United - An Albino Vampire Detective Story

Roam Albino VampireBy Ian Hunter

There was a scream in the night.

And it was nothing to do with me.

There was a woman pleading for her life.

And it was nothing to do with me.

Until.

There were two men trying to kill her. This tall, pretty woman, with long, straight brown hair. We were in the park, beside the fountain and the empty space where the merry-go-round used to stand. She was struggling with one of them. While the other waited, knife in hand, waiting to make a clean strike.

Then he got his chance.

Once, he stabbed, into her chest, deflating her struggles.

Then a second time, punching the knife into her, and up, as he pulled her close in a form of twisted embrace, turning the knife inside her, then pushing her away as blood pulsed out of her in a dark wave, drenching her clothes, despite her clutching, protesting fingers.

She fell, and I let her fall, running after her fleeing attackers. I caught the first by the back of his head. My fingers elongating, stretching around his skull and tightening, ignoring his kicks and punches as I lifted him off the ground, my fingers closing, biting through bone and into his brain. Killing him instantly. I waved my hand, tossing him to the side, waved my hand again, shaking blood and red pulp away.

His companion was up ahead, taking a path through the park that ended in some bushes. He tried to push his way through them and was caught in the thorns. He gasped, starting to turn and I stepped forward quickly, seizing the hand holding the knife, all to aware of the silver blade and what it could do to me. I squeezed his fingers until they cracked and opened in all their bent, strange glory. The man moaned and the knife fell to the ground. I kicked it away. Before he had a chance to do anything, I drew a sharp finger across his neck, letting my mouth open wide as blood sprayed into it. I held him up as his legs buckled and his life flowed into me, his memories, and I ignored them all except the most recent. Why he was here. Why the woman had to die. Then I pushed him back into the sharp arms of the branches. They held him for a second or two before parting under his weight, devouring him. He rocked back and forward until he was still, open eyes staring at nothing.

The woman was almost dead by the time I returned. I held her head and she stared at me, eyes widening. In shock, or in shock at the sight of me I did not know, but I did know I would not be a pretty sight. Anger and bloodlust driving me, controlling me. A thin, handsome pale face, surrounded by a shock of white hair. Sharp teeth. Piercing red eyes. No, not pretty.

And I still don't know why I did this.

I slit my wrist open and forced her to drink my blood while I bent down and lapped at the wounds in her chest and belly, taking in more memories until I had most of the facts, but not the essential ones.

Then she died.

Gently, I laid her down and waited.

Revellers passed on a nearby path, singing and laughing. I could smell alcohol on their breaths and in the bottles and cans they held. I rose, body swelling, ready to protect her. But they came no closer.

A siren shrieked in the darkness like an animal skidding through the night.

With a gasp, she rose, lurching up. I grabbed her and pulled her to her feet. She tried to punch me, but I held her wrists and looked into her eyes.

"Do you want to die, Alison King?"

She blinked away her previous life and its violent end, and looked at me.

"Do you?" I asked again. "Want to die, truly die? Or live again?"

Her eyes widened, a look of shock and horror filling them, and something else too, something that might have been revulsion. She knew what I was. What she had become.

I nodded and opened my hands.

"Belanger," she said hesitantly. "They call you Belanger."

"Among other things," I told her, a sly smile on my face. "They killed you, and I brought you back." My thin hand cradled her cheek. She did not flinch or move away. "But now you are changed, though not perhaps forever, unlike me. If you trust me, that is."

"Do I have a choice?" she said, staring defiantly into my eyes. She would make a great vampire, I thought. If I let her. "Why should you help me?"

I shrugged. "Three lives I have lived here. Three lives tainted by the albino's curse, and other curses too. I have played my own father and grandfather in this city. I know it well. I know your family, and now your brother is missing, and you want to find him."

"That's why they tried to kill me."

I nodded.

"But I don't know why."

"Nor do I, yet."

She looked at me, features changing, though she didn't know how she was doing it, but a little of the bloodlust was stirring inside her.

"You killed them, didn't you?"

"Yes."

She frowned. "I know you did." She licked her lips, slowly. "I could taste it in your blood. Feel it. See it."

"And?"

She smiled, teeth long and sharp. "I liked it."

I was right, she would make a great vampire. If I let her.

My raking hand, moved fast, too fast for her, re-opening the wounds in her stomach. She looked at me in surprise as my eyes narrowed, and I used my shape-shifting powers on her, as I could on any other vampire, pinching the veins in her neck, making her lose consciousness.

