My memories are a strange tincture of joy and intense grief as I again take in a ragged, ocean-soaked breath. If I could will myself to die, I surely would.
I hated myself for what I’d become. I reveled in my cruelty and despicable acts… even when I knew better. I was young, but yes, I knew that what I did was wrong. It was just easier to make myself into something hideous… a monster.
And honestly, it’s because I knew: the less human that I became, the less I would hurt inside.
And I was right, though I was completely wrong. For more than a century, I followed Lilith around like a lovesick puppy, visiting unspeakable indignities upon any lowly creature that crossed my path, and I forced myself to be indifferent as Lilith loved me for it.
Other world woman… that’s what she called me – her dark angel. And while I called it love, that just wasn’t the case. There just weren’t better words for it; and at the time, I had no idea what it meant to truly care about someone, especially not myself.
The truth is that it was the darkness in me that Lilith loved, not me. But I needed any sort of acceptance I could get from anyone who would give it. She was all I knew of love, having determined Tina to be a deserter.
And I was just too weak to face the truth, to stop lashing out, to be better than what I’d endured. But deep down, I knew. So I decided to embrace the pain and debauchery instead, and in turn embrace Lilith.
As strange as it was, the two of us worked well together. She was my maker and I her progeny, but in most ways, she was submissive to me.
She allowed me to take the lead. It was almost as if she’d grown so bored with life that she was just out of ideas and needed someone dark and twisted to show her something new; she needed someone to excite her, and I did.
But I was her slave in the truest sense of the word. She may have given me the reins to my cruelty, but everything that I did was for her. I just had no idea that I had only swapped one master for another.
We spent our early time together in a rotating pattern of hiding in obscurity before coming out to take part in a war or to just hunt.
It was a strange and oddly lonely existence. I had Lilith, and she taught me well, but it was just us, hiding in the shadows, covering our tracks, and sinking back into obscurity until it was time to feed again.
It almost felt as if we were in hiding. Don’t misunderstand, I was thrilled with my life, at least at that time. I had to be. It was the only taste of a real life I’d ever known.
And while with time, it was becoming more difficult to shut up the nagging insistence inside of me that what I was doing was wrong, it was something that I did unwittingly for the sake of self-preservation. It was easier to shut myself down when I was distracted, so I found other ways to enjoy myself.
I loved to learn and I loved art. And so I learned everything from mathematics to linguistics, and automation to medicine. And I would draw and paint while we were underground.
Lilith was as knowledgeable as she was beautifully insane, and she was so gracious in sharing her knowledge with me that not only could I dismember a person with medical precision, but I could tell them what was happening to them in twelve different languages and then paint a beautifully grotesque portrait of what was left.
As the world began to change, industry and technology boomed around us, and I found myself with an insatiable appetite to understand it. I was growing past the desire to just wreak havoc, though it was still a large part of me, and my exuberance was something that Lilith could live vicariously through. And as such, she adopted my excitement and became just as voracious in her own studies.
Over a short time, we developed a way to not only survive, but to educate ourselves in the vastly growing and changing world around us. We would find just the right person to torture and then we’d systematically pick their brain – both figuratively and literally. And though this wasn’t truly necessary, it just felt good to inflict pain, especially when, for once, that pain wasn’t my burden to bear.
It’s surprising the things people will say when they’re the subject of one of the neurological procedures so precisely detailed in the books from their own shelves. And once we were done with them, we’d stay in their home for a time, memorize their books, drink their wine, eat their families, and desecrate their house with carnal acts not physically possible to human biology.
It became a favored pastime of ours. The knowledge was only as comprehensive as that which our chosen had accumulated, and I took to finding the best individuals with relish, having killed more engineers, doctors, authors, art historians, psychologists, and artists than I can even count.
Learning was easy after I had transitioned. Everything in my body changed, but my mind… that is the one thing I truly enjoy about being a vampyr even to this day. My mind became as vast as it was cruel, and if I read something or saw something, even once, it was stored carefully away without misunderstanding or discrepancy.
I was a perpetual student, and Lilith let me loose on the unsuspecting scholastic community with pride.
I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me, with how close we had become to one another in that short span of a century, but somehow, I’d proven myself to her. It was easy, in all honesty. I was loyal, and I loved her; it was evident in everything that I did and thought; and she knew what I thought. That’s something else that she showed me.
