lady_flamewing: (fanfic)
[personal profile] lady_flamewing
Merry Christmas, everyone! Whether you're a RL friend or an internet friend, whether you're just here for the fic or you've followed all my ups and downs (and endured my endless bitching, sorry about that), whether we've known each other for 14 years or just met through RP a year ago, I want you to know that I appreciate each and every one of you. I appreciate that you leave me comments, or even just stop by to see if I've got a new fic posted. And I want to wish all of you a very safe and happy Christmas, and a wonderful new year.

Now, here - have some fic. It's hardly Christmas themed, but I suppose it will have to do.

Title: Truth or Dare
Fandom: Original Fiction
Pairing: None
Rating: PG-13? No sex, a little violence, and some psychological power play.
A/N: This is the first in a series of shorts that I wrote for my attempt at NaNoWriMo this year. I thought I'd attempt a short story collection that centered around the theme of "unconventional horror" - stories that eschew the standard tropes of horror. So in these stories, there are no heroes, people make the wrong choices sometimes, and nothing is ever really what it seems. Rather than idealize horror, I thought I'd try to write it as I imagined people would actually live it - doing the best they could. I'm posting them basically in order of those I'm least comfortable with to those I'm most comfortable with - accordingly, I'm really not sure how I feel about this one at all. I like the idea behind it, but I'm pretty sure it could have been executed much better.

It all started with a dare, really. Stupid, I know - I don't know why I even took that dare. I usually don't - I think the things are silly and pointless. And they never end well. But it was all supposed to be good fun, you know? Just…a bunch of friends having fun, daring each other to do reckless and stupid things. It should never have ended the way it did, but…how could any of us have known?

The house was supposed to be haunted. Of course it was, right? Why else would it have been a good dare, sending someone in there? I didn't believe in that kind of stuff, back then. Or…well, I suppose that's not entirely true. I did, but only deep down, where no one else could know about it. On the surface, I was skeptical - because, really, who isn't? They're childish beliefs, that's what everyone always thinks. But I think that, underneath, almost everyone has them - everyone's a little afraid of the dark, and the things in it. It's just that we all hide those fears away.

Although…I guess she never did. I suppose that's why they sent her with me - I couldn't fathom it, at the time. We were friends, certainly, but we'd never been the closest of our little group. I found her…grating, irritating. We'd probably had more fallouts than any of the other, and yet they insisted that she go with me. Maybe they wanted her 'expertise', or maybe they just thought it would be amusing to make me deal with her over-the-top dramatics as she got scared. I don't know. I never thought to ask. I guess I didn't really think it mattered. Anyway, the dare itself was simple - we just had to spend the night in the house. Flashlights were allowed, as were bottles of water and sleeping bags, if we wanted them. We all met up outside the house at about midnight, and they sent the two of us in.

You know, at first it went…about the way I thought it would. She jumped at every shadow, claimed she was hearing noises - voices talking to her, or people whispering just around the next corner - and I kept suppressing the urge to smack some sense into her. I kept trying to justify everything - there were holes in the house, she was just hearing the wind through them, and of course the floors were creaking, it was an old house that was just settling. I was all for just finding somewhere to hunker down for the night - laying out a sleeping bag and just sleeping until morning, but she refused. Said she wouldn't be able to sleep until we'd gone through the house, made sure there was nothing there. She just wouldn't shut up about it, so I finally just agreed.

I'm not sure what good she thought it was going to do, though, with all the noise she was making. I swear, that girl moved like an elephant, and she was just constantly making noise - whining about this or that, or grabbing me so hard I thought she'd just tip the two of us over into an undignified heap on the ground. Honestly, I'm surprised I didn't just deck her at some point. I'm still not sure what stopped me.

