A3Writer: The Longest Night
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Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Longest Night

The Longest Night

     She was looking at me. They were coy, knowing looks she leveled towards me, a smile on her face that said she knew I was trying not to make eye contact. Eric was next to me talking about the point spread and how much he was going to make on the game if Seattle won, but I just couldn't pay attention to him. I signaled for another rum and coke from our server, a girl wearing her blouse undone to the third button showing a pale pink bra's scalloped edges, but I was irritated because the girl blocked my view of her.
     I mumbled something approving to Eric, and took a drink, taking the woman in. She sat around te side of the bar, the place empty enough so I could see her with only a couple of people passing in between us at odd minutes. She was a stunner, and I was surprised that other guys weren't hitting on her, but she sat alone, glancing at me. She idly stirred a drink in a regular glass, but I had no idea what it was from over here.
     I twisted my wedding ring nervously. Nancy was at home with the kids. I needed to get back soon to put them to bed, help with the dishes, and get ready for work tomorrow. The only reason I was here tonight was Eric. My old college friend had just gotten a promotion and we were celebrating.
     "Tyler? You hear, man?"
     "Yeah. Yeah, of course."
     "Then why you staring at the brunette. Yowza! Forget I asked. Dude! I think she's looking at you. Would you look at her. God, she looks like a model."
     Eric was right. The red dress she wore that hugged her curves would have looked more at place on a runway than in a bar. It wasn't even a classy bar, just a regular place on the street. It's not the place was run-down, or anything, but I would have expected a woman like that to be in an expensive bar sipping cosmos. She had long, perfectly styled hair, and penetrating blue eyes. They were almost hypnotic, and blue enough that I could tell even from here. Her skin was white, almost like one of Nancy's porcelain dolls.
     "You should go talk to her."
     "Eric, I'm married."
     "There's nothing wrong with just talking. I mean, Damn. At least you can just tell her you're married, so she'll stop looking. Oh, and you can be a good wingman and get her number for me," he said, slipping a pen in front of me.
     "Yeah, right. I think she's already seen my wedding ring, so she wouldn't be interested in me."
     "Come on, man. Wingman!"
     "I gave up having to be your wingman when I got married."
     "Wingmen are for life."
     I just looked at him.
     "All right, fine. So, we go back to celebrating me. To the new General Manager of Program Development!" he raised his glass, and I did the same, though there wasn't much left. We clinked glasses, and I drained the last of my rum and coke.
     "What do you even do, Eric?"
     "Hell if I know, but I've got a bigger office and salary now, and that's what matters, right?"
     I smiled, and then the server came back.
     "Two rum and cokes, and this," she unloaded a cocktail, "is from the lady," and she slid it in front of me.
     "Lady?"
     "At the bar," and she pointed to the woman in red.
     The girl left and I stared at the drink.
     "Dude. It's karma, fate, destiny, whatever. You have to go talk to her and get her number for me."
     "Eric, come on."
     "No, man. Now you have to set her straight. You gotta tell her you're married, now, and point out your single, handsome, buddy who just got a promotion."
     I was feeling warm, like someone had draped a blanket over me. It must be nerves, but I didn't really feel nervous. A little anxious, but not really nervous. I should go talk to her. I can show her my ring, try and get Eric a phone number, and be back.
     "Do it, Ty! Do it for the team!" Eric cheered as I slipped out of the booth.
     I walked over to her, and each step made me feel warmer, and I wanted to wipe the sweat from my face, only I wasn't sweating. I finally got up to her, and she smiled at me, ruby red lipstick and flawless white teeth. Now I felt like I was going to melt.
     "H-hi," I stammered. I cleared my throat. "Listen, thanks for the drink, but I'm married," I brought up my hand and put it on the bar so she could clearly see the ring. "My friend over there isn't, though, and so maybe I could get your phone number for him, instead."
     She leaned over, and put a hand on my thigh, the inside of my thigh!, and squeezed. "Let's get out of here," she whispered in my ear. "I want to do things with you that aren't legal. No one has to know." Her voice was music in my ears, rich and singing notes that hit deep inside me.
     I nodded. No one had to know. It was fine. We could just go, and it would be fine. It would make a hell of a story to tell Eric tomorrow. It wasn't as if Nancy had made an offer like that to me in years. The love wasn't gone out of the marriage, but maybe it needed shaking up. This would actually help with that.
     She took my arm, and we headed out of the bar. We took my car, and I was embarrassed by it, the infant seat still in the back and the child booster seat, as well. Nancy and I had gotten one for each car so we didn't have to transfer them over. She didn't seem to mind, though, and we were off.
     She directed me to her hotel, a place here in Fairhaven, most people in Belport referred to the parts of the city by the old towns that made it up, on the shore overlooking the bay. It was pretty far away, but the drive didn't bother me. She didn't say much, and I didn't feel the need to break the silence, but with each passing mile I got more excited by what I was doing. I had never taken a chance like this in my life. I felt alive, vibrant, and special that a woman like this—I didn't even know her name!—wanted me. Nancy and I had been college sweethearts, and this kind of reminded me of that, but this was even more exciting.
     "I'm Tyler," I said awkwardly. I couldn't even find a way to bring that up, just blurt it out.
     "I'm Nikki, Tyler," and she slid a hand along my shoulder, and then fingers played along my neck. They felt cool, at first, but that was probably my imagination as my skin prickled at the touch. It had been a long time since I felt fingers touching me like that.
     "So, uh, do you live in the city?" That was a stupid question. If she lived in the city, why would she be in a hotel?
     "Yes, but my place was broken into recently, so I'm spending a few days in a hotel. I find I quite enjoy it, as well. A chance to get away for awhile."
     I wanted to do that with Nancy. Every time we planned it, though, something would come up. Her mom couldn't take the kids, or one of them would get sick. Or Nancy would have some project at work. All I wanted was one night away. A little romance, was all.
     I was a little confused when we got to where she directed. I didn't see a hotel, but instead little cottages along the beach.
     "This one," she pointed to the second on the right. I nodded and parked the car, and then she began walking, her heels silent on the little board walk that led up to it. I thought that was odd, but this woman was exceptional in every way, so I dismissed it.
     She used an old-fashioned key, a real key and not a keycard. "Step into my parlor," she said with a smile as the dimmed light flickered to life.
     I only got three steps in, taking in the decor. It was a bungalow type of place with bamboo for furniture, and a mosquito net shrouding the bed. I didn't know if it was cheesy or romantic, but then it didn't matter. She whirled me around and was kissing me hard, then tearing at my clothes. I responded instantly, arms snaking around her and kissing her fiercely back. I was dizzy; thoughts hard to focus on, just my need for her. We were on the bed, with me beneath her, more fierce kissing, and even more as passion crested. I felt her naked flesh as she began kissing my neck, my senses beginning to overwhelm as there was just too much, and when I thought I couldn't hold back any longer, I felt a sharp pain in my neck, which made things more intense. There was a flash of something flying in front of my face. My mouth was open, did I scream? Was I screaming or was it something else? Was my mouth just hanging open in shock. Oh, God she felt good. I felt something hot and wet on me, and I knew she was drinking my blood. I didn't care. All I knew was I wanted her to keep going. I'd never felt anything like this.
     I began to tire, and weaken. I wanted her to keep going, but I needed her to stop. I wanted to beg her to stop, but I couldn't speak. Finally, though, she stopped. I felt something at my mouth, her wrist, and it was bloody. I was instantly revolted, but then I began to feel something in my mouth and throat. I wanted to drink, but I was still too revolted to do it.
     "Drink," she commanded with a honeyed voice, and I drank.
     It was hot, and metallic and salty, and after the first gag it was the most delicious thing I ever tasted. I drank like I was dying of thirst on a desert island, and whimpered after she pulled her wrist away.
     I was weak. I could barely move, like all the life had been taken from me. Was I still bleeding? I couldn't tell. I could still move everything, if only slightly. My breathing was ragged and my heart pumped furiously. I could still feel blood in my throat and stomach. It felt odd, like it didn't belong, but my tongue remembered the taste, and began to crave it.
