The guard’s call reverberated around the hospital walls, disturbing the silence in the otherwise empty halls. It was louder to William’s ears than it would have been for others, causing him to flinch, and he darted into the shadows, gliding soundlessly down a staircase before slipping through an unlocked door. He nearly laughed. He was in the mortuary. Sheet covered bodies on cold steel tables surrounded him. Their grey feet exposed. As icy as the metal they rested on. He heard the sound of urgent voices and saw the bouncing light of a torch approaching through the frosted window and searched for a place to hide. Stifling a laugh for the second time, he walked across the room and opened a square, shiny door, climbing into the narrow tube, and sealing it behind him.
He listened. His heart still. His breath hushed. After all these years, is this where it would end?
He remembered the first time he was hunted. It was a father and son. He had stolen their daughter; their sister. He had seen her under the moonlight and was instantly captivated by her beauty. Her hair golden, and her lips glossy with moisture. He had beckoned her to him. He had seduced her, and then changed her.
They fled together, hiding like animals in caves, sheltering in the dank gloom, and feeding on rats. But still her family came.
He remembered the moment the stake entered her body, and the agony he felt in his undead heart. He remembered the guttural howl seconds before her head was separated from her neck and how her pale skin turned leathery, and then to dust.
She was his first creation. There had been others since her, but it was only her destruction which pained him still.
He spent his eternity hiding in plain sight, feigning humanity. He even fell in love a long time ago. He was at first a sweetheart, then husband, then son, then grandson, as his face remained unchanged and hers grew wrinkled with age. When after sixty years together she died in his arms, he vowed he would never love again.
He pledged instead to live his endless existence causing no more harm. He picked his prey, the immoral, the criminal, the ones he decided didn’t deserve a life. He told himself that this was his debt to society. He told himself it was his repayment for all the innocents who had perished on his lips. But he knew it was just to quench his never-ending thirst. His conscience had died along with his soul.
Now, as he lay in the familiar darkness, he wondered, would it be so bad if his days finally came to an end? Surely three hundred and fifty-two years was enough. The only thing that made him continue to endure was the dread of the unknown that awaited him. “How ridiculous,” he thought, “That a vampire would fear the same thing as the living.”
© Amy Hutton 2020