I think I was so irritated with her, I forgot about being scared - or even observant. I slid through those rooms on instinct, stepping softly - don't know why I bothered, being with her - checking dark corners and behind broken-down furniture. That probably should have been my first hint. That house was torn to bits, and there were stains everywhere - signs of a struggle, maybe more than one. Struggles that had ended badly for someone. But I just wanted to get it all done, so I could get some sleep - and get her to shut up.

There wasn't much of note downstairs, and I didn't really like the look of the staircase. I was convinced I'd put one foot on it and it would just collapse under me - or worse, I'd be about halfway up when it went, and I'd end up with broken bones or something equally unpleasant. But she insisted, and after about a minute of argument, I gave in.

The stairs didn't collapse - thank heaven for small favors, although I'm not sure we would have been much worse off if they had - and we took a quick reconnaissance of the rooms upstairs, too. And I think that was about where I finally started to notice things. Things like…like marks in the dust on the floor. I remember trying to explain those away - that I was just being paranoid, that we'd left those marks ourselves, but…it felt hollow. And the more I thought about it, the more it started to feel…wrong. The whole thing, the whole house - everything was just…off, somehow. Just slightly.

We were in the main bedroom when I heard it - and that was all wrong, too. The bed covers were…neat. The curtains were dusty, but not as much as everything else in the house. And the sheets and covers on the bed were hardly dusty at all - as if someone was using them. But there was hardly time to notice that, because there was movement downstairs - footsteps, and an odd, shuffling, dragging sort of noise. I froze, immediately, but she didn't - I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised: how could she possibly have heard anything over the sound of her own complaining?

All of the worst scenarios ran through my mind - we'd stumbled onto the lair of some mass murderer, just coming back with their latest victim, or some serial rapist, or…any number of things like that. In hindsight, those…probably would have been better. Maybe we could have done something in that case. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I lunged across the room, grabbed her, and shoved her under the bed, sliding in beside her. She was still whining, whimpering, so I wrapped my arm around her neck, clamped my hand across her mouth, and hissed at her to be quiet.

"There is a very good possibility we could die here, unless you shut up," I whispered furiously, and I guess she must have gotten the message - or been more scared of me than she was of whatever was currently climbing the stairs - because she clamped her teeth over her lips and nodded. It was dark enough that I thought we'd be all right in the shadows beneath the bed - and besides, who ever looks under the bed?

As the sounds got closer, I was already making plans in my head, trying to figure out how to get out of the situation - the best way to launch myself out from under the bed, overpower this murderer or rapist, and get us both the hell out of there. But the minute the door opened, I knew I was in no way prepared. There are some things you just never think you're going to have to deal with, no matter how active your imagination is, or how much you believe in the things that you can't see. This was one of them.

Of course, I didn't really know what was happening, when he first walked in. He was just…a man - more attractive than I was expecting, but I suppose that's silly. There's no rule that says criminals can't be attractive. I guess it's just another stupid stereotype.

He had a girl with him - a young woman, really - and I suddenly understood why the footsteps had been accompanied by that odd dragging noise, because she was almost entirely limp in his arms. I still don't know why, or what he did to her. Drugged her, I'd guess - maybe found her in a club, spiked her drink with something. I do have to wonder about that, though - if he got hit with the effects of that later, after…everything. I suppose it doesn't really matter.

The only thing that seems obvious to me is that he hadn't done anything else to her yet, because while we huddled there under the bed, he tipped her back over his arm and tore her throat out - and I can't imagine that she'd lost any blood at that point, because there was just…so much of it. And he lapped it up, drank it from her body like it was the finest wine.

There was a whimper beside me, and he looked up - right at us, despite all the heavy shadows in the room - and that was about when I knew. I think I was still hoping that he was just some…psycho, you know? Some guy who liked to kill girls, drink their blood for kicks. Maybe someone who thought he was a vampire. But people can't see in the dark. Not like that. I mean, all this stuff I'm telling you about? It was all half in shadow, and looking back, I'm realizing that the only reason I could see him so clearly was because he…

'Glowed' isn't the right word. It's not like he was a lightbulb or something. But there was a kind of…of radiance to him. It made his features stand out - so I could tell you what he looked like, but not the girl he killed. Because I couldn't see her clearly enough. And yet, he looked right at us when she whimpered - just the smallest noise, and he heard it and knew exactly where we were.

