-An Excerpt from the Diary of Lady Katlin Lyon-
I have nightmares often. I always have. I likely always will. It is not that my life has been traumatic, in fact, it has been much more tame than the ones before it. I have had better control, and I thank Dante for that. He helps me stay grounded, helps me recover from my nightly visions of terrifying images and frightening sounds, of horrific events, some of which have yet to pass. When I wake from watching myself die, over and over again, from watching him die, and I see him sleeping beside me, his arm around my waist, resting on the bump that holds our first child, the fear and despair fades. Other times, I wake, kicking and screaming, and he is sitting beside me, trying his hardest to keep me from harming myself. I always feel so guilty for waking him, even when he reassures me, reminding me that he understands, that he has the same memories, the same visions, the same nightmares. The only difference is where I toss and turn and strike out in my sleep, he’s immobile, unable to call for help or reach for me.
I have nightmares all the time. Sometimes, it becomes difficult for me to tell the difference between reality and dream. Dante is all that keeps me sane. Without him, I do not know what I would do. I love him, with my entire being, and I admire him, his selflessness and self-control, his bravery and passion. If I lost him, the life growing within me would be all that kept me alive. I know I am weak, and I am ashamed of myself, knowing if not for our unborn child, I would end my own life if he ever died, if he ever left me. I would not hate him if he ever chose to abandon me, rather, I am surprised that he has stayed as long as he has. It would not be hard for him to find a new wife, and my family would not fault him for doing so. He is so patient with me, so kind, and yet, one day, his patience is sure to run out, and his kindness is sure to become forced. I fear I will wake up to an empty bed and broken promises, and it will be my own fault.
I am in a nightmare. And now, with Dante gone, I fear I will never awake.
-Spring, 2011 CE-
Sleep has never been easy to find; even less so in recent years. When I do sleep, I find neither rest nor peace. Instead, I’m haunted by my past. I’m forced to relive a memory each night, one of infinite, and yet I see the same visions over and over. I’ve accepted my punishment over the years, but the beast within me yearns to break free and seek vengeance over its perceived cause of my sentence. My curse, which lay quiet for so long, longs to take over, and fight back. And one night, fight back it does.
I managed to fight my way out of another memory loop, escaping the vision exhausted and barely retaining control. I found myself in a dark forest, the plant life around me dead and hollow, reminding me much of myself. The world around me was constructed of glass, some areas jagged and sharp, others smooth and pristine. Aside from myself, there seemed to be no one else. I began to walk, my feet crunching on glass, causing frequent flashes of pain that faded to a slow burn as my body began to heal its injuries. All too familiar with what was happening, I patiently reminded myself that though this was a dream, it was, in fact, very real. The crunching noises seep into echoes, then silence, as the world around me solidifies and the splintering of my temporary reality stops. For the time being, I had to tell myself, this world was my reality. I walked for hours, alone with my thoughts and my monster, his commentary never ceasing. He found it necessary to fill the silence, born of a trait we both shared: we both loved to hear ourselves talk. When one lived forever, there was no shortage of silence that needed to be filled. I halted when a strange smell captured my attention, alerting me to the fact that I was not as alone as I had previously thought. I crept through brambles and dead brush, as silent as possible, the instincts of the hunter I truly am taking over. Peering through a break in the decrepit leaves and branches, I caught sight of the source of the aroma. A tiny human girl stood in a clearing, her long, curly hair shifting around her small body in the faint breeze. What little skin I could see was as pale as my own, her hair a mixture of fire and chocolate. Her scent was sweet, yet something lingered, something interesting and dark, contradicting her appearance. She seemed so angelic, clad in a white nightgown and tall blue socks. Her scent was intoxicating, almost creating a buzz simply from inhaling the smell from several feet away. The smell of her blood entranced me, called to me, beckoning to my curse and awakening my monster, temping us both. The angelic mortal had no idea she had just become prey. I felt my eyes heat up, the color shifting to a glowing red. My monster broke free of its bonds, shoving me to the back of my consciousness, imprisoning me in the cage where my curse belonged. The monster took the reins, and so began the hunt.
