Rev. Jan's Fiction Extravaganza

Requiem for a Vampire: Chapter 2

In Venice I took a new name. Arcangelo Maeledisi, I was, despite my erstwhile conviction; perhaps it was arrogance that made me do it, perhaps hope for some kind of vengeance. I would become the very archangel of death! (But She wouldn't love me for it, not even then.) It has been my favourite name, of all those I have taken. It was certainly the most fitting. Maeledisi, they called me, those I loved, my amours; I only smiled at them. And especially at Marcella.

Marcella was a singer; as a child she had studied under Vivaldi. I could not count the days we spent together with music after our first meeting. Her voice was incredible, and forever I wanted to preserve it, and hear it with my own. But I seem to be getting ahead of myself. Here, from the beginning:

It was 1723 in Venice, spring, the country green with summer's promise. A thousand instruments carried this beauty to the city, through a thousand composers, and all of them were right. It was impossible to find a heart -- or at least, an ear -- untouched by the music that spring. I myself found the one most touched.

Vivaldi, in his infinite wisdom, chose that night to play for the people. Included in his recital were some of his students, all orphaned girls from L'Ospedale, those with greatest talent. He wrote a sonata for them, and Marcella, the soloist; it was dedicated to the spring that all of them knew. And he had the grace to include an orchestra. I was the principal violinist; I had never practiced with them before, but I knew Vivaldi, and I knew his music. Then, I knew Marcella, too.

He gave us a prelude, we the orchestra, and then Marcella sang. Oh, her voice! The greatest castrati in Italy could not equal her, nor the finest of her classmates; one simply knew that this music had been written for her voice. At times I found myself unwilling to play, for fear of spoiling her solo with my unnatural talent, and then I had to force myself to do so -- and to ignore the desire that came for her.

Not only was her voice beautiful, but her lithe little frame as well. Her hair was nearly as black as mine, her face white with powder for the stage. I could almost feel its smoothness under my fingers as they flew over the strings, and I wanted so badly to let them know her.

I could not have stopped our meeting, after the recital; the performers gathered backstage to congratulate themselves, and I had to fight my way through the crowd that surrounded her. But once she saw my eyes, they disappeared to her. She came to me as I knew I once had, to Deirdre, under the power of her eyes -- but Marcella came with innocence.

She curtsied, the long white skirts gathered close to her, and smiled at me. "Your name, sir? I don't believe I've seen you before," she said; her voice was as elegant in speaking as in singing. I took her hand, kissed it, keeping my gaze on her, and answered.

"I am Arcangelo Maeledisi, dear child, and you are Marcella." She smiled again, gave me her protest:

"I am no child, Maestro Arcangelo, I am sixteen! And I know you play the violin. And what else?"

"Whatever I can find, my dear," I said seriously.

"All with equal talent?"

"Surely you would not make me judge that, would you? Or might I play for you sometime, so you could see for yourself?" I could not possibly have been more obvious, and she knew it; I don't think she cared. She had been mine from the first note.

"I would love to, Maestro; perhaps after tomorrow's performance? I don't think Maestro Vivaldi would be so cruel as to stop two musicians from meeting. I'll see you then, eh?" She offered her little hand again for a kiss; I gave it willingly. And though she went to speak with someone else, I noticed her glance often through that evening.

She came as promised the next night, escaping as soon as she could from her admirers. I was waiting for her, because the night was cold. I hope I didn't keep her cold for long; I couldn't have. She also played the violoncello, to my most-pleased surprise, and had brought with her a folio of duets that we could play. And so we did.

Any musician will tell you, there is nothing better than the combined notes of two who love their instruments, and nothing more intimate than playing with one you love. We shared both of those that night, and -- malheureusement -- nothing further. But the nights of a vampire are infinite, especially with one who has life for a companion... there would be more.

And there were! She left then at three in the morning, with a guilty, happy smile on her face, and I with a longing I dared not satisfy. Not yet. For her, I would wait. Instead, I brought a 'dream' to a doorstep waif, who didn't mind it at all. Though my hunger was satiated by that child, there was another for whom my mind wished.

Patience is a virtue for the vampire. That we must always remember, when dealing with the mortals; their time is so much shorter than ours, and their love so much more temporal. The most unbearable facet of our curse is the fact that any of the living that we love will die, whether by our influence or their own mortality. And to truly love them, we must also love their life. It would be fatal to make them like us, the living dead, to curse them with athanasia while we swear we love them. I could not do that to Marcella then, though it nearly killed her...

Marcella never suspected my nature. We saw each other often after the first night, shared our music together by the light of a hundred candles. For Marcella was as much a child of daylight as I was of darkness; she never understood why I would not see her with the sun -- until I showed her. But she made our nights into days; whenever she came, she searched my home for all the candles she could find, and then skipped about lighting them. I merely watched. I loved to gaze upon her as she lived, to smile at her as she flitted among my possessions.

She was like a kitten, always surprised and amused by something new, willing to play with the familiar, perpetually noticing things that others might have missed. But she had another side, as well. I hesitate to count the number of occasions she found to tease me, with her gentle provocations: she would reach for the cello as it leaned between my legs, never failing to brush lightly what lay behind it; more than once, she made me take the violin from her shoulder, knowing full well what I would see. And she loved to come up behind me, and embrace my chest as I sang.

I ignored her for as long as I could, giving her no more than a look for her troubles, and then, I thought it was time that my patience and self-control were exhausted. When she stepped behind me, in the middle of an aria she had brought, I ceased my singing and turned to face her, quickly, with my inhuman speed. I took her in my arms, holding her tightly so she couldn't squirm away as I knew she would. And then I kissed her, on the lips, as no one had before. She stiffened, almost certainly surprised by my gesture, and put her little hands to my chest to push me away. She couldn't. And neither did she surrender, but resisted as long as she could. Still, I would not let her win.

I broke the kiss, finally, and held her arms so I could look at her, into her eyes. She was frightened, as I knew she would be; her face was white, her mouth open slightly, her eyes large and staring with the shock of knowing that I could be provoked. I smiled at her and said, "Isn't this what you wanted? All your teasing, for this? We have shared music, my dear; what else did you want to share?"

She didn't answer, but bowed her head. I knew this had been her aim; I could read it in her eyes every time she looked at me. She could not deny it, any more than she could stop herself from doing what she knew she wanted to. "Marcella?" I murmured, dropping her arms. "What would you have had me do?"

"I don't know," she whispered, and looked up. Tears had left shining trails on her perfect face; they shimmered as she sighed.

"You are a child, aren't you," I said, narrowing my eyes. I turned away from her, as though hurt. "Even when you try to be grown up, you are still a child who does not know what she wants." I could feel her stare as she looked at me, and I knew what she was thinking, as I knew my own cruelty. My heart ached for her, and her honest companionship; while as though without my own permission I manipulated her with emotions she'd had no time to understand.

I felt her touch a moment later; she took my hands and enfolded them about her waist, waiting for me to respond. I sighed, and allowed myself to hold her closer, asking forgiveness from whomever was listening. "Do you love me?" I whispered, into her dark, silky hair. She said nothing, but I felt her acquiescence as she tightened her arms around me.

