For Love of Death

by Christian O'Malley

December 13, 1994

I saw my last sunrise from the top of the Great Dome. I was quivering slightly as my mortal death worked through me, my innards rebelling against the new thing that now took up residence where mere mortal life had once resided. I knew that I would have to go to ground soon, once my body had rid itself of its last mortal trappings and I was no longer able to stand the sunlight that slowly crept over the sprawling East Campus of MIT. But I knew, though I had seen it thousands of times before, that this sunrise had some special significance, that there should be a flag or klaxon or great sign painted on the vast ceiling of eternity announcing the grand finality of it all. And there was, though I realized it not until many years later.

But I get ahead of myself. My name is Christian O'Malley, and I am what one would call a vampire, a nosferatu, or merely undead, though I was until recently a sophomore at this hellish little academy and a brother in a fraternity that shall remain nameless. I died on October 12, 1994. The details of my creation are a bit sketchy, since my creator lacked the courtesy to speak to me after my creation or show me his face before he made me what I am. I know of him only what I gleaned from the rapture that accompanied my birth. I know that he was a professor, that he was as ancient as I am young, and that he leapt into the flames hours after my creation, and may he burn in hell.

Money was the death of me, you might say. Or perhaps food, as I was taken on my way to get money from the BayBank machine for pizza. The attack was sudden, and first hint of his presence was his iron grasp on my arms and his cold lips at my throat. I couldn't as much as cry out when his teeth entered me. The blood left me in a rush, but I was scarcely aware. The sensation was of being wrapped in a blanket of pure pleasure, and the cold fangs lodged in my throat were more dear to me than any lover's kiss. I almost wept when his lips left me and he lowered me to the ground, but I hadn't the strength to do so.

He spoke, and the timbre of his voice sent shivers of pure pleasure through my body, despite my horrifying weakness. ``Your heart is slowing. I can hear it. Do you wish to die here, alone? I shall leave you to face death, if you wish...'' No, I thought, and wished to cry, though my lips did not so much as quiver. Such weakness...

``Very well.'' He lifted me again. I tried desperately to lift my head, to look into his eyes as my horrible death/birth took place, but I could not.

``Drink.'' I could see his arm at my lips, a gaping wound in it, the blood leaving in a rush, the blood I had just given him. I put my lips to the wound and sucked desperately, passionately, with more power or conviction than I had sucked at any lover's breast, on any bottle or nipple as a child. I drank with all of the life that remained in me, and I felt life return to me, strength growing, and I wrapped my arms around him, desperate to keep the glorious fount at my lips.

And he pushed me away, and I fell in a swoon. I don't know how long this strange fugue state lasted, and when I awakened, the sun was rising, and I was atop the Great Dome. In the breast pocket of my shirt was a plain business card with gold trim, and a Boston address. I stared at the sun rising with new eyes, wondering how I could have missed the spectrum of colors that accompanied its rising. When my death came, I welcomed it, and even as my own waste soiled my clothes and my organs writhed within me, I sat fascinated by the rising sun. And when the itching began, on my face and hands, I crawled down the side of the dome and ran for Boston, the gold-trimmed card clutched in my hand.

As you can see, my birth lacked the drama of most vampiric births. However, that is not the tale I am here to tell, but merely a technicality. The story I wish to tell is not of horror, exactly, but of love turned to horror, and of my love for a mortal woman. But, again, I leap ahead, for there are particulars of which you are not aware.

I reached the address printed on the card with ease, finding a large brownstone overlooking the Charles. I let myself in, as the door was unlocked, and walked through the foyer to a well-appointed Victorian study. Sitting on the fastidiously polished surface of the desk was a plain white envelope, with my name written in elegant, looping script on the front. Underneath the envelope was a small leather-bound book, which turned out to be my creator's journal, and the only source of knowledge about my vampiric state, a guidebook for the damned, if you will.