     "What?" I whimpered, unable to get more than that out.
     I saw her face, then. She lay her head down on my shoulder, cuddling up to me. She was cool. It wasn't a trick of my mind, she was actually cool, cold, even. Not like she had been in a freezer, but that she just didn't give off heat. "Tyler," she purred, "I am a vampire, and I have just taken the first step in making you a vampire. I know you feel dreadfully weak right now, but that will pass. Your body is drained of blood, and my blood is beginning to work in you. You should consider yourself fortunate. I have done this a few times over the years. In the beginning it took days, but now it is relatively quick. You will be fully transformed by the time the sun rises, in time for you to sleep."
     "N-no," I gasped.
     "Yes, dear boy. You have no choice in the matter. I will make you mine, and do with you whatever I wish. You will get to experience the same lust for blood that I do, and the same strength and power, though not at first. I have been around for quite some time, and developed my talents accordingly. You can already feel it, can't you? Your head is pounding, your stomach full of blood. The thought of tasting it and having it slide down your throat is no longer revolting, is it?"
     "No," he admitted, and hated himself for it. She was right. The thought of hot, metallic blood slipping down his throat brought a thrill to his tastebuds even though his mind screamed against it.
     "I suppose you would like to know why."
     He didn't, but he found a little strength to nod, and did so. He didn't know why. Maybe to buy time, to recover. Perhaps he could run away and escape.
     "Well, Tyler, it begins quite some time ago, in Germany, or perhaps Austria. The region has gone through many changes since I was first there. I believe it was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, or perhaps the Ottoman Empire at the time. I don't rightly recall as I was simply a peasant farm girl in a rural village that no longer even exists. It was my home, and it was the year 1348. Do you understand that, Tyler? I am almost seven hundred years old. I shall have do some celebrating indeed when I finally reach that mark, but that is neither here nor there. This particular tale is about how I went through what is no happening to you. As I said, I was a peasant farm girl, and I can tell you for true that although peasant girls have a reputation for wholesomeness, that is very far from the truth.
      All of the girls I knew had not been as chaste as their fathers asked, including myself. I had my eye on a couple of boys, and we managed to hide our adventures from our parents quite easily. On a farm there's always work to be done, and little in the way of supervision. With a little creativity and industriousness, I was able to lure the lad into the hayloft for a romp."
     She traced a pattern on my chest. I didn't know what it was, and I didn't really care. I just enjoyed her touch, and the story seemed to steady me, take my mind off things. I felt a little stronger. A little longer and I might be able to sit up.
     "Of course, my friend Heidi, yes, I know it is cliche, but that is the best translation I can give you, and I've no wish to repeat her name in the original German, now, managed to mis-time her adventures and get pregnant at the age of fifteen. She was married immediately to cover her shame, and at a great loss to the family for her dowry was not as high as it should have been. I, on the other hand, was a spinster by the age of sixteen, spurning the attentions of some of the boys as I had no wish to be tied down by the likes of them. I had my sights set on another man, from a wealthier family. He was the son of burgher, and I knew that a little wealth would do well by me, and so I set about trying to gain his notice.
     "Women today have no sense of subtlety. Even what I did to you tonight was more expediency than subtlety. Of course, my gifts now are different than they were then. Back then, I laid out my plans perfectly. Every chance I got I studied him. I learned from watching as his family road through the village. I attended church and begged to be taught how to read, and how to act. Etiquette with the nobility was not drilled into the peasant class, but I convinced a nun that I wanted to become a servant in the household, and so needed to know how to act properly. I learned to curtsy, bow my head, to clean, and to read. Once I learned to read, my world opened up even more. I studied the history, and learned how to act properly. Of course, I didn't know that some of it was just stories to entertain, but I devoured everything that had to do with nobility, and then I felt I was ready.
     "A proper web, as any spider could tell you, takes time to prepare. Each strand is laid carefully, in just the right spot. Each one thick enough to hold prey, but not obvious enough to be noticed. I made all my plans, ready to seduce the burgher's son. I had little doubt that he would be mine quickly, but not matter how carefully the spider weaves to trap its prey, the unknown can still occur."
     She moved her fingers up, and touched the wound in his neck. It smarted painfully, and I tried to pull away, and managed to get some movement, but not enough. It felt like she was picking at the dried blood, breaking the wound open again. And then she brought the finger up to my mouth, a drop of red blood falling onto my nose, and then running down to touch my lip. My tongue darted out of its own accord, cleaning the blood and savoring its taste. It wasn't sweet. I didn't think blood could ever be sweet, but it was tasty. It was savory, like a delicious, hearty meal. It was entree and sauce all in one, and I loved it. I was horrified. Her finger descended and rubbed more blood on my lips, and before I could lick it free, she kissed me, our tongues mingling in an effort to lick the blood free. It was delicious. It was erotic. I wanted more.
     "So you are getting some strength back. Good. It won't be long before you're ready for more. I warn you, though, your body will begin to go through changes, not all of them pleasant."
     That sounded ominous, but there wasn't anything he could do, not yet. If he could get away . . . she was talking again.
     "Chance, destiny, Fortune, fate, or whatever you will played a part next. I had planned for the young man to run into me by chance—at least that is what he would believe—a few times so that he might remember my face, and then I would be able to truly trap him. Just as I had planned, we bumped into one another, sometimes quite literally, and I would apologize profusely according to my station, and the matter would be ended. It was the fifth meeting I had planned that was to be my chance. He had a fondness for drinking late at the tavern, and it was my intention to see him truly drunken and lure him to my bed. I paid the usual serving girl to allow me to serve him, and only me. I was of a fair and pleasing shape, as was said back then, and so garnered his attention quite readily, especially with a bodice and chemise that displayed my assets. What virile man could resist?
     "Of course, as I said, fate intervened. I had to serve others as well as him, and that included a foreigner who was spending the night in the village. I did not pay much attention to him since he displayed wealth far beyond what I could hope to achieve, and I had my own preoccupation. However, he continually called for me, sending other maids away so that only I served him. I began to be annoyed with him for his steady demands on me. He was handsome, and dressed in rich reds, purples, and dark greens. There were even accents in golden thread here and there, and rich embroidery on his shirt and coat. Not to mention he was handsome, but I had my trap planned, and could not spare to idly dream over what couldn't be as the other maids did.
     "Ah, such times as those are long gone, but they are fondly remembered, nonetheless. Of course, my life was also over at that point. You see, I never got the chance to spring my trap on the burgher's son. Instead, I found myself enmeshed instead. The foreigner spoke to me, saying simply, 'Your bearing is different from the others. Are you educated?' His accent was exotic, enchanting. I replied that I was. 'Are you a maiden?' I intended to lie to him, but I felt that I should not, that he was owed the truth. I remember feeling quite warm and that I could trust him, so I answered that I was not. That seemed to amuse him, for he chuckled, and then asked, ' Are you seducing that young man?' I could not be false to him, and nodded my ascent. 'You interest me, girl. What is your name?' And I told him true, just as I will now tell you. 'Sabrina, my Lord,' I answered.
     " 'Turn around for me,' he said, twirling his gloved finger in the air. I did as he asked, without hesitation, though my mind wondered at why I did so. He looked at me so that I was uncomfortable. Though we didn't have the expression at the time, I would still say he was 'undressing me with his eyes'. Though I was not inexperienced, I still felt violated, naked, exposed, and tried to cover myself as best I could after I turned. I had a tray used for carrying drinks, and I used it to shield myself. 'Lower the tray,' he said simply, and I did without hesitation. 'Yes, you are worthy of my time. How far is the next village?' I told him without hesitation. 'Have you ever been there? Is there anyone there who knows you?' I nodded to him. 'What about the next closest. I told him how far it was and that no one knew me there. He smiled, and I remember how frightening it was as he looked at me."
     She gave a shudder next to me, then rose up, looking me in the eyes. "You don't understand how it was. Or, perhaps you do right now, though you thought you were taking advantage of me when we came here. I was under no such preoccupation. I felt terrified and completely subject to his will. I stood there, waiting as he gave a wolf's smile to me. I was prey, a piece of meat, something to be devoured by him. 'Follow me,' he said simply, and I did."
