Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Black Rose: A Vampire Love Story

Black Rose
A Vampire Love Story

written by
Alan Green

Chapter 1

The Wind is Lonely

The wind cuts across a sleeping city, darting here then there, lithe and quick, chasing the moon's frosted bleached-bone illumination down abandoned streets, between buildings, through clicking bare branches. Play with me. It will not. Moonlight only plays with water.

The wind pokes into crevices to harass insects. Come out and play! They roll into tight balls and hide behind thick shells. They have no use for play.

The wind howls, lifting loose tiles of roofs under which fragile fatigued folk seek slumber, blankets pulled high, wanting only to escape and dream of pleasure not pain. Will you play? Their houses were built to keep out the wind, and all things wild. People grow old then die, they don't stop to play.

The wind whips through iron bars, peers down park pathways, peeks under stone archways, seeking something, someone, anything, anyone. Skims over icy creeks, trespasses through frozen gardens, leaving no trace. Sweeping into an abandoned playground, it turns the merry-go-round and pushes the swing just to prove who's boss during the night.

Rusty hinges groan, silvery chains clink,
but they won't be roused, they won't lose a wink.

Children are the ones with whom they play,
and with them only during the day.

The wind toys with a leaf, dead since autumn, edges split and chipped, flipping it again and again, higher and higher, laughing, tormenting, giving it little hope of rest, then moves on, bored, letting its quarry settle back to the earth.

Only in bright and sunshine do leaves play,
in greenness and warmth, not in cold and gray.

Everything sleeps, cowers from bitter cold, turns its back on that which lives in winter's dark. It's always been. For longer than can be expressed. Every night the wind riffles here, rifles there, hoping to uncover a mate. Every night nothing spends even a moment.

Everything has another. Why shouldn't the wind? It has always been lonely at night. Always... It will have none of it. Pushes on. Hunting. Somewhere, there must be a partner.

Hither and yon mischievous wind rushes,
for a cohort this errant child searches.

Night after night since the beginning of time,
the wind keeps skirring for a friend to call mine!


Silhouetted against moonlight, Isabelle looks at the old man lying in bed. Because they met just hours earlier she knows him only as Thomas. She also knows he has a daughter that gave him two grandchildren -- little brats, according to him -- which he sees once a year, he likes baseball but can't watch basketball, and recently had his driver's license taken away due to failing vision. All were usual tidbits she had gleaned from old men many times before. Most importantly, though, she had learned he had made a fortune in real estate. This was the reason she persuaded him to bring her to his apartment and, with a modicum of pressing, why she also persuaded him to open the safe and show her what one hundred thousand dollars in cash looked like. The money was, ultimately, why she had spent time with old Thomas, and why she had killed him.

In the beginning, just after her transformation, Isabelle battled guilt each time she took human life for sustenance. In time though, she realized her true nature, seeing that taking a person's life to gain nourishment had become essential, was now her design, and could not be considered any more criminal than a spider snaring a fly. Killing for money, however, remained difficult for her to reconcile. She sidestepped, rationalized, and glossed it over, but reproach found a way past her defenses, penetrating to her core.

It started with her first take. His name was Gustavius, a handsome young baron from a country no longer remembered. After a night spent together, she harvested him, sloppily drinking his blood, then took his gold and jewels and was gone before first light. She ran into the forest until she could run no longer, hid in a coppice and wallowed in self-loathing. She remained for two days poring over events, trying to come to terms with what she had done. It was impossible. Her mind would circle itself in a dance of illogic and soon her determinations made little sense, offering no solace. The cold fact was she needed money, and food, and there was no way of getting both in any sizable amount without killing.

Practical need forced an end to her fretting. Once the baron's death became known within a vicinage, a strange woman newly arrived in a village where everyone had been known since childhood would immediately fall under suspicion. She had to move on, continue traveling, head toward the large cities of the coast, with their teeming anonymous masses in which she could maneuver undetected.

As she feared, her advantage had been squandered. During the time spent in the forest news of Gustavius' death had spread. The story had become a living, fantastic tale. 'It was unnatural,' they whispered. 'A strange fanged creature that crawled through the open window and attacked the helpless man during the night!' According to the telling, the monster restrained Gustavius with leathery limbs thick with muscle and sinew, and claws that bit into the skin. With each passing hour the story evolved and was made more macabre, especially when told at night, in pubs, when teller and listener were propped up by drink.

The creature struck two punctures in the man's neck then sucked out his blood, watching with strange black animal eyes. Finally, the poor man became too weak to resist and, mercifully, closed his eyes and stopped breathing. The beast continued to drink even after that, eyes flitting about, tall ears turning, searching the shadows for approaching threats. And so it went! In the cold still bedroom that had become the baron's death chamber. So it went!

The wide-eyed, half-drunk audience was titillated, but as the stories pitched, such a dread was incited that no one would go home, not alone, not in the dark. Guards with torches and hounds took to patrolling once the sun had set, and soon, women would gather in groups of two or three to exchange the latest version of what had happened in hushed voices, children were biting at their playmate's necks, and grown men jumped at shadows and yelped at every movement or sound in the moonlit woods.

Now, with everyone on edge, Isabelle had to avoid detection. However, keeping out of sight at all times was impossible. If a river flowed at the bottom of a ravine, crossing a bridge could hardly be avoided. Fortunately, though, she was strong and had traveled with ease and speed on the third day, despite having to stay off the roads, and had put a good distance between herself and the scene of the crime.

