Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chapter Ten - The Amour

The frenzied, far off sounds of barking dogs was the first thing Bill heard as his brilliant blue eyes flew open. Every sense, every fiber of his being were instantly on full alert. After listening carefully, but hearing nothing but silence in his house, he reached up to unlatch the security lock inside his resting place. He climbed out into the special hidden space behind a wall, a place specially made by Bill's father during the war while Bill was away as a safety precauction. As he reached for the spring latch he could feel a smile start to work it's way up from somewhere inside. "Sookie". Bill smiled again as he said her name out loud. He tried to contain his growing excitement as he remember her promise to stop by his home later tonight. She had mentioned to him last night during their walk that she might be able to be of some help with his contractor issues and said she could drop off the information after she finished her shift at Merlolottes. Just thinking about her, thinking about actually being with her again, made him almost giddy with happiness. He closed his eyes as his memory pulled in the wonderful, intoxicating scent of her soft, tanned skin. He could feel himself becoming aroused as he recalled how her hair felt in his hands, how it gently caressed his senses. Bill suddenly realized that he didn't care that darkness had called him from his sleep of the dead. Until he met Sookie, he had dreaded those waking hours of darkness, those wretched lonely hours of solitude. But now! The night just couldn't come quickly enough and just didn't seem to last long enough.

He knew he would need to feed before she came to visit him. He quickly made his way upstairs to his newly renovated bathroom and stood still for a moment. He was undecided as to what he should do. Should he just drive to the store and pick up a few bottles of TruBlood, or should he change into something nicer and go to Merlotte's? "No", he said to himself "I don't want to appear too needy, too aggressive" . Even though he would have loved to see her as soon as possible, Bill remembered enough from his human days of courting to realize moderation and playing a little hard to get were the rules of a little game called love. As he stood there smiling at the memory, he heard a car pull into his front yard.

Jesus Christ! Of all the vampires in the world, those three who were walking up his front steps were the last ones he wanted to see. Malcom, Diane and Liam. And they appeared to have brought along two of their human pets. A lovely, shapely young man for Malcom, natch. And for whomever wanted her, there was a pathetic hollow eyed drug addict. Yeah, she was really making his mouth water, he thought to himself wryly. Where DID Malcom find these humans? Throughout the years, Bill had grown to despise those three and their horrible, cruel ways. Bill had nested with them a few times over the last century, and each time he grew more and more revolted by their actions. Actually, he had grown more and more revolted by his own actions when he was with them. Bill hated to recall some of the things they had done. In his human life Bill was not a cruel man. He was sweet, kind and gentle. To become something so evil and cruel went against every thing that had once been William T. Compton. Bill knew he had to get away from them, to live alone. He could not and would not let the final vestiges of humanity be destroyed by their evil ways. Malcom was a great deal older than Bill and Bill had actually liked Malcom for a little while. That Malcom had fallen hard for the handsome, dashing Bill Compton with eyes the color of the Caribbean Ocean was no secret. But Bill's constant rejection of Malcom's sexual advances had definately put a crack in the bridge of their friendship. And Bill doubted that there was anything kind or merciful about Diane even before she became vampire. Bill knew very little about Liam. Liam had only been vampire for some 30 odd years and Bill had never really known much about him. But frankly, Bill didn't really care to know anything about Liam. He appeared to have been cut from the same bolt of fabric as those other two.

Bill had no choice but to allow them to come into his home. Malcom was senior to him and in the vampire world the rules were The Rules. All he could hope for would be to get rid of them as quickly as possible. But alas, that was not to be. With a sick, sinking feeling Bill heard the sound of Sookie's little yellow Honda come up into his driveway. There was really nothing he could do but hope desperately that he could somehow manage to steer her away from his house and those three horrors that had invaded his home. But it did seem that Lady Luck was giving him the finger at each and every turn. He heard Sookie walk up on the porch and all he could do was sit in the shadows and watch. Watch and do everything in his power to protect her. He knew he couldn't reveal too much about his feelings or she would become fair game in the vampire sport of baiting and goading. Only by strongly announcing that she was his, she belonged to him and only him, could he protect her. He felt sick in the pit of his stomach as he watched her embarrassed uncomfortableness at the sexual antics of Liam and the one he called Janelle. To sit helpless and watch as Liam and Diane put their hands all over her was almost more than he could endure. But he knew he had no choice. But when it became clear that those two intended to feed on his Sookie, he knew he could hold back no longer. With a rage boiling over, he heard himself loudly announce that Sookie was his. His!

Ah, but that Malcom was crafty. Yes, indeed. He knew that Bill would have a very hard time resisting the fresh blood supply being offered to him and just how disturbing it would be for his little human girlfriend to watch. Bill fought against those natural primal urges of his vampire nature. He did not want to feed in front of Sookie. He couldn't imagine what the sight of him giving in to his pathetic need to drink the blood of this willing human would do to her. He felt so ashamed, but at the same time it was as if something alien, something foreign was controlling his mind and actions. As the scent of the fresh blood of the human Jerry assailed his nostrils, Bill felt his fang click into place and a bloodlust that was as natural to him as a baby's reaction to it's mother's milk took control of his free will. As Bill lowered his mouth onto Jerry's neck, he could feel her dark, disbelieving eyes staring at him. Sadly, there was nothing he could do to stop himself. That is until Sookie read Jerry's thoughts and announced that Jerry was carrying HepD.

Bill gently helped Sookie onto a seat after his visitors had finally gone. Bill couldn't believe that he had reacted so slowly and had allowed Jerry to almost strangle her. If there was any question as to how she felt about the evening's activities, that question was answered when he asked her for a kiss. Her answer sliced through him like a sharp knife lays open an unsuspecting hand.
Even though she felt repelled by all the vampire activities she had witnessed tonight, even though she had repelled his request for a kiss, Bill knew he had to be sure she arrived safely at her home. There was no telling what those three who had visited him tonight would do. They had done worse. Much worse in fact. Moving as quickly as he could, he arrived on her doorsteps just as her car pulled into the yard. It all but broke his heart to see her wipe away the tears from her eyes before she got out of the car. He wanted desperately to go to her and wipe them away with his lips, to take her into his arms and apologize for what she had been witness to that night. To reassure her that he wasn't like them. But somehow he knew that would only make things worse.
God, but she was angry! Bill heard himself trying to explain things to her , to try and convince her that their differences just didn't matter. But it appeared that Sookie was having none of it. Then she said the words that cut through poor Bill's heart like a hatchet. She didn't want to see him anymore. It seemed that the more he talked the worse things became. All he could do was turn and walk away. But he wasn't finished with things tonight. No, not just yet. He had a score to settle with the three vampires from hell. And he intended to do just that.

Isn't it funny how circumstances can fly right over your head and little blessing born from tragedy are just swirling there, ready for you to reach up and pull them down? As Bill made his way into Merlotte's the next night, he really wasn't expecting much. He just wanted another chance to talk with Sookie, maybe to explain things a little better. The thought of not having her in his life any longer was just too sad to think about. He didn't care if he seemed desperate or not. Forget about playing hard to get! He just needed to see her, to hear her voice. Even if she was telling him things that he didn't want to hear. Besides, Bill knew that he could look as sad, pitiful and lonely as the next guy. He wasn't above playing the pity card. Whatever it took. Bill senses immediately picked up on tension and fear in the bar as soon as he walked in. Bill was unfortunately very use to not being welcomed in many public places, but the atmosphere tonight just felt different.

Damn! He couldn't believe she wanted to go to Fangtasia. That was the last place he wanted to go. Ever. But he would do whatever she wanted. He found himself thinking about what kind of music she would enjoy on the drive to Shreveport. He owned a wide variety of music but he really had no idea what kind she might like. He wanted everything to be just right on the drive over. Perhaps something romantic. When he arrived at her home to pick her up, he thought that it would be close to impossible not to become aroused before he could safely hide himself in the darkness of his car. He had never seen anything so lovely! Dear God, the way her body looked in that dress. She was exquisite. And he knew that someone who would be there tonight would also think the same thing. Bill really didn't want to take Sookie to Fangtasia. He knew it would be the beginning of many problems for the two of them and their relationship. But what choice did he have? He knew she would go regardless, and there was no way she would go there without him to protect her.

He wasn't wrong. Eric couldn't take his eyes off her. This was not going to turn out well.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chapter Nine - The Awakening

Bill Compton was falling in love. Already his heart could feel those first stirrings of longing and need that he remembered so well from his human days. He was also running late. He had told Miss Stackhouse that he would be happy to meet with her after she finished her late night shift at Merlottes. He had told her he would be there at 1:30. And he was not. He had decided to take a long walk after he left Merlotte's earlier in the evening. He was so keyed up, so excited that he just couldn't go back home and read a book. He had become so lost in his thoughts that he failed to keep track of the time. Smiling and putting his hands in his pockets as he walked Bill began to whistle one of his favorite tunes "On The Street Where You Live". Bill had a secret. A secret that not many, with the exception of a vampire acquaintance named Malcom, knew of. Bill really liked show tunes. He felt his face break into a grin as he contemplated the wisdom of divulging this information too quickly to Miss Stackhouse. Bill's poor, sad heart had not felt so alive, so awakened in so many years. Like dry, parched earth when the soft gentle rains of a warm summer shower fall, Bill could feel his heart begin to open up like fertile soil ready to spring forth life. He realized that he was feeling something he didn't think possible a few days ago. He felt happy.

