I Shall See The Sun
It is still night, but the stars cut through the darkness. Their distant rays sting me like pinpricks of sunlight. I await the dawn, running from it no more.
I shall see the sun again. I shall feel the rays that bring life to the Earth, and it shall put an end to the twisted semblance of life that is my existence. I do not ask the golden beams to cleanse my sullied flesh anymore than I pray for God’s forgiveness—I merely hope for the peace of non-existence.
Too long have I stayed in the shadows, hiding from others and myself the reality of what I am. For all my strength, I have lost the courage to stare the day in the eye. I can no more see God’s illumination than I can see myself in the mirror. Ah, if I could see myself, would I have the nerve to look? Too long have I denied the truth of my actions, unable to consciously live the life I’ve led. The darkness allows me to see only what I wish to see, to ignore that which I cannot. My existence I can only endure with lies. And when those are not enough, I seek to fill the hole with the vain attempt of sating my insatiable emptiness.
Lies have been necessary, for I was once a man and no man could tolerate the reality of the things I’ve done. I have lied to myself and all of humanity. But humanity, like myself, was culpable in believing my lies. Humans, too, wish to ignore the truth, wish to believe their own desires rather than what reason or goodness might have told them. They saw my power and it attracted them through their own selfish motivations. Though it did not matter to me whether I drank the blood of the innocent or of the guilty, those without sin seemed to keep their distance from me, so that I dare think that I have saved society somewhat from its own evil.
Heaven is fleeting, but Hell is an eternity. Hell becomes the more so the longer one lives it. I was once a man, happy in the way that a man can be. I had a wife and two children, with a third one on the way. But when I saw Catherine, none of that mattered. She was beautiful beyond a mortal beauty, and the desire I felt was beyond mortal flesh to resist. Even today I wonder, had I somehow been able to resist her call, had a dozen men held me down to save me from myself, would I have ever been able to forget her and go back to a normal life? Or would the thought of her have haunted me the rest of my mortal life?
She looked at me across the dining hall of that crowded inn, and I saw the desire in her eyes, a desire that instantly alit itself within me as well. That one as beautiful as she could look at me in such a way awoke in me longings that extinguished any ability to think of anything but her. The people and tables in that room were mere obstacles that stood between us. I would have had her then and there were it not that she asked me to follow her outside. In all the world, it was only her desire that could have overcome mine. Had she asked me at that moment to boil my children alive, I would have done it, passionately. But to walk with her, to hold her hand as we made our way out of the building, was itself a feeling indescribable. She led me behind the building and looked me in the eyes with the same sort of longing that burned my entire being. I was incapable of resistance, incapable of anything but desire for her. But it was not my lack of will that her eyes took from me that caused my damnation. Nor was it the draining of my blood from her bite upon my neck. No, it was her kiss that took from me what no mortal should part with. In her kiss, I felt what Faustus felt when kissing Helen of Troy: “Her lips suck forth my soul.” That thought flitted across my mind as my fate was sealed in passion and surrender.
Ah, she was beautiful! More beautiful than any woman I had seen before or since. In my centuries of existence, I still remember her clearly, though I only met her once. In all my life before and after, I have not known such a perfect instance of desire fully satisfied. For the most fleeting of instances, she filled every empty part of me, and in submitting to my desire of her I felt whole. Although I acquiesced in weakness, once I yielded I felt no sin or shame. I was hers entirely and I felt the longing all mortals feel had been consummated. I felt that I had arrived to the place I had been unconsciously seeking my entire life. I was a shipwrecked sailor again setting foot on land. Sin, weakness, sadness, all melted away as I felt her lips expunge all that was mortal. So that when I felt her teeth at my neck, when at last I understood who and what she was, there was nothing left in me to resist. Morality, thoughts of eternal damnation or even imminent mortality held no sway over one as enraptured as I. I gave her my soul in that instant, gave it to her fully and gladly, as though I had finally found a purpose for having one at all. I cannot express to a mere mortal the taste of immortality she gave me, can no longer appreciate it myself. But it was real, real in the way only experience can be real. In my naiveté, I did not realize she was not giving but taking. My blood I gave as a trifle—truly it pleased me that I had something to give her in return. But even as she fed upon me, I could feel that what I gave to her could not satisfy her as I wished to satisfy her. I urged my heart to pump harder that I might empty myself out for her, so that she might be filled. But she was a bottomless well that no love or desire or quantity of blood could ever fill. I could feel her bitterness enter into me in place of my lifeblood. From the height of my ecstasy, I plunged as I realized the gift of my life was insufficient. It was as though I had taken my humanity in that instant and thrown it into a black abyss, where it was lost forever more in the endless nothingness. And in place of my soul I had the eternal longing within me.
