If vampires had known the world was going to fall to shit after they revealed themselves, they would have continued to walk in the shadows and be the stuff of legends. Part of me is happy Gran is dead so she couldn’t see what has become of the world. I wouldn’t have wanted her to live in a world where she had to fight for her own survival.
In the last six months, the world has fucking turned upside down. With the destruction of the vamp camp, I had thought things would return to normal. But like Jason said normal is now SNAFU…situation normal, all fucked up! Before the vamp camp could be destroyed, truckloads of the tainted True Blood left the facility for distribution. The first reported cases of Hepatitis V, or Hep V, were in Honolulu, Hawaii. The infected were lethargic and feverish for days before their bodies basically liquefied into a pile of blood and goo. CNN was the first to show the effects that Hep V had on vampires which led to an immediate recall of all True Blood, but it offered no hope for those already infected.
My heart broke watching the documentary. Poor Nora had been a victim of Hep V; I learned that from Tara. Her death is what set Eric on his path of destruction. Tara said that Nora literally disintegrated in Eric’s arms. I cried for both him and Nora; I may not have liked her, but no one deserved to die in such a horrible fashion. I also learned from Tara that Bill kept Nora’s condition from me. If he had told me Warlow’s blood could have saved Nora, I would have brought him back instantly, no questions asked. I would have agreed to any of Warlow’s conditions if it would have saved Eric from suffering. But then again, Eric would probably have been mad at me for the bargain I would have struck with Warlow to get his cooperation… Damn Catch-22… It doesn’t matter now, but I feel partly responsible for Nora’s death. I wonder if Eric had blamed me too.
What the idiots behind Hep V failed to realize is that as a virus, it would mutate. Scientists haven’t been clear on how the mutation has occurred but some theorize that not all vampires are susceptible to Hep V and the virus lays dormant in their bodies. A solid theory is perhaps if the vampire shares his/her blood with a human, the virus will then start to mutate in the human’s body. If a vampire then drinks from a human with the mutated virus in their blood, the vampire will no longer have the natural immunity to the mutation. Others believe that some vampires did not ingest enough of the Hep V virus to have it be a lethal dose. The virus has now had time to mutate in their bodies, causing the now zombie-like vampires we have. However, calling them zombie-like isn’t really correct either. I’ve never heard of zombies having supernatural strength or speed. I’ve never heard of zombies being able to think rationally or coordinate attacks with others. The Hep V vamps are moving in packs throughout the United States; they are targeting rural areas, primarily in the Midwest and the South. Entire populations of small towns have disappeared due to the infected vampires and those towns that have not been affected yet look like ghost towns because people have fled seeking a safer place. The news is now filled with stories of looting, vandalism, and murder as people are doing everything they can to survive. Survival of the fittest is now the basis for lawlessness and anarchy throughout much of the country. Martial law has been enacted in the metropolitan areas; local police forces, the National Guard, and the United States Armed Forces have all been used to keep law and order throughout those states; but where does that leave the rest of us?
To prevent the same things from happening in Bon Temps, the mayor of our town, Sam Merlotte, has called a meeting to discuss our strategy to for our protection. You may wonder how Sam came to be the mayor of the town; I know I do. Mayor Norris, who was quite advanced in years, passed away from a heart attack about five months ago when all of this mess started coming to light. The townspeople were frantic; full-blown panic was setting in and everyone had gathered in Merlotte’s Bar and Grill to discuss the situation. Things quickly got out of hand, and Sam was the only person that could get the people of Bon Temps to calm down and think rationally. A straw poll led by Sheriff Andy Bellefleur had the citizens of Bon Temps proclaiming Sam to be the new mayor. Of course, it was only an honorary title; Louisiana did not recognize Sam’s election to office. The Office of Elections stated a formal re-election would need to occur. However, given the way of the world, I won’t hold my breath waiting for that formal election.
The first measure Sam enacted as mayor was to set a curfew within the town limits of Bon Temps. The police department, which mainly consisted of Andy and Jason, were to arrest those people outside past curfew. He also organized nightly patrols along the perimeter of Bon Temps; I know the local vampires as well as Alcide participated in those patrols. In addition to that, the residents of Bon Temps stocked up on any and all means of protection against vampires. People thought rednecks were fanatical about their trucks and their guns before, honey they ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
For a few months, things were fine; everyone felt safe. But then news of attacks in Arkansas and Texas were reported. Suddenly, the threat of an attack was much more eminent to Bon Temps.
And that is what has brought all the residents of Bon Temps together again today. Sam, Reverend Skinner, and Reverend Daniels have called a meeting to discuss a new safety program. Alcide and I arrived at the church to find the parking lot filled with cars. We nod towards Sam and Andy as we make our way inside. My jaw clenches as I hear Andy’s thoughts.
