Descent

by Eric Alfred Burns

Part I

NOTE: "Descent" deals with mature themes and issues. It may be unsuitable for younger readers or for sensitive adults. I make no apologies - I simply bear warning. Vampire is a Horror game, after all....

May 1

Oh God.

I wish...I wish I knew what to do.

I'm sorry. I should start this letter over again. Carol, you always told my I held too much in. That's why you left me. I'm not holding anything in now. I can't. It isn't possible. I'm so sorry. I'm just so sorry.

Let me go back. Back to the beginning. Back as far as I think is appropriate - all right? That's quite some way, I'm afraid. It takes me back to Whitehall Grove, some twelve years ago.

You remember me telling you about Whitehall, don't you? That as a prep school it was renowned, and as a home environment, designed to shape young boys and girls, it failed miserably? Of course you remember. You were always so good at that sort of thing. One of the strongest, most unpleasant memories I have is of my Freshman year. This was the year I learned about sexuality. This was the year I learned about oppression.

Mansfield Theater was an old, old building. It had been built in the eighteenth century by one of Whitehall Grove's first alumni, Richard Mansfield. I was quite the juvenile actor, back then. I enjoyed putting on a role as much as the next person. Perhaps more. Perhaps that was my way of avoiding what my parents thought being a Roquefort meant. It was the night after the final performance of Glass Sword, a silly little play written by one of the seniors. Acting in it had been fun, though. I was in the costume loft, over the stage. With me was Rebecca Tants. She was a very pretty brunette girl. She wore the plaid skirt and white blouse required of Whitehall girls, and she wore them with a demure, almost fragile air. She excited me in many ways, as no doubt you have realized. Getting her alone, after a successful play (she called me brilliant! Even today, twelve years later, I feel a flush when I think of it.) Rebecca and I were kissing. We were also beginning to push a little further.

I hoped my discussion of early sexuality isn't disturbing to you, Carol. It shouldn't be - you realized at the time you weren't the first, I'm sure. Let me sum up my emotions by pointing out that I am not writing to Rebecca Tants.

Whitehall girls didn't wear hose or stockings, but instead the ankle socks popular at the time. Stockings were considered inappropriate and disrespectful to academia. By the same token, boys had to wear black - not brown - socks and shoes with our suits (deep blue jackets with the Whitehall Grove crest (the girls had jackets too, as I recall), same color slacks, white oxford shirts with plaid ties that matched the girls' skirts and sweaters in the winter). Since Rebecca could not fake smooth legs with hose, she kept then well shaved, which I found deeply erotic as I pushed her skirt up. She kissed me in such a way so as to encourage, rather than discourage me.

I am deeply concerned with offending you, now. At least, I don't expect you anticipated my frankness. Believe me when I tell you I must be frank, both to explain to you what has happened, and so that I can grasp what memories I can.

But more of that anon.

I had pushed her skirt up to the point where it hid nothing, though I was so entranced with kissing her (and, to be truthful, afraid to stop) that I didn't look. I was pressing her down into a boxful of old men's trousers when I heard a sharp "Stop that!"

I froze, panicked. Rebecca did too, though she recovered first and pushed me off, springing to her feet. I did the same.

It was Father Grey. He was a teacher at Whitehall Grove - we had a number of priests and nuns teaching there. I suppose the Headmaster thought it would add the correct environment. I don't know. He stared at the two of us - caught being human and uninhibited, which was synonymous with sin, to him. "I cannot believe what I am seeing before me - don't look at me, Mister Roquefort. You are not worthy of looking at me!"

I snapped my eyes downward, my face burning. Right then I knew - I knew - that I was doomed to Hell.

"The two of you are reprehensible," he snapped at us in his thin, reedy voice. "You are making a mockery of what this institution means! You are making a mockery of all that we have attempted, painstakingly, to give you. I can see there is only one way to promote a sense of morality in either of you. Miss Tants, turn around."

"Excuse me, Master, I don't-"

"Around girl, and lift your skirt."

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched Rebecca turn and lift her skirt, until her white undergarment was showing. I saw Father Grey pick up a cane, from the prop box, and slowly lift it back, behind him.