She had taken what she had desired—for what it was worth—and left me dead, at least for a time. But I returned to life, or some semblance of it. I was returned to the living with the unending emptiness inside of me. There was but one way to cure the emptiness, and that cure was only for a brief time. Though I was loath to do it, the emptiness soon became more than I could bear. And so I set about in pursuit of my first victim.
I was in no state of mind to seduce a woman, to have her give her life to me of her own free will, as I had given mine. I fell upon my first victim in the same manner as an animal attacks its prey. She was just a girl, perhaps ten years of age, and I savagely tore at her throat with my teeth. And yes, even in that horrible orgy of violence, I could feel to some degree that initial state of rapture I had felt within the embrace of my immortal lover. Even as my mind rebelled at the act, the deep emptiness was being fed. I felt for the first time the full force of my damnation, even as I slaked my thirst. I knew I was damned when I surrendered to my beloved, but the first taste of another’s blood was the sacramental rite of my damnation.
I ran back to what was now my only home, the casket my wife had buried me in. And I lay in my bed, appalled at what I had done and what I had become. My victim’s blood was sticky on my hands and lips, and the part of me that still remembered what it was to be human turned away as I licked the blood from them. And I cried for myself until sleep overcame me.
I awoke to the hunger once again. It was part of me now, ever the larger part. Even when it was not in control, still it was always behind my every thought. Always it sought to creep through my other thoughts and stand alone in front of my consciousness.
When I knew that I would again succumb to the desire—unable to deny any longer what I had become—I sought to keep some control over my actions. When I saw a child walking alone at night, I promised myself that I would not take another child as my victim, even one so foolish as this who walked alone in the dark of night. But as the child noticed me, she walked straight towards me, as though to test my resolve. It was not until she neared, that I realized that she too was seeking a victim. She had been the girl I attacked the other night, infected by me as I had been infected by Catherine. Not recognizing me, she lunged at me with incredible strength and speed. She came at me with an animal intensity, attempting to sink her teeth into my leg even after I smashed her head open with a rock. Her savagery continued until I remembered what lore I knew about vampires, and I was able to drive a tree branch through her heart. I stared her in the eyes as the twisted imitation of life faded from them. And I knew in that moment that that would be my only escape from the existence I was now in possession of. I knew as well by peering into her eyes that there would be no salvation for her. Less still for me, because I was the one who had led her into damnation. And whatever hell this life I now lived was, I was in no hurry to meet her fate, to come at last unto my judgment.
Always I fought the hunger, but it poured like water through any gap in my defenses, even as it threatened to smash through them. It struck at me through any hesitation or doubt that I might have. It was behind my every purpose, gently nudging me towards its own desires. I resisted through long days and nights all alone, fought with everything I had. But it never tired. It almost seemed the hunger enjoyed the game that it played with me, toying with me as I was later to toy with those who would be my victims. It always grew stronger as I grew weaker, until it would topple my defenses, and it would drink its fill of some new innocent.
