by Mary Lou Manzie
circa October 1997

Part 1/3

Damn the twentieth century! This would never have happened in the
past. For seven hundred years of his existence, combatants had tread with honor.
In little less than ninety years of this century, honor had become extinct.

He had gone to the aid of a shopkeeper who was being harassed by gang
thugs. He had tried to 'reason' with them. For his efforts, a gang member
tossed him a pipe bomb. A pipe bomb! Boys barely past puberty carrying
pipe bombs!

Nick had come to Toronto to start another life of atonement--atonement
to society for his sins of the past: a past before pipe bombs, computers,
satellites, beepers, television, automobiles and even electricity. A long
distant past.

Starting a new life was always difficult for Nick. How to begin to
atone? How to settle the balance sheet? Each new life meant severing the
mortal entanglements of the past one, a task that seemed to become more
difficult with each passing lifetime. And was he any closer to his goal of
regaining mortality? Nick did not know. He only knew that he longed to be
mortal again, to walk in the sunlight, to love a woman with his heart, body
and renewed soul, and be loved by her in return.

The possibility of it seemed so very, very far away.

Over the centuries Nick had gained many mortal friends, only to be
forced to forsake them suddenly and without explanation when it came time to move on. Vampires are not entitled the luxury of mortal friends. Mortals age,
wither and die while vampires exist over the ages.

But what of loneliness?

Loneliness is the companion of those who cannot love, of those who will
not die.

Each of Nick's lives seemed to begin with the hint of hope, only to end
in disappointment when discovery crept too near. Loneliness had become his
faithful fellow traveler as each life closed without resolution, without
fulfillment, without mortality.

His current life in Toronto had only begun to unfold. Perhaps *this*
time he would find the redemption he longed for.

END Part 1/3, Prelude. Mary Lou Manzie,



Part 2/3

Nick had been severely damaged by the pipe bomb. While the sweet
nothingness of death seemed almost preferable to a return to the dark life
he led, some unyielding part of him grasped at consciousness as his vampire
body struggled to restore itself. His recovery would take some time. There
would be consequences. Mortals would be involved: doctors, emergency medical technicians...and the police. So many, many consequences. And it was cold--cold even for one whose heart had not experienced a steady beat in
eight hundred years.

Nick heard voices. A man was explaining what had happened to him.
They must think him dead! Then he heard a woman's voice.

Bright fluorescent light flooded his face as the body bag was unzipped.
The woman's voice said, "That's not so bad. Not so bad at all." Nick
absorbed her delicate caress as she gently ran her fingers from his temple
down to his jaw line. She was so warm even though the glove muted her
touch. The warmth emanated not from her hand but from her heart. He could feel it banishing the cold.

She turned and he heard her pick up the telephone. "There's hardly a
mark on him. Are you sure you didn't make a mistake?"

Nick's wounds were in the final healing process as his eye lids
fluttered, but he was still weak. He needed to feed *now.* Eyes glowing
and fangs descended, he abruptly sat up.

NO! What was he thinking?!! Hunger consuming him, he growled a
warning for her to keep away.

Startled, Natalie lost her grip on the phone handpiece. It clattered to
the floor as she gasped, "What the...what the hell?" Her mind screamed for an
answer. What was going on? Was Eddie playing a joke on her? No, that was
not possible. She had checked the 'corpse' herself. This man had *not* had
a pulse. " were dead...a minute ago. Who are you?"

"You don't need to know," Nick growled again as he leapt from the table,
putting it between them.

"*What* are you?" She barely whispered, sharply inhaling a breath and
holding it.

"Something very different from you." His eyes were still aglow as he
grabbed a unit of blood, bit off the top and drained it in what seemed like
one fluid motion.

There she stood, so unafraid yet so mortally fragile. He needed to do
something...shock her. Scare her. Make her aware of the danger he

"I am a vampire," Nick declared.

A small breath escaped her control. "Vampire?" Natalie's expression was
incredulous, but not frightened.


Natalie approached him, and again he felt her warmth cut through his
frigid shroud. She raised her hand to touch Nick's face. He snatched it in mid
air and held it away for a moment, then slowly let it resume its intended course
to his cheek. "You're so cold," she whispered.

"I'm dead," was his only response. For an endless moment, they stared
into each other's eyes.

"No. No, you're not. You're not dead," Natalie protested.


Nick sat on the sofa in the loft as he drained his third bottle of
bloodwine. What had happened in the morgue? His interaction with her had
started as with so many other mortals--discovery followed by forced
forgetting. But her warmth, her warmth sang to him even as the hours wore
on. He had tried to wash himself from her memory, but she was strong, possibly a resister. She had courage beyond mortality. He sensed that.

And she was not afraid.

Released from some deeply sequestered room within his ancient heart, a
feeling approached his brain. Hers was a soul full of strength and resolve,
capable of being a foil to his doubt, an ally in his quest.

