It is just after dusk. Somehow it is a fitting time for her. There is just enough light that I can make out her silhouette. I know that this will not be the last time I am here, in this spot, watching her…just as I am watching her now. She knows that I’m here. I have no proof of this…nothing more than a feeling.
Perhaps that is why she is still standing there…waiting. I am struck by a sudden urge to flee, but I cannot. I am the one who asked for this meeting. I am the one who wanted this. I am the one who wanted her. Now it seems too much to bear. I should have stayed away. I know that I am playing with fire…part of me wants to burn.
Before I am fully aware of what I am doing, I find myself at her front door. I look at my hand and must will it to move. Why is this so hard? What could be easier than pressing a simple doorbell? I am so lost in my own thoughts that I am startled when the door opens…and then she is standing there before me.
“Evan. Please come in.”
“Can I get you something to drink? Some wine, or perhaps you would prefer a stronger beverage? You seem a little unwell.”
“Would it help if I sat over there instead? I certainly wouldn’t want to make you uncomfortable.”
“Of course…let’s get on with the interview then. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? What other motivation could you possibly have? What would you like to know, Evan? My life is an open book…so to speak. There are, of course, some details which I would prefer to keep private.”
“No, it wasn’t always that way. I have kept myself hidden away from the world for a very long time. Recent events have led me to…rethink that position.”
“Hmmm…yes, I suppose that recent would be a relative term. Let’s say that I’m referring to the past few years.”
“Don’t let this appearance of youth fool you my dear. I am much older than you are…much older than most who know me.”
“I doubt very much that I could prove it…at least not in the way you are inferring. I have a vast knowledge of the past few centuries, and I am sure that I must have some relics hidden away, but it is nothing that even a mere teenager can’t access with enough time and skills. The only ones who can confirm my personal details are of my kind, and I gather that you would not find them altogether reliable. Besides, I doubt that many of them will consent to speak to you as I am doing.”
“I speak to you because I want to. That is the only reason that is needed.”
“Hmm…a somewhat transparent attempt at segue, but I will play along and thank you. It is my own design. I do so appreciate the modern conveniences. I could follow my film predecessors and live in the expected decrepit castle, but why would I want to do the expected? I suppose the atmosphere does come in handy when I’m looking for inspiration but, other than that, I find it quite depressing.”
“Are you certain that I cannot get you a glass of something? I must confess that I hate drinking alone.”
Once again I decline. I am not sure that I can drink without choking, even though I long to feel that familiar burn in my throat. She is calm…almost reserved…but there is something in her eyes that speaks of a storm unleashed. I wasn’t expecting this.
I came across her quite by accident. I do not need to work, but I do…simply because I want to. I had many choices but my love for the written word won out and so I became a book critic for a prominent magazine. I was paid to indulge in my passions and I made quite a name for myself. Not everyone appreciated my opinions, especially the authors I so ruthlessly made an example of, but nonetheless my fame grew. For a while, I was in heaven. Maybe I did my job too well.
I was offered a special assignment…although perhaps ‘offered’ is not the best word. Yes, I could have refused, but my pride has often betrayed me, as it did once again. If only I had some portent then that my life was going to change. You see, this was no ordinary undertaking. Not only was I to do a review, but I was also to try my best to land an interview with an elusive upstart.
Lane McAllister…the author whose first novel had gained critical acclaim and whose sequel was being rabidly awaited. Lane McAllister…the woman who had never granted a single interview before this. I had no reason to believe that my request would be treated any differently, and I was right. I was politely, but firmly, informed that Ms. McAllister was in seclusion working on novel number two, so I would not be granted a meeting with her.
For anyone else, that would have been the end. Not for me. Yes, many had tried and failed, but hearing the word ‘cannot’ only fuels my determination. I would not be thwarted. I made her my mission.
“Are you alright? You seem a bit…lost.”
“There is no need to apologize. My mind often wanders as well. Perhaps I am not quite as interesting as you had hoped?”
“I merely seek to put you at ease…and myself as well. As you know, it is not often that I allow anyone the opportunity to interview me. It is conceivable that I am as nervous as you are.”
“I suppose I simply thought that the time had come. There is so much that needs to be righted…so much that is just accepted and not questioned. There are things that need to be told.”
“No, speaking to you will not get me into trouble. Most are aware that you are here right now. A few are, undoubtedly, not thrilled at the prospect of having their secrets exposed to the world, but there is little they can do about it. None would dare attempt to harm me.”
“Do not be alarmed. You are safe as well. To touch you would be to invite my fury, and that is not to be desired.”
“I am well respected…and I suppose I am a bit feared as well. I have proven myself many times over and I am not given to reckless action, but I have been known to be ruthless in my past. I have already passed my decision by those who need to know and I have their blessings. As we have agreed, my name shall not appear and, forgive me for saying so, but many will believe that your work is nothing more than fiction.”
