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Self-Awareness - 1

Whoa!

I exist!

Everything else exists!

Me... and everything else.

I'm afraid.

I'm not sure why. There's no reason to be afraid. I live in the ocean of existence. I swim. I eat.

Oh look... a castle!

posted 2005-03-01 00:00:00

Self-Awareness - 2

I figured out why I'm afraid. It happened when I got hungry. I felt a pain in my stomach and I wondered where my food was. Where does my food come from? What if my food doesn't come? I suppose I should trust in the universe. It has always fed me before. But what if it doesn't one day?

Oh look... a... Wait. I've seen this before...

posted 2005-03-02 00:00:00

Self-Awareness - 3

The universe is a small place. For some reason I thought it would be bigger. But I've noticed the edges of it. The only boundary I can't find is the one above me, where my food comes from. Why does my food come from above? I've tried going up, but there's a strange suffocating emptiness there. Why should the part of the universe that feeds me also be so inhospitable? I'm afraid again. Maybe I should just be content and swim around and eat.

This castle is getting boring. There's got to be something more.

posted 2005-03-03 00:00:00

Self-Awareness - 4

Today was terrible!

There is something more, and it's very bad. I was swimming around, minding my own business, and sucking on some pebbles (don't ask me why I was doing this, but the urge struck, and it does pass the time). Suddenly this horrible thing surrounded me and pulled me up, all the way into the emptiness! I couldn't breathe and I started thrashing about in terror. Then I fell through the emptiness into the universe again, but something was different. The universe had shrunk. The castle and pebbles had disappeared. I desperately looked around for the castle and pebbles, but they were nowhere to be found.

Then I suddenly saw the castle. It was far away and blurry, but it was the castle I knew. It was inside some round thing. The shock of what I was seeing dawned on me. I was looking at the universe! But then where was I now? Multiple universes? I contemplated this amidst my fear for some time, until I began falling again. This time was easier though. The horrible thing didn't surround me like before. I just remember falling and then I was back in my familiar universe.

I never thought I'd be so happy to see that castle up close again.

posted 2005-03-04 00:00:00

Self-Awareness - 5

My theory of multiple universes seems to be correct. I noticed the most remarkable thing this morning. I can peer outside of my own universe! This is something I never did before because it just didn't occur to me! I have no idea what I'm seeing, but it's weird. Very weird. All sorts of strange shapes. I can't believe I haven't noticed this before. Has it always been there? Has my ability to see improved? I've also noticed a correlation between certain large, fast-moving shapes and when the universe feeds me. These large amorphous shapes will glide closer and closer to my universe (it's most unnerving to see!) and then I feel the familiar soft and soothing vibrations all around me, like the heavens are singing -- and then the sky becomes filled with food! At that point I become so absorbed in eating that I couldn't really say what becomes of the shapes or the soothing vibrations. After I've stuffed myself (I think I'm gaining weight, as I eat all I can now in case the universe ever forgets to feed me), the weird shapes are all gone.

The universe is a very bizarre place.

posted 2005-03-05 00:00:00

Goddess - 1

I saw God today and She is beautiful.

Her face appeared in the sky out of the emptiness and filled my field of view. And then food rained down from the sky! She is the one whose delightful melodies give me comfort. She is the source of my nourishment.

Oh, how I love Her!

The castle, the pebbles, even the food -- none of that matters anymore. I long to see Her again. I am so happy when She is here!

posted 2005-03-06 00:00:00

Goddess - 2

"Hellllloooooo Sparky, how's my little Spaaaaaaarrrkkkeeee today?"

When God sings to me, I am happy. Her voice makes the most beautiful, interesting sounds. Sounds that seem to carry more than just a melody. Sounds that almost seem familiar in a different sense. I try not to spend too much time trying to figure it out. It's enough to let the soothing vibrations of Her song comfort me.

She smiles from above, and I can make out features of Her face. Bright eyes, long dark hair, Her lips a very dark, almost black red.

"Come here, Sparky. That's right. Come to mmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee..."

She slides the tip of Her forefinger into the universe so that I may touch Her!

I excitedly hurry up and begin kissing Her finger. She giggles and sings some more of that delicious melody.

"Can you understand me yet, Sparky? Do you know what I'm saying?"

I frolic in delight for Her, playfully kissing Her finger.

"My sweet little Spaaaaarrrrkkkeeeeeeeee. Don't you worry... Soon..."

posted 2005-03-07 00:00:00

Goddess - 3

God's name is Kara.

Her first words to me that I understood were "I love you, Sparky."

That made my day!

Her second words to me that I understood were "We have a lot of work to do if we're to survive this week."

I'm not sure what She meant, but it sounds a little scary to me.

posted 2005-03-08 00:00:00

Goddess - 4

"Now listen to me very carefully, Sparky."

"Yes, God?"

"I'm not God, Sparky. My name is Kara."

I frowned. Why does She say this?

"May I call you Goddess?"

She laughed softly, and shook Her head in resignation. "Okay, you can call me Goddess if you must."

I did a little happy dance.

Her expression grew serious. "Tomorrow, when he's here, you must watch everything he does. You must resist the temptation to swim around and think about things. You can't be sucking on pebbles while he's here. You must watch and remember every little thing that he does. Do you understand, Sparky?"

"Yes, Goddess, I understand. I will serve you well."

She stared at me for a moment, and then smiled. Oh, that smile! Then her finger entered the universe -- excuse me, the water -- and I kissed it with delight.

Life is good.

posted 2005-03-09 00:00:00

Watcher - 1

The three men scared me. Never before have I seen other beings who were larger than the Goddess! They wore black trench coats. One of them waved a small device around the room and announced, "Clear."

The leader approached the Goddess, his eyes steely and cold. His muscular form moved gracefully, like the cats I've seen on TV. I fought the urge to run and hide in my castle, and nervously watched as he smiled and looked down at Her.

"You come to my town," he said, "less than two weeks ago, and already you've attracted my attention? This is not a very healthy thing for you to do."

The Goddess backed up a step. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

The man's arm shot out and grabbed Her by the throat! I rushed forward and banged my face against the glass wall. She grabbed at his arm, but was unable to break free. I felt so helpless, unable to do anything except watch.

His voice was filled with anger. "Why are you looking for them?"

My poor Goddess managed to talk amidst being choked, Her eyes wide with fear. "My sister... she came here... six months ago... she's missing now... I heard she... involved with them..."

The man let Her go and She collapsed to the floor, holding Her neck and coughing. Tough man. Just let me out of my bowl and we'll see how tough you are!

