My name is Brandon Chase. That much, at least, I'm sure of. Aren't I?
I was born in the year 1964--I think. I remember my parents. Mom was a housewife, mousy, submissive. Stereotypical of the era, really. Dad was a tough old bastard who'd spent his entire life in the army, until that accident with his foot. He was a mean coot most of the time, and he never seemed to understand that Mom and I were his family, not his troops--but still, in his own way, I'm pretty sure he cared.
Childhood? Elementary, high school? Friends? I know they were there, that these years have to have been a part of me at one point. But I can't hear them anymore. I look back at the past, and it laughs at me, and points, and laughs some more, and runs away before I can grasp it. I wish I could either remember it all...
Or forget it all.
I wanted to go to college as soon as I got out of high school. That would've been--I guess around 1982, assuming I remembered my birthday right. Well, it was somewhere in the early '80s, so that's as good a year as any. Anyway, I wanted college, and Mom wanted college, but Dad--Dad wanted me to follow in his combat boots, and what Dad wanted, Dad pretty much got.
It wasn't too bad, really. I only enlisted for a four year tour--would've gone two-year, but Dad wouldn't hear of it. The training was hell, but I had it better'n some. I wasn't exactly a jock in high school, but I kept in shape. And hey, the army was going to help pay for college, something that had been kind of worrying me from the beginning, so I decided it would work out after all.
It's funny. Physical training, weapons training, tactics--I did it all, and I was at least competent, at worst. But what fascinated me, what really grabbed my attention, was the technique. The idea that this institution could make people into whatever they wanted. That they could disassemble a person down to the psyche, and build a new one--a soldier, presumably--in his place. It was intriguing, to say the least. I began doing a little studying on the side; psychological warfare techniques. Propaganda, information, all that. Probably would've gotten a lot more heavily into it, maybe gone into intelligence, if I'd re-upped after my tour.
But my four years were finally up, and I wanted to go to school, dammit! Dad wasn't happy, but one thing I'd picked up in the army was my confidence. I didn't really care what he thought anymore. He died a few years ago--I think it was a few years. It might've been... Anyway, we patched things up long before he died. That, at least, is one regret that I managed to avoid.
So I came home, got married, and... Married. Emily. When did I meet Emily? I mean, I must've known her already, before I came back home. We were married only a few months after I started college, and I don't think I'd've tied the knot so soon after first meeting... I must've known her in high school. I wish I could remember it.
The next years were--happy. God, they were happy. Four years undergrad, four years post. It was tough, yeah. We had to do the whole Ramen Noodle thing for months on end. But we made it. Ph.D. in psychology, and a teaching certificate. And I was lucky enough to start teaching at the same damn University I'd graduated from. How's that for a break, huh?
Not as lucky as I felt that one night, though. I was just starting my second semester as a professor when she told me the news. The test had turned pink, or blue, or made a little plus sign, or whatever the hell it was supposed to do for "yes." It's funny. I can't remember the details of so many years of my life, but I remember being so overcome at the time that I literally couldn't speak. Weird.
Taylor was so beautiful. Everybody told me she had my eyes; but I looked into those tiny little blue orbs, and all I could see was Emily's face. I couldn't believe how much I loved these two beautiful girls. They were perfect; and so I knew I was going to make everything perfect for them. Everything.
I guess maybe, for a few years, I managed.
It started when Taylor was five. I think she was five. She looks--looked--five. It started slowly; and at first, I thought it was just a string of bad luck. Pickles, our black lab, got hit by a car. My own car was banged up pretty good by some asshole in a parking lot who couldn't be bothered to leave his name and number. One of my coworkers, Michael--I can't even remember his last name anymore--who was also a good friend of mine threw himself out a fifth story window. I didn't understand why, at the time. I just knew it didn't sound like something he would do.
When my savings account dried up and vanished in the same week that the psych department at the university told me that I was being replaced by someone with a "more professional attitude," I knew that something was messed up. I mean, I had been in the army for God's sake! I knew hostile action when I saw it! This couldn't be anything but an organized attack on me! I didn't know who, or why. But I knew it had to be.
Needless to say, no one believed me. I was "disturbed." So much had happened to me at once, I was jumping at shadows. It was understandable, of course; after all, look at how bad my luck had been recently.
I could complete the clich� and say that I started drinking. Doing drugs. Something like that. But I didn't. I had an addiction, all right, but it was a lot more insidious. I got a little obsessive, I guess. But I had to find the monster who was doing this to me! Even if no one, not even Emily, believed that he existed.
I used to look fairly presentable, you know. The military had gotten me in the habit of keeping my hair cut fairly short, and I usually dressed pretty well for work; wouldn't want to be mistaken for one of the students, would we? That went all to hell fast enough, let me tell you. Look at me now. How presentable do I look to you?
Emily was terrified, I know that. And Taylor just looked at me with those big blue eyes, confident that Daddy had a good reason for acting so strange. He must, right? I mean, he's Daddy.
I loved my girls so much, I never--I never had the courage to examine them closely enough to learn exactly how it happened. I pray to God it was quick.
I don't remember much of the evening when I came home and--found them. I must've cried--if only because I can't imagine not crying--but I don't remember. I suppose I never called the cops; they never came by, at any rate, and I don't think a double murder is the kind of thing they'd just blow off.
I remember--wandering. Just walking the sidewalks, day and night. I don't really know how long. It could've been three days, or three weeks. But I know it was right about midnight, standing outside a dank little alley near downtown, when he finally showed up. My demon. My enemy.
I think I was startled, at first. Not because he just appeared out of nowhere directly in front of me; hell, that didn't phase me at all. I think it was because he was so small. I'd somehow expected the monsters to come a lot bigger, but he was barely five-foot-six, if that. Sharp little nose, crooked teeth, thinning hair. You'd never know he was anything unusual, just to look at him.