     She rolled completely on top of me, then, and I could feel cool flesh and dried blood crunch and flake. I didn't know if it was on her or me. She lay her chin on her hands tented on my chest, and stared at me. "That was the last time I saw my village. I was swept away in the night, and did not return until too late. Ashes were all that remained, a brick here and there. I was never able to find out when it was burned to the ground, but I believe it was during the Reformation. Passions burned intensely during that time, but that is something else entirely.
     "I was whisked away to the next village, where he paid for us to stay at an inn, and we sequestered ourselves there with some food and drink. Before I knew it, he had robbed me of my innocence. Not my virginity, of course, but my innocence. He had taken me. I remember my tears. I had sobbed during the middle of it, which had displeased him, and he told me to be silent. I still cried, though, tears streaming down despite not being able to sob."
     I looked at her, and she wasn't staring at my face, but somewhere above. She was crying. She didn't sob, like she was telling the story, but tears leaked down her cheeks. She didn't look sad, though, but fiercely angry. For a moment I wanted to reach up and wipe her tears, but when I saw her jaw set like that, I let the thought go. It didn't matter, anyway, my arm still felt leaden.
     She was silent, staring like that for awhile, and the anger slowly faded though the tears remained on her face, each blink of her eyes sending more of them down her face to drip on my chest.
     "If you pity me," she said calmly, "I shall tear out your throat."
     My breath caught, and I felt a chunk of fear well up in my chest, and I gave an involuntary shiver. The fear exploded all through my body as those eyes locked on mine. Still a deep blue, but cold and hard like sapphires. It was a sharp look, and I was surprised I wasn't cut from it. Even as sharp and hard as the gaze, when she blinked, tears still leaked down. I wanted to look away from her. I felt small and insignificant, but I couldn't. She held me with her eyes.
     The tears continued for another minute, and then she wiped them away. "Innocence lost," she said wistfully, not looking at me. "It can never be reclaimed. I'm not talking about virginity. That is not a loss in my opinion. I had lost that some time ago, though gave it away is more like it. No, this was my innocence, something I hadn't realized I even still had. I thought I was sophisticated. I had seduced young men, maneuvered them, and I was even ready to seduce another for the gain of power. Now I had been taken, and I began the process that even now you go through. The first is always the easiest. You still feel human. That will change."
     Those eyes looked down at me again, regarding me coldly. "Are you frightened?" she asked softly.
     I didn't know how to answer. The fear of the blood had subsided. I still felt weak, but not terrified. Even as I thought back on nit, it was exciting. I realized I wanted her to feed on me again, but I couldn't say why.
     "I- I don't know," I finally stammered.
     "If you're not frightened, then you are excited," she said simply, and after a moment I realized what she was talking about. The second time was more intense than the first, though, including when she leaned in to bite into my neck. I remember yelling out, but not in pain this time, in pleasure. When she presented her wrist, she had to cut it open again. It had somehow healed in the time since she first offered it to me. I had no more time for thought, though, as I hungrily sucked on the blood. It tasted hot and rich, and more delicious than a New York strip steak. I drank hungrily; I feasted. When I felt her hand on my head I tried to stay clamped on. I didn't want to stop, but she yanked my head away as if I had no strength.
     She still straddled me, a look of ecstasy on her face. Ecstasy, but also a slight weakness. Fresh blood snaked down her chin and torso, mingling with the old in a gruesome patchwork, but part of my mind flashed thinking that it was sexy. I wanted to shake my head clear of thoughts like that. Did I? I didn't know any more. I was with a beautiful woman, a vampire, and I could feel myself becoming something. Like her, I guessed. She was hundreds of years old. I was going to become immortal, like her. I wanted it, I realized. I didn't know exactly when I wanted it. I didn't know if it was really even me, or if this was something she had done to me. I just wanted more.
     One of her fingers came down to wipe at the fresh blood, and she brought it up to her mouth, sucking on it. I lay there. I could do nothing else. I had no strength again, and even felt my thoughts were fading. I was tired. Exhausted.
     "You will sleep now," she said simply, and with her permission, I collapsed into darkness.

     My eyes fluttered open some time later, and she was sitting in the wicker chair next to the glass table. I sat up, feeling strengthened, and also nauseous. There was also pain in my chest. Not overpowering, and not a heart attack, but there was definitely a knot in my chest that didn't want to pass. I swallowed hard, wanting all of it to go away, to be normal again. I was scared again, and the fear fought with the nausea for dominance of my stomach. I didn't know which one would win, but I knew I couldn't do anything but lay there.
     "You are awake again. Good." I focused on her again when she spoke, and I noticed she was still nude, but now clean. Her hair was still wet, even. Somehow that made her more exotic. Her legs were crossed, and arms folded beneath her breasts as she regarded me.
     "You can feel the changes, now. They will continue. For some, the transformation takes its course over days. Mine did. After I was taken, it wasn't over with just the first night. Over the course of three nights he took me again and again, making me drink his blood. It was slower, and more agonizing. The waiting was awful, the pain temporary, but the not knowing of what I was becoming . . . excruciating.
     "He kept me tied up when he didn't ravish me, and he slept during the daylight hours. He hung blankets on the shutters to keep the sunlight out, keeping the entire room bathed in darkness. I was bound to a chair or I would have crawled over to one of those windows, and huddled in the cracks of sunlight that still managed to get through. During the day I was left to my own thoughts, a leather gag preventing me from crying for help, not that many in the village would do much to raise a hand against a foreign noble. My thoughts were always of fear, of what he would do to me, if I would ever get away, and of course on how much I enjoyed what he did.
     At the third night, I was transformed. It was done. I was no longer human. I craved blood, and he told me that he had transformed me so that I would be his wife. Already was by the act of creating me.
     "At the end of it, I was transformed, and it was glorious. Of course it took adjustment. The sun was forever gone from me. I could never again look on it. At first I couldn't even be awake while it was in the sky, as if my body was weakened by the sun shining on the earth, or it hanging in the sky. Over time, though, I grew to understand more and withstand more. Now I no longer need sleep, but I am talking of then.
     "I had power. I could seduce anyone I wanted, take them, drink from them. It seemed so foolish before, my effort to seduce a man for a better life. The son of a burgher was nothing. Now I knew true power, the power of the night!"
     She stood up, and threw open one of the shutters, and looked out over the night covered beach. Pale moonlight reflected off the water in shimmering waves.
     "I've never found anything like it. I am a queen right now, dark and powerful, my desires ready to be fulfilled by anyone I wish. That is the power he gave me, the lessons he taught me, and it was glorious. For decades we preyed upon the people of my homeland. We wandered from village to village, town to town, city to city. I became wealthy, draped in finery that I had never even dreamed of before. Silks from the faraway east, a true rarity before the Renaissance's trade revolutions, gold of every shape, and jewels of every hue. Peasants bowed to me just because of how I dressed. Nobles bowed to me because I willed it so.
     "We were happy. I had forgiven him for the rough treatment, and moved forward, knowing that he had given me far more than he had taken. Innocence, while regrettable to be lost at times, is nothing compared to the power I had, not to mention immortality. We continued to go to different towns, cities, castles, and courts. The New World was discovered by Columbus. I was in Denmark at the time and didn't think much of it. A new land held no appeal for me. There were no people there, and so no reason for me to go. Marco felt a surge of pride for his homeland because an Italian had discovered the land, but likewise he did not go. Journeying for months on a ship while feeding off the crew was no way to travel. It didn't take long, either, for certain types of people to want to go to the New World. Persecuted Pilgrims, but I'm getting ahead of myself, for the Reformation was only just beginning. My own troubles began to surface then, as well."
     She came over, then, and lounged on the bed beside me, propping her head up with an elbow on the bed. "I tell you now that relations between our kind are . . . intense . . . and difficult. We are powerful and accustomed to getting our way, and with such combinations, relationships seldom last. If the one Marco and I had is any kind of guide, one assumes a more . . . dominant role over the other. This is fine for a time, especially in the formative decades—you shall have to grow accustomed to time being a more elastic measure—when my abilities first emerged. However, once the power grows, resentment can set in. Not all at once, of course, but slowly, as in most things. An avalanche is caused by a single snowflake, after all. The weight of the last is no more than the weight of the first, yet together they bring down a torrent of destruction. So it was with Marco and I.
