I chose a large house--an inn, according to the sign above the door chime--where the sounds and smells were particularly inviting. There I felt myself coalesce in front of a shuttered door.
I looked down to see my hands--but not my hands; they were someone else's, and I realised that this was not my body. I held those stranger's hands up to the moonlight and realised, with a thrill of horror and intrigue, that the flesh was pale and radiant; I spread one out in the cold air and turned it this way and that, like a woman admiring the diamond ring upon her finger, and watched with childlike amazement as different colours, beautiful quicksilver mother-of-perl hues, pale blue and rose and green, glittered in my skin as though it were polished opal.
I lowered it again at the sound of footsteps--upstairs, I realised with oddly mounting euphoria--and listened impatiently as, step by lumbering step, my victim neared. Surely time had slowed for me, for it seemed hours before at last the door creaked open.
Behind it stood a woman in a large shapeless nightgown--a middle-aged woman, stout and sagging from childbearing, two waist-length brown braids emerging from beneath her white cap, a large mole sprouting two dark hairs just above her upper lip. She squinted out at me, tucking her chin atop a fold of pasty flesh, and snapped, "It is late to knock!"
She spoke in Roumanian. Impossibly, I understood every word, as though she had addressed me in perfect Dutch.
A faint red glow surrounded her like a gauze veil; I knew at once that this was the phenomenon Arkady and Arminius had reffered to as the aura. Hers spoke of animal strength and determination, of unalloyed life force, and it flickered with dark brown sparks of annoyance.
Make no mistake: She was a plain woman, even homely, a whoman who would have incited in the mortal Doctor Abraham Van Helsing not even a flicker of lust. But the scent of her drove me to madness. Such a marvellous smell! Earthy, warm, bittersweet; the smell of healthy blood, accompanied by the beautiful music of a strong heart thrumming in her ample bosom. A robust woman, with blood dark and rich and red--I almost could not answer her. My desire made me near swooning, evoked the same weak-kneed sensation I had felt the first time I carried Gerda to the marriage bed and kissed her.
All this I noticed in my curiously expanded time, before she had even uttered the first word; I could scarce control my impatience whilst she spoke. Yet as desperate as I was to embrace her, some intangible force held me back.
I knew I must await her invitation.
"I seek a room," I said, and marvelled at the sound of my own voice. For it was not my own but a stranger's, richly melodious and deep. I looked over at the heavy peasant woman with true longing--an emotional and physical ache, like lust--though it was somehow not as coarse but more refined. I yearned not for her body and a moment's pleasure but for her essence, her very life.
Yearning so permeated my entire being that I could direct it through my eyes, like a beam of light, and when I gazed into her eyes, I sensed the red glow surrounding her--protecting her--weaken round her heart. As I continued to stare at her, it glimmered, then it went out altogether, like an extinguished candle flame.
I sureged forth, feeling my very desire precede me, filling the air around her with darkly sparkling indigo mist. Her eyes at once went dull, confused--the same terrible dazed look I had seen in the eyes of the peasant woman in Vlad's castle. I knew then I had established a connection, similar to the one Arkady had attempted with me on the train: I knew, beyond all doubt, that I was free to place thoughts directly into her mind.
"Of course," she murmured, her wide-eyed gaze focussed entirely on me; it was, in fact, the answer I had ordered. When she opened the door and gestured me inside to a dimly lit corridor, I felt a wicked thrill. Yet I began to struggle against it, suddenly realising what it was: a thirst, a hunger, all-consuming, all-compelling, so desperately painful that I could scarce bear it, could scarce stand.
For a few passing seconds, somehow I fought: somehow held back, not understanding how I could have so suddenly found myself inside a vampire's skin. Not willing, most certainly, to kill. But my restraint lasted only briefly; and then the ache grew to such intensity--far, far beyond any emotion, any sensation I have known as a mortal man--I could endure it no longer.
It is a dream, I told myself with relief. The dream of a dying man trapped in the snow. None of it--Arminius and his white wolf, the glade, perhaps not even Vlad and Arkady and Stefan's death--was true. Perhaps I was even home at bed in Holland, so delirious with fever that the entire last few weeks had been nothing but hallucination. Perhaps even poor Papa was still alive.
Thus I ratioinalised my next action: to yield to the blood-hunger and seize the woman in the corridor, pressing against her sturdy body with my own, revelling in its warmth, in the texture of the soft, firm flesh at her throat, in the smell of her hair. So I found that soft flesh with my mouth, my tongue (revelling, too, in the salty tang of unwashed skin) and at last my teeth; and when I forced my jaw down, piercing her, she trembled and let go a soft cry of shock and bliss that spoke for us both.
I stepped behind her and held her in my arms like a lover--for this was surely a more intimate act than that of uniting mere flesh--and drew from her, aided by lips and tongue, divine nectar, the sweetest wine I had ever drunk. Yes, it was sweet, and utterly intoxicating, so much so that I was completely lost to myself, more swept away than I have ever been either by the act of love or by drink. I pressed closer to her, closer, and with my chest against her back, my hands beneath her breasts, felt the furious rhythm of her heart as it gradually slowed, slowed, slowed. . . .
The sound of the blood in her veins was the gentle rushing of the sea. And on that tide were borne her thoughts, sailing past like bobbing bits of flotsam that I could pluck at will. Here was an appreeciation of my handsomeness, and a desire to wrap her sturdy legs about mine; here a murderoous thought towards her husband, drunken and asleep upstairs, and of the extra coin she might pocket should she offer me her services. . . .
Her mind was entirely mine to control, to utilise as I wished, as was her body. Yet I cared for none of it save her hot pulsing blood. I drank and drank of it, wishing for that moment never to end, for to be candid, it was as deeply pleasurable as the moment of sexual release.
But end it finally did; the ocean of her thoughts went still and placid, motionless. And then there was naught but darkness. I pulled back at once from the presence of Death and watched with revulsion and dismay as her body dropped heavily to the floor. I shall never forget her face in death: chalk-white, grey rosebud mouth open in faint sensual surprise, eyes wide and vacant.
At the sound of her corpse thudding against the ground, a door down the corridor opened, and a man==huge and slovenly, with matted dark hair and beard and a stained white nightshirt--appeared, calling: "Ana?"
My reaction was pure instinct; I held totally still. (I almost wrote teh words, and dared not breathe--but in fact, I did not breathe at all.)
And as the man moved slowly through the doorway with the deliberate snail-paced movements of a mortal, I espied beside the woman Arminius, wearing as always his dark robes and gentle smile.
As Arkady had, he spoke to me without moving his lips. "He will see you soon, Abraham, unless you act. Remember the aura: Withdraw it tightly into the center of your being."
Oddly, his advice made perfectly understandable good sense to me. With a sensation of drawing in, as one might inhale air, I retracted at once from the dead woman my glittering indigo aura, with which I had pierced hers. I could feel the withdrawal of that power into the inner core of my being; THere I kept it and turned to face the man, prepared to similarly dispose of him should the need arise (though, in fact, my appetite had been more than assuaged, and the thought was unappealing).
But he did not see me, or Arminius--only poor Ana, on whose behalf he released a sharp cry. He ran to her side and knelt down, frantic, shouting her name. I stood right beside him, but never once did he exhibit any awareness of my presence.
Well there it is. Remember, not my words, copyright is Jeanne Kalogridis, published in "Children of the Vampire". Hope this makes you all go out and buy that book. :D