He didn't come for us, though. Just…watched us, for a while, as he finished up with the girl he'd caught, and even after he'd drained her dry and tossed her aside. I remember not being able to meet his gaze, staring transfixed as the blood pooled on the floor and ran towards us. Every time I looked up, I had to look away again - there was something too…knowing in his eyes. I guess that ended up saving my life, in the end.

After what seemed like forever, he finally spoke. I don't think I'll ever forget that voice - low and mellow, the kind of voice you expect to hear on the other end if you ever felt like calling one of those sex-talk hotlines. It was jarring, didn't seem to fit the monster standing in front of us, and yet…it did. It was deep and alluring, and I guess that's the point, right? That's probably what got him close enough to all those women to sink his teeth into their necks.

"I know you," he said, and I remember finally looking up, too startled to really be unnerved anymore. How could he possibly have known who we were, when we'd never been anywhere near this place before? And his wasn't exactly the kind of face you forget. But he wasn't looking at me - wasn't talking to me. He had his eyes fixed on a point next to me, and when I glanced over at her, I realized her breathing was still quick, but in a very different way.

There was a flush spreading across her face, and her eyes were…bright. Like she was a kid at Christmas, or - or a woman being seduced, which I suppose is a more apt comparison, considering what was happening. Of course, I didn't know that then - I was just…confused. But I might as well not have been there, for as much attention as the two of them paid me - their worlds had narrowed to the connection between them, and I was no longer relevant.

He talked to her for…I don't know how long. Just leaned back against the wall beside the door, kept his eyes on her, and talked - told her all these things he knew about her, that he could fix. Told her she was being trapped, confined, by society - how he knew she felt…outcast, like she didn't belong. That she could join him and be everything that she was meant to be - beautiful, immortal, powerful. She belonged in his world, and all she had to do was come to him.

I tried to stop her. But what do you do against that kind of draw? Against the desire someone has to find where they belong? Not, of course, that I think a word of that was true - but she had always felt inadequate, for reasons I couldn't begin to understand. Inferior, unattractive, insecure - maybe no more than your average teenage girl, but it made her the perfect target. Even I had trouble resisting, and he wasn't even directing his call at me. I don't know if there was anything I could have done.

Not that I didn't try just about everything - from reasoning with her to begging to physically trying to hold her back, but nothing helped. She ended up dragging me halfway across the floor before I finally let her go, too afraid to get close to him. I backed off to the other side of the bed, wary, and just watched as he took her in his arms. He murmured something in her ear, something that made her laugh breathlessly, and then tipped her back over his arm, like he was going to kiss her.

He didn't, of course. Sank his teeth into her neck, instead, and she…she moaned, like it was the best thing she'd ever felt. I think that was probably the worst, that was when I knew I'd lost her. Because even if - if he didn't turn her, or whatever it is they do to people, she was still gone. She wanted whatever was about to happen, and I… There was nothing I could do.

I still tried. I've never exactly been one to give up easily, even when the situation's clearly hopeless. I practically launched myself across the room - I don't even know what I thought I was going to accomplish, I'm no fighter. But I just thought…I guess I thought if I got her away from him, maybe things would be better. Not that I even managed to accomplish that much. He just…made this lazy-looking motion, caught me in the chest with one of his arms, and I immediately went hurtling back the way I came. I must have bashed my head pretty hard on one of the bedposts, because I don't remember much after that. Just waking up the next morning when the police showed up, and…

Well, you must know the rest, obviously, or you wouldn't be here.

