(REVISED with NEW ENDING January 17, 2004)

Transformations:
A Short Vampire Tale

© Joan Ann Lansberry

Young fair skinned, auburn haired Joey was born into an abusive family. Its rules were vastly different than those of families he'd seen on TV and of his friends. His often angry father of the sherman tank build told him not to believe what he was told about the 'way things should be'. Joey came to love his abusive father, with his scary nightly bed visits, anyway.

He was like that, he could see the good in everyone, if it were at all there.

His intermittently jovial father at least showed him affection some of the time. It warmed Joey's heart and eased the hurt from his cruelty at other times. His small and pinched mother, on the other hand, was consistently cold and spiteful.

Joey learned to not expect anything from her. He had no idea of just why she was like she was. Meanwhile, he learned to have joy in his own mental worlds and in reading. He loved reading science fiction. He also enjoyed conversing with others via the various web media.

Thus it was on a sci-fi discussion group, that Joey met Richard, and began writing him email. If Joey had been warned of predatory types on the web, he would have paid the warning no heed. His own house was full enough of predators. Thus it was, Joey agreed to meet Richard, even though he was only fourteen, and he had no idea how old Richard was, just that he definitely was an adult.

Joey found himself easily attracted to the tall, thin Richard. He did not care that Richard sported fangs and often liked to take a teaser sample of his blood. Love was given to him without pain, and Joey readily agreed to being made, even though he was 'too young'. He hadn't ever been 'too young' for anything else in his life before, why should this matter now?

He loved Richard, and was happily dependent on him, as Richard orchestrated the hunts, and Joey's survival was never something for which he had to strive. Richard made their adventures fun, despite the danger, and Joey enjoyed that all of Richard's attention was for him.

All such joy, and he found himself spending less and less time at home. Richard had a small apartment in a low budget area of town. Joey was practically living there, and enjoyed his freedom to do so.

But then one day, an awe provoking stranger burst into the little home. He learned Thomas was also a vampire, and he was very angry at Richard. Joey watched in utter horror, as this vampire killed his maker. The tall and broad one of the wide gestures flashed his angry eyes, and in a few minutes Richard combusted into flames. Joey fled, so that he was not also sought out for the same fate.

The following day, he learned his father's plane crashed on the way to visit with his dying mother.

There he was, utterly orphaned by those who loved him, in the frigid house with his hateful mother. She screamed shrilly, when she got the informative phone call, ''I wonder if my bastard brother left me any MONEY!'' Joey was shocked as he learned the incest that had been involved in his birth.

While this left him further shocked, he was stunned as his cold mother shouted at Joey, ''You're just a useless stinking mouth to feed. I hope John left me some money, at least.'' Joey, remembering how his mother had never once even brought him a glass of milk, always yelling at him to 'get it himself', felt a horrible thought as the great hunger raged within him.

Grief tore at him from all directions. He did not know how to hunt. Richard had always taken care of him. Because his mother had not one bit of love for his now dead father, or him, he turned to her in a rage, ''At last now, you make me a meal!''

Hunger ebbed, his mind cleared and he looked with horror at his dead mother on the floor.

All alone, desperate and scared, he pondered what he could do. He knew he could have survived at his age, if only he had been taught. But Richard had liked him to be dependent. He turned to Jasmine Lane, an online writer of vampire fiction, hoping she would understand and take him in.

She quickly answered his email, yes, she'd meet with him. After securing his valuables, and not knowing how else to cover his mistake, Joey set fire to the house, and left for the bus to Tucson, where Jasmine lived.

She met Joey and found the short auburn haired teenager easily lovable. To better be able to help Joey, she begged for the gift. She found the process painful and herself exceedlingly hungry at its completion. Joey was too inexperienced to give any hunting advice, so she took him with her and went to the bad section of town, where she played 'slut' to allure a would be rapist. She greedily fed, and then played 'slut' again, and they both fed.

Thus it seemed their lives would continue. Jasmine would bring Joey home to her and her special friend Rania's abode, and life would continue, despite the odd limitations being blood drinkers imposed upon them.

But before they wiped their lips of the last good suck, Thomas, the killer of Joey's maker, reappeared amongst them, and kidnapped them both, taking them to an abandoned motel in a ghost town somewhere in Colorado.

They begged for mercy, knowing what he did to Richard. Thomas, a tall and broadly built man with shiny black short hair, said, ''I killed Richard for making too many juvenile vampires. He broke the rules. By all rights, YOU also should have never been been, Jasmine. We never make anyone who is so hungry for fame, who plasters their face and writings all over the web.

