Over the road lies a tavern and a half-way house, The Old Mill. I never go in there, where there are lights and noise and many people. I am strongest in the cold dark and loneliness. I am old enough now to move freely in the light of day, but I cannot travel far. The light blinds me and the heat blisters my skin. I do not live as you do. I did, a long time ago. I have no desire to return to your world, my life a slave to death. I am the master of death, and I have been master of all so long I would be master still, or at least, none should be master of me. I came before your life was begat and will be here long after your life has faded away.
Life fears dark. In it humans are blind and confused. I celebrate the dark, for it is there that I am strongest and my mastery over all life and death is at its most potent. It is in the dark that I go hunting. I stalk my prey as a wolf does, moving noiselessly behind groups, slinking from shadow to shadow, watching, waiting for the one that goes off on his or her own. I watch people for a long time before I stake out the most promising target. I choose with care – the one that no one will look for. Someone who won’t be missed. It thrills me when they run. The chase whets the appetite, and reminds me of how weak and slow humans are, and how powerful I have become now that I am no longer human. I don’t let them see me for long, just a shadow, just to unsettle them first. I let them calm down before I move again. Sometimes, during the chase, I let them get ahead, let them think they’re safe, but I am always in complete control. Ultimately, I win, I feed, and the human dies. I have no cause for remorse, for it is the natural order of things that only the strongest survives. The predator feasts and the prey perishes. Guilt and pity are tools used by the weak to blackmail the strong, but the strongest must be immune to blackmail.
I went hunting some nights ago. It wasn’t hunger, but rather boredom, that drove me out that night. It was a strange, quiet night, and I was surprised to find myself looking longingly at the town, wishing, for the first time in over five hundred years, for some company. Two or three young couples departed and I had not the heart to go after them. I am not usually held back by such foolish sentiment – if I was I would have starved long ago. We don’t starve quickly, as humans do. If we deny ourselves blood we enter a torment that lasts centuries, a torment so terrible it steals our very minds away. Starvation is the only thing an immortal fears.
That night, I retreated to the Black Pit to rid myself of this strange mood. When I first came to this place, many many moons ago, I had a vampire love. We parted ways after a few centuries, because like all predators, we prefer to hunt alone. One night we took several young maidens and made a feast of them there, on the shores of the obsidian-black lake the local people avoided, because of its cold and isolated spot. Lost in the foolishness called passion, we did not remove the maidens after our feast. Their mangled bodies were found the next morning, but we, the culprits, were not. The villagers imagined that the lake itself, “the lake of death” as they called it, housed an evil spirit, and they avoid it. I have such an affection for the place that from time to time I take care to leave another body there to prevent the myth from dying out, and to prevent the humans invading my secret place.
I dived to the bottom of the dark water, a journey of several minutes no human could survive. Their feeble lungs would whimper for oxygen, their feeble eyes could not pierce the blackness of the night water as mine do, and their feeble hearts could not withstand the icy cold which I crave. By the time I emerged from the dark water, I was restored to myself, a predator once again. All foolish, wasteful sentiment for humanity and company had been purged. And I was hungry.
I returned to the prime spot, the roof above The Old Mill, and I waited. I didn’t want to hunt or chase, I just needed easy prey to quell my appetite. Before long, she came out. A young woman on her own, in tears. So much the better. Humans who leave public houses alone and with tears in their eyes are the easiest prey of all. They don’t try to resist. Their loneliness drains the fight from them. I languidly stalked her from street to street, bored, waiting for the opportune moment. As soon as she was alone I attacked in a storm of speed and fury, pouncing to land at her feet, snatching her throat before she had time to run, my hand tightening to crush her scream as my face contorted into its hideous feeding mask, her weak human body trapped against the stone wall as my fangs poised to strike. I looked into her eyes.
There’s beauty in tears, loveliness in terror and charm in despair. I am no stranger to any of these, but something in her eyes moved me in a way I have not been moved since I was human, something that stabbed through the heart I thought had long since stopped beating.
I was mesmerized by her eyes, twin pools of light and innocence set in a face so lovely that everything I had once thought beautiful faded into the mundane. I have lived three thousand years, and seen and remembered much. How can it be then that one face can drive out all other thoughts, all other memories? Dimly I was aware that my features had retreated back into their human mask. I wondered how my face looked to a human, touched her cheek and wondered how a human could be so perfect. I tried to speak but could not and instead our roles were reversed and I, the hunter, fled from my prey.
I have no desire to taste blood anymore. Every night this week I have watched and waited in the shadows above The Old Mill. But not to feed, or for the thrill of the chase. An other, more painful wish drives me. I only desire to see her again.