Suddenly, he stopped whistling. He thought he heard something. He listened intently. There, he heard it again. Although he was at least 2 miles away, his finely tuned sense of hearing allowed him to hear what mere mortals could not. It was a sound that Bill had heard far more times than he cared to remember. The sound of someone's fear and pain and suffering. Other more omnious sounds came slicing through the night air. The sound of leather boots destroying flesh and bone, assaulting tender organs. Then something else even more chilling to Bill, something every vampire recognizes instantly. The powerful and unmistakable aroma of fresh human blood. With a sick pounding in his heart, instinctively Bill knew who's weak cries of pain he heard, who's warm blood he could smell in the damp night air.
Bill had never been this angry. Moving so fast that he was but a faint blur to the eye of these two loathesome creatures, Bill felt his rage boiling up from somewhere deep inside. All he could think of was killing them. As he felt their bodies leave his strong hands, as he watched their broken bodies fall to the earth, Bill found himself for the first time in 143 years actually glad he was vampire, glad that he possessed the strength to end these two sorry, worthless lives.

Bill could feel himself growing weaker as she finally began to drink of his life-saving blood. But he didn't care. He would offer her every drop of his blood if necessary. What had happened to her was all his fault. Once again he had failed someone he cared about. As he watched her sleeping he thought about how much he had come to care for her and how badly it would hurt if she made the decision to discontinue their friendship. Even before he had finally summoned the courage to meet her face to face, even while he had loved her from afar, she had filled a desperate need in his life. As she began to awaken, he could feel her dark eyes silently watching him as he slowly slid his tongue across the large wound in her head. Although his saliva would hasten the coagulation of her blood and it's healing, that wasn't the only reason he gave the head wound such undivided attention. So intoxicating was the taste and smell of her blood that Bill felt the same light headed sensation he remembered from his human life after a glass of fine brandy. This blood was completely different from any blood he had ever smelled or tasted. Yes, Sookie Stackhouse was different alright. And he had to know why. Her question as she awakened caught him by surprise. It was as if she already knew that she was unique and strange. But it was her answer to his question that caught him completely off guard. The idea that she could perhaps read his mind actually terrified him. He found himself desperately hoping the answer was no. He wasn't prepared to open himself up in such an honest way. No, not quite yet. Even in his human life Bill had never been the spontanous type. He had always moved at a deliberate, slow pace about everything.

As he walked her to her car, they began to talk. He was so delighted that she was not shy or reluctant to ask him all kinds of questions about himself. No human he had ever encountered had been so interested, so inquisitive of Bill's vampire life. In truth, a great deal of Bill's vampire life had become but distant memories. He hated to think about most of it. It just caused too much sadness for him. When she asked about his war years, Bill silently screamed at himself for being so outspoken and cranky. She didn't mean any harm. But those war years when not only he, but others had suffered so terribly were a part of his past that he just couldn't bear to think about. But she wanted him to do her a favor. Oh Sookie, if you only knew that I would do anything in the world for you!

That next evening Bill stared into his own deep blue eyes as he combed his hair. What on earth was he thinking? Had he finally, completely gone insane? Here he was, a vampire, as excited and hopeful has he had ever been, getting dressed to come calling on a beautiful young lady who was not only mortal, but more than 100 years younger than he. Yes, when you put it that way, he decided, he was indeed insane. But in that same frame of thinking, he decided that he just didn't care. He was so tired of the lonliness, the sadness, the yearning ache to have someone in his life. Someone to care for and who would care for him in return. Whatever the cost, whatever the consequences, he had made up his mind to pursue Sookie with all he had.
Bill was enchanted by the sweet spirit of Sookie's grandmother. It was obvious where Sookie inherited her open, accepting nature. He was invited into their home and made to feel completely welcome and at ease. The only problem seemed to be Sookie's rather dimwitted brother and her bitter, angry friend. Unfortunately, he had a lifetime experience of dealing with people like them. He had the feeling that they would be trouble down the road. Well, just let them. He would do what he had to do to have Sookie.

My, but Sookie knew how to ask some strange questions! He didn't believe he had ever been asked such frank, inquisitive things by anyone about his vampire life. He knew it wasn't nosiness, but a refreshingly candid curiosity. He found he didn't mind answering her questions, actually he found it quite enjoyable. It was so invigorating, so refreshing to find someone to talk with, to take a walk with, who liked and accepted him. Not even the shifter lurking in the bushes could aggravate him tonight. For tonight he intended to revel in the company of this lovely young lady he had yearned for from afar. He hadn't had anyone to talk with who actually treated him with respect in far too long. He had really missed that. They had such easy banter, sometimes teasing, sometimes serious as they began to learn each other. As they began to talk and open up to each other, Bill began to realize that Sookie was in many ways as damaged as he was. She had her demons and hurts too. As he stood there in front of his home looking at her, he realized he had never wanted anything more in his life than to feel her hair in his hands, to bury his face in it's fragrance. With a sudden shy reluctance, he heard himself ask her to take it down. When she complied and shook it loose, Bill could no more stop himself from reaching out and touching it than the ocean can stop the tide. As he buried his face in it and inhaled it's wonderful softness and essence , Bill senses were suddenly drenched with something he had not smelled in so long. It was something he had never, in all his 143 years as a vampire, stopped missing. He felt his heart and soul breaking once again as he remembered the feeling of sunshine on his face, the way sunshine smelled when he walked outside in the morning before he began his day's work. He could smell all of this on Sookie's soft, tanned skin. He suddenly felt his emotions getting the better of him and wanted desperately to turn away. And then, there she was. She was pulling him to her, her soft lips finding his. His passion came flowing up like a tremendous wave as he tasted her mouth on his. She felt so wonderful in his arms.

He abruptly pulled himself away and in shame turned his head. What would she think? How on earth could she still want to be with him now? Oh, but he hated what he was! In a sudden desperation born of shame, he began to walk her home. He didn't say anything . His shame was such that he didn't trust his emotions or voice. Although she seemed a bit puzzled by his sudden change in demeaner, she said nothing. As he escorted her up the steps onto the porch, his thoughts were of only one thing. That this would surely be the last time Sookie Stackhouse would want to be with him. Then, she turned her pretty dark brown eyes up to him, and with a smile as big as a new moon, she kissed him sweetly and gently on his cheek and told him that she had a wonderful evening with him and would love to see him again.

That was all he needed. He was as happy as he had ever been. Yes, he was falling in love. His sleeping heart had finally awakened from it's long, sad sleep.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Chapter Eight - The Hope

