Monday, August 27, 2007

Another Vampire Short Story

A while back I posted a short story about a pair of vampires named Adio and Sebille. I love both characters and I've had a lot of trouble letting them go. So much so that I actually wrote a sequel to Before Sunrise. This story is set a few years after Before Sunrise. It's a somewhat long read, but I hope you enjoy it. I don't think you need to have read Before Sunrise to understand everything that is going on in this short story, but I think you will have a deeper understanding of what is happening if you have read it.

Fate


The mahogany doors swung open with a soft swish as they glided over the thick, burgundy-colored carpet. Charlotte stepped inside, letting her gaze travel over the luxurious d├ęcor. A large sofa and a pair of leather wingback chairs lounged around a dark cherry coffee table. The furniture was spread before a fireplace made of emerald green marble. A low fire burned in the grate, filling the room with its warm glow and soft crackling. Lit by several gold candelabras, the corners were filled with deep shadows that would lunge forward then languidly retreat, dragging their spidery limbs behind them. On the opposite wall, a pair of glass balcony doors stood partially open. The light curtains undulated in the soft breeze, swaying in an almost hypnotic dance.


Behind her, Adio laid his hands on her shoulders, sliding them slowly down her arms in a gentle caress as he removed her wrap. A delicious shiver slipped across her skin, but she quickly shook off the feeling. She shouldn’t have come. She knew that as clearly as she knew not to step into oncoming traffic. This handsome gentleman was a stranger, but it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered anymore.

Adio had approached her during intermission at the opera. He had been the perfect gentleman in every way, polite and courteous while exuding a deeper sense of strength and confidence that she had never encountered before. She invited him to finish the opera in the empty seat beside her. Afterward, he asked her back to his hotel room for a drink.

With his hand resting lightly on the small of her back, Adio guided Charlotte to a seat on the sofa. He turned to the bottle of wine that had been on the coffee table. He deftly opened the bottle and poured two glasses. Charlotte silently watched him, awed by the simple grace that imbued his every movement. Everything he did seemed precise and efficient, yet artful like a subtly seductive dance. That was why she had accompanied him in the first place. She just wanted to watch him move. It was as if he was in a ballet and every movement had a deep, beautiful meaning.

“Thank you,” she said, starting at the roughness of her voice as it shattered the silence of the room. She accepted the glass of red wine from him and took a dainty sip.

Adio nodded then took a seat across from her, placing his untouched wine on the end table beside him. He relaxed in his chair, crossing his legs at the ankle, and just stared at the young woman for a moment. He admired the graceful curve of her neck and the elegant way her thick, blond hair was twisted and piled on her head. Charlotte was a beautiful woman, appearing to be no more than 27 or 28 years old. A long, rich life still lay before her. Or at least it had before she had met him, he thought idly to himself.

He watched the woman that sat opposite him, wondering why he had bothered to bring her up to his room. He could have easily dispatched with her at the theater, as they walked to his limo, or on the ride over to the hotel. She was nothing more than a warm meal to him. But he continued to stare at her, the pang of hunger that usually rode him so fiercely abated for the moment. There was something about her that teased at a half-forgotten memory at the back of his mind.

“Why did you bring me up here?” she inquired as if privy to his thoughts. Her soft voice temporarily shoved aside the lengthy silence that had taken up residence in the room.

“To kill you,” he said in a flat monotone.

Her only reaction was a slight flaring of her eyes as she stared at him. He continued to watch her, half expecting to see her surge to her feet and run from his room. He wasn’t even sure he would rise to stop her if she did.

“I don’t believe you.”

Maybe she was right. It had been his only intention when he spotted her during the intermission. Yet since she first stepped in the room, his appetite had abandoned him and he seemed content to just sit and stare at her. He was content to just watch the gentle rise and fall of her breast as she drew in each silent breath. He was content to just listen to the rhythmic thud of her heart.

“You remind me of someone,” he volunteered into the silence.

“Was she your wife?”

“No.” She had been infinitely more important to him than could be defined in such simple terms of husband and wife. She had been his breath, his essence, his soul. She was all that was left of him that was good and she was the fast-striking cruelty that still reveled in the hunt. Now he just floated along, pulled by the eddying currents that flowed through life. He had no more control over his fate than a scrap of paper in an errant breeze.

“How did she die?”

