Home > The Shadow of Death (The Last Vampire #8)

The Shadow of Death (The Last Vampire #8)
Author: Christopher Pike

ONE

I hug Seymour and whisper in his ear.

“It’s me, Sita. I’m still here. I’m in Teri’s body.”

Seymour Dorsten does not know how to respond. I can’t blame the guy since I’m basically telling him that I have just reenacted the resurrection and risen on the third day, if it has in fact been three days since Matt shot me in the chest. I’m not too sure of the date. The last few days have been a blur. Sometimes I felt like Teri, other times I thought I was Sita. But most of the time I felt as if I was wandering lost in a twilight realm without any clear sense of self. One thing is for sure: Even though I did technically die, I never went to heaven. I never saw Krishna, which weighs heavily on my heart.

I’m not sure I’m happy to be alive again. When I threw myself in front of the laser beam that was about to slice Seymour in half, and shouted out to Krishna, I believed deep in my soul that I would soon see my Lord. That didn’t happen. Indeed, I don’t know what happened. I have no memory whatsoever of what occurred immediately after I got shot.

Nevertheless, I’m grateful to John, Paula’s son. It was only after the funeral ceremony, when John took my hands and gazed into my eyes, that my confusion lifted and my personality crystallized. With his help, I’m myself again, except for the rather important fact that I’m no longer in the body I was born with.

Where is Teri, I wonder? How did I displace her soul? When Matt shot me, she was deep in the unconscious phase of the conversion cycle from a human being to a vampire. In order to save her life, I had already replaced a large portion of her blood with my own. Matt had been furious at my decision to change her, but he had not fired his weapon at me out of malice.

No, he had shot me in the chest because the Array had overshadowed his will and forced him to kill me. I can only assume Cynthia Brutran had grown weary of me and activated her mind-warping tool in order to rid the world of my presence. I can’t imagine she’ll be happy to see me again, although I suspect she won’t recognize me. But see me she will for I swear I’m going to kill her the first chance I get.

“It can’t be you,” Seymour says.

“It is.”

“But that’s impossible.”

“I know,” I agree.

“You’re confused. Changing into a vampire—I’ve never been through it myself. But it must be a disorientating experience.”

“I’m telling you the truth.”

“It was Sita who changed you. It’s her blood that now flows through your veins. I’m not surprised you’ve inherited some of her memories. That’s what must be throwing you off. You just think you’re Sita.”

“I am Sita.”

Seymour shakes his head firmly. “No. Sita’s dead. She died in my arms, in Matt’s arms. That’s screwed you up as well. She should have been here to teach you what it means to be a vampire. But she’s gone and you don’t have anyone to talk to. I mean, you can talk to me but I just write about vampires, I don’t know shit about them. Not when it comes to the real thing.”

I reach out and hug him. “You know me.”

“Teri . . .”

“Shut up. You know it’s me. We’re too close, you can feel that I’m here. Quit trying to convince yourself otherwise.”

Seymour doesn’t hug me back. Yet his face is suddenly stricken with grief and he is close to tears. “No. I can’t go there. I can’t let myself hope. It hurts too much. Get out of here. Go back to Matt. He’s half vampire, maybe he can tell you what to do.”

I continue to hold on to him. “Matt’s the last person I can talk to. He knows there’s something wrong with me but he’s nowhere close to guessing the truth. Plus he was furious that I gave Teri my blood. Now if he finds out I’ve stolen her body, he’ll want to kill me all over again.”

Seymour does not reply. I feel him trembling in my arms. His breathing is suddenly erratic, his heart pounds. But as I stroke his head and press my lips against his neck, I feel him slowly begin to calm down. It is only then his tears start to flow, their damp saltiness washing over me like an elixir of pain. I know intuitively he has not been able to cry during the last few days. When we’re close like this, we’re practically one mind. I know his grief has been too intense to allow it to come to the surface. For that reason I keep touching him, soothing him, until finally his tears stop. Only then do I release him and take a step back, the heel of my right foot accidentally bumping into my coffin. It’s weird to look at it, from the outside, and imagine what’s on the inside.

My dead body.

“Why did you decide to bury me?” I ask. “Why didn’t you have me cremated?”

He shrugs as he slowly collects himself. “I guess there was a part of me that kept hoping you would rise from the dead. Like a normal vampire.”

“Cute. Was that the real reason?”

“I couldn’t stand the thought of putting you in the fire.”

“Well, if it’s any consolation, I’m glad you left me intact.”

“Do you think you can get back inside your body?”

“Seymour. I’m a goddamn vampire. I’m not a divine avatar. I can’t work miracles.”

“Maybe John can help. You need to talk to him.”

“John’s the one who just locked me tight in this body. Before he got ahold of me, I was drifting around the ozone.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know exactly. I remember being up in the mountains with you and Matt, outside that cave where Teri was resting. Then I felt the Array coming and saw Matt’s face change, like he was possessed, and I knew Brutran had caught him in her web. I’m sure you saw the same thing.”

“I did. But what happened when you jumped in front of the laser and got shot in the chest?”

“I died. I felt myself dying.”

“What was it like?”

“It was quick. I felt my heart explode. I saw my blood pour out. But it was weird. My blood suddenly turned to gold dust, and floated up to the sky. At least that was how I saw it.”

“I saw the same thing. So did Matt. What happened next?”

“Nothing.”

“What do you mean, nothing?”

“That’s exactly what I mean. There was a long gap where I didn’t experience anything. Not that I can remember.”

“What is the first thing you do remember?”

“Waking up in bed beside Matt.”

Seymour frowns. “Were you naked?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Just curious.”

I snort. “Here we’re trying to solve one of the greatest mysteries of all time and all you can worry about is whether I’ve been having sex with Matt the last few days.”

“Have you?”

“That’s none of your business.”

“I know you’re attracted to him.”

“Seymour, please, you’ve got to help me. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m in someone else’s body. It’s freaking me out. I don’t even know if that means Teri’s dead or not.”

Seymour considers. “Do you have access to all her memories?”

His question shocks me. Because suddenly I feel as if a computer file has opened deep in my brain—separate from the Sita file—and I can recall the details of Teri’s life. The sudden flood of her nineteen years on earth staggers me and I almost fall over. Seymour reaches out and steadies me.

“Are you okay?” he asks.

“I remember!” I cry out, recalling a dozen Christmas mornings and birthdays in the Raines’ happy household. I see Teri’s parents so clearly, they could be standing right in front of me.

“What’s that like?”

“Confusing. I feel like two people. But it’s sort of nice, too. I feel closer to her than ever.”

“That could be the answer. It’s possible Teri’s gone nowhere. Maybe you’re overshadowing her personality. I don’t mean this as an insult but you always were an egomaniac.”

“You’re saying the two of us are in this same body?”

“Yes.”

I shake my head. “No, that’s not right. Even though I have her memories, I feel like they happened to someone else—to her, not to me. Trust me, I would love to feel her soul inside. But she’s gone, Seymour. She’s just gone.”

He sighs. “Then chances are she is dead.”

I nod weakly. “That’s what I fear.” The words sound so simple and plain. But a mountain of grief stands behind them. Even though I was with Teri when she was dying, I still can’t accept her death.

“You have to talk to John,” Seymour says.

“John doesn’t talk to people. He just hangs out and plays computer games. You remember on Santorini, he wouldn’t even see me.”

“True. But he came to your funeral today.”

“He came because his mother brought him.”

“Then talk to Paula. She’s a seer. Tell her what’s happened.”

   
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