My very soul burned as the hunger shot through my body, but to it, I would not yield, not as I had yielded to my human desire. I bit into my lip, so hard it drew blood; when Marcella next looked up at me with her tear-stained eyes, she shivered at its sight. "You bleed," she murmured, reaching up to touch the blood. But I licked it away, fearing for her mortality were she to come in contact with it. She shivered again, her little white fingers trembling as they clasped my coat, and finally released it.

"Maestro?" Her voice was so small I could barely hear her, but I knew what she would say. "I do love you, I have since the recital, the first night. Do you think I could have missed the way you looked at me, the way you begged me to look back? No one else meant anything that night, couldn't you see? Everything I have done, I have done in anticipation of what you might do in answer. I would have died to have your love, Arcangelo! I still would! I..." She turned from me, her shoulders shuddering, and stumbled towards the harpsichord bench. There she sat, her face in her hands, so much the child I feared to touch her. But I did.

I knelt down beside her, whispered into her ear: "Oh, Marcella, my dearest one. There is no need to die..." And then I realized how much I wanted her to; not as she imagined, but oh! to possess her, to take her blood... It was what I had wanted since I first heard her singing. I didn't try to stop my hands as they stroked her hair, nor when they searched for more hidden places. But as I took her into my arms -- as she came, willingly -- and carried her to the davenport, I did not allow them to go further. Because part of me was still quite human, easily aroused and hard to control besides; I did not wish to subject her to that.

I made her leave early that night, afraid for her in more than one aspect. It was almost painful to watch her go; she hadn't wanted to leave, probably would have agreed to anything I might have suggested; it gave me all the more reason to make her go, for what I wanted to suggest...

That night, I took no blood. I daresay it would have felt most like infidelity, to share that with someone else, though there was literal pain to my decision, as my empty veins cried out for the human substitute. But I could not bring myself to open the door, to face the street outside; if I left the route to my subconscious, Marcella would surely suffer.

I went to my bed before sunup, suddenly cold though the weather was turning, and it was spring. (But there was no spring for me; winter lived in my very bones and froze the blood that should have flowed through me.) All I could imagine that morning was Marcella, in my arms, in my veins, in my life. I only wished I could have had her as a human, and not as a vampire.


The next night, when I awoke, I could not move. My body was paralyzed, as it had never been before... but I had never before sought to deprive the thirst. I was frightened then, yes, but not as much as when I heard a familiar light step on the staircase.

"Marcella!" I tried to yell. I wanted to warn her; I knew what her presence would make me do. "Marcella, you must not come in! For the sake of your life, do not enter my chamber!" But still, I heard the footsteps, faster now, as she searched for me. I knew what she was feeling; I would have felt it, too... but how I wish she had heeded me! Her footfalls now came from just outside my door.

"Maestro?" she called, "Arcangelo? Are you all right? We waited for you so we could practice, Maestro Vivaldi and all of us, but you never came, so I went looking... Arcangelo?" I prayed to God that my door was locked, that she would not be able to enter... but the god of the living seldom answers the dead. I heard the catch fail, and its shriek as the door was opened.

"Maestro!" she gasped, seeing me on the bed. Through her eyes I saw myself, pale as death and unable to move, not even a hand to save her life. I did not speak, I knew she would come closer to listen and then, it would be over. "Oh, God, Maestro, what's happened? Are you ill? Arcangelo, let me help you! If you died, I could never forgive myself." Marcella, I wanted to say, I could never live again if I killed you; but no words would come, just the thirst.

It was more a driving starvation than anything, now. And now, with her in the room, with the pounding of her blood in my ears, the hot, salty, metal taste of it in my mouth, now it could not be ignored. The last vestiges of strength that my body held were used at that moment to raise my hand and beckon to her. She came as she always did, perplexed but wanting so badly to help; my reaction was not as familiar. Shaking with the power of the thirst I pulled her down next to me, on the bed, and stared into her eyes. She was frightened, but only of what she thought I might do. Not what I did.

As slowly as I possibly could, I brought my face down next to hers, kissed her gently on the lips, though every fibre in my body cried for the release of her blood. And then, it was beyond my control, and I took her as I had taken so many others -- but yes, with love, and yes, with all the restraint I could sustain. She was too confused to understand, as my teeth pierced the soft white skin of her neck. Then she realized what I was, and what I was doing... and it was too late.

She didn't die; oh, no, she would never die. Because to save her, I had to give back what I had taken, but it wasn't the same. It was also mine, and mine was what had made me into the vampire.

I never expected her to be able to forgive me for depriving her of the mortality that promised her peace, but she loved life in any form, even the athanasia. And she loved me, in our morning, as I could never have loved my creator. But I had taken her life, murdered her as surely as I had all the innocents, replaced her life with undeath and myself. Her only grasp on mortality was her voice; I thank God that it wasn't taken from her. The curse does have its mercies.

There are very few, however. The light of the sun she had so loved was now, abruptly, gone forever in her eyes. For this, she suffered. Oh, how she suffered, when I told her later that night of the pain light gave! She didn't understand, at all, until I allowed her to experience it the next morning; when the rays touched her eyes, she cried out with the pain, both the physical of the burning sun, and the intellectual, of knowing she would never stand in the daylight again. Then she wept, silently, allowing me only to hold her as she let the experience play in her mind. And then, we lay down to rest, in our sleep of death.

I was not to be permitted rest, though. For, even as I lay with Marcella by my side, the too-familiar face of the woman of my dream came, as a dream... but not like the one before it. Or even when I saw her in waking hours, though that could have been delirium...

She was now the one in black; as I stood, she came to me, her scarlet eyes flashing in the light of the moon. They seemed almost duplicates of some other's eyes... but it was a dream; anything could happen. "Raul, Arcangelo, Vampire, I have come for you," she whispered. I could see her canines, more horrible than my own, more ancient, more used. I knew, from her very soul, she had existed since the dawn of man; whenever that was, she dated from it, as did her murders.

"Do you still want me?" she murmured, holding out her hands, and then, bolder, taking mine. Oh, God! how I wanted her! but how could I have her now? I loved Marcella far more than I had ever loved this woman, but my body refused to agree with my mind; it called out for her. This, I knew, was my punishment, for whatever I had done or would do to her. And she knew it. She delighted in it.

Because now she held me close, her soft, auburn hair brushing against my face as she kissed me where every vampire kisses. I wanted both to push her away, to make her leave at any cost; and to take her myself, her blood and her body. I was paralyzed with indecision, and so she made the decision for me.

"Come, my undead love, come with me to where you've never dared go," she hissed, through teeth that smiled with irony. She took my hand -- hers was as cold and utterly lifeless as mine -- and led me into darkness that went on forever, into oblivion. There was no light, even for my vampire eyes, but she could see.

As we walked I felt little touches, mischievous hands that sent shivers down my back, as insects might. They seemed omnipresent, there even when I tried to brush them away. "What is happening?" I groaned. I heard only her laugh in answer. "Where are we going?" I whispered again; this time, she spoke.