Thus did I live for months that turned into years. I would fight the desire until it overwhelmed me and forced me into reckless action. In such a manner, I was able to keep myself from killing less often, but I was more brutal and unrestrained when I did. But one can weary of anything, become habituated to any horror if it is repeated often enough. I eventually began to accept the reality of my situation and, in doing so, I began to lose the revulsion I felt at my own actions. Because it was necessary and unavoidable I began to make the best of my situation. If I must kill, then I would do it as a human and not as an animal. I started to plan ahead, accepting the eventuality of what I would do. From the abandoned house that I made my home, I began to construct a life for myself, rejoining to some degree humanity.
From my humble means, I could only prey upon the lowest rung of society, the prostitutes and destitute. But my powers to persuade others were great and my rise up the social ladder swift. I could be charming, and when that failed, I could also be quite threatening. Most who caught a glimpse of my more threatening side were only too happy to pretend that they had not properly appreciated my earlier kindness. The few that opposed both my kindness and my threats simply vanished from society, never to be seen again. Though people feared me, they could not bring themselves to contemplate how completely dark and evil was my soul. They gave me what I required in order that they could continue their small lives with the minimum of trouble or introspection.
So there I was, in the middle of society’s notables. They danced to my tunes as they attempted to better situate themselves amid the crowd. Their thoughts were of self-advancement, and beyond that they did not care. They came to my social events because they knew that was where they would meet the right people. They all wanted to be right in the center of the social world, and they did not care that the center was a rotting vampire who pulled the strings. They spun their little webs, not caring that they were caught in my larger netting.
I ruled and they allowed themselves to be ruled, though in truth they were ruled by their own desires as much as by me. With no eternal curse cast upon their souls, they were every bit as empty inside as I was. It was all so simple that it would have bored me, were it not for the fact that I needed the game to occupy my time and fill my emptiness. Therefore I plunged my efforts into the games, took for my victims the very cream of society. I slowly seduced those women seeking to transfer their beauty into power. They courted me, could not help but court me, knowing instinctively that I was the force that moved their world. All power came through me, even though my exterior was nothing but friendliness and social graces. When people asked for favors I always said yes, and they never noticed until too late that I was the one taking. My power was subtle and confident enough that they did not see it, did not want to see for themselves what they really were.
Amongst their ranks was a beauty that stood out even among these, the elite of society: Madeleine. Had I been a warm-blooded being, she surely would have stood above me like a goddess. But she was just flesh to me, a ripe peach, a container for nectar. Not only was she in possession of a rare beauty, but it was one that had aged well. The beauty of some fades at the slightest use or misfortune, but she was one almost like unto us, who do not age. Her beauty had followed her into an age where most women were already abandoned of it altogether. But she, with some subtle art it must be admitted, transcended even the beauty of her youth. In her was revealed a remarkable feat of breeding, demonstrating beauty that even great artists could not relate. Indeed, humanity must bow at the feet of such beauty. It must do its best to insure that her limited breeding opportunities were not wasted, that each child she produce be of the highest lineage. She had already had three children, all with her husband if that is to be believed. He was a member of the ascending aristocracy, part of a wave that had not reached its peak. The children looked enough like their father at any rate to avoid wagging tongues. But she was capable of one more child at least, capable of producing the kind of offspring that could be remembered by history, given the right luck, the right father.
She was looking for an affair, and I was the obvious choice. I was the power that lay beneath the world she knew, the force that shaped events.
Humans recite the words to the play they are in without ever bothering to read the script. I have lived long enough to see the same scenarios play out a dozen times, each individual believing themselves in control of their actions when in fact they were acting according to primordial desires etched deep into their nature. So it was with Madeleine: she believed herself to be creating an elaborate plot, but the motivations were entirely predictable. The mating ritual was complex and consuming although the ending was never in any doubt. The very stuff of her life was tapped into and spent in the emotional pas de deux we engaged in. On my part, of course, it was all a charade for my amusement, a way of passing time of which I had no shortage. She ruined herself for me as I slowly picked her passions apart. This, the very peak of human flesh, was as a mouse that I played with. She would have given herself to me earlier, but it suited me to drag out her suffering a while. When I finally allowed her to cede herself to me utterly, she did so with relief, knowing that her agony would soon be over, at least in this life.
