GARDEN OF PROMISES • by Allison Sherman

I stared passively out the window and impatiently endured the babbling from the nurse. I knew what she would say; she wanted to know if I had experienced a miraculous recovery from the night before. The truth was I felt worse, and I was in no mood to answer a list of endless questions. Finally she got the hint and I heard the rapid clicking of her shoes as she hurried out to report to the doctor.

Nowadays, there was only one thing I was interested in. It’s kind of funny actually. The thing is, you can only see them after you’ve lost all hope. In other words, when you’re dying. I watched the beautiful creatures glide gracefully over to the patients in the garden, and wondered what they would wish for. I’d seen greedy patients who wished for money, and selfless patients who just asked for a smile. Those were silly requests. You can only have one wish and in exchange all of the blood is forced out of you. The only worthy thing to ask for is a longer life, but that’s the only wish the pretty monsters can’t grant.

Yet, just like all of the other hopeless patients, I visited the garden with the lovely creatures and asked them for a dying gift. All of them are the same, but different. That’s the only way I can explain it. They all have shaggy black hair, ghostly pale faces, and blue eyes that are the lightest shade possible. You feel like you’ve known them forever and they spread warmth throughout your whole body, unthawing your heart you never knew was iced over. There was no tangible difference between each vampire, but they each created their own feeling… sort of like an aura, I guess. There was one in particular that I was attracted to, and that is the one I approached.

He said nothing, but I knew immediately what his question was. It was like it had been transferred from his brain to mine, and as I thought about this, I knew that that was a high possibility. The question was simple–what do you want most in your life? Although I was pretty sure the vampire could hear my thoughts, I spoke aloud. My answer was also simple, maybe even too short. “A kiss.”

Without any more specification, he understood what I meant. I didn’t want my kiss now. I wanted to save it for my last intake of air, and he understood. Suddenly, the thought of dying didn’t seem as painful.

My mind drifted further and further back into the memory of the beautiful creature when I was abruptly brought to reality again by the annoying clicking of the pushy nurse. This time the clicking was accompanied by slow, heavy footsteps. Oh boy, the doctor was coming to bother me again too. I hated this! The real world was so cruel these days!

I was prepared to die, I could feel it coming. I had been expecting it for months, but I knew it was only days now. Why did I have to waste my last hours answering pointless questions and taking stupid tests? What could the doctor possibly say to help me now–…?

The expression on his face stopped me with a jolt. He wasn’t here to question me or take tests; he was here to break the news. I knew it was coming. I was prepared. I’d been prepared for months, but his expression was so concerned and devastated, my eyes began to water without my consent.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry… We tried so hard! You have to believe me. If there was anything, anything, but we’ve tried everything and your condition is only getting worse. You know, if there’s something you wanted… Something we could do for you…”

It was time to keep my promise. It was almost a welcome gift. At least this way it wouldn’t be my illness that overpowered me. I’d rather die in the hands of someone else, giving my life to keep them alive. “I’d like to visit the garden one last time. I want to be alone, no supervision this time. Please just let me be alone to walk.”

It was a simple request. They could at least do that, right? Sure enough, the nurse escorted me out to a bench and promised to come back in an hour. As soon as she was through the door, the lovely creature appeared in front of me. I was ready this time. We walked into the woods and I left my hospital gown behind. As he led me by the hand, I too disappeared from the living eye and transitioned into the world between life and death. As he bit into my neck, I stifled a scream and invited the pain. I felt more alive than I ever had before in my short, hospitalized life.

It was excruciating, worse than I could have ever imagined. After a few minutes, my mind started slipping in and out of consciousness. I opened my eyes one more time to see two glimmering blue circles peering down at my face, and a second later I felt the soft pale lips of the vampire touch mine. At that moment, I knew true happiness and closed my eyes for the last time. As my spirit passed through the last stage to death, I felt a warmth spread throughout my entire body and heard a piercing screech from a faraway place called life.

Allison Sherman writes out of Marshalltown, Iowa.

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