"Hell," she said, simply, as though it were commonplace to her. I couldn't restrain the moan that came as I tried to pull away from her and run, to anywhere but her destination. "But my vampire-one, don't you know," said my guide, "this is where you will go, when the end finally comes -- and it will. If you choose to have so many lives, you must have many deaths as well; you'll have those, Love, believe me, over and over again..." I screamed, with terror worthy of these depths.

She heard my scream and faced me with the same smile I had once given her, so long ago. How could I ever have loved her? She was of the same sort as Death, but far from as merciful -- if there could be mercy in dying. "What's the matter, my love? Afraid of the inevitable? You mustn't be, none of us can, of course, or surely the pain will be worse..."

She came towards me, glowing with the same undead light, her hands extended from the darkness. And she took my blood with a violence I had known myself... but never felt as completely. And as she drained me, I lost even the oblivion of the path to Hell, and was carried back to the land of the living by the unseen hands. But not before I heard her message: "Be assured, my dear, you will return. And then, you will not go back..."

I awoke with Marcella, her arms about me, her dark eyes wide with fear -- for my sake. I felt moisture on my face, and realized it was from tears, hers and mine, mixed through the unending agony we had both experienced. Mine was only more literal, more obvious; hers was just beginning, more innocent. "Arcangelo... what is it you have known?" she asked, trembling as she held me.

I sighed, closed my eyes to her fright. "You will surely find out soon enough, Love. I only pray whoever tells you is merciful about it." Little did I know who it would be...

But now I was thirsty... and Marcella would no longer be able to satisfy that thirst. She would feel it herself, and for that, I grieved. Even now, I knew that she had it; her pale visage was clouded with the knowledge of true hunger. "This is what drove me to take you," I whispered, my voice -- as well as my heart -- breaking at the sight of her pain. She only nodded, wincing as I stroked her throat, as I spoke again. "You understand, now? What your teasing did to me? It was agony not to have you..."

"I wanted it to be," she said, suddenly, the shocked look that I knew so well coming into her eyes. "Arcangelo, I loved you so much, and you never showed me the love I wanted... I had to hurt you, Maestro, you know I did." She blinked, allowing the tears to flow as they would. "You never showed me anything, not until last night. But I understand, you didn't dare. I did. I wanted to know how much I meant... I never knew it was this much, that you might die to let me live in the sunshine." She gasped now, looked away, clutching my hands tightly. The hunger came strongly, cruelly, to her.

"Marcella," I whispered. "Drink from me. It won't last long, but until we can find you a mortal... it should be enough." She closed her eyes tightly; I knew what such a statement must feel like, but when she opened them, she did as I asked. With her inexperience, she hardly knew where to bite; I guided her to the place, encouraged her softly as she whimpered with the thought of taking me. "Go ahead, my love," I told her, pressing her to my throat, waiting for the pleasure I knew she would give me.

When her teeth, not yet sharp, pierced my skin, I could barely stifle the groan, but then the blood touched her tongue. I felt her body relax, all at once, and she held me closer, her little frame moving with the rhythm of my heart. "Drink deep, Love," I murmured, softly, already feeling the depth of the ecstasy, and the pain, that she dealt to me. And through her mind I felt also the warmth and the life she knew, taking from me my blood.

She didn't move when she finally withdrew, but stayed close to me, her body radiating the heat I had given her. But my breath was shallow, my body, cold, and this, too, she felt. "Maestro, I have taken too much," she said, her voice soft with concern. "You feel... dead... Maestro, love, how can I give it back? How can I give back the life that you took, and then that I ..." She shook her head in near amazement. "It was my blood that I drank, wasn't it? Oh, God! Maeledisi, what is this curse you have?"

"It will be no curse with you to share it," I said, quietly. "But you can give some of it back, the blood. Lean down, closer..." She winced, but for the second time I took her, rising as she had with the strength of the immortal heartbeat. And from the blood, the power of two vampires. I only took a little, enough for me to be able to find a mortal, that we could share. Because it was night, and we were hungry for more than vampire blood. She was only a child, so young! but Marcella could kill.

But I had forgotten Death. Marcella had never known her; I had never told her. And then, I saw Her standing there, next to the body of the one we had taken. I saw Her eyes fixed on Marcella, cold and disapproving, and then I saw my love crumple to the ground, holding her face in her hands, trying to escape Death's horrible gaze, and I ran to her. "Marcella, Marcella..." I whispered. I held her as Deirdre never would have held me, close and comforting; I dried her tears with the black silk of my cloak. Together we sat, in the cool spring night, Marcella curled in my arms, shivering, moaning like a child.

At the same time that I loved Marcella, I had to hate myself, and I hated Death for what She had done to her. We had both betrayed her, my dearest child, daughter of my blood, lover of my music and my mind and my soul. As damned as we both were, Marcella and I, we had love. Even Death could not take that away.

But love could not replace the days that Marcella had lost; how was she to attend her lessons at L'Ospedale, where she had lived, and learned from Maestro Vivaldi? Would they comply if she asked that she be taught at night? Could they understand? I asked her, later, when we readied for bed at home.

"Maeledisi," she said, smiling after it all, "Maeledisi -- such meaning in your name! But do you really think that it really matters to me anymore? Singing with you, it is so much better, so much more explicit, than it ever was there, with all the other girls. Vivaldi will find himself another soloist, believe me. And I have you. I don't need them -- not to teach me, anyway." Her smile no longer reflected innocence; now it was irony and the knowledge of exactly what she did need from them.

"What has become of you, love," I murmured, rolling over to be closer. "Where has the child gone? Where is the Marcella I knew first? The singer, the soloist?"

"She's still around, Arcangelo Maeledisi, but not often. The nights are too short here, you know, compared to the days. But she would still like to play with you." And without prelude, she sang the opening notes to what could only have been my music. And it was; it was my Requiem. I stared at her, watched her as she formed the notes that I had written an eternity ago, in Paris. Dear God, did she know what those notes meant?

I gave her the soprano solo, and then I joined her. The Kyrie was for two soloists, soprano and tenor; our voices wove together into an exquisite harmony -- its only horror was that it sang of death, that we would never have, not for ages to come. That was its irony, as well. Who could ever sing a requiem for a vampire?


And so life went... though it was life for neither of us. Not in the human sense. We did live, after our own fashion; I cannot count the nights we spent in the streets of Venice, searching for music, for poetry, for theatre; we always found it. Even though Marcella could no longer learn from Vivaldi directly, she could still have his music, as could I, and we took it eagerly as it flowed from the voices and the instruments. She was right, he had found a new favourite, but in my ears, she would never equal Marcella.

For the first time in my undeath, I was truly happy. Marcella and I, we were soulmates, meant for each other as the sea was meant for our city. There was nothing we did not share, nothing to hold back in our joy of the life-in-death. It was joy, I think, with her, even though Death watched with as quiet a malevolence as before, and the killing was as hard. I suppose I didn't have time to dwell on it then, not with my child, the heir to my immortality. Still, I tried as often as I could to keep Her from my child, holding Her gaze myself, as though Marcella would not see.

