“Is it different, remembering something that happened 500 years ago as opposed to something that happened, say 50 years ago?” she asked.
Just a hint of a smile touched his face, crinkling his flawless paper-thin skin.
“Yes,” he said. “The older the memory, the more faded it becomes. But everything is heightened for us—sensations, desires, even recollection.” His voice was soft and velvety smooth. “Thus, a memory which is 1000 years old would seem to one of us much like a 30 year old memory would to you.”
She nodded, her expression thoughtful.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I will not use my imperfect memory as an excuse for historical inaccuracies. You will not catch me telling tales about Roman soldiers wielding longswords or waxing poetic about the curved horns on Viking helmets.”
“I’m sure any stories you might tell would be flawless.”
Her tone was hard to read.
“You’re not interested in my recollections?”
“I would love to hear them. All the things you’ve seen. To have been there…then…So many times and places that I’ve only read about in my studies and you were actually present—heard the sounds, smelled the smells, saw everything with your own eyes. To experience so much over such a vast expanse of time…it would be amazing…” She paused. “…and also a bit frightening.”
He watched her eyes as she spoke. They were a deep, warm brown—exquisitely expressive, filled with intelligence and emotion. Duvat had chosen wisely.
“But that’s not what we’re here for.” Her voice was all business again. “No stories today. You don’t need to convince me.”
“Then you don’t doubt us anymore?”
“Your man, Duvat, is very persuasive. He flew me halfway around the world during the last two weeks. Showed me a wealth of evidence. I know such things can be faked—photos, films, aged documents and diaries. But I saw nothing in all that mass of material to suggest fraud—and I have been spotting forgeries since my days in graduate school. In addition, for you to have planted all of those pieces in such esteemed academic collections.” She shook her head.
“Good,” he said. “Then let us move past all that. I’m sure you have other questions. I am here to answer them….anything.”
She looked at him, her eyes searching his face in the dim light. He knew it was a foolish conceit on his part, cliché even, holding these interviews in darkened rooms. But the shadowy environs suited him. They reminded him of days long past, rooms now demolished or decayed away to dust, which had once been filled with life, fleeting motion lit by the dim flickering of gas lamplight or even candlelight. He relished the feeling of connection to the past.
She was right. The weight of time upon him could be a frightful thing. But if you embraced it, it could be wonderful as well.
“I just have a few questions,” she said, a slight hesitance in her tone marring her usually confident demeanor. “I’m a middle-aged academic. I haven’t lived a particularly…adventurous life. And my appearance is average at best.” They were statements of fact. She was not belittling herself or fishing for false compliments. “Why do you want me?”
The smile returned to his face.
“The glamorous, violent image of us you are alluding to is the product of exaggerated legends and Hollywood fabrications. To survive for a thousand years, one must not draw attention to oneself. Extreme physical attractiveness is thus a liability rather than and asset. You have other qualities which are far more desirable to us than brute strength or beauty.”
A smile lit on her face for just a moment before the thought of her next question chased it away.
“Blood…you need blood to survive. And it must be human blood?”
“But do you need to kill to get that blood? I mean, can you drink it from a blood bag or something?”
“Certainly, a vampire can drink blood from bag. Though I much prefer bottles.” He gestured to the carafe on the table behind him, and her face paled just fraction of a shade. “That is fine…for a time, but it will not sustain us indefinitely. We need to kill, now and then—to feed on the life as well as the blood of a human.
“When vampires are young, they must kill often to survive. But later on, as you gain strength and control, you can space out your kills. The oldest of us can go almost a century between full feedings.”
She nodded that she understood, her expressive eyes filled with doubt and a touch of fear.
“I know it seems almost unthinkable—killing so many people in order to secure your own survival. But we are not wild animals. We can control our instincts—choose when and whom we kill. As a historian, you no doubt understand that there have always been and will always be many human beings without whom the world would be a better place.”
She hesitated for a moment, considering his words. But her nod, when it came, was decisive.
“Duvat said you would need my answer today.”
“Yes.” He looked straight into her exquisite brown eyes. “Please know that the offer which has been made to you is not made often and never lightly.”
She nodded again, breaking eye contact. Then she turned away from him and circled the room slowly, her head lowered in thought.
He waited for her to return. He had the time.
When she stood in front of him again, she looked up into his eyes, and he knew that he had her. The brilliant orbs could barely contain the eagerness and excitement they held.
“Yes.” Her voice was a breathy whisper. “My answer is yes.”
“Very good. There is just one more thing you must do before we can proceed. A small test, if you will. To make sure that you are suitable.”
She gave him a puzzled look as a door hidden in the shadows behind him opened and Duvat stepped into the room, pushing before him a small brute of a man stumbling in the dim light.
“This man is the worst kind of murderer. He killed a child. The police probably would have found him eventually, but we acquired him first.”
Her eyes went wide as understanding dawned on her.
“You must kill him now.” He held out a long knife to her. As she grasped the handle, the polished blade caught the few fragments of light in the dim room, making it seem to shine in the darkness.
“I…I can’t…” she stuttered as she stared at the weapon in her hand.
“He is drugged. He will offer little resistance.”
She looked over at the man. His expression was hard but dull. His head rolled from side to side as he scanned his strange surroundings. When he saw the knife, his eyes widened with fear, and he began to mutter a nearly incoherent stream of protests as he struggled against Duvat’s grip.
“No…I can’t…I can’t…” she repeated, backing away.
Duvat released the man. He lurched toward the wall and began stumbling along it, searching for a way out.
“You must kill him before he gets away.”
His soft words drew her attention and she stared for a few long moments at his ancient face. Then she bit her lip in determination and walked toward the man.
The criminal turned at the sound of her footsteps. A look of terror filled his face as he tried to back away from her, his sluggish feet tripping over each other.
The dim light flashed in her eyes as she raised the blade. Then she raced forward and plunged it into his chest.
As the man crumpled to the floor, she spun back toward the vampire, triumphant.
The smile disappeared from his face when he saw her beautifully expressive eyes. It was all there, undeniable.
“I am so sorry,” he said, his voice filled with genuine emotion. She had seemed so perfect.
“What…what do you mean? Why are you sorry?”
“You are unsuitable.”
“What are you talking about? I did what you asked me to. I…I killed him.”
“You enjoyed it.”
“I…I didn’t. He was a murderer…I just did what I had to…”
“I saw it in your eyes. The elation of the kill.”
He took a single step toward her.
“As I explained earlier, everything will be amplified once you transform. Even a modest appetite for killing will turn into an uncontrollable bloodlust. You will slaughter your way through cities…countries. We learned the hard way. That’s how the legends started. Were I to turn you, your very existence would be a threat to us all.”
“I didn’t. I…” Her protests died on her lips as she looked into his eyes. “What will happen to me now?”
He took another step forward.
“It has been 99 years since my last full feeding.”
Heather J. Fleming is a speculative fiction writer who lives on the dry windy plains of New Mexico. She shares a home with her husband, her two daughters, and a long-haired grey cat named Windy who hates going outside in the wind. Heather studied Physics at University of Maryland, earning a Master’s Degree and an ABD.