I'm sure that sometime in the future I will write of my childhood, my family, how I was raised. It's so commonplace for someone writing an autobiography to start at the beginning, that it's practically a sin to not. Even more critically, there is a certain indecency for a woman of my caliber to paint a picture of her life without a foundation to build upon; however, my canvas was already begun when its feature brushstrokes were put into place. However, I of all people know that my real story, the one that sings through my onyx-tinged blood and hues my eyes their unique shade of blue, did not begin with my birth. Instead, my life as an initiated and tried member of the vampire community began shortly after my becoming eighteen. No, I was not turned at that age, as would normally constitute such an initiation. There are many rites of passage for a vampire, you see; the first of which any individual happens to come across earns them their official initiation into our culture, whether it be turning, an eighteenth birthday, the turning of another being…the list goes on. I was a true-born and had lived my whole life as a vampire, a vistryx in my own right, denying me both the pleasure and the pain of being once-human and turned. What happened on the eve of my coming of age is one of the only things that keep vampires going throughout their insurmountably vast lifespan, a ritual that a precious few have experienced so young as I was. I stumbled across my blood mate.

If you have ever even heard of the practice of blood mating at all, I am quite sure that you have been misled. The majority of those who are told about it are. As far as we can tell, blood mating tends to occur when a vampire has aged to the point that they are not only able to detect other members of the race, as all of us are capable, but also the experience and capability of the individual. Such a talent makes identifying a blood mate that much easier; with the added intuition given them by age, the search becomes less like to looking for a needle in a haystack, and more focused, pointed.

Those who possess true, untainted knowledge of the ritual, elder vampires or those born to the race, love to toy with the romanticized idea that blood mates recognize each other upon sight, so monumental is the occasion. This is simply not true…In my case, it was a mere casual admiration at the very first. I was in a fairly complicated relationship with someone at the time, and while I had certainly not closed my sights on the world of men in general, I was neither advertising myself nor looking for someone who was. I was merely sitting in a classroom at my old high school, slightly worn out with the day and looking for a distraction. Although vampires are not born with inherently heightened intelligence or anything of the like, the prospect of living an eternal life uneducated and in a state of ignorance, is hardly attractive…at the very least, so far as I am concerned. So yes, though I was alike to humans my age in a piteously small number of ways, one of them was my enrollment status in senior year high school classes. Education…one of the true, pure institutions of not only mankind, but of all truly conscious beings. You would think that being one of the most revered and mythic of creatures would earn you some slack; instead, I sit (and daydream) through physics classes just like everyone else. What can I say? Life is cruel.

It wasn't as if I was completely unaware of his existence to begin with. He was the good friend of a good friend, and I had heard a lot about him through others. He came across as more than a bit of a wanna-be high school rebel, with his ponytail, black band tees and occasional eyeliner. I suppose the initial attraction to him was a result of his reserved nature. Although I was not socially inept, I preferred to keep to myself, tending towards the quiet, introverted side. Others who seemed to adhere to the same general precept caught my attention, though I never walked right into an acquaintanceship based on simply that. I caught a word or two of his conversations with a lab partner at times, continued to hear about him through friends, and fostered a bit of a soft spot for his wild, green-flecked-with-gold-eyed gaze. As such things sometimes happen with two people who are in the same general social setting, there came to be a handful of occasions in which we went out together in groups of friends. A conversation would strike up, we would exchange brief thoughts or opinions, and the fostered affection would grow by some nearly indistinguishable increment. Only looking back on it can I recognize what was happening; at the time, I was completely oblivious, as I'm sure was he. After all, if as a vistryx I couldn't recognize the signs of a blood mating, a highly valued tradition of my own race, how was a human to know?