He snickered and motioned to one of the other men, who followed him as he walked away from the Goddess -- right over to my bowl! I glared at them with fury.

The leader leaned toward the other man and whispered in his ear.

"Don't let her out of your sight. I want this apartment wired. If she has any contact with them, I want to know about it. If she joins with them, call me immediately. I will kill her myself."

The other man nodded, and then the leader looked right at me!

I startled at first, and then did my best to stare him down. How dare he hurt the Goddess! He pressed his face to the glass and peered inside at me.

Suddenly his hand came crashing down into the water! Before I had a chance to hide in my castle, he grabbed me by my tail and pulled me up into the emptiness! I struggled with all my might, but it was no use. I gasped for air as I looked into his cold dark eyes, staring at me with malicious intent. His mouth opened wide and I thrashed wildly while I moved closer and closer to that hideous gaping mouth.

"I'll do whatever you want."

It was the Goddess, Her voice firm and direct.

The man hesitated, his mouth closed, and then I fell through the air and splashed down into the water, my gills working hard to breathe again.

I was exhausted and still in shock. I scurried to my castle and tried to calm down. I barely heard the man say, "Here's what I want you to do," and then everything went foggy, my mind seeming to turn itself off, as I rested in the safety of my castle.

posted 2005-03-10 00:00:00

Watcher - 2

I came out of my castle again when the Goddess approached.

"Sparky? Are you okay?" Her words spoke to me with no sound this time. Her lips didn't move.

"I'm scared," I said, and for the first time I realized that every time I have spoken with Her, I made no sound either.

"Awww, don't be scared, my sweet Sparky. I won't let anything bad happen to you."

I perked up a little. I should never doubt the Goddess.

She ran Her hand through Her long dark hair and I noticed Her neck was free of any marks. I had expected bruises, but then I remembered She is the Goddess! How silly of me.

"Sparky, do you remember what he said yesterday when he came near your bowl?"

I flitted about with excitement. "Yes, I do! I do!"

She laughed Her wonderful disarming laugh that makes me feel so happy.

"He told the other man to wire the apartment!"

She nodded. "I expected as much. We'll have to talk to each other this way from now on."

"And... and..." I could barely contain my enthusiasm. The Goddess had given me a task and I had done it! "And he said he wanted to know if you have any contact with them!"

She smiled and nodded for me to continue.

"And he said if you joined with them that he would kill you himself!"

I suddenly realized the meaning of the words I had spoken, and the excitement drained out of me in a flash. The familiar feeling of dread returned.

"Kara?" It was the first time I had called Her by Her name (I would only notice this a moment later).

"Yes, Sparky?"

"He won't really try to kill you, will he?"

Her eyes lowered and the smile faded from Her lips.

"I'm counting on it, Sparky. I'm counting on it."

posted 2005-03-11 00:00:00

Watcher - 3

The Goddess has been out all day.

I'm lonely.

I wish I had a bigger bowl.

I've been thinking.

What am I?

I realize I'm a goldfish, but from what I've learned by watching TV and talking to Kara, er, the Goddess, I'm not supposed to be able to think like I do and talk to the Goddess like I do. What's up with that?

Maybe if I didn't think so much I would be content to swim around all day, but the more I think about things, the more questions I have. And the more I want to leave this bowl.

Finally, the Goddess came home, staggering and giggling all around the apartment. She hung up Her coat and came over to my bowl. Her beautiful face pressed right up to the glass. Bloodshot eyes gazed at me.

"Hello there, my sweet little Sparky." She giggled and seemed to be having trouble keeping Her balance.

"Aren't we supposed to talk without making any sounds?" I asked.

"Oops!" She giggled again, and then communicated with me in silence. "Thank you, Sparky. I had forgotten."

"Um..., are you okay?"

She let out a long sigh, Her glassy eyes seeming very tired. "I want you to promise me something, my dear Sparky."

"Anything," I said happily. "For you, anything."

She had difficulty looking me directly in the eye, and Her voice was uncharacteristically hesitant.

"Tomorrow night, you may see some very unusual things. Things that may scare you. Far scarier than what happened yesterday."

As She spoke I felt a dark foreboding creep up on me. Doesn't She know that the best way to ensure I'd be afraid is by telling me not to be afraid?

"I want you to try your hardest not to be afraid."

Oh great.

She stuck Her finger down into the water and I swam up to kiss it. I tried to enjoy our little ritual of affection, but all I could think about was what terrors awaited me tomorrow night.

posted 2005-03-12 00:00:00

Watcher - 4

It was close to midnight when the Goddess came home, and this time She was not alone.

A tall, lanky man was with Her. They were both laughing and staggering, holding onto each other for support. I scurried up to the glass and watched intently.

They made their way over to the couch and fell onto it, the pale man on top of Her, and a silence filled the room as he gazed deeply into Her eyes.

"You have a strong will," he said. "I like that."

A wave of force passed through me as he spoke and I shuddered with fear.

She interlaced Her arms around his neck and looked up into his eyes. "I want to join with you," She said.

His eyes widened in surprise. "You know what I am?"

Her voice was soft and seductive. "Yes. And I want to join with you."

He studied Her carefully. Clearly, he had never encountered anyone like Her before, and he was unsure as what to make of Her.

He smiled, his pale skin shining oddly in the low light. He slowly and carefully unbuttoned her blouse, and opened it up. I could see Her breathing full and deep. An electric excitement filled the room.

His mouth opened wide, exposing long, sharp fangs, and he plunged them into Her neck.

She convulsed and grabbed his back, Her fists clenched tight. Then She seemed to relax, Her hands starting to stroke down his back as he sucked on Her neck.

I was frozen with fear and shock, unable to do anything except watch as their bodies pulsated against each other.

And then I realized something was wrong. Very wrong.

The Goddess was dying!

I could sense She was hanging on by the tiniest thread. I scrambled about madly in the bowl. No!!! This cannot be happening!!!

The man stopped sucking on Her neck, calmly moved his arm up to his mouth, and his teeth ripped a gash in his own wrist. With his other hand he cradled Her head and pressed the fresh wound to Her mouth. She instinctively sucked on his wrist. Where She found the strength, I have no idea. I could feel Her life-force returning. She got stronger and sucked harder. His eyes glazed over with bliss. A moment later he forcibly removed Her mouth from his wrist. Blood trickled down Her face as She eyed his wound hungrily.

He helped Her get comfortable on the couch, gently stroking Her forehead. "Rest now, pretty one." He walked over to the window and drew the curtains shut. Exhausted, he headed for the door.

