It’s 5:45 in the morning and she is there again; somebody’s daughter. She is dressed inappropriately for the weather every time I see her. The last time, it was 3:20 a.m., 27 degrees and a clear night. She was wearing a dark overcoat two sizes too big. It was open and flapped as she walked with her hands in the pockets. She was barefoot, staring skyward and swaying to music only she could hear.
My writing room overlooks a major road in the city. It is five lanes wide with a turn lane in the center. There is frequent and inattentive traffic on it, even in the wee hours. No one pays notice to the four apartment complexes, two housing areas and two condominium developments that line the road. Pets and the occasional wayward child are magically locked behind invisible fences in the minds of drivers who routinely exceed the speed limit on their way to the primary roads that lace the city. I am wondering when my vampire girl will become a casualty.
I don’t know where she comes from. She just appears underneath the street light across from my window, staggering along, sometimes twirling, always looking skyward, occasionally walking toward cars coming the opposite way, gesturing toward them as though she is having a conversation with the driver she cannot know. Her hair is short and dark, straight and unruly. She is always dressed in black.
I was up early that first time, wakened by a short story idea. It was a vampire story, and I had already encountered some mental reservations about writing it. I had in fact promised myself – swore even – that I would never write a vampire story; I don’t like them generally…Anne Rice was the only one since Bram Stoker to change my mind. And it just seems like the market is so oversaturated with vampires that it felt wrong to contribute to the genre noise. But there I was, the Muse having other ideas. I was looking out my window, imagining what my insomniac protagonist was seeing when I saw her.
Drunk? I thought… Maybe sick? Or an addict? I watched her, recalling my time spent as a police dispatcher in a small Florida beach town. Addict, I decided. She was too coordinated for drunk, her jerky movements punctuating an elaborate and private dance as she dreamily gazed skyward. Still, I wondered… Do her parents know where she is? Do they care? Does anyone worry that she cannot be more than twenty, is vulnerably high, and is dancing alone on a high-wire above my busy street?
There are monsters in my fiction. This was a vampire story in the making, remember. My protagonist was set up to witness the monster’s entry into the prose. All I needed was a likely victim; someone in the wrong place at the wrong time. Someone unsuspecting… or maybe someone willing…Someone looking to something outside themselves to embrace them and carry them away from a place of pain… Like an addict.
Her face carries the expression of a religious painting. She is in some manufactured form of ecstasy, partnered with the unseen. Suddenly she stops, her arms outstretched in supplication, her face turned upward as though in worship. She begins to run down the street into my development. Where is she going? I rush to the front window, trying to see where she is headed. She is still running, arms akimbo as though she might catch a falling angel. She disappears behind a garbage dumpster that blocks my view. I do not see her anymore. I am surprised at how hard my heart is beating as I walk back to the computer. She is exactly the type you read about in the morning papers: Jane Doe Found Dead in Vacant Lot.
I gave her to my monster. The vampire took her away that night, tucked neatly beneath his wings in dark fiction. I did it to save her.
Should I have called someone? Was she on her way home? Did she make it? I wrestled with the morality of it. I remembered the rollercoaster of a failed relationship that involved an alcoholic no one could help. I know intimately the frailty of those bonds. I rationalized my way through the rest of my day, knowing she was now irreparably a part of my story.
I tossed and turned all night, kidney stones making sleep dreamless and fevered. So I got up to start the next term paper, and there she was. Again. Alone. Dancing in the dim halo of the streetlight. This morning I have nothing to save her with. I worry about what it means, about how this whole drug business is destroying so many lives, so many so young…I watch her, helpless in my own ivory tower. Does she even suspect the dreams we all had for her? Does she know our worries? I watch her dance through the intermittent traffic, offering an invisible rose to someone no one else can see … Somebody’s daughter…My vampire girl.
Do her parents know where she is?