[This conversation is taking place in the maximum-security wing of the city's mental asylum, where Mira has been confined for several months since her trial. She is kept in isolation, although consistently good behavior has earned her the privilege of decorations for her small, white room. We are seated at a small table, in plain wooden chairs, and had she not just told me her story, it would be very hard to understand why she is being held here at all - she seems, at first glance, like a perfectly ordinary young woman.]

You were charged with two counts of murder - of the young woman you describe, and also of the friend who accompanied you.

I was. And there was no evidence to the contrary, I suppose. No signs of anyone else in the house, and no body ever found for the second murder. Although, what they thought I did with it is another story entirely - no satisfactory explanation was ever provided. It was a point my lawyer fixed on rather heavily - why would I have disposed of one body, but not the other?

Of course, that was before he heard my side of the story. It always rather seems to change people's opinions of me. Not that I blame them - I know what it sounds like.

There are some who insist you must be lying - that you made the entire story up in order to plead insanity.

Are there? I guess that doesn't really surprise me. And I suppose it probably doesn't help matters that the doctors sent to examine me can't seem to come to a consensus on whether I'm actually insane or not. Some of them rather vehemently claim that they can find nothing wrong with me at all, while just as many others point to my…rather difficult teenage years as signs that I am clearly unstable.

[She shrugs.]

I'll be the first to admit that my past doesn't exactly provide much promising evidence for my mental state. I made a few misguided attempts on my own life, had more than a few anger-management issues. But that's all behind me now, and it has been for a while - since long before we ever went into that house. But I suppose it's my word against the word of respected medical officials - and I think if I were in that situation, I probably wouldn't believe me, either.

But you persist in your claims that your story is true?

I do. Honestly, I'm not sure if it's for better or worse at this point, but it's all I have left. It is the truth, and no matter how many times I tell it and am not believed, that fact never changes. And I can't let myself forget - I think that's the real danger. If I somehow manage to convince myself that I've been lying all this time, that I didn't see what I did…who's left to remember? Who's left to know the things that I know?

Because the fact is that there are things out there we don't understand - dangerous things. And I've seen them. I think that makes it my responsibility to share that knowledge, to do something - even if that means spending the rest of my life in a place like this. Even if it means taking my last breath with everyone thinking I'm insane. It's what I have to do. The more people hear my story, the better the chance that someone will believe - and that's one less person to be taken unawares.

[It's silent for a long moment as I struggle to find a question to ask - it's a hard claim to follow with any sort of logical question. The one I come up with seems to surprise her - and before she answers, she smiles.]

Supposing, for a moment, that your story is true - why do you think you survived, then?

Do you know, that in all of the times I've been interviewed since the trial, no one has asked me that question? And it's a good one, I think. Although I suppose I shouldn't be surprised - I don't think there are many people willing, or maybe even able, to function under that suspension of disbelief. Especially one like this - it's a fairly large leap of faith to even be able to consider that question at all. And I don't imagine my answer is going to help my case much.

Still, if you've the courage to ask, the least I can do is answer - it'll give you something new and exciting to write about, at the very least.

[She tugs down the collar of her plain white shirt, revealing a shiny, circular burn about the size of a quarter, just between her collarbones.]

This, I think, is why I survived.

What is that?

That night…I was wearing a St. Christopher medallion. It was a gift from my mother. It wasn't really a deliberate choice of jewelry, it had just happened to be what I was wearing that night. But I do believe it saved my life - St. Christopher, after all, is meant to protect travelers from sudden death. I'm not entirely sure vampires were what the Church had in mind when they made that designation, but I suppose it works out just the same.

When the police collected me that morning, the medallion was burned into my skin. Like it had been heated red-hot at some point during the night, while I was unconscious. I can only imagine that the two of them tried to approach me, and…something held them off.

You're claiming that you survived the night because of religion?

No, no - don't misunderstand me. Religion is…institutionalized, it's - it's a way for people to justify their sense of superiority. That's not what saved me. What saved me was faith. There's a big difference. I could have been any religion in the world - could have believed in one God, or any number of gods - and I think I still would have survived, because it's belief that matters. The belief in something bigger.