Bill Compton leaned his strong, muscular body back under the large shower head and smiled as he felt the warm water cascading down his back. The warm water felt so wonderful. Until Bill was able to obtain the services of an electrical contractor, he was stuck with using a gasoline powered generator as his only source for powering his new hot water heater. It was an annoyance, that was true. But so worth it. As he stood there lathering shampoo into his thick, dark hair, he finally made up his mind. Yes, tonight. Although dinner would be only a warm bottle of synthetic blood, Bill decided that he had put it off long enough. Tonight he would go out for dinner. Bill had grown somewhat weary of the never-ending home renovations he was involved with and his lonliness had finally gotten the better of him. He needed to hear the sound of another's voice, the sight of another's face. Anyway, there wasn't a whole lot he could do tonight as he was running low on materials needed to complete the latest project. But now he felt the need for more company than the lumber section of Home Depot could supply.
Bill already knew where he would go. After weeks of hiding in the shadows of darkness and watching the pretty young woman who lived just across the cemetery return from work night after night, Bill could stand his lonliness and curiousity no longer. Thanks to his greatly enhanced eyesight, he knew she worked at Merlotte's Bar and Grill, the eating place he remembered driving past when he first returned to Bon Temps. The place built on the site of his wife's former home, the Holliday farm. As he finished dressing, Bill could feel the excitement begin to build somewhere deep inside. Perhaps it was only his great lonliness, but there was something about this young woman that had intrigued Bill to such an extent that he found he thought of little else except how it would feel to finally look at her face, gaze into her eyes and hear the sound of her voice.
He stared at his reflection in the large lighted mirror as he dried his hair. He couldn't help but give a little laugh. He thought about how surprised humans would be to realize that vampires actually did have a reflection. This was but one of the myths started by vampires in the guise of self-preservation. Bill felt nervous and tense as he poured a splash of Polo Black into his hands and wiped them across his face. What if this young woman looked at him the way most humans did when they realized what he was? Bill thought he would not be able to bear it. Once Bill had gotten past the heartache of knowing he would never be with his family, the hardest thing for him to accept was the revulsion and fear he saw in the eyes of humans. It caused his grief then and it still did. As Bill walked to the front door he thought briefly about grabbing the keys to his BMW, then decided he would rather walk. Bill Compton had worked hard all of his human life. He had walked beside his father in the fields, up and down dusty roads with his childhood friend Tolliver Humphries, and had walked many, many tired miles as a soldier in the Confederate Army. Feeling the warm rays of the sun shining down on his face as he walked was something he had greatly enjoyed and he had never stopped missing it.
As Bill walked along the dark road, he could hear the music long before he arrived. Judging from the number of cars, it looked to be a popular place. He stood in the shadows and watched for a few minutes, still unsure of his decision.. As he stood there, he heard a small, noisy red car with even noisier occupants come careening around him into the parking lot. As the occupants got out, he turned to give them a look. The woman was dressed much like many of the street walkers he had seen in the larger towns. The man resembled a bald weasel. As they walked across the parking lot, he heard the woman curse in a loud, crass voice. Bill found himself hoping that those two weren't indicative of the other clientele.
Bill hesitated in front of a large window and looked inside. Yes, there she was. He watched her as she walked over to the couple from the parking lot. Bill could sense that for some reason those two made her anxious, almost vexed. He also noticed there was an empty booth right next to them. Before he could change his mind, he opened the door and walked inside. With instinct born from many years of self-preservation, he immediately began to scan the room. He could see her standing at the bar, with her back to him, talking with...........a shape-shifter. The shape-shifter appeared to be the owner of this establishment. This surprised Bill. There was no love lost between vampires and shape-shifters, but more than anything Bill was surprised at finding a shape-shifter in the little town he had grown up in. As he slowly walked to the booth, he could feel her turn and with a puzzled look, almost as if she felt something in the atmosphere , she watched him sit down. To Bill, it almost felt like a dream.
Bill slid into the empty booth and turned to watch as she picked up her order pad and walked over to him. As he looked up into her brown eyes and watched a smile spread across her face, Bill felt something inside his chest slowly grind to a halt. She asked him a question and for a brief moment the only thing he could think about was how much he would love to kiss those adorable pink lips and feel his tongue slide over and between that absolutely enchanting gap between her front teeth. Then his eyes were drawn to her hair. It was pulled back into a ponytail, and it began to bounce and swing as she smiled and began to talk. It all but drove Bill insane. He finally found his voice and heard himself ask for a bottle of synthetic blood. With a pounding in his heart, he carefully watched her reaction to this request. To his utter amazement, she appeared to be absolutely delighted to realize that he was a vampire. This was not a reaction Bill was accustomed to getting, and for a few moments he was at a loss for words. Bill was disappointed to discover the bar did not have the synthetic blood, and ignoring the hostile stares of the shape-shifter and the other young woman at the bar, Bill ordered a glass of wine.
Oh, what a stupid, stupid fool he had been! How did he not see what they were? Bill had ignored the most basic, fundamental rule of a vampire. He had dropped his guard, made himself vulnerable. What was she trying to tell him? The young woman had been trying to warn Bill. How had she known? But now, it didn't matter. Bill was going to die. Here he was, on the ground with silver chains holding him down, making him as helpless as a sacrifical lamb. Oh, the great irony of it all! After more than a century of walking this earth as a sad and tortured being, and at times longing for it all to end, he had finally found a small spark of hope. Only now it seems God decided to show up and demand his soul.
As Bill lay there feeling the terrible pain beginning to course through his body from the draining, he looked up at the brillant scattering of stars against the dark sky, for perhaps the final time. He began to wonder if it was really true that his soul would join those he had loved in his human life. He hoped so. He had missed them for so long. Then, from the corner of his eye, he saw her. Like a pint sized Isis she walked up, carrying a chain that had to weigh at least half as much as she did. Bill watched her fearlessly swing that chain and then watched in disbelief as that chain wrapped itself around the throat of Mack Rattray. He couldn't take his eyes off of her as she quickly reached down and retrieved the knife that had fallen from the man's hand. And with more courage than most men possess, Bill watched again as she wasted no time dispatching Denise Rattray and her low-life husband. Bill had never seen anything quite like her.
She quickly, but with tenderness and care, began to pull the silver chains from his wrists and neck. Bill carefully watched her face, looking for a sign that she was repulsed at what she saw. But all he saw was a deep caring. A deep caring about another being's suffering and misfortune. And when she knelt down and placed her soft, warm hands on his face and looked deep into his eyes, Bill didn't know what to think. It had been a very long time since any human had touched him with such tenderness. Her warm, infectious laugh when the shifter ran to her and licked her face made Bill very happy he was still walking the earth. He had never met a human who had no fear or misgivings about him. Her spitfire spunk at him when he ungallantly spoke of the groin artery made him all the more infatuated with her. My, my. She was really something. Even her name caused him to smile. Sookie. Such an unusual name for such an unusual girl.
Bill stood and watched as she walked away. He watched her until she disappeared from sight. As he poured his drained blood into the river and found his jacket, Bill found himself doing something he had not done in a very, very long time. He began to whistle. On this walk home under those same brillant stars, under that same dark sky that he thought he had seen for the final time, Bill felt himself begin to smile. Oh, he just couldn't wait to see her again.

Chapter Seven - The Yearning

Bill Compton silently cursed under his breath as he realized the batteries in his portable CD player were quickly dying. Bill had been listening to one of his favorite singers, Billie Holiday, as she sang "Easy Living". Bill sometimes wondered if it was something about her name. Holiday. Bill had been in Pod's and Jerry's Nightclub in Harlem during the 1930's when he first heard Billie Holiday sing. Bill enjoyed an eclectic variety of music, but there was something about the blues that broke through into Bill's soul. As he installed fresh batteries, Bill thought once again on how nice it would be to have electricity, but so far he'd had no luck in hiring anyone who was willing to come out and do an estimate. After old Jesse Compton had died and the house had remained vacant for a few years, the Louisana Power Company had disconnected the power and now would not restore it until an inspection was done by a certified electrician who would atest that everything was in compliance. Listening to music, along with reading, was one of the few pleasures that he enjoyed. Since he had returned to Bon Temps and undertook the immense task of restoring his home, Bill had found that listening to music as he worked kept him company and helped to allay some of the terrible lonliness he felt. Other than those midnight trips to Home Depot in Monroe for building supplies, or to one of those stores that stayed open 24 hours for a supply of TruBlood, Bill had not ventured out and had stayed to himself since his return. Bill had been a somewhat solitary man since being made vampire and except for the few times he had joined a nest, he had pretty much remained to himself. But now he was beginning to be hungry for the sound of another's voice, a yearning to be around someone, anyone. It didn't make any difference if they were human or vampire. He briefly thought about driving into Shreveport to visit the popular vampire bar, Fangtasia, owned and operated by an old acquaintance of Bill's, Eric Northman. But Bill just wasn't up to dealing with Eric tonight. At times Eric really set his teeth on edge and he'd have to get a lot more lonely before debasing himself enough to visit Eric and his co-hort Pam. Since the vampires had come into the open, the world seemed to be overrun with fangbangers, and they annoyed Bill to no end and Fangtasia seemed to be the Holy Grail for area fangbangers.
But the immediate task occupying Bill's time and attentions was the renovation for the large, elaborate bathroom. This would require a great deal of planning as a wall into an adjoining bedroom including the entire doorframe would have to come down. Bill realized that the greatest task at hand would be getting the huge bathtub up the staircase. Bill would have no problem actually carrying the tub, he was endowed with the superhuman strength all vampires have, especially those with any length of years. But the logistics were another matter. But it would be worth it, Bill thought. There is nothing a vampire enjoys so much as a long, relaxing soak in a warm tub. He also planned to install a large walk-in shower on the other side of the room. Bill had no need of a kitchen, no need of more than one bedroom, so this bathroom would be best part of his home. Bill had decided to use the smaller bedroom just to the left of the staircase. It was the bedroom of his childhood and later used as his personal dressing room after he married. As he began to tear out some of the boards around the doorframe, he looked up at the ceiling and realized that he was looking at the same ceiling that he and his younger brother Robert had looked up at after being put to bed so many years ago. In the darkness they would giggle, talk and tell each other their greatest secrets and dreams, trying to whisper so as not to be heard by mother lest she come in and scold them. Dawn would usually find them curled up into each other, like young pups, drawing warmth from each other against the coolness of the morning. He smiled as he remembered them sliding down the bannister, hoping no one was around to see them. And how his mother would try to look stern, but he could always see the tiny smile behind her pretty blue eyes when she caught them. He missed his brother. After Robert died there were nights Bill would wake up, crying out, and father would come into his room to comfort him. Mother was still too sad. It would be a very long time until the light returned to her pretty blue eyes. Until he would hear her laugh again
In addition to music, Bill had always been fond of reading. Even when he attended school as a child, Bill never hated the reading assignments or the nightly ritual of Bible reading required of him. Bill's mother had also insisted he learn to play the piano, along with his younger sister Julia. Bill soon discovered that he possessed a natural talent for music, a natural ear as it were and it became a great passion of his. So when he discovered a piano in one of the downstairs rooms, a library it seemed, he was quite pleased and excited. And the small, dusty collection of books - mostly classics, but there were a few novels he found interesting - were a thankful diversion from the nightly tasks of renovations that seemed to require more and more time. The house was really in an immense state of disrepair. But for Bill, it was like a labor of love. For when he measured, cut and sawed the boards, he could feel his father beside him. He could hear his father's gentle voice talking to him, giving him instructions on how he should measure, how he should angle the saw, what kind of wood he should select. Although an electrical saw would save him a great deal of time, Bill was glad to feel those old familiar tools in his hands once again.
There were nights when Bill grew tired of working on the old house and would take his bottle of TruBlood and walk out to the cemetery. He would visit family, friends and more often than not usually end up at the gravesite of his Caroline. He would sit down beside her and pour out his heart and sadness to her. He would tell her how very sorry he was for not returning home, how he and only he, was to blame. If only he hadn't become lost, if he had just stopped to rest and not become so tired, he might have managed to find his way home to her where they would have lived out their lives together, had more children and watched them grow into adulthood. He told her of his bitterness at the vampire Lorena, for what she had stolen from him. Stolen from her, stolen from his children. He spoke of his great lonliness, and his fear of finding no one in Bon Temps that would accept him for what he was. That he would be doomed to remain alone in the home of his childhood. Of his fear that he would become nothing more than the town monster that people recoiled from in horror when he came near.
Then there were the nights when Bill would walk through the cemetery and he would hear the sound of a car pulling into a graveled driveway. He would walk to the edge of the road and hide in the shadows and watch as a small yellow car pulled up in front of the Stackhouse home. Bill could see from the mailbox that someone descended from Jonas Stackhouse still lived there. Bill remembered that Jonas Stackhouse was somewhat of an odd sort. He could never exactly pinpoint what it was, but there was something always a little different about Jonas. A lot of people considered him crazy. Bill would watch as a pretty young woman, hardly past her teens, would get out of her car. She would usually be dressed in some sort of uniform and most times when he saw her it appeared she was returning from her job. She was very lovely. Bill could sense that there was something special about her. A powerful lifeforce seem to radiate from her, something other humans that Bill had come into contact with did not possess.. He wasn't quite sure what it was, but he knew she wasn't like any other human he had ever been around. But there was one thing that Bill noticed more than anything. Her hair. It was beautiful, the color of sunshine and rain. It set Bill's loins on fire, made him ache even more with lonliness, yearning and need. More than anything, Bill loved to run his hands through and to bury his face in the fragrance of a woman's hair. It was his thing. Not breasts, not legs, not even a fine ass sent him over the edge like long, beautiful hair. It was the hair that made him catch his breath every time. He never understood the need of some women to keep their hair cut off, short, like they were men. He thought it looked awful. He thought about where this young woman might work, what she was like. Bill was lonely, so lonely. He knew he needed to go out, to continue his quest to mainstream and find out for sure if anyone in town would accept him, but still he was reluctant.
But soon, very soon.