     "The snowflake, as it was, was more than what most relationships have to endure. It was early in 1520, if I recall, in England. Sadly this was before the era of Shakespeare as I dearly would have loved to have seen the original performances. Marco had become . . . bored . . . with me. He decided that a man of his prestige . . . well, a vampire of his prestige, should have a harem, and form a society. Now the latter I knew nothing about save that as predators, it did not seem that we should try to form into any kind of society. And for the former . . . I was furious. I told him that I would be no part of something like that, and if he did not love me, then that would be the end of it. I would not stand aside while he and his doxy snubbed me from their bed. He also became angry, and many words were exchanged that night. The woman he had picked out, the first of many so he told me, had already been turned. He had hidden her on the first day from me, and the transformation completed on the second.
     "We fought." She said simply, as if it was a simple thing between a husband and wife, but I doubted it was that simple. Nothing seemed to be simple about how this worked. "A domestic fight is not what you imagine it today, not even among the worst of the talk shows you no doubt have seen. He and I went for blood. The mewling girl was no challenge even though she was a vampire. I was able to toss her aside like the nothing she was. He, on the other hand, was older than I, more powerful than I, by a hundred years. I had fury on my side, perhaps even righteous fury, and that lent strength to my attacks. I also had surprised him, and so he was at a disadvantage for a time, but after that we were at each other earnestly. We rent flesh, broke limbs, and threw each other through walls, breaking furniture and items until there was little but rubble left of the home we had.
     "I'm sure you notice that I heal quickly. This even applies to wounds from others of my kind. So the limbs broken were healed within minutes. All that we managed to do was continue our fury and increase our hunger. Our bodies kept healing themselves until the bloodlust became nearly overwhelming. Still the fury was in me and I did not want anything but for him to suffer for the indignity of what he had done.
     "Necessity required me to feed, though, and so I left. I left the both of them and struck out on my own. That was the end of my marriage. Well, I suppose that was just a separation. The divorce was to come later."
     "Do you know that when a relationship ends, no matter how bizarre, no matter how hateful, there are feelings of remorse and regret? I left as a matter of my own survival and pride. I would not be a doll for this man, a nothing to be treated as a cast-off while he gathers his harem together. Still, I felt remorse. I wanted nothing more than to have him there, to hug and console, and to apologize, but I realized there was nothing to be sorry for, and that he had made his choice, and I had done nothing wrong. So I left. With broken heart, I left, crossing the channel in a ship that very night. I booked passage and told them not to disturb me until the night that we had reached France.
     "I was lost, and so I found myself wandering, and went back to my homeland. My village was gone, lost to history so that only I and a pair of archaeologists know its name, now. It was never even big enough to show up on any maps. I returned to the region though, and took up in a tiny village near the Rhine. I busied myself with a peasant life, living by myself. Of course, there was something else to contend with.
     "Martin Luther lit the world on fire, driving a schism into Holy Mother Church, and nothing was ever the same again. The Protestants were seized in religious fervor, and it swept through my homeland worst of all. As a woman living alone, I was a target. It was only a matter of time before the spinster that continued to reject all men was accused of being a witch.
     "Obviously I was not a witch, but I was very afraid for my life. It took considerable effort for me to convince them to lock me up in a deep, dark place so the daylight would not scorch me. The 'court' as it was, was very methodical, but the masses were very zealous. They wanted the witch to be tried and burned as quickly as possible. Now, fire is not as damaging to me as the sun, I will heal from it, but that only presumes that there is something left of me to heal from. I have never tested whether or not a burned skeleton could regenerate flesh, nor do I wish to find out. I knew that what little influence I could put upon the court would ultimately not be enough as the mob had a hand in things, and so there was no way not to escape a guilty verdict.
     "I was not without my wits, however, and used them to my advantage. I petitioned to see the court one night, and they agreed, and I said before them, before the assembled people, that I demanded the old trial, to let the water judge me. And so I quickly found myself hauled off by the mob to the convenient bank of the river, and unceremoniously tossed in. It was a small pool protected from the main part of the river's current, so I was not swept away."
     She smirked, then, even chuckled some. "It's amusing to me that such a test would be devised. An innocent and a witch alike are most likely to be found guilty as they float upon the water. I, however, can expel all air from my body with ease and with no ill effects. I did. I sank quickly to the bottom, welcomed by the water's embrace as they called it, remaining down for several minutes. I let them lift me up, then, and because I was not a witch, they consented to a Christian burial since I was 'dead'. I hung limply and overheard everything they said. I was going to be consigned to a simple wooden box to be placed in the grave, but I used my influence on them, quite heavily, I regret, but I had to be absolutely sure they would do this for me, that I had them put a freshly killed pig into my casket, and then it was shut not to be opened again. Having made arrangements for my burial, I fled again.
     "I fled again, this time for more exotic lands, and found myself in Turkey, where I enjoyed life to its fullest. I learned the art of belly dancing, and used that to woo a prince into my bed. I chose not to become his wife, desiring instead to be his concubine. It was no difficult thing to get the wife to approve of me with my influence and experience at seduction and politics. I was able to enjoy that life for fifteen years, dancing and performing for the prince, and it was not a degradation at all, for it was my choice, and I was the best."
     She jumped up from the bed, and seized a towel that had been left on the floor from her shower, and began to twirl around with it, pulling off sensuous moves. I thought at first that they were stripper moves from when I had been at my bachelor party, but then realized that the moves were too good. This was an actual dance. She swivelled her hips and danced around the room, twirling the towel-veil, bending backwards, and making her whole body move almost snake-like, but it was graceful, elegant. I had never seen anything sexier, even when she draped the towel around her, hiding her body.
     Whatever rhythm she danced to ended, and flung the towel my way, collapsing onto the floor, somehow twisting her body and legs around, shielding herself, yet looking graceful at the same time. Then she threw her head back and looked at me.
     "It's good to know I haven't lost my gracefulness," she smiled, and walked back to the bed, and I suddenly knew what she meant, and felt myself blush.
     "A blush, such a simple thing to miss," she said, and brushed my cheek with the back of her hand. "The warmth of human contact. Yes, I miss my own warmth at times. I remember the feel of blood flushing my skin when excited, the heat of passion and embarrassment alike."
     I didn't know what she meant, but then I realized that her skin was cool. Not ice cold, but room temperature. She should have been hot, hotter than me, and sweating after dancing like that, but her skin was dry and cool like it had never happened.
     "Y-you don't sweat," I stammered.
     She laughed, rich and loud, as if I had said the funniest thing in the world. I tried to back away. Something about that laugh unnerved me. She took up my hand, and placed the palm between her breasts. "I'm dead," she smiled.
     I was distracted for a moment by where my hand was, but then I realized what she meant. She had no heartbeat.
     "Soon I will not be the only one," she said, and put the hand over my own chest. I hadn't thought about my own heart. I never did unless it was pounding away, which it should have been from what I had seen and experienced tonight, but my heart, it didn't pump as often as it should. Maybe a beat every other second.
     "It won't be long now," she smiled. "You are becoming what I am."
     "Why?" I didn't know how I got that question out of the many I had out to her.
     "For reasons of my own," she said mysteriously, and reclined next to me again.
     "I–I don't know if I want this. My family, my life."
     She laughed again, just as rich. "Asked? You have spent too much time listening to old movies where the romantic vampire figure asks for a companion to join him or her for eternity. Of a love lost and reclaimed. This is not a story from some insipid romance. I was not given a choice, nor should you. It is simply the way of things. I wanted you; that is all that matters. Now you have the choice of rejecting it, and dying, or embracing it, and becoming powerful."
     "I'll die?"