*NO!!* He would not, he *could* not condemn one more mortal soul to his
symphony of regret. He had to know! He had to know that he had cleansed
his memory from her being. He had to assure himself that she was safe--safe
from *him.*

End Part 2/3 Prelude. Mary Lou Manzie, email:

Scene: Later in the misty evening, on the streets of Toronto.

Natalie walked with resolute if cautious strides down the sidewalk from
the Coroner's Building to her car. Her memory of the incident in the morgue
wafted on the outskirts of her consciousness, registering as neither fact
nor fiction in her scientific mind.

Nick approached silently from the opposite direction. He had seen Natalie
leave her office and decided he must test her memory of their encounter.
She must forget! How could she live her life knowing what she had seen was
real--that evil was real. He must scour the scar from her mind and her
heart. She would not be another mortal tainted by his journey.

Meters away, her warmth embraced him and bathed his soul. She did not
look at him; he did not look at her. But he felt her, all the while trying
desperately not to stain her again with his touch. Her eyes gazed straight
ahead, as if she were a sentry marching on patrol. There was no room for
him in her view or in her life.

As his body floated next to hers, he silently sighed in relief that there
was no recognition in her face.

Nick was safe--safe from the questions he could not answer, safe from
mortal entanglements, safe from guilt. He looked past her to the deserted walkway.

Loneliness intercepted him.

Some incomprehensible, involuntary sensation overtook his psyche. He
brushed lightly against her.

"You're testing me," Natalie spoke soundly as Nick glided past her. He
stopped abruptly at her words. "To see if I've forgotten." She turned to
face him.

"I see you haven't," Nick recouped. Nick's conscience screamed for a way
to undo her memory.

"Oh, please, don't bother. It won't work. Maybe I'm just one of those
people who they say can't be hypnotized. Or maybe I don't want to be."

"And you're not afraid?" Nick kept his voice steady.

"Fear is based on ignorance. I'd rather try to understand. What makes
you think I can't help you?" her strength answered.

Hope tried to enter his brain, but he fought it back. He *would not*
allow hope to tease him yet again only to leave him desperate and alone when it proved false, as it always had in the past.

"Help me? Are you serious? No one can help me. My immortality is a
curse. A fall from grace." Nick walked up behind her and whispered directly into her ear. "Evil is a metaphysical condition."

"You're not evil!" she tried not to shout as she turned to face him. "You
ended up on my examining table because you tried to help people. Also, your
condition *is* a physical one."

"I see." Nick continued to search for a way out, yet hoping beyond hope
not to find one. "Your specialty. And how on earth do you think you can help
this eight hundred year old body...this incessant hunger for blood? This..
"physical" condition of mine."

"I don't know. Yet. But I *am* willing to try." Natalie's doctor mode
had kicked in, pushing doubt from her mind.

"And what's the reward for you, Doctor? What could you possibly expect in
return?" Nick awaited her answer in silence.

She stared at him for several moments. "Solving a puzzle is its own
reward for me." She hoped he would not press her, for she could not reveal either to him or herself the real reason simmering in her heart.

"Are you sure?" he asked.

"Oh, yes." Her nerves were steady now, she thought.

"Don't. Don't get too close to me," Nick's voice warned, trying to stop
them both from proceeding, and praying she would not listen to him.

"You want to hurt me. Kill me," she questioned.

"No. But I might anyway." He spoke the truth not only to her but to

Nick stared into her knowing eyes for several moments. He knew if he
spoke, there would be no turning back. She would be a part of his life, a part of
his quest, yet he craved shelter from the storm of loneliness. "I'm Nick

Natalie met his gaze and thought she saw a pale reflection of some
innermost need in his eyes. She reasoned that if she replied, her life would never be the same.

"Natalie Lambert."

I was in a daze, movin' in the wrong direction
Feelin' that I'd always be the lonely one
Then I saw your face, on the edge of my horizon
Whisperin' that I wasn't the only one
The lonely one.

One chance intervention, see what it can signify
The slightest misapprehension, baby
And we'd have passed each other by
When I heard your sweet voice callin'
Saw your light come shinin' through
I couldn't stop my heart from turning
Churnin' out my love for you, my love for you.

True love or perfection
It seems like it's overdue
Then just when you least expect it
It comes sneakin' up on you
When I thought that I was dreaming
Felt your body close to mine
Now love takes on a different meaning,
Together till the end of time.

I was in a daze, movin' in the wrong direction
Feelin' that I'd always be the lonely one.
When I saw your face, through the web of my confusion
Whisperin' that I wasn't the only one
The lonely one.**

END 3/3, Prelude. Mary Lou Manzie,

**Not the Only One, Copyright 1983 by Rondor (London) Ltd. (Admin. By Almo
Music Corp. (ASCAP) in the U.S. and Canada, performed by Bonnie Raitt on her
Luck of the Draw album.