But I digress, for, as I said, this is a story of love. My creator and benefactor had left all of his assets in my name, and in the hands of his financial advisors. I had all I could wish for, and my first month as a vampire was a time of great discovery. I took my first victim, thus discovering the rapture of the blood. I discovered that I could not eat or drink as mortals know it, and couldn't have cared less, for the blood was far more satisfying than any nectar and ambrosia, and I had a thirst for it I could scarcely control. I found that I had no aversion to mirrors, crucifixes, holy water, garlic, or any other of hundreds of supposed wards against my kind. And in that first month, the blink of an eye for an immortal, I found my niche and discovered my limitations. I read stacks of books, saw plays, operas, films beyond number, soaking up new experiences like a sponge.

Typical for my kind, you may say. What I did not expect, however, was the unexpected loneliness that overcame me in such a short time. My creator had told of his loneliness in his journal, but his life was measured in centuries, while mine could still be easily measured in days, if not hours. And while my immortal nature could overcome many of the failings and frailties of my mortal trappings, I found myself drawn more and more towards one particular failing of which I could never rid myself of as a mortal. And, as all of these stories begin, this failing was a woman.

She was a splendid creature, and still is, for story does not end in tragedy for here. She had long, flowing blond hair that cascaded down her back in waves, or flowed from the crown of her head like a great amber fountain when she tied it back. She had delicate hazel eyes, eyes which bore into your soul, much like the eyes I have now, and they were set in a face full of aristocratic majesty and beauty. She had lovely pale skin, which blushed easily and beautifully, be it in laughter or in modesty. And I, as a mortal, and now as an immortal, was and am utterly taken with her. She, of course, was none the wiser, though we were friends. Mine was a secret obsession, shared only with my closest friends and then only under assurances of secrecy, for I was dreadfully shy. SOmetimes I wondered if she perhaps sensed my feelings when we were together, for I felt that my heart would leap out of my chest at times, and that the feelings were written on my face for the world to read. This was certainly not the case, however, for my secret, mortal longing was never known to her.

This is the feeling that haunted and then possessed me in my early days as a vampire. When I sank my teeth into the tender skin of my victims, and the rapture overcame me, I saw her face in the red haze that accompanied the blood swoon. When I pulled the lid of my sarcophagus over my face, and was alone in the void between consciousness and death, I thought only of her. When I rose at the setting sun, she was in my mind as surely as if I had never slept at all. Anguish, despair, and hopeless longing -- all of the mortal feelings I felt before, but felt with vampire senses. I wandered a bleak landscape of despair, seldom going out except to hunt, and then only because my body was in anguish without the blood.

It was in this fugue state that I decided to see her. I had not ventured near MIT for the month that I had been a vampire, for I had no wish to reveal my new state to those I had loved as a mortal. My love of them had left me as surely as if it had been drained out by my creator that first night. But this obsession, this {it need I felt as acutely as the need for human blood, this was a thirst that could not be ignored. And so, on a balmy night in late November, I set across the river once again, dressed in all the finery my newfound wealth could provide. I moved swiftly, with purpose, and only the most sensitive of mortal could sense my passing, and then only as a slight breeze crossing the river. In minutes I was on the campus of MIT once again, my place of dying, my place of birth. And I found that I could feel her, sense her with my mind, and the scent of her was irresistible, my need for her palpable. I took the stairs to her room at a leap, and crossed the filthy brown carpets of the sprawling dormitory without a sound. I had fed earlier in the evening, fed copiously, to hide the ghastly pallor of my vampiric complexion with the flush of new blood in my veins.

I stopped before her door, my resolve faltering. My God, what would I tell her? My disappearance, my wealth, the strange new eyes, the glistening, glasslike fingernails. How could I have possibly thought that we, a mortal and an immortal, could be together? She wouldn't have me when I was a warm, living human being. Why now, as a monster, was I so driven to see her, to make her love me? Could I? I stared helplessly at the door, my vampiric eyes tracing the intricate whorls of wood, see millions of shades of brown, and listening to the quiet scratching of pencil on paper within her room. A sweat broke out on my forehead, tainted pink with blood. My veins were singing, as loudly as the sang for blood when I first awakened in the evening.

