I sat and thought for a long time about what I was going to do.
I was physically trapped in the home of an evil vampire who wanted to destroy me. And Zell was mentally trapped, too weak to fight against his master’s vampiric control.
But the next time Zell came to check on me, I had a plan.
“Zell,” I said solemnly. “I know how to give you the strength to get out of here.”
He stared at me, puzzled.
“Drink from me,” I said, holding out my wrist.
“No!” Zell shouted and pushed my arm away. “I swore… never… hurt you…”
“Zell, it’s hurting me now to see you like this. Drink.” I insisted, offering up my wrist again, gazing at him intensely. I wasn’t taking no for an answer.
I saw him falter, his eyes fluttering toward my neck, to my wrist, and I willed my heart to beat faster. He gingerly took my arm, holding it gently, and looked up at me one last time, tears welling in his eyes. I nodded.
Then he leaned over and bit down.
I almost didn’t feel anything when his fangs broke my skin. It was like the lightest pinprick.
But as he drank, the bite site grew warmer and warmer as the blood rushed towards it,
-until it felt like like my wrist was burning. It was like all my nerves were on fire, a searing pain spreading over my body, but at the same time, it was exhilarating. It’s hard to explain. It hurt, but it also didn’t. Maybe I liked it. I don’t know.
And as soon as it started, it was over. Zell dropped my arm and recoiled.
“I’m sorry-” he said, stepping back.
“Benji, I’m so sorry-“
But I stepped forward to grab him.
“No, Zell, don’t apologize,” I said firmly. “I wanted this.”
I felt Zell tremble and hug me a little tighter.
“Zell-” I started to say, but suddenly, I found myself exhausted. “Sorry, I-“
“Rest, Benji,” Zell told me. “You’ll feel better after a nap.”
I yawned, and let him lead me to the bed.
“I’ll be right back, I promise,” he whispered and slipped out as I slipped into slumber.
Zell darted back into the purple bedroom. “Benji!” he whispered excitedly. “Benji, I was able to make the drink- oh, you’re still asleep…”
“No matter,” he said, placing himself on the edge of the bed. “I’ll wait for you.”
When I woke up, Zell was already there.
“Benji, you’re awake!” he smiled. “I did it, I remembered the drink recipe! And I know what I did wrong last t-“
But I had already run across the room to hug him.
“Zell, you’re back!” I exclaimed. “You look like yourself again!”
“That may be, but we still have to get you out of here, Benji,” he said. “I’m not strong enough to defeat the Count right now, but I can try to use the drink on him to buy you time to escape. But we have to do it now, because I think the drink only works when it’s fresh-“
“Give it to me,” I said. Zell immediately protested, but I was resolute. “I’m stronger than you right now,” I insisted. “But before I do, there’s one question that’s been eating at me, Zell. Why did you move back in with the Count?”
Zell stared at me and said, as if it were obvious, “I made him a deal. I promised I would move back in if he didn’t go after you.”
Oh. I took a moment to process that. Zell had moved back in with an abusive vampire, just to keep me safe.
Outside, the sun was setting, and I briefly wondered if I would ever see it again.
It was hard to believe that just yesterday, I had woken up and watched the sunrise, full of dread and misery. And now, as I was watching what might very well be my last sunset, all I felt was peace.
And I realized… I was ok with that. Because, finally, after a year and a half of hesitating and soul-searching, I had found clarity.
“Zell,” I said, taking his chin in my hand and studying his face to make sure I would never forget it. “I love you.”
And then I took the drink from him and ran downstairs to face the Count.