She sang for me, every morning before we drifted into the death-sleep, every time something different -- except when she sang my requiem. She did like it, I know, and often she told me I should write more, for her. But how could I write of death when I had life to comfort me? So I wrote for her as Vivaldi had, sweet concertos and passionate sonatas -- she liked them as well. "They suit you," she told me once, afterwards, "your music is, what, a meditation on life? Ah, Maeledisi, even your music is philosophical." And then, she frowned.

"Tell me, Maestro, do you believe in God? Or is Death all you need?" She sat across from me on the bed, her black hair shining above the lace of her nightclothes, her eyes dancing in the candlelight and her own vivacity. Now she tilted her head to one side, and her little hand darted out to find mine. "Really, Maestro, I'm curious. What sort of life do you have, with religion or without it?"

How could I answer? When I had been alive, I was as pious as anyone -- that is to say, not very. And now that eternity was the only absolute, could I believe that God was at the end of it? Really, the only justification I ever had for Him were His actions as judge and guardian over those who had passed away -- but I would never do so. What need had I for such a guardian? And yet I could not help but feel that Death had some superior; I had, unfortunately, no way of knowing. Who ever would?

She squeezed my hand, held it tighter in hers, as though trying to pull the answer from me. I sighed. "Je ne sais pas, ma cherie. But I have no reason for Him. That I know well, and I know that He -- if He exists -- has no purpose for me." She let go of my hand, and looked into my eyes for a moment. I could feel her searching, in my mind, as I often had; she found only what I had told her.

"Pas de dieu, eh?" she said, somewhat sadly. "I think I may agree, Maestro, but what of your Hell? Was it just a dream? Really, truly? And this woman, who is she? Have you ever really asked yourself -- or her? I, for one, would like to know what business she has with..."

"Never mind her!" I gasped. "She is certainly no threat to you, if that is what worries you. And yes, it was just a dream. It had to be..." I let my sentence trail off and looked at her. She was smiling ever so faintly, as she always did when I became emotional, in any way. Though nearly five years had passed since we first really met, she still loved to provoke me.

"You are such a minx, my dear! Whatever shall I do with you?" I laughed, letting the argument dissolve. Marcella whispered into my ear a suggestion, which we carried out with abandon; then, we slept. At least, she did; my mind would not grant me rest, lest I forget the nature of our conversation. In my next such dream, I resolved, I would ask the woman who she was; and then the sun came over the horizon, and broke my ties with consciousness.


"J'ai besoin de la sang." I awoke to find myself engulfed in darkness, broken only by a sharp stab of moonlight and its reflection off the pale figure above me.

"Hmmm? Oh, Marcella, of course you do. As do I. But why wake me like this, cherie?" I moaned, shaking off the vestiges of daylight that still seemed to cling to me, like spiderwebs. She pouted, always the child -- but what she was doing no child ever would.

"I want a human, Maestro. A living, breathing, bleeding human, and I want to find him myself. And then, I want him to fight me, I want to know that he had a chance before I killed him. And Maestro," she said, suddenly serious again, "I want to face the murder as you have, knowing what I did and knowing it could not be avoided." I shivered, unable to restrain the horror -- and unwilling to.

"Marcella, Marcella... what are you asking for? Do you want to suffer? I could tell you what it is to confront it, Love --" she didn't want me to tell her, she wanted to know, as I once did, but I would tell her anyway -- "it is Hell, as sure and as real as that which you saw in my eyes. Not Dante's, or that of the Bible; theirs is child's-play. Do you truly wish to know Hell?" Her eyes narrowed and she nodded -- but she could not conceal the fear from me. "My dearest, my child, in that hell there is merely forever -- eternity -- but for us, it is eternity without the blood, without the life... it is the hardest forever to bear, you know, and there is no escape. And that is what you find when you do... as you will..."

I looked away from her, left the almost-warm comfort of the bed. Tonight, I knew, she would seek that Hell; if she found it, we could never be the same, for eternity. And I knew I was wrong, wanting her to stay the child she had been; even the undead must grow up... but why did she? She would not be the little girl, the soprano who so loved life, any life, after knowing.

I felt the cool breeze of spring nights; slowly, I turned to the window. It was open; beyond it was the disapearing shadow of the one who had been Marcella. She was running to what she thought was life; God help her when she found out what it really was!

I dressed with infinite patience, left my rooms by the street entrance, walked carefully in the direction she had run. I could hear a violin in the distance, crying sostenudo, pleading notes; it was the very despair that I felt; it was familiar, somehow. How nice of someone, I thought, detached from my own reality, to play for my sorrow. And yet I stumbled on, blind to the living ones, who muttered after me. They got no response from me, from the one who followed screams only he could hear, shattered dreams that only he knew. I, and Marcella...

She lay shivering over a very dead corpse; he had been my age -- before the athanasia -- and quite comely, but that didn't matter now. He was gone... he had taken my child with him. Even as I watched her she nestled her face further into his hair, perhaps hoping it would take away the tears, and she didn't look up when I approached.

I knelt down next to her, saying nothing; what was there to say? Only what I had told her before, what I had known, and the only consolation for her was that I had been there, too, that I knew her agony. Because, knowing that hell isn't just looking at it and forgetting it: one sees it every time another must die; when one awakens in the night to darkness, eternity is superimposed on it. But only a few of us understand, those who have been there. Marcella had. I had. But we had not been there together, and that makes all the difference in the world.

I could not say how long I stayed with her before she saw me, but when she did... Her face was streaked with the tears that came so swiftly, the eyes rimmed in red as though painted. And her hands, they trembled like the strings of a cello, with its sad, somber notes. How many times had I seen those hands flying over that very instrument, or watched them as they caressed the cheeks of our victims? They had not shaken then; but then, it was I who had dealt the kiss of death to our prey, I who had taken the first blood from them. This was her own, and now she alone suffered for it.

"Maeledisi," she whispered, her voice thick and low as the sorrow touched it as well. "How is it that you kill so easily?" I winced, and looked away, though my hand stayed by hers. "How can you keep doing it, when each time, you know that this will come? I would never... do this... again, not if..."

"If you could live without it? Aye, Marcella," I took her in my arms and held her as I spoke, "we cannot. I do know, each time, that this... this Hell, must have me; it doesn't make it easier. But ma cherie, suffering -- this kind, and the aeons -- it is from that which we make our lives. Even as we wish it was not, that we might know Death rather that merely summoning her, even then, this is what we have."

The violin, so intense even over the distance, had ceased the fugue, and begun... well, it bore the signature of a great violinist, perhaps our Vivaldi, perhaps a contemporary... but whoever had written it had seen into my soul at that moment! And it was no longer alone, but shivered with a harmony that very few had yet harnessed well. Their notes raced through the chill night, past the living, past Death, and they touched me. I closed my eyes, against the sight of l'homme mort and the figure who attended him; I closed them to shut out the moonlight, everything it illuminated. All I saw then was the darkness of my athanasia, and all I heard were the clear, intertwining tones of the violin and the cello. I knew suddenly why it had felt so intimate to me: it was "La Folia," whose harmonies, it seemed, would never cease.

