“Let’s try it again.” Anya pushes another crystal goblet toward me. It’s filled to the brim with human blood. My stomach heaves at the thought of drinking it. I don’t even try to suppress my gag reflex.
“Let’s not and say we did,” I reply, giving Anya my most tortured look. It doesn’t work. She’s immune to my pleas at this point. Who’d have figured Anya for such a hard ass? I thought for sure she’d have caved by now, but she’s relentless in her quest to turn me into a full-fledged, blood vision wielding vamp. As if it’s something to be proud of.
“This isn’t optional, Katia. You must master this skill.”
“Skill?” I ask skeptically. “Delving into the memories of those I’m feeding on hardly seems like a skill. More like a curse.”
Turns out being a vamp isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, some days, like today, are just plain old sucktastic. Okay, yeah, there are some perks: superhuman strength, lightning fast speed, and hyperextended mortality. But this? This is hardly what I’d call a perk.
“Drink,” Anya commands.
“You know, if you’re going to act like a drill sergeant, you might want to invest in a pair of combat boots,” I tell her, picking the goblet up by its stem. “The zebra print stilettos are a little misleading.”
“Trade in my Jimmy Choos?” she asks, looking horrified. “Never!” She quickly pulls the coveted shoes back under the desk as if I’m going to snatch them right off her feet like Dorothy and the ruby red slippers. I can’t help but laugh, despite my current predicament.
Anya’s attachment to her shoes is absurd, especially for a professional counselor, but I have bigger concerns. Like this monstrous glass of FTFO. I raise the glass to my lips, determined to get it right this time, so I can put an end to today’s session.
The blood slides past my lips easily. It’s a little cool for my tastes, but this exercise isn’t about pleasure. It’s about control. The vision starts immediately. This blood is fresh. Very, very fresh. I don’t have time to wonder where Anya got it as I’m sucked into a violent and painful memory.
“Remember what we talked about, Katia.” Anya’s voice cuts into my subconscious. “You can control the flow of the memories coming in.”
I lose my grip on the wheel and the car slides off the road, leaving a spray of dirt and gravel in my wake. There’s no guardrail to prevent me from barreling down the bumpy hillside. My body bounces savagely in the drivers’ seat. My tailbone is screaming in protest. I hold tightly to the steering wheel, trying to regain control of the vehicle. My knuckles are bone white from the effort.
“Picture a great and impenetrable wall. There’s only one door. A very small door. It’s locked and only you hold the key. Only you can open the door,” Anya reminds me. “You’re in control of when the door opens and how wide. Just as you are the only one who can close it.”
We hit a rock and I bash my head on the roof of the car. It hurts like hell. Should’ve worn my seatbelt. I try stomping on the brakes, but it’s useless. The car is moving too fast. They’re not responding. Why aren’t they working? In a panic, I pull the emergency brake, but the hill is steep and the car just spins out. I’m afraid it’s going to roll, but it doesn’t.
“Katia, you can control what comes through that door. You can filter those memories. You can choose.”
The car slams into a tree and I’m thrown forward. My face shatters the glass as my body sails through the windshield. The jagged glass tears at my skin, ripping it from my face and arms. I’m flying now, like Superman, only it’s terrifying, not at all how I thought it would be. My broken body crashes to the ground and I pray for unconsciousness. It doesn’t come.
“Push the emotions from your mind. You must separate yourself from the vision,” Anya coaches dutifully. “It’s no different than a movie. You are only there to watch, to observe, to direct.”
Unable to move, I lay in the damp grass. At first I think it’s the morning dew, but then a sickening realization hits me. The grass is slick with blood; my blood. My heart is pumping it out at an alarming pace. The morning breeze is ripe with my scent. Searing pains shoot through my body and I think I must have broken a bone. Or twenty. I’m helpless. All I can do is lie here and bleed. All I can do is lie here and die. Dark clouds roll in overhead and a slow drizzle begins to fall. Drops of rain pelt me in the face and I black out.