“Quickly,” he softly said. Quickly. There had been no time to save her. No time to shield her from the light. To protect her from his words. Adio closed his eyes against the memory that flared to life from the smoldering embers of his mind. Her beauty was still engraved in his thoughts as clearly as if she stood before him. He could still see the full curve of her lips as she smiled up at him and he could recall the silky texture of her rich russet locks as they fell forward to caress her cheek.

“What was her name?”

“Sebille,” he replied, his voice reduced to a harsh whisper. How long had it been since he had uttered her name aloud? A lifetime. Now it was murmured from his lips as a hushed prayer for his soul. His sweet Sebille.

“I’m sorry.”

“No, I am the one who is sorry,” he said, his voice gaining strength as he opened his eyes.

“You will find someone else. It just takes time.”

Adio gave a sharp bark of laughter as he pushed to his feet. He picked up the bottle of wine and refreshed Charlotte’s glass. Time was the one thing that he had an excess of. But he knew there would not be another Sebille. She had been his mate; torn from the same cloth.

But in truth, he didn’t want another Sebille. He didn’t want to pour his heart into another creature. He hadn’t the energy or the desire. Sebille’s death had aged him, leaving him hollow and weary in a way time never could. Yet he had grown accustomed to waking at dusk with someone wrapped him his arms. He missed sharing the thrill of the chase with another of his kind. He missed the delicate caress of a woman’s voice.

“But there isn’t anyone else,” Charlotte continued, her eyes straying from him to the fire that licked viciously at the logs on the iron grate. “And her absence has left you empty. You feel like even the slightest noise will cause you to shatter and you know that no one will ever be able to fill this void. Somehow you keep moving like a puppet on a string, dancing with all the other people, but only now you can’t hear the music.”

Charlotte was not his Sebille. She had lost her great love and now sat broken like himself, searching for that one thing that would bring meaning back into their lives. Not Sebille. Even at the end as she watched him step away from her, Sebille had been ablaze with fury and pain. A creature so alive, he would have never thought it possible that she could no longer exist.

Silence settled back between them and Adio found Charlotte’s eyes inquisitively searching his features, possibly looking for some similarity between him and her lost love. Charlotte rose from the sofa as if harassed by dark and futile thoughts and paced over to the balcony doors that looked out onto the twinkling city skyline.

“How do you plan to kill me?” she asked, her voice firm again.

“You won’t feel any pain. You will drift off slowly like falling into a blissful sleep,” he gently said, rising from his chair and facing her. His deep voice swept over her ragged nerves like a soothing balm. Adio could see some of the tension drain out of her shoulders as her body slowly began to relax once again.

“Thank you. I would prefer not to make a scene,” she said, a wry smile quirking one corner of her mouth. To his surprise, Adio found himself smiling as well. It was not a conversation one typically had with one’s dinner. She obviously didn’t believe him and was trying to lighten the moment. He was no longer even sure of his intentions toward Charlotte. For now, she amused him and he would think no further about it.

“Why did you come up here with me?” he asked, his eyes
narrowing slightly as if he was trying to divine the secrets she kept locked in her battered heart.

The half-hearted smile tumbled from her lips and her hands dangled lifelessly at her side. “You interested me,” she said. “There was something in the way you moved, like each gesture was in time to music only a few could hear. I thought you could make me feel something for the first time in too many mind-numbing months.”

“Maybe it was fate that our paths crossed this evening. Two poor fools trapped in the same dark abyss,” Adio said, though he didn’t believe it. He didn’t believe in fate. The only thing that had drawn him to Charlotte’s side was a need to feed. Nothing more. It was just an unfortunate coincidence that she had lost someone as well.

Forcing a beguiling smile on his lips, Adio extended one hand to Charlotte. “Come sit down and we will talk of lighter things. Both our hearts are weary of this subject and could do with a distraction.” With a nod, Charlotte took his hand and allowed herself to be guided back to the sofa. She drank her wine deeply, letting its rich flavor wash away the bitter taste of too many joyless memories.

Lounging in his chair, the smile on his lips widened as he looked at Charlotte. “What if you could live forever?” he suddenly began, catching her off-guard. “Would you jump at the opportunity?”

“Why? So I could outlive everyone I know.”

“But you would never be sick again. You would never grow old. The world would be your playground. Imagine all the things you have wanted to do, but never had the time. You would be able to study art, music, philosophy. Distant lands would no longer be foreign to you.”

Charlotte leaned back against the sofa, sighing wistfully. “It’s a tempting idea, but all those things would seem so empty if I had no one to share them with. I’m sorry to say I have grown accustomed to having someone in my life.”