''Once you are changed, you do not understand. You must become truly dead to the world. You cannot ever contact anyone of your old life. You cannot make yourself public in a new form. Can you let loose of your ego long enough to understand? And then this understanding must be permanent. No more ego, do you understand?

''If you cannot, Richard's fate will become yours as well as that pitiful spawn of his you embrace.''

Jasmine hugged Joey protectively and nodded, ''I do understand, I do.'' But really, she was thinking he was the worst dictator she'd ever imagined, that they were kidnapped here in his derelict old motel, and couldn't she continue web writing, but under a pseudonym, under the guise of pretending it was fiction? However, this wasn't seeming to to work as she thought.

Thomas approached her, all full of guile and deception. She couldn't stand the bastard. How could she know whether he was merely operating under his own self-appointed leadership, or if there really was a code of ethics and rules for all blood drinkers? She was suspicious as hell. But she had no choice. She knew he could send any vamp into self-destruct mode in the time it took him to blink his eye. Thomas' slick words continued, as he smiled with a demonic glare, ''However, I have a trick to make this easier.'' He bit Joey and siphoned something out of him. But it wasn't blood. It was his DNA. He smiled broadly, displaying fang teeth, as he announced, ''I am a couple millenia old and have learned this trick. I possess a skill to change you.''

He then bit Jasmine, and put Joey's DNA into her. She was puzzled painfully, while her body went through the oddest transformation. Her strawberry blonde hair turned auburn. The last of her freckles disappeared. She reached in her purse for a mirror and saw her hazel eyes had turned the same shade of brown as Joey's. She appeared in all respects his older sister.

An inner transformation was experienced as well. She felt different. Jasmine, although she still retained her memories, seemed a stranger now. Joey stared wide eyed at the transformed woman, who cried and shivered, ''I understand. I shall pick a new name. I shall be Shalimar.''

Joey was still in awe, but Shalimar hugged him and kissed him. At least they were together.

Thomas was to arrange a 'death' for Jasmine. She would be caught in a fire that destroyed nearly all evidence of her body. Shalimar was never again to contact her dear friend Rania, with whom she'd spent the last ten years of her life. She would never make any appearances on the web.

Thomas slammed again into her with the importance of secrecy. ''As Jasmine, you somehow intuited our most well kept secrets, and put them into those awful stories you published on the web. No other fiction writer has come so close to our real truth. It is vital her fame not grow.''

Shalimar just stared blankly at him. He then demanded of her Jasmine's rings and clothes, handing her six new rings, and a loosely designed white dress.

Shalimar nodded, as she slipped the new dress and rings on. She took the dresses belt and tightened it to accent her newly small waist. She was strangely not sure why fame had been so important to Jasmine. She now only wanted love and security. She only wanted Joey near her. She was frightened, wondering how much control Thomas would have over their lives.

She hoped Thomas would be a kind man. She knew time would have a very different meaning now. She could learn patience. Shalimar hugged Joey, never wanting to be far from him. It was done. The past, with all its desires, was gone. She was content.

Thomas smiled at them, and brought some pigs for them to milk. He admonished them to just take a small drink, that he'd be back with fresh ones. Shalimar smiled in return, grateful for a meal. Life strangely seemed more simple than it had been before.

PART TWO:

Shalimar's days just passed in a blur. Joey knew something was wrong. The outer change of appearance was nothing. It was her behavior that was alarming. When ever he tried to talk to her about her old life in Tucson, she'd complain that her head hurt. She wasn't capable of much complex thought at all. He was frightened, for earlier she'd spoken of how evil Thomas was, and how they must try to escape.

And now she just placidly smiled at Thomas, whenever he entered the room. She merely wanted to be close to Joey and have him hold her. Joey knew he needed to stimulate her mind, so he manned the remote control for the cable TV. At least this crap motel had cable. When ever a travelogue featured Tucson, or anywhere in the Southwest, he'd turn the channel to that.

He'd encourage Shalimar to remember the Catalina mountains. He'd ask her questions, ''Have you ever been to the Reid Park zoo, or the Desert Sonora Museum?'' She'd merely answer woodenly, ''Yes, they were nice.''

Then she'd complain her head hurt again, and return to staring into space. This continued for five years. Shalimar had not shown a single sign of alertness. Joey was deeply depressed. The only times she smiled were for his hugs and kisses and for meals. She enjoyed her meals enough.

Thomas the tyrant couldn't take THAT from her. She was, despite zombification, still a blood drinker.

Then, after what seemed an endless succession of spring, summer, fall and winter cycles, Shalimar sat up in her lumpy sofa, looked around her, at Joey, and at the scene of two cheetahs humping on the Nature channel, and announced loudly, ''God, I'm bored!''

