[ Present Day ]
I came to in a large arena that looked eerily familiar for some reason. Groaning, I sat up and looked around. It was a sound check, and stage crew members were bustling about, music playing periodically then being cut off again to be changed.
In sudden memory recall from what I thought was just moments prior, I felt my stomach, only to see it was completely fine. I lifted up my shirt and there was no scar, just smooth skin. I pushed myself off of the floor and made my way up towards the stage, and that was when it hit me…
This was where Bruno and I first met!
Sure enough as I saw the front row of seating, my picture along with my name was attached to a seat between Katy Perry and Beyonce.
I heard a voice behind me, “This your first award show?”
I whipped around to see Bruno standing there, dressed the same way he was the day we met, his skin aglow with evident life. I blinked, staring at him. Those were the same words he said to me that started our conversation all those years ago.
“Bruno, where am I?”
He laughed, “You just got off the stage and you’re nominated for two Grammys and you don’t know where you are?”
“What’s today’s date?”
“Of what month and year?”
“January…” He said as if I was mentally challenged, “2008.”
I touched my body and looked around. He came closer to me, placing a hand on my shoulder as he gave me a bottle of Aquafina…that same damn bottle he gave me in ‘08…
“You ok?” He asked. I gently reached out and took the bottle, still shaken up and confused.
“I don’t think so…” I replied.
He sat down in Beyonce’s designated chair and I slowly sat next to him. “You had a killer sound check, what’s wrong?”
I reached out and placed my hand over his chest and felt his beating heart. It brought tears to my eyes. “You’re alive.”
He smiled with an awkward chuckle, “Alive and kickin’, should I not be? Damn girl, you’re really out of it.”
I sniffled and wiped my tears away. “Bruno, listen to me. I don’t know if this is real or not, but if this is some Inception type shit, then I might be able to change this…”
“Change what? What the hell is an Inception?”
“Of course, it’s ‘08…” I murmured, realizing the movie hadn’t come out yet. “Bruno, you and I are gonna be in a relationship in the near future. After the VMAs, I’m going to be upset with some people making fun of me and I’m gonna walk out in the middle of street and you’re gonna save me from a sixteen wheeler and die. Then you’re gonna be turned into a vampire.” I explained hurriedly.
I quickly added, “When we leave the Staples Center that night, take me around the back way.”
He looked at me like I had lost my mind. “Okay…I’m gonna…I got thisthing…I need to do…” He slowly stood up, but I grabbed his wrist.
“Don’t do this to me, please, if I can save your life—”
“Um, Dre?” He looked around to find someone to help him, but I stopped him again.
“Look at me.” I demanded. “You came over here to hit on me, you were gonna give me a bottle of water and tell me that a voice like mine needs to stay hydrated…”
His expression changed to shock, “H-How did y-you-?!”
I held up my finger for him to allow me to finish. “You have a camera in your back pocket, don’t you?”
He reached behind him and pulled out a digital camera slowly. “You were gonna say ‘Can I take a picture with you? I wanna show Santa what I want for Christmas’. I was gonna laugh and say yes, and in that moment we fell for each other.”
He pulled his wrist out of my grip. “You’re freakin’ me out, how do you know all this?!”
My eyes were pleading, “Kenji’s going to kill me.”
“In 2012, after we’re married in Ibiza, we buy a place in Arizona. Kenji’s going to show up when you’re in LA and he’s going to stab me.”
He took a deep, genuine breath, something I hadn’t seen in so long. He exhaled slowly, closing his eyes as he massaged his temples. “You knew all this other shit…so I’m gonna roll with you for a little bit here, even though it sounds fucking crazy.”