Chapter Six - The Homecoming

The dark blue BMW purred silently through the night down the long, dark stretch of highway between Monroe and Bon Temps. Bill Compton was finally going home. Home. A place he had dreamed of, had fought for and in spite of giving everything he had to give, he had been denied returning to all those years before. There was a feeling of dread and excitement coursing throughout his body. His mind was a tangle of thoughts and memories as his graceful, yet powerful hands gripped the wheel. So many emotions were churning inside him as he grew nearer to Bon Temps and closer to those familiar roads he remembered from his human life. Bill knew that Bon Temps would be greatly changed from the place of his boyhood, the place of his memory. In the 143 years since his human life had ended, Bill had seen the entire world change. Changed in ways that he, his father and anyone living in 1865 could scarce have dreamed of. Even as he neared the exit ramp off 1-20 that would take him onto the highway that led into town, Bill began to search the scenery, looking for something familiar from his memory, something that resembled the small town he had been dreaming of for many, many years.
Bill Compton knew that returning would be difficult. There would be nothing but gravestones to mark his beloved family and friends. He had long ago conditioned himself to the fact that they all were gone, even his grandchildren and great-grandchildren that he had never been given a chance to know. He couldn't help but wonder about the Compton house. How would it look? Would it even resemble the beautiful home from his boyhood? Bill mind was once again pulled back to the days of his human life, his childhood, as he walked beside his father in those very fields that had haunted his dreams and memories for a century and a half. Father was so wise, he knew so much about the land, how to make things grow. Bill had inherited a great deal of his father. The kindness, gentleness and inate sense of morality. For Bill, as his human life died and his new vampire life began, these human traits would be a great obstacle to overcome, often at the cost of constant torment and heartache.
As he began to enter the outskirts of Bon Temps, Bill found himself looking all around him, searching for anything that looked familiar. The town had changed a great deal of course, but there was still a feeling of familiarity, a feeling that only those who return home can feel. The town square was still there, only now there were a few traffic lights, and the large, impressive monument to the Louisana 28th Infantry had been errected since he had been gone. Yet it still felt the same. He could remember where every store and business from his childhood had been. Even the livery and blacksmith shop, just over to the northern section of town. Scenes and memories from childhood came to mind. He and father riding into town on the wagon to pick up supplies and seed or in the heat of late summer, delivering fat bales of cotton to the gin. Father would sometimes let Bill drive the wagon and handle the two sturdy brown horses, Topsy and Claude, and never had Bill felt so grown-up, so important as he circled the square and pulled up with a loud "whoa!" in front of the general store or cotton gin. Sometimes father allowed him a stick of peppermint or a small bag of horehound candy. Bill ran his tongue over his lips as he recalled the taste of that sugary treat melting in his mouth.
It didn't take very long before Bill had driven through town and had turned east, into the more rural area of Bon Temps. As he neared the old Holliday homeplace, where his wife had been born and grown up, he couldn't help but wonder if any of it was still standing. That question was answered shortly. For there where the stately home had stood, where he had knelt down on one knee and wept as he asked Miss Caroline Amelia Holliday to become his wife, was a loud and noisy eating place of some sort. Sam Merlotte's Bar and Grill. "Holy fuck!" thought Bill as he drove on past it. It made hime sad in such a way that he couldn't even begin to put a explanation behind it..
Before long he was on the small blacktop road that wound around by the Stackhouse place. "At least that's what it use to be. There's no telling as to what it is now. Probably some sort of titty bar, if what I've seen so far is any indication", Bill thought. But soon he could see that the Stackhouse home was not only still there, but seemed to be much larger than he remembered. It had been added on to over the years until it resembled an oddly shaped creation of a child's building blocks. As Bill approached the cemetery, he thought briefly about stopping and getting out, but changed his mind. There would be plenty of time for that later. Besides, with the churching of emotions inside him right now, it would be quite difficult to maintain his composure and a vampire was never quite sure what might greet him when arriving in a new place. Even with the introduction of the new synthetic blood and the assurances of powerful, high-ranking vampires all over the world that humans could lay head to pillow confident in the knowledge that vampires were as safe as your friendly postman, there were still quite a few humans who didn't share that opinion. Then Bill rounded the sharp curve and there it was. After wandering for 143 years as a lost soul, William Thomas Compton was finally home.
Bill stood in the front yard and gazed across at the house. The Compton house, home of his childhood and then home to he and his wife Caroline and their two children. As he stood there and gazed at it he couldn't help but be drawn back to the final time he saw this house. The night his maker, Lorena, had brought him here with the promise of once again seeing his family. To see them, but not be allowed to touch them, to feel them in his arms. Bill refused to let his mind dwell on that right now. That was a long time ago, and nothing could be done to change the past. He gazed up at the upstairs window, just to the far left. It was the room Bill had been born in, the room his mother and father had shared until their death. Yes, the house had changed. Changed in a lot of ways, but also changed very little. Bill was somewhat shocked at how decayed and neglected the house appeared. His last living descendent with the name Compton had recently passed away, and hopefully with the passage of the Vampire Right Amendment, this old crumbling house would once again be his. Bill walked across the yard, up the steps and stopped in front of the large door. He was almost frightened to turn the doorknob and go inside. As he crossed the threshold he stopped and looked around. A huge tidalwave of emotions came at him with such force as to almost cause his knees to buckle. Home, he was home.
Bill's father had been a gifted and skilled woodcarver, a talent he had tried to pass on to his son. As Bill gazed around the room he could see that some of the lovely crown moldings above the doorways and the exquisite handrail on the staircase were still there. Things his father had carved and lovingly put in their home. As his eyes drifted to the staircase, his mind was taken back to a Christmas morning, the last Christmas Bill would spend with his family. He could hear it as clearly as if it were happening right now, the excited sound of squealing and joy as his little daughter Sarah came running down the stairs to find the beautiful hand carved riding pony that Bill and his father had made for her. Bill walked across the front room into the dining room. He ran his hand down the doorframe on his left. Yes, it was still there. Although coated in many, many layers of paint, Bill could still feel the notches cut into the doorframe by his father every year on Bill's birthday. Marks made to keep up with how much he had grown. On the other side of the door were but a few marks. Bill's brother, Robert, had not survived childhood. A malaria outbreak had take Robert's life when he was but eight years old.
Bill walked upstairs and for a brief moment he could smell it. He could smell the light fragrance of the lavender toilet water that his mother always wore. As he closed his eyes he could feel the touch of her cool hands on his face as she leaned over to lightly kiss his cheek after hearing his prayers, just before she said good-night. He remembered the cool touch of her lips on his forehead when she came into his room during the night to see if he was feverish. So, so many memories.
But dawn was approaching and Bill knew he had to find a safe place to rest before the sun rose. He went back downstairs and stopped in front of a wall panel. Bill remembered receiving a letter from his father while he was away fighting. A letter telling Bill that a hiding place had been made inside the home so that the women and children, along with other valuables and food, could be hidden out of sight should the Yankee patrols come by. Bill began to feel around on the walls, pushing and feeling up and down until he felt it. There, there it was. Bill pushed against the spring and the panel opened. It was a small area but adquate for what he needed. He looked down. Yes, this would be a perfect resting place. Bill immediately got to work pulling up and sawing the floorboards. He made a door with hinges and a lock for the inside. He barely finished before he felt the internal call letting him know dawn was upon him. He would have to finish the final touches another night.
As Bill climbed down into his resting place, he pulled the door closed and latching it with a loud click, he lay back, closed his eyes as a slight smile just creased the corners of his mouth. For better or worse, William Thomas Compton was finally home.