He stuck her with a smack, on the tender flesh just below where she was covered. He struck again, and again, while Rebecca pleaded with him to stop, sobbing. I tried to intercede, but was pushed back by the priest.

"Mister Roquefort, you will learn that Evil must be confronted and stopped. Do you hear me? Do you hear, Miss Tants?" He struck her again, and again. Red welts had been risen.

Looking back, I must assume the priest's concentration on Rebecca was something other than pious. However, the Fourteen Year old Michael Roquefort wasn't going to accuse such a powerful figure of hypocrisy or sexual perversion. "Please," I begged him, crying. "I asked her to do it! I made her do it! It's my fault, not hers!"

With that, he turned to me, after flicking Rebecca's skirt back down. "You shall not escape punishment, Mister Roquefort. Trust me, there." He had me turn and lower my trousers. Then, with a horrid pause, he struck. And struck.

It was blindingly painful, Carol. I've read of people who enjoy such things, and can only assume it is different when you are with someone you love. I was humiliated, in excruciating pain, and horrifically embarrassed. Even now, with all that has happened, my hand shakes to write of it.

"Think well on how you have suffered," he said to both of us. "I see no reason to mention any of this to the Headmaster. Remember, though, that evil shall always be confronted and destroyed. If you do evil deeds, you shall be crushed."

He left, climbing down the ladder. He was apparently confident that Rebecca and I would not attempt to pick up where we had left off. In that he was right - we did not pet or kiss after that, that night. It was not many nights afterward that we did kiss. And do much more. But that night, in horrible pain, feeling the fabric of my trousers rubbing and abusing my raw flesh, I turned and saw her crying and ashamed.

I took her in my arms, and rocked her back and forth. Everything had crystallized, in my head. My suffering was irrelevant. Rebecca was in pain and needed me - that was more important. Do you understand, Carol? Can you? I knew then that Father Grey had been right. Evil must be confronted. Evil must be destroyed. And those who are not evil must be comforted when evil strikes. If Father Grey could not see the evil he had inflicted, and therefore the evil he had become, then he was the one who must be fought and destroyed, not I or Rebecca.

I was powerless, of course. I simply avoided the man, for the remainder of my time there. It is my understanding that he has since been dismissed and defrocked. He may also have put in some prison time, though I'm not sure.

Rebecca and I continued to date until our Junior year. She and I were - I shudder to say - casual lovers, though we thought it was something more. After a while we discovered that sexuality is not enough to hold a couple together.

As you recall, you and I rediscovered that to our own chagrin. This letter is a testament to the emotional core that was at the heart of our relationship, however. At least, the emotions I felt and feel.

So what does this have to do with my torment? For I am tormented, Carol. I am horribly scarred forevermore. Scarred in a way the foolish cleric could not have conceived of.

Simply this, then. I never forgot that lesson. I never lost my conviction that Evil was present in how we treat our fellow man. I never lost my revulsion in the mistreatment of others for one's own, prurient delight or even survival. Thus I set myself up for Hell.

College was good to me, as you'll recall. Though I refused to give in to my parents' wishes (Business was of no interest to me, though I later consented to get an M.B.A.). You and I got our English degrees on the same day - the only two of our little clique to do so. You went off to England, and I went back home, to Boston. We swore to keep in touch. I suppose it is my fault that we did not.

So, we come to our present crisis, do we not? I spent time at Harvard, getting my M.B.A. and arranging to start coursework on an M.A. on Donne. I started to work with the part of the Roquefort wealth that I was entitled to, building up my own capital and creating my own portfolios, to make myself independent of my parents. That succeeded well, I must say. My father was impressed, since I showed initiative, though he though I devoted too much of my time and resources to charity. "Some charity work is fine and well, and to be expected," he would say, "but there is going too far, after all. You don't want to build up a reputation."

I loath that attitude, Carol. I always have. I have always encountered that concept of Noblesse Oblige and Social Class - both from my family and from Whitehall Grove. Whenever any man, be he Rockefeller, Reagan or Kennedy, places himself above his fellow, he both lies to himself and others. You and I have spoken of that, of course. I think of our Philosophy classes - I should have gotten a philosophy minor, it seems.

Perhaps then, I would be better prepared to handle what has happened to me.