Joey nearly fell off his end of the sofa with shock. Shali continued, ''I feel like I've been asleep for years! What year is it, Joey?''

Joey was beside himself with delight, ''It's 2008! You've been out of it for some time!'' He watched in amazement as her auburn tresses lost their dark hue and returned to their prior light strawberry blonde color. Her brown eyes lightened to a golden amber.

She, too, was aware of the physical changes, and loosened her dress belt to accommodate her thickening middle. Joey figured it out, ''Your blood bits have thrown off the forced programming and found the original DNA. They're returning you to yourself!''

Shali got up, and spun around, ''I feel ALIVE. For the first time in years, I feel alive. We've got to get out of here. Dependable meals aren't worth our freedom. I'm so SICK of watching TV!''

Joey cautioned her, ''You do remember what he said about not returning to your old life. He had Jasmine killed off, do you recall?'' Her face squinched with concentration, ''A, a, a faked FIRE, wasn't it?'' Joey nodded, ''Yes, that was it.''

She continued, ''What did I call myself? SHALIMAR? It may be pretty, but that doesn't suit me. How about 'Shelly'? Do I look like a 'Shelly' to you?''

Joey came up to her and embraced her, ''Shelly suits you just fine!''

Ever afterwards, they were alert to signs of visitors. It was exceedlingly rare, but occasionally, the downtrodden motel got a guest. They approached the very next guest and explained how they'd been held kidnapped and wanted a ride ANYWHERE.

The gray haired man, a retiree now turned writer who was researching old ghost towns of the west, was glad to take them to the nearest Greyhound bus station, and even gave them money for their fare. She wanted to return to Tucson. Thomas, however, was on to them. When the bus pulled into Tucson, he was waiting there for them.

He pulled them into a private area, and angrily told them, ''I told you you cannot return to your old life. You should not return to Tucson until one hundred years has passed!''

Shelly affirmed, ''I'm not returning to my old life. I know Rania no longer lives here. She's gone back to Maryland to live with her mother. I can color my hair auburn. I can wear contacts to change my eye color. Please don't take my mind away! If I have no choice, then do to me what you did to Richard. I'd rather be dead than exist without my mind. Just let me say my goodbyes to Joey. At least he's nineteen now and can fend for himself.''

Thomas proved not totally heartless. He let her know he knew the transformation he caused within her was only temporary. ''Five years doesn't seem so long when you've been around for millenia. I'm sorry it was such a long time for you. However, I will be watching your behavior constantly to make sure you follow the rules.''

He then let them go freely into the big city, and even gave them a few hundred dollars to help them on their new beginning. Shelly did as she said, and dyed her hair auburn. Her green eyes were convincing. She also adopted a frilly sort of dressing and always wore lipstick and fingernail polish.

She couldn't recognize Jasmine when she looked in the mirror, so she was quite certain no one else would. It worked.

Joey was now nineteen, and quite frustrated that he appeared so young. His voice was high and childlike. He had not one whisker on his face. He could pass for a girl, if he were one to so choose. Shelly soothed him, ''Yes, it's probably the truth when Thomas says fourteen is too young to make someone. But I was twenty eight and still could pass for twelve. We will have to get you a new ID every ten years. You can easily be anywhere from eighteen to twenty eight. Part of the look of maturity is the confidence that comes with it. Act like a man, and you will be treated like one.''

Joey pondered this and seemed happier now that his prospects weren't entirely hopeless. Shelly continued, ''I, too, need a new ID. Although I am forty five, no, I'm FIFTY now! Anyway, I was forty five when I was made, and still possessed a relatively unwrinkled face. I can pass for anywhere from twenty five to forty five. I'm sorry honey, I'll not have to change my identity as often as you will.''

Joey smiled at her sardonically. He had a face and appearance much like the young man in the old TV comedy ''Third Rock From The Sun''. It wasn't easy, but he could manage.

For five years, they both lived in the shadows, hunting the evil doer as needed, and they prospered. They kept the good loot they'd found, and were building up a sizable savings. But Shelly was restless. She wanted to take a visit to Maryland. Rania would be over sixty now. She knew Rania should have no idea who she was, but Shelly just wanted to see her from a distance. Rania never updated the website they'd created together, so Shelly had no idea of how Rania had been faring.

So damn Thomas, they were boarding a bus to Maryland. It took a bit of spy work to get an idea of Rania's habits. Her mother had died of cancer just a year before, and Rania was living off of the inheritance. Rania's frugal lifestyle would make that easily possible.