Chapter Five - The Wandering

Dawn was almost here. Bill needed no timepiece to let him know this, he could feel it as surely as a spring bud knows when to burst into bloom. Bill was always grateful when dawn began to approach. For it was only when he was safe within his dark, hidden resting place that Bill finally felt peace. Thoughts, so many lifetimes of thoughts , so many years of memories, most of them better forgotten. During Bill's waking hours in the cover of night as he walked the earth those memories would come, unbidden, to haunt him and pull him into a place so dark that Bill truly believed that God had not only rejected his soul but would surely send him to a place of hellfire and torment when he was finally no more. After the things he had done, had been forced to do because of what he was, did God even want his soul? Did he even possess a soul to lose?

During those years after his life had been stolen and he was compelled to follow Lorena, his maker, they had gone to various places throughout the south. They had first traveled to New Orleans, a city that was more welcoming for vampires than many other cities. But after the war there was so much unrest and combined with the refusal of residents of New Orleans to accept the defeat of the south and subsequent occupation by Federals, this had created an unsafe atmosphere for not only Bill and Lorena, but all vampires. It was in New Orleans that they met three vampires and had formed a nest for a short while. In the wicked old vampire, Lestat, Lorena found a kindred spirit, for he was as evil and unremorseful as she. The vampire Lestat took as much glee in the foul deeds they committed as Lorena did. Bill was grateful and relieved that Lorena had someone else to occupy her time and attentions. He hated to think about the terrible things she forced him to do when darkness came and they once again were free to roam the city. Lorena had tormented Bill relentlessly since she had turned him and although he tried to force his mind to forget the things she required him to do, there were times when images came into his head, unbidden, and Bill would hang his head in shame and despair. But Louie, well Louie was as tortured a soul as he was. Like Bill, Louie also found it distastful and repugnunt to feed on the lifeblood of unsuspecting humans. Also traveling with Lestat and Louie was a little girl, Claudia. Bill could hardly bare to look at the child. She was a constant reminder of the life he had lost. The life stolen from him. He and Lorena stayed in New Orleans several years, but soon unrest in the city forced them to leave, with Lestat, Louie and Claudia booking passage for Paris. It was a risky business, traveling by ship. There were no guarantees of feedings and unless you had made costly arrangements ahead of time, there was always the danger of being either staked or brought up and left in the sun to burst into flames if the ship had sailors who had no affection for the creatures of the night. It was many years later that Bill heard of the fate of the young child Claudia. She had been left in the sun to burn and turn to dust as punishment for the planned killing of Lestat. He never heard of Louie again.

Bill didn't always have to stay with Lorena. At times she would grow bored with him. She would seek out fresh blood who would be more enthuiastic about the sexual pervsions and cruelties she required. Then Bill was free to roam the earth as he pleased until she called him back. Sometimes the need to return home was all but overwhelming at times. It covered his mind and consumed his every waking moment. He yearned to see what his children were like, what they had become. Even tho Bill knew he could never return to his home and pick up his life where it had ended, the need to see them would overtake him with such force that although he knew his heart no longer beat, it felt as though some huge, cruel hand had reached inside and ripped it from his chest. One night, about 40 years after he had been turned and he had been released from Lorena for a short respite, the temptation to return to Bon Temps had been overwhelming. As he made his way down those familiar roads in the darkness of the night, Bill asked himself what he would do if he was seen. He hated the idea of glamouring anyone, let alone his family. But he knew he would have no choice if anyone saw him. He thought it would be wiser to cut through the cemetery and stay under the cover of shadows from the trees. As he walked in the direction of his home he passed by a grave ,freshly mounded with dirt. Just to the other side of this fresh grave he saw a marker. He stopped and looked down. William Thomas Compton was written on the marker. A marker for him. With a sudden lurching in his heart, he realized who's fresh grave that was. It was his beautiful Caroline, with hair the color of sunshine and rain. In renewed anguish he threw himself facedown upon this grave and wept bitter tears for all he had lost, for all she had lost. As those crimson tears soaked into the earth that covered the mortal remains of his beloved Caroline, Bill slowly got up, turned back in the direction from where he had come and walked away, vowing never to return.

Then there were times Bill would hear a name or see a face, or a particular sight would assault his memory and images would come forth to tear him apart anew. Bill recalled one night in particular. He was hungry, desperately hunger. He had not fed in several days, simply because he was loath to do the things required of him in order to feed. Finally, he knew he could hold out no longer. As he lingered in the darkness of night, secluded in a clump of trees on the backside of a farmhouse, he saw a young man walk out on the porch. Bill watched as the young man put his head into his hands, fell to his knees and wept. He could hear screams, terrible pain wracked screams coming from somewhere inside the house. As Bill stood there and watched this young man, his mind was drawn back to his own home, his own night outside, looking up at the stars and begging God to spare the life of his Caroline, to somehow ease her suffering as she struggled to bring their child into the world. He remembered how frightened he was, how angry he was at himself. After all ,it was his own passion, his own lack of self-control that had done this to his wife. How could she ever forgive him? As he continued to watch, this young man slowly got up and for a brief moment he looked back at the trees as if he had heard something, saw something. Suddenly, there was the faint sound of new life. It was only after the young man turned and walked back into the house did Bill realize he had been weeping. Bill would not feed that night.

As the years began to pass the world started to change more than Bill ever imagined it ever could. Things, wonderous things, magical things began to appear. Although Bill had not yet used one, he had heard of a magical invention from a man named Bell. After all, who would he have called? You could actually talk into it, and someone could hear what you said, even if you were many, many miles away. There was another magical thing invented long before Bill became a vampire, but now you might own one for yourself and make your own photographs.. It was a wonderous thing! As an act of self-preservation, many vampires started a myth of not being visible on photographs, so unsuspecting victims would be lulled into a false sense of security. Also, Bill had heard of many wonderous things to be seen in New York City. He traveled there and was able to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in the cover of night, he was able to watch as the Statue of Liberty was brought into New York Harbor.

Soon the word began to spread that a lot of vampires were traveling to Alaska . It was the great Klondike gold strike! There would be untold riches to be mined there. All a vampire need do was wait for the poor unsuspecting minor to find his bonanza, glamour him or drain him of his blood, then take his gold. Lorena sent for Bill and against his will, they made their way to Alaska. Bill hated it there! It was, of course, a perfect place for a vampire. Bill hated the cold, but those months and months of no daylight were a vertual paradise on earth for Lorena and her kind. Bill had never been more wretchedly unhappy since he had been turned. Finally, they left the Klondike strike and made their way to San Francisco. Things improved in San Francisco for a while until a devastating earthquake and fire laid waste to the city and forced them to flee.
Before long Bill found some respite from his lonliness by going to a magical, wonderful place called the moving pictures. He sat there in the dark, amazed by what he saw. People, real people, living, breathing people, moving across that huge white screen. And the sun! He could see the sun. He could close his eyes and feel the sun beating down across his face. He was able to watch things going on in the world, things that people who still could walk among the daylight could do. It was there in a movie theatre that he saw that a great ship, The Titanic, had gone down in the icy waters of the Atlantic. So many people lost their lives. He saw newsreels of the great Mexican bandit Pancho Villa. Bill found himself rather envious of this bandit and was quite sorry when Pancho got captured. He saw newsreels of Charles Linbergh and his Spirit of St. Louis. Bill felt himself overcome with envy over the idea of being so free as to be able to fly into the clouds, as free as a bird.