One or two districts from where the baron had been killed, people were accustomed to the story and yawned and stretched during its telling. Frenzied emotions had settled. Isabelle had hoped this would be the case, and took to the roads in order to make better time. When she approached a checkpoint, she found that guards were weary and bored and, upon seeing her, too taken by her beauty to make serious inquiries. She handled crude questions with ease, flashing a smoldering look if it seemed needed, was allowed passage, and found her way to the coast without too much trouble.

Early in her career, she preyed only on young strong men. They practically overflowed with the life force she needed and made for an efficient source of sustenance. Truth be told, men, certainly young men, are not masters of their energy, and have more of it than can generally be handled with prudence. In fact, they possess far in excess of what is required for mundane activities, and tend to waste much of it on fiddling pursuits. This has been the case throughout history. So, in a way, by feeding on them, by harnessing their potency for her work -- the creation of music, writings, and paintings inspired by nature -- Isabelle made better use of their essence than the men themselves ever could have.

There was a problem with taking young men, though. They were too active in the community and, after the fateful pas de deux with Isabelle, were quickly missed, hence quickly searched for.

Over the years, times had changed and the situation worsened. News spread farther, and in less time. First by a stout rider and quick horse on a good road, then by telegraph and newspaper. Later came the telephone, radio, and the internet. Macabre deaths of young men popular about town became written about, talked about, and known of more rapidly by more people, whether they lived near to, or far from, the place in which the death occurred. This, in turn, created suspicion and heightened awareness, making things more difficult for Isabelle. So, she adapted.

She had learned that when a rich old man died in unusual circumstances, his rich old family often took great pains, called in favors, and sometimes paid good money to keep things as quiet as possible in order to avoid damaging publicity. Certain grotesque facets related to the codger's passing might need to be blunted so that their strange nature was less apparent. A medical examiner could often be called upon, given the correct incentive, to modify details of the official certificate to an adequate degree so that a natural cause of death would be presumed responsible.

In other cases there simply was no one who cared about the death of an elderly person. Friends and family were already dead or, due to the decline of old age, were in homes for the sickly or bedridden where news of the outside world was not followed, or sadly, not plainly understood.

It worked in her favor. In a modern city, bustling with people, the death of one old man, strange though it may be, would garner little notice. So the case would be with the next old man, and the next after that. In such an environment Isabelle could work in relative peace as long as it suited her. So, whenever possible, she selected the elderly to feed upon. Without a doubt, had her current benefactor, this old man in bed named Thomas, been young instead, with loved ones and business associates to notice his absence, things would be more cumbersome. The logic was sound as ever.

Eventually, to be sure, news would get out. Victims would be reported having been found with round wounds in the neck, their bodies emptied of blood. These reports would gain traction on internet sites that feature such accounts and be read breathlessly by fans of the stuff. However, just as it had in remote villages a hundred years earlier, the telling would be embellished, and embellished again, until it was a sensation. And, again, this would work in Isabelle's favor.

There are many such sites, and competition is acute, so that an editor will routinely elaborate on what is known in an effort to hook the most readers and create the most buzz. The result is often ridiculous, and can hardly be taken seriously by level-headed people. Desperate proclamations of the existence of vampirism are almost always laughed at and those who blare such assertions aren't given the time of day. As a result, as the case had always been, vampires were thought by most people, educated or not, rich or poor, to be a fiction. So, in a way, Isabelle was aided by the instant, pervasive, and inflammatory reportage of the electronic age. Her activities, because they were reported with such fervor by an unreliable media, went unnoticed. The irony always amused her.

The sheer curtains at the sliding glass door of the balcony billow wildly in the freezing wind, tossing her hair, stinging her face. Her mind is forced from memories back to the present where Thomas lies in bed staring at the ceiling. At once, shame sets itself. If only there wasn't a need for money, she thought. There was no time for these concerns. She steps toward him, her graceful movements contrasting sharply with her embittered expression, and leans close to his face. I'm sorry, she whispers, kissing him on the lips. She looks at him a moment longer then, with the palm of her hand, brushes his eyes closed. I'm sorry, she says once more, before turning to leave.

She stands on the balcony looking at the city. Boston. She had never been and it delighted her as it would a child. She gazes at the moon, hovering low in the sky, to the west, its entourage of brilliant crystalline five-pointed attendants standing in wait. She is captivated by its beauty, as she had been for a hundred years, and a hundred years before that. She loved listening to its quiet rumbling -- a perfect marble sphere rolling across the black flint ceiling throwing off sparks. The sight and sound filled her with wonder and reverence.

She looks to the east at the glow of impending sunrise, and her reverie is broken. Her thoughts darken, turning back to the business of the night. She leans over the rail to better gauge the distance to the street below the penthouse. After making the calculations she notices a dying potted plant at her feet. It's no more than a twig, disregarded and frail. She picks it up, and tucks it under her arm, unable to leave it behind to die. She hops over the railing onto the narrow ledge. Without fanfare she inhales deeply, steps into the air, and falls.

The heaviness of the work that lay ahead and the anticipation of what she might find this time melts away, allowing her mind to focus and her heart to open to the pulse, the cosmic rhythm, the silent thrumming most never know. She gives herself over, becoming one with the primal presence, allowing her crude physical substance to dissolve and transform into wisps of golden and silvery filaments, flashing with shimmering evanescence. Her thoughts become threads of luminescence that enlace themselves with the etheric corpus, guiding it by force of will. Just before striking the ground, the metamorphosis is completed. A capricious zephyr turns sharply toward the sky and moon, snaps at the darkness, and darts away, laughing at all things earthbound.

Isabelle has become a quick unseen child of the night.

Part II soon

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