by Eolake Stobblehouse
It is a cold December morning. The old house is creaking quietly in the biting cold outside. Old willows are standing uncomplaining like islands in the snow. The sun is veiled by a thin layer of clouds. A black cat is walking through the garden.
The inside of the house is dark wood, and old things, things rare and worth much gold. A gray-haired man sits by a table. A young woman stands by a mirror. He is in a morning robe, she is wearing a bath towel, and combing her hair. The curtains are only drawn from one window, the largest one, facing the large snow-covered garden.
The man looks at his hands on the bare table top. He looks at a painting on the wall. He looks out the window, he looks at the floor. He looks at the woman. He puts his hands in his face. He rubs his face, rubs his eyes, rubs his head, he sits back in his chair. He sighs silently. The woman finishes combing her hair, and puts down the comb. She turns from the mirror, and takes off the towel, hanging it over a chair. She turns back to the mirror and flexes her body, stretches her arms backwards. She makes a musical humming, then massages her breasts and her ribs. She stretches lazily, and then, still humming, goes to the window, leans on the window sill, and looks into the garden. The man is silently watching her, unmoving.
The woman speaks: "Oh, I do so love Winter, I do. It is so cold, so white, so merciless, so virginal. Any old evil can hide in Winter, hiding in the open, in broad daylight, invisible due to the numbness and the blindness coming from the cold." She puts her hands further apart, leans forward, stands still. Outside, it begins to snow. The man rises from the table, and walks to the window, slowly. He wraps his robe tighter. He stands still, close to the woman. He lifts his hand, puts it down again. He sits down on a nearby chair. Not looking at the woman, he speaks to her. "You shouldn't stand naked by the window. It is cold."
She turns, smiling. She straddles his knees, facing him, puts her arms on his shoulders. She looks into his eyes, still smiling. "I think you know that doesn't hurt me," she answers. She plays with his hair. The man's face is turned away. Outside, a black bird lands in the snow. The house creaks someplace.
With a sudden movement, she grabs his face with one hand and turns it towards her own. With a quiet, precise voice she says: "You haven't spoken to me in days. What is the problem?"
He looks into her face. She has dark blue eyes, long, arched eyebrows, a thin nose, pale skin. Her dark hair is falling in wet strands over her forehead and shoulders. He says: "I love you, you know." "Why, thank you. I appreciate that. What is new?" "I am tired, Marlene. I am so tired." He sighs, puts his hand to his forehead. "You have been tired for a long time, Michael." "Exactly. It isn't changing, except for getting worse. I haven't done any work in months."
"You don't need to work, Michael. You are rich." "Yes, I am rich, but I can't live my life doing nothing. I am not made that way. And I like what I work with."
The girl gets up. She walks around, waving her arms. "Michael, you are hopeless! You have everything a man can dream of! You have a beautiful home, important friends, ten cars, you have me. What do you want!?"
The man is watching her. He is leaning back in the chair, stroking his chin. "Marlene, what are you? I don't see you sleep. You can stand any temperature with or without clothes. You hardly eat anything. I saw you the first time fifteen years prior to marrying you, and you don't seem to be getting any older, though you are changing. What are you?" Outside, the snow is coming down harder, and a wind is starting to blow. The woman sits down in front of her husband. "Well, the legends don't quite fit," she says, "but you should be able to figure it out, Michael. You are nothing if not intelligent." "No, the legends don't quite fit. That's what stopped me for a long time. But you must be what we call a vampire." She looks, down, smiling. "Thank you, Michael. Yes, I am a vampire." "But you can stand sunlight, and you make a reflection." "We don't mind sunlight, but we don't tan, that's probably cause of the misunderstanding. People that pale must be afraid of the Sun, people reason. Of course we make reflections. We hate all strong spices, including garlic. The crucifix means nothing to us, that is merely a desperate hope. And yes, we live from the blood and spirit of human beings." The man looks at her. "But why me? And whyä." He feels his throat. She laughs. "Why don't you have tooth marks? You have felt my teeth often enough, when kissing. You know you should have punctures. It is simple, really, as a survival mechanism. We wish to keep victims ignorant as long as possible. We secrete something that heals the puncture marks almost instantly."
She looks down at her slender hands. "And why you? Well, I like you, Michael. You are a strong man, a good man. You taste good. You keep me strong. You are a good living. Delicious. Nutritious." She smiles at him. "Of course you! I love you!"
He looks at her with a still, neutral expression. "You love me like a snake loves a rabbit. Like I love roast beef. You love me like a hammer loves the nail. You love me like thunder loves the sky. You love me like a car loves the road. What do you know about love?" The young woman gets up again. "What do I know about love? What don't I know about love? I love the night. I love the frost of winter. I love the wild life of the forests. I love hunting. I love exhaustion. I love fear. I love to kill. I love...I love the taste of your blood. I love the feeling of you growing smaller and weaker in my grasp. I love to have a life in my hands." She has picked up a flower from a vase. She is sniffing its scent. She holds it delicately in both hands. Then she puts it back by its stem. She stands in front of her husband. "You see?" Her husband regards her pale, slender figure standing in front of him. "Yes," he says. "I see." He continues: "Why don't you leave me be? I have done nothing bad to you. I have done nothing to deserve this." He looks into her face. "You are killing me. You are draining my life away. I am dying day by day at your hands. You can't do this to anoth.... You can't do this to a living, thinking human being. You can't do this."
The woman turns from him, and goes to a nearby closet, and takes out a dress, which she puts on. The dress is dark blue, of thin fabric. She takes the man's hand. "Shall we have some breakfast? Here, go sit by the table, I'll make you some breakfast. But first, a question." She sits down opposite the man.
"Let me tell you something," she says. "I'll leave it up to you." She takes both his hands in hers. "What you say, goes. I will only stay if you want me to. I'll stay, and we will continue our life as before. Be assured, I will not kill you. I want you to live as long as you can. You may be able to do less and less, but you will be alive, and you will be with me. "Then, on the other hand, if you so desire, I will leave right now, and never return. I will walk out your door, and you will never see me again. You will return to health, you will be able to start working again, you will be active. You can start living. You are still not an old man, you know. It just feels that way at the moment. You have potentially half your life left for you." She lets go of his hands, and sits back. "I just need your word."
The man sits for a while, then puts his face in his hands. "Don't," he begins. " 'Don't' what?" says his wife. "I can't hear what you're saying." "Don't leave," says the man.
She leans forward, holds his face, looks into it. She smiles, a broad, happy smile. Smiles with her whole face. "Say 'please'," she says. "Please," says the man.
"Good," she says. "Thank you." She pats his hand. "What do you want for breakfast, Darling?" She gets up.