“I don’t know what’s going on, but Kenji didn’t like that we got engaged, in fact…now that I think about it, how convenient that your ex girlfriend showed up when you guys performed in Puerto Rico! Kenji probably invited her!” I began to put two and two together, and then my mind’s eye flashed with the tall, mysterious Asian vampire from my nightmare I had a long time ago…
“Oh my God, that guy…he was an Elitist…maybe he’s….maybe he’s relatedto Kenji? Oh my God…it all makes sense now…you trusted him, so that way he could get close to us and manipulate our relationship…they want you in their league, they want me gone…” My words fell ontop of each other as revelation after revelation came crashing upon me full force.
“Wait, so wait wait wait.” He stopped me. “You said I’m a vampire? Or I’m gonna be one or whatever?”
I nodded. He continued, “If that were actually true, that would be fly as hell.”
I sighed in exasperation. “No, it’s not. You hate it. Your feeding takes over your brain when you’re hungry, you can’t control your fangs in certain situations, you’ve killed people…including a pregnant woman. And the most powerful league of vampires wants you at all costs.”
Bruno’s excitement faded. “That’s not cool…”
I wiped away tears I didn’t know were forming in my eyes. “We can’t have any kids because you can’t make children, we couldn’t get married in Hawaii and I know you would have wanted to, I had to flip my schedule so I could be up all night with you and I can barely make it through the day without a constant supply of caffeine. Your skin is cold and when you sleep, you look dead.” I sniffled, trying to fight the oncoming barrage of more tears.
“I never realized how nice it was to see you breathing until now. I—I’m not used to it.” At the thought of a possible time-warped normalcy in my life, I broke down in sobs, and he hesitantly reached out and pulled me into an embrace.
“Come on, don’t cry. I’m sure if we’re married, apparently, I don’t want you to be upset with me.” He tried to understand, although I knew I was scaring him and he had no idea what was going on. Still, it had never felt so good, so real, to be held by him, sobbing into his warm chest, hearing every heartbeat.
“I’m not upset with you.” I said softly, “I miss you like this. I guess I didn’t realize I did until now…”
I closed my eyes, but as soon as I did, his weight against me disappeared and I stumbled forward, looking around but seeing I was outside of the Staples Center now. He came bounding out happily, throwing his arm around my shoulders as he kissed me.
“Hey baby, you changed fast.” He looked at my outfit, which I was still wearing from the night Kenji stabbed me. He was done all up, dressed to the nines and holding an MTV VMA award.
“Did you know they actually mail these to us? These aren’t even real. But I snagged you one anyway ‘cause I know you’re excited it’s your first one.” He handed the award to me.
I took it and looked at him. “T-thanks?”
“You look like you just saw a ghost.” He joked.
“I feel like I did…” I mumbled as he guided me away from the Staples Center. I noticed he took me an alternate direction than the night he died from the accident. Could he possible have heeded my warning from my previous flashback? If that’s what you could call these things…flashbacks….
“You looked amazing on that stage tonight babe.” He said, the same way he did on that night. But now there were no screaming groupies to bring down my night and get my blood boiling. I just continued walking in awe of everything that was happening.
“Thanks Bru…but if you don’t mind me asking, why are we walking this way?” I asked him, out of sheer curiosity.
He shrugged and replied, “Less people over here.”
I grew quiet and soon we reached the parking lot. He opened the car door for me and I sat inside, but before I could close the door, I felt a dizzying sensation and the floor moved out from underneath me. I had to close my eyes, I was forced by the force of the fall.
I jolted up in the same passenger’s side of the black Lexus that we were in, but it was no longer in the parking lot. Now, the sun was shining brightly in the sky and we were parked in a neighborhood of beautiful homes, in the driveway of an exceptional one in particular. I noticed the garage was open and there were a lot of cardboard boxes everywhere.
Slowly, I stood up out of the car and closed the door behind me, looking around at my surroundings, bewildered by this whole experience. I wandered into the garage and opened up the first box that was marked‘PHOTOS’.
As I pulled back the cardboard flaps, I noticed something out the corner of my eye behind the box and standing up against the wall. It looked like a thick, black photo frame border. I pushed the box aside and saw my face, in black and white, smiling happily…but this was such a large portrait, it could take up an entire wall. There was another section hidden by more boxes.