Until, indeed, this pair stopped. The final chord hung in the air for just a moment, and then was polluted by the noise of the street, of rushing feet and low, lubicious voices. They would never deserve this music -- yet there it had been, open, for all of them to hear. And they didn't care. Perfection had been shown to them, and they had given it no thought. I would have cried, but for the one who was beside me, who shook with both the music and the memory of Hell.

"Marcella," I murmured, "it's time to go home." She nodded, circled her arms about my neck, and held on as I carried her away from that which had given her so much agony.

Much later, while she slept, I left her again to find satiation. For my hunger was as strong as hers, and unabated by the knowledge of what I would suffer with the blood. I knew what I existed for, and that there could be no denying it. It was better this way. It was life.


It seemed aeons before Marcella seemed finally to find peace with her nature, the undeath. Until then, she cried each time we drank; she wouldn't watch, when I picked the one and killed him, and for her sake, I let it be merciful. And when Death came, I was quick to take Marcella away. She had only been sixteen when I changed her; she still felt the tremulous emotions of inexperience. I had hardly let her live before I killed her, destroying both the unsteady new human knowledge and the innocence of her childhood. Forced to grow up like no other child had, she had only her murderer for comfort.

That is not to say that she didn't love me, for she did, and I her. But after she gained the horrible knowledge from which I had sought to protect her, our love was... changed. No longer would she sing for me the peaceful sonatas I had written for her exquisite undead voice. Now she pressed me with a strange urgency to give her more of the Requiem, haunting me with the sadness of her eyes while she pleaded for the music of death. But I could not comply. My mind would no longer provide the notes; it could no longer comprehend that morbid love of the fate of man.

For I felt more outcast than ever before, far away from the tribulations of mortal men, utterly removed from their short struggles... aside from my role in ending them. Marcella and I still played with them, joining them in their amusements and their pleasures. But there was no longer a bond between us, mortal and immortal, nought but a thread that could only exist through the music. And then it, too, was broken.

Marcella came to me one night, after we had fed and were searching for perhaps an opera. She was wearing the very dress that she had worn on our first night; it was now years out of fashion, but she knew I liked it. And she seemed almost as innocent as she had then -- but perhaps that was the touch of fear that I saw in her eyes, the white tenseness of her clasped hands.

"Maeledisi she whispered, taking my hand. "Father Antonio is leaving, for good. He means to go to Vienna, to escape those critics, and the disfavour of L'Ospedale." The year was 1741, and to be sure, Vivaldi had been steadily losing popularity, though Marcella and I both knew his genius.

"It is a sad thing, to witness the downfall of a man," I said, quietly. "And we shall see, no doubt, many more." And then I understood. "Would you like to follow him there? Perchance you might speak with him again, or sing for him..." She knew just how much I understood; she and Vivaldi had been, by necessity, quite close at L'Ospedale; I think she may have loved him, in a way greater than his students usually did. But he was a priest, and she, an orphan; nothing became of it. Nothing but music... which is enough.

And so we left Venice, her canals and her endless melodies. But travel... any vampire can tell you what problems it presented, before railroads and the aeroplane. It was 250 miles to Vienna, no easy trip, and we had to travel at night, a most unusual time for the mortals. No one would take us, not then, and so I bought a carriage and four horses, fine beasts, whom, it was claimed, could run like the wind even in darkness.

Apparently he hadn't been thinking of darkness and mountains... and we hadn't been thinking of what we could drink while journeying. There were towns along the way, of course, but it was hard enough to find an inn in the day, let alone a mortal who would not be missed. We incited more suspicion on that trip than anywhere else I could remember, and with reason. When we didn't have enough blood -- and that was most of the time -- we lost all colour, becoming paler than the moon that lit our gaunt features. What spectres we must have seemed on those mornings! We heard more than one scarcely muffled scream at our predawn arrivals, ghosts that we appeared.

But finally, tired and underfed, we reached Vienna. I could have kissed every mortal I passed, so great was my joy at finding a city again. We found an apartment quite near to Vivaldi's residence, and on the first day, we slept, exhausted with the strain of travel and the nightmare of scarce blood.

Later, after the sun had set, we awoke into darkness, more tranquil than the light of any sun. We held each other still, unwilling to surrender this warmth, almost human, to the cold night air. And then we heard a single violin, its notes perfect and graceful, played by a master hand.

"Maestro," she whispered, and I knew that it was not me that she spoke of. "He is here, so close. Maeledisi, we must find him, take him away from this horror, from this existance that cannot be life." I glanced at her, unsure of what she was trying to tell me. "He suffers, Maeledisi, I can feel his pain. Can't you?"

I could not, but the absolute sorrow of the music he now played was proof enough. "But, Love," I told her gently, "It is not our duty to end his life. Surely he will do that for himself, when he himself can feel the end." But she shook her head, unwilling to believe me, unwilling to listen.

"We can comfort him, before we take him, can't we? He is, after all, human, and he cannot help but be comforted by those who know him." She looked down, and murmured, "I know him. And I know his music, as well as he does." Almost as an afterthought, she added, "You need not kill him, Maeledisi. I... I believe I could, myself..."

I took her wrists quietly, carefully, pressed her hands to my face. "I don't think you should, Love," I said, "Unless, perhaps, he wants you to. But of all things, do not give him immortality. His music was not meant for those of this earth. They have heard it -- and they have shunned it. Give him mercy." She nodded, and slipped away from me. "And Marcella... wait. I will go with you, but only to... to comfort. His death is not my right."

She smiled, sadly, it seemed. We dressed in without speaking, still hearing the unspeakably beautiful strains of his music echoing through the city. And then we left the rooms, and followed the sound of his misery. I walked beside her, held her hand as we came to his door. A woman answered.

"What is it?" she asked sharply. "My master does not like to be bothered without reason." When we did not answer, but stood staring at her in shocked silence, she snapped, "Well? Have you a reason or not?"

Then Marcella spoke, her voice clear and confident. "If you would, Madame, tell him that Marcella is here. He knows me." The older woman looked at her for a moment, scrutinizing us both, until I felt tempted to remove her by force. But I didn't have to.

"Follow me," she said, obviously suspicious but willing to take us to see the Maestro. We were shown a flight of stairs; at their apex was a door, from which the music emanated. And behind it, we knew, was Antonio Vivaldi.

Marcella mounted the stairs without a sound, tapped at the door when she reached it. "Father Antonio," she called, once, then again, until the music ceased and the door was opened. There he stood, his hair, once red, now streaked with white; his face wrinkled as parchment. And it wrinkled further when he saw us, two he had known when his life was good; he showed his teeth in a smile.

"Marcella, dear child!" he murmured. "How long has it been, since you left us? Too long, always... And who is this?" he said, turning to me, slow in his recognition. "Ah, Arcangelo Maeledisi, soul of my soul; your violin always amazed me." He looked for a time at me, then at Marcella, and smiled again. "Your reason for leaving, my dear?" he asked her gently. She nodded. He said nothing, but I knew he was pleased.