Ain’t no way I’m lettin’ some fucking fanger drink from my baby girl! Sam’s outta his damn mind if he thinks I’ll let Adilyn pair up with a vampire for protection.
Oh my God!!! What the fuck is Sam thinking? I think to myself as I stare at Sam in horror. Alcide looks at me in concern.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” I say as I stomp the rest of the way into the church. Inside, I find Jason freaking out while standing in one of the lines.
“Jason, what’s all this about?”
“It’s a blood test…to see if any of us are carriers,” Jason runs his hands nervously through his hair. I cannot help but laugh; my brother has always been scared of needles.
“Next?” The weary nurse sitting at the registration table stares at Jason expectantly.
Jason fidgets nervously and backs away from the table. “Here; she’s my sister. She wants to go before me.” Jason grabs me by the shoulders and pushes me in front of the nurse. I roll my eyes.
“Sookie Stackhouse.” I watch as the nurse grabs a small test kit from the pile; it is already labeled with my name, address, and telephone number. The nurse grabs my hand, pricking my finger with the needle in the test kit. A bead of blood bubbles up on the surface of my skin. Jason hisses in pain and I turn my head to look at him with exasperation. He has turned a nice shade of green, perspiration breaking out on his skin as he swallows trying hard to fight the nausea back.
“Did it hurt?” Jason begins badgering me as the nurse cleans the wound on my finger. “Sook tell me; be honest.”
I smirk at him. “I think we’ve both been through much worse.” I stare at him intently. I don’t understand it; we’ve been covered in blood and vampire remains, bitten, beaten up, and burned. And he’s scared of a FUCKING needle?!?!?!?!
After all tests are administered, Sam asks everyone to find a seat so the meeting can begin. For the first time in my life, I see the two churches in Bon Temps joined together. They say segregation in the South ended in the 1960s but that isn’t true; for all my life, there has been the white church and the black church in Bon Temps. Reverend Daniels knows this is a historic moment; so he is preaching a sermon of togetherness. He asks the congregation to switch seats, getting people to sit next to someone who they would otherwise never associate with. He explains that it is only together as one community will we be able to defend ourselves against the rogue vampire attacks. His words strike at the heart of the matter and the residents of the town are all nodding in agreement. During the first speech, I had been tense; I’ve had my shields locked down tight so I do not get overwhelmed by the frenzied activity of all the minds in the church. Alcide has been watching me the entire service with concern on his face; I know he will not hesitate to get me out of there if he thinks I can’t handle it. Reverend Daniels finishes his sermon by saying that as long as we stay together we will survive these current trying times.
It is now Sam’s turn to speak and I cannot help but grasp Alcide’s hand in warning as I wait for the shoe to drop. Sam begins explaining that he has worked with Bill Compton (of course that fucker would be involved) to come up with a plan involving the healthy vampires. He asks everyone to come out to Bellefleur’s Bar and Grill to enjoy an evening of good food, drinks, dancing, and good company . . . all free courtesy of Arlene Bellefleur.
A middle-aged African-American in her Sunday best stands up to ask, “What’s the catch? Cause ain’t nothin’ in life for free.”
Sam tells her she is a smart woman; she nods her head acknowledging his compliment before sitting back down. Sam admits there is a catch, but it is a catch to make sure everybody’s safety. Sam drops the bomb that he wants every unaffected adult in the community to commit to a monogamous feeding relationship with a healthy vampire. The voices in the church rise up to ear shattering levels as Sam continues to explain that in exchange for feeding the vampire, each human and their family will be protected by said vampire.
“This is the only way we know to keep y’all safe,” Sam beseeches the congregation. People stop speaking to listen to him as he pleads for their support. “If we’re gonna be safe, every single human needs a vampire, and every vampire needs a human. I hope I’llsee all y’all tonight. If I don’t . . . God be with you.” Sam’s eyes lock with mine as he finishes speaking. I can tell that he is directing that last part at me since he knows I have no wish to be a late night carry out meal.
“Is it me or did Sam sound like a used car salesman standing up on that pulpit?” I cannot help but laugh at Alcide’s comment as I stand in my kitchen making lunch for the two of us after the town meeting. Since the funeral of Terry Bellefleur, Alcide and I have gotten extremely close. He decided to step back from the Shreveport pack after the situation involving Sam and Sam’s girlfriend, Nicole. At first, I think Alcide started coming around so often because he was lonely. I know he tries so much to come off as the lone tough wolf, but every wolf needs a pack. It hurt him a lot to have his pack turn on him like they did. And despite what he says, I know he still mourns for Debbie. We never really can turn our backs on the ones we love; no matter what they may do, we will always love them.