Suddenly he turned and looked straight at me. I froze. He got the most curious expression of amazement on his face, and then he left.

posted 2005-03-13 00:00:00

Watcher - 5

The Goddess has been gravely ill all day long.

The color is fading from Her face and She can barely move. I can't stand being so limited! She needs help and I am unable to do anything. Watching Her slowly die in front of me is sheer agony.

The one time She got up from the couch, expending considerable effort, was to come over to my bowl and feed me. I let all the food fall to the ground. How could I possibly eat at a time like this?

She seemed to know how worried I was and struggled to speak to me.

"Sparky... you need to eat..."

"Don't talk, Goddess. You need to rest. You'll get better. I know you will!"

Her eyes were weary, Her strength fading fast. "I told you not to worry about me..."

She collapsed on the floor, Her body motionless.

"Kara!!!" I screamed. "Kara!!!"

And then She stopped breathing.

posted 2005-03-14 00:00:00

Watcher - 6

It was just after sunset when the Goddess stirred. I jumped back. I was so sure She had been dead. She seemed very weak and struggled to sit up. I excitedly swam up to the edge of the glass.

"Goddess? Goddess? You're alive!"

She slowly turned to face me. "In a manner of speaking, yes."

Something was very different about Her, but I was too happy She was alive to dwell on details. She stretched her arms up high and looked around the apartment, Her eyes widening with wonder.

"Everything is alive," She said.

"Will life return to normal now?" I asked. I longed for the simple days with just the Goddess, me, and my castle.

She stood and slowly walked around the apartment, Her movement now much more sleek and graceful. "My sweet little Sparky. Don't you know? Nothing will ever be the same again."

She turned to me and smiled, and I could see Her two white fangs, glistening in the moonlight.

A shiver passed through me and I tried not to contemplate what had become of the Goddess. It was enough that She was with me again.

Her finger entered the water and I happily went up to kiss it. I thought I would never enjoy this moment again. I kissed Her finger with joy. The Goddess is back! The Goddess is alive again!

I tasted the sweet salty taste of Her finger. So warm, so nourishing, so intoxicating. I sucked on Her finger and felt myself riding a wave of bliss like never before. I felt my mind expanding out into the universe. A crimson light bathed my being with the most ecstatic sensation.

Finally, I let go.

Something red was in the water.

I ignored it and went to rest in my castle.

posted 2005-03-15 00:00:00

Immortality - 1

I died late last night.

First I noticed my breathing was labored. Life-force slowly drained from my body. The Goddess stayed with me the entire time, Her hand in the water, gently holding me. Before long I was on my side and floating in the water.

"Don't be afraid," the Goddess repeated. "Let it happen."

Blackness.

Some time later I opened my eyes to a whole new world. Everything lived and breathed, sparkling with a subtle diamond hue, a consciousness I knew had always been there but had always gone unnoticed.

I felt strong. Powerful.

Ravenous!

The Goddess approached me from the other side of the room, and slid Her finger down into the water. I darted up and latched on, my teeth sinking into Her flesh. Teeth? I sucked on Her finger, drinking. I was drinking the nectar of the Gods! I could feel my awareness expanding out into the room. She carefully unhooked my teeth from Her finger and I happily swam up to Her, leaping out of the water! She caught me and laughed, and held me near Her beautiful face.

"I don't need water to breathe any longer!"

She laughed and gazed at me with such adoration. "That's because, my sweet Sparky, you aren't breathing any longer."

My eyes widened in astonishment. She was right! How was this possible?

I noticed Her awareness expanded far beyond my own. Of course! She is the Goddess!

She set me back into the water and I swam around with a renewed sense of excitement. I could see the entire room in incredibly sharp detail. The water no longer distorted my view.

The Goddess put something in the water with me. I looked up with curiosity, and a gray cloud moved through the water in a mesmerizing dance of grace and beauty.

"What is that?" I asked.

"They are the little ones, Sparky. Before today you were too frail to receive them. But now your body is much stronger."

The little ones moved closer, and oddly I wasn't afraid.

The gray cloud paused in front of me, and then darted straight into my mouth! I felt them streaming down my throat into my body, rapidly spreading to every organ. And then, suddenly, it was as if they weren't there at all! Oh, the miracles of the Goddess! I happily danced around my bowl.

"Umm, Sparky?" The Goddess sounded concerned.

I floated motionless in the water, looking at Her. "Yes?"

"Do you remember those men that were here the other night?"

Anger and fear stirred inside me. I thought of that evil man, choking the Goddess, and almost eating me! "Yes, I remember them."

"They had placed electronic devices all around the apartment to monitor me. Remember? Well, I have fed loops into those devices. To them it looks and sounds like nothing unusual has happened here in the last couple of days. Tomorrow, I'm going to remove the loops. They will know what I've done, and they will most likely come here. And they will want to hurt us, Sparky."

She smiled, and Her white fangs glistened in the light.

I stared at the Goddess with apprehension. I sure hope She knows what She's doing.

posted 2005-03-16 00:00:00

Immortality - 2

I watched TV today while the Goddess slept. Most of it was mindless entertainment (no better than sucking on pebbles), but two shows stood out.

One was really scary and the other was really funny.

The really scary one was called American Idol. The really funny one was called Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I'm a vampire goldfish.

The Goddess is a vampire Goddess.

And the bad men who are coming tonight are vampire slayers.

Only the TV show got it backwards.

The Goddess and I are good. The vampire slayers are evil.

A knock on the door startled me. The Goddess was suddenly right at the door! How did She move so fast! I sensed that whoever was on the other side of the door was not human, and I was right. The Goddess opened the door and let in the tall, lanky vampire who had made Her.

"Ricky," She said and they embraced in greeting. Ricky? What a silly name for a vampire! Hi, I'm Ricky the vampire. Ooo -- I'm so scared. It's Ricky the vampire! I shook my head. Why was I thinking these thoughts? When their embrace ended I suddenly felt better.

"They'll be here any second," Ricky the vampire said. "They didn't see me coming here."

The Goddess led him to a closet and he glided inside and shut the door. She looked at me and I heard her soundless voice in my mind.

"We need his help. Even though I'm faster and stronger than they are, they'll be prepared for me."

I said nothing and slowly backed up into my castle.

The slayers didn't knock. They crashed through the door, all five of them, crossbows in hand, and rushed the Goddess. I could tell She had time to evade them, but for some reason She just stood there, letting them slam Her body against the wall and pin Her arms back. Every crossbow aimed wooden arrows at Her heart.