I was never what you might call a particularly 'good' Catholic - the Church and I never saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things. But…I did have a lot of faith. Maybe a surprising amount, given the kinds of things I'd gone through. Or, actually, maybe that's exactly why. Maybe I needed something bigger to believe in. Maybe I needed to believe that, at the end of everything, there was someone looking out for me. Someone who genuinely loved me.

I remember I used to pray a lot, sometimes without even realizing it. Just little prayers for help, or little prayers of thanks, sent up without even thinking about it. And when I did think about it, I often pictured my faith as a shield, especially at night - a glowing force that held the darkness at bay while I slept, keeping me safe through to the morning. Maybe that helped. Maybe since I'd already formed that picture in my mind, it was easy enough for it to take that shape, even if I was unconscious.

Actually, I think that might have helped - being unconscious, I mean. Of course, this is all speculation - I'm certainly not claiming to be an expert on any of this. But I think the reason why faith is never really a viable weapon in vampire stories is because of doubt. Doubt is a perfectly human emotion - we all doubt - and in normal situations, it's a natural reaction. Everyone doubts, no matter how strong their faith. But if there's one thing I did learn on that night, it's that vampires prey on doubt. That's their weapon - they find those things you doubt, and they draw you in by making you think they can change them. That's exactly what he did to her - found everything she'd ever doubted about herself, and somehow convinced her that if she joined him, all of those things would change.

But being unconscious - I couldn't doubt. I couldn't rely on anything except my subconscious faith, and that was apparently enough to save me. Or, that's what I think, at least.

[Suddenly, she laughs.]

You don't believe me. That's fine. As I've said, it's less about who believes me and more about spreading my story. But you know, there's one thing I've wondered about, these past few months. If people are so curious about whether or not I'm actually telling the truth…why not just have me submit to a lie detector?

The idea has been suggested - numerous times, actually - but is always ultimately rejected. For a number of reasons.


The lack of consensus on your mental state. Lie detector results from a mentally unstable patient would be subject to too much interpretation.

Of course. Well, I suppose it wouldn't be much help in the long run, anyway. No matter what the results, there would be a way to spin them to make me seem untrustworthy. If they came out negative, well - that would be the end of my credibility, right then and there. But if they were positive, I'm sure my detractors would simply claim that I was mentally unstable, and unable to be properly tested for signs of lying. And unfortunately, the same line of logic would not apply to my supporters - they could not claim that any negative results were the product of my mental instability, because that would rather invalidate their belief in me, wouldn't it?

And there's more than one way to beat the lie detector, after all. Most people talk about the physical ways - about putting a thumbtack in your shoe or something like that, pressing down to create that same sort of spike when you set up your baseline for truth, so that the lies don't look any different when you tell them - but there's a much easier way. In order to beat a lie detector, all you need to do is convince yourself you're telling the truth.

Because all a lie detector does is read the instinctive reaction the body has to a lie - if your body doesn't think you're lying, there's nothing for the test to pick up. And the human body is so easily fooled, after all.

[An odd, contemplative look passes over her face for a moment.]

You know what? I would like to submit to a lie detector. Could I ask you to put in the request to the relevant people? I'll give you the exclusive right to write about the results if you agree. And that would certainly be a new and interesting scoop.

What's made you change your mind?

A thought's occurred to me - a negative result could only hurt me, could only lose me any supporters I have, and invalidate my story to anyone who hears it. But that's only if the test is negative. A positive result can only help me. My detractors can claim that the results are due to my mental instability, but that's hardly a new belief, and it wouldn't really do any more harm to my credibility than has already been done. But it would give my supporters something else to bolster their beliefs, and maybe it would sway those people who are on the fence about believing me - maybe it would be the piece of evidence that tips them over onto my side. And as I've said, I think my job now is to try and spread what I've learned to as many people as I can. Maybe this will help me do that.

