The vampires flowed from shadow to shadow in the night streets of one town or another, slinking away like black cats from the flickering streetlights. Their forms were ill-defined and malleable to the darkness. Their long overcoats seemed to extend; dripping like ink as a dark corner absorbed their forms, only to be spit out as the vampire lunged to each new cold pool of black. The night shifted and caressed them; it allowed them no limits, granted no boundaries. They moved as dark things do in the depths of the ocean; silently, with power barely restrained, the entirety of their physical form adapted and developed, coaxed and raised, by the very night they transported themselves so easily through. 

Only the reds of their eyes showed, glinting with malice as they reflected the electric lights. A bystander might see them, dancing from wall to wall, rooftop to rooftop, coasting along the gutters and terraces, and assume them to be lightning bugs. 

If that bystander got close enough to realize them as windows into the depths of a death beyond death, they would think themselves mad. The eyes would haunt them for the rest of their days, appearing in nightmares and daydreams, manifesting as the very essence of fear. When their tiny mortal lives became fraught with worry and dismay, the eyes would be the symbol, the harbinger of such feelings.

That bystander may be so unlucky as to see a glint of white. A phantom’s smile. That smile would widen until it became the thing of sharks; the smile of devourers and the ancient, primal knowledge that yes, yes, the mighty human could be eaten.

The vampires coalesced outside a rundown bar. Inside, music was clamoring too loudly, as if trying to proclaim that a good time was being had, yes, yes it was. The brick walls of the building were starting to crumble and give way. Dirt lined the mortar. The sign was flashing its neon blue weakly. Near the door, two men were smoking cigarettes. When the vampires appeared with the slightest motion, the men hardly noticed; it was as if the vampires had always been there. Their mortal gaze passed over them; their brains seeing them but immediately dismissing their possibility. The eyes could not process their form. 

Nonetheless, a chill cut through their bones. Some instinct, from deep in the days of running from predators, was drawn out from the thousands of years of civilization and reason. That instinct jangled and blared like an alarm bell, shrieking at an evolutionary decibel.

Something is wrong, you should move.

The men, unable to explain to each other, nor themselves, zipped up their coats and snuffed out half-full cigarettes. They hurried back into the warmth of the bar, to the laughter and glistening glasses of beer, like frightened pre-humans hurrying back to the fire.

“You wanted to talk here?” one of the vampires asked. His voice was thin, reedy, and echoed of wind pushing its way through vacant steel, rising on the vowels and gravelly through the consonants. He did not lilt on the question, his voice did not lift with intention. It was stated with the detachment of someone who has uttered the same cluster of sounds for the innumerable millionth time.

Lenore slid easily out from the darkness, and nodded. Better here, somewhere she would forget almost instantly with with eternity’s ease. The pain would only linger like a bitter ghost if happened in a place she visited often. She was gossamer and ice; hair a measure of yellow so severe it was nearly white. It was pinned back and carefully arranged. No strand fell stray nor shifted in the wind. She was carved marble coaxed to life by a deranged, delightful curse. Her eyes were faded paint; no moisture touched them. They moved like marbles in sockets, no resistance to greet them. Her features were angled and edged toward reptilian, with narrowed eyebrows and cheekbones that cut high. 

The male vampire emerged as well; it was vampire custom, a respectful gesture. One did not remain in form, animal or shadow, when speaking to an equal. Humans could be taunted and seduced from any shape. But fellows on this earth were rare and treasured, albeit treated with trepidation. You granted them the respect of seeing your nightface, and they yours.

He was not as pristine as Lenore; he had the sloppiness of youth. An older vampire would look upon him and claim the reek of mortality, their aged eyes picking out the tiniest blemishes still remaining, the vaguest hints of new hairs still growing in his long, shaggy black hair. The light graze of the black beard that clung to his jawline appeared a fraction too short, and his clothes clung to his taut, slender body the tiniest bit too loosely. 

A human would not notice. A human could not notice. But vampires did, and it was all Lenore could see. He had not calcified yet. His form was not permanent, and would not be for decades. Decades were nothing. She could close her eyes and lose a decade. The fact that she did not care to wait for him, though… that weighed on her.

She had thought he was the one. But his blood had not done for her what she had needed it to, and now it was her duty to introduce this young vampire to the ultimate truth of immortality: 

You spent most of it alone.

“Our hands will never touch again,” she said. She said it with a firmness, a harshness she did not mean. Once it was in her voice, however, she found she did not mind it as much. “There is nothing else to be said.”

Reynolds, the young vampire, did not flinch. His eyes did not blink, his mouth did not tremble, yet Lenore knew she had delivered pain deep within him. She watched a lifetime of emotions flicker in his eyes like candlelight. And easily be dismissed. He reached for his stoicism, —the willingness and ability to simply let go—the one trait that had survived immortality, and let it serve him as it had in life. She felt her respect for him deepen; no one wanted to see a vampire fall apart.

“That’s it, then,” he murmured. 

The corners of her mouth twitched. Twenty years ago she would have smiled slightly. Thirty she would have hugged him. Forty she might have grinned and laughed and felt downright guilty.

Fifty? Who knew. She might have fallen against him and taken everything back. Her Reynolds, her darling, sweet, fearsome Reynolds; there was no possibility they’d ever be apart. No misery greater than to be away from each other. Those were the things they’d said to each other under a thousand nighttime skies. 

“That’s it,” she allowed herself to reply. Over half-a century distilled into a handful of words.

And then she was gone, no trace or whisper left on the wind.

Reynolds lingered for a moment. He wondered how long he would have to be alive until heartbreak did not feel so vile. He supposed he would find out. 

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