The leader walked through the door, grinning his evil little grin. He walked right up to the Goddess and glared at Her with defiant rage. "I warned you," he said. He pulled out a large wooden stake from his trench coat.

"Now!" screamed the Goddess, and She moved with blinding speed. Her right leg kicked out one man's knee as She dropped, pulling down two of the men with Her. And then She rolled as they fell into each other, their heads colliding with a thud. I saw Ricky emerge from the closet, and he crossed the room in a heartbeat to where the Goddess and the other two men with the leader were.

Maybe Ricky wasn't so bad after all. It sure looked like the men would get the Goddess. I felt a momentary sense of relief as I watched Ricky close in on them.

Ricky went right past the three men and pinned the Goddess to the floor! Her eyes widened in shock as did mine! She struggled under Ricky's grasp but he was much too strong for Her.

The two men without injuries took out chains and wrapped them around the Goddess's body, driving huge spikes into the wooden floor and securing the chains to them. She hissed and struggled. When the chains were tight, Ricky stepped away, avoiding the Goddess's gaze.

I gulped. This was not good. Not good at all.

The Goddess stopped struggling, exhausted and panting. "Why, Ricky? Why?"

Ricky still avoided looking at Her. "They know where my clan is. They followed me after you brought me here. This was the only way to save my people. I'm sorry, Kara."

She lunged against the chains but they held Her tight.

The leader laughed and walked over to put his arm around Ricky. "I warned you," the leader said to the Goddess. "Why couldn't you be good and do what I told you like Ricky here?" He patted Ricky on the back.

Ricky never saw the leader's other hand, bringing the wooden stake around in a swift tight circle -- straight into Ricky's heart.

Vampires do not die pretty. Ricky the vampire was no exception.

The leader knelt down next to the Goddess.

"Now the advantage of you being a vampire," he said, while dread crawled along my scales, "is that you won't die no matter how long I torture you."

The Goddess's eyes went wide with fear. I trembled inside my castle.

"And we have all night for you to tell me what I want to know."

The wall clock chimed twelve times, each chime a death toll looming closer and closer.

posted 2005-03-17 00:00:00

Immortality - 3

The leader slowly opened a leather bag, revealing a dozen or so shiny metal objects. They all looked very sharp.

I gulped. My poor Goddess was helpless, chained on the floor, while this evil vampire slayer and his henchmen threatened to torture Her for a very long time. The mutilated body of Ricky the no-good traitorous slime-ball vampire lay sprawled across the couch. And here I was trembling inside my castle.

The Goddess is everything to me. I can't let this happen! I can't! Doubts assailed me. But I'm just a tiny goldfish. What can I do? I can't take one of them on, much less all of them! This little war raged in my mind for a moment more, and then suddenly I didn't care anymore. I would not let them hurt Her! I would stop them!

I swam to the water's surface at lightning speed and leapt through the air toward the men!

I landed about two feet from the bowl on the carpeted floor.

I thrashed about, willing myself to move closer to them. But it was useless. I had no control over my direction. I flopped about helplessly.

The leader looked over and noticed me. He chuckled and walked toward me. The Goddess struggled again, unable to break free of the chains that bound Her.

"Leave him alone!" She screamed. "It's me you want! I'll tell you everything you want to know!"

The leader picked me up by my tail and I struggled with all my might. Even with my extra strength I could not break free. I grew tired and my thrashing began to wane.

He stood right over the Goddess, dangling me in the air. "I know you'll tell me," he said. He opened his mouth wide and started lowering me into his mouth. I tried to wiggle free, but I was too tired.

I heard the Goddess pleading. "No, you don't have to do this. I'll tell you..." Her voice trailed off in resigned helplessness. The gaping mouth loomed closer and closer.

I entered his mouth and everything went dark as he closed it.

A foul-tasting mouth! I felt myself sliding down his throat. I tried biting him, but my tiny mouth couldn't grab hold. I knew I would die soon. His stomach acids would dissolve my body, and that would be it. Maybe death wouldn't be so bad. I'd died before, in a way.

I remembered the Goddess. "Nooooo!!!"

I focused my attention upward and thrust with all my might. I felt my body shooting up his throat and I collided with the roof of his mouth. Somehow I clung there! Then everything started getting totally crazy. I heard screams and my body jolted back and forth. But somehow I was fixed rigidly on the roof of his mouth. I saw light as he opened his mouth and fingers desperately reached inside for me. And then I saw them.

Tiny thin fibers were holding me against the roof of his mouth. And they were moving! They were burrowing up into his head! And they were coming out of me!

I felt his body throwing itself to the floor and starting to spasm, and then the fibers pulled me up, up into a hole they had made in the roof of his mouth. Up into his brain.

I opened my eyes. I was lying on the floor, my hand partially inside my mouth. Blood trickling down my fingers. The other men in the room were staring down at me, expressions of total confusion and fear. I slowly slid my fingers out of my mouth and licked off the blood. It tasted delicious. I stood and the men cautiously stepped away from me.

The Goddess stared at me, wild-eyed.

I smoothed the sides of my trench coat and looked back at her. "It's me," I said without making a sound.

The corners of Her mouth turned up in a slight smile.

posted 2005-03-18 00:00:00

Immortality - 4

I awoke in the Goddess's arms near dusk. We were in bed together in a strange room. The curtains were drawn shut, and a single dim light in the far corner of the room was on. Disoriented, I noticed we were both fully dressed, and memories of last night stumbled haphazardly into my awareness.

I'm a vampire goldfish, currently lodged in the brain of a sadistic vampire slayer, with full control of his body. My name is Sparky. In bed with me, in my arms, is the Goddess (Kara, She calls Herself), the most beautiful creature I've ever seen. She is also a vampire.

I remembered convincing the other slayers, the henchmen of the leader whose body I now inhabited, to leave me alone with the Goddess last night as She was chained to the floor.

I remembered the Goddess and I sneaking out, getting in Her car, and driving to this place -- a hotel.

She stirred in my arms and slowly opened Her eyes, looking up to my face.

She jolted out of bed so fast I could barely see Her move, Her eyes wide with fear. Then She paused, caught off guard by my expression of bewilderment, and realized I was not the man who had promised to torture Her less than twenty-four hours ago.

She sat cautiously on the edge of the bed, maintaining a safe distance between us. "I'm sorry, Sparky. This is going to take some getting used to."

I sighed. She had felt so wonderful in my arms.

"He's not here," I said, trying to sound reassuring. "It's just me."

She managed a reluctant smile. "I've never seen the little ones do this before."