     "Usually that is how it plays out. You already know your heart is not the same. You are changing. If you do not complete the change, your body cannot survive, and you die. There are those, especially in Eastern Europe, that believe in the dhampir. Half-vampires, but that is another myth, though one I have exploited from time to time. Having spent time in Turkey, I learned something of the Romani, what you call Gypsies. They are an . . . interesting people, far more superstitious than others, especially in this age. They seemed to know right away that I was not quite human, but they accepted that I was a dhampir and hunting other vampires, even though this was not the case. I traveled with them for some time. Roaming all the way into India, actually with the various bands, and there, too, I became a dancer for men of power, and seeing the country. For a time I was even tempted to travel into the Himalayas after spiritual enlightenment, but then there was no point. I was content with my life, and after over a hundred years of wandering, I was quite content with the enlightenment I had.
     "I fell in love there. India is an exotic place, and a young man there captured my heart. He was a simple man who showered me with flowers and poetry. He was an artist in heart and soul, and I thought him beautiful despite being low in the Indian castes. I gave him the offer that you lamented I did not give you. I showed him my true nature, and asked him to become like me. He consented, and we lived happily for a time, further exploring the country and its exotic locales.
     "But all was not well. As it had been with Marco, so it was with Baasim. Power began to corrupt him. He ceased writing his poetry, stopped giving me flowers, and simply reveled in his power. He deferred to me for a time, as I was obviously more experienced. Unlike Marco he didn't want his own harem, though for his culture that would have been more in line. Instead, he wanted. . . . He became dark. Whatever lightness of spirit he had fled when he became like me. He became truly dark, reveling in murder, and the power of life and death, in being untouchable. Until one day when we argued, he attacked me. Having hundreds of years on him, I was the stronger, and I fought him back, and lost my temper. I snapped his neck, which I knew would not deter him long, but I continued my assault on him, driving whatever was at hand into his body, doing as much damage as I could. I seized a silver tea service, pure, polished silver, and though it burned my hands, I tore it in two and drove the shards into him.
     "That was not the death blow, though. At least I would not count on it being the death blow. I waited until the dawn, and threw him into the sun. He had fallen asleep shortly after dawn came, still too young to fight off the fatigue that the light brought. I threw him into the sun and let him scream in sleepy agony until he faded into dust.
     "That night I gathered up the ashes and spread them in the Ganges, sure that the holy water would carry him to a permanent end. He had been the very soul of courtesy while mortal, but with immortality he became perverted. Few know the depths of how power corrupts. I have seen it all too often.
     "After that I had lost my taste for the subcontinent, which was just as well since this was around the time Britain put its tentacles into it, so I left, taking ship to Egypt; Cairo, specifically—a beautiful city but one burdened by far too much sun and white buildings for my tastes. I made my way to Paris, via the famed Riviera, where I became a member of the French Court. Of course I didn't know how turbulent the times would become, for it was not long until peasants were in revolt trying to take the heads of aristocracy. Fortune, or luck, or whatever, was with me, though, as I simultaneously recognized what was about to occur, and also had received news of a nobleman in Venice. My husband.
     "Time, for many, doesn't heal all wounds, but rather exacerbates them. It irked me that even several countries away that I would get word of him. I realized that the world was far too small for the two of us, and that we would continue to meet one another for eternity, and that if he had the opportunity, he would probably end me.
     "I took ship to Venice immediately, and inserted myself into the peasantry as I sought him out. I knew his habits, and was able to follow his career quite easily. Servants are always overlooked and I had become quite accustomed to taking on that mantle from my time in India, and so became overlooked by all of society. With a short haircut and livery, I was even able to stand in the same room with him and he did not know it. The woman he had turned back in England was nowhere to be seen, and I had guessed that he had grown tired of her as well, but he courted several ladies of the Venetian court, apparently a well-known bachelor and Ladies Man. Enough of one to rival that of Casanova himself, apparently. I wouldn't be surprised if some share of Casanova's conquests actually belonged to Marco.
     "Just seeing him, and remembering, put me in such a fury that I knew what must be done, but I didn't reach my judgement in anger, but through cold calculation. He was immortal, and we were foes. I knew that it could never be any other way. If I did not end him, then he would end me at some later date. There was no remorse or pity for the likes of we, and so I set on a course of action.
     "I had time on my side, and stayed hidden from the right eyes, playing the servant when it fit me best, and playing the noblewoman likewise. In the era of wigs, I was able to change in an instant from one to another, and so recent from the French court with the wealth I had and that which I could garner, I had a tower of curls adorned with jewels fit for the Doge's wife.
     "I purchased a warehouse on the premise I would use it to store trade, and began to renovate it, slowly. I knew quick changes are the most often recognized, and that I wouldn't want to draw his eye to me until I was prepared. I had the building reinforced with brick and mortar on the outside, making it as stout as any bank with its vaults full of gold. I was tempted to purchase such a building, but my purposes were different. I had ingenious devices installed by clever carpenters, who believed I was actually making the building into a theater with all of the trap doors and machines I asked for. Indeed, it was something of a theater, what would become a very gruesome theater.
     "Over the months I planned and waited, learning of his schemes. It seemed that he wanted to control all of the trade through Venice. He had very nearly garnered the Doge's ear, and the various guilds all worked with him as well. It was a masterful dance and game of politics, something I could only guess that he had picked up from his time in England. Yet I was not unfamiliar to the game from France; more importantly, I knew the game from the servants' perspective, and knew not to overlook their utility.
     "They were my eyes and ears aside from my own. When all was in readiness, I began planting my own rumors, knowing that gossip would carry them to his ears. I let them speak of a noblewoman from the French Court, but that she was actually German, and that she never strayed out during the daylight hours, and the warehouse I had purchased. Each one was placed over a matter of weeks, and I was sure that he would eventually put them together. He sent spies, at first, and they disappeared, never to return. I knew that was when I had him. He would know it was me, and come for me."
     She stood as if the impending battle was nothing. She went over to the table and dug into the bucket of ice, and filled her glass. I could only guess she had gotten it when I had passed out. She then filled it with water from the bathroom sink.
     "Isn't it odd that talking still causes a dryness in the throat, and that water is still as refreshing as it was even though I no longer need it for hydration. Back home, the small stream that ran by our village produced the best water. Every winter it would choke with ice, but I always remembered how the men would break through the ice and draw water from it. The ice was never very thick, only enough for young children to stand on without breaking, but it was still work to get at our water on those cold days."
     She finished the water, sucking heavily on an ice cube, staring out at nothing for awhile. "He never had a chance, you know," she resumed. "He thought of me as he had found me, a girl to be controlled, but I had grown much since leaving him, and I was always smarter than he, though he never acknowledged it.
     "I had gone out one night, and let him see me. It was late and he had just lain with some of his court harlots when he saw me. I retreated, but without hurry, making him suspect I did not know he followed. I went into the warehouse as the sky began to lighten, and knew he would pursue me inside. He had little choice. Another place and he would not know if he could escape the sun for the entire day, or if I would escape before he could confront me. That was his undoing.
     All of those clever devices the carpenters had built for me were in place. I descended through a trap door and barred it with heavy steel so he could not follow. When he tried to force his way in, I released a lever, which dropped down a heavy cage from above. Yet another lever clamped the steel cage into place above the trap door. I knew that he would be unable to break through the steel—our strength is only so great, and I had made sure that even one twice my strength would be unable to break them apart. Then one by one, I began to pull other levers, which released steel shutters on the windows. Deadly, blessed sunlight would stream through them, and even those that would not strike the cage for several hours would reach immediately, bounced into place by silver mirrors. He had done well in teaching me what to avoid over the years, to his ultimate downfall. I ascended hidden stairs and watched from a shadowy corner as the sunlight streamed in through the bars, rending flesh to ash. I continued to adjust the mirrors throughout the day so that no corner of him could hide inside, and all was rendered to ash before noon."
     She refilled the glass and swallowed it back. "Revenge is a tool like any other. It is not good or evil, hot or cold. It simply is, and it is the person that makes it either of those. At first I had been Hell's fury incarnate, then coldly logical. Now . . . I was free. His death had been a necessity for my life, and I left his ashes buried underneath Calvary's hill. Never to escape that holy prison."