Our connection to each other, while a macabre collection of the horrific and bloody, was infinitely strong. And because of that connection, because she was maker, she could hear my thoughts. At first, when she had explained this to me, I had been slightly terrified. Had she known my intent to betray her all those years ago? Had she known what Tina had once meant to me?
Fortunately, she didn’t. Our connection, her ability to read me, it was a choice – a choice made with pure and unconscious devotion, all of the things that I so readily bound up in her. That, coupled with the fact that I didn’t think about Tina, not even once during our subsequent time together, made it easy for me to prove myself to Lilith. Tina was a part of the death of my humanity. And it had to die, or I wouldn’t have survived emotionally. No, the night Tina died was my last thought of her, and Deke a tribute to the new life I would fashion for myself with Lilith.
When I had consciously chosen to betray Lilith, my connection to her had suffered, and she’d been left in the dark for that split second, my thoughts only my own. She admitted that it had worried her. She knew that something was wrong, but she also knew just how deeply my unadulterated hatred of Tina ran inside of me because I had lied to myself so convincingly.
Lilith was reassured by that fact, and she had only grown more and more convinced as time went on with no inkling of detachment showing itself between us. So she rewarded me. She showed me the old ways, the rituals, and I daywalked for the first time in a lifetime.
I’ll never forget how bright the orange, Peking sun shone as it bathed the carnage of the Boxer Rebellion in its glow. It had been a glorious battle, and we had indulged ourselves to bursting.
At first, the rays stung my eyes and skin, but the warmth was a welcomed embrace as I closed my eyes and lifted my face to the burning orb.
It was a magnificent way of capping off an even more magnificent night of carnage, and I loved Lilith all the more for this most tremendous gift. She had given me everything, truly everything, but that’s just not enough for anyone, is it?
No, not humans, and apparently not vampyrs.
Part of me couldn’t find peace. There was this nagging feeling deep inside of me. It was stronger when we’d venture out into civilization; and while I couldn’t explain it even if I’d had the strength to face it, I was too restless to care.
I needed… more, just more…
With the ability to day-walk we could live in the open, but nothing much changed, at least as far as Lilith was concerned. She didn’t want to live in the open, and it perplexed me. I wanted to do more than just visit and torture civilization. I wanted to learn and see art; I wanted to be a part of the world.
But Lilith, I think, knew what it really meant: losing control of me. I believe that she feared that we would expose ourselves. But, she trusted me, something that she would later regret, and after more than seventy years of nagging insistence, we moved to New York.
Life, revolution, and technology had given birth to a truly incredible world by 1975. I had seen so many things, but never fully experienced the progressive tenaciousness of humanity. But with what we had read, part of me, while condescending towards them, found a sense of pride in their ingenuity.
Cars, planes, electricity, discos, fashion… just the city itself; I was enthralled with it. I loved the sights, the smells, and the tightly packed bodies, especially in a place as progressive as New York. And so it was with wide-eyed wonder that I’d finally managed to pull Lilith from Prague and bring her out into the world, out into life.
When we arrived, our appearance had garnered us unwanted attention, or perhaps people just innately knew that we were dangerous. Either way, they stared and avoided us in passing on the street. And I knew that in order for this foray into the unknown to be successful, we would have to blend in.
Our clothing was dated and our appearance as wild and obscure as the places that we had been hiding – the deepest and most hidden areas of Egypt, Asia, and Prague, to name a few. We needed to assimilate and become a part of the world around us, so I dragged Lilith into one of the more prominent department stores and procured us several sets of modern clothing.
We never wanted for anything in the wild, and it would be no different in New York. I learned rather quickly that it was far too easy to compel a weak-minded shopkeeper into giving away his wares with an enthusiastic smile. And so it was that we had changed, become even more evolved, and as we stepped back out onto the street, our arms loaded with bags filled to bursting, we drew attention for entirely more pleasant reasons.
Finding a place to live was next on the list I had created to ensure our success, and nothing remotely ordinary or obscure would do, not this time. Lilith liked to live naturally and wild – underground caves and tunnels a personal favorite of hers. But this time, she was grudgingly indulging me, and truth be known, she had teased me that I couldn’t pull it off, at least not while maintaining our anonymity.