But I knew. And I think he knew that I knew.
"Why aren't you mad?" he asked, his voice as frustrated as I'd ever imagined a voice could be. He really didn't understand. "You're supposed to be mad by now!"
I still don't really know. Maybe it's because somehow, at that exact instant I found Emily and Taylor, I knew that I was supposed to go mad. All my schooling in the workings of the mind; I never realized it consciously, but there was no other reason for this to be happening. And maybe knowing that helped me fight it off.
Or maybe it didn't. Maybe I didn't fight it off at all. There are still some nights where I wake up, and I wonder if I didn't go mad after all. I mean--the world around me, this new world, seems so crazy anyway. How would I ever know?
"Because," I think I remember telling him, "I've been waiting for you."
It's one of those little ironies you find in life, you know? If I'd been conscious, truly aware, that I'd been waiting for him, I'd probably have brought a weapon with me. And it wouldn't have done me the slightest bit of good. But since I'd only known subconsciously, I wasn't prepared, and I had to improvise. And the first weapon that presented itself, there at the mouth of that dark little alley, was a six-inch fragment of a splintered two-by-four.
I know now that I shouldn't have had a chance. But I guess he was even more surprised by what happened than I was; his eyes got real wide as I rammed the wood into his chest, but he didn't have time to do anything else.
I probably thought he was dead. I mean, any human would've been, and I hadn't yet really figured out that he actually wasn't human. I was just starting to wonder if I should feel anything about him being dead when someone else appeared out of nowhere, just like he had.
She was attractive, I suppose. Dark skin, long dark hair, very classic features. If I'd been in anything resembling a coherent state by then, I could probably tell you better.
"How?" she asked me.
I stared at her.
"I broke," she said simply, and then giggled obscenely for about thirty seconds. "When he did it to me, I snapped, just like a puppy underfoot. We all did." I think, as she said this, that I saw another four or five people moving around in the darkness--but it might've been a trick of my mind. "But you didn't." She sounded almost offended.
"Maybe I should have." Did I say that? Or just think it? I couldn't tell you.
"You're the best of us," she said then. When did she get that close to me? I should have seen her move... "You deserve to be one of us."
And then she bit me.
I hung around with her for a few months, as near as I can figure. Long enough to watch her and the other "children" leave their master--the monster I'd staked for them--out for the sun. I still carry some of his dust in my pockets. And I learned the basics of vampire society. Yeah, vampire. Can you fuckin' believe that? This whacked-out son-of-a-bitch who was trying to drive me insane was a vampire. Hell, if he'd just told me that from the beginning, he might've had more luck.
Best I can tell, we're what the other vampires call "Caitiff." At least, I think we are. I've heard a couple of these "Kindred" call me something else, when they didn't think I was listening. "Malkavian." But that wasn't one of the clans my sire taught me about, so I guess they're mistaken.
I've learned a lot, now. I know that it was the blood that brought me back. The power's in the blood; the Catholics got that part right, at least. Of course, I was just a guy, average, normal. So average and normal blood worked to bring me back.
But Emily and Taylor--they were special. Perfect. Pure. It's going to take something extra-special for them.
I've made them as comfortable as I can, in that tiny little house I acquired. I wish they could've stayed in the home they knew; I'm sure they'd be happier there. But sooner or later, people would've noticed they were missing--and the old house would be the first place they'd look. I can't let them be found yet. They can't explain right now; they couldn't tell anybody they're just waiting for me to find the right blood to bring them back. So I have to hide them away, for now. But only for now.
They don't look very good, of course. I've had to start putting pieces in Tupperware boxes, labeled with masking tape, so they'll be able to figure out whose parts are whose when they do finally wake up. But I'm very careful about that; they're going to be perfect again. Absolutely perfect.
I know, to have power, the blood has to come from vampires. But there are no perfect vampires. We're monsters. That's why I feed like I do now. I only drink perfect blood if I can help it. Innocent; pure. Children, clergy, others like that. And every night I feed, I go home and I give a little bit to my perfect girls.
It hasn't worked yet. Maybe people aren't pure enough. I've never met anyone as perfect as Emily and Taylor--but they've got to be out there. And I'm going to keep trying until I find them.
Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm corrupting the blood that's in me, so it's not pure anymore when I get home. But if I do this enough, maybe the pure blood will wash out the taint within me, and let me get my family back.
I'm not a monster, at least not like the creature who murdered them. I don't kill the people I feed from, not if I can help it. But there's this hunger that comes with being what I am, and sometimes--sometimes I can't help it. But those poor folks don't deserve to die, not even for Emily and Taylor. So I bring them home, to let them keep Emily and Taylor company. That way, when I finally bring my girls back, I can bring all my accidents back too. And they won't really have died at all.
It would be easier if the others would leave me alone. The other vampires, I mean. But they don't, not always. And some of them--some of them are monsters, just like he was. Some of them even feed on the pure, and the innocent--the ones I need, to bring back my family. And they aren't always as careful as I am.
But I still remember my psychology. I know why people act the way they do. I know how to make people do what I want--even if all I want is to be left alone. I know how to gain power. The Prince, his Primo-whatever Council, the elders--they all want something. They all fear something. And I'm going to find out what it is, no matter how long it takes me. Then I'll have power over them, enough to make them leave me alone, enough to make them leave my innocents alone--maybe even enough to make them help me bring my Emily and my Taylor back.
And if that doesn't work--well, I wasn't in the army long, but I remember how to kill things. If I can't find something they fear--maybe I'll have to become something they fear.
My name is Brandon Chase. I am a vampire.
God help you all.