Copyright 1991 - Nicholas S. Stember, First Rights Available
Approx. 3800 words long
Just Once In Twelve Hundred Years
by Nicholas S. Stember
The sun sank behind the mammoth twin towers that dominated the New York skyline, slowly marking the terminator that separated day from night. Just as nature's glow gave way, the magnificent lights that filled and circled the city illuminated like halos, bathing the streets in multicolored splendor. It was then that the metropolis truly came to life. But under the grandeur and resplendence of the lights, cold steel girders formed the metallic web which made up the skyline and subterranean hovels that housed the majority of the city dwellers.
Heedless of the risk, the city's countless millions of natives and visitors scurried about the streets, hustling from once place to another in search of all that the metropolis had to offer. But there were those who fed on these people, savored in their innocence, thrived on their blood. These parasites clung like fleas on a stray cat, hiding in the shadows of the back alleys, dotting the night clubs, cruising the darkened streets, whispering hollow promises to young ears that were too naive, or stoned to know better. They watched and waited...hunters searching for prey.
Other eyes watched as well, from the top of the sister tower. Eyes as cold as the steel that formed the city's skeleton, eyes as merciless as the hunters below. She was a hunter as well, only she didn't seek to poison their blood, just to take it away. She was more discriminating than the hunters below, who would prey on any fool who seemed astray, only to learn too late that they weren't alone at all. Watching and waiting, she would often follow a perspective kill for half the night before being satisfied that the victim was right...wouldn't be missed for some time, perhaps never. She was a professional hunter, with a hundred lifetimes with which to have perfected her deadly skill.
With only a few minutes having passed since sundown, she had already spotted a target. She watched with cool anticipation as her prey climbed into a cab and pulled away from the towers. Breathlessly she fell from the rooftop, high in the night air. Wisps of mist encircled her lithe form as she silently glided over the jeweled city, a black spot in a black sky. Like a shadow she followed her prey, landing soundlessly on the roof of the Winter Garden even as the cab pulled up.
Her prey moved entered the crowds of people, moving to the front doors of the theater. But he hesitated there and turned back to the street, nervously checking his watch. The hunter pursed her lips, considering the possibility that her prey was not alone after all. If he was to meet someone here, then he would be missed. A more desperate hunter wouldn't have cared, a more anxious hunter would have left in search of other victims. But she just watched and waited, her instincts told her that this was the one that she would feast on tonight. She crouched lower, biding time, for time was the one thing that she had in endless abundance.
Her chosen quarry paced nervously back and forth for almost half an hour, while the other people filed into the building like sheep to the slaughter. Her sensitive ears heard the overture beginning within, telling her that his time was almost up.
Nothing that he did went unheeded, she studied the way he moved, the way he talked to the ushers, the way he lit his cigarette and put out the match. All these things and more would give her the knowledge she needed to make a clean kill. Her eyes narrowed as he looked at his watch again and let out a sigh. Then he gazed sadly at the two tickets in his hand, a hundred dollars for an investment that didn't pan out. No pity came to her heart, no sense of sorrow on his behalf. His poor luck would spell her good fortune this cold autumn night.
Finally her prey gave up. Spotting a pair of teenagers that were looking at the billboard in forlorn wanting, he approached them. The two adolescents were huddled in each other's arms to ward off the biting wind. He smiled at them and offered them the tickets, urging them to hurry and not miss the first act. After they had scurried inside, he turned back to the street, signaling for a cab. As he pulled away, she let a smile creep across her pale lips, as she vaulted from the rooftop, sailing in invisible pursuit.
Diligently the hunter followed her prey, down crisscrossed silent streets as the cab crossed the bridge into Brooklyn, finally stopping in front of a russet brownstone. She landed on the roof of his house and turned to watch him step back from the car as it drove off. Then he began the climb up his steps, only to be thrown to the ground from a dark figure from behind.
"Your money," the youth demanded harshly as the stiletto flashed from under his coat and threatened her prey.
The man offered no struggle as a look of dismay cracked the stern lines of his visage. Then he turned and fled up the stairs, scrambling for his keys as he blindly ran. Stumbling at his doorstep, he huddled in terror where he fell.
Like a raindrop falling, she landed between the parasite and his intended victim, tossing the youth off the ground and breaking his neck with one strike. There was no pleasure in the kill, only the necessity of preserving her prey's blood. A lesser hunter might have considered the thug to have been enough. But she knew his blood was tainted, could smell the poison from where she was, as his steaming life fluid poured onto the cold blacktop. She turned and quietly walked up the stairs, like a cat padding on a soft carpet. When she reached down and touched the quivering man's shoulder he screamed, finally turning to face his assailant.
The look of fear in his eyes vanished as he saw his savior for the first time. At first he thought that the youth had run off, but he quickly spotted his body lying motionlessly in the street, his head at a queer angle. He turned his gaze back to the woman before him, marveling at the beautiful vision before him. Her long auburn hair hung in light waves that gently caressed her supple shoulders, while the moonlight danced along the pale skin that was all exposed except for a sideless black blouse that blended into a tight, sideless mini skirt. A smile replaced his fear as his eyes rested on the full swell of her chest, then drifted along the sultry length of her frame, down her long, shapely legs. He raised an eyebrow as he viewed the thin, soft leather boots, and luscious thighs that were barely covered by the sheer, ebony material. Briefly shivering off the night chill, he wondered how the simple silk garment could possibly protect her from the falling temperature, which had already sunk to the high fifties.
For a moment she allowed her prey to admire her form, and followed likewise with his. She supposed that he was handsome, dashing in a rugged sort of way. But she felt no desire, no fire to stroke the cold center of her long dead heart. Long since absent was the need for men in any way other than food. She smiled at him, letting her supple shoulders beckon him forward.