That only made me more tenacious. I proved myself immediately by finding the most lavish, top-floor apartment that overlooked Central Park, and compelling the man living there to walk out into oncoming traffic. Lilith had smiled and shook her head in awe as I then proceeded to compel the manager of the building to ‘rent’ us the now vacant apartment for the tidy sum of nothing.
She had scowled at me when we had first toured the expansive, modern loft with its bright colors, shag carpeting, and strangely cheerful designs; but I saw the small sparkle of pleasure in her otherworldly eyes, and I knew that I’d chosen well. She just didn’t want to admit that I’d won her challenge.
She spent maybe a week grudgingly enjoying our time spent toying with the humans around us, with not one of them any the wiser, before conceding my victory. Her one rule in this venture was something that was never to be compromised – anonymity – and I’d more than proven it possible.
To further prove that this could and would work, I devoted my time to making this transition as easy as possible for her. I wanted her to see just how much we could learn amongst the humans, how much we could enjoy living freely and in the open, how much we could lord our superiority over such a weak-minded race. And I wanted her to share in my excitement because I was filled to bursting with it. I knew that she wouldn’t disagree. That zest for life and some relief to her boredom was the very reason she’d created me.
We spent our days enjoying one another and controlling humans with ease. And even some of the human delights were found to be enticing. Illegal substances and fermented beverages had a terrible taste, but the mind-altering state was well worth the momentary discomfort.
Within a month we had amassed a lavish lifestyle and created a personal pageant of epic proportions with the lives of those around us. There was nary a soul in our building that we hadn’t commanded into an altered state that fit our humor and degradation beautifully. But one person proved to be exceptionally fun, and he just so happened to be our immediate neighbor.
He was an older, unpleasant man who didn’t like the fact that Lilith and I were lovers, something we weren’t very shy about. One early morning we had returned from one of the many local discos, high on dancing and opiate-laced blood, and had made an overly amorous spectacle of ourselves. He had come out into the hall to reprimand us for having wakened him, only to have his insults die on his lips when he caught us frantically fondling each other against our door as we attempted to open it.
Normally, I would have killed any individual who dared to speak to Lilith that way, let alone me, but I couldn’t draw any unnecessary attention to our fantastically decadent operation, and there were other ways to punish that were just as fulfilling. So, instead, I found a perpetual justice in compelling him into the most flamboyantly gay man you’d ever meet, as well as improving his temperament.
We had the whole world at our fingertips, and unlike war, it didn’t have an expiration date. We didn’t even have to hunt. Exotic foods would just arrive at our door with a simple phone call, and we could then heal and compel them on their way without worry. It was bliss and it was only getting better by the day.
1976 was about to dawn, and I wanted to experience the time-honored tradition that I’d read about numerous times. It would surprise and excite us both, and the city was in an uproar over what was considered New York’s party of the year. Instead of hiding, we would be there to ring it in and become a part of this human spectacle, neither of us aware or prepared for just how much life would change.
Even in war, I’d never seen so many bodies so tightly packed together, and while it was exciting and new, something just felt… off and unsettling. It felt as if something inside of me was vibrating, like a magnet trying to snap to its opposite but unable to do so.
It wasn’t the first time that I’d felt this way, having experienced it in other cities, but it had never been this strong, and I brushed it off just like I had before, determining that it was the intensity of the atmosphere and the overwhelming newness of the situation.
It was nearly impossible to concentrate it was so loud, as what must have been the entire city had gathered together in Times Square to watch a simple ball of lights drop and mark the passing of yet another year. For a moment I was regretful for my desire to come here, as well as my sensitive hearing, and I marveled at the utter stupidity on display.
It was just another year for fuck’s sake, little more than a mere moment, but humans were so sentimental about the passage of time.
To me and to Lilith, it was an inconsequential milestone. But that was no matter. With everyone drinking, packed together, and wholly unaware of what lurked in their midst, the noise, slight discomfort, and swaying sea of blood-filled bodies around us would undoubtedly prove to be more than worth the deafening sound.
I felt Lilith’s small hand settle into my own as she tugged on my arm to get my attention. I turned to her, her bright, blue eyes twinkling with mischief. She smiled knowingly as she gestured with her head towards one of the alleyways on the outskirts of the crowd we were milling through.