I set the last platter of food on the table; with Alcide and Jason hanging around, I’ve learned you can never make enough food. For lunch, we’re having fried chicken, potato salad, broccoli salad, and biscuits with honey. Thank God Jase and Alcide pony up money for groceries; I’d need a second mortgage to cover the cost of feeding those two!
“Honestly, I thought he was going to jump down from the pulpit and go into the crowd trying to heal people and scream ‘Praise Jesus’,” I say as I begin putting food on my plate. Alcide chuckles as he puts a mountain of food on his plate. I really hate that he can eat all that food and still look amazing without his shirt on. Life really isn’t fair!
We eat in silence for a few minutes. There has been something bothering me since I heard Andy’s angry thoughts outside of the church. “Don’t you find it odd that Sam is saying the only way we can survive is to pair up with a vampire? For years, Sam was giving me shit about bein’ mixed up in vampire shit, saying it was gonna get me killed. Why would he change his mind now?”
Alcide chews quickly and swallows the last of his food before reaching for a second helping of everything. Honestly, it’s so not fucking fair! “I guess he figures that it’s the best option to keep the townsfolk safe.” Alcide shovels a large bite of food in his mouth so he doesn’t say any more, but I know better.
“But you don’t?” I cock my head to look at Alcide. I know he hasn’t had the best relationship with vampires over the years; his father’s gambling addiction, Debbie’s V addiction, and my constant drama have definitely soured him on the fanged experience.
Alcide swallows again before giving me a hard look. “What do you want me to say, Sook? I’m a Wolf; my kind and their kind don’t really get along.” He reaches over to grab my hand before continuing. “There are some vamps that aren’t so bad,” he tells me with a small smile and I smile back knowing he’s thinking of Tara and Willa. “But on the whole, I don’t trust ‘em. If I were Sam I would probably have suggested the same thing. I’d rather have them out there fighting against these sick vamps than it be you or Jason.” Alcide releases my hand and resumes eating lunch. I pick at my food before finally getting up to do the dishes. Alcide brings me his plate when he’s finished. He clears the table, putting the leftovers away while I finish the dishes.
“Are you gonna pair up with a vampire?” I’ve finished wiping down the counters and table. I’m left standing in front of the sink with my arms crossed over my chest nervously.
Alcide growls at my question and his eyes begin to turn yellow. “No,” he says harshly. “I don’t need a fuckin’ fanger to watch my back.” His answer startles me, though I don’t know why. He moves in front of me, grabbing my upper arms. “Are you thinkin’ about pairing up with a vamp?”
I shake my head no. “The only ones in town I’d pair up with would be Tara or Willa. But I’m hopeful that they find someone tonight to pair up with.” Both vampires are my friends and I want to help them, but they are both so young in terms of being a vampire. They won’t be much protection against an older vampire. And while Tara hasn’t reacted to my scent or my blood, I did have to rescind Willa’s invitation when I’d accidentally cut my finger on broken glass in the house. The poor girl calmed down once I had healed my cut and cleaned up all the blood, but she was so embarrassed that she wouldn’t come near me for three days.
“What about Bill? You know he’ll offer you ‘protection’.” The way Alcide said protection you would think it was a dirty word.
I shake my head no again. “I may be blonde, but I’m not stupid. I know I can never trust Bill Compton.”
The party at Bellefleur’s Bar and Grill is going strong when Alcide and I arrive. Arlene really has gone all out with the food and the drinks. Lights have been strung up to make the outdoors look festive. James and his band are playing on the outdoor stage; Jessica and a few others are dancing in front of them. Looking around, I see my brother loading up a plate of food and filling a pitcher of beer. On the way to his table, he offers some of his beer to a pretty girl, earning the evil eye from Violet before she stalks off. I roll my eyes and shake my head in disgust; I do not understand my brother’s relationship with that vampire.
Alcide and I get our test results; we’re both negative which is not a shock. We stand together watching the crowd around us. Some vampires are showing their fangs to their potential food sources; others are asking questions of their potential meals. Alcide stares in disgust at the scene around us.
“Let’s leave Jesus out of it; I don’t think he’s got anything to do with it,” I scold him lightly.
He scoffs, “Really? The way they made it sound at church this morning, you’d think he was catering the thing.”
Arlene walks around the tables, beckoning for people to enjoy HER food and HER drinks. “No,” I say with laughter in my voice, “that would be Arlene.”
Alcide grunts. He looks at me expectantly. “One hour?”
I smile as I nod in agreement. “One hour; we eat, we mingle, we make sure we’re seen, and then we’ll get the hell out of here.” I thought our plan was foolproof. What could go wrong?
I should have known that the shit would hit the fan . . .