“Certainly you may ask. That is the point of this interview, is it not? If there is something that I do not wish to answer, I will surely tell you.”
“Let me refresh my drink first. There, that’s better. My story is not the happiest of tales, but I suppose that it is not the saddest either. I was born the daughter of a farmer. I know…to look at me now is to see no trace of what I was then, but is true. My father worked the land and my mother loved him enough to always be by his side. Between them, they cared for and raised six children. I was the youngest so of course I was the most spoilt, and the most tormented by my siblings. Still, I loved them dearly. It may be trite to say but even though we didn’t have much, we had enough.
It was the night of my eldest sister’s wedding. Drink flowed freely, as it usually does on such occasions, and as the night progressed more and more of the men became intoxicated. My brothers rarely drank for it was not something that my parents approved of, but they were allowed their freedom for a change. That was a mistake. Andrew, no more than two years older than I was, had developed a bit of an infatuation with a girl who felt much the same way for him. Sadly, her family was quite wealthy, very violent, and would never have condoned their relationship. I suppose it was the alcohol that made him forget his place, but I will never forget the look on his face when they were found in a…compromising position.”
“You are quite right. Nowadays that would usually result in no more than embarrassment and a quarrel that eventually passes. You must remember, though, that mine was a much more brutal time. For my brother, it meant the end of his life. Not that night, though. It was almost a week later when they came. Perhaps they needed to plan, or just get their courage up. I had already gone to bed but was awakened when I heard raised voices. I looked out the window and I saw my father outside arguing with some men. They had cold, unkind faces and even in the darkness I could tell that their eyes were feverish with hatred. I was frozen there. I couldn’t move, even when the first shot rang out and the screaming started. It was only when my mother burst into my room and practically threw me out of the back door that I found my feet and I ran. I never saw any of my family members again. It was on that night that she found me.”
Her voice was a haunting melody that I was powerless to ignore. She was no longer looking at me but, even though there was no tremor, I could tell that the memories still troubled her. It was the first hint of vulnerability I had seen, and it drew me in even more. She looked younger…still alluring, still dangerous…yet somehow fragile at the same time. For the first time since I arrived, I felt some of the disquiet that had shrouded me leave.
That I had not been certain of my reception would be an understatement. I had practically hunted her down. It is somewhat ironic that I thought of her as my prey. Even when I had believed that she was nothing more than a brilliant young author, I had done all that I could to find her. I wasn’t satisfied with hearing from a random disembodied voice that she would not see me. I wanted to hear it from her own lips.
I started my own inquiries. I asked questions of everyone that I thought might know her. I begged, and I bribed, and I occasionally threatened. I am not without my resources…resources that most do not have. I found answers, and they both surprised and scared me. I learned that she owned BloodLust…a club in the city that was popular with those who had a taste for…well…it seems obvious. To me, the risk did not seem worth it. Surely if anyone found out, it would ruin her.
Perhaps I should have stopped there…but there was nothing that would have convinced me to do so. Not the patrons, with their penchant for leather and liquid fire. Not the smoky darkness that covered acts most would not understand. Not the rumors of who and what she really was. I need not have worried. In the end, it was she who made herself known.
“I knew that they were behind me. I could hear them crashing through the brush, viciously flinging branches aside. I knew there would be no mercy for me. I ran until I felt that my lungs would burst forth from my chest. I could go no more and I said a silent prayer that my death would be quick. There was no need.
I heard their shrieks on the night that I thought mine would fill the darkness. My first thought was that I had stumbled upon the lair of some untamed beast and inadvertently led them here with me. In a way I was right. She was a sight of terrible beauty when she finally revealed herself to me. Her pale skin was daubed with blood and her hair was wild around her. Somehow I was not afraid. Surely if she meant to kill me, she could have easily done so before. When she beckoned, I gladly went to her. No matter what manner of monster she was, she had saved me.
We were together for many years since that time. I suppose that I worshipped her a bit. At first I felt clumsy and foolish around her…like the poor farm girl I was. She never complained. Eventually we became lovers and her gift was one that I took willingly. I have regretted it over the years, but no more.”
“Yes, she is alive…in a manner of speaking anyway. She is traveling, as it is her habit to do. The last I heard, she was in Italy…she keeps returning there. I suspect she would happily settle there if it were at all possible…but she is never very comfortable in one place for long”
“Hmmm…I suppose I did love her, in my own way. She spared my life, although I have never been able to determine why. She refuses to speak of it. I think we both knew that I stayed with her more out of gratitude than passion. Still, she is my greatest friend and always will be, but her tastes are a bit too…violent for me. I prefer seduction.”
