Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Vampire Short Story

I've always like vampires, but I won't go into the huge list of reasons why I keep returning to that creature out of the gigantic pantheon of monsters that rests at my fingertips. We'll return to that some other time. I dabbled in them for a while when I was writing romance (many, many years ago), but I discovered that my vampires were little more than humans with sharp teeth. You could have removed the vampire side and still had pretty much the same story, so I packed vampires away until I felt that I could do them justice.

On a whim about 3-4 years ago, I got an idea for a short story and dusted my vampiric dreams off again. Below is that short story. I re-read it last night and discovered that I still like it, even though my own writing style has changed. I imagine that my blog readers are the only ones who will ever read this piece since I don't expect to ever pursue this line much further (even though this story does have sequel). However, I like to think from here, a little seed was planted for the series of books that are going to be published with Eos. Thanks for reading. Tomorrow, I hope to dissect some of the reasons why I didn't pursue this as a book or a series of books.

Before Sunrise

Night retreated from the earth, dragging in its vast girth, like a fisherman hauling in his nets. One by one, the stars extinguished and an ashen gray sky began to roll in behind the darkness in those few pre-dawn hours. Nearby, a morning dove cooed from its perch while tree limbs rustled overhead. Sebille sat back in a cushioned chair with her long, slender legs stretched out before her. Anxiety crawled up her pale flesh as the sun inched higher on the horizon. Moving some russet-colored locks from her face, she rubbed her eyes – not wanting to contemplate why they burned.

Through the open French doors of the balcony, she heard a pair of bare feet padding across the smooth flagstones. She had been waiting for him. He always woke in time to see the dawn slash across the morning sky like a reaper’s scythe, banishing the night.

Hesitantly, she turned her head slightly to find him standing beside her. His image was already ingrained in her mind from years of companionship. His crimson robe was parted, revealing a strong chest with his hands resting on his hips. A part of her wished she could just press her cheek to that chest and forget the reason for her being there. But, instead, Sebille returned her gaze to the tree lazily swaying before her. His image remained in her mind. Adio had always been an impressive creature with a strong jaw and dark eyes that resembled shards of fractured glass. His shoulder-length hair was coal black and loose, giving him the appearance of a man stolen from another era. Like Sebille, his skin was the same shade of cadaverous white.

“This is unexpected,” he said in a deep voice that betrayed no emotion. There was a slight accent that colored his speech, but it could no longer be traced back to its point of origin. Too many years of wandering had blurred the lines between one culture and another.

She remained silent for a couple of minutes, staring straight ahead. Dark clouds stretched their long fingers languidly across the sky, embracing it with the practiced ease of an old lover.

“Why do you do this?” she snapped. “It’s been seven years. The sunrise has yet to change.”

“I will never tire of it. I thought you would have become accustomed to it by now,” he said, arching a thick brow.

“Never. We weren’t meant to watch the rise and fall of the sun. The moon is our guardian,” she said, her voice nothing more than a rough whisper.

“What vexes you?” he asked, gazing down at his beloved. During the past seven years, Sebille’s visits had become more infrequent, but their affection for each other never wavered. Too many years had passed for them to ever grow apart.

“As I said, it’s been seven years. Seven years with the same woman and now you’ve taken sons with her. Doesn’t she question why you never age? Why your hair never grays? Or why the years haven’t etched their memory on your face?”

“She is happy and does not question the life we have.”

“But she will, beloved,” she firmly said.

“I will deal with that when the time comes. And what of these questions?” He knew it was not from jealousy that she spoke. Adio cared for his unsuspecting wife, but she would never be able to replace Sebille. His wife was sweet and caring, offering a normal, predictable life. On the other hand, Sebille was as violent and devastating as a hurricane pounding the shore. Yet, there was a definite allure in being near her, being swept up in so much energy and passion.

“I’m weary of this game, Adio. Let’s leave here and return to the Old World. We have lingered too long.” She gazed up at him, a look of longing and patience in her eyes. “I’m tired of pretending.”

“It’s no game, love.”

“We have deluded ourselves into thinking we could live among them.” She pushed out of the chair and walked to the railing, the heels of her boots echoing on the smooth stones. She spun around to face her companion, turning her back on the growing lightness in the sky.

“We creep along in their world, hiding our powers and suppressing our most basic needs. It’s worse than the old days of hiding in the shadows. At least then we were still predators! Now we are mere housecats with our claws ripped away.”

She viewed Adio with a mixture of pain and fury, as the words seemed to be suddenly trapped in her throat. Her long fingers ran through her hair, pushing it from her face in a fluid, graceful movement. When she spoke again her voice was even, but held a strange undercurrent of desperation.

“I’m not as old as you. I can still hear the siren song of their heartbeats…. can still taste their sweetness on my lips. The ache is still there, gnawing away at my mind.”

“If we don’t use our powers, we don’t have to feed. We don’t have to kill,” he patiently reminded her. His large hands capped the tops of her thin shoulders. “Has it been so long that you have lost all your humanity?”

“Lost it?” she cried, jerking in his grasp as if struck by some invisible blow. “How could I lose it when it stares me in the face everyday? All the things I have given up and can never taste again dance before me as I pretend to be one of them. I can’t deny what I am, even though you try with all your might.”

Sebille drew in a deep breath. In her mind, she summoned up the bittersweet memory of the first time they had met. It was a warm summer night with a full moon glowing overhead. Against her father’s wishes, she had gone horseback riding alone.