I shoved them aside and revealed Bruno next to me, beaming brightly. More boxes were in the way and I finally removed everything.
I was so overcome with consternation that my knees buckled and I fell down to them, touching the portrait ever so gently, as though it were made of a spider’s silken web.
Between Bruno and I were two children of both of our likenesses. The young girl appeared to be five or six. Her hair was made up of dark brown springs that framed her supple face, and brought out her big, shining chocolate eyes. The bridge of her nose and her cheekbones were sprinkled with barely there light brown freckles.
The boy was younger, maybe about four? His hair appeared long, from what I could see it looked to be about shoulder length, but it was braided in a single braid down his back. His eyes were a light brown color and his nose crinkled, his cheeks deeply dimpled as though he were in the middle of laughing.
At the bottom of the portrait, in a large font, it read:
‘The Hernandez Family - Bruno, Roxanne, Xavier, and Anela. -June 15th, 2018 -’
A stray football rolling out onto the driveway, nearly onto the street, caught my attention. I saw Xavier’s little legs, running after the thing, but Bruno came behind him and swung him up into his arms.
“Whoa whoa lil’ man, you can’t go out in the street.” He said, picking up the football himself with the child resting on his hip. When the turned around, he spotted me in the garage and came over to me. “Hey, when did you get back babe?” He asked.
“That’s our son?” I blurted like an idiot. I should have known by this third‘experience’ that I should just go with the flow of the situation. I was just so taken aback by seeing children, my children, that I didn’t know what to say, or how to act.
Bruno lifted an eyebrow, “I think he has way too much energy to have gotten it from anyone else but us.”
I dusted myself off and stood up, approaching them. “Of course, sorry I’m feeling kind of out of it.” I lied, reaching out to pick up our son. Feeling the weight of him in my arms as he immediately wrapped his arms around my neck and nestled into my chest; it was highly disconcerting due to my warped sense of reality at the moment, and yet it was beautiful at the same time.
“What scene did you film today?” Bruno inquired as he passed by me, kissing my cheek. He went over to the disorganized boxes and pulled the portrait free, setting it aside, before placing the boxes back neatly.
“Um…you know, that one with all the…stuff, all the moving…and stuff.” I rambled. Was I shooting movies now? I had become an actor? So many questions I wanted to ask, but I feared being taken away from this alternate reality with my son in my arms.
“The cop chase?” He guessed.
I snapped my fingers. “Yeah! That one. Woo, took a lot out of me.” I said.
“Daddy I learned your song!” A little female voice called out as she came around to the garage.
That was most certainly Anela. When she spotted me, her eyes lit up and she ran over to hug my legs. “MOMMY!!!” She exclaimed.
I ruffled her hair as I knelt down and kissed her cheek. “Hey there sweetheart.” I cooed. “What did you learn?”
She held her hands behind her back and twisted side to side, a cheeky grin on her lips. “It’s a surprise for you! Daddy has been helping me learn it and I’m ready to have a concert.”
“We’ll be right in, go get your stage ready.” Bruno said. I noticed how he looked upon her with such adoration, truly enamored by everything she had to say.
“I’m gonna play too Mommy. I will find a music and play for you when I find a good music.” Xavier mumbled into my chest.
Sadly, I probably wouldn’t make it that far in this vision, but I humored him, “I can’t wait to hear.” I ran my fingers through his long, loose hair as I followed Bruno and a gleefully skipping Anela into our home. She rushed ahead of us into what I assumed was the living room, by the all white expensive looking furniture. The walls were lined floor to ceiling with albums from the both of us, gone gold, platinum, and a few diamond. I couldn’t believe how beautiful everything looked.
Anela ran over to a little child sized drum set and furrowed her brow as she tried to look “productive” by messing with knobs on the hi-hat and cymbal stands. I noticed her look of concentration was identical to my own. Bruno sat down on the couch next to me and I sat Xavier down.