Unlike some of my kind who tend towards the snobbish, elitist view that vampires have reached a superior state of being than humans, I have never had any qualms associating with them. Our genetic basis is the same, and were it not for the genetic variation mutation that my parents carried, I would be no different than their masses. There are three methods in which a being must be exposed to the genetic variation that causes vampirism in order to be turned. Much like many human diseases that are passed through the generations, a potential vampire must be born to parents that are carriers. This is the first exposure, and the most critical. Of all the humans in the world, perhaps only a hundred thousand have this carrier gene. Few vampires have led lives as geneticists, however, and the exact method in which carrier gene is passed on is uncertain. What we do know is that even though both parents have to pass on the gene for the possibility to occur, DNA alone is not enough. The second phase of a human's turning comes while they are in the womb, being fed off of their mother's blood and consumption. Some factor in the blood of a female carrier must be successfully fed into the bloodstream of the fetus during development. In most cases, the factor is rejected on the part of the infant, and they are often born premature and malnourished because of the amount of nutrition their body rejects from the mother while in the womb. The precious few whose developing bodies accept the factor are born vampires; vistryxes, like myself. The factor in the blood that encourages the development of vampiric qualities pre-birth makes those infants stronger, healthier, and more physically sound than normal babes. Still, those that do not accept the factor have not been biologically abandoned to our world just yet. Though they are born human, they become carriers of the disease themselves, and have the potential to be turned by pathogens in the saliva of vampires through biting. You see, the normal person bitten by a vampire will either lose whatever amount of blood is taken and go on with their lives, or, if drained past a certain point, they will die. A human-born carrier, on the other hand, will without a doubt turn if bitten at any point in their lives.

In an attempt to not give away the ending before I've even really begun, I will narrate strictly sequentially, coming to things as I discovered them myself (which I suppose I've already broken, having given away the vague identity of my blood mate). My senior year came, spent itself, and passed without much consequence. On the surface I was a pretty, intelligent woman on the verge of adulthood; there were few at my high school who could claim that I had wronged them, I was polite to nearly a fault, had been accepted into a prestigious university in-state, and there were none outside of my coven who knew that I was anything but human. My eighteenth birthday, placed on the winter solstice, changed the latter fact. As a rule, a vampire youth born into the race, is not brought out into the community at large until their coming of age. Vampires are hardly devil spawn, creatures of night and evil, as the typical novel would suggest. Still, the nature of our existence and the way we take our sustenance is without a doubt predatory, and the traits instilled by such habits as stalking, feeding, taking life…they are not always the most angelic of qualities. The protection that covens give their young is borderline fanatic, for true-born vampires are few and far between. I was one of only three in my coven, a fairly large number considering that our community was small by vampire standards; twenty and change, as compared to some that number in the forties or fifties. As precious as we are considered, at the ordained age of eighteen, each youth is given the option to maintain their status quo existence, or to reveal themselves to the race in a highly ritualistic ceremony. The ceremony and the implications behind it are such a source of pride and acceptance that it is almost unheard of for a youth to refuse theirs. Mine was planned with great care and attention to detail, though the specifics of it were masked from me until the night it was to occur.

I remember the world feeling strangely surreal as I stepped out of the cottage that the coven owned. I had been in it for hours, ever since sunset, the place where the coven kept all of the relics and materials for rituals such as the one I was about to partake in. The structure appeared small from the outside, nestled into the Appalachian foothills, just far enough from the nearby towns to be discreet. However, the hillside had been hollowed out before the cottage had ever been built, and the spacious dwelling had been a place of mystery and at the same time, enlightenment, for as long as I could remember. As a child my bare feet had often tread upon the beaten dirt floor of the place, and the proximity to the forest was almost tangible even when you were inside. The time since sundown, long hours of winter lull, had been spent preparing me for the ceremony. Washing, cleansing, bathing in mixtures of spice and herb, all according to age old decrees, mores that had been set so long ago that they were virtually untouchable. My hair was left loose down my back, and the only adornment I was allowed was a distinct black rune in the oldest of languages, painted on my forehead in the blood of another youth, himself barely past the age that I was that night becoming. I had not fed in days, and the pale translucency of my skin was drastic against the deep, blue-black robe that I wore. The chill was obvious as the small escort given me moved away from the warmth of the cottage and into the forest, though I did not draw discomfort from it as a more warm blooded creature would. Snow had fallen earlier in the day, forming a thin blanket over the still, abandoned world around us, and each breath I took was visible in the air before me. No words were allowed as we snaked our way deeper into the forest, the bowels of the mountain foothills; the ceremonies of the vampire race required a natural solitude from the rest of humanity, in part for secrecy, in part for the rekindling of the inexplicable connection between vampire and nature. We, after all, were not abominations as some would argue; nature in its endless variety and mystery had created us, and to nature we owed our dues.