A few years later, Lorena had briefly toyed with the idea of going to Paris for a while as there was a deadly flu epidemic that had broken out in America and it made feeding from humans an even harder and more dangerous undertaking. She had heard a rumor that Lestat and Louie were possibly there, but by then the war had begun in France and that made trans-Atlantic travel a perilous and dangerous adventure. Bill was quite relived, as he had never been a fan of water travel and he hated to sleep in a coffin. Bill was quite grateful when she decided to journey on alone and leave him behind.
The years began to pass more quickly for Bill and then it was 1929. Bill and Lorena had always lived quite comfortably, as all vampires seem to do. They had been able to accumulate quite a fortune in the gold mines of Alaska, and much of it they had managed to invest in stocks through the services of a human who was loyal to Lorena. Then, as suddenly as their fortune had grown, it disappeared just as suddenly. It was all gone. This only served to be a bonus for Bill as he was once again able to break away from Lorena and decided to travel to a new place he had heard about where there were new fortunes to be won and lost with only the roll of a dice or the luck of a hand of cards. A magical place called Las Vegas . Bill loved Las Vegas. It was tailor made for creatures of the night, such as himself. The city itself only came alive when the sun went down. There were beautiful women with plenty of ways to make a man forget about who he was or what he was. Bill was able to use those lovely blue eyes God blessed him with and entice enough pretty girls to make feeding as easy as ordering room service. And there is no one quite as adept as a vampire when it comes to bluffing through a hand of poker. Glamouring skills put to good use. Bill would have stayed there forever but unfortunately those who owned the casinos really didn't intend for anyone other than themselves to become rich and had taken an unmistakable dislike to Bill and his winning ways. Bill was never quite sure anyone knew that he was a vampire, but didn't think it would be the prudent course of action to hang around and find out. While in Las Vegas Bill also made the acquaintance of a handsome, charming and ruthless vampire named Eric. Eric was much older than Bill and already there was an air of unmistakable power in him.
After leaving Las Vegas, Bill just seemed to drift from place to place, never staying very long anywhere. It was while passing through the midwest after leaving Las Vegas that he met two vampires that he would share a nest with for a while and maintain ties with for many years to come. Malcom, like Eric, was a very old vampire. Not as old as Eric, but much older than Bill. Malcom had been turned during the Revolutionary War. Malcom also thought Bill Compton was about the prettiest thing he had ever seen. He spent the better part of three years trying to seduce this beautiful creature and have sex with him, just once. It's an unwritten rule that vampires don't have a long sexual relationship with each other unless it's with their maker. But Malcom was so smitten, so in love with this lovely man that he was more than willing to break those rules. But Bill wasn't to be swayed. He had no interest in a sexual encounter with Malcom, or any other man for that matter. He did however secumb to the sexual advances of a very young vampire, Diane, in a moment of lonliness and weakness. She was a young black woman who had been working in a nightclub. Malcom had followed her home, intending to feed on her. In a moment of complete sexual frustration, Malcom fed on her too much and decided it would be wiser to turn her than leave her body there in the hotel to be discovered. Diane was also quite taken with Bill's physical attractions. One night in an act to merely annoy the ever persistant Malcom, Bill had sex with Diane. That was a mistake. It was like giving steak to a starving dog. Bill had to spend the better part of the next 50 years repelling her sexual advances.
But there was one thing that Bill enjoyed more than anything else. Baseball! Bill would read newspaper accounts of the exploits of great players like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Cy Young. He longed for the chance to see a game, but knew it could never happen. " How wonderful it would be if only baseball could be played at night! " Bill often thought to himself. Just one more thing to remind him that he was not human.

In 1938 Bill made one journey that would haunt his memory for many years. He journeyed to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and stood in the shadows of darkness and watched as the final reunion of the Boys of the Blue and Gray gathered together. In great celebration and emotion , with forgiveness in their hearts, embraced each other in the bonds of love and brotherhood, each one recognizing the sacrifices all had made. Bill was speechless when he saw those crippled, decrepit old men in their wheelchairs. Many of them blinded by age, many of them missing limbs, still bearing war wounds but proudly wearing the uniform of either the Army of the Potomac or the Army of Northern Virginia. Bill struggled to see if there was anyone there he might remember, but these old men looked nothing at all like the young, smooth faced boys that he had fought side by side with.

By the time the second world war had begun in Europe, Bill had returned to Louisana, vowing never to leave. He was tired of wandering from place to place, town to town. Tired of living in the shadows, concealed by darkness, stealing lifeblood from poor, unsuspecting humans. At times he had grown so weary of his life he would think how easy it would be to just walk out into the sunshine, let those glorious beams of light come down and take this undead being away from here forever. But the wonderful, glorious things he was yet to see! Bill sat in his room one night many years later and watched in rapt amazement as Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and planted a United States flag. Such things he could not even have begun to imagine could have been possible all those years ago when he had walked side by side with his father in the cotton fields of Bon Temps

Chapter Four - The Turning

Bill could hear the sound of his own blood rushing inside his head as he struggled to put one foot ahead of the other. He feared that if he stopped he might never get back up again. Tired, so tired. He had been walking, walking forever it seemed, desperately looking for something in his surroundings that seemed even remotely familiar. Everything seemed so different now. He no longer knew in which direction he was going. The pearly white moon that had guided his way for much of the night had disappeared behind the darkness of clouds. Bill's overpowering hunger combined with a desperate need of water had made him light-headed and confused. But on he struggled when every fiber of his being only wanted to lie down in a soft bed of grass and sleep. But still he struggled onward. His only thoughts were of getting home.

What was that? A house? For a brief moment there was a faint flicker of light, then the moon came out from behind it's cover of clouds. Yes! It was a small, crudely built cabin, just across that clearing behind the grove of trees. Bill forced himself to stumble across the field, crying out in desperation and relief before he had even reached the door. It didn't appear that anyone lived here, at least there was nothing in the yard to give the impression that anyone was there. Bill figured that even if no one lived there, a well must be somewhere close to the house. Just the thought of cool water pouring down his dry, parched throat made Bill summon up more strength than he thought he possessed and began to walk faster. "Please, help me, I am a soldier of the Louisana 28th Infantry and I require help" Bill heard himself say. Nothing. Silence. Desperately, his throat so dry and parched he could barely speak, he called out again "please, I require food and water". Nothing, just the overwhelming silence that drove his desperation into a boldness born of survival. Pushing against the door, he saw that only a piece of rope kept him from gaining entry and perhaps finding food. Bill took his knife from his belt and with a few deft movements cut the rope and went inside.

Bill was overcome with gratitude for the kindness shown to him by this lovely young woman. Such a pity that she was made widow at such a young age. There would be many, many widows Bill knew. As he ate the food she had prepared for him, he began to realize she needed much more from him than his gratitude. But what she asked was more than he could do. He had never lain with any other woman since his marriage vows and he never would. Although the touch of this lovely woman's hand on his face as she gently cleaned the blood and dirt made his loins begin to stir with feelings not felt in a very long time. She spoke of others, others who came and enjoyed the comforts she could give. Bill had not yet appeased his hunger, but suddenly something about her frightened him. An overpowering feeling that evil and danger lived behind those brown eyes. He had to get away.

He was down, down on the floor. How had he gotten there? Something moving across him, moving so swiftly that time stopped. It was her, she was at his throat. Bill felt his life slowly floating away. What was happening? The world around him grew darker. Images from childhood slowly moved across his mind. Bringing home a string of fish, mother smiling and kissing the top of his head and calling him her sweet Billy. His very own pocket knife, there in the toe of a Christmas stocking. The smiling faces of his family as the preacher lowered him into the cold water of the river. He had been washed in the Blood of The Lamb. His soul would live forever with God. Then Tolliver was standing beside him, urging him to get up and come with him. The light, that beautiful brillant light. He should go with Tolliver. But his family, he could hear them calling to him. Calling him home. Sorry, so sorry. Father, mother, so sorry. Caroline, please forgive me. I tried so hard.

Bill slowly opened his eyes. Where was he? A feeling of weight sitting astride him. What had happened to him? He felt nothing. No hunger, no thirst. Bill slowly moved his eyes across the room. The horror of what he saw caused his eyes to widen in shock. As a little girl would proudly display her collection of dolls, this woman proudly displayed the grinning rictus remains of her former visitors. Why is she doing that? Why is she using my knife to cut her neck? Drink she says, drink if you want to live. Oh no, please no. I cannot be one of the undead. Cast out by mankind, lost to God, made to roam the earth in the darkness of night, living on the lifeblood of humans as a wolf devours sheep. But I must drink this blood. I must drink this blood so I can return to my family.

Bill began to suckle the blood from this evil creature, this living dead. Ancient things he saw, things not seen by those who's heart still beat, who's eyes could still watch the glorious dawn break. He saw pyramids, pharaohs, creatures dead, yet alive. Ancient mariners, fangs coming down, feeding on the lifeblood of some unfortunate being deep within the dark bowels of a ship. Other things, things he didn't understand. Men, women covered in fur. Heads thrown back, blood - always blood, howling and screaming as their sharp fangs tore the flesh from tender throats. As the blood of his maker Lorena began to flow through his veins Bill finally understood. What he saw was him, it was who he had become. But she had promised. She had promised he would again see his family.