Once she was finished “setting up”, Anela reached down behind her drum set and popped a little pink fedora atop her curls. “Are you ready to rock!!!” She yelled with determination in her eyes.
Bruno and I clapped and cheered her on.
“Ok, Daddy go put on the song.” She said.
He kissed his teeth dramatically as he stood up, “I’m your sound crew? I better be getting paid for this!”
“I’m gonna make you a cupcake tonight Daddy, it’s ok.” She said, as though it were a million dollars.
“Alright, it better be vanilla.” He smiled as he pressed play on the stereo.
Immediately I recognized the beginning to his song, ‘The Other Side’. I was rather thrown, however, because he had told me that he wrote that about me when he was first turned into a vampire and was watching me before he could be a part of my life again.
So what other reason did he have to write the song in this alternate universe?
He ran back across the room and plopped on the couch, causing Xavier to giggle as he bounced from the impact. Our attention was turned to little Anela as she wore the cutest little face that looked just like Bruno when he played his set. Her eyebrows knitted together, her lips pouted out as she started playing and bouncing in her chair to the beat.
I had never been so proud in my entire life, I wanted to stand up and start applauding and she was only twenty seconds into the song.
And, alright she’s a kid so she wasn’t absolutely perfect in a technical sense, but for the majority of the song she was on tempo properly and, God, that face was too fucking adorable.
Then she spun out into some crazy solo at the end of song, with the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’. She bit her lower lip as she hit cymbals, toms, the snare, everything with such impact, while still maintaining the tempo with the bass drum. She finished with a double cymbal crash.
I jumped to my feet and cheered, Bruno and Xavier doing the same; but I probably went overboard as I ran over to Anela and picked her up in my arms, kissing her chubby cheeks endlessly and spinning her around. “That was so good honey! I can’t believe it! You sounded just like Daddy!”
She squealed as I spun her. “Did I really?!” She asked. “Oh Mommy! I watched all of his videos from his old tour and I wanted to be so good like him!”
“You’re gonna put me out of my job!” He remarked as Xavier pushed himself off the couch and waddled over to the drums. He sat down and picked up a drumstick, tapping the tom once before frowning and putting the stick down. He proceeded towards the many guitars belonging to Bruno and I that were on display.
I could tell Bruno was cautious about what he was going to do, as he stood up and quietly walked behind Xavier, with his hands out to grab him if need be. But alas, Xavier simply plopped on his bum in front of my crimson electric guitar and plucked a string gently. He smiled as he plucked another, and another, and another.
Bruno visibly relaxed and gave me a knowing look.
“Mommy, Daddy, I want this.” Xavier announced.
“But you have one already.” Bruno replied.
“This is Mommy’s. I want this. I want to do like Mommy.”
The room spun around me, knocking me off my feet, and when I landed, I was lying in soft grass, with a faint melody in the background.
“No!” I yelled, looking around at the vast, beautiful forestry that surrounded me.
“NO!” I repeated, louder, as I scrambled back onto my feet and looked around, desperate to see my family again, desperate to live in that moment, to be happy without a care in the world.
I looked down at my left hand, which had just, moments prior, been holding my daughter’s hand. “I didn’t even get to say goodbye….” I whispered.
“Well look who showed up…” Bruno’s voice startled me and I turned around to see him walking out of the forestry; He was dressed oddly…well, oddly forhim at least. He wore white slacks with gold suspenders over his shoulders, and a white vneck tshirt. Atop his head was a white fedora.
His skin was radiant, glowing; and his eyes were literally twinkling, like I could see the sparkle in them.
“Have you figured out where you’re at yet?” He inquired as he rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet expectantly, biting his lower lip with a smile.
“I’m dreaming, but why do you look all holy? You look like RnB Jesus right now…what’s going on?”
He threw his head back in laughter. “RnB Jesus, I’ll take it.” He tilted his head for me to follow him, so I did. “You’re not dreaming though, you’re in Limbo.”
I looked over at him. “Limbo? Where’s that?”