The walk was not long, and at some point my entourage entered a clearing rife with others of my kind, more than I had ever seen assembled in one place. My blood quickened at the sight of them all, at the presence of a situation both new and potentially dangerous. Though vampires had taken to the habits of humans long ago, during our rituals we resorted back to clothing, styles, languages of our race's birth; looking around me, I saw where the human world drew the association between vampire and the dark, underworld of their 'goths'. The occasion was somber and painstakingly formal, as was the attire and the expressions written on the faces of the strangers I saw. My own robe was long and close fitting, held together by silver clasps running tightly down the front. It fell dashingly off the shoulder, and whereas in the cottage I had thought it sophisticated and appropriate, my skin was now laid bare to the moon's light and to all of the hungry gazes about me. A small twinge of something like to terror gripped me before I was ushered on to the center of the crowd, where my coven leaders stood in equal seriousness. I was required to kneel upon the ground, snow soaking the folds of my robe and frosting against my skin, putting me even more at vulnerable odds with those- had they moved closer, now that the ritual was begun?- who attended. I knew enough of the old language due to my studious nature to understand quite a bit of what was being said by those in charge; the sanctifications being addressed, the vampire law being laid before me, the giving of secrets of our nature that I had not beholden before. The silken words, beautiful in their enlightenment, but lethal in the responsibility they placed upon me, seemed to flee from my ears even as I struggled to keep a grasp on them. The aural ceremony ended almost as soon as I had begun to feel comfortable with those around me, leering and judging as they were, silently gesturing to one another about me with their eyes and their thoughts. All of this, though, I had expected; it was written for anyone to know, unlike the next, final, and most significant part. The oldest and most reputable of my coven leaders approached me then, with a grave and almost mournful smile playing across her face. My lips trembled slightly as she leaned in close to me, grasping my jaw with one hand and whispering into my ear.

Child. Now, is the most crucial part of it all. It is unfair in some respects, but have you as you will, it must happen…they are going to try to kill you now. What will you?

The events that followed are a blur in my memory, though the horrified, disbelieving expression that I wore on my face I could see reflected in my grandmother's eyes. The world became a mass of movement and fluidity as she disappeared from my sight, and for a split second I entertained the thought of death- something only another vampire could bestow upon you once born or turned. The blood rushing through my born-dead veins flushed my skin as I spun, facing them all, finally understanding their leers, their cruelly expectant tension…and somewhere deep within me, from a place I had never yet known, came a fury and a strength all my own. Though I cannot remember the sound, I have been told of the snarl that loosed itself from my lips as they set upon me, and by the time it was over with, there was not an inch left of untainted white snow. The last words spoken to me on that day ring true in my mind even now, centuries later.

So many of our kind in youth, as predatory as our nature would be, flee from the thought and fear of death…it is expected in such a ceremony, where the true purpose is to try your purity of character. You, my darling, ma'cove, you did not flee…you stayed, and fought, and lost yourself in the blood and the violence of it. You are a rarity, and a sight to be reckoned with. You did not die this day, and your ferocity and strength will stay with you through reputation and status as you go throughout your life. Be blessed in this curse that we have been given, and know that of many, you are unique. Be blessed, and live as you will this life that is not a life.