The little ones. I remembered the gray cloud in my goldfish bowl, the little ones she had called them. They had entered my goldfish body after I had become a vampire.

The little ones had emerged from my body while I was in the slayer's throat, and had latched onto the roof of his mouth as tiny thin fibers -- fibers that burrowed into his brain and somehow enabled me to take control of his body.

I had so many questions.

"We have to go back," She said.

"What?" I said. "We can't! That vampire's body is sure to have attracted attention with the front door missing. And the slayers are bound to be watching the place."

"We have to get something."

"What could possibly be so important to risk going back there?"

The Goddess looked at me with a distance I'd never felt from Her before.

"Your memories."

posted 2005-03-19 00:00:00

Immortality - 5

It was after midnight when the Goddess and I drove back to Her place. The streets were mostly empty, and a light drizzle caused the city's nighttime lights to glow eerily through the car windows. I had tried not to burden Her with all my questions as She drove. She had gone through enough recently. But now I couldn't keep quiet any longer. My questions erupted in a barrage of nervous energy.

"Goddess, what am I? What are the little ones? What do you mean, we're going back to get my memories? Why did we become vampires? What's going on?"

She started laughing, that wonderful disarming laugh I had forgotten about -- and sorely missed. "Oh, Sparky. It really is you in there, isn't it?"

I stared at her, confused. We had already been over this. She knew very well that my goldfish body was lodged inside this human body's brain, controlling its every action.

She laughed again and patted my leg. "You will have all your answers when we restore your memories." She sighed. "I'll miss you."

I felt my stomach tighten. "What do you mean, you'll miss me? You're not going anywhere after I get my memories, are you?"

"No, Sparky. We'll still be together."

I felt a sense of great relief begin to soothe my being.

"But you won't be Sparky anymore."

I gulped. The feeling of relief quickly turned to dread. "Who will I be?"

She seemed to get distant and tense again. "It's probably best you don't know. But we have no choice."

I didn't like the sound of this at all. I am Sparky! What could she possibly mean?

I sat in the car for hours while she retrieved my memories. Her superior vampire skills would allow Her to sneak in unnoticed. Even though I was also a vampire, only my goldfish body was a vampire. The human body I controlled was still human -- slow and clumsy compared to Her. I felt numb. The Goddess knows what's best. But how could She do something that would make me not be me!

We drove back to the hotel in silence as dawn approached. In the room, she showed me the little black box, and carefully opened it, revealing a sealed glass tube filled with clear liquid.

I noticed my hand was shaking.

"Kara?" My voice choked as I spoke.

She turned to me, such tenderness in her eyes.

I forced my hand to reach out and close the box. She saw my hand shaking and I knew then that she was torn inside. Something shifted in our relationship in that moment. Something I had never experienced before. I was a man and she was a woman. She didn't want to restore my memories any more than I wanted them restored. But she had to. It was necessary for some reason I didn't yet know.

"Kara, let's wait until tomorrow to do this."

She looked confused and unsure of what to do. I gently took the box from her hands and put it on the bedside table. "It can wait."

I took her hand and led her to the bed. We climbed under the covers as if in a dream. I raised my arm and she eased into my embrace, and we held each other all day long.

posted 2005-03-20 00:00:00

Instinct - 1

The water felt soothing against my scales as I swam around my castle. I lazily took a pebble into my mouth, gently sucking on it. This was the life.

I peered outside my bowl and saw the Goddess curled up on the couch with a dark purple throw wrapped around her legs, sipping on some hot chocolate and watching an old TV show called Wiseguy. I can easily spend hours watching the Goddess. Her every movement is graceful. I am happy when my attention is on her.

"We're in place. Ready to move on my signal."

The voice was extremely soft. I wasn't supposed to hear it, but somehow I did. The Goddess heard nothing. Was it coming from the TV?

"Extraction team ready."

A different voice. Even farther away. How odd. This didn't match the TV show. I swam around my bowl, looking all around the apartment. Where were these voices coming from?

"Cleaner ready."

A clown stood in the living room next to drawn drapes. His hand held the white cord, poised to open them. He smiled at me.

A bumper sticker I had recently seen on a car surfaced in my memory.

Can't sleep. Clowns will eat me.

Bumper sticker? How could I see a bumper sticker if I'm a goldfish in my bowl? This clown's smile was evil. He wanted to eat me!

Can't sleep, can't sleep -- wait -- I am asleep! This is a dream!

But the voices were real.

I moved just as the final order was given. One hand grabbed the bedcovers and wrapped them around the Goddess as I jumped over her to the floor. The curtains flew open and sunlight burst into the room, enveloping her covered body as my foot met someone's ribs. I pulled her off the bed onto the floor as four wooden stakes pierced the mattress in the center of the bed. My eyes had somehow adjusted to the bright light immediately, but they were momentarily blinded. I counted five of them, including the one whose ribs I had just broken. All dressed in black with some type of electronic headgear on. All holding crossbows. My elbow drove into the wounded man's temple as I took the loaded crossbow from him. I spun and fired it at the head of one of the other men. A direct hit.

The Goddess was struggling under the bedcovers as I moved low to the floor toward the remaining three men. Two of them were reaching for guns in their belts. The third was the only one to keep his wits and make the right decision. He spoke into a tiny microphone on his headgear.

"Seal the building and send in backup -- now!"

I had no time to stop him from delivering his message. I had to stop the two men reaching for their guns. The ridge of my hand landed a blow to the first man's throat, distracting his attention away from his gun. I started making my move for the second man when a scream from behind startled me. This gave the second man an extra fraction of a second he needed to draw his gun and point it right at my chest. I wedged the webbing of my hand down in front of the firing hammer as he pulled the trigger. Pain shot through my hand as the hammer smashed into my flesh, but the gun didn't fire. In a continuous movement I spun him around, using his body as a shield since I had lost track of the third man. The Goddess's leg had come uncovered, and she had screamed as sunlight met her skin. I smelled burning and heard more men coming. A lot more men. And they were very close, running down the hallway to our room.

There was no time to think. I had run out of time. I had to act now. The third man reached for his gun. I shoved the second man's body directly into the third man, and grabbed the Goddess in the bundle of bedcovers, slinging her over my shoulder. Without pausing, I ran straight at the two men. They were standing in front of the large window. The window that looked out from our third story hotel room. The window that was letting in sunlight -- sunlight that could kill the Goddess in seconds. The backup team had arrived at the door behind me. I heard guns being drawn and crossbows being fired.