I picked her up and marched through the park, fighting with my own bloodlust as her blood seeped over my hands and into my coat.

The hospital was up ahead. I walked past incredulous-looking ambulance men who stood smoking at the entrance to the emergency treatment room. One started forward, and I stopped him with a glance, his mouth opening to let his cigarette tumble to the ground. The automatic doors hissed open. I barged through the queue of the injured, most the result of drunken brawls or domestic violence. Some turned in anger, then parted at the sight of the bleeding woman, at the sight of me.

"Name?" asked a woman sitting at a computer terminal on the other side of the counter.

"Her name is Alison King," I told her, and dropped the bleeding woman on top of the counter. "Give her a blood transfusion," I said, and walked back into the night.

*        *        *

Alison King was searching for her brother.

Stephen Phillip King.

Stevie King.

The most famous player never to play for United.

Unlike his brother, Charlie King, a solid defender, and now a reserve team coach with United. Unlike his father, Big John King who runs a pub not far from Cluney Park, United's ground. Unlike his grandfather, Davie the Dodger King, or King Dodger as he was better known. I had seen the Dodger a few times, back in the 1950s, before regulations when seating became mandatory for everyone. Then, there was little regard for health and safety and we were packed in at evening home games, like sardines. Hot, sweaty men, full of passion, full of blood, all around me. It was intoxicating. But season tickets and plastic seats deprive me of that pleasure now, not to mention close circuit television cameras that might reveal a ghost among the fans.

Still, I knew Stevie King, because I knew this city, even from the shadows. Rovers and United, always jostling for supremacy, although in recent years it had been all United, even with the departure of dour Old Man Campbell, their legendary manager. Faded away from the public limelight to some nursing home on the coast. But still they win, game after game, trophy after trophy.

Although he was a star at United's youth academy, Stevie fell out with his father and defiantly signed for Rovers, even picking up a few medals or two on the way, usually from minor domestic and European competitions United ignored. Stevie also began to collect the odd international cap, demonstrating a few touches that would have made the Dodger proud. Over the years. I watched his progress from the corner of the odd bar, as I sat in the shadows. One red eye on the football, the other on potential victims. Then Stevie relented, and Rovers accepted an offer they would have been mad to refuse. There was only the final of a lesser European trophy to play for and he would be on the move, across the city, where he belonged.

The game had hardly started when the tackle caught him on the knee. I heard somewhere that he knew his career was over before the pain hit him, in that split-second when bone shattered and agony began. I can believe that, almost like a car accident, being on a different plane as time slows down but not enough to avoid the unavoidable. United didn't complete the signing, but they sent him abroad to the best specialists, or the best that were around at the time. They even gave him a PR job when the operations failed, looking after corporate guests, promoting the club with his brother and father. Eventually he moved on to become a television commentator, helping out at live games or sitting with a panel of experts back in the studio.

Despite putting on a few pounds, he was handsome, as Alison was pretty. He, too, would make a good vampire.

If he was still alive.

It was the summer. My least favourite time. The air hot and heavy. The days long. The nights far too short. There was no football. No strangers in the city, filling the streets and the bars on a regular basis. Drinking Alison's blood had given me some of her memories, some of her concerns. Stevie usually spent the summer months playing in charity golf tournaments, but this year was different. There were new kids on the commentary block, dressed in sharp clothes with hair full of gel. Stevie knew his days were numbered and did not want to end up as a speaker on the after dinner circuit. He wanted to diversify, move into different sports, set up a production company. He had ideas for other shows, documentaries for radio and television. He was pitching an idea now, Alison knew, but didn't know what it was.

When I close my eyes, I'm with her, riding her memories. The memories carried in her blood. With her as she makes phone calls to her brother, always getting his answering machine, When she calls his neighbour to check on his flat. When she turns up there herself, peering in the window, crouched down to shout through the letter box.

She tries the police, tries the hospital where I left her tonight, tries the pubs and restaurants he frequents, tries the television studio, and gets nowhere, gets nothing, except a knife in her guts and one that narrowly missed her heart.

Why?

I should have taken the blood of both Alison's attackers, I realise now, but I was too enraged, to desperate to deal with them quickly and get back to lap up her blood, so sweet with pain and terror and the knowledge of her impending death. When I open my eyes, I am stuck in the recent past, shaking gore from my sharp hand, advancing on the other attacker who is caught in the bushes. I slice open his neck and drink his blood. The memories in that blood show me a parking lot and a man with leather gloves passing over a picture of Alison and a wad of twenty pounds notes. Fifty in all, held together by two elastic bands.