They were walking, walking so swiftly that Bill thought he was still dreaming. He had no choice but to follow her. He was pulled along by some unseen force, a terrifying, unbreakable bond. In the dark night air he could smell them. He could smell all the living things that had passed this way and left a tangible part of themselves. Breath still lingered from those who's mortal remains had long ago become dust. Creek and Choctaw's, men of Spain wearing helmets of iron, Englishmen sent from across the ocean, Frenchmen with the powerful scent of muskrat hides swirling around them.  And animals, Bill could smell the breath of deer, rabbits and other forrest creatures. Then, they were there. As Bill and Lorena came to the bend in the road that passed by the small Stackhouse farm he saw the cemetery. Yes, yes. He was home. There was his family, on the porch, waiting for him. Bill could see them. He hadn't expected to come upon them as he crossed the yard, but there they were. His Caroline, Sarah - how much she'd grown! And his son Thomas. His hair the color of sunshine and rain. "What do you see?" Bill heard Caroline ask his son. "Papa, I see Papa!" Oh God! His heart felt as it it would burst with longing, his arms ached to feel them. But he couldn't move. He could sense Lorena behind him, hissing in his ear. No, not possible. Never, never would it be possible. He had to go, she was pulling him away. He couldn't bear to leave! Oh please God! Please let me stay. No, not possible.

Tears of grief and loss began to pour down his face as Bill turned and followed Lorena. Turned and left his family to follow his maker to live for the next 143 years, roaming the earth as one of the undead, abandoned by God and hope. A creature of the night, forever doomed to live in the shadows. Dead, but not dead. Alive, but not alive.

Chapter Three - The Hell

"Bill! Bill!, wake up son. It's time to get up, and there's chores to do before school. Delilah has your breakfast ready and she'll scold you for letting it get cold." For a moment Bill could smell the heavenly aroma of bacon frying and hear the eggs being cracked into the earthenware bowl. Then First Lt. William T. Compton slowly opened his eyes before realizing that it was not his mother calling to him, but his best friend and fellow soldier, Tolliver Humphries. He and his childhood friend Tolliver had traveled to Monroe, Louisana and joined the 28th Infantry together and had been side by side in combat since they were first thrown into this hell on earth called war. Bill had known from the beginning that war would be a grueling, hard undertaking, but never could he have imagined how horrible it would in reality be. The smell of death, the horrible cries of the wounded and frightened, the unbearable heat in summer, the bone-chilling numbness of winter. As this horrible war had gone on and on there always seemed to be a fresh horror waiting for a new day to dawn. A new horror that had become all too real. Hunger. The kind of hunger that defines your every waking minute, slips into your dreams like some horrid creature to tear into your guts with such savagery as to leave a man almost praying for the blessed relief of death. It was winter now, so there wasn't even the promise of finding even a few forgotten ears of corn from the nearby farms. Most of the men working those farms had either been killed or were far away in some hellish nightmare, such as Bill was and most of these fields lay abandoned and forgotten.

This was the third year of a war that the Confederacy had assured themselves would last but a few brief months. Bill longed desperately to see his home, his family. Letters were becoming scarcer as many of the lines of communication had been cut off. He hadn't heard from his family in over a year. He wondered every night before he drifted off into a fitful and nightmarish sleep if any of his letters had ever reached home. There had been times when the regiment had traveled through towns that some of the men had gone into those places that offered pleasures of the flesh or had chance encounters with women who gladly gave themselves. But Bill had no wish to debase himself in such a manner. He thought about his beautiful Caroline and how much he longed for the sight of her, the feel of her, to bury his face in her hair and to lie once again with her in their bed. He thought about his children, how they would look now and what they must be like. Bill recalled the photograph taken just days before he left. He wondered if Caroline showed the photograph to his children, especially his son. Thomas had been so young that he had no memory of his father, how his father looked and the sound of his father's voice. Bill hoped his beloved Sarah had not forgotten her father. She had owned his heart from the moment she was born and he was suddenly filled with such longing that tears sprang to his eyes before he could control himself. He quickly cleared his thoughts before turning to Tolliver and inquiring as to what exactly were they suppose to be doing, other than freezing to death and dying of starvation. Tolliver replied that it seemed fairly obvious that no one at that exact moment seemed too sure about what anybody was suppose to be doing, so they may as well continue starving and freezing.
When he and Tolliver had joined up with the 28th in Monroe, they had been sent to Avery Island in the southern part of Louisana for combat training. After remaining there for a few months they had traveled back and forth between Louisana, Arkansas and Mississippi. Their division had participated in combat at Vicksburg, then back into Natchitoches when the Federals began marching up the Red River where Bill was made First Lt. after distinguishing himself admirably in combat. After fighting in the battle of Yellow Bayou in April of 1864 they made the return journey to Mansfield to winter close to Monroe in 1864, which is where they were now huddled in a tent hastily thrown together with a thin blanket and a few sticks. It did very little to keep out the bone chilling cold.

After surviving the winter of 1864, by spring the 28th would march into Yellow Bayou, then back into Mansfield, which would be about 20 miles north of Bon Temps. By now their uniforms had become nothing more than rags, their boots - those of them who still had boots - were held together with string and bailing wire found along the fences of the deserted farms they passed along the road. The men were hardly more than skeletons wearing rags, so tired and downtrodden that they appeared to the naked eye to be only ghostly forms slowly marching down a dusty road. It was here in Mansfield that Bill would see his lifelong friend and companion, Tolliver Humphries, die. They had fought beside each other, arm in arm, protected each other and listened to each other during the lonely part of the night when slumber refused to come and only talk of home and family could quell the terrible lonely ache they both felt. They had planned to journey home together, to celebrate the return of two wounded and defeated warriors. Defeated, but not dead. They would lean on each other and rebuild their lives, their land, and together would watch their children grow up and enjoy livelong friendships as they had. But fate had a different story to tell.

It was a hot, sunny day in May of 1865. The Louisana 28th had been fighting for several days against a bigger, stronger and better armed foe. A young soldier, barely old enough to think about shaving, had been felled by a bullet. He lay out in the open field, crying , begging and pleading for someone to help him. He was hardly more than a child. There would be no way to reach him and give aid since anyone running across that open field would find a quick and sure death. Bill and his fellow commarades had been listening to him most of the day and finally Bill couldn't stand it any longer.He made ready to fire his weapon and put this young boy out of his torment then suddenly his friend Tolliver pulled Bill's weapon down and refused to allow such a thing. He would go to him. Bill knew this was nothing but suicide, but before Bill could stop him Tolliver was up and running across that field. Bill watched in horror as those bullets came flying from left and right, more firepower than he could bear to watch. But watch he did. He watched as his best friend died on that hot summer day about 20 miles north of Bon Temps. Watched him die to save the life of a young man named Jedidiah Bellafluer, who would one day married his beloved daughter Sarah.

After Tolliver's death, Bill's mind became numbed to everything around him. Bill knew the end was near and he merely existed in a fog that allowed him to only go through the motions that were required of him as a soldier. The only thing that kept him sane, kept him living was the thought that soon this horrible war would be over and he could return to his home. See his family. Hold his beloved Caroline and raise his children. Finally, in August of 1865 the war was over, the Louisana 28th Infantry was disbanded and with great joy and anticipation First Lt. William T. Compton started out on his journey to return to his beloved home and into the arms of his family. It would be a new beginning.

Chapter Two - The Journey

The light scattering of dew had already begun to evaporate and the Louisana sun was well into morning by the time Bill and Tolliver had awakened. They had both stayed up far later than was their custom, talking and laughing as they passed the bottle of fine Tennessee sippin' whiskey that Bill's father had carefully hidden in the folds of Bill's bedroll. During the evening they had talked and reminesced over childhood memories, hopes and dreams for their future, and how winning this war would change their lives. They good-naturedly teased each other over the fact that both of them had sought after and courted the beautiful Caroline Holliday. But from the first time Caroline had looked into those blue eyes the color of heaven's clouds and heard his voice she became his, his forever. As the whiskey in the bottle became less and less, the talk invariably turned to what talk usually turns to among young men in the prime of their sexual interest. Although neither one of them had ever ventured very far from the small town of Bon Temps, they had heard stories of the fancy, painted women who lived in places like Baton Rouge and New Orleans. They had listened with rapt attention at social gatherings when older, more experienced men had regaled them with tales of these women and the things a man could enjoy, things offered to a man that a wife couldn't be expected to know.. Things a marriage bed wasn't made for. But there was one thing that wasn't spoken of, the one thing both of them kept hidden in the dark part of their soul, but yet was as real and palpable as the very bottle they were sharing. A man's worth is measured by his courage and both of them could not help but wonder how they would measure up. And more than that, each man wondered if perhaps fate would ordain that theirs be the lifeblood that would spill and soak into the very earth they were fighting to protect.