Promise me you'll give it some thought.

[The request takes a few weeks to go through, so it's about a month later that I find myself in the asylum again, watching through a glass window as an operator asks Mira a series of questions. With me are several of her doctors, and a local expert in reading micro-expressions - an additional layer of verification for the results. In all truth, the atmosphere is so tense, it seems more like an interrogation than an interview.]

Your name is Mira Hanasaki, correct?


You are being held at this institution as a patient?


Four months ago, you were witness to the murder of a female friend of yours?


Were you responsible for this murder?

[There is a pause.]

I'm sorry. I'm afraid that the question is rather unclear to me - because in a sense, I was. She wouldn't have been there if it weren't for me. I would hate for there to be any ambiguity in your results - perhaps you could rephrase the question?

Of course. Did you, personally, kill the aforementioned friend?

Thank you. I did not.

You maintain that she was murdered by a third party?

I do.

And that this third party was a creature of supernatural origin - a vampire?

That is correct.

[The interview continues in this vein for a while, with the operator asking Mira questions about her story, and Mira corroborating the facts - nothing particularly earth-shattering occurs. But behind the glass, things have begun to get interesting.]

"Look at this," one of the doctors says, leaning in close to examine the screen in front of him. On it is a live feed of the lie detector results. "There are no blips, none. She isn't lying."

"That's impossible," another doctor snaps, standing at the glass with his arms folded. "That story is ridiculous, it cannot be true. If anything, this just proves what I've been saying all along - that this girl is clearly mentally unstable."

"She is not!" yet another doctor protests, turning. "There is nothing about her that suggests mental instability other than this single instance. In every other test we've given her, every other conversation we've ever had, she presents as a perfectly normal, well-adjusted young woman."

"Oh, well-adjusted, certainly," scoffs the doctor at the glass. "With a story like that."

"There's no signs of lying, though," the first doctor says again, as if he hasn't heard most of this conversation. His voice holds something close to wonder. "Is anything showing up for you?"

From his viewpoint at another screen, the expert in micro-expressions leans back in his chair. He's been watching a feed of a very close view of Mira's face, and he rubs at his eyes - presumably from the strain.

"Well," he says, hesitatingly, "what you have to understand is that this process isn't a science - it's not perfectly understood, and…well, it's never been used on someone who's mental status is unclear." The room is silent as he pauses, glancing around. "But…as far as I can tell, she shows none of the telltale signs of deception."

"This is utterly ridiculous," the second doctor protests again. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you people were starting to believe< her."

"But just look at this," the first doctor says, turning back to his screen and pointing. "There are no spikes, absolutely nothing at all. The only odd readings occur when she gets confused, and asks for the question to be rephrased - otherwise, the readings are completely even."

"It's the same way over here," the micro-expression reader says. "No signs of deception - none. Her expression is totally calm, with the only changes being at those same moments her lie detector readings change. And then, it's not deception expressions, it's confusion, or hesitation. As far as I can tell, everything she's saying is true. Or, at least, she believes it is."

"Well, and there it is," the doctor says, leaning back against the glass. "She's deluded herself into thinking she's telling the truth - she can no longer understand that the things she's saying are complete and utter nonsense, proving what I've maintained all along: that she is dangerously unstable and needs to be confined here."

"You - " The third doctor (it might be noted at this point that she is the only female professional in the room), who's been relatively quiet through all of this, suddenly stands. "Why are you so set on declaring her mentally unstable? There is absolutely nothing to base those conclusions on, except for this isolated instance. All other evidence suggests that she is perfectly in possession of all her mental faculties."

"She made attempts on her own life - she's admitted to that," the other doctor protests, and the first doctor scoffs.

"No real attempts, which you would have learned, had you taken the time to actually get to know her, rather than making your diagnosis after your first meeting."

"What - real attempts?" he asks. "What the hell does that mean? She slit her own wrists! That seems fairly real to me."

