Vampire Dawn Chapter Forty Seven
I was in the desert again.
This time, a little further out. In fact, about eighty-five miles out. I was in the hills above a small town called Pioneertown. A fitting name if ever there was one. Pioneertown had street names like Annie Oakley Road, Rawhide Road, and Mane Street, as in a horse's mane. Rebellious.
In all, it featured a few dozen homes, a post office and an inn, all of which I could see from my position high upon this cliffside ledge.
Sunrise was about an hour away. My minivan was parked about a thirty-minute hike away. I was sitting on an exposed ledge with no hope for shade. Doing the math, that meant I had thirty minutes to decide if I was going to do this.
And I was determined to do this.
Seven months ago, I had leaped from a hotel balcony. Truly a leap of faith. I was either going to fly or fall. At the time, I had been at wits'end. My kids were gone, my house was gone, and my cheating bastard of a husband was gone. I had nothing to lose. And so I had leaped...and the rest was history.
Now, my life was a little more stable. I had my kids, my house and a boyfriend who seemed to care for me, a boyfriend who happened to be a fellow creature of the night, even if it was only one night of the month.
The desert birds were awakening, chirping in and around the magnificent Joshua trees which were scattered across the undulating hills below me.
Although my personal life had stabilized, something else was unraveling: my physical body. Perhaps ’’unraveling’’ was too strong a word. Perhaps even the wrong word. Perhaps the better word was progressing. Progressing inevitably to a full-blooded creature of the night, unable even to step out into the light of day.
But I had to step out into the light of day, dammit. I had to pick my kids up from school. I had to watch little Anthony's soccer practices, even if from afar, even if from the safety of my van.
I had to.
I had to, goddammit.
I couldn't lose that. I had lost so much already. Watching my son play soccer from my minivan was not too much to ask for, was it? It was shitty, yes, but I at least had that.
My feet hung over the ledge. Directly under ledge was, I think, a small cave, because I could hear critters moving around inside. These days, I didn't fear critters, even the slithery ones with rattles on their tales. Unless their fangs were composed of silver spikes, or their poison of molten silver, I was good to go.
I checked my watch. Fifty minutes until sunrise. I could still turn around and head back to the relative safety of my minivan, which was parked under the shade of a rocky overhang.
So, why had I come out here? All the way out here? The same reason I had leaped from the balcony seven months ago.
No turning back. I was going to do it.
Or I was going to die.
I held in my hand the emerald medallion. The golden disk was nearly as big as my palm. I absently ran my thumb over the embedded emeralds, which were arranged into three roses. A cracked, leather strap was threaded through a small hoop in the medallion.
Behind me soared the San Bernardino Mountains. The east-facing San Bernardino Mountains. If I was going to see my first dawn in seven years, I was going to do it right. I was going to do it high upon a hill, facing east, with nothing - and I mean nothing - blocking my view.
This is crazy.
Already I was feeling the first stages of exhaustion. Already I was feeling a strong need to lie down somewhere comfortable and prepare for the comatose state that was sleep.
Instead, I sat here on the ledge, and, as the eastern sky turned from black to purple, as the brilliant flares of light that illuminated the night for me began to decrease, I knew that soon there would be no going back.
No going back.
Forty minutes to sunrise. I had ten minutes to make my choice. I found that I was breathing fast. Filling my lungs and body and brain with oxygen. Except these days I didn't need much oxygen, if any. These days it was an old, nervous habit. A remnant of my humanity.
And what was so great about humanity?
My kids, for one. And daylight, for another.
Thirty minutes. I began rocking on the ledge, forward and backward. If I wanted to comfortably work my way back to my van, then I had to leave now.
Except I didn't leave. Instead, I continued rocking, continued holding the gold-and-emerald medallion.
I suspected the sun would kill me. Perhaps not right off. But soon enough. I suspected it would quickly render me incapable of movement and, once unable to move, I would just burn alive. In complete agony. Right here where I was sitting.
In twenty-five minutes.
As the sky continued to brighten, my heart rate, generally sluggish at best, picked up considerably. The wind also picked up, sweeping over me, rocking me gently. My pink sweats flapped around my ankles. I breathed in sage and juniper and milkwood and dust and the bones of the long dead.
Twenty minutes till dawn. I knew this on a sub-atomic level, my version of the circadian rhythm, or body clock. I was deeply tied to the sun. I knew, at all times, the exact location of the sun. I knew without a doubt that I had twenty minutes before the sun would first appear on the far horizon.
I rocked some more.
Breathed a little faster.
If I jogged now, I could still make it to my van in time.
Never in my life had I felt so exposed, so vulnerable. I might as well be naked in a shopping mall.
No, worse. Naked in a furnace.
The coming pain would no doubt be excruciating.
And all I had was this.
I looked again at the medallion. The gold surface caught some of the lightening sky, reflecting it a little. I recalled Max's one instruction regarding the medallion:
’’Unlocking the secret of the medallion is easy enough for those of great faith.’’
’’Great faith? What does that mean?’’
’’You will know what to do, Sam.’’
I will know what to do.
Truth was, I still didn't know what to do, and my time was running out fast.
Fifteen minutes. A strong need to sleep was coming over me.
I would have to sprint now. An all-out run to make it back to my van.
Great faith, he had said.
Faith in what?
I thought about that again, perhaps for the hundredth time, as the wind picked up. Two or three tumbleweeds appeared out of the semi-darkness to skitter and roll in front of me far below. The sky continued to brighten.
There was only one thing I could think of doing with the medallion - and that was to wear it.
You will know what to do.
I dipped my head a little and slipped the cracked leather thong over my head and pulled my long hair through. Thoughts of my kids were dominant now. I could not lose them. Not to the morning sun. My kids were with my sister. The long night at the theater had culminated with me coming out here after a shower and quick change of clothing.
Jesus, what was I doing?
The weight of the medallion was heavy on my chest. After a moment's thought, I slipped it inside my t-shirt, where it now lay against my bare chest.
The sky brightened. Birds sang. Lizards scuttled. Sand sprinkled.
And I was doing all I could to calm down.
If I leaped from the ledge and changed into the giant flying creature that I am, I could probably just make it to my minivan. But I would have to do it now. Stand now and leap.
But I didn't stand. And I most certainly didn't leap.
The word ’’faith’’ kept repeating itself in my mind. I held on to it like a lifeline.
You will know what to do, Sam.
Easy enough, he had said.
Well, there was nothing easier than wearing the medallion, right? Nothing easier than sitting here now and watching the horizon.
I rocked and maybe even whimpered.
It's coming, I thought. The sun is coming. Hurry now. Back to the minivan. Sure, you might burn a little, or even a lot, but at least you will be safe. At least you will not die. At least you will get to see your kids again.
I rocked and rocked and rocked.
And as I rocked, as I felt the tears appear on my cheeks, as I accepted that everything that I knew and loved could be taken away from me in this moment, I felt something strange.
The need for sleep was dissipating.
I buried my hands over my face. The tears were coming fast and hard. I wasn't even sure what the tears were for. More than anything, I was afraid to look to the east, afraid to settle my eyes on the distant low hills that led on to forever. But I pushed past my fear, and I took a very different kind of leap of faith.
I lowered my hands.
And for the first time in seven years, I saw something that I didn't think I would ever see again:
The upper half of the morning sun appearing on the far horizon.
I felt no need for sleep. I felt no pain. In fact, I had never felt more alive in all my life. And as the sun continued to rise, I rose to my feet and stood on the ledge and shielded my eyes and never in my life had I ever seen something so beautiful.