Shelley sits under the oak tree. There is grass all around her, and dandelions. She puts aside her book. Her eyes flutter closed. She is asleep. Slowly, her face goes pale. The tips of the dandelions turn the softest red. It spreads down along their surface, from feather to feather. Shelley slumps.
Drake Septagon moves quickly. He is running. His trenchcoat flares out behind him. His long black ponytail does the same. He pulls a sword from his belt and sweeps it before him. Sword energy bursts from the blade and ripples along the grass. The heads of the dandelions explode, filling the air with white and red. Shelley shivers. Drake sheathes the sword and drops to one knee beside her. He shakes her.
Coming back to consciousness is slow. “Hrm?” she says. She opens her eyes. She looks at him. She would scream, but she’s too dizzy.
“Are you all right?” he asks. “You’ve lost a lot of blood.”
He scoops her up in his arms. He begins to carry her away. “You should never sleep near dandelions,” he says.
That was the beginning of their romance. It led, in time, to his proposal, and their marriage. But something was wrong.
“We should have children,” she says.
“Nonsense,” he says.
“A little boy,” she says, “and a little girl. And then a spare, in case one is seized by the Justice Department as a terrorist.”
“But that could leave us with two boys, or two girls,” he points out.
“I am amenable to alternate proposals,” she says.
But he shakes his head. “I’m going to my sulking place,” he says. And he leaves, too fast for her to follow.
On another occasion, she broaches a different matter. “Why aren’t you in any of the wedding photographs?” she asks.
“See,” he says, “I told you we should have hired a professional photographer.”
“You were the one who said we shouldn’t!”
“You must be misremembering,” he says. “I’m going to my sulking place.” And he’s gone, too fast for her to follow.
She pokes him, the next day. “Hey,” she says. “Aren’t dandelions supposed to be innocuous?”
He makes a brooding face. “They nearly killed you,” he says. “My people have been at war with them for time immemorial.”
“Your people are . . . weeds?”
He looks stricken, then realizes that she’s taking a stab in the dark. He shakes his head. “No,” he says. Then, in one lightning-fast breath, he says, “I’m-going-to-my-sulking-place-now.” And he’s gone, too fast for her to follow. But this time, she’s attached a tracking device to him. And she follows him to a field of grass and dandelions, and he stands staring out into them.
Then he hears her.
“This isn’t my sulking place,” he denies. He affects a bright false smile. “This is my happy place.”
“This is where we met,” she says.
“. . . I come here sometimes,” he says. “For the dandelions.”
“Why?” she says. “Why do you come and commune with the enemy?”
He shakes his head. “We should go,” he says.
“They’re not a threat when you’re awake,” she says. She walks out into the field. She kicks aside a long white bone. She plucks a dandelion. She holds it up. “See?”
He stares at her. Then he shakes his head, vigorously.
“Do you know,” she says, “you have fangs. I never noticed that before.”
“We should go,” he says.
She plucks another dandelion. He flinches.
“You’re . . . you’re one of them.”
“No!” he protests. “No. No. I’m a vampire.”
“Then why don’t you reflect in mirrors?” she asks triumphantly.
He looks at her.
“Now can we go?”
She sits down. “No. It’s a sulking place. I’ve been married to a vampire for two years and he’s never even asked to drink my blood. I’m sulking.”
“If I drank your blood,” he says, “I might not be able to control myself. It’d be a flurry of passion. We might even have unprotected sex.”
“And what’s so wrong with that?”
“I’m going to my sulk—”
She smirks at him.
He sits down, heavily. “Darn it, Shelley.”
“There’s something you’re not telling me,” she says. She leans her head to one side. She brushes the hair away from her neck. She looks coy.
“I’m used to your neck,” protests Drake Septagon. “You can’t expect to sway me just by showing some curves.”
She massages her neck sensuously. This has the beneficial side effect of removing a crick.
“Don’t you understand?” he says. “If we have children, they’ll be dhampyrs. Half human, half vampire, doomed to an existence of tragedy!”
“Or special powers,” she points out.
“Do you even know what a dhampyr is?” he asks.
“I presume it’s some kind of brooding larger-than-life figure, able to choose between the paths of hero and monster, drawn at all times both to Heaven and Hell.”
“It’s the Indian word for dandelion,” he says.
She looks at the plucked dandelion in her hand.
“That’s our curse,” he says. “Our greatest rivals for human blood—our own children.”
A wind begins to blow. The feathers of a hundred dandelions rise. One strikes Shelley’s cheek and latches hold, drinking itself red on the blood found there.
“Haven’t you ever noticed?” he says. “That they don’t reflect in mirrors? That they explode, just like vampires, when staked? That they hunger for human blood? They’re not so different from I, Shelley. Just smaller, whiter, fluffier, and more frequently rooted. Also, vegetables.”
She frowns. “How does that work?” she says.
“When a human and a vampire love one another very much,” he says, “they—”
She makes a cutting gesture with her hand. “Skip to the good part.”
“And the wind will blow,” he says, “and pass over us both. And the tips of your eyelashes will turn the white of snow, and then that white will blow off and away as dandelion seeds. And tears will well up in your eyes, and turn to white, and blow away as puff. And then it shall be as if snow is falling from you, and the air will be full of life, or at least unholy dhampyric essence, and it shall blow away until you are clean.”
“Are these your children?” she says, looking interestedly at the ground.
“I have loved only once before,” he says, “and this field is the measure of my sorrow. The fluffy cuteness of the dandelions belies their demonic nature; and buried under the grass are endless human bones. Yet I cannot mow it. What vampire could kill his own children?”
“I understand,” she says. “Death and life . . . they’re the same.”
There is silence, and sound, and then a wind.