“It’s where you hang out while God gets things together for you to get back to Earth.” He explained.
My heart dropped. “Wait…I’m dead?!”
“Ehh.” He shrugged, “Not really, you were though. You were in Heaven for a little bit.”
“Wait again,” I stopped him, and he looked ever-so-amused by my confusion. “I was in Heaven? I thought Heaven was some magical paradise?”
He continued walking, so I followed again. “You watch too many movies.” He said, looking ahead in the distance as we ventured throughout the forest. “Heaven is basically your life replayed with big old ‘edit’, ‘delete’, and ‘skip’buttons.”
“Edit is a function…not a button…” I said, on the verge of a giggle.
He rolled his eyes, “You know I’m not good with technology, work with me here.”
I half smiled. “So….how did I get to see my family and everything?”
“You can turn Heaven into your own paradise if you’d like. It starts with one of your happiest memories, then from there you work forward…or backwards if you wish, but you chose forward.”
“You could have left the sound check and gone back to your apartment, where you were beforehand, then your universe would have warped to accompany that desire to go backwards. It takes some getting used to, but those of us in Heaven have eternity to get the hang of things.” He explained. “What you did was go into your little editing board and you moved the pieces around to suit the outcome you originally wanted.”
I listened intently as we happened upon a crystalline lake with lush botany around the borders of it. “I wanted to stay…I really liked that, seeing everything differently. It felt so real…”
“It was real. That was your life had that night at the VMAs never happened, and it’s not gone forever.” He sat down on wooden dock that extended out into the lake, his legs hanging off the end. I joined him. “When you die, for real this time, you’ll be able to come back and do whatever you want.”
“Will you be here?”
He shook his head, “Nope. The Bruno you saw in your Heaven will be, if you want him to be. I’m not real.”
I frowned, “What?”
He swung his legs back and forth as he gazed upon the Horizon. “I’m an Angel.”
“But…you’re Bruno…” I rubbed my eyes to be sure I was seeing him correctly, and sure enough it was him, still.
The Angel shook his head, “I took his form because I didn’t want to frighten you; but I have all of his thoughts, memories and mannerisms…so you aren’t talking to a complete stranger. It’s complex to explain, but God sent me down here to ease your worries before you head back down to Earth.”
“Oh…” I quietly said. “What’s going to happen to me?”
“Well, Bruno, or me, however you want to say it, isn’t going to let you go that easy. He’s racing from Los Angeles to the hospital where your body is being taken; then he’s going to turn you.” My Bruno Angel construed thoughtfully. “When it’s time, you’re gonna feel a lot of pain, and when you wake up, you’ll be a vampire.”
“But how am I supposed to get into Heaven as a vampire? If I even die?”
“God makes those judgements, and I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that being any supernatural creature doesn’t auto-send you to Hell. It’s your belief, actions and character that determine where you’ll go. So be a good little songbird as much as you can, keep your faith strong, and you’ll be all human with your family someday.” He smiled over at me, his teeth whiter than the whitest of white, his eyes crinkling lightly around the edges.
I looked down at my reflection in the lake, thinking about everything that had happened over the course of however long I had been in my Heaven. It sure felt nice…but I have so much to live for on Earth. Not just Bruno, but my supporters, my family, my friends, my music. When it’s my time to go, I’ll go; but for now, it was comforting to know I’d be with my real Bruno soon.
“So you really want children, hm?”
I sighed, “I’m going to adopt.”
“Well…how about I work out a little something for you?” He suggested. I looked over at him expectantly, wondering what he was going to say. “I can’t make you pregnant, that’s God’s territory and even with His miracles, he would prefer procreation not to happen amongst vampires to avoid as many hiccups as possible.”
“I understand.” I nodded.
“I can, however, have the souls of your children-to-be, the ones in your Heaven? And I can place them in a couple of God’s unborn children. When you decide to adopt, I’ll arrange it so you’ll end up with your real children, even if the external physical appearance isn’t what you had hoped.” He offered.