I look round at my companion. The man who will get a shattered skull. He smiles at me and behind him the river glistens and beyond that is the area of the city I call American Squares. Bright lights filling up the night. Pizza Hut, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, some Italian restaurant franchise.

The man who had the money promises more when the job is completed. He taps the roll of twenties. On the back is a blank card with a number written in pen.

"Call me," the man rasps.

"I intend to," I say to no-one in particular.

*        *        *

But, first, as they say.

It is time to go home to the house of Belanger.

When I come here, I live – if that is the right word for something like me- on the South side. A two-storey Victorian house with an over-run garden. From the outside it looks drab and uninviting, which is the intention. The only modern thing about it are the doors and windows. They were as state-of-the-art as I can afford, but doctored to look old, surrounded by flaking, peeling paint. A dedicated burglar could probably break into the house but would certainly make enough noise to be heard trying to do it.

Enough noise to wake the dead.

During the day, I lie upstairs in my cabinet. There are no lights in that room, and it is at the side of the house, not visible from the road. The glass on the window is black, bathing the room with darkness, even during the day. If need be, I could function in that room, with sunlight burning against the other side of the dark glass, clamouring to incinerate me.

As usual, after such a violent feeding, I am too excited to sleep. So I lie inside my magic cabinet, carving memories carried in the blood I had taken from Alison and her two attackers. My sharp fingernails cut cryptic comments, triggers for the experiences I have stolen. I cannot write them out completely. The cabinet is large, but my years have been long. I think of Alison and can sense her hate for me. She wanted to be a vampire, wanted this dark, flawed immortality, but the transfusion will wipe her clean. If she had fed she would have been beyond saving, but this is a modern medical trick I learned in Australia, after a car crash on the Great Ocean Road past Lorne robbed me of my latest male companion. Alison might have been a companion too, but I had given her away.

I dream, of things underground. A voice screams, pleads and I jolt awake, teeth long and jagged, my sharp fingernails puncturing my legs. I wince as I pull them free, willing the wounds to close, before the blood can stain some of my carvings. I once owned a house in America that belonged to a serial killer who kidnapped and kept his victims in a pit under the house. I bought it from an estate agent who specialises in such places. Houses where people have died and where they still linger. Reluctantly, I had to sell the house. The living haunted it, drawn by its reputation, and the dead were always there. Caught. Trapped. Wandering on and on. Although I miss the thrill of waking up to find myself sharing the cabinet with someone with half a face.

I stared at my fresh carvings, until the words filled my mind. Had I been dreaming of the house with the pit in Portland? I couldn't be sure. I rose and padded through the dark house, hunger stirring inside me, but I was determined not to feed. A few nights without sustenance would make it all the more delicious when it came.

There was another note waiting for me. Stuck in the letterbox. From my dear neighbours, whose beady eyes had noticed the house was occupied again and were complaining about the state of my garden. Oh, to be alive and have such worries. I briefly thought of killing them one by one, each with a different garden tool, but then I couldn't be sure if that was an original idea or a bad horror movie I had once seen.

*        *        *

Jimmy Cady owns the car wash that never sleeps.

It's a run down place on one of the city's main arteries. It never closes, and is always busy. Jet washes instead of a proper car wash and a black board that lists various degrees of valeting.

Jimmy says that cabbies use the place all night. I've heard others say that it's a front for more sinister activities, not that I've ever noticed anything, not that I'm bothered.

His office is a shack at the end of the forecourt. I can hear him pissing behind it as I wait inside.

"Hello, Jimmy."

"Jesus, Belanger!" His hands grip the doorframe, as if he's poised to run away.

"Now there's an interesting name," I say with a grin, and hold open a pale hand towards him. "Come in, Jimmy."

He grunts and closes the door. "You're a quiet man, Roam. It must be the ghost in you."

"Could be," I agree, getting out of his chair. "I'm looking for information."

"I didn't think you wanted your car washed."

"If I ever learn to drive, then buy a car, I'll always wash it here."

He sits down. I move round the hovel so I can look out of the grimy windows and see his customers, like ancient knights, holding lances filled with water. I'll only leave when their time is up and water is not blasting at their cars. Jet washes, every vampire hunter should have them.

"United," I breathe.

Jimmy frowns. "The football team? I never figured you for a fan."

"Tell me about them."