“That is the predicament that I find myself in now.” The smile faded from Adio’s lips and his eyes grew cold. “Maybe it is time to go back to the Old World,” he murmured mostly to himself.

Let’s leave here and return to the Old World. It had been Sebille’s last request of him. For that reason, he still had not left the shores of the western world. Her memory seemed ingrained in every city there and he was in no hurry to return to those old haunts alone.

But maybe he could take this woman back with him. He would never find another one of his kind to take as a companion. They were a solitary lot and would want nothing of him. Yet to take a fledgling under his wing, enlightening her to all the secrets of the world might succeed in freeing him of the dark grasp of Sebille’s memory. Charlotte would never replace his beloved, but she might be able to relieve the dull ache that throbbed in his chest.

Adio gazed at her, absently running his tongue over his teeth as he turned over the new idea.

Suddenly he could see Sebille standing before him. Her sparkling green eyes narrowed as she leaned forward, her hands gripping the arms of the chair.

Have you forgotten me already? Two years have barely passed and you’re drawing another woman into your arms!

“No,” he roughly said, pushing out of his chair and walking over to the fireplace. He was vaguely aware that Charlotte had sat up on the sofa and was closely watching him. His focus was trained only on the phantom that continued to plague him through his nights.

You never intended to feed on her. You planned to take her as your new companion since first your eyes alighted on her, the ghost accused.


Adio stood like a man being whipped with his hands braced on the mantle. There was no escaping her and in truth, he was not even sure if he wanted to. This ghost was all he had left of his precious love.

You promised me, Adio. You promised that you would make no more of us. Are you so selfish that you would damn this poor mortal to an eternity of hell? Kill her now, beloved, or let her go.

He felt a gentle pressure on his arm and all the muscles in his body tensed against a desperate hope. He jerked his head up to find himself staring into Charlotte’s sad and bewildered blue eyes. Adio relaxed again, his mind sinking into a familiar despair.

“Are you okay?” she asked

Let her go.

Violently shrugging out her grasp, Adio backpedaled a couple of steps, gritting his teeth. “Get out of here,” he snarled.

He wanted to yell against the demons that continued to invade his thoughts. He was losing his mind. His world had crumbled into the dark depths of the ocean when Sebille had died and now he was left standing on an island alone. He had briefly thought that Charlotte may be able to save him, but visions of Sebille gave him no peace.

“Adio, what’s wrong? Let me help you,” Charlotte pleaded, taking another step toward him.

“No! Get out of here!” he shouted, moving away from her extended hand. He was afraid he would lose his resolve if she touched him. Her compassion would crumple the last of his defenses.

Extending his hand toward the chamber doors, both flew open with a thought. Next Charlotte’s wrap and handbag flew across the room and landed at her feet. She gave a soft scream of shock at the sight of the items moving unassisted through the room. She backed up against the corner of the fireplace, her eyes wide with fear.

“H-How did you do that?” she demanded between each shallow breath.

“Do you not care for your life?” Adio snapped. “If you do not leave here now, I shall kill you.”

“I…I don’t believe you,” she said, forcing the words past the lump that threatened to close her throat.

“So be it,” he hissed. With another wave of his hand, the doors slammed shut and the soft click of the lock falling into place seemed to echo through the room. In three long strides, he was standing before Charlotte, one hand closing around her neck as his taunt body pinned her against the warm marble fireplace. His thumb pressed into her throat, silencing any attempts she might make to scream for help. He leaned forward, fangs bared when he felt her trembling hand tenderly touch his cheek. Adio looked up into her terrified eyes to find both fear and compassion staring back at him.

“Please,” she whispered breathlessly. He hesitated a moment then released her. He turned around and walked back over to the chair he had been sitting in. As he moved away from her, the fire in the fireplace extinguished and the candles around the room blinked out, leaving the room in darkness. Only the moonlight shining through the balcony doors gilded the room in its silvery light. Charlotte fell to the floor gasping for air, her legs too weak to hold her up.

“Leave me,” Adio said, his voice dead of emotion. He slumped in one of the wingback chair, leaning his head against his right hand with his elbow propped on the arm of the chair.

Time ticked slowly away as Charlotte struggled to get a hold of her emotions. A part of her was screaming for her to run from that room and never look back. But she couldn’t bring herself to turn her back on this poor figure, her vanquished hero.

“What are you?” Charlotte asked, her voice broken from where he had nearly crushed her throat.

