kill her and she had to kill him, it was justified.” He gulped down a sob before it could work free. Then he looked up at Fumiko once more. “But I know that’s all conjecture,” he said. The mask was back, but this time — even in the tranquility of dormancy — there was something chilling about it. “So tell me what really happened. Tell me who did this to my baby girl.”