     She had killed two of her lovers. The one I could kind of understand, but the one, the one that had made her into a vampire . . . she had murdered him. There was no doubt about it. The whole thing, that she set up, was just to kill him. She might have been justified, but I still didn't like it.
     "Afraid, dear?" she said, staring at me, and I wondered if she could sense that. Vampires were supposed to be telepathic, or something. Least that's what the movies said. So she knew I was afraid.
     She set the glass down, and walked back towards me. The way her hips swung wasn't sexy at all right now. "You should be. What I am is frightening. What I am is power. Power that I am giving to you. You already are becoming like me. If I were to show you a man with a bloody wound, your stomach would clench in hunger, a hunger so great you will never have known anything else. And that is nothing compared to the lust. The desire to have blood more than anything else, and I mean anything. Whatever you think, is gone. There is no will, only the need for blood. A man I care for, I nearly destroyed not so long ago. If it wasn't for his foresight, I would have, and felt not a whit of remorse until afterward. I have heard stories, Marco told me of one, where some of my kind have been so consumed by the lust, that their minds leave completely. All they know is the lust. Those monsters don't often last long. Staying alive requires intelligence.
     "So, yes, you should be afraid of not having blood to sustain you. There is little else, however, that truly you should fear at this point. The sun cannot reach you hear, and I carry nothing else that could harm you, but soon, you will begin to experience that lust, the need. Just as now you are experiencing another kind of lust."
     As soon as she said that, I could feel it in me. I wanted her. I needed her, and she offered herself to me. Before I knew it, the same cycle began again. Pleasure, then the pain of her drinking from me, and more pleasure, and the desire to drink from her, and then blackness.

     I awoke this time feeling changed, feeling hollow. I noticed it. My heart no longer beat. I wouldn't have noticed if she hadn't pointed it out earlier. I felt . . . more vigorous now then I had before. I sat up, and looked around, and realized that the lights were off, but I could still see quite well. Not as well as during the day time, but well enough, like under a full moon. I saw her, too. She sat in the corner watching me as I watched her.
     "No. It isn't done yet. You will know when it is. The hunger will take you completely, and you will need to feed. That, I suppose, is one of the first lessons. The blood you have taken from me gives no sustenance. Your body has been cannibalizing itself for the transformation, draining the life from your very marrow. There are some hours left, though. Before dawn, anyway. That was the way it was the last time I made a man into my kind."
     "I don't have to stay here." I felt a surge of defiance. "I can go. I can run. I won't let you control me."
     "Control you? Do you think that's what I'm trying to do? Well, run, then. Run if you think you can outrace the dawn. Your car is gone. I moved it while you slept. There are only the bungalows around here to protect you, if you make it into one before dawn. Believe me when I say that your best interests are served by not tempting the sun. Having felt its sting before, I do not relish it again. It is a pain unlike any other. Perhaps the only thing to counteract the bloodlust. But, as you will. There is the door," she said nonchalantly.
     "Why did you move my car?"
     "For your protection. I knew you would panic and try to flee. Your only hope of existence rests with me. There is nothing else for it."
     "What happened to the other guy? Did you kill him, too?" I asked. Maybe I could figure something out with a little more time. She had liked to talk so far, so maybe she still would. But, really, I began feeling stronger, and I wondered if this was a bad thing at all. She had lived hundreds of years. I would, too. Immortal; powerful.
     "Adrian was a gentle, yet inquisitive mind. I met him in England. He was a scholar, studying at the university. A student of physics, who followed in the footsteps of Isaac Newton. He sought to discover something incredible. And so he did: Me.
     "As you can well imagine, a woman with no heartbeat, exceeding strength, other abilities, a thirst for blood, and immortality was of great interest for him. He came to me willingly, curiously. He wanted to know all about me. I thought that the logical mind would be far better equipped to deal with me than others. Baasim succumbed to his passions, especially when confronted with the complete freedom that came with such power. Marco . . . well, I think he was always flawed, and wanted nothing more to revel in power of a different sort. His was the love of life in whatever form he could get it, and he was cruel enough to trample any who got in his path, for he was absolute in his control.
     "Of course, I have my own manipulative streak, but I came by that even before Marco entered my life. Adrian, though, I thought might be above all that. The passions in him burned low, and only for science. He was simple and uncomplicated; politics and seduction completely eluded him, and for that I was endeared to him. He looked at me with simple, curious eyes, entranced by what I was as well as my beauty for the fact of it, not the power. He desired knowledge above all else, and I was a font of it for him in all subjects."
     "Vice is universal to humanity. Not a man, woman, or child is without it. I'm sure you've noted several of my own just this evening. We are united in our flaws. For Marco . . . well, there were so many in him. Pride sums it up nicely for him, but that could actually do for most as well. Baasim was caught up in the freedom power brought with it. Before he was repressed, trapped in his art and by his society. When he got power, he realized the rules no longer applied, and he enjoyed it. Too much. For Adrian, it was the mind. In him it was far more subtle and far more insidious. He wanted to know. He wanted to understand, and there was little he would do not to understand.
     As I said, it didn't start that way. In the beginning, after I told him what I was—for I had learned that I must judge them over time, and revealing my true nature is an excellent first step to that—he would come to call on me, and we would talk. That is all. Whole nights he asked me about the things I had done and seen. A student of science primarily, he nonetheless took to history when it became a living thing. Well, if we were to stretch the definition of living," she smiled, and even chuckled.
     I smiled weakly, not really getting it. I wasn't paying that much attention, either. I was trying to formulate a plan. There had to be a way out of here. Maybe she was lying about what would happen. What if I could get out and the sun wouldn't destroy me? I didn't know. It was a big risk to take, but then what? Just become like her? Immortal? But why had she made me into a vampire? It didn't make sense. What if—What did she say?
     ". . . so it became our ritual that after an evening of telling him my story, he would agree to let me feed off of him. Over time my need for blood diminished some, or at least it never grew after the first decades. I suppose after a time the need plateaus. It doesn't take that much to satiate my thirst, though it is always welcome, and at least I never have to worry about my figure," she laughed again.
     "Even though I didn't need much, I wouldn't allow him to see me more than twice in a week, partly to let his body recover, and partly to increase his anticipation. I knew that he would need me, and be desperate for more knowledge. There are certain emotions which somehow permeate the blood, or perhaps my being, and make the blood more savory. Each emotion somehow has a taste associated with it. Need, such as lust, is hot, like chile peppers. Fear is slightly sweet, like honey. Anger is savory, hearty. Love is . . . well, exotic spices mixed with other emotions. I think that was why I first made Baasim into a vampire. I could feel his love for me, an overpowering love that dwarfed the other tastes. It's the only time I felt it. But I keep digressing.
     "Adrian's blood was hot with need, tinged with fear, and I remember even making him angry by refusing to give the answers he wanted, instead telling him he would get them later. The meals from him were exquisite. Such a feast that I began to fast between times. I wanted to make sure that all my desires were satiated by my feeding off him.
     "I was surprised, then, that one such time I fed off him, I felt a hint of exotic spice in the taste of him, and that night he asked me to make me into a vampire. Having been in relationships in the past, I refused, remembering how badly they could turn out. He pled with me, and finally I relented on condition that he prove his worth of becoming a vampire to me."
     She got up, finally, and walked over to the glass doors that looked out to the ocean. I could see the dark waves lap up against the shore despite the moon having disappeared now. My senses were sharper, and I could see every curve to her, silhouetted against the dark.
     "A courtship ritual, you could call it. I wanted him to court me, but courting a vampire is not like anything else. I made him find me donors. Even kidnap them off the streets. At first it was the dregs of society: beggars, whores, and drug addicts. Opium dens were popular in the London underbelly. Those did for awhile; he got used to the idea, and realized that such was the price of a vampire's survival. He approached it all so logically.
     "He balked when I asked for someone special, though. I wanted a virgin girl to feast on. A rarity in that time, though not so much as one today. When I granted him a piece of knowledge, that virgin blood was special to vampires, he acquiesced, eager for the knowledge, to see what would come over me with that meal. A young girl, perhaps twelve, and full of life, and fear. Sweet, sweet fear. I drank from her, and knew that Adrian was ready. I turned him into one of my kind. I continued to feast off of the virgin girl and him simultaneously, and made the girl a present to him for his first meal.