"Oh, you - " the first doctor begins, but then appears to become too frustrated, and he crosses the room and yanks open the door. The other people in the room make for the glass, clustering around it to watch as the doctor enters the adjoining room. Mira looks up at him, surprised.

If I asked you the quickest way to take your own life, what would you tell me?

I - I don't…

[The operator looks rather shaken, but offers up, "The only way the lie detector results are valid are if she answers only yes or no questions - anything else is too complicated to yield a meaningful reading." The doctor shakes his head, looking frustrated.]

Fine. I will rephrase. You have admitted to us that you have previously made attempts on your life, yes?

What is this - ?

Answer the question please. Have you, or have you not, previously made attempts on your life?

I…have, yes.

And the manner in which you made these attempts - you utilized a razor blade on the blood vessels in your wrists, correct?

Yes, you've - you've seen the scars.

I have, yes. As evidenced by those scars, you drew the blade across your wrists, is that correct?


Very good. You have a fairly good understanding of the human body, correct?

…Yes, I suppose you could say that.

[In the room behind the glass, someone murmurs, "Where is he going with this?" but no one answers - all attention is being split between the room and the lie detector results, which still show no signs of deception.]

So you are aware that such cuts across the wrist do not bleed freely?


Yet your so-called suicide attempts were made using this method.

[Mira doesn't answer.]

I think you understand where I'm going with this. Your suicide attempts were never legitimate, were they? You never intended to kill yourself.

[There is a very long pause before Mira answers.]

No. I did not.

[Within the viewing room, the one doctor mutters, "I see no difference between misguided suicide attempts and legitimate attempts," but again, no one seems to be listening. Mira is still talking, and the attitude in the adjoining room suddenly seems much more receptive to what she has to say. No one looks towards the screens now - all attention is on her.]

I suppose I thought about it, more than once, but…I could never seem to get up the courage. So I - I made a few stilted attempts, but only ever in a way that I knew would never really amount to anything. I guess it's just…not in me to take my own life.

Thank you, Mira. That will be all.

[She nods, and the operator begins unhooking her from all the equipment. Within the little room, silence reigns. The first doctor comes back in, looking rather vindicated, but perhaps he reads something on the faces of the others present, because he says nothing. I find myself wondering if everyone else is thinking the same incredible thought that I am - could Mira really be telling the truth? If the only evidence of her mental instability has just been disproven - or, at least, called into question - is it at all possible that her story is true? The idea seems completely unbelievable, but…

Suddenly, the skeptical doctor turns, fixing me with a rather intense gaze.]

I think it would be best if you did not publish the results of this particular experiment.

I beg your pardon? The entire reason I helped Mira with this request was to have the ability to publish an exclusive.

And yet you'll have to agree that these results are entirely inconclusive - as we knew they would be. Had it been up to me, I would never have allowed this interview in the first place - it's been a tremendous waste of time. And with the way you're all acting, I can't even imagine the effects such an article would have on the general public. I will not have this institution involved in such a spectacle.

This is censorship of the press - I cannot believe you're attempting to control what I publish.

The entire reason this patient is being confined here is to facilitate her treatment - to rehabilitate her as a member of society. I can't help but feel that encouraging her delusions by publishing an article detailing the results of this inconclusive study would be detrimental to her recovery. I'm sure if you give it some thought, you'll arrive at the same conclusion.

If you please, I'll have the guards show you out.

[Outraged at this treatment, I struggle to find a reason to see Mira again - I feel a compelling need to speak to her, at least once more.]

Wait, please - I'd like to talk to Mira, just for a few moments. I think I should be the one to tell her the article won't be published. I think she should know.

[The doctor gives me a suspicious look, but nods to the guards, who escort me to Mira's room. Suddenly, the asylum feels more like a prison than ever before, especially when the guards stand on either side of the door as I slip inside. When she spots me, Mira smiles.]