"We heard you had come to Vienna, Maestro, and wanted to see you again... You know as well, it has been too long." Tears brightened in Marcella's eyes as he took her hand.

"Say no more," he commanded softly. "But, you are welcome to sing... when you can." The music! He had reminded me of my purpose.

"What was it that you were playing, Maestro?" I asked, feeling sure I knew the answer. It was a melody that had burned into my soul sixteen years before. And so it was no surprise when he told me: "Those less familiar than you know it, I am sure, as the first movement of 'Summer, but you would know it just as well as, "Il Cimento dell'Armonia e dell'Invenzione -- concerto number two in G-minor, Allegro non molto.'" I did indeed, as I knew its notes, which cascaded over the strings with a perfect wealth of elegance and refined simplicity.

"I know it well," I said; my words were redundant only to myself. For his very eyes lit up at them, and he motioned for the two of us to join him in the room, handing me his violin as I entered. "Play it for me," he whispered, "I want to hear it as it sounds to you, as the notes reach another's ears." And he pulled himself closer to the harpsichord, whether to lean on it or to play it I did not know.

I began the solo. His violin resonated easily, with a balance I had rarely known before, and the notes came without trouble, called from my memory -- and his. Even now he played its subtle accompaniment, tapping the keys lightly, then with boldness and strength, as the tempo grew faster, and the chords sharper. We were joined again by Marcella's cello -- and when that movement was finished, leaving us in a final chord of exquisite brilliance, we went on to the next, and the next, until my fingers were slippery with the sweat and my arms ached with wonderful exhaustion.

He stood shakily from the harpsichord and for a moment, merely stared at me. And then he spoke. "You command that violin as though it were part of you, and yet I know, as you do, that it must end." He shook his head, as in bewilderment. "I had never known it could be like that. Always, I have felt the music through myself, and now, I have known it through another." He paused, but only for an instant. I looked into his eyes as he continued. "It is love you have given to me, Maeledisi, a final happiness when all others have deserted me. Thank you..."

The tears fell down his cheeks, as they did mine, as I handed back his violin. He looked at it with new wonder before laying it carefully in its case. And when we thought the evening was over, we heard Marcella, singing a sonata I immediately recognized as his. As did he; he watched with simple adoration as she gave voice to his music, and when she was finished, the tears were hers as well.

There nothing more to be said; Marcella kissed him good-bye and we left together, watching without fear the pale pink of the sky over the buildings. There could be no more fear, not after the music... not for a while. But we slept easily that day, untroubled by dreams -- for which I am grateful. Because, the next night, Marcella went alone to Maestro Vivaldi, and I merely observed as she walked silently to his home. I knew what she would do.

I followed her, later, coming into the house unseen. The woman who had greeted us previously now lay on the floor, stunned or worse. But she wasn't dead. Of that I made sure before going upstairs. There was only a faint light under the door, and barely a sound escaped. It was the sound of breathing, laboured and harsh, but slowly it died away, and with it, genius.

But as I walked away, trying not to think, I heard a whispered voice. "I thank you, as well, Marcella, child of my music. May your life be as long as you deserve." And then there was nothing, nothing but the sounds of her tears, and her light footsteps as she left him.

She saw me when she opened the door, but she wasn't angry. She came without noise down the stairs, and embraced me, burying her face in my chest, sobbing. "I told him everything, Arcangelo, everything, and then he... he asked me to..." She shivered as I looked up at his room, awestruck by the man who had lived in it. "He wanted to die, Arcangelo," she said, her voice rising into a moan. "And when it was almost over... when I had tasted his blood... then he thanked me for doing it. Oh, God, what kind of life is it when one is thankful for death?"

"I don't know, Love," I murmured, unwilling and unable to say more. She sighed, shuddered when I took her hands and led her away from the place. In my mind still echoed his dying words, superimposed on his incredible music. I had known those sounds for forty years, through my time with Deirdre, to now, with Marcella -- and I vowed to know them for many more. So much music! And no one but me would know how much. Perhaps it was cruel, but after Marcella was home and nearly asleep, still crying, I retraced my steps into his room and took every manuscript I could carry. Better than keeping them in the hands of that woman! And I was quite grateful for them in later life.

I came home -- again -- burdened with the compositions of a lifetime. And Marcella met me at the door, her eyes still red from crying, but her crimson lips turned up in a smile. "I saw you coming, with all that music," she said, her eyes now dancing with the flame of the candle. "I knew you'd do it, too; how could you have left that house without a part of him? And I already had mine..." She smiled still, but now there was a calm malevolence to it, as the blood rushed to her cheeks -- in the memory of taking her part.

"Hmmm, you're so morbid," I said, carefully setting down the manuscripts. "Or is it his influence on you? I imagine one might find much hunger in that blood; think of all that he denied himself." Her lips curled again.

"He wasn't denied anything," she whispered, her voice low and soft. "He gave it all to himself when he composed. Have you never noticed? Listen again to his concerti, his sonatas, especially those he wrote for me..." She paused, her head tilted to one side as she heard to music only she truly knew, and then she sighed, the smile at last disappearing. "I miss him, Arcangelo. Can't we bring him back?"

I took her hands, which were even then rapidly losing the heat his blood had given her. "Once She comes for a man, he can never be brought back. Even the ones we seek to keep." I kissed her gently. "But at least he died when he wanted to, not like the others, not like us. Consider him fortunate." She nodded, then looked up at me, slightly shocked as she often was.

"She didn't hurt me when She took him," she murmured. "She almost seemed as though She wanted to thank me, as he had. And oh, Arcangelo, She looked into my eyes and for once I saw no pain!"

"I love you, Marcella," I whispered. Her face was for a moment perplexed, as well as amazed, but then it was clear of all but a reflection of my own emotion. For I could focus on nothing but the joy she had given me, her life and her love, and her companionship. And though my faith in God was as doubtful as ever, I could not help but pray that she would never be taken from me -- not until she wanted to go. And even then...

But now it was she who searched for my hands, my lips, and she who held me to her. This time neither of us was crying; there was nothing but happiness.

And afterwards, when we lay in the dark, it was the Maestro's death that I couldn't stop thinking about. What if she had let him live, to die when his heart willed it, and not his mind? She wouldn't have; her respect was always for the mind, not the body -- though that she did not distain -- and I knew that even she would die when her mind needed it, not her body. And myself? I was suddenly struck by the realization that I was as old as he had been; the year of my birth was 1678. And yet I appeared, by all accounts, to be a mere twenty-two years of age. If Deirdre had not come, would I, too, be dead?

Though the light of dawn showed through the curtains, I could no longer sleep. I went to my writing desk and began the next movement of my Requiem, with a tenor solo -- and one for a violin as well. Adieu, Vivaldi!


I don't remember how long I slept after writing; I can only recall the silence that met my awakening. I moaned, rolled over in a bed that had never been warm, opening my eyes to see -- no one.

"Marcella," I whispered, afraid of what might have occurred while I slept. But whatever she had done, surely she had not left me. I could only hope, because there was no answer to my call, no sound of the light footsteps or the airy voice that would have marked her presence.