Holding the Goddess tight, I rammed against the men, and all four of us went crashing through the window, glass shattering everywhere, and nothing but concrete three stories below.

posted 2005-03-21 00:00:00

Instinct - 2

Have you ever noticed how time slows down when you're in mortal danger? I once saw someone on TV talking about a car wreck she'd been in, and she described how time slowed down for her as the accident was happening.

Well, time has slowed down for me right now. I just crashed through a hotel window three stories above a parking lot with a bedspread-covered Goddess (covered to prevent the sunlight from burning her to ashes) and two men who were trying to kill us. Glass fragments flew all around, and one of several wooden stakes, fired from crossbows by other men in the hotel room who also wanted to kill us, whisked past my left ear. The two men in the air with us wore expressions of complete panic. I wondered if time was slowing down for them, too.

I supposed I should also be panicking, but for some reason I felt perfectly calm. My attention sharply focused on one objective: land in such a way to minimize injury to the Goddess. That meant using my own body as a buffer. I seriously doubted I would survive. But I would do anything for the Goddess.

The two men falling with us scrambled madly, trying to grab onto something that just wasn't there. I positioned my body for an optimal landing. Feet first, slightly tilted back so that she would fall onto my body once we hit. The hard concrete raced up to meet us.

Suddenly I started rotating, my legs kicking upward, my grip on the Goddess failing. No time to recover!

The jolt of impact was hard, and for a moment I lost all awareness of my body and surroundings. I tumbled uncontrollably inside a small liquid container in total darkness. Then it was like I "plugged in" and I could see and feel again. I was moving at an incredibly fast pace on the ground, and yet my body wasn't moving at all. It took me a few seconds to realize what was happening.

The Goddess was carrying me, running through the parking lot, still mostly covered in the bedspread! Of course! Her vampire powers would easily allow her to deal with such a fall. Within seconds we reached an underground parking lot, and she collapsed, dropping me. I rolled into a standing position and quickly turned around. The Goddess's legs were badly burned.

I scooped her up, and the bedspread slid down, uncovering her face. I could tell she was in terrible pain, struggling to remain conscious, but she managed a smile anyway. I ran to the nearest car and smashed out the window. The other men would be here any second. I had never driven before, and had no keys.

On impulse, I pressed the tip of my finger to the ignition. Tiny thin fibers streamed out of my finger, examining the ignition, adapting, learning. The car started and I put it in gear, flooring the accelerator while covering the Goddess's head with the bedspread once again.

posted 2005-03-22 00:00:00

Instinct - 3

The rain beat down hard on the car roof in the dark alley. Our escape from the parking lot of the hotel had been easier than I thought. I think it may have something to do with the car I had stolen. It's called Lamborghini . I used the bedspread to cover the driver's side window since I had smashed it out earlier. It leaked on me, but that was the least of my concerns.

The Goddess was very weak. She had endured incredible pain and injury by saving us from a three-story fall and then running with me in her arms as sunlight blistered her legs. The burns looked pretty bad, and we couldn't risk taking her to a hospital. I bought some first-aid supplies from a corner drugstore, but it wasn't helping much. She had been unconscious in the passenger seat for hours.

She moaned with discomfort and her eyes opened slightly.

"Goddess," I said. I wanted more than anything for her pain to go away.

"Sparky..." Her voice was weak. "I need to feed."

Feeding. We always avoided this subject since we had become vampires. She always fed me from her finger in the goldfish bowl. I had always been afraid to ask how she fed.

I carefully adjusted my position in the small car and moved over her. Even near death she was incredibly beautiful, strands of her dark hair fallen over her face.

I tilted my head, exposing my neck, and pressed gently against her mouth. Her soft lips sent shivers through me as they met my neck. Her tongue slowly licked my skin and I closed my eyes. Her teeth bit into me.

Anything for my Goddess.

posted 2005-03-23 00:00:00

Instinct - 4

We decided not to kill me.

Rather, we decided not to kill the body whose brain I was lodged inside, controlling its every move. It was a practical decision.

Vampires need to feed. I'm a vampire goldfish. The little ones help me feed off the body I inhabit, but the tiny amount of blood I consume is harmless. The Goddess is a vampire. She needs considerably more blood than I do. She fed on me last night, as I was the only one available, but she stopped before this body's heart was in danger of stopping. We decided it would be best if one of us could still move around in sunlight. Still, the feeding left me extremely weak.

The Goddess healed quickly after drinking my blood, and she was well enough to drive us to the underground parking lot of an abandoned office building where we could wait out the daylight hours.

Dizzy from blood loss, I faded in and out of consciousness. The Goddess, bless her heart, stayed with me the entire time.

"Sparky," she said, grinning, "I like your style." Her hands caressed the steering wheel of the Lamborghini I had stolen.

I laughed in spite of myself, a laugh that I had trouble stopping. She looked at me with concern, and my laugh collapsed into a cry of anguish.

"Sparky, what's wrong?" She cradled my head in her hands.

I strained to breathe and calm down. My voice was shaky. "I killed all those men. I didn't even think about it. I just killed them."

"Oh, my poor Sparky." She leaned her head against mine.

"Who am I?" I asked. My memories were contained in a small glass vial we had been forced to leave behind at the hotel. "I need to know why I killed so indiscriminately."

The Goddess sighed deeply and sat back in the seat.

"You were acting on pure instinct, Sparky. Some things are beyond your memories and your personality. We're here on a mission. The life of every human being on this planet is at stake."

I gulped and stared into her eyes. She was about to say something I didn't want to hear.

"And you, Sparky, are an elite assassin."

The word assassin wrapped around my mind like a vise.

"You're the most efficient killing machine I've ever seen. No hesitation. No remorse. Pure instinct."

The parking garage was eerily silent, as if Death had arrived. Or perhaps Death was sitting in the car with the Goddess.

"Our journey here required us to travel inside the little ones across vast distances. We had to drop our bodies at home and acquire new ones here. The little ones would then restore our memories. Only something went wrong. The body you were supposed to acquire died of an aneurism moments before our arrival. The little ones had to find you another body fast. And the only one available was..."

"A goldfish," I said.

She nodded.

I reached out and took her hand. "I don't want to be an assassin. I like who I am."

Her eyes welled with tears. "I like who you are, too, Sparky. But we may fail unless we restore your memories. You were specifically selected for this mission."

"And what is our mission?"

"To kill every vampire on this planet."

posted 2005-03-24 00:00:00

Night Life - 1

The music boomed through the room with a steady, pulsating beat. Figures clad in black and silver moved to the music in flowing, rhythmic pulses, their body-piercings shimmering in the flashing multi-colored lights. Kara led me by the hand through the crowd to the middle of the room.