To pick up my narrative, I should mention that my parents passed away two years ago. Both I and my sister Julia shared equally in their estate, though with the probate fights that happened, afterward, I am glad I had built up money of my own for the two of us to live on (Julia being fourteen at the time of my parents' death, I would act as executor of her share, providing my stewardship did not lower it's value. I took this quite seriously, taking sums of her money into a bank account, while investing equal sums of my own money. If the investment paid off, I would switch her money for mine, and therefore increase her holdings. If it failed, her money had gathered interest without harm, hadn't it?) She was attending Whitehall Grove herself (having just started before my parents died in the fire, and not wishing to leave, though I'd happily have brought her home if she had wished). I got over my grief (and as much guilt as possible. One always feels guilt in death, I suppose), and continued to expand our influence and holdings. I wasn't interested in this kind of life, but I had a responsibility to my sister. When Julia could take the money she had inherited (and I had increased), I would happily retire and become a philanthropist and a scholar. I intended to wind up at a small University somewhere, flunking freshmen.

This lasted until six months ago.

That is when he first contacted me.

Part II

I apologize for my tone. That is when he first contacted me sounds like a horrible dime novel. I've never been much for melodrama, as you well know. Let me leave it thus - it is the only way I can accurately convey the sense that I feel about him.

It was three in the afternoon, and I was tiding up some business in my office, at home (I didn't feel it necessary to maintain a corporate office). Since the death of my parents, I had kept an exceedingly low profile in my business dealings. When I bought stock, I bought non-voting when possible, not being interested in controlling things. I bought and sold property, however, since Real Estate was normally a good investment. I also maintained several buildings in Boston where people rented apartments and the like, including any number of low income units which I kept as low income units. More of my charitable impulses, I suppose, but when one has money, why must one squeeze people for more money?

But I am off track. Perhaps I'm trying to avoid speaking about what has happened. No matter. It was three in the afternoon and I was at home in my office. My secretary, Carol (Yes, I hired her for her name. You may feel flattered if you wish) came in with a letter.

"Michael," she said, "this came for you. It's marked `Personal and Confidential.'"

"Really? Did you read it?"

"Of course."

"Do I want to?"

"That depends. Did you go to the Whitehall Grove Academy for Boys?"

"No, I went to the Whitehall Grove Academy. The of Boys part was dropped when they let girls in."

"Well, this person claims to be an alum' of this Academy, and would like to meet with you. He read your name in one of the alumni magazines."

"Wonderful. Let me see the letter."

She handed it to me and waited while I read it. (I have always been a fast reader.)

December 14
116 Westbrook Ave
Brighton, MA

P.O. Box 43
Boston MA 02215

Dear Mr. Roquefort,

Let me extend my most heartfelt greetings. Having been unaware that an alumni of my alma mater was so close to me, I was pleasantly surprised to read your name in the latest issue of Whitehall Review. I have been many years away from the old hallowed halls, having graduated some years before you. Still, I am always pleased to encounter another Whitey.

If possible, I would like to meet with you, to get to know you. The Whitehall Grove Academy for Boys has always held a special place in my heart (as, I'm sure, it holds in yours). If it is convenient, why don't we plan to meet at the Escott Restaurant for dinner on the seventeenth. We could call it seven in the evening. If this is convenient, please let my secretary know at 277-6841. I look forward to making your acquaintance.

Sincerely,

Richard P. Mansfield VI

As you'll recall from the beginning of my letter, Richard Mansfield was the Alumnus who has donated the Mansfield Theater, in which Rebecca and I had our horrible encounter with Father Grey. This had been two hundred years ago, of course. I had to wonder if this fellow was a descendent.

How pathetic of me. How truly pathetic.

"Carol, contact Mr. Mansfield's office and confirm for me, would you?" Carol's a good secretary - a better secretary than I deserved, hiring her for her name. You left quite an impression on me when you left, my dear.

But I refuse to reopen that wound. It's irrelevant, now. Forgive me.

I went. The Escott is really a grand place - the sort of place my mother loved. I arrived about fifteen minutes late, to find Mr. Mansfield sitting over a glass of red wine the remnants of a meal in front of him.