It was not yet dusk; as I peered cautiously through the heavy drapes that guarded my immortality, I could see the vague roundness of the sun setting over Vienna. It hurt my eyes more than I like to think about, but I stared at it until it was gone. And then, my attention caught by the last rays of its light, I looked at my hands. The fingers were bony and wraithlike, whiter than they'd ever been, and the veins that traversed them stood out sharply.

I felt the thirst, stronger even than the heart that it benefitted. I felt it in my very marrow of my bones, its cold fire burning me, pulling at me without mercy. How long had it been since I last fed? Too long, I groaned, and wearily put my feet to the floor, clutching my desk for support. I could still feel the notes I had written pounding through me like the blood itself. They were the only things that could sustain me, without Marcella...

But she was there! If I had not heard the staccato notes that minced from her cello, I knew I would have felt her near me. And then, the tempo abruptly changed, going from the lilting softness of the Baroque style, to something so different, so alien to my senses that I almost cried out. The chords were played, not in the innocent arpeggios I had always known, but in long, drawn-out, vibrating pleas for a saving harmony that never came. She closed her eyes while she played them, letting her head fall back, revealing the pain that she knew.

I stood spellbound, my fingers locked tightly to the doorframe. I could not let them relax, not for I moment, not to let down my guard against the flood of fear that they alone dammed. And I watched my love as she played, rocking back and forth with the force of the music, her lips pressed close together, white with her concentration. This music did not flow, it was torn from her, while she aided it in her agony. And there was nothing I could do to lessen it.

It was an eternity before she stopped, let the last note die, her body shaking, the fingertips of the left hand crossed with deep lines from their pressure on the strings. She held the cello to her as though it were her only support, the strings slick with her tears; even now she tried to wipe them away with the back of a tremulous hand.

I went to her and gently pried the instrument from her grasp, and held her as she had held it. She said nothing -- for there was nothing to be said -- but held me tightly, allowing my hands to comfort her.

"Oh, Marcella," I murmured, stroking her hair, "When will you let me know you, like this? Will you keep these things from me for eternity?" I paused, but she did not answer. I loved her all the more for it, though; in all my years, I have learned, at least, that love cannot flourish in soil that has been stripped of secrets.

I kissed her and went to dress, feeling the hunger tighten in my heart and my veins. It was without words that we parted that night, I to feed, she to attend a recital of Bach concerti. I wanted rather badly to go with her, but no human in that concert hall would be safe if I didn't drink first. And so it was: the human pleasures, as always, ruled out by the inhuman thirst.

I found my victim -- une fille de nuit, as they say -- not far away. In the heat of my thirst, so blinding as it was to my reason, my emotion, I did not bother to mask my intentions to her, though she could never have known what they truly were. I walked behind her for some blocks, until she couldn't help but notice my steps; when she did, she turned to me with an expression halfway between fear and excitement. I sneered at her, unable to contain the nameless repulsion I suddenly felt for her. Then her expression turned to fear completely, as she tried to run. It was no hard task to catch her.

And when I had her, when she lay pinned to the hard ground of the alley, I whispered to her, "What do you think I want, hmmm?" I paused only for a moment, while her eyes grew large with the horror, and then continued: "Not what you're used to, cherie, of that you may be sure." And then I grinned, allowing the terrible pointed canines to show between my lips.

She tried to scream, but I covered her mouth with a cold hand, stifling the sound before it had a chance to come. "I want that which flows through your tainted veins, cherie, your blood --" she closed her eyes tightly, and I could feel beneath my hand a whispered prayer -- "and no god will stop me from having it." She wouldn't make a sound now, I knew; she was beyond that, so I took away my hand, and instead pressed my lips to her mouth.

She groaned at feeling that mockery of affection, and the kiss of death that followed; I closed my teeth on the vein that now beat uncontrollably, and let the hot blood spill onto my tongue. It was ecstasy in that moment, no matter how awful, and her resistance only made it more so. I pulled the blood from her body, sucking like some ghastly infant, and I didn't stop until I felt her go limp in my grasp.

It was the first time in unbearably long time that I had felt so strong a climax at the ending of a life, and while I lay back in the darkness, reclining on her still --warm body, I wondered why. But not for long, because I had always known -- and never admitted -- that the struggle, the sensation of my will overpowering theirs, was the only manner in which I could be truly satisfied. And feeling the surge of new blood inside me, I did not know how it could be wrong.

I left the body in the alley, where it belonged, brushed off my cloak and the velvet of my boots, and went to find Marcella. Had she ever felt this kind of incredible violence when she killed? Had she known the need to feel it, like some morbid drug? I didn't really want to know -- though I doubted she had, not after Hell. I only looked back once, careful to avoid Death's gaze, and smiled grimly at the spectacle.

La fille de nuit et la femme de Mort, comme voyez par le vampyre. "I love you," I whispered after Her as She, too, left the body. There was no answer.

I wasn't the only late arrival to the Bach performance, and I found Marcella without trouble. Herr Bach himself was absent, perhaps owing to the untimely demise of his collegue Antonio, perhaps something else. But the music was as lively without him, the atmosphere as gay, and Marcella -- as silent. I held her hand tightly; I know she felt the warmth of mine, but she said nothing, merely listening to the notes as they danced past. "Mein liebe," I murmured, "what is the matter? We did what we thought was right..." She didn't answer; she was looking at me with tears, and a sort of blank distaste, in her eyes.

"This is death," I whispered. "It is death not to feel, to react, to speak... why won't you speak to me?" My voice was choked with the emotion I sought to keep out of it, the fear I felt when I saw her eyes like that. "Marcella, death itself is better than detachment like this..."

And then I saw, indeed, this was what she had chosen. Her hands still shook with nameless agony -- but we knew its name. She had not fed since Antonio's death, three days before, and it was killing her, slowly, without mercy. I could see it in the eyes that suffered before me, in the lips that struggled not open upon the humans that surrounded us.

"Oh, Marcella," I breathed, "of all the ways, why must it be this? God, your pain... Love, your punishment is the unkindest of them all; it is Hell... Please, Marcella, don't let it be like this, don't leave me yet, don't die before it's even begun..."

"Before what has begun, Maeledisi?" Her voice, though quiet, was sharp and cutting, full of the anguish that starving leaves one. "I can see nothing but an end in sight, and that end is the death of hundreds, even thousands, of humans who otherwise might have lived." She shivered. "I can't go on like this, with the killing and the unchanging life that you made me to possess. If you had spared me, I might have gotten married, had children... All my mortal life I wanted a family, and then you took it away, any chance I had. Who can I live for now, besides myself and Death? How can I exist without that kind of love?"

She hid her face in her hands as I watched her sob, quietly as always, as even that horrible revelation had been. I was too stunned to do anything, not even to comfort her in some way. This was the anguish she had tried to show me, without meaning to; this was the pain she no longer had the energy to suppress. The hunger takes more than a physical toll on us; it drives away our reason, our passions for anything but the blood; we have all lost much to it when under its power. And for three days she had denied herself the only pleasure we know, the only true need we feel, and it had taken its severe toll. I could not imagine how she had lasted even this long without it; I had succumbed in a third less time to paralysis, and yet here she was, with me, surrounded by the living ones...