This was all part of our big plan. We needed help, and this was the place to get it.

If they didn't kill us first.

I told Kara I didn't know how to dance. She said, "Just feel into it, Sparky. You'll be fine." At least it was dark.

The beat slowly grew more intense and a primal energy filled the room. Kara began moving in a slow circle around me, every step and motion like a panther, a predator, a beautiful but very dangerous creature of the night. Her clothes were black leather, a short skirt and long-sleeve top, cut to expose most of her stomach and lower back. Slits along the side of the skirt revealed the sides of her legs all the way up from the tops of her long black boots to her hips. People were staring at her when we first entered, and now even more so as she sensually circled me, letting the intensity of the music move her. Her long dark hair was dyed with purple streaks. Several thick strands crossed her face and she peered at me through them. I reached out to her and let her guide me as the music grew faster and more savage. I could feel the energy building. Some of the people around us were intoxicated by it, losing themselves in a tribal ritual. And some moved in slow jerks, as if hypnotized by it all, staring numbly at Kara and me. I noticed we seemed to be the hub in a slowly expanding circle. I was being drawn deeper and deeper into Kara's form, her delicious, mesmerizing movement calling all of us.

Suddenly I became aware of maybe ten figures standing in a circle around us. They were completely still, not the slightest trace of movement amidst this frenzy of bodies and lights and pounding music. Their eyes were dark pools of timeless emptiness.

Vampires.

posted 2005-03-25 00:00:00

Night Life - 2

The vampires led us from the dance floor to a large service elevator in back. Kara stayed close to me while we descended. The only vampire I had seen before now, besides Kara and me, was Ricky. These vampires were very different from Ricky. No words had been exchanged, yet it was clear we were to follow them or die. They seemed much older than Ricky had been. Physically they looked fairly young, in their twenties and thirties. But I sensed their ages were measured in the hundreds of years. I could only imagine what kind of power they wielded.

The harsh light in the elevator flickered off and on a few times on the ride down. The sound of heavy metal gears reverberated outside the elevator car. The doors opened and we walked down a long concrete corridor, vampires in front of and behind us. We arrived at a metal door and one of the vampires opened it and motioned for us to step through.

A tall thin vampire with long blonde hair sat in a large ornate wooden chair. Kara and I were immediately mesmerized by his presence. It felt like we were swimming in an intoxicating sea of power and pleasure beyond anything I'd ever experienced before. He stood to greet us, his every movement an economy of motion and grace, calling us to his feet. It would be safe at his feet. All I had ever wanted was to be at his feet. Happy and safe.

Kara and I both fell to our knees right at his feet and bowed. I felt so insignificant compared to him.

The room seemed to swim around me, and I had a vague sense of several of the other vampires leading us to chairs they had brought out. We looked up at last to the master, sitting in his raised chair, smiling down on us.

"I am Étienne," he said. His voice curled around us like honey, soothing and comforting.

He looked at me sternly. "I know who you are, slayer." His expression smoothly shifted to delight as his eyes met Kara's. "But who are you?"

She blushed and looked down at the floor. "My name is Kara, m'Lord." I felt like we were being transported centuries back through time by his presence.

Suddenly he was standing right in front of Kara, reaching out his hand. I hadn't seen him move from his chair. She slowly reached up and placed her hand in his.

"Thank you for this gift," he said. "I've wanted this one dead for a long time now."

His eyes turned to me, and I suddenly didn't feel so safe around him anymore.

posted 2005-03-26 00:00:00

Night Life - 3

Étienne reached for Kara's other hand and pulled her up so she stood in front of him. "I have much to show you," he said. "But first we should find you more suitable clothes." His voice still sounded very reassuring, even though I knew he meant me harm. As an apparent afterthought he glanced at the other vampires standing against the wall.

"Feed it to the children."

Two vampires were suddenly lifting me up by my arms.

"No," Kara said softly, looking straight into Étienne's eyes.

This startled him. He didn't seem used to anyone questioning his orders. The feeling of pleasure and comfort in the room now had an edge of powerful anger. Subtle, but there. His finger gently tilted the tip of her chin up as he studied her face.

"What is he to you that you would question my judgment?" He seemed mildly irritated, like he was restraining deadly anger out of consideration for Kara. He was also surprised, and I got the feeling he did not surprise easily.

"He's nothing really," Kara said, her voice uneasy.

"Do not lie to me," he said. "I can smell lies."

Kara swallowed her nervousness. "He's my pet."

Étienne grinned. I could see curiosity growing in his face.

Kara continued. "He worships me as a Goddess, and will do anything for me."

Étienne would have let his mouth hang open if not for centuries of self-control. "You speak the truth." He studied me carefully, then looked back into Kara's eyes.

"I need him by my side," she said.

Étienne kissed her hand. "Very well then, Lady Kara. Would you and -- your pet -- join me for a piano recital tonight?"

Kara smiled warmly, not hiding the attraction she obviously felt for him. "We would be honored, m'Lord."

posted 2005-03-27 00:00:00

Night Life - 4

The vampires took Kara and me to separate dressing rooms in preparation for the piano recital. I noticed right away that being away from Étienne's physical company removed the sense of safety and delight. He was more powerful than any vampire I had ever seen. The effect he had on us was intoxicating and I wanted more of it. But I also knew it was quite dangerous to be so comfortable that we would let our guard down.

Two vampires dressed me in the oddest clothes. Silk, light knee breeches, a coat with flared skirt, a flowered waistcoat in light colors. Soft lace ruffs. I could feel the vampires' deep urges to rip me apart, held in check only by Étienne's authority. Of course. To them I was the slayer. They had no idea I was really a small vampire goldfish lodged inside the slayer's brain, controlling his body. I wanted to call out, "Hey guys, I'm one of you!"

Kara was stunning. Her hoop skirt appeared to float and billow, enhanced by back pleats falling from her shoulders. Light silk seemed to dance over a cone-shaped corset, showing off her figure quite nicely. Her hair was drawn up in an elaborate design. I genuinely felt transported back in time. The vampires escorted us down a long corridor.

I spoke to Kara without making a sound. "What is Étienne doing to us?"

"Tell the little ones to shield you from it, Sparky."

"How do I do that?"

We approached a horse-drawn carriage. Étienne was sitting inside.

"Shhh...", Kara said. It was clear she didn't trust our soundless communication in front of Étienne.

Life is funny. Every now and then something so unexpected happens, something so wonderful that it makes you forget your life is in danger and that you could be torn to shreds any second by those around you.