He set his wine down and rose. "Good evening," he said (what a tired cliche. What a giveaway), "I apologize - I got here early and was absolutely famished."

"No problem," I said, shaking his hand. It was cooler than I expected, and firm. Mansfield himself looked to be forty or so, with a touch of grey on his temples. He was six foot one or so, with steel grey eyes that seemed to stare right into me.

I was enthralled.

I mean it. If Richard Mansfield had been Richelle Mansfield, I would have fallen in love with her on sight. As it was, he had to physically look away before I could take my seat.

"I took the liberty of ordering, for you," he said, with an air of command. He reminded me of my father, only moreso. He had control in his voice, coupled with the assurance of old money - that feeling of class that my parents tried to instill in me, and you so lovingly helped me avoid.

I never thanked you for that, dear Carol. Now I may never be able to.

I ate, and he talked - mostly about minor, unimportant things. I answered more than asked. Asking would have seemed disrespectful, and I wanted his respect. After a while, we were joined by a girl - twenty three or so - who was undoubtedly his daughter.

"Michael," Mansfield said, smiling, "this is Cordilia. Cordilia, this is Michael Roquefort. He went to Whitehall."

"A pleasure," I said, shaking her hand and resisting the urge to kiss it. I wasn't nearly as taken with her as I had been her father, but she was very attractive. Shapely, but not voluptuous, with straight auburn hair and green eyes. Her smile was slight, and demure, and I was glad to receive it.

"The pleasure is all mine," she said, with a hint of something other than friendliness. Sensuality is the closest quality I can think of, though it's utterly inadequate.

"Michael," said Mansfield, "I really have to get going. I'd like to talk with you again, sometime soon. Cordilia?"

"Why don't you go ahead," she said, smiling. "I'll catch up later. Besides, Roberto wouldn't think of charging me and I'm simply famished."

"I see." Mansfield stood, and I jumped to my feet as well. We shook hands again. "Keep good care of her, would you, Michael," he said, winking. "She's right about Roberto - I own this restaurant. And she's old enough to have no curfew. So, enjoy yourselves."

I sort of stammered a goodbye, and watched him go. He really had that kind of an effect on me.

"Well," said Cordilia, as the waiter brought her a salad and a glass of white wine. "Now that he's gone, what shall we talk about?"

We were intimate. There's no other way of putting it. Even that doesn't do the act justice, my dear. We danced much of the night, and then I brought her home, and we stayed up until 3 am talking, and then I took her to my bed. It was unbelievable. Her passion was exceptional, her stamina was extraordinary. And, at the pinnacle of our pleasure, something happened. Something that shook me to my soul. It was the most intense experience of my life, and I cannot begin to describe it.

It may seem tactless to be writing about such things to an ex-lover. Carol, believe me when I tell you that no matter how intense the experience was, it was a lie. A filthy lie and it shames me to think about it. You will see.

She was gone when I woke up. I stayed in bed that day - I was very weak and tired, with obviously too much wine and too late a night, the night before.

Looking back, it seems that though she touched wine to her lips a lot, and pushed her salad (and later fish) around, she didn't actually eat or drink anything. That is knowledge and hindsight speaking, though. At the time I hardly noticed. During our intimacy, she had been as cool to the touch as her father. I hadn't really noticed that either, at the time, save that it seemed a nice contrast.

I began seeing Cordilia rather seriously, over a period of months. Mansfield and I also saw one another often, and our friendship grew deeper and deeper. He seemed so alive! So in control of everything! I would ask him advice, and he always seemed to know the right thing to do. I began to consider asking Cordilia to marry me - that's right, marry. Not so much for her. Of, she utterly satisfied me. She was intelligent, witty, friendly, passionate, beautiful.... But I don't think I would have considered marriage if it weren't for her father. I desperately wanted to get closer to him.

You know the old adage, `beware of what you wish for....'

Part III

It was just three days ago that my relationships with Richard and Cordilia Mansfield bore their ultimate, bitter fruit. No doubt you're very curious about what has happened, by now. Carol, I must ask you - beg you to believe that the next series of events that I relate to you is true. If you do not believe me, then I am lost, utterly lost. I need you, dearest. I need you more than ever - even if I never see you again. I know you're married, now. I do not need you as a lover, so much as someone to share this horror with. Please believe me.