He shrugs. "What? They never lose at home. Never have, never will, probably, although there have been a few close shaves recently."

"Who owns them?"

"Search me. Some rich family, I think. Millions Masterton tried to buy the club a few years ago."

"Who?"

"Big property tycoon, made even more money dabbling with IT and the internet."

I nod wisely, not having a clue what he's talking about.

"He was a fan with money, and saw the chance to make some more money.

Merchandising and the like. He even wanted the club to move to a new stadium. Claimed that Cluney Park was unsafe, built on top of old mine workings, and an underground river."

"What happened?"

"Who knows. The bid failed. United prefer stability. Old Man Campbell was the boss for almost forty years. They like to retain their own. Players become coaches, a coach becomes the manager if he's lucky enough."

"What about Stevie King?"

Jimmy laughs. "The Prodigal Son? He never made it back. Could have been a legend, but we'll never know will we?" Jimmy rises slightly in his seat and peers outside. "I've got another customer. If you want to know everything about United you should try Rab Bloch. He lives above the tattoo parlour in Duke Street."

"I will," I tell him, as Jimmy moves towards the door.

"You got any other questions?"

I nod slightly. "Can I use your phone?"

*        *        *

"Yes?" a voice rasps.

"It's me," I say, not sounding like me at all, but when you are a vampire and a shape-shifter you can meld your vocal chords to sound like anyone.

"Who?"

"The Alison King hit."

"What hit? She's still alive. I can read the papers. You blew it."

I drop the impersonation. "Did they mention anything about the death of your two hired killers? Have they found their bodies yet?"

"Who is this?"

"Someone you'd never want to meet. Tell me why you wanted her dead. Why her brother is missing?"

"Then I'd have to kill you."

I laugh.

"Meet me by the American squares," I tell him. "Bring Stevie and I may let you live."

"American Squares? What are you talking about?"

"Down by the river. The place where you handed over your wad of twenties to your late, not very lamented hitmen."

"Who is this?" he asks more insistently.

I hang up.

*        *        *

Upstairs, in a room that is always dark, stands a magic cabinet. Faded comets and stars cover the wood, alongside the legend : Belanger, The Mysterious.

Inside the cabinet, I dream. Of things past, present, and possibly future. Of things that should never be.

This dream is a familiar one. I am sinking through water, arms held out by my sides, head back, gazing up through the rippling currents to a blue sky. Even if I could, I cannot surface. The sun that powers the blue sky would kill me. So I sink, robbed of energy, as darting, possibly inquisitive fish move around me. Then they flee, as the other fish arrive, long, slug-like with gills and the faces of my victims. They open their jaws to reveal rows of pointy sharp teeth, tearing teeth. Hundreds of them gather, too many, and they snap at each other in their frenzy to get closer, to rip me to pieces.

I rise with a start and have to fight the urge not to leap from the cabinet. Instead, I close my eyes and let my fingers snake over the words carved into the wooden sides of the cabinet, until I find his name.

Four little letters.

I remember him lying beside me, on the other side of the ocean, gifting him a little of my blood to give him night eyes, letting him hold my sharp finger like a pen to scratch his name there.

I hold my hands towards his name, as if it was a fire, warming me.

* * *

The alley beside the tattoo parlour smells of piss and spilled wine. Smashed green glass litters the ground. I walk up the stairs past graffiti. A door is boarded up, another has signs of burning, and the third is slightly open. I can hear crowd noises, the cultivated tones of a football commentator from another age.

"Hello?" I say, pushing the door open, smelling paint. "Rab Bloch?"

"Come in!" a voice yells back.

I enter a shrine to the great god United. Framed posters cover the walls, along with framed shirts, programmes. Scarves hang from corners like strange birds. Rab Bloch sits in a chair, wearing a United shirt, getting excited at black and white footage of the Dodger weaving his magic.

"Great, eh?" says Bloch, hardly looking at me. "Old newsreel stuff. I had it put on video tape."

"Good for you, I'm Roam Belanger, Jimmy Cady told –"

"Yeah, Jimmy," says Bloch, swallowing hard before making the sign of the cross. I try not to flinch too much. "I hope they string those bastards up."

"What are you talking about?" I crouch down beside him. He looks at me, as if for the first time and swallows again.

"No pictures, huh?" he says, pointing at my face. "Bit of a pose wearing sunglasses all the time."

I smile and tap a black lens. "Strange eyes," I tell him, not adding that I take the sunglasses off when the bloodlust is upon me, as they interfere with my ability to see the pattern of blood flowing through my victim's veins. I like to see that blood map, it excites me. "Cady? What happened to him?"