     "Do you know what lust looks like? Hunger? To fill a desire longed for more than anything else? Adrian had such a look in his eyes. He didn't want the blood just for the blood. He wanted the blood for the experience of it. He wanted the knowledge of it. All of the things I had told him, he knew, but he wanted to know for himself, and he wanted immortality. He had no fear of dying, at least none that I knew of, but he hungered for the knowledge, for the experiences he would have . . . forever.
     "I thought that would be enough," she said wearily. She still stared out over the water, but now her shoulders were slumped. "It was, for a time. Not long, though. Longer than Baasim, but I had hoped for centuries instead of mere decades. Or perhaps my tolerance of such things had waned because of Marco. I knew that there would be an immortal around all the time, possibly as my enemy. I would prefer to be the actor than the victim.
     "Adrian's downfall, though, was the same thing that felled his character. He was too curious. It was charming at first. His child-like exploration of his new reality was refreshing. It made me feel as if there was new life for me. His curiosity knew no bounds, and I had to guide him as he took these first steps. He received my guidance well, too. And always with his little notebook. It was a scientific endeavor for him, and so he scribbled constantly in it. He showed me his charts and tables, all meticulously crafted. He would write them all down, testing for every little thing. He measured, to the nearest teaspoon how much blood he needed on a daily basis. He worked the figures and math with Newtonian precision, and measured all things. He injured himself on purpose, judging the ability of our kind to heal. He didn't stop with just conventional weapons, though, and insisted on using holy water to judge the time it would take from that. He charted out the effects of virgin's blood, and would have done the same for sunlight save that he still needed to sleep during the day.
     "I bore it well, for I knew this to be nothing more than a beginning time where he needed to adjust to his new self. When that was done, he would be complete, and mine. Sadly, that time never came. I did not see the warning signs in front of me. I did not know how severe this intellectual curiosity could be.
     "How could I?" She turned to look at me, and she wrapped arms about herself as if cold. Well, she was cold, but I didn't think she ever felt cold. "We moved from where we were. One of the cardinal rules is that old lives are abandoned. That applies to you as well. People in your old life, you will not see again. You are dead, a monster, nosferatu. There is no going back. In the case of Adrian that was a small favor. He had no former life. No family to leave behind, just colleagues at the university where he studied, but he did not mind that as he took the work with him. He didn't care about the fame of scholarship, just the scholarship."
     She looked right at me. "Never trust a true scholar. They are dangerous; their curiosity knows no limits. Many of the atrocities of mankind were performed by scientists in search of scholarship, or just not caring where that scholarship went.
     "Adrian resumed his studies after we relocated to a different part of London. There was no real danger that his former colleagues would find us. We were in the poorest parts of town, living among the dregs. Not what I am usually known for, but acceptable for a transition time until we could move. Also it allowed for some of Adrian's . . . experiments.
     "He had progressed. He was less interested in the capabilities of his new form and more desirous of finding out the limits of normal people. He wanted to know how much blood could be drained from them, how they responded to our . . . conditioning. He turned some people into mindless slaves, utterly obedient to his slightest whim. It was loathsome even though it was fascinating. I truly didn't care what he did with them so long as he did not expect me to do the same, and I warned him that he should enjoy this time while he could as he would not be continuing it when we moved along.
     "He acquiesced as if it was nothing of import to him. Was that a warning sign? That he didn't care? Should I have paid attention to the not caring? I don't know. At the time I thought he was giving in to my wishes, that he cared about me, and he did, but he just cared about his knowledge more.
     "What I took for quiescence was only partially true. He made the most of his time experimenting, and he did . . . the unthinkable. He let them find us."
     She walked back over to the bed, and looked me straight in the eyes. "Do you know true fear? I think you have felt it tonight, in small doses. I had gone for hundreds of years without feeling it, but then it was suddenly upon me again. He told clergy what we were, and the particular bishop who came to us was just crazy enough to believe in vampires. He would have fit well in with the Inquisition, for that is what he brought to our door.
     "I say our, but really, Adrian had made it clear to the man he told that I was the vampire, and not he, and that he had only been my thrall. It is difficult to apprehend a vampire, but those who know the proper forms can do so, especially holy men, and while this bishop was partially insane, he was very devout, and believed very strongly. The barrier he erected stopped me soundly, and he used a cross to subdue me while they bound me with chains heavy enough to stop an elephant. Even my impressive strength was not enough to overcome that. Remember that. There is always more strength in the world. What power you have can always be matched and surpassed by another.
     "The priest taunted me, then, claimed that he would drive the infernal spirit out of me, purge me of the demon inside me. He produced a branding iron of pure silver in the shape of a pentacle. There was no heat to it. Simply the silver itself, and he pressed it to my skin, burning it into my flesh. Permanently. At least, until recently. I can still feel it at times. I still have the tattoos I used to hide the stigmata. In my mind I can still feel the burning cold and pain. My fingertips recall the flesh bubbled and scarred. The stigmata."
     Her fingers ran over her back and neck. I didn't remember seeing or feeling anything there, and if it was as bad as she said then I would have.
     "I remember feeling fear, and hopelessness. I was going to die here. The brand was just the beginning. The bishop had other things ready for me. A stake, blessed oil, and fire. He was going to burn me alive. I did not know if fire was something I could recover from, but I did not want to find out, either. Regardless, I'm sure my remains would have been exposed to the sun, and there was no coming back from that.
     "A few of the bishop's priests came to finish me off. Holding me down and preparing to impale the stake through my heart. Adrian, though, prevented that. He killed the bishop, and attacked t priests. They were caught unawares, and he made short work of tem. He ran fingers over my stigmata, clearly excited, and then he proceeded to free me, explaining that he had been with me all along, biding his time until he could act. And that he had already found a virgin for me to feast on so I could recover.
     "In a rage, I whirled on him. He betrayed me, perhaps more than Marco had. While Marco's was an affront to my sensibilities, my worth as a being, Adrian had personally betrayed me. I snatched up the stake and drove it through his heart, into the very concrete of the building's floor. Even handling the wood burned me, for it was consecrated against my kind, but it didn't matter. Once he was pinned, I poured the oil upon him and lit the match myself. I did not stop there, though. I set the entire building on fire, and fled."
     She was quiet. Her head lowered as she saw some memory in the carpet. I felt sorry for her, but I remembered what she said, so I hid it.
     "What happened then?" I asked, genuinely curious. I had been taken in by her stories. I needed to know how it ended. If this was going to be my life, then I should know as much as I could, anyway.
     She crawled onto the bed, and lay on me, her chin on her hands as she had done before, staring into my eyes. I felt like I was on the spotlight with those eyes. I noticed something else, too. There was no difference between her skin and mine. She didn't feel warm or cold. She felt the same. No heart beat, no skin temperature, and I could see at night; I was a vampire, now.
     "Next, I wandered for a time. I took to the country, roaming from hamlet to hamlet, eventually making my way to Ireland, and Dublin. The stigmata did not heal. My hand recovered quickly enough with virgin blood, but the brand remained. I realized that I had no desire to remain among people for now. A conundrum, to be sure, as I needed them for survival. Perhaps it was civilization I reviled, for I took ship, and traveled. The golden age of exploration had ended, but there were numerous places I could go, and I found myself quite enjoying one place filled with primitive peoples. They made me a goddess for a time, even such devotion can be tiresome, and so I left them. I wandered for quite awhile, finally making my way to the New World as it was called.
     "I began in New York, another German name blending in to the masses that crossed over to Ellis Island. I, like many, felt that this was a land of new opportunities, though my opportunities were not theirs. I still had wealth even though I crossed as a commoner. It is paramount to know when to be memorable with wealth and title, and when to blend in as a nothing. I have spent my life dancing from one to the other quite successfully.
     "After a time, I made my way here, and have been here for quite some time in the rather ubiquitous role of a night club owner. I fear I will have to move on soon, though, for people will begin to question my longevity, which is also a danger."