Three days. Cordilia slipped into my house (I had given her a key) just after sunset. I had never seen her during the day, which didn't really bother me. If it seems like I hadn't put much thought into my relationships with these two, you're right. I didn't put any thought into them. That was the way they wanted it. I smiled and rose from my desk, kissing her.

"Lover," she whispered, "I'm really glad to see you. You don't know how much."

"I bet I can find out," I said, nuzzling her - trying to awaken the woman I thought I held, never realizing I had never been able to awaken her at all.

"Ahem." My sister - home for the summer (Whitehall ends early, mostly because it starts August 1st) - cleared her throat, by the door. "Before you two get too intense, you wanna introduce me or something, Michael?"

Dear Julia. Sweet Julia. How could I? How could they? But that will come later. Soon, all too soon.

"Julia, this is Cordilia. Cordilia, my sister, Julia. She's just home from prep school."

"How positively boring," said Cordilia, walking over to Julia and shaking her hand. "Dad wanted me to go to Whitehall, but I turned him down, flat. No boarding school for me!"

Had I even once tried to put the pieces of the puzzle together, I'd have remembered that Richard Mansfield had referred to the Whitehall Grove Academy for Boys. Had I done any research, I would have realized that the school had admitted girls in 1924 - decades before Mansfield could have attended. I would have realized so many things. What a fool. What a pathetic fool.

The two seemed to hit it right off, which relieved me. "Julia," Cordilia said, "my father is going to visit us tonight. We'll need to see him alone, all right?"

"Of course," she said, though I had promised to take her to the movies that night. She truly seemed not to mind. Of course, my heart leapt at the news that Richard Mansfield would be coming, tonight. So pathetic....

After Julia left, Cordilia and I made love, twice. Both times that incredible even happened, as it always seemed to. I was amazed I had the strength to take her the second time - sex with her always left me so weak. She twirled my hair as I lay there, almost unconscious.

"So handsome," she whispered. "So good...." She seemed wistful, though I could barely understand her.

Looking at those events, rationally, I have to admit that right then, I think she felt something. It couldn't have been strong though. If it were, she never would have consented to what ultimately happened.

"Comfortable?" asked a strong male voice. I sat bolt upright in bed, which caused me to reel. I was so weak....

It was Mansfield, of course. And I was naked with his daughter. "M-Mr. Mansfield, I-"

"Hush, son. It's all right. I've seen my daughter naked before. I certainly didn't think the two of you were playing tiddlywinks, all those nights."

"Dad, you're embarrassing him," she said, slipping out of bed and dressing. "He's had a hard day."

"So I see. I'd almost think you planned on taking him."

"If I did plan that, I'd never have let you get so far into his skull," she said, slipping her belt on.

"What?" I asked. If only I wasn't so weak....

"Don't worry about it, Mike," Cordilia said, then leaned over and kissed me. "I...I might not see you for a while. All right?"

"Huh? What do you-"

"I have to get back to my own city, and see how things are going. Don't worry." She kissed me again, then rose and started out. "Be gentle with him," she said, her voice taking on an unexpected ring of command.

"Of course."

And she was gone. I was struggling to dress...I was so weak, I couldn't begin to think right.

"Michael, it's time for you to prepare yourself."

"Huh? For what?"

He leaned back in his chair. "Michael...I'm afraid I lied to you."

"What?"

"I'm not Richard Mansfield the sixth."

I stared - as stunned as if he had just said "The sun doesn't rise in the morning."

That's a particularly sickening metaphor, now that I think about it - and now I'm crying. Pay no attention to the brown splotch on the paper.

"I'm just Richard Mansfield. I did attend Whitehall Grove, though...in 1765. I was in the second class, the place having been founded in 1764."

"But-"

"Later, after I had inherited my family fortune, I built them the Mansfield Theater."

"That's impossible!"

"Is it?"

He rose, and walked over to my desk. He picked up a letter opener, and drove it through his hand. I shouted, and leapt to my feet, though my light-headedness made it hard to walk.