She had taken her hands away even as I gazed at her, and now I could see her eyes. They blazed with lifeless hunger, so strong that I winced. Through teeth clenched against the agony she hissed, "Take me from this place, Maeledisi, or you will suffer far greater pain than these humans will. This I know, as I know the empathy you deign to show for me." She whispered again, "Now, Maeledisi..." and pressed her nails into my arm, drawing blood in her agitation. The sight of it seemed more horrifying than anything to her, for she turned still paler, and looked as though she might faint. I took her quickly by her shaking arms, and led her from our seats.

The summer air was cool and calming; there was none of the ever-present human taste to it on that night, not in that place. I intended to change that. I knew that in her state, Marcella did not have the sheer will to deny herself a helpless mortal, and it was with that I intended to provide her. It wasn't long before I saw a young boy, no more than a child, asleep on a doorstep, and without explanation, I made Marcella wait for a moment, for me.

I picked the boy up easily, heard his sleepy moan, and whispered, "Shhh, my son, I shan't bother you for long. Go back to sleep..." and he did. I carried him in the shadows to where Marcella sat, hearing her little groan as she realized what I would make her do. But it wasn't only me, because as I brought the boy near, her undead instinct drove her to take him, and take him she did. She lowered her teeth without hesitation into his vulnerable neck, pressing his light body close to her. He did not cry out, and though his eyes threatened to open, they were closed tight again before they had the chance. He was dead in minutes, murdered by the unfeeling monster within her.

When she withdrew her teeth, and her hands had ceased to hold the child as convulsively, she looked up at me. Her face was hard, set with hatred, but her eyes betrayed her with their tears. "I despise you, Maeledisi, and the curse you have forced upon me, and the way you make me keep it. And I still want to die! Nothing you can do will take that away! Not all the children in the world that you may bring me..."

Her tears fell onto the boy, his lifeless body curled in her lap. "What have you done, Maeledisi? You have destroyed me with the very thing you sought to save me with..." She set the child down on the step, and very deliberately, walked away. I watched her go, her form distorted by my tears.

Had I killed her? Undeniably. Had I wished to do so? Perhaps, I thought, unwilling to conceal the truth from myself. I had always loved her for the life she possessed, but like all vampires, I felt the kind of jealousy for it that could be satisfied only in taking it away from the living. I had done that. And once she was of my kind, I had tortured her still, at last forcing her to kill the one she had loved in life, and then one she never could have known. Yes, I had destroyed her, more completely than had Death.

I walked home in silence, opening the door to my rooms expecting the same peace. But no, there were candles, dozens of them, as I used to find in Venice when Marcella came. I moaned as the tight constriction of hope took my throat, and stepped quietly through the door to the bedroom.

She was there -- but oh, God, what had she done? She lay on the bed with all its white silken sheets, only... they were no longer white. I held back a gasp as I went to her. In her perfect little hand was clasped a knife, its blade shining with a scarlet stain, and surrounding her body, so lithe and soft, was a spreading flow of crimson. And yet her eyes were open, seeking mine in the light that blazed around us.

I let the tears escape from me now, now that there was truly a reason for them. "Marcella," I cried, between gasps, "oh, Marcella, is this the measure of your hatred? That you would die to be rid of me, and this life?" I sought her hand, taking the horrible knife from it, replaced it with my hand. She was too weak to protest when I found the wound and put my lips to it, not to drink from it but to help it heal. My innocent child had not known that we cannot die like this, from the cut of a blade or loss of blood; few things can take away our endless lives. She did not know this because I had never wanted to tell her, and who would have?

Now we watched -- she, in astonishment -- as the wounds on her wrist and her throat closed, until they were nothing but a thin, raised lines, permanent reminders of her immortality. Then she closed her eyes and sighed, a pathetic sound half between relief and sorrow. When she spoke, her voice was small, wrought in anguish.

"I can't die," she whispered, turning slightly to me. "I cannot live, and I am unable to die." She paused for a moment, then continued, softly. "And you were right, Maeledisi. There could not possibly be a god, not if we exist. Surely he would show us some compassion, even us; we are as immortal as he would be. There is only Life and Death -- and we belong to neither."

"No," I murmured, stroking her hand, "we belong to ourselves, and only to ourselves, and it is the self that holds decision, not those Two." I could not go on, could not say what I knew I had to. "Because we can die, Love. Exposure to sunlight or fire, they end it quickly. But all are of such pain, much more than the trifle you put yourself through, my dear. Please, if you truly want to die... you must let me help you. Your instinct alone will not allow you to be at the mercy of that which will kill you; if that is what your mind desires, your instincts must be countered. Do you understand?"

I could say no more, because she nodded. She knew, and she understood, and she still wanted it ended. She didn't have to voice that; her very eyes betrayed her. She knew how much I needed her, the way my life had been without her, but hers was not my life and I had no right to refuse her death. It was beyond my control, as it had to be.

"Would you play for me once more before you leave?" I asked. At last she gave me a smile, however faint, and consented. And so, in the hours before dawn, she let me know her for the first time, through her own music. It was of ethereal beauty, and though its notes sometimes grew into the tortured phrases of which her life was constructed, they always came back to the same, calm melody. And when the light of the sun threatened to break over us, I asked her again if this was truly her desire.

"Yes," she said, and went to our room, where she opened the curtains wide and stood in front of them, waiting. I closed the door behind me, and cried, when I felt the hot agony of her death in me.

Ashes to ashes, Dust to dust... that was all that remained of her the next night, when I awoke from the sleep that had given me its blessed peace. I could not help but imagine what her death had been like, when the first light of the deadly sun touched her. That would have been pure pain, and no matter what her mind wanted, surely the vampire in her would have run for whatever escape it could have had. But the door had been closed and locked, and I waited outside it; she could not get out. And so she would have resigned herself to stay in the sunlight, letting it kill her without mercy, with more pain than she should ever have had.

And when she died, there was no body: it had been almost twenty years since her mortal death, and the decay that would have been slow took her immediately, leaving nothing but the dust. I wondered how much there would be left of me, after I finally gave up, but I did not let such thoughts trouble me for long. At least, not in my mind. I set them all to paper, gave them expression in music, as only music would suffice. This time the solos were for soprano and cello, for my love, for the child who would have played them; a familiar thread runs through this song, and it is "La Folia." And even now, as I write these words and hear the music played by my own orchestra, even now, I remember her smile, her laugh, her life.

I hope she can hear me, too, wherever she is.


On to the Next Chapter

Back to the Page of Stories

about me | baby crafts | education | grammar | guestbook | kids | links | livejournal | philosophy | read & play | stories | work | site map | home

All content, barring that which is otherwise attributed, is ©2007 to Jan Andrea. If you wish to use my content on another page, please email before doing so, even for content with the Creative Commons licenses. Text/images used elsewhere must be attributed to me. Be advised that I will pursue copyright violations.