I followed her gaze and my eyes fell on a set of young lovers against the brick wall just inside the narrow opening. They were smiling, kissing, and being foolishly cute, and I couldn’t help the quirk of my lips as I realized just what Lilith wanted, and what I would give to her without thought or analysis.
I tightened my hold on her hand and glanced over at her indulgently before pulling her through the bodies and leading the way towards the alley. Lilith had an affinity for lovers, especially those as obliviously enthralled with one another as these two.
There was a sense of poetic irony in taking them unsuspecting and together, allowing them that moment of perfect clarity when they knew that their beloved was about to die, and there wasn’t a fucking thing they could do to stop it.
They would become so noble, so heart-wrenchingly pathetic, that I had convinced myself that it was a kindness to spare them the pain of betrayal or separation, or any number of the other issues that life would use to pull them apart. But, to their misfortune, we were that thing, and while Lilith relished this position.
I just relished pleasing her.
We stopped at the corner and I held Lilith by her waist, gazing into her eyes and pulling her forward as we both focused in, tuning out the roar of the crowd to listen in on the lovers’ conversation.
“What would you say if I told you that I wanted marry you?”
There was a moment of stunned hesitation before the girl laughingly stuttered, “Don’t play like that, Brian.”
Lilith reached up and stroked my face adoringly as the man replied, “What if I’m not playing?”
There was a shuffling noise and I could tell that he was fumbling in his pocket. His heart was thudding wetly with nervousness, and while it made my mouth water, I couldn’t help but wonder why Lilith preferred to torture lovers.
Weren’t we lovers…?
“Oh… God,” the young woman gasped, and Lilith stuck her full bottom lip out into a sarcastic pout as she mouthed, “Aww…”
I swallowed my thoughts harshly, focusing on the young man’s heart and allowing my darker instincts to banish my irrational uneasiness.
I gazed into Lilith’s eyes and forced myself to chuckle to further hide my emotions, and the crowd began to shout out a countdown, starting with ten.
The young woman cried, “Y-yes… Yes! Of course I’ll marry you!”
Nine… Lilith licked her lips and I watched transfixed as she transformed into the sinister goddess that had loved me and saved me, a hollowness settling heavy on my chest as my body began to hum with an almost dizzying intensity I couldn’t explain.
Eight… Lilith giggled girlishly as she released me to take to the shadows of the alley undetected, and I closed my eyes and forced out a breath. Something was off…
Seven… I heard the lovers pull apart as the young man said, “Oh, I’m sor- w-what the…?”
Six… The young woman’s scream raced through my mind, even in the midst of the uproar that seemed to increase in volume, and something dark in my soul stirred with a convoluted ache that I couldn’t recognize but forced to let excite me.
Five… “NO! MELISSA,” he shouted, but he was too late. I heard the crack of bones and tearing of flesh as his lover’s neck was quickly punctured and he was too stupid or terrified, or maybe even just devastated, to run.
Four… I felt so strange but made myself turn to join my maker, my transition thrilling in my limbs, eyes, and gums.
Three… The world spun and stopped as my gaze landed on a pair of shocked hazel eyes glimmering on the edge of the crowd several yards away.
Two… I wasn’t sure if any words actually rolled off of my tongue, but somewhere deep inside of my frayed and demented mind, I registered the movement of my lips. “Tina?”
One… I would know her anywhere. She would always be beautiful, so very different from me. I watched as a blonde and brunette on either side of her grabbed her arms to pull her away. But like me, she was nailed to the ground, unable to move.
This… this wasn’t possible…
The excited crowd reached a crescendo as one as they screamed, “Happy New Year!”
The bells and whistles and shouts of far too many excited voices in one place buffeted my paralyzed and unfocused mind.
What the fuck was happening?
I didn’t know what to think or feel.
Nothing made any sense; and just like before, more than a century ago, I felt ashamed in her presence, as if I were again a slave, again unworthy, and again, strangely compelled to go to her.
I caught movement from the alley as my maker appeared at its opening, looking pristine and as if nothing abysmal had just taken place in the dark confines behind her.
She caught my eyes, cocking her dark head at me as if worried, before her gaze followed my own. She started to tremble with rage, betrayal… I couldn’t be sure, but I still couldn’t get my body to move.
Lilith looked at Tina just as her two cohorts nearly picked her up by her arms and started to drag her away, pulling her quickly towards the milling throng of kissing, shouting, and rejoicing humans. I wanted to stop her and I panicked, finally able to reach a desperate hand forward and take a step.