Hello. Did you get anything you can use? I'm afraid they won't tell me what the results were, so… Is something wrong?

Mira, I…don't think I'll be able to publish that article. Your doctors think it might be…detrimental to your recovery progress.

[Surprisingly, she smiles again, warm and understanding.]

I thought something like that might happen. It's all right, really. You did the best you could - and it was certainly more than anyone else has ever done for me. I appreciate all the effort you've put into this, and I'm sorry it didn't work out for you.

You knew this would happen?

I suspected. The reputation of this institution and some of the doctors rides on my diagnosis as mentally unstable - anything that casts doubt on that diagnosis is likely to be unwelcome. I thought I might stir up some trouble with this one, but…it seemed worth it. I'm sorry if I've caused you any trouble, I didn't mean to.

Thank you for coming to tell me. I appreciate it. And…I expect I won't be seeing you again any time soon, so - take care.

What do you mean?

Well, it's…likely they'll limit my visitors. Possibly even isolate me entirely. If they're afraid of me sinking further into what they term my delusions, they'll take steps to ensure that I understand my mistakes. I'll likely lose all the perks I've gained, visitation rights, personal time - that sort of thing. It's fairly standard procedure.

Well, but - then I've ruined everything for you, haven't I? You'll lose everything.

[She shakes her head.]

No. Not everything.

I don't understand.

You believed me - if only just for a moment. I can see it in your eyes. And…to me, that's worth it. I told you before that I think my purpose now is to spread my story to as many people as I can. If all of this managed to convince one more person - one person who came here never imagining that anything I said could ever be true - it's worth whatever they do to me here.

Because maybe you're just the first step. Maybe if I can convince you, I can convince anyone. Maybe all it will take is time.

[I'm still trying to figure out the right thing to say when the guards open the door and tell me it's time to leave. Mira smiles at me until the door closes and I can no longer see her.]

I never saw Mira again. Every time I went back to attempt to visit her, I was told that she was no longer allowed to have visitors - doctor's orders. Her story eventually faded away from the public eye, though it crops up among the communities of supernatural believers every now and then. And every time I hear a news piece on a mysterious killing or disappearance, I can't help but think about her.

Because she was right. I did believe her, if just for a moment - and maybe more. The more time goes by and the institution continues to refuse to let me see her, the more I think about that day, about those test results, the more convinced I become that there was nothing wrong with Mira. That maybe - just maybe - her story was true.

Everything was unbelievable, once - even the things we take for granted today. All of the major beliefs required someone strong enough to stand up for them, someone willing to take the persecution society dealt out and still insist that the things they claimed were true. Someone like Mira.

She gave up everything - her life, her freedom, and eventually her sanity - to defend what she saw. And her story never changed. How easy would it have been for her to renege, to recant her previous statements and say she was lying, that she'd been mistaken? After seeing what she was subjected to at that institution, I have a hard time believing prison would have been much worse. At least in prison, no one would have told her she was crazy. In prison, she might have had human contact again.

So I decided to publish this piece, despite what it will do to me. I have no doubt that this piece will mark the end of my career, may possibly land me in the same situation as Mira. But I feel it needs to be done, and so I am borrowing a little from Mira's seemingly limitless wells of strength - from the tiny bit of courage she somehow managed to impart to me, all those years ago. Do I deserve it? No, I don't think so. But it's mine - she passed it to me, along with her story, and I feel it is my responsibility now (as she once felt it was hers) to share both with the world. So here is what I have to say to you:

Mira Hanasaki was tried and found guilty for crimes she did not commit. The murders she was charged with were perpetrated by a third party, a man Mira saw in the house that night. For years, Mira has claimed that this man was a vampire, a blood-sucking creature of legend, and I tell you this now: that claim was the truth. That man was real. His powers were real. The world as we know it has changed, and we have locked away the one woman who can help us understand those changes. But this is her story.


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June 2012

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