“We kill, yes. That is what we do. It is not like in the movies, Evan. We do not subsist on the blood of cows and sheep. We will not traverse the sewers so we can dine on the blood of rats. We are far better than that. We enjoy the hunt. A few, like myself, take from willing victims and those who would not be missed…sometimes even those who should go missing. Not all of us are like that. Some like to…play with their food. Fear is intoxicating…it makes the blood taste so much sweeter. I suppose that some of us are more monstrous than others.”
I am well aware of what she is. I hadn’t believed it when I heard. I did not think it possible. Then she called. It would not have been difficult for her to get a hold of my number. Certainly the office would have given it to her willingly if she said who she was…or rather who she pretended to be. Had I really thought that she was the prey?
My heart nearly stopped when I heard that rich, throaty voice on the line. She did not deny anything, nor did she ask why I had been so feverishly pursuing her. I fed her my lines about wanting to speak to her about her work. She feigned belief and humored my attempts at small talk, but we both knew by now that wasn’t all I was after. She had seen me at the club…watched me even as I tried to get a glimpse of her…studied me as I lost myself in smoky shadows.
One interview. That is all she would grant…on the condition that I should come alone and that her name would be kept out of anything that I should write above and beyond her career. I agreed. With that voice in my ear, I shudder to think of all that I might agree to.
I am ashamed to admit that a monster is what I thought I would see. Perhaps I had expected her to answer the door with blood dripping down her blouse…fangs bared. Perhaps I had expected a living room draped in black and crimson. I was greeted by neither. She was my height and striking, with piercing grey eyes. There was a serenity on her face that spoke not of death, but of peace. She was no monster…she was a vampire…she killed to survive and she had accepted this. I asked the question that I suppose had brought me to her door in the first place.
“Yes, we are capable of more than obsession. We are capable of love, if we are able to accept that we can be loved as we are.”
“I have had many obsessions over the years, both human and vampire. Obsessions are simple…you go after what you want until you get it. It is love that is so much more dangerous.”
“Only once. I have truly loved only once. Humans speak of forever, but they have no idea what that means. It is easy to say that you want to spend the rest of your life with someone when that life will last only thirty or forty years more for the most. It is a different thing entirely to give someone your future when that has no predetermined end. An eternity can be just that. I have lived many human lifetimes thus far and there has only been one person who I would have wanted to share that with.”
“She was human…until she met me. You will remember that I said I have been known to be ruthless. I used to feel that the thrill of the hunt was mere sport. Humans were simple playthings for my amusement. I retreated to the company of my own kind and became increasingly consumed by darkness. She was different. She truly loved me…in spite of the blackness inside. She did her best to calm me…to quell my rages. But I suppose there was only so much that even she could take. She became enamored with one who could offer her the pleasures that I could not so she left.”
“No, I do not blame her. I might have done the same thing had I been in her position. I have not seen her in too many years. I miss her deeply.”
My relief was palpable. When I saw her picture on the back cover of her book, I did not recognize her. I still can’t be sure that it was her…she looked so different…so much younger. It is common lore that one cannot capture our image. Yes, one would not be able to capture an image of our skin, but modern inventions have eased that situation considerably. A thin film of dust and fingers and hands take shape…a wig and your hair can be anything you want it to be. Eyes are a bit tricky. I suppose that’s why it’s become a running joke at work that I am never seen without sunglasses…you never know when a camera might be pointed in your direction. Our tricks are many and varied, and we walk among humans undetected.
Of course, there are always risks. That’s why Elana never granted interviews. One small imperfection and the whole façade can crumble. Yes, I said Elana…not Lane. That is her name…her real name…the name that she was gifted with at birth. And I am the one of whom she speaks.
I did leave. I left over fifty years ago, when I thought that she was becoming what I despised the most. I do not hunt for sport…I hunt to survive. I do not view humans as mere beings to appease our amusement and hunger. I do not think that we need to spend our lives in the darkness…but Elana was a creature of that very same darkness. Her bloodlust was legendary…her cruelty even more so. I fell in love with her because of that girl I knew was locked somewhere inside…but I could not find the key to let her out. The arms of another tempted me, and in the end I chose to walk away.
I never walked that far. There was not a day that passed by without me thinking of her. I feared that she would lose herself without me. Instead, it would seem that she has found the person that she was meant to be and I love her even more for it. I did not know what to expect when I came here. I did not know if I would be welcomed or reviled. I know that I broke her heart, but it broke mine as well to leave.
“Have you come back? Is this just to be an interview or is it something more?”
How could it not be more? If I had a heart, it would be pounding right now. I want you. I need you. I have always needed you. I am proud of what you have become.
“Are you going to leave again?”
Never. We will have our forever. We will walk hand in hand in the sunlight. We will do all those things that we never had the chance to before.
“Do you love me?”
More than you will ever know. I love you with everything that I am. I left because I love you, and I am here again because I love you still.