And thus it is that she—among the hundreds who have fed me with their blood at the cost of their souls—is no more than a brief memory, another desire only briefly sated. After all, how many meals are remembered a week after they are finished? She was just another to whom I had given eternal life, only to take it from her before she had the opportunity to experience it. I learned early that there was no call for more of my kind in the world: they are of use neither to me nor to humans.
One woman only could still evoke some emotion in me: Catherine. Within my soul or flesh dwelt still a longing for the woman who made me what I am. I remembered the brief moment of being wholly sated, the last instant before the unending emptiness began within me. It was centuries before I saw her again, and yet the memory of our meeting leapt to my mind as I saw her one evening on a crowded street one winter evening. She did not recognize me—I was nothing to her. But she was everything to me, and so I followed her. Quiet as I was, she must have realized someone was behind her, for she walked outwards from the crowded streets until she stood at a ridge of trees that lay beyond the houses and shops. Reaching the tree line, she turned, and I could see in her face the utter lack of fear that centuries of being the predator had instilled in her. An instant of doubt appeared in her gaze as she recognized a similar lack of fear in me. And then she recognized me for what I was if not who I was and I knew her intention. There was to be no reuniting, no last physical communion. There was only going to be the death of one or the other, and I had no desire to meet my maker on this night. She broke a branch from the tree she was standing next to, aimed it like a spear towards my heart as she approached me with a speed that was granted to her by some unholy power. My one chance was to feint a movement in one direction and then move in another. In such matters of combat, luck plays a greater part than any victor cares to admit, and luck was with me in this instant. She stabbed towards where she thought I would be, leaning her entire weight behind it. I stood solidly to her side, was able to grab the branch she intended to stab through my heart. But I was unable to grab it from her grip. Our strength was too great for the wood, which split in pieces, some in her hands, some in mine. I found my hand in possession of a piece of wood with a jagged end aimed straight at her heart. Again, it was mere chance—I am centuries past believing in fate—that I was able to stab her before she stabbed me. And in that instant I saw in her eyes the full awareness of what death meant to one such as us. But despite the horror of the death that was to finally be hers, there was a certain amount of relief that it had finally arrived.
I returned home that evening, too weary even to feed, which had been my intent when I had left. The one thing in my life that had meant anything to me, to see Catherine again, was now behind me. Although it was a foolish desire, it had been my one reason for sustaining my life. But my life is hollow, the emptiness is all. I stand upon the balcony of a mansion built upon lies and sin. The sun is somewhere to the east, its light hidden behind the mountains that stand between.
I cannot express the wrongness of time passing without aging, as though great gears were ill-fitted and grinding into each other. Centuries without change, without hope. Hundreds of victims, whom I have had to kill to slake my thirst, and kill again lest they become like me and perhaps bring mankind to a greater knowledge than I would like of me and my kind. There are those out there too, who I have managed to convert but was unable to kill. There are undoubtedly some of those who seek vengeance. I am weary of it all, too weary even to fear God’s judgment, for what fate can be worse than this unnatural life? I do not ask for forgiveness, I only hope He allows me to cease to be.
The moment nears. The sun’s rays creep about the earth on either side of me, begin to clear the mountain top. I lean my face forward, as though awaiting a kiss of benediction upon my brow. But I feel myself unwittingly creeping backwards with the shadows as if I too was a shadow, as though the sun could no more touch me as it could them. I try to will myself to stay where I am, but will is a gift from God, desire from the devil. I who design society’s movements am powerless over myself, a coward that everyone fears. There is no will, hence no “me”. Forsaken even by death, I retreat to my sanctuary to await another night, another hunt.