And then the decision was taken out of my hands. I listened helplessly as she crossed to the door and started to open it. With my new speed, I could have been out of the dormitory and moving near-invisibly across campus before she could as much as fully open the door. I could have leapt straight up and crashed through the ceiling, or down through the floor. I could have leapt out the window, and been healed of my cuts before I hit the ground.

I did none of these things. I stood before that door as it opened with a slowness perceptible only to an immortal, and met her with a look of sheer horror on my face as if I was meeting the rising sun.

All of these feelings vanished as I saw her, fractions of a second before she saw me, but an eternity to a vampire. And I know that I was utterly and completely in love, as surely as I was dead and damned. The beauty I saw in her defied description, for my new vision picked out details of her features in that moment that I could not have discovered in hours of mortal examination. I saw stunning beauty in the pale planes of her face, breathtaking loveliness even in her flaws, in the slight blemishes and imperfections that made her all the more lovely to me. I produced a handkerchief with blurring speed and wiped the drying blood-sweat off of my face. All I could do as she looked up at me was smile.

To her credit, she took my sudden reappearance well. Her composure faltered momentarily, and I realized that my goofy smile was baring my fangs in a most ungentlemanly manner. I closed my mouth quickly, and produced the bottle of wine I had found in the cellars beneath the brownstone.

``Hello,'' I said, trying desperately to use my new vampire voice to it's fullest capacity, lacing the simple word with passion.

``Come in, Christian,'' she said, and stepped aside. I moved swiftly, gracefully into the room and spun on one heel, removing my overcoat. I realized that I was somewhat overdressed and very conspicuous, wearing an all-black suit of the finest silk. She was dressed in a worn pair of shorts and a tight top that, despite all my immortal convictions, drew my eyes to her luscious figure. ``I guess you're wondering why I'm here...'' I said, my voice faltering when I saw the look in her eyes.

``Where the hell have you been?'' she screamed at me, hurting my sensitive ears. ``I thought you were dead, and so does everyone at the house! What the hell is wrong with you?''

Not what I was hoping for, but understandable. I had been prepared for such an outburst. I produced a crystal wine glass from the fold of my discarded overcoat and uncorked the wine.

``May I sit down?'' I asked, offering the wine. She nodded, and sat on the bed. I sat at her desk and poured the rich burgandy into the glass. I could see the questions in her eyes as she scanned my suit, my jewelry, the fine vintage I was pouring. And I realized at once that I was absolutely unprepared to offer an explanation for my condition.

``You have some explaining to do,'' she said over the top of the wine glass. She sipped the vintage, and it apparently agreed with her. She leaned back and looked at me pensively, expectantly.

I stammered, a rare occurance for an immortal, for we have the eternities between seconds to form our thoughts. And the only explanation I could offer was the truth. I removed the dark glasses I had been wearing since I had left my brownstone, and fixed my vampire stare on her. Her eyes were gems, sparkling with hidden fire and magic. I saw confusion in those hazel depths, dedication, friendship. Many feelings, many mortal failings, but no trace of love, not even a shadow of the adoration I felt for her. And I felt despair, deeper than any I had felt during my long period of longing.

``What do you think?'' My eyes must have been stunning, for even hungry they burned with an iridescence and a fire that I had spent hours contemplating in the mirror. Fed, they blazed. She looked stunned, and frightened. ``What do you think?'' I shouted again, my voice rising.

``I thought you were dead,'' she said firmly, and straightened her back. The resolve that I loved, coming to the surface, and the urge to confront, to conflict. She was gorgeous, radiant. The fact that she was lost to me, that I could find no love in her eyes or in her thoughts, angered me all the more. And I told her the truth, a tale more horrifying than any I could have produced in all of my fevered imaginings as a mortal.

``I am dead!'' I cried, triumphantly, despairingly. She cried out, for in my anger I wailed with all the strength of my vampire heritage, shattering the delicate crystal of the glass I had given her and almost shattering her eardrums. I instantly reined the passions I felt, and slumped in the chair.