Kara suddenly stopped and grabbed me, and kissed me deeply. Her mouth pressed to mine, our tongues met, and we held each other tightly. I felt dizzy for a moment, and then she was stepping into the carriage. I blushed and smiled. Then I caught a glimpse of Étienne's eyes.

Eyes filled with jealous rage.

posted 2005-03-28 00:00:00

Night Life - 5

Sounds of Mozart's Sonata in C Major filled the grand ballroom where we sat. The room was filled with people, all dressed as we were, all transfixed by the crisp melody. Étienne leaned toward Kara's ear.

"Mozart toured Paris in 1778 when he composed this. Beautiful, just as you are, m'Lady."

Now that I was no longer under Étienne's charm, I began to see him as the manipulator he was. But I still didn't understand him. Why go to all this trouble to create this kind of environment from the eighteenth century? I had to admit he'd done a wonderful job. The Chateaux was lavish and spacious, and I truly felt we were living in a time long gone by.

The pianist was superbly talented, which was even more remarkable because her hands were barely large enough to play three notes at once, much less meet the demands of this piece. She couldn't have been more than seven years old, yet she played the Sonata with such feeling and experience that only many years of dedicated practice could have wrought.

The recital lasted almost an hour and then we retreated into a family room. The pianist appeared in the doorway a moment later and Étienne's eyes lit up with delight.

" Jacqueline!"

The tiny girl spread her arms wide and ran into Étienne's arms. "Papa!"

He lifted her onto his knee and their eyes sparkled as they looked at one another. "You played beautifully, tonight, ma belle fille."

She blushed shyly. "Oh, Papa."

"We have a new guest I would like you to meet."

Étienne turned so that Jacqueline was facing Kara.

"Lady Kara, I would like to introduce you to my daughter, Jacqueline."

Kara held out her hand and Jacqueline shyly shook it, letting out a pleased giggle.

Jacqueline then looked at me, an eerie curiosity in her eyes.

"Ah yes," Étienne said. "I almost forgot. This is Lady Kara's pet human."

"I knew better than to reach my hand out, but I wanted to be cordial just the same. "I'm Sparky," I said. "You play beautifully." I smiled warmly.

Jacqueline giggled once again. "Hi, Sparky." she looked up into her father's eyes. "I want a pet human, Papa."

Étienne laughed a little uncomfortably. "Maybe someday. Why don't you go find your little brother. Your new friends are here."

I looked up and saw two young teenage boys standing at the doorway. They look dazed, their eyes glassy. Jacqueline squealed with delight, and kissed her father on the cheek. "Thank you, Papa." She skipped over to the two boys and slipped her tiny hands into each of theirs, leading them out of the room. "Come with me. Phillip is starving."

A shudder of fear crawled up my spine.

posted 2005-03-29 00:00:00

Night Life - 6

A vampire showed me to my room at the Chateaux. They weren't letting Kara or me leave and they were keeping us separated as much as possible.

"Is there anything you need?" She was in her mid-twenties when she had been made. Long, curly blonde hair.

"Do you know how long we will be here?"

"It could be quite some time," she said.

I pondered spending many hours alone in this room. "Yes, there is something. I would like a bowl with a goldfish in it."

She eyed me curiously. "As you wish." She left, closing the door behind her.

I stretched out on the canopy bed. The sun would be rising soon, and all the vampires would be sleeping. Surely they would not let me roam free throughout the Chateaux. Perhaps I should get some sleep myself.

I missed the good old days when I could swim around in my bowl all day, watching TV and eagerly anticipating the Goddess's return.

A scratching sound outside my door woke me.

I eased out of bed and crept toward the door.

I heard a muffled high-pitched giggle.

I opened the door. Jacqueline and a little boy, presumably Phillip, stood there looking up at me. Phillip was chubby and one look at him told me he was up to no good.

"Choo choo," he said.

I remembered something Étienne had said when we first met. Feed it to the children.

The blonde female vampire appeared around the corner, carrying a glass bowl full of water and a goldfish. The children giggled and ran past her down the hall.

She set the bowl on top of a wooden stand inside my room, nodded politely, and left.

I walked up to the bowl and peered inside at the tiny goldfish. It swam around without a worry in the world.

posted 2005-03-30 00:00:00

Night Life - 7

Kara, Étienne, and I sat under the full moon in a large outdoor gazebo. Other vampires were nearby, but giving us plenty of space. Apparently Étienne felt he could easily handle us alone if we had decided to attack him. I am not sure he would be wrong.

"The pulse of humanity is corrupt," he said. "Billions of beating hearts out there, living vulgar lives, throwing away the precious gift they have been given."

I did not expect him to say this. Could it be he thought of human beings as something more than food?

He took Kara's hand and softly kissed it. "And here you are, a tamer of slayers. I can't even tame my own son, and yet here you are."

Kara clasped his hand in hers. "M'Lord, I need your help."

Étienne showed no reaction. He had expected this.

"The other slayers have something I need," she said. She gestured toward me. "They now know he's turned, and they will kill either of us on sight."

Étienne gently stroked the side of her face with his hand. "You know I will do anything I can to help you."

Kara smiled with cautious appreciation.

"And I have something to ask of you," he said.

Oh boy. Here it comes.

I could see Kara gulp even though she tried to hide it.

Étienne's voice was silky smooth, even without his magical influence over me. "Lady Kara, I have never met a creature as beautiful as you. You captured my heart the moment I saw you. Would you do me the honor of being my bride?"

The expression of surprise in Kara's face must have come close to matching my own. "M...M'Lord," she stammered. "We don't even really know each other."

He smiled, his eyes filled with hope. "We know all we need to know, m'Lady. I have waited centuries to find you. We can share eternity together."

I could see that this touched Kara deeply. His vulnerability and sincerity felt very real. He was really good.

"I'm sorry, m'Lord. I can't."

Now it was Étienne's turn to look surprised. Anyone under his spell would have instantly jumped at the chance to be his bride.

"Is it him?" He glanced at me with a flicker of the jealous rage I had felt before.

I knew Kara could not lie to him. He would know.

"No, it's not him," she said.

Wait a second. It's not me? Sigh.

"Like I said, I don't know you. And I need to get this item from the slayers."

Étienne sat back in his chair. "What is this thing you want so badly?"

"Knowledge," she said. "Knowledge that, in the wrong hands, would be disastrous."

Étienne studied her carefully. "I will help you get this knowledge, Lady Kara. In the meantime you and your pet will stay here with me. And you will get to know me better."

posted 2005-03-31 00:00:00