Soon Shelly knew which restaurants Rania favored and when she'd be likely to go. She often liked to go with her brother, who she'd met once. Finally after a year of this stalking, she spied Rania in her favorite Greek restaurant. Shelly went to the bathroom, and looked in the mirror, reapplying her makeup. She was grateful for the power of it to so totally transform a woman.

Yes, the pale, but glamorous image before her had nothing in common with the sporty freckled Jasmine. Shelly walked timidly back into the restaurant and up to the table where plump but stylish Rania sat with her even plumper brother. She was startled to notice Rania's hair was completely gray, and small bags settled underneath her eyes. A knife plunged into her heart, as the depth of her love for Rania welled up inside her. She had missed her so terribly.

Her throat near dry, she began, with the slightest bit of trembling in her voice, ''Oh, I've seen the marvelous website you have created with your friends! I must commend you on it!'' This got a smile out of Rania, who apologized for not having done anything with it recently.

Shelly continued, her head becoming a painful jumble, trying to remember the words she was SUPPOSED to say, ''I don't know why I feel implored to tell you this, but I must. I feel I have a message from your Jasmine. I believe she died in a tragic fire?''

Shelly briefly established eye contact with Rania, whose faced saddened as she nodded, and agreed that was the sad truth. Shelly trembled within, quite terrified of Thomas and his power, and continued, ''I feel I have a message from Jasmine. Although she's no longer on this plane in her old form, she wants you to know she loves you still and she always will.''

Rania's countenance warmed to the kindly stranger. Such an elegantly dressed woman, who could she be? Shelly found her head becoming a mass of painful swirls. She felt dizzy. She felt, no, she felt ANGRY. She felt confused. How was she to continue? Could she let one vampire despot control her life? Yes, he was powerful. But what price was life to be obtained under such a dominion? Could she continue to lie? She loved her friend so very much.

She gave a timid look around the restaurant. Did Thomas have spies posted everywhere? Would he somehow know? Was he psychically tied to all younger vampires and would he know telepathically her actions? She did not know. What price immortality if her life were no longer her own? She shifted back and forth in her seat. Her throat was still fiercely dry. Five years had been taken from her.

Five years of her precious life, and there was no way to get them back. In the costume she wore, with the heavy makeup a mask, she did not feel quite herself. But something very small and precious was struggling to come to the surface. She felt weak, but would give it all the strength she could.

Where to begin? She just began. ''You wonder who I am? The woman you see before you is a lie. I know not where to begin. A great crime has been committed, and WE have been the victims. If my life should end tonight, I must make this small attempt.''

Rania's eyes widened at this revelation. Who was this strange woman? There was something strangely familiar about her, in her mannerisms, her voice. But would that just be the delusions of WANTING something so badly? She had missed Jasmine so much these five long years. There had been so much heartache, so much death. Some days she barely had the strength to get out of bed. And on some days, she didn't even bother.

Why was something about this stranger giving her an odd surge of hope? There was in her SOMETHING she didn't know how to define.

Was it an 'eternity in a moment'? Shelly/Jasmine looked into the eyes of the friend she loved so much, and uttered with a hard voice of determination, ''Everything you see before you is a lie! We have been robbed of the past five years of our lives!''

Struggling not to burst out into tears, she observed Rania's mouth drop open, and her eyes widen. She could see the tears forming in them. She could not let one despot, no matter how powerful, take away her life. The tears formed and began falling onto her heavily covered cheeks.

Allowing a few moments for sobbing, Jasmine clutched her friends hands, careful to mind her strength. ''I have missed you so much, dear Rania. I cannot let this man have his power. It is I, robbed of my life for five years through a strange feat of alchemy. It is I, JASMINE, I have come home.'' With this, great heaving sobs convulsed her.

She wiped the makeup off with her sleeve, and cleaned her finger to remove the contacts. She whispered, ''It's ME under all this crap. It's ME, honey, I've come home. I'm not the same as I was. That can never be. But I think my soul is still the same, despite the changes.''

She dried her eyes of the tears, so grateful they were not Ricean red, and looked again at her friend, who was still in shock. ''Let's not concern ourselves with the cost. We may have this moment and only this moment. Is it worth it my honey?''

Rania looked at her, tears falling down her cheeks, ''I've missed you so much, life has been SO hard with out you!'' Jasmine got up, bent over the table, and kissed her friend. She kissed her with the deep hunger of reclaiming her love, her life. Rania seemed to come alive under that kiss, Jasmine could feel it. And so did she. What matter if the despot came the next minute? Only life under one's own terms was truly worth it.

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