``I am dead,'' I said quietly, ``and I am in love with you. I need you more than you can possibly conceive of.'' One blood red tear ran from the corner of my eye, and I stared at her with my unflinching, unnatural vampire eyes. And then I said what I never thought I would, something I had never conceived of of asking, and in my despair it leapt from me like a caged animal.

``Join me,'' I whispered, ``join me in... in this,'' I said, gesturing to myself.

She sat for an eternity. Completely, frighteningly still, she looked at me, her chest rising and falling with her shallow breathing. Thirty seconds, perhaps, a minute. Time lost meaning in those eternities, and I could only shudder from the pure, unadulterated feeling that flowed from me. She must have felt it, for she looked at me with great anguish, great joy, and great fear -- but still love was absent.

The folly of my endeavor settled over me like the lid of my sarcophagus. ``Very well,'' I whispered, ``very well.'' I stood and slung my overcoat over my shoulder. The blood tears ran freely from my eyes now, and I made no attempt to hide them. I myself knew the horror of what I had asked of her, knew how I would be damning her to an eternity, how I would lose her as a vampire is doomed to lose all of those he creates. And I would have done it in a second, done the Dark Trick, if she had but asked me, or moved to stop me, or sobbed, or laughed. But she did nothing, she stared fixedly at the spot where I had just been, as if I was still there and she was still looking into my terrible, beautiful eyes. And I knew that I had caused her great pain, greater than all of the pain she had ever felt in all her years. I scanned the room once sucking in the details as I sucked in blood, memorizing every detail down to the slight skew of the paintings on the wall and the gentle flicker of her computer screen. And I knew that I would never pass this way again, for she would never allow it. And the pain I had unleashed on her in this room, in those minutes we were together, came into me a thousand fold, and I could do nothing but flee.

I threw open the door, burying it an inch in the wall and shattering the wood. I fled into the hall and hurled myself out the window as if the very fires of Hell were licking at my heels. The glass shattered around me, slicing my translucent flesh, and the demon blood flowed out of me for a few precious before the wounds closed themselves. I moved with the full speed of the demon I was, and I was back at my brownstone in minutes.

I did not leave the brownstone for a week, and when I emerged I was a skeletal revenant starved for blood, my veins standing out beneath my taught, pale skin like ropes. And I hunted with abandon, killing innocent and guilty, man, woman, and child. And this bloodlust fueled me for many nights, and many died.

But that, and all that follows, is another story, to be told another time. It is winter now, and I have taken to reading again. I can stare out my window for hours looking at MIT across the river, and then read Byron or Keats until the sun chases me to my crypt. And painting, I have taken to painting. My walls are lined with stunning works, for with a vampire eye, a vampire memory, and a vampire hand one can create stunningly lifelike works. Dominating the study is a huge portrait of my love, resplendent in a flowing white gown. Every so often, I will take it down and work on it some more, add some detail I remember as I read, some minute flaw that adds infinitely to her appeal. I listen to the snow fall and think of her, often all night, even for days at a time.

The time that has fallen between now and our last meeting, brief even by mortal standards, has been nothing more that the blink of an eye to me. The pain in me burns as brightly as it did when I leapt from that window, though time has surely dimmed the fire I left in her. I can not guess at how long it will take for me to release this pain, or if it can ever be expunged at all, for such is the nature of an immortal's anguish. I know only that I can never see her again, for to see her again would be to lapse into such a despair that I would greet the rising sun with arms wide. As it stands, I can and will live, for now.

Perhaps one day I will make a companion, perhaps not. But for now, the rich wood and oiled leather of the study is like a womb, and I have no desire to be born into the cold winter outside. My only companion is the softly smiling portrait, and the words of the authors who line my shelves. I know only despair and hunger, and such will be my life for some time.

But we shall speak again. I have many mortal lifetimes to despair, and centuries to love again. My story is by no means complete, for I am a young vampire, and I have not yet stepped onto the stage of the world. Until such time as we meet again, adieu, my frail friends.