I saw you.
You were absolutely exquisite, I remember. Designer black dress, heavy black boots, thick soles better suited for a battlefield than our renown Theatri Nocte. Your black hair, as dark as the ink I scratch on the paper with these words, flickered in and out of the crowd.
In a room full of my kind, any one of us pressed to remember the touch of life herself, you were a ghost. You matched us, concealing yourself as one of us, blending in, hiding the singing of the blood in your flesh. You belonged. You stood beside us as damned creatures, lifeless and cold. I do not know how you managed it, and, frankly, have not an itch to find out. It had very little relevance, as you succeeded, nonetheless. That fact, and little else, is all that I find relevant.
In a room full of predators, you transformed each and every one of us into prey. I smile with the thought that none of us even knew it, engrossed in our own existence, safe in our collective vanity.
But I knew. Oh, yes. I knew.
My lifeless heart nearly leapt at the thought of your nearness on that fateful night. A goddess of death herself, vengeful angel in black, here, amongst our most prominent members, invading our most treasured ritual.
You, a darkly angelic guest at our feast.
Oh, yes, cor meum, my heart, I knew.
I uttered not a word when you opened the Queen's throat.
This beautiful world is new to me, I must admit. This life of extravagance, comfort, and privilege is one that I did not expect in the time that most of the world died out in the last, horrible, final plague. In a time when most of the dead rose again, coming to rule the world, this grotesque civility seems but a dream.
Humanity, and my memories of it, have long since gone. I cannot tell you how long ago I died and lived again, only that it happened. I made the trade, just like the rest of my kind, sold my soul and inherited the world. I must have been entitled enough in my life before to afford the opportunity, true. That was then, long go, and matters only that it led me to this place.
"Love, it's almost time."
I tear my eyes away from the mirror, turning towards Darius. His beautiful skin is paper white against the dark crimson of his shirt. His eyes are dull, milky orbs. The black curls of his hair are lifeless and still. Even the points of his ears have dulled. Without looking, I know my beauty, too, has dulled, slipping away over the last month.
We are terribly hungry, you see. I imagine most of my kind coming together tonight will look like us, like corpses dressed in fine clothes, sitting at fine tables, waiting to be fed. It has been so long since we've been able to eat, to restore ourselves.
Thanks to you, cor meum. All thanks to you. Oh, how you've changed our world.
"My love." Darius places a cold hand on my shoulder. He traces his frigid lips across my throat. I smile faintly. "We must go. The guards are letting no one in after midnight, the window is only so long. We do not want to be left out in the cold"
I stand from my vanity, deciding I'm ready. My mouth waters at the thought of the night's promises. But I must not lie, I would gladly go another month of fasting if it means I get to lay eyes on you once more.
"Yes. Yes, we must."
Our canticum carnem, our song of flesh, is most sacred to my kind. It is the highest of communions for us, the epitome of our religion. Ever month, when the moon turns dark, and hides her face from the destroyed world we live in, we gather. We feast. We thrive.
Here, we hold our power. Here we fortify our divinity and become gods of dominion.
Here, my heart, is where you committed your most beautiful sin. You turned gods into mice. Oh, how I want you to be my goddess.
Words cannot express the disappointment I felt when our last feast wasn't interrupted by your presence. I'd so looked forward to catching a glimpse of you one more time, to, just once again, behold your delicate dangerousness, your nocturnal beauty. I covet all things beautiful. I worship the very thought. I am not one to be denied my wants.
I'm sure Darius would agree that I was a bit perturbed as I sliced into my steak. I didn't even register the tender rareness of the meat, losing myself into my own self-pity and your apparent absence. The last feast slipped by without so much as a speck of my attention.
It's a perturbed attitude that still affects me tonight.
"I'm afraid if you don't abandon that sour mood, my love, I'll be forced to strap you to a stake in daylight myself."
I ignore Darius's words. He's a vile pest most nights, but in my irritation, he is damn near insufferable. You'd make an infinitely better companion, I'm sure. Alas, like the last feast, you are not here, even among your own kind. Pity.
The moon shines bright above us as we meander down the city streets. The air is cold, I gather, judging by the humans around us, bundled up and scurrying with heads covered and faces forward, going wherever they go when humans have things to do. Some of them aren't dressed so warmly. Some of them sit against the walls, wasting away and ashen, eyes and lips turning black with the plague. I cannot feel the cold, am not affected by the disease, so I do not care.
Even if they weren't human, weren't cattle, I wager I wouldn't care. They are irrelevant to me. As irrelevant as a sickly mouse to a satiated tiger.
Like mice, they recognized us as tigers, not looking at us, paying us no mind at all, just staying out of our way. I smiled sardonically at the thought of you, such a brave mouse, never once alerting the monsters. Here, however, out in your world, we sent the people scattering. I must admit your ability sparks a bit of jealousy in me.