"Didn't you hear? Someone fire-bombed his business."

"Who?"

Bloch shrugged. "Dunno, but I heard they found Jimmy's charred body tied to a chair inside his shack. Reckon they beat the crap out of him before torching the place."

I nodded and fell back into the chair opposite Bloch. Had I caused Jimmy's death by making that call? Had it been traced? I glanced at the screen. The game was over. The Dodger was being held aloft by his team-mates. There was a giant trophy in his hands.

The camera cut away to the director's box. I recognised a few old movie stars and a politician or two.

"Wait!" I said, raising my hand. "Pause it!"

Bloch jabbed the remote control.

"Move it back, slowly. Stop!"

The picture showed a bald man applauding. He looked thin, cadaverous, and hungry and the double of the man I had seen giving out money beside the river.

"Who is that?"

"Sears Hawthorne. He owned the club back then."

"Who owns it now?"

"Another Hawthorne, probably. United is a family business. It never went public. The Hawthorne's have always owned it."

"How do I get into Cluney Park?"

Bloch smiled. "Why do I think you don't mean through the turnstiles?"

I nod back at him.

"There are offices. You could make an appointment."

"Not during the day."

"Mmmm, difficult," says Bloch. "The place has dogs, security guards, cameras."

"Jimmy mentioned that when Millions Masterston tried to buy the club there was talk of mines underneath."

Bloch nodded. "There's the river too. The Starbylite. The city was built next to it centuries ago, but it doesn't exist anymore, or at least, not on the surface. You could try going in through Ashton Park down by the Water Palace."

I frown. "The underground? It's up by the casino."

"Not the current underground station. The old one. It's all boarded up, but there was a line built to take fans to the stadium. The council wanted to avoid congestion, traffic gumming up the city centre on Saturdays, but one of the Hawthornes put a stop to it."

"Why?"

"Search me."

"No thanks," I tell him.

*        *        *

The Water Palace sits beside the river. I went there years ago to haunt the wedding of a lost-love of mine. Now, most of the glass is broken or missing, the metal frame twisted and rusting. If I close my eyes I can almost slip back to that wedding day, tap into my rage. I bled on that day, fingers curled shut, nails puncturing my palms. I can almost hear the blood dripping on to the ground as it did then, and laugh as I realise that it is. Grimacing, I open my hands and let my nails resume their normal shape, watch the bloody slits on my hands seal over.

The old underground station is well hidden behind bushes. A sign dangles from the roof. There is a chain and a padlock securing two metal gates. I snap the padlock with my hand and pull the chain free. The gates shriek at me to leave them alone, possibly a warning I should heed, but don't.

I walk into the past, beside ticket booths and advertising boards and a sign that points to CLU EY PA K. Step on the letter R and snap it. I walk down the stairs to the platform, then jump down on to the line.

There is no-one down here, only rats. I hear them, and they sense me, a deeper, older part of them knowing what I am. I walk and walk and walk, through puddles, over rocks until I finally reach a barrier of wood. I feel it. There is no gate, no locks, no way through.

I make one with my sharp hands. Ignoring the grating sounds that echo into the darkness, ignoring the slit that falls down on me.

Then I am through.

There is no tunnel for a train, only a hole in the rocks for a man to crash through if he crouches down, which I do, shuffling forward, back pressing against the top of the hole, seeing a glistening, glowing light up ahead.

I emerge in a cave, and stand up, body swelling, pushing my back into place.

I have found Stevie King. He is dangling from the ceiling, hanging from the roof by thick ropes. His feet disappear into a pool of water, blood billows around his feet in a thick, red cloud. Things dart through that cloud, green things, like little jellyfish with pulsating innards. Stevie turns slowly, revealing a face with rolled-up eyes, bloody drool trailing from a ruined mouth, his bottom lips almost chewed away.

The green things are growing up his legs, feeding off him.

I look round. There is something behind me. Body-shaped. Cautiously I step towards it. It is a body, covered in a thick coat of the same things, but they glisten no longer, their colour darker. I peel away the layers that cover the face and stare at Old Man Campbell. In the shadows behind him there are other similar bodies, row after row.

I walk back and put my hand into the pool. The luminous things are there, almost instantly, latching on to my skin. I can feel them stinging me, drawing blood. I pull my hand from the water and stare at them as their pulsing grows still and their jelly darkens and they fall away.

