Tanya paused for a moment, her face drawn. The dark smudges under her eyes seemed more pronounced all of a sudden. It was a couple of minutes before she could continue her story.
"This is my strongest human memory, the pain of those three days. I thought they would never end. It was like being engulfed in flames, a relentless pain. The only thought I could formulate in my mind was a fervent wish for death.
"On the third day, I opened my eyes to a strange world. Everything was so bright. So new. I was easily distracted in those early days and would stare at something as inconsequential as dust motes for hours on end, marveling at the way they drifted in midair.
"When I woke up, there were three women in the room with me, gathered around the bed. The same woman from before was standing at the foot of the bed with two others flanking her. The second woman had the same strange red eyes and pale skin. She looked to be a few years older than me, perhaps in her twenties. Her hair was so blond it was almost silver. She was beautiful in a very cold way. She gazed at me with calculation in her narrowed eyes.
"The third woman was about my age. Her hair was the color of corn silk and it fell in a straight sheet down her shoulders. Her eyes were as red as the others. She stared at me with naked curiosity.
"I looked at the first woman, my savior, and saw her truly for the first time. She had massive waves of reddish hair and a strong though compact build. She looked to be in her latter thirties. She was smaller than the other two women, but she was the one I feared. She seemed to have a deep reserve of strength hidden beneath her composed demeanor.
"She smiled at me and said, 'My name is Sasha. These are my daughters, Irina and Kate.'
"I smiled back hesitantly and said, 'Hello.' My voice was foreign to me. It sounded exactly as though I was singing. I held a hand up to my throat, wondering what I'd become.
"The curious one with the corn silk hair, Kate, laughed at my expression. The cold one, Irina, only stared, her smooth face impassive.
"'You must have so many questions. What is your name?'"
"'Tanya,' I answered with a hesitant smile.
"Kate held a hand out to me in welcome, in friendship. There was something about her that reminded me of my sisters. I took her hand gratefully.
"Kate and I became very close right from the start, bonding instantly. I came to know both Sasha and Irina better during the course of those first strange days. Sasha was the one who taught me to hunt, who showed me how to sneak up behind a man and feed on him without making a sound or leaving so much as a drop on the ground. With her help, I was able to track down the man who assaulted me." Tanya smiled. It was a smile that chilled my blood. "I made him pay a thousand times over for hurting me."
I did not ask how Tanya had made her assailant pay. Something told me I didn't want to know.