The scent was even stronger now, if that was possible, and my vision was coated in a tint of blood red. Her heart was thumping, roaring, in my ears, and even from twenty feet away, I could feel the heat of her blood, could almost taste it on my tongue. The monster was patient, more so than usual, and it crossed my mind that it wanted to savor its time in control, as much as it wanted to take its time playing with its meal. My kind were like cats in that sense; we enjoyed toying with our food. The monster took a step, deliberately breaking a twig, sending a loud snap! echoing through the clearing. Her body tensed, but by the time she had turned her head to look for the source of the loud sound, the monster had danced away, hiding in a different patch of brush ten feet away. It circled her, causing noises in different areas surrounding the clearing, making the girl whip her head and body around over and over, sending her heart pumping harder and blood flowing faster. It continued its game, seeking her fear, though her heart stayed at a steady rhythm while her eyes widened and hands clenched into fists, her body shaking. Her blood sang a welcoming, seductive song to the monster, and, finally unable to wait any longer, it leapt for her, capturing her small, frail form in an inescapable grip. She didn’t even scream. The monster growled softly, snarling, “Caught you,” in her ear, its heated breath blowing against her skin. While the monster was distracted with the thrill of capturing its prey, I was busy marveling at how soft her skin was, how warm she felt. The monster wasted no more time, plunging its fangs into her throat. Two twin canines, longer than the rest of our teeth, carefully pricked her carotid artery, causing blood to spurt into our mouth. Her heart stuttered and began to speed, her breathing instantly became heavier, but her inebriating, glorious scent remained the same. A rich, delicious taste flooded across my tongue, just a touch sweeter than her scent, igniting memories and instincts. The monster drank deeply, while I remained partially distracted by the thought, the knowledge, that I have tasted this blood before. I could never forget this flavor, this feeling. I regained my composure, taking back control, accidentally biting down harder in the process. The little human gasped, leaning her head further, her small hands grasping at me. It took everything in me to rip myself away from her, dropping her body and stepping away quickly. I dropped to my knees, hanging my head, struggling to curb the desire to drain her and leave nothing but an empty shell. I’ve never been a killer, not intentionally, and that night, I would not fall. I opened my eyes, the red haze lifted, and took deep breaths, looking back at the girl. She pushed herself up to her elbows, clearly with difficulty, as her arms wavered beneath her weight and collapsed. It seemed she was left too weak to do anything but lay there, bleeding out. I stared, my mind racing. Close the wound, give her blood, help her, save her. I couldn’t. The monster was too strong, too bloodthirsty, too angry at me for interrupting its fun and imprisoning it yet again. I climbed to my feet, surprised to find myself unsteady, and started to stumble away.
“Wait,” a faint voice whispered. I froze, glancing over my shoulder at her. My hair, long and unkempt, shifted to cover my face, concealing my identity. Though this was a dream, and she would likely awake unharmed, remembering nothing but a strange nightmare of a monster that sought her blood, I had no intentions of letting her see the monster who had tried to kill her. Need to get away, need to run, far away, away from her! “Are-aren’t you going to fin-fin-finish it?” My fangs sharpened at the mere thought of tasting that blood again, my monster rattling the bars of its cage and threatening to break free, to finish what it started.
“Finish what,” I growled, feigning ignorance.
She hesitated, as if she were trying to regain control of her mouth before she stuttered again. “Aren’t you going to kill me?”
My instincts wanted to. My monster would have loved to. But I am no murderer, not now, not then, not on purpose, anyway. “Do you want me to?”
She tried, and failed, to get up again. Without thinking, before I could even stop myself, I found myself behind her, her head falling into my lap. She looked up at me with hazel eyes I hadn’t seen in two hundred years, and any concerns about revealing my identity disappeared. Everything disappeared. For several moments, moments that lasted forever and yet didn’t last long enough, there was nothing but those eyes. I shook myself, shook off the memories that threatened to reclaim me. I’d taken too much blood from her. She was anemic, she always had been. I brushed her hair back from her face tenderly, feeling the softness of her skin again. Her body was so weak, so fragile, so delicate, so easily broken. Her mind was even more so, and yet much stronger than anything I had ever come across. She was a living contradiction, in every sense of the word. “Yes,” she whispered, her voice breaking. I had to resist my desire to taste her again, to fulfill both of our wishes, as I leaned closer to her, asking, “How old are you?”
“Thir-thirteen,” she stammered, her body shaking.
“Your name,” I asked. Her eyelids fluttered.
Thirteen. We weren’t supposed to meet for another three years. I brushed her hair back again, trying to burn the feeling of her skin and hair into my brain, trying to force myself to remember seeing her for the first time, again, exactly as it happened. There was little point in this; I knew I would never forget this moment, just as I never forgot anything. Summoning the last of my willpower, I met her gaze with my own. The hope in her eyes broke my heart, splintered a little piece of what little humanity I had left. Exerting my will over hers was easy. I watched as her pupils dilated in time with mine, and whispered, “You won’t remember me. You won’t remember this dream, or what I did to you. Wake up, child. Wake up and forget me again.”
Her eyes slipped shut. Within moments, her body splintered into glass shards and she was gone. I stared at my lap, my hands shaking. Two centuries. Two hundred years since the last time I’d seen her, and these feelings came back in full force the moment our eyes met. I’d worked hard to bury my emotions, to turn myself into the closest thing to a blank, detached, cold being, and within mere seconds all that effort, all that time, was destroyed, rendered useless and wasted! I let out a roar, slamming my fists into the ground until the glass broke and cut me, until streams of dark crimson blood flowed from my skin, much like the tears of grief and agony that flowed from my eyes. I watched the blood seep from cuts along my fingers and knuckles, cuts that were already healing, and grimaced. I closed my eyes, sifting through memories and thoughts she’d had, up until the point her blood stopped flowing into me. Yes, she had wanted to die. She had wanted to die for years. And once she realized I wouldn’t kill her, she wanted it even more. I held my head in my hands, trying to get used to feeling again. That was the problem with the two of us; we felt too much. We felt too much until the day we died.