“Can you please do that for me? For us?” I asked, hopeful.
He took a deep breath as he smiled and closed his eyes, tilting his head back. He exhaled lightly, relaxing. “It’s done.”
“Already?” I was surprised. There were no special effects, explosions, warping, bright bursts of energy. He simply took a relaxing breath and it was done.
“I’m one of the more powerful Angels, it doesn’t take much for me to take care of a little wish from someone with so pure a heart as yours.” The Angel placed his hand on my back gently. “I’ve just arrived at the hospital, it’s time for you to go now.”
“I have so many more things to ask you though.” I said sadly.
“You’ll be fine, Roxanne. We’re always taking care of you, watching over you. Even in your bad situations, you may think we’re ignoring you, but everything happens for a reason. If you just trust in that, and trust in the power of love, you’ll be fine…and I’ll be waiting on the other side…” He leaned over and kissed me. I felt my lips course with galvanism, as my heart fluttered. A very brief gust of wind blew my hair back and I opened my eyes to see he was gone.
“Please God, please! Let me have her back! I can’t live without her God, please!” I stormed into the Morgue, where my wife laid on the cold, hard metal surface, her body covered by a white sheet. I pulled it down just enough so I could touch her face gently.
Her skin was cold, her eyes closed. She looked like she was just asleep, and had she not lost so much of her caramel complexion, I would have believed just that.
Tears streaming down my face, dripping blood droplets all over the floor, I opened up the water bottle I had drained my blood into on the way out here to Phoenix, and I wrenched her mouth open, pouring it down her throat. I tilted her head up so it wouldn’t simply pool at the back of her mouth. Once it drained, I kept pouring until the bottle was empty.
“We were so happy Rox, we were doing just fine, why did this have to happen like this?!” I carefully maneuvered the sheet to cover her naked body as I picked her up in my arms and vamped out of the hospital, too quick to be stopped by anybody on my way. I didn’t slow to normal speed until I had arrived at the nearby cemetery. I found a beautiful mausoleum and I broke the lock in my hand, snapping it off and opening the door. I ventured downstairs to the burial chambers and I set her down very carefully as I dug in my backpack and pulled out the rolled up sleeping bag and pillow I had brought.
I laid it down neatly and then placed her upon it, resting her head on the pillow, covering her with the sheet. I took out three, two liter bottles of soda that I had prepared with donor human blood; I knew when she woke up, she was going to try to kill anything human she could find. I wanted to save her the horrors I experienced.
I wish I didn’t have to do this.
I wish I could’ve been strong enough to just let her go.
When my Bruno Angel had informed me that my turning was going to be painful, I had no idea it would be this excruciatingly unbearable. I wished I could pass out, but my body never gave way.
I couldn’t just sit there on the dock and take it.
But walking around didn’t help either.
I stumbled constantly with each burn that raked me from the inside out. I screamed, but nobody could hear, there was nobody else here…in this Limbo. I coughed and choked, my skin ablaze.
I could no longer support myself, I collapsed, but remained fully conscious. I finally realized that my organs were melting. They were literally melting inside of my body and dissipating into vapors. I felt my skull shifting, bones breaking and expanding around my jaw to accommodate the intricate mechanics of my new teeth.
I wanted to rip my skin off, I tried, but not even a scratch showed up as I scathed my arm, wanting to see visual representation of what I felt as though that would help me find some release from this madness.
This immortality isn’t something she should have to deal with, I didn’t want it myself.
But it was when I felt our blood bond weaken so drastically earlier, that I knew for certain that I couldn’t bear that emptiness. Now that I was her designated Creator, that bond would be even stronger, and cause more drastic decisions from me; but at least she was here.
Yes, as I ran my fingers through her hair, I was happy she was here.
And as I neatly laid her hair around the pillow, still lovingly stroking her, a small smile crossing my lips; I knew I was going to brutally, viciously murder whoever was responsible for this.