The assignment was to take a worn out trope, specifically vampire, werewolf or zombie, and give it a new spin. I was leaning towards zombies before I mentioned it to my husband.
“Easy,” he said. “Just make a vampire that gives life instead of take it.”
I envisioned a karmic, zen kind of vampire that both gives and takes to keep the balance… and The Giver was written.
By Angela Yuriko Smith
The baby lies in the crib, struggling to breathe. Her ignorant parents are passed out in the next room, television screams overpowering her feeble cries. She is on the edge of the veil. This little thing is so frail—I envy her delicateness. She will pass from this life to the next as easily as a sparrow flies through shade.
Impervious, I travel anywhere I please on this planet—unaffected by heat, ice and flame. I explore it all. Lava has sizzled on my cold skin as I sunk into molten depths and I rose up to find myself unscathed. I once sought to drown myself in the deepest cracks of the ocean floor. I walked along the barren depths for an age, but eventually I again rose, unscathed.
Immortality hangs around me like a chain. I am the First Darkness. I am the Father of Death. Shtriga, vrykolakas and strigoi… I have many names. I have been here from the beginning and will likely remain until the end is memory. I have limitless power, but this tiny, weak thing goes where I may not.
I bend over the human trifle, a shadow moving within shadow. I have a gift.
I slide my hand beneath it, cradling the flesh clad bones against my palm. It shifts against me, mewls and falls still. They never fight. My omnipotence quells the mortal struggle. I am inevitable. They sense it.
I stroke my finger along the sallow cheek. It smells of feces and nicotine. The baby is naked, but for the bloated diaper. I trace the web of blue beneath the skin. There is life here. It belongs to me so I may choose: take or give. I choose to give.
I open my mouth and the gates of Hell gape wide. Here have passed kings and paupers, creators and destroyers, mothers and daughters… I do not discriminate. I descend upon the infant, my lips of ice do not warm on her fevered flesh, and breathe into her.
I am the keeper of life force, and a taste of this I send into this child. Her chest swells at the incoming gust, nearly bursting the sacs of air within, but she holds. Her baby mind lights up, synapses firing as they form a new network beyond the map to mediocrity they were originally programmed for. I breathe into this child and it lives.
“You will suffer,” I whisper to the infant. “But your suffering will give you depth. You will burn, but your heat will warm this earth.” I lower the baby back onto the stained crib mattress. Her breath is strong now. She is strong now. She will do much in a lifetime before I return and take back my gift.
I exit the crooked, grey trailer in its nest of junk. It sags in an unkempt copse of tree and shrub. Tattered remnants of plastic bag and paper tremble in the bushes like ghosts. A skinny dog watches me from beneath the splintered wooden stairs. He whines softly, a plea to leave his life to him, in spite of suffering. His blood smells sour and doesn’t call to me.
I leave the hovel, following a trail of moonlight. Anyone watching would see only the shadow of a cloud passing across the moon’s face. Some, more keen, may notice the dancing of dry leaves at my silent step. Only the mad would see my true form.
I have given a gift, and now I must receive a gift to retain the balance. There is no method to my choosing. I am neither good nor evil. I am yin and yang. I am the eternal circle of life. I spy a tent draped in white roses, and I move toward it.
Behind the tent is a small, yellow house. The scent of golden anticipation wafts toward me, drifting through twilight, and I follow. It leads me up the wooden siding, through a trellis of wisteria, to find an open window. Thin eyelet curtains are the only barrier between me and the heady odor that calls. I traverse glaciers. I push through ice sheets that trap mammoths. I meditate on mountains so high the air can’t climb them. I push through the curtain easily.
A young woman lays in a tumble of sheets. Her hair is tangled from restless sleep. Laid out on a nearby chair is a dress of white satin and sequin. Veils, silk flowers and ropes of pearl cover a bedside table. She smells like hope, love and lavender dreams. I lick my lips and move toward her.
I stroke my finger along her blooming cheek. It smells of perfume and musk. Her bare shoulder lies exposed where the sheets have fallen, cream against white. I trace the web of blue beneath the skin. There is life. It belongs to me so I may choose: take or give. I choose to take.
I slide my hand beneath her, cradling the flesh clad bones against my palm. Her head falls back, leaving her neck open to me. I descend, a shadow moving within shadow. I take a gift.
I open my mouth against her skin and the pulse of her blood warms me. I pierce her, and all of her joy flows into me. I fill with her essence, a rich and fragrant life. I drink deeply until she goes cold and I grow warm. I lower the woman back into her cocoon of linen and depart. Outside, beneath the trellis of heavy, purple flowers, I find night bleaching into dawn. I make my way silently through the tent, and toward my own repose.
In the tent, I pluck a rose, hold it to my face and kiss it. My lips are still wet from her blood and the petals curl and stain with red. I inhale deep, relishing my rich and fragrant life. Immortality graces me like a chain. I place the reddened rose on the altar and depart.
It is my gift.