Brutal Romance (A Vampire's Tale)
by Aaron Rodriguez
When I was alive, I remember the notion of love was captivating. Sweeping, passionate, and full of possibility. It’s almost entertaining how enamored I was with the idea. I say that like I wasn’t human once but the truth is that it’s all a distant memory, an old photograph that fades increasingly with each passing decade. Now, it’s more than just storybook romance, it's about filling a harrowing need. When I was reborn, I relished the perks of belonging to the undead. All the frailty of human life was a chapter never to be opened again. The cruel punchline of immortality, however, is that loneliness lasts forever too.
I listen to the sway of the wind in the green trees above me, thick with the smell of blood. Summer is always like this. I can feel the thirst in my throat begin to burn. Beyond the rush of traffic and the chatter of city life, I can hear his footsteps. Matthew, Matt for short. A human. My own kind would balk at me but there’s something different about him. Maybe it’s his kindness, maybe it’s his laughter, but mostly I think it’s his eyes. Pools of ink full of mystery, themselves a rarity that I haven’t seen in my 87 years walking the night. I remember the way they seeped into mine when we first met, the way they understood when he found out my true nature, the way they worry when he remembers we can't be together forever. Unless he dies, of course.
I zip up my red jacket and tighten my belt. Frederick, my superior and dear friend, taught me to kill in style. People are always more trusting when your ensemble appears put together. He would say “If you were human and I appeared to you in the dead of night, asking you for assistance with my carriage, you'd trust me more if I was dressed in style, wouldn’t you?” I’d always reply with “Even when I was human, carriages were a thing of the past.” He’d scold me for being insolent and insist on seeing what garments I’d put together. “Try again,” Frederick would say before I developed an eye for color, followed by “On your worst day, you’ll still look and feel more sophisticated than anyone else. Even as a human, I understood the longevity of style and the impression it leaves.” If I close my eyes for long enough, I can still faintly picture the embroidered overcoat he was wearing my last night as a human. To this day, I’ll see a golden scarf or velvet cape and think, “Frederick would love this.”
Matt’s scent hits me and pulls me from my thoughts. I swallow hard. I made sure to starve myself for tonight, so that I wouldn't allow remorse to hold me back from Matt’s transformation. He rounds the corner and his goofy smile makes me forget my thirst for the briefest of moments.
“I've been thinking about you all day.” He says as he strides eagerly over the last few feet between us and hands me roses, my favorite.
“And I've been thinking about you,” I say. His enticing scent is overwhelming, “and about what tomorrow will look like, of course.”
Matt only smiles.
“How was your last day of work?” I ask as we begin to walk.
“Good! They all think I'm moving to Iceland. They bought me a red velvet cake and signed a card. It was actually pretty sweet of them.”
“I actually love Reykjavik. We can visit if you like.”
“I’ll go anywhere. As long as it's with you.” He grabs my hand and I feel the warm pulse of his fingers. My mouth waters instantly and I take a deep breath.
“Are you okay?” Matt asks. The heat of his breath only furthers my appetite.
“It's just I-l didn't-” he looks concerned and puts his arm around me. The warmth of his body puts him in danger at this point.
“Don't,” I say but it's too late. I can feel the venom dripping off my teeth. My face and eyes begin to contort and tingle. The thirst always reveals the monster inside and I push him violently against the wall of vines beside us. The fear in his eyes is delicious as I rip into his throat. I cannot see his life slipping away, I don't notice his heartbeat declining, I don't see the color slipping from his cheeks. I only taste blood. Sweeter than anything I've tasted.
I savor the last drop, my thirst now satisfied, my composure returns, and I prepare myself to see Matt’s corpse. Where his scent hit me minutes earlier, waves of grief pierce me now. I remind myself that he's coming back but this fact doesn't help the image of seeing my lifeless lover in front of me. If romance hurts when you're human, it’s brutal and sadistic when you're a vampire. But what else would it be for a monster?
Three days later.
“That’ll be $2,810.50.” The blonde salesman says with a warm smile from behind the black counter at Rebels & Saints boutique.
I hand him 30 $100 bills after he places a black vinyl moto jacket, vinyl pants, a painted and studded men’s leather jacket, men’s black denim, and a graphic tee in a black bag.
“Keep the change.” I say and put on my sunglasses.
“Thank you so much, Miss Madison.” He says and rushes to open the door for me before placing the black bag in my hand.
“Please come back soon!” I hear him say behind me and I turn the corner before I vanish from eyesight.
All I can think of is getting home to Matt. The new life begins on the third day after mortal death. Within minutes, I’m back inside my home and I slowly open the attic door at the top of the stairs. For the most part, it’s just as I left it before I went hunting for clothes: Burning candles on tall metal stands surround a raised platform with a black satin sheet. The only thing different is the platform is empty. The candle flames suddenly flicker.
“Madison.” He breathes from the darkness behind me and places his hands gently on my shoulders.
“Matt!” I turn around and look into his black eyes before embracing him.
“I can’t begin to express how much torture it was to see your body still and lifeless these long three days.” I can barely contain myself.
“I’m here now.” He whispers into my ear and strokes my hair. I feel the usual fire in my being, but now I can feel the fire in his chest too. More ferocious than anything I’ve ever experienced, even more than the thirst for blood.
“How do you feel?” I ask.
“Different. But good different. I wanted to look for you but the sunlight bothered my eyes when I opened the attic door. I can see why you kept it so dim in here.”
“It’s only initially. The sunlight outside will be tolerable within a few moments and it’ll hurt less and less throughout the day. Besides, pretty soon your thirst is going to be only thing you’re thinking about.” I say.
“It’s already started,” he puts a hand on his throat.
“I anticipated that. Here,” I open the black bag and hand him his new outfit.
“Wow. I’ll look like a badass.” He laughs.
“It comes with walking the night,” I smirk, “Red crewnecks and blue jeans won’t cut it anymore.” I point to a folded pile of boy-next-door clothes on a chair in the corner. “Style is forever. Or so they say.”
“Hey, you said you liked that sweater.” He smiles.
“I did.” I smile back.
“I’ll meet you outside.” I say and squeeze his hand before leaving the attic.
The sway of the wind outside today is quieter but stronger. I zip up my black vinyl jacket, worth every penny. I look at the corner where Matt took his last steps a week prior. The image of his vulnerability still brings a twinge of nostalgia. I almost miss the mortal version of him. It was a precious adventure and a frightening risk knowing death could still separate him from me. What a gift, for an immortal, to feel somewhat beholden to life.
But then he's there again, dressed all in black and with just as much mystery in the depth of his eyes as he walks up. He's stronger and he's lethal now, but deep down he's still the goofy guy from down the street who stirred my being. He squints at the sun once he’s beside me but he radiates a new charm and confidence.
“So we’re star-crossed lovers, according to this jacket you got me.” Matt says.
“I figured you’d appreciate the irony.” I admit. He reaches for my hand.
“How’s the thirst doing?”
“It’s gone from a dry sensation to an actual burning.”
“It’s eternal torment. But it's easy to quench,” I spot a lone jogger with her headphones on a few blocks away, heading straight for us, “Let me show you how.”
Madison Flowers as Madison
Matthew Bloss as Matt
Wardrobe Stylist: Aaron Rodriguez
Photos by Noah Berg