Traveling at a steady cantor, she rode along the edge of the forest as she crossed an open field on her father’s land. The warm wind teased her hair and dress, urging her to go faster. For that brief moment in time, she did not have to think about pleasing her mother or obeying her father. Her future had not yet been decided. And then, he was standing there along the edge of the woods, leaning against a tree as if he had been waiting for her. Adio was as powerful then as he was now. Dark hair and pale skin radiating in the moonlight. Before he even spoke, she knew he was her prince. Her savior.

“Come back with me, Adio,” she sighed. “Leave all of this and we can return to how it used to be.” Her voice fell like the sweetest caress across his soul.

“No,” he replied, the single word catching in his throat.

“Has she stripped you of your eyeteeth?” she snarled, jerking away. “Even if she could accept you, she will grow old and die. You’ll have to watch her waste away until she is broken and feeble. Or do you plan to change her before age sets in?”

“Never. She will not be cursed.”

“No, not like me,” she murmured before looking back at him. “And what of us? We were lovers once. We were content together -- free to go and do as we wished.”

“How were we free? As slaves to the thirst and bound to the night? I have a new life now. A happy life,” he said.

Laying the fingertips of her left hand against his cool, white cheek, Sebille’s tone softened to the sweetest caress. “Are you truly happy? Living with the mortal woman and children while you are shrouded in this lie.”

In his silence, Sebille stepped away from him, her hand dropping limp back to her side. He pulled her close to him so that her back was pressed to his front. Wrapping one strong arm around her thin waist, he held her slim body close to his as if desperately trying to pull her back to him. Adio pressed a kiss to the top of her head, soaking in the feeling of having her so close to him again. “It’s a peaceful life. With the bleakness of eternity stretching out before you, do you not miss the delicate beauty of the sunrise? Can you not find happiness among them as well?” His strong voice wavered slightly as he spoke.

She looked up at the lightening sky and hissed before moving out of his arms and back to the shadows. A knot formed in Adio’s stomach as he stared at her, a heavy silence falling over them like a funeral pall.

“Eternity was never so bleak as long as you stood with me,” she replied, her head bent. Strengthening her resolve, she continued in a stronger, more confident tone. “I have grown too accustomed to a black sky and the watchful eye of the moon.”

She had known how he would choose. Her heart had been unwilling to fathom what her mind had already known. Adio had walked in darkness for too many years and the chance to leave it all behind, even for a little while, was too tempting. “So you have forsaken me? Abandoned me for a lie?”

He stared at his sweet Sebille, who dared him to defy her wishes. In all his years, she had been his most treasured companion – the one he had unconsciously longed for. Despite their strength and independence, neither had ever considered separating. They followed each other from one remote corner of the Earth to the other without hesitation.

“It does not have to be this way,” he said, trying to ignore the tightness in his chest. “You will learn to like their ways again. You will find happiness.”

“You were my happiness and I thought I was yours. I thought that was why you brought me into the shadows.”

“Things have changed. I found another way and I will not go back.”

“Then we go our separate ways.”

“Don’t,” he said, his voice softening to a loving embrace.

“It’s too late,” she whispered, a cold smile slithering across her ghostly face. “You left me with no other choice.”

A chill swept over him and his stomach curled into a clenched fist. “What have you done?”

“She was only eight. Her skin was soft and warm with sleep, smelling of soap and summertime. She made only the slightest whimper, never even waking from her dreams,” she purred. “So sweet. So full of innocence and promise. Come now, my love. I’m sure you remember the taste.”

He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block the image from his mind. But it danced there with startling clarity along with hundreds of others. Men, women, and children of all ages. For the first time in seven years, he felt the pangs of a thirst that drove him through nights long past. Intermingled were the delicious memories of a satisfaction that could only be found when he fed. It was the type of pleasure that saturated his body down to the very marrow in his bones and seemed to stop time itself. How he longed to feel that pleasure coursing through his veins again like liquid fire! But such joy came at too high a price. His mind suddenly throbbed back to the present. He jerked his head up, taking in the sky that was growing bluer with the wakening dawn. A grim smile slowly crept across Sebille’s blood red lips.

“Why?” he demanded.

“Because I will not face eternity without you.”

Her eyes fell shut and she stepped forward. On the horizon, the clouds parted and the first rays of sunlight broke across the sky. Adio lunged forward to grab her in his arms, anything to shield her from dawn’s light. Yet as he wrapped his strong arms around her lithe body, she was consumed in thick, black smoke. For a moment, the smoke seemed to take the shape of her face with her mouth opened wide in a silent scream.

“SEBILLE!” he cried, closing his arms around the black smoke, but came up with nothing more substantial than a fine soot that seemed to hang in the air. Was she gone? Had her body turned to ash in the sun’s light? His thoughts stumbled forward, desperate to deny the fear that was washing over him. He waved his arms, trying to clear the smoke, calling out her name again.

“Adio?” replied a trembling voice.

All the muscles in his body seemed to tense in hope at the sound of his name. Yet when he turned, it was his wife that he was facing, instead of his beloved Sebille. Her hand tightly gripped the doorway and her face was without color. She looked on her husband with a mixture of terror and confusion, as her mind struggled with this new horrific knowledge. She knew the truth now.

Adio lowered his arms, defeated. Both of his worlds destroyed.

the end


Carol said...

I like that, the downside of eternal life. Carol

firedrake said...

Wow... the one that started it all? It's been a while since I've read that one, and it still gives me chills.

Used to think that it was Sebille that was the irrational one, now I'm not so sure...

Glad you are finally posting some writing here. The dry spell was killing me.