"They don't like the taste of you."

I stand up slowly, a man is descending into the cave on ancient, worn steps.

"Now why is that, I wonder. They'll feed on anything living."

"And not you?"

Sears Hawthorne steps into the green light emanating from the pool. "I swallowed some a long, long time ago. Since then we have come to an……. understanding."

"That you would give them more victims?"

"Yes," he says, grinning, stepping nearer and his eyes glow the same sickly green and I wonder if they are reflecting the light from the things behind me or if some of the things are swimming around inside his head.

I gesture to Old Man Campbell and the bodies beside him. "Are they all associated with United?"

"Some, not all, but it doesn't matter as long as they can be slowly…changed."

"That's one way of putting it."

He snorts and comes closer, waves of green seemed to wash over his bald head. He didn't look human, but then I was one to talk.

"This city was founded beside the river Starbylite, an interesting name, don't you think? I'm not sure if it describes the water or what inhabited it, but they were here long before the first people who stood against the Romans and the Vikings. People who knew what an important place this was and why the shiny ones should be worshipped."

"By human sacrifice, of course."

"Of course," Hawthorne agreed with a nod. "These little stars bestowed favours. Luck, good fortune, some would say. Then the holy men came. They built a church to look down on the traders. The river was dammed, diverted, forgotten. This pool is all that remains."

"The luck that United was built on."

"Yes. Campbell lasted for years, but even he couldn't last forever, then King came snooping around, wanting to make a documentary. You can see how he was rewarded. His sister followed him, and she would have died had someone. You, I guess, not saved her."

I nodded, Hawthorne was very close now, a hand in his jacket pocket, ready to strike and all my senses screamed silver, silver, silver.

He stabbed me in the stomach, pulling and twisting and tearing. The pain was exquisite, my own blood flooded my mouth. He laid down my trembling form on the ground beside the pool, and yanked the knife out.

"Thank you," I whispered and rolled over.

I heard him scream and could feel his hands clawing at me, but I was already sinking, and the things were rushing towards me, dying as my blood touched them.

Then I was rising and Hawthorne was in the water beside me, pushing me towards the edge, trying to flip me on to the bank. I let him, making my wounds close, staring at the roof of the cave as the green glow began to flicker and die. Hawthorne grabbed my coat collar and pulled me closer. I rolled on top of him, my hands like stone forcing his head down, his mouth open. I let my fangs tear my tongue open. My blood poured into his mouth. He thrashed. He clawed. He spasmed, as things that had kept him alive died inside him.

I sighed, looking round as the last of the green glow from the things wrapped around Stevie's legs began to fade to nothing.

*        *        *

Alison stood beside me, despite the concerns of her doctor. Beside her was a portable stand holding a bottle that dripped through a tube into her arm. We stared at her brother though the glass of the intensive care unit. Stevie was surrounded by machines. The blankets at the bottom of his bed were slightly raised, as if to avoid touching where his legs were supposed to be.

"I should thank you."

I didn't reply.

She touched my arm. "Roam?"

"What?"

"Why did you do this?"

I shrugged. "It just happened. I fell into it, like most things I do."

"You're a strange…." She paused, and smiled. "Thing, Roam Belanger. I have tasted your blood, tasted some of your memories. You can be a monster, or a saint."

"I am all monster," I said, staring through the glass, aware that I cast no reflection, not even an outline.

She pulled me round. "Yet you saved me, and Stevie."

"On another night I would have let you die, lapped your blood as the life ran out of you."

"But you didn't."

I looked into her eyes.

"No, Alison."

"Please, Roam. I know you are lonely. I know you can love."

"I do love," I tell her, "But only from a distance."

She pulled me closer. "Who do you love?"

A name dances to my lips, but I simply say, "Another."

"Tell me!"

"No," I say, shrugging loose. She snatches at my coat sleeve and tries to pull me back.

"Please, Roam. Take me, while I sip your blood. Let me be with you through the ages."

"That would be a mistake for both of us," I say, pulling free. "To become a vampire by accident, or misfortune is one thing, but to want this existence?"

"She'll never be yours, Roam!" she shouts after me. "Whoever she is. You'll never have her!"

"Him," I whisper.

"You'll die alone, do you know that?"

"Yes," I say, but I died alone a long time ago. I press a button on the wall that allows a door to hiss open. It hisses shut and cuts off Alison's last words as I walk down a brilliant white corridor, making no sound, casting no shadow, a dead thing, only held together by hopes and dreams and strange desires.