“A monster. A monster that merely resembles a man,” he murmured into the darkness. Never had he uttered those words. He had always basked in his power and strength. He could wield such control over his environment and manipulate people with a single thought. But now, it was all a curse.

“Were you serious earlier? Will you never age?” she continued, growing bolder.

Adio turned his head slightly toward her, but kept his eyes closed. “I have walked this earth more than four centuries and I have not aged a day. I do not feel the passage of time nor will I ever be ill.”

“Was…was Sebille… like you?”

“Yes,” he hissed.

“Then how…?”

“She chose death, because I failed her.”

With all of her muscles tensed against another sudden attack, Charlotte slowly rose to her feet and walked over to Adio. She knelt before him, one hand resting on the arm of the chair upon which he was leaning. There was an unearthly glow about him as the moonlight shone on his pale skin. He may call himself a monster, but to her, he was her saving angel.

“Can you make me like you?” she asked softly.

Adio jerked his head up to look her in the eye. “No,” he harshly said, his jaw firmly set.

"Why?”

“You do not know what you are asking. Your immortal life is paid through drinking up the lives of others.”

“But we wouldn’t be alone anymore. We would have each other forever,” she replied, placing her hand over his.

“I am not the man that you lost,” he sadly reminded her.

“I know,” she sharply said, straightening her back and shoulders slightly. “Nor am I your Sebille. But we need someone to fill our nights. That is why you brought me here; to make me your companion. Please Adio, I don’t want to be alone any longer and neither do you.”

“And what about all of the people you will kill from here to eternity so that you and I can live? Can you bear to have their souls on your shoulders?”

“Death comes to us all eventually. Does it really matter how?” Charlotte reached up and took the hand that rest against his cheek. She placed it against her bare throat, exactly how he had held her minutes before when she had been trembling in fear for her life. Now the shiver that slipped through her body was one of excitement. She would have his strength and power, but most of all, she will have escaped the grim loneliness of living.

Adio struck suddenly, not even giving Charlotte enough time to gasp in surprise. One moment he was smooth and cold like white marble and in the next, he was on top of her, his fangs deeply buried in her flesh. She vainly fought him for a couple seconds, her hands pushing against his chest as her instincts won over any thoughts she might have had. Slowly, she began to relax in his arms, the tension in her limbs unwinding as she allowed herself to be swept up in the strange wave that was washing over her.

The blood rushed into Adio’s body, filling him with a warmth that nearly drew a moan from his parted lips. The cold that permeated his body began to ebb, but he wanted more. Adio fell to his knees, straddling Charlotte’s limp form. He pulled her tightly against him, drawing deeply. With the rush of blood came blurred memories, fragmented thoughts, and broken dreams. Yet still he wanted more. He wanted to pull the very essence of her into his body. Adio wanted to drag her into himself in a vain attempt to fill the emptiness in his chest. He wanted to taste her soul.

Above the din of thoughts and emotions, he could hear her heart beat. The steady pound had begun to slow as if slogging through a thick marsh. Adio clung to the sound, letting the rhythm reverberate through his taunt body until the thumping ground to a faint whisper. He reluctantly pulled away, feeling slightly dazed as he looked down at her pale face. The deep sleep into which she was falling had smoothed out her features, painting them with a calm she had never known in life. If he was to change her, it had to be now. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He could not steal her away from the peace she had found in his arms. Maybe it had been fate that brought them together. Fate that made him into her angel of death, delivering her into the arms of her waiting love.

Flushed, Adio gently laid the body on the floor and crossed her arms over her chest. He sat on the floor next to her empty shell, his back pressed against the chair as her heart slowed to a deafening halt. It had been her bruised innocence that reminded him of Sebille.

“Death comes to us all eventually,” he murmured to the empty room. The warmth was beginning to drain from his body and the cool night air kissed his ghostly skin. The blissful satisfaction that came with the kill had already started to fade and the emptiness was invading his chest again.

Adio looked up to find Sebille standing beside him, her sad eyes peering into his soul. She stood dressed all in black with her pale flesh shimmering in the moonlight. His avenging angel had once again become his besotted lover. Smiling, she bent down and laid her hand against his cheek. It was like snow against his feverish skin.

“I forgive you.”

Closing his eyes, Adio let those three precious words crash over him. He hadn’t even realized that he had been waiting to hear them, to finally be absolved of the guilt that had dogged his nights. With a sigh, he opened his eyes and she was gone.

The End

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