Although neither man felt especially hungry that morning, Tolliver did manage to find a few pieces of wood for a small fire and finally got the coffee boiling. Due to the fact that Bill was an excellent marksman they had both enjoyed a fine supper. As luck would have it when they made camp the previous evening, they happened upon a small covey of quail while walking to the creek to refill their water canteen. In addition to roasted quail there was a loaf of bread Delilah had wrapped in white muslin and the small wheel of cheese made by Bill's mother. After drinking their morning coffee, Bill and Tolliver packed up their belongings and trying to ignore the throbbing in their temples, mounted up and continued on their journey.
They reached the outskirts of Monroe just past noon on their third day of traveling. Bill was very glad to see the end of this journey. Bill had been a farmer all his life and although he sat a horse as fine as any horseman, he wasn't accustomed to being in the saddle for three days running. He felt sore, stiff, tired and bruised. As soon as possible Bill intended to enjoy a long, hot soak in a tub. As they approached the town Bill could clearly hear the sounds of loud, racous laughter, someone was playing Dixie on a fife and everywhere he looked there were people all seeming to be in a great hurry to get somewhere. And young men, young men much like he and Tolliver, all decked out in their Confederate gray uniform, proudly strutting about the town much like a banty rooster. After a few inquiries, they managed to find the County Courthouse where they would sign up, receive their uniform and other military equipment and hopefully find out some information as to where they would be headed.

Later that afternoon Bill and Tolliver both looked at each other, gave a shout of laughter and began to good naturedly tease each other at the sight of themselves in their uniform. Later they were shown where the men would be quartered until orders were received. Soon Bill was settled in and sitting down on his bunk, he began to write:

Monroe Louisana
September 13, 1862
Dear Father and Mother,
I have arrived in Monroe in good health after three days of travel. The journey was uneventful and at times quite pleasant. Father, I especially appreciate your thoughtful packing of the bedroll and I do hope the picking of the cotton is going well and both of you are in fine health. I have been issued my uniform and must say that Tolliver and I make quite the handsome, distinguished pair! We have not yet received orders as to where we will be headed, but hopefully we will not have a long wait as everyone here seems to be quite anxious to get into battle.

With loving regards,your son,
William Thomas Compton
After carefully folding and sealing the letter, Bill took out another piece of paper and began:

Monroe Louisana
September 13, 1862
My Darling Caroline,
As you can see, I have arrived in Monroe and am in good health. The ride was pleasant, but I was quite ready for it to end. It seems as though I am not the horseman I fancy myself to be. I have received my uniform and weapons, and other necessities. I fear you would laugh if you could see the picture Tolliver and I make in our uniforms! Although Tolliver does fancy himself as being quite handsome.
I do hope both you and the children are doing well. There is already a profound ache in my heart from the missing of you and the children. Please give them a hug from their loving Papa! Caroline, my love, I have found myself upon awakening these past few mornings reaching out , searching for the touch of you. I long to hold you tightly and feel your skin next to mine. I am praying that it will not be very long before we are together once again.

Your loving husband,
William Thomas Compton

Chapter One - The Leaving

William Compton paused long enough to take out his hankerchief and wipe the sweat from his face.  Even though the late September sun had begun to slowly settle down on the western horizon, the air was still hot and humid enough to cause a man to be covered in sweat from just a short walk from house to barn.  He and Father, along with the extra hands they had hired to help bring in the cotton, had been working long hours in hopes they would be finished with the picking before he had to depart for Monroe.   But a few days of unexpected rain, combined with the lack of enough field hands, had conspired against him.  The Comptons were not wealthy, prosperous people.  They owned but  two slaves, Minus the outside slave, and Delilah, the house slave who had always been more like a member of the family.  He and his father had never really liked the idea of slavery.  It had been a way of life in the south since before Bill had been born, but somehow, deep in the core of him, he knew it was wrong.  He thought once again about how much he hated to leave his father with so much of the cotton crop still to pick. He paused long enough at the well for a dipper of cool water. He was glad that Minus had recently drawn a fresh bucket from the well and the water was cold and wonderful as he swallowed it in great gulps. It had been very hot all day, but that was alright with Bill. He loved the feel of the sun and wind on his face. Then he turned the team of work mules toward the barn and with a soft sound from his throat they began to head in the direction of the barn, hungry for the promise of oats and a long cool drink. As he approached the barn he saw Minus standing by the door, waiting to take over the care of the mules.

As Bill made his way around the back of the house he could smell the wonderful things that his mother, wife , sister and Delilah the house slave were preparing for the evening meal. He could hear them softly talking to each other. Bill always loved the soft, gentle sounds of women talking. For some reason it made him feel safe, that he was cared for. And he knew instintively that all the things he loved to eat would be on the table tonight. Already he could smell the wonderful odor of ham from the smokehouse that had been baking in the large brick oven most of the afternoon, Delilah's wonderful buttermilk biscuits, fried chicken and sweet potatoe pie. He felt his sudden hunger gnaw at his stomach like a pain. He quickly made his way up the stairs to the large room just to the left of the staircase. Quickly stripping himself of the dirty, sweaty work clothes he began to bathe himself from the large enamel pan sitting on the washstand. When he had finished, he hurridly dressed in his soft dove grey britches, white cotton shirt, and black waistcoat. Running a quick comb through his thick dark hair and grabbing a fresh hankerchief, he started down the stairs.

Later that evening he and his father were enjoying a glass of the costly brandy that was reserved for only very special occassions. Marriage, the birth of a child, and tonight the celebration of the sacrifice of a young man who would leave his home and family to defend the very land he loved. Bill and his father struggled to find their words. Neither man was given to much emotion, and it pained both of them to try and keep the emotions that threatened to take control of them at bay. Bill tried his best to reassure his father. "Father, I expect we will have these Yankees whipped and running back where they belong before spring. I plan to be back in Bon Temps in plenty of time to help with the spring planting." The elder Mr. Compton patted his son on the back and softly reassured him.

That night Bill spent more time than usual saying good night to his young daughter Sarah. He loved his daughter so much. Her little face was like looking into a mirror and already he could see his personality, his stubborness, his wry sense of humor showing itself in her. Just last week he had taught her to ride a pony and she proved herself to be a fearless and a quick learner. As he kissed her one last time and tucked her little blanket around her, he turned back for another gaze. From the moment he had held her tiny body in his arms and wept tears of joy, his heart belonged to her. From those startling blue eyes - Loudermilk eyes inherited from his mother - to the faint beginnings of his fine patrician nose, she possessed his heart like no other. He would hold this picture in his heart forever. He crossed the hallway and entered the bedroom that he and his wife shared. His wife Caroline was standing beside the open window, brushing her hair. Bill loved Caroline's hair. It felt like spun cotton in his hands and was the color of sunshine and rain . She turned to look at him and he saw the tears welling in her eyes. He quickly crossed the room and took her into his arms. "Now, now, none of that. Not tonight." He turned her face up to his and kissed her until her breath was coming in short gasps. Then he reached up and untied her gown at her throat and watched as it slid to the floor. After picking her up and laying her upon their bed, he quickly undressed. Their lovemaking that night was different than it had ever been. It was as if they were clinging to each other, trying to absorb each other's soul, to pull their love in so deep as to make it a permanent part of their existence. When they had finished, Caroline lay with her head on Bill's chest and they talked of their future together as soon as the war was over. Sometime later in the night he heard her stir as the hungry cries of his young son roused her from her sleep.

Bill rose early the next morning and hurridly got dressed and began to make ready for his journey. His wife was already up, taking care of his infant son. He paused just inside the doorway to the children's room, letting his eyes linger on the still sleeping face of his daughter. He looked at his wife, his beautiful Caroline, with hair the color of sun and rain, his little son feeding at her breast, one tiny fist laying against the white, creamy flesh . This was the picture he wanted to take into battle with him. He met his wife's eyes, smiled and not trusting his emotions, turned and quickly left the room and went downstairs as he wiped the tears from his eyes. He went into the kitchen where Delilah had a large, hearty breakfast waiting for him. He ate quickly and although the food was delicious, the large lump in his throat made enjoyment impossible. As he ate, Delilah wrapped and packed his food for the three day ride into Monroe. Bill walked outside and took one long last look around as he made his way to the barn. Minus had already saddled Bill's mount and Bill swiftly swung himself into the saddle, turned his mount west and rode in the direction of the Humphries place. He and Tolliver Humphries had enlisted together. They would be joining up with the Louisana 28th Infantry, under the leadership of Col. Henry Gray. Since childhood he and Tolliver Humphries had hunted these woods, fished these creeks and now they would be defending this very land they both loved, with their lives if duty demanded so. As Bill rounded the first curve, for the briefest of moments he could just make out the smoke rising from the cook house. Bill loved his home and hated to leave but the excitement of this great adventure that lay before him had begun to build in him with such urgency that he spured his horse into a gallop, pointed north and with dreams of love, honor, duty and victory, rode away into the great beyond to meet his destiny.