"It's all right," he said, pulling it out. "See?" Almost no blood had poured out. In fact, I watched the wound close before my eyes, until there wasn't even a mark! I swear I am not insane, Carol - I saw this. What is more, I now have the most terrible proof possible that this was not a trick!

"I'm immortal." He smiled. "And you're going to be immortal too."

"What? How?"

"Simple. I'm going to pass the gift to you. You know what gift that is, don't you?"

He smiled. His teeth hung down, like...no, they were...

Fangs.

He was a vampire.

"This...this can't be happening. What...what about Cordilia? What about your daughter?"

"Another lie, I'm afraid. We are Kindred, but she isn't my daughter, she's my mother. Twice, actually, since she gave birth to me and later embraced me, during the revolutionary war."

I fainted. It's understandable - I was at least three pints shy of my proper blood level. Cordilia took advantage of our intimacy to drink from me, right from the neck. There is a technique that seals the wounds and it feels so good, I never noticed.

When I awoke, he was sitting there, still. He was reading a book - one of mine. It was my copy of Poems by Burns.

"You're a vampire?" I whispered, feeling dread.

"Yes," he said. If he was startled by my awakening, he didn't tell me.

"And you're going to make me one?"

"Yes. I can use you - the prince of the city needs displacing. Your money and skills will be invaluable." He kept reading.

"Prince?"

"Yes - a Toreador. Degenerate and exhausted. He should have been dragged down a century ago. I'm going to drag him."

"You...you kill people. Don't you?"

He glanced up, and looked me in the eye. He was so exquisite. I loved him. I feared him.

"Yes," he said, quite mildly. "When I have to."

"That...you can't...."

I fell back asleep. When I awoke, it was sunny, outside. Mansfield was gone.

Carol, I had no doubt whatsoever that what he had told me was true. I went and drank three quarts of orange juice. I needed to. I was something akin to desperate. All that blood loss. Before, Cordilia only seduced me...and drank from me...once a night, and in a day or two I recovered. Last night she had taken quite a lot out of me.

It had been wonderful. So wonderful. I could still feel her, as we approached climax. Faster, faster...I'd be on the edge and she'd kiss me on the neck....

Not kiss. Bite. I touched the smooth, regenerated skin. I shuddered.

I looked for my sister, but she was out with friends. I looked out at the sunlight. It was so beautiful.... Mansfield wanted me to give it all up.

And drinking blood? I'm no vegetarian, but humans...humans are different. I couldn't do that!

But Cordilia did. And it felt wonderful.

It didn't matter. If she had told me, then maybe - MAYBE. But she didn't. That made it rape. And Mansfield. I loved him (I admitted it, now). But he didn't want to give this gift to me, for me - but because I was useful to him.

My father had wanted me to get a business degree for him, not because I wanted it. My mother had wanted me to marry a nice Blue Blood for her social standing, not my happiness. My entire life, I had refused to live my life for others, Carol. Even for you - I couldn't let you in enough. I had to have control.

And all those people I'd have to hurt. Maybe kill. Wasn't that wrong? Wasn't that evil?

Yes. Yes it was - no matter how they disguised it. Making me this unliving thing for Mansfield's profit was evil. Making me survive by abusing others was evil. Unseating a prince - whatever a prince was - so that Mansfield could take over was evil! And I had to fight against evil, always.

And Julia. A Vampire for a brother? Never. Never, I tell you!

I would have to turn him down, as painful as it seemed.

By the evening, I was feeling quite a bit better. I wouldn't want to exert myself, I knew, but I didn't expect to. You see, I loved Mansfield. I certainly trusted him. He had made an offer - a wonderful and terrible offer - but he would understand my refusal.

He arrived. I didn't hear the maid let him in. However, I assumed he had ways.

"Where's Cordilia?" I asked.

"She went back to Portland, Maine. She's the Princess, over there. She couldn't neglect that any longer." He paused. "Do you really care?"

"No," I said. "I was always more interested in you."

"I know."

"And...and this is hard. Mansfield - Richard - I can't. I just...can't."

"Can't what?" He almost whispered.

"Can't accept your offer. I can't become a vampire. It's just...it's wrong. For me. Maybe for anyone."

He waited a long time, staring at me.

