I drums slow down. My whole body

I am dying. Darkness creeps at the edges of my vision. My heart thunders as it struggles to replenish the blood being drained from me. My hands tremble as I desperately push against the creature attached to my neck. She grabs my hands ever so gently and locks them in her vice grip. She is strong. Stronger than any man, woman, or beast I’ve ever encountered, holding me down effortlessly as she continues to drink greedily from my neck.

I stop struggling as my strength is leeched from me. I begin to sob as fear and panic claw at my insides, willing me to do something, anything!

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“Please,” I manage to choke out, “don’t kill me.”

My voice is weak to my own ears, and yet I am sure she hears me as she moans against my neck. Numbness has crept up my legs and fingers, and my breath is shortened by the suffocating weight of my imminent death.

I hear drums beating furiously. I lie there, weeping silently, and listen to them as I accept what is to come.

The drums slow down. My whole body is numb. She continues to drink.

My vision fades. I feel nothing. I am nothing.

It starts slowly. Impossibly slowly. The bitter taste of iron brings me sharply into awareness. Cold liquid drips into my mouth and slides down my throat. My body reacts without my consent and swallows every metallic drop. As I drink, warmth spreads deliciously through my cold body. I instinctively flex my fingers and toes as the numbness is chased away.

Cold hands cradle the back of my head. The same icy flesh is pushed firmly against my lips. The source of the liquid. Without thought I latch onto the flesh and begin to drink. The cold blood carries heat and strength with it, and I am desperate for more. My eyes flutter open, and I am met with the most beautiful face I’ve ever seen.

Dark black skin that had an ethereal golden glow to it. A face so beautiful Michelangelo might have sculpted it, framed by thick dark curls. Her eyes are dark and intense, like looking into a black inferno. And, oh god her teeth! Elongated ivory fangs, stained crimson with my blood poke out from beneath her full lips. She is still while I drink, so still she may have been a statue in that moment. I continue to devour the liquid life she offers to me with a ferocity I’ve never known. I barely remember how to breathe, and I grow light headed with greed.

She smiles faintly and speaks one word “Enough. ”

Her voice is airy, yet ancient and laced with power. I was compelled to obey, even though I didn’t want. I somehow manage to pry myself from her wrist and I lay back, astonished. I see her form shift in my peripheral, and I watch as she stands. Her movements are otherworldly, impossible to replicate through natural means.

She studies my form curiously, circles, me and intones “you’re my first.”

I have no clue what she’s talking about, and I prepare to ask her but sudden pain in my chest stops me. I clutch at my chest, and she rushes to my side, so quickly I didn’t notice she had moved.

“You’re the first mortal I’ve given the Dark Gift to” she mutters in awe. The pain in my chest has spread throughout my abdomen and head, and it feels as though an inferno dances within me, scorching every inch of my body.

“What’s happening to me” I manage to gasp out. The pain is unbearable. I feel like my body is dying.

“You’re dying” she whispers. She moves behind me and rests my head in her lap.

“Don’t worry my dear” she soothes, “as this form dies, a better one will rise in its place, like the immortal phoenix.”

I can barely listen the pain is so great. I don’t know what to say to her, but one thing I’m sure of, I hate her. She did this, all of this.

I close my eyes and let bitter, pain induced tears flow from them, not realizing they would be the last pure tears I ever cry. She sings to me.

Slowly the pain ebbs into a dull ache until it is altogether gone. I lay there silently, eyes closed and exhausted. I can’t handle anymore this night.

“Open your eyes” she prods, and this time I refuse her command. No more tonight, I just want to sleep. I want to wake up in the morning and continue on with my normal undisturbed life.

“As your maker, I command you: open your eyes”, and through some invisible force my eyes are pried open against my will.

This is a new world. The night sky, once inky black, was now deep purples, blues, and black. The stars shine brighter than ever, and it’s as if the universe has wrapped itself around the earth’s sky.

And now I notice the sounds and smells. The sounds of the busy Chicago streets are amplified, as if someone has turned the volume up on the world. I can hear rats scattering noisily through the alley. I can hear a couple’s unenthused conversation about work. I can hear the sounds of hearts beating, working diligently to supply the body with life. And I can smell that very same life, flowing languidly through fragile bodies.

I am hungry. I am hungry. I am ravenous!

Hunger and thirst like I’ve never known surge through me, igniting my body into action. I move to stand, and my body moves faster than it was ever able, so fast the world seems to slow around me. It is dizzying. As I attempt to regain my equilibrium she walks next to me, her form the very picture of poise and grace. She is even more beautiful now through these new eyes. She gingerly rests her hand on my cheek.

“I know you have questions” she begins, “and I will answer them all in due time. Now though…now we feast.”

She holds out an elegant hand to me. I slip my hand into hers. My skin is similar to hers now. It’s the same dark brown it’s always been, but now it is flawless with a golden undertone. My fingernails have grown a bit, and they are glassy and fine. I am not a human being. She smiles wide, baring her menacing teeth at me.

“Welcome to your new life, my child,” and my bosom swells at her words. I suppose she is my new mother. After all, she did orchestrate my rebirth. How strange.

The rebirth into a strong-minded woman. Overcoming depression truly impacted my academic achievements. At first, my grades suffered tremendously because I couldn’t differentiate the feelings of panic in my mind from the real world. School which was always important to me became secondary. From graduating top of my class in elementary and high school, to becoming a mediocre student caused my depression and anxiety to increase. I didn’t want to be a failure or a statistic.

August of 2013, I started my undergraduate coursework at Elmhurst College. At that time, I should’ve focused more on my mental health. But I was ashamed and seeking help in the Black community is frowned upon. So, I continued to go to school while my mind was consumed with other thoughts. After a year and a half at school and my grades weren’t increasing, I decided to take a leave of absence. I knew that if I didn’t seek help, my life would not improve. I used my time to improve my mental health.

Talking to a therapist reminded me that I wasn’t alone and that it is common for adolescents to experience depression. My outlook on life changed. When depression took a toll on my life, I started to question how intelligent I actually was. C’s were like F’s to me growing up and that fact that I was content with making those types of grades meant I was losing control of myself. Once my final therapy session ended, I was hesitate on starting school again. Constant fear plagued my mind but then one day I saw a quote that stuck with me. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?”(Marianne Deborah Williamson).

At Elmhurst, my major was nursing. I decided to attend Nirvana Institute, a technical training school for healthcare. There I took a certified nursing assistant class. After a month, I passed the course and was qualified to take state boards. I received my results online and applied for a position as a certified nursing assistant immediately after. I worked as a cna for approximately one year until my first resident passed away. One of the RN’s noticed how the death impacted me. She told me that I couldn’t have an emotional connection to my residents or I’ll always be sad when one of them passed away. Despite me making a difference in their lives, I couldn’t see people in their weakest moments. I continued to work as a cna but I knew nursing couldn’t be the career path I pursued. The same nurse suggested I consider healthcare information management. I conducted research to see if that major was a good fit for me but I stumbled upon public health and liked that program more.

I initially wanted to enroll here at UIC but I knew my previous grades were not up to par. I enrolled at Harold Washington and instantly knew I made the right choice by pursing a degree again. I was exceeding in my classes and establishing great relationships with my peers and professors. After my first semester, my gpa was above a 3.0. This allowed me to become a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor’s Society. My membership in PTK redefined me as a student. Failure was no longer my concern because I knew I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. After my first semester, my gpa kept increasing. I will never conform to mediocrity again regardless of any obstacles I face in life.