"Who are you?" he finally asked, raising his eyes to hers. Then his smile faded. The warmth that her body suggested was vacant in those dark green eyes, eyes that were absent of any form of kindness or gentle spirit. They were the eyes of a killer, relentless and merciless.
The man tried to back away, but she stepped forward and lightly grabbed his coat, pulling him closer to her body. Then her green eyes melted from a harsh emerald to a soft jade, as she slowly reached out and took his hand.
"I am your fondest dream," her low voice whispered sensuously. "Yours to have and hold." She slipped his hand under the silk fabric of her blouse, letting his fingers trace along her cool skin.
He started to pull back, but became lost in her eyes, as desire started to flood his veins. Leaning his head downward, he pressed his lips strongly against hers, his fire stroking her ice.
The hunter accepted his ardent kisses with bland distaste, as her lips returned the promise that she could never keep. Slowly she ran her fingers along his chest, as her tongue traced a delicate line down his cheek to his neck.
His hand dug sharply into her soft skin as her teeth sunk effortlessly into his flesh. Then he stiffened, as she hungrily devoured the crimson fluid that allowed her to sustain her endless existence.
As she laid his body down afterwards, a feeling of regret flashed through her mind, causing her to stare deeply at his lifeless form that lay sprawled against the door of the brownstone. She shivered silently, while gingerly wiping a trace of scarlet from her lips. He had been quite handsome, but all he had represented to her was a much needed meal. The usual surge of excitement that flushed through her veins afterwards didn't come this time, leaving her feeling empty and hollow. She sank to her knees, confused by the unsatisfied tinglings that harrowed at her nerves. Then she looked up into the midnight sky, streaked with the lights of the city around her, and understood. It was time once again, time for her relief from the agony of her condition, the endless feeling of not caring for the people that she butchered nightly. It was Halloween night, and that meant that the next day was hers.
As the early dawn pierced the tall skyscrapers, signaling an end to the mischief that ruled the night, she found herself aimlessly wandering the park. She was trembling violently, and wasn't sure why ...other than the fact that any other day, the light of dawn on her skin would have spelled her immediate death. But it was time again, twelve hundred years since the last day that she felt the sun's rays against her skin. One day only, from dawn till dusk, then the hunting would begin again...for another twelve hundred.
There was so much to do, so much to see, her mind ached with the confusion of it all. The pain of what she was overwhelmed her, without her condition to repel it, her timely mortality suffered the agony of the countless thousands she had slain. For this one day, and this one day only, she could feel all the emotions that were barred from her the rest of her existence. They all came back to her, twelve hundred years banned, and came back with a vengeance. She felt the stale taste of blood in her mouth, as she sank onto a bench, her eyes filling with water.
"Are you alright, miss?" came the gentle voice above her.
She gazed up silently and saw the tenderness in the sparkling brown eyes above. The stranger smiled warmly, as he sat down on the bench.
"What are you doing out here?" he asked with concern, letting his gaze take in her supple form.
"I guess just crying," she half laughed, "it's something that I haven't done for twelve hundred years."
"That's a pretty long time to go without a good cry," he said, his smile turning into a playful grin.
"Yes," she replied softly, "it is."
"Aren't you cold without a coat?"
She almost laughed at the absurdity of the question, but didn't ...she was cold. Her skin shivered from its frank exposure to the brisk morning air. "I guess so," she admitted, while rubbing her skin with her hands.
"Still out from a Halloween party last night, huh?" he asked while taking off his thick jacket and wrapping her in it, exposing his college sweatshirt. "You go to college in the city?"
She blanched at the question, but remembered that she still appeared as she had those many thousands of years ago, a young girl in her prime. Then she nodded silently, feeling that his explanation was as good as any.
"I could take you back to your dorm," he offered, "I'm not doing much other than walking off my hangover this morning."
His open honesty almost made her laugh, as she suddenly found herself gazing at the strong lines of his jaw, the warm tan of his smooth skin, the strong muscles in his chest. Then she shook her head. "Actually I go to school over in Jersey," she lied, hoping to throw him off. "I came up here to meet with a guy, but he ditched me."
"Where does he live?"
"Brooklyn...one of those old brownstones." She took in a deep breath, grateful that she still possessed her quick thinking. Then her eyes opened wide as she realized that she was breathing, and pulled in another sweet, succulent lung full. She let it out slowly, laughing as her warm breath turned to fog in front of her.
He laughed as well, a kind, generous laugh. "That always freaks me out as well," he confided. "Why don't you come back to my place for awhile. I can get you some breakfast, and then you could find out what trains are heading back to Jersey."
She stared at him for a moment, trying to gauge the man within. But her instincts saw no malice, none of the darkness that permeated the parasites that scrounged the city streets, looking for a girl just like her. Suddenly she could think of no better way to spend the day than with this young man. "I'd love to," she quickly agreed.
He lived in a studio apartment near one of the colleges, nothing so extravagant as her suite on Park Avenue, but full of a warmth that hers lacked. He showed her around a bit, then they sat down on a couch, as she took off her boots and rubbed some feeling back into her frozen feet.
"Let me do that for you," he offered softly, as his strong hands gently rubbed her tingling skin. "What were you dressed up as, anyway?"
Her lips parted slightly as she watched his hands working steadily against her pale skin. "A vampire," she finally said with a smile.
"A vampire, huh?" he laughed. "Where's the rest of your costume?"
"But this is all that there is," she responded, confusion in her voice.
"No cloak or long gloves," he asked, "or at least thicker boots?"
"This is the easiest way for a vampire to move around," she stated indignantly.
"Don't the vampires get cold?"
"Of course not."
"But girls from Jersey do," he added with a chuckle.
Her face flushed as she pulled her legs from him. "I suppose that they do."
He got up from the couch and walked