     "You never had another relationship?" I began to wonder why she had chosen me. What was special about me that she just came along and chose me out of a bar?
     "No. Relationships, as I'm sure you can now see, are difficult for my kind. I have had dalliances to be sure, but nothing lasting. There is, however . . ."
     She trailed off, her eyes becoming distant again.
     "However?"
     "What am I to do about Matthew? I have had many lovers, though many does not quite capture it. I have had thousands of lovers through the centuries, taking the companionship where I could, and some have lasted longer than others. I have told you of those I have tried to make something lasting, but there was always something lacking in them. I have a unique perspective on people, and become a student of humanity through casual observation even if not study. Do you know what I have found, Tyler?"
     I shook my head no.
     "People are attracted to different things. There is obviously the physical," she rose up and displayed her body to me. God she was beautiful. Flawless, and even the blood on her, my blood! did nothing to diminish that. Red smeared over her neck and chest, leaving thin trails on down to her toned stomach. "As I can tell you are attracted to my body." She shifted on her perch, and I knew exactly what she meant. "Some never see past that. They want the body, the meat, the trophy. They are shallow creatures only interested in sex, only to satiate their lust. I well know the attraction of the physical. You, for instance were partially chosen for your body; you are fit and able for my purposes.
     "Still others are attracted to power. Not just the power of beauty, but real power. Some think political power is power, but there is more. There is real power. I could snap your neck like a matchstick. I can run faster than any man alive. I have abilities which make me more like the superheroes of comic books and film. I am immortal. That is power beyond anything that your world has to offer. Power, as they say, corrupts. It has been the downfall of many of my lovers, especially those that I had made like myself. In the end I've had to kill them, for I knew it would only be a matter of time before they came to do the same to me, as I did to Marco those centuries ago.
     "I have chosen lovers based on their bodies, intelligence, curiosity, craving for power, lust, sex, even piety, but the result is always the same. But then there is Matthew." Her eyes took on a far away look, not really seeing me. "He is all of those and none of them. He is curious, but allows for mystery. He has had power in his grasp, and given it away. He is a good man, but not intent on exterminating those different. He is intelligent, but not egotistical. He is fearful, but overly courageous in his way. He preserves himself, but will give himself for certain others. I find that the more I learn of him, the more curious I become. I cannot tell who exactly he is, and I love it. He is a puzzle to me, and after so many years, no man has puzzled me as much as he has.
     "I have seduced thousands, and none have resisted me as he has. He does not spurn me, mind you, for that I can account for. I would either move on, or take him at my leisure. No, it is more complicated than that. He . . . well, I suppose he loves me . . . as the woman I am, but not the creature. He fears the vampire that I am." She opened her mouth, and I saw her fangs grow into place. "He fears me as the creature of the night that will take his soul. I have tasted the depth of that exquisite fear, but there was more in his blood. A tangled melange of subtle flavors below the fear, but I could not sort it out. So far I have not gained his blood again, and I do desire the taste of him. In his blood is a secret he wishes to hide from me, or perhaps from himself.
     "I have often wondered if I should turn him like I have done to you, but he is a man who resists power, does not want immortality. Perhaps he would change his mind if he suddenly found himself with both, and together with me for all time. Perhaps. Or perhaps he would become like the rest. Nevertheless, it has been a very, very long time since any man has looked at me and wanted me for being the woman I am instead of some facet.
     "And of course there is the game. The move and countermove we play back and forth is so delightful, so elemental to relationships, and he is skilled at it, if a little uninitiated to some of the finer nuances. The game is very reminiscent of politics. A glance can contain volumes. A word as good as an entire speech. A raise eyebrow cripple a nation, and a lengthy, impassioned speech can move nations, or be a blank page. He doesn't understand any of it, not that he couldn't, but he chooses not to. His style of play is different. The verbal spar, flirtations, and then there is the mystery of him. I have looked into his past. I know the facts of it, but there is more to a man than the words in the book of his life. Matthew, though, continues to show me new pages I didn't know existed. He uses it as a defense to stave off some of my more, shall we say, aggressive advances, and it works each time.
     "More than that, I have been vulnerable to him. I have been beholden to him, my pride broken as I had to succor him for help, weakened by my pride. He helped me when no other would, of his own will, even after I tried to force him. He has a sense of humanity when so few can remember that they are human.
     "He is the man I could trust with my life, for I have already done so." She rolled off of me, and walked back to the corner of the room.
     It sounded like she really loved this guy. Really had the hots for him, so why did she choose me? What was I doing here, turned into a vampire, if she wanted this guy? Was is some kind of weird vampire society thing? But she seemed to say that there were no societies, no ties to other vampires.      
     "Why did you choose—" I cut off as a blinding light, more brilliant than anything I had ever seen, like staring straight into the sun from ten feet away, seared into my eyes. One moment it wasn't there, and the next it hit the water in a brilliant flash. I threw my arm up to shield my eyes, and there were still purple and orange afterimages in my eyelids of that streak.
     "You? In a moment. For now you need to know that is the sun, and soon you will have to sleep. You can already feel your body shutting down."
     It was true. Fatigue swept through me, like I had spent days working without rest, and my limbs didn't want to move. There was something else, though. My stomach. It didn't just growl, it caved in. I felt a need for blood. My stomach, throat, tongue, and mouth all craved it. I felt a slight pinprick, in my mouth, and there was the sensation fo something moving. Eyes closed I slid my tongue over the area, and found new fangs had come in behind my I-teeth. I groaned in hunger and fatigue. I needed to eat, but I also had to sleep. It was agony.
     "Ahh, the bloodlust is upon you now. I am surprised it waited this long. Usually It comes sooner, or perhaps I was just slower in the process. The story-telling got in the way."
     I felt her, then, at my arm, lifting me up, and I didn't resist her. There was too much else going on to find any kind of resistance. "There isn't much time. Come with me. I have what you need at hand. Soon you will be too tired for anything else but the sleeping, and the pain of the hunger throughout the day can be agony. Fortunately, you won't have to deal with that."
     I stumbled along beside her, feeling like a blind cripple. I needed to sleep. I needed to eat. I didn't know which would win out. I just hoped she would get me through this quickly.
     "You asked why I chose you, and the answer is simple. You remind me of one of them, and today is an anniversary," and suddenly I felt like I was flying through the air.
     In a panic I opened my eyes and there was the blinding light again, but I also saw the sand of the shore, and suddenly I was coming back down to crash into it. The impact was jarring, but it didn't hurt. I felt a searing cold, though. Like all the frostbite in the world was all over my skin. I looked at myself, and barely through the light I could make out skin turning to grey ash and falling away, or being lapped up by the surf. I screamed in agony as my body continued to disintegrate, until I had no throat left for sound, and no eyes to cry. I was dying. She killed me. Why? Because I reminded her of one of her lovers. Oh, God, the pain! Oh, God! Nancy, I'm sorry!
     After that I couldn't think. There was only the pain. Pain! Pain! Pain! Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain . . . pain . . . pain . . . pain. . . . Pain. . . . Pain. . . .pain. . . . pain. . . .

     Rick stroked his goatee as he looked around the bar, and then finally saw the one he wanted. She was off in the corner by herself, throwing off a "back off" vibe to all the losers in the bar. She stirred a drink and stared into it, looking a little sad. So she evidently was trying to drown her sorrows. Well, with no ring on her finger that meant she could drown them in me.
     I signaled Kenny. We'd do the classic "rescue" thing. He immediately went up and started being a jerk, and when she turned a cold gaze on him I knew it was my chance, so I swept in.
     "Hey, buddy, she said she wasn't interested. Back off and leave the lady alone." After a couple of more quick exchanges, Kenny went off in a mock huff, leaving me with the woman.
     "Sorry about that. Some guys just don't know how to take a hint. If he bugs you again, I'll just be over there, so don't worry. I'm Rick, by the way," I held out my hand with my most winning smile.
     She looked at the hand for a moment, and then smiled. "Thank you, Rick. I'm Nikki . . ."

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