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“Amaliya,” Professor Sumner's voice rang out.

Despite herself, she turned toward him. Her black hair flowed around her pale face. She stood trembling, hands held up before her. She dropped the bloodied clothes she had tucked under her arm. Her murderer was perfectly framed between her healed hands, and she clenched them into hard fists.

“Good luck,” he said with a rakish smile.

“Fuck off!” She gave him the finger to emphasize her words, then turned away.

His laughter tormented her as she snatched up her clothes. She darted behind a building and tried to put as much space between them as possible.

The dorm windows were completely dark when she skirted around the building to the side entrance. Fishing her keys out of her blood- encrusted jeans, she bit her bottom lip. She rubbed the back of her hand over her eyes to wipe away her tears, fighting back a desperate sob of despair.

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“Stay calm,” she whispered.

Her fingers shook as she tried to fit the key into the lock. She failed to line it up with the keyhole. Exasperated, she leaned her forehead against the door.

“Stay calm,” she uttered again, her hands steadying. She pushed the key toward the tiny slot again.

The key slid into the lock. The knob turned.

She entered the dorm through the entrance under the stairs. It was empty and dark, with no sign of any of the other girls who inhabited the long, squat building. Quickly, she sprinted up the cement steps, her heels making a dreadful clunking noise the whole way up. Reaching the second floor, she turned and ran down the hall, hoping to God no one would open their door to see what the noise was about.

It's Easter weekend, she thought. No one is here.

Shit!

She was supposed to have gone home Saturday night to attend services with her family on Sunday morning.

After unlocking her door and slipping into her room, she steadied herself with one hand against the wall. The room was still a mess, but now she saw the mud and gunk she had left behind the night before.

“Oh, God,” she whispered, moving down the narrow hallway into her bedroom.

Dirt littered the floor and bits of foliage skittered in front of her. It had really happened. She had crawled out of her own forest grave. Slowly, her gaze descended to her body. She unfastened the jacket with quivering fingers. Beneath the black fabric, her pale skin was caked with blood.

Closing her eyes, she pressed her fingertips to her eyelids. She had killed tonight. Hunted down and killed people for blood. She had done that.

Sinking to the floor, she whimpered as the tears that she had tried so hard to hold back began to fall.

The phone rang near the bed. She ignored it as she fell over onto her side and curled up into a tight little ball. The harsh sound of the ringing phone made her head hurt. She covered her ears with her hands.

Finally, the archaic answering machine clicked on.

“You've reached Amaliya Vezorak. I can't come to the phone right now. So leave a message and if I feel like it, I'll call you back. And if this is you, Jimmy, you owe me 20 bucks. ” Her voice sounded rough and a little slurred. She had recorded it drunk and just left it as it was.

“Amal, it's your Daddy. Where the hell are you? We waited all day for you. Your Grandmama is not happy about you not showing up for church. I'm not happy about you not getting my truck back here. Our agreement was that you could borrow it until you got your student loan. You got your damn money so buy your own clunker and get mine back here, girl. Where the hell are you? If this is your attempt to get me to buy you one of those damn cellphones-”

The machine, thankfully, cut off the rest of his message.

Pushing herself up, Amaliya's hot tears returned. As far as her father was concerned, she was a fuck up. She laughed bitterly as she realized she was now an undead fuck up. He would just love that.

Getting to her feet, she managed to get herself into the bathroom. The bathtub was ringed with grit. Stripping naked, she got into the shower and turned on the water. It hit her icy cold, but she didn't care anymore. She just wanted the dark brown blood off her body. Bracing her hands against the cold, scummy tiles, she wept as the water washed over her.

How had it come to this? How had her life spiraled so out of control? Sliding her fingers through her caked hair, she felt the matted strands give way with a painful tug. All she had wanted, her whole life, was to find her own path, to walk to the beat of her own drum, to live a life of adventure. But that had been continuously sidetracked by death, family drama and the severe lack of money. Nothing she had done to get her life out of the hole it was in had ever worked. She seemed forever doomed to just barely make it by.

Her fingers traced down her sternum. She drew in a quivering breath she wasn't even sure she needed as she sought out the beating of a living heart. Tears flowed down her face as she felt nothing for a terrible, panicking moment, and then she felt a thump.

“Oh, God,” she gasped with relief, falling back against the cold tiles. Both hands pressed tightly between her breasts, she both heard and felt the steady, slow beating of her heart. Swallowing hard, cold tears slid down her cheeks to mingle with the hot water. Looking down, she saw that her tears were turning the water a slight pinkish color. Frightened, she rubbed her fingertips under one eye and drew them back from her face. They were tinged with what looked like blood before the hot water washed it away.

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