"Love," Darius says, placing the lightest of touches on my elbow.
He points to a dim corner, hidden by the dingey lights of the dilapidated shops. I see small feet spilling out of the shadows, a small hand, a blanket. I inhaled. So did Darius.
Ah. The scent of cattle. So sweet, so enticing. A strong heart beat from within the shadows. Powerful lungs breathe in and out. Pure. Clean.
Together, Darius and I cross the street, approaching our prize.
She is so small, so delicate. Her hair is long, white, but dirty with the filth of this place. The blankets piled around her look like the wooly pelt of a large mammal. She isn't alone, but soon she will be, that's for certain. Her mother, I assume, although barely more than a corpse, is with her, holding the girl as she sleeps. She clutches a bit of broken glass in her fist, ready to lash out at anything threatening her child. Her black eyes, thought rotten, are vigilant. Her snarling lips greet us as we approach.
The woman's resistance is pathetic, futile, her glass shard useless. It takes merely seconds to eliminate her. I stroke the girl's white hair as I carry her away. Never once does she stir.
I wonder, cor meum, if your mother put up a better fight. Or your sister?
Oh, yes, my heart. I know.
With our Queen gone, Darius is next in line for the throne. It's a droll idea, I must say, and I can seldom be bothered to care much about it. I'm well aware of the fact that, as his brood-mate, I should most definitely care, should be relishing in the idea, even.
All I am consumed with is you. You and only you.
Boredom paints my face, I'm sure, as I sit here, empty plate before me, utensils glittering in the light, waiting. I look stunning, as usually, as we all do. Our beauty hasn't faded as it did when you interrupted last. In fact, we are as vibrant as ever. You’ve been gone a long, long while.
We all sit at empty tables, large expanses of white cloth between us, waiting. It's all so dreadfully boring.
Oh, how I miss you.
My thoughts are interrupted by the dimming of the lights in our exquisite theatre, all silver and onyx and velvet. The conversation around me stops, fading into a handful of whispers before going silent.
Music blossoms around us. Haunting, elaborate, twisted notes fill the air, humming in my flesh. The lights on the stage come up, red as blood.
Then, like delicate, beautiful lambs, they were march in. Twelve of them, singing, a chorus of flesh. All shapes, sizes, sexes, ages and colors. Divine, each and every one, they stand there, perfectly still in their matching white robes, only their mouths moving as they sing. I lick my lips, hungry. The white haired one we provided is there, too, cleaned, dressed, and put on display for all of my kind.
Darius grabs my hand, squeezing it. I squeeze back, not really caring for his touch, but permitting it, nonetheless. This is his night, after all, and we are the guests of honor. The delicate crown encircling his head did look damned decadent.
"Which cut would you like, my Lord?"
The attendant is insignificant, but Darius answers, making his decision for the both of us. He chose a large male, brutish and ape-like, but still beautiful in his own right. Not suspiring, as Darius always did have rugged...proclivities.
The attendant bows and scurries away to the stage, returning with the selected human. The male drops his white robe, revealing a perfect body, ripe and full. Without a word, he climbs onto the table and stretches out on his back, prone, willing, sacrificial. Darius reaches out, running a hand down the human male's chest. He picks up a carving knife.
Dinner is served.
I know it is your knife pressed to my throat before I even open my eyes. I know you'd find me. You're so clever, so smart. I know you wouldn't stay away.
Did you know the living dead slept before you found your way into our bedchamber? Did you think that we hid from the sun, tucked away in lavish coffins deep within the earth? Were you shocked to find a massive four-poster bed, dressed in silk sheets, in which our sleeping, naked bodies lay? Tell me, cor meum, tell me.
"Hello, my heart," I say, caring not that the movement of my throat nicks my skin on your blade.
You sit there, staring at me, silent, a tantalizing doll crafted from darkness. You don't move. Your eyes are wild, singing in a way I've never seen.
I try to sit up, and you let me. My movement pushes something with weight away from me. Darius. I know he's dead without even looking. Oh, cor meum, you are truly beautiful.
In the light of the room, I get a good look at you. Your dress, the same black one I saw you in on the night the Queen died, is tattered, fading, parts of it torn. Your skin is scratched and dirty. There are scuff marks on your boots, which are ruining my silk sheets, I see, much like Darius's blood. I can't bring myself to care. Most interesting, however, is your hair.
The inky blackness of it is fading near your scalp, the night of it giving way to gleaming spiderwebs. A white that looks very, very familiar.
My eyes widen, connecting it.
"Her name... was Taylor."
You open my throat with the last, angelic words I'll ever hear.