Lilith looked back to me and the recognition of what was happening stopped me dead in my tracks.
I was panicked and torn, but only for a moment. One look into her eyes and I knew: my life was forfeit.
She’d stop at nothing to avenge this betrayal, and honestly, part of me welcomed her wrath in this moment of deep pain and regret.
But my life wouldn’t be enough for her. She’d scour the earth for Tina, and that was a price that I just wasn’t prepared to pay, not even for her. Not all of those years ago, and not even in this moment…
She placed a trembling hand to her heaving breast as she wrapped another around her torso, as if she couldn’t hold it all in, and I could almost see the proverbial stake that I was plunging into her, but I could only focus on the breaking movement in the crowd where Tina was trying to disappear.
I had to do something…
I threw all pretenses of anonymity or caring about Lilith away and went after Tina, leaping over the bodies in front of me and landing hard in the area of the most recent breaking movement. There was a scream and some tussling as the bodies tumbled down around me, but it was swallowed up in the deafening noise of celebration.
Onlookers backed away as I pushed the revelers still in my path aside roughly, knocking them down like bowling pins as I made my way in the direction that Tina had gone.
I got to the end of the throng at the other side of the street and caught a quick glimpse of a shadow on the asphalt at my feet. I looked up just in time to see one of them disappear onto the roof of the nearby building and quickly slunk around the corner to crouch low and push myself effortlessly into the air.
I couldn’t bring myself to look back or face the turmoil of my racing thoughts as I landed on the lip of the roof.
They were running, as well they should, and hopping across the tightly packed buildings in a frantic but seemingly planned escape.
I couldn’t stop the desperate shout of, “Tina,” that escaped my lungs.
She stopped and turned, her eyes wide with… something so completely foreign to me, and I would swear there were tears gathering on her lashes, but her companions grabbed her and pulled her again.
I sped off after her, knowing that the few years that I had on her would give me a slight advantage in strength and speed, but not much, and Lilith had to be just behind us.
I had only escaped because she was too shocked to even move, but that wouldn’t last long. Her anger was burning bright, and I had no idea how I could save Tina before I died, but I didn’t care anymore than I could understand my motivation. I just had to try. I just had to…
I chased them, slowly gaining on them, but I lost them when they took to the streets by the bridge. The dispersing masses of revelers were everywhere as I stood and scanned the crowd. I looked over the edge where they’d jumped down and looked out across the crowded street.
I couldn’t see them and I felt a sense of panic well up in my throat. My body shuddered and without knowing how, my eyes snapped to the edge of the bridge by the shore where Tina was standing, and waiting?
Her gaze was sad and I felt it pierce through me with a strange sensation, as if some dormant part of me were trying to wake up.
She broke my gaze and slipped under the bridge almost casually and again, something just felt off…
I glanced behind me to find nothing, but that didn’t change the urgency of this strange and confusing situation. I quickly looked for an inconspicuous place to drop down and casually waded through the bodies still milling about the streets, wondering what I would even say to her.
I had unwittingly created her and then abandoned her. That in and of itself was unforgiveable, but her children…
I hesitated for a moment. Why was I going after her? Why did I care? I didn’t… couldn’t… that just wasn’t a part of me anymore.
She must hate me…
For the first time in a long time, I felt the sting of what might have been tears, but I swallowed them, again checking my back with supreme paranoia. There wasn’t time for any of this. We had to move, and keep moving indefinitely.
I still didn’t see Lilith, but I didn’t expect to. She was close; I knew her well enough to know that she’d given chase, but more importantly, I knew she’d strike and I’d never see it coming.
I picked up my pace, all of the emotions I’d kept so heavily buried for so many years sinking down into my stomach to sour and tie it in knots as I tried to approach the alcove cautiously.
I dipped down and hesitantly stepped into the small space. The water was lapping up against the concrete edge of the bridge support and it seemed eerily quiet despite the noise of the city above.
My voice sounded strange to my ears, almost broken, as I spoke, “Tina?”
I searched the darkness, but she wasn’t there; she must have escaped into the water. I leant over the edge to look for her and felt small hands quickly grab my head just before the abruptly sharp snap of my neck.
It was a beautiful trap.
The world went dark.