"Michael," he said, "You seem to be under the misunderstanding that you have a choice."

And he was on me, drinking...drinking...drinking. He tore my life out of me from my neck, and I felt my entire world swirling around and losing focus. It was horrid! It was wonderful!

Blackness. I sank down. I died.

Part IV

I died, Carol. Death. Death! I felt it, I tell you! You're reading a letter from a dead man!

I am telling you the absolute truth. Remember that. Believe that. Believe me.

As the darkness had fully settled, I stopped feeling anything. Then, suddenly, my senses caught fire! Literally, it seemed. My mouth...my mouth was full of something thing, and powerful...it burnt me. I swallowed and it exploded through my stomach, out towards my extremities. Every part of me caught fire, as my vision swirled back into being....

His hand. I was sucking on his hand, with all my strength. It was so sweet, so potent! It was everything and I needed it...needed every drop.

Blood. I needed the blood.

And it was gone. I saw him lick his hand, and there was no bleeding. There was no mark.

It didn't matter - the thirst. The THIRST!!!! I had to have more - I grabbed him.

He held me. I was nothing, in comparison. I struggled by to no avail My mind retreated very far back inside me. Something else was driving me. The thirst - the HUNGER.

The Beast. It needed to be fed. I needed to be fed.

"Not me," he whispered. "Over there."

"Then I saw it. A pathetic creature, blubbering and wailing as it saw me. I saw and I smelled it. It had blood, that was all that mattered. Sweet, succulent blood.

Mansfield let me go. I sprang, slamming my body and driving my fangs into the animal desperately. It stopped struggling and I could hear cooing, almost like orgasm. It didn't matter. I drank and drank and drank it dry. Until finally, I was gorged and its heart stopped.

Until her heart stopped.

Julia.

I screamed. I dropped my sister's body and slammed into Mansfield. The blood - her blood flowed into my arms and I felt stronger than I ever had. I had power. I punched him and he felt it.

Much good it did me. He used his own blood - the blood he got from me, and hit me four times before I could see him. My bones popped and I was lying, helpless on the ground. Such pain....

"Julia...." I sobbed.

"Shut up! You're immortal now, and I didn't really hurt you that badly. Feel the blood in you and force it through you. It will repair the minor damage I did. Do it!"

I did it...I felt numb, but I felt my ribs slide back into place. Pain went away.

All but the hole in my soul. I sobbed as I looked at her. "Bring her back," I sobbed to Mansfield. "Do it to her - make her live."

"No. I only had permission for one and she's of no use to us. Don't worry, my Childe. We'll make her death seem accidental."

"No...."

"Yes. Get used to life, Michael. Get used to unlife."

When I awoke, this evening, the newspaper was on my bed, turned to a story of a girl, who fell off the platform onto the Train Tracks of the underground Boston T, last night. The vampires, you see, control the press. The hospitals too. And the morgue. And the police. It's all taken care of. There's a masquerade, Carol. One that says that Vampires don't exist. That masquerade means that Julia Roquefort couldn't have died from massive blood loss. She certainly didn't enjoy that blood loss. There was no way that I could have done it to her.

I'm risking both of us by writing to you, Carol. Further letters I send will be Express Mail, as that's picked up during the day, and it's out of Boston by the time the night rolls around. There's a way that I can make my staff my powerful servants, you see. Not vampires, but close. Mansfield's going to teach it to me. He's going to teach me so much....

I'm lost, Carol. I don't know what to do. I want to sit on the roof and let the sun scour me off the Earth, but I know I won't. There's a beast inside me, now - and it will keep me alive whether I like it or not. I have to fight evil, Carol. I have to fight it but now I'm evil! I killed my sister and I'll kill again. Sooner or later the blood I've got in me - Julia's blood - will be gone and I'll have to feed. If I don't feed then the Beast will - and the Beast will kill.

I'm lost, Carol. Help me. Help me please.

Michael


Copyright 1992 Eric Alfred Burns. Permission is granted for Electronic Distribution only, so long as the text of both the story and this copyright notice are not removed or altered in any way. Printed hard copies are limited to single copies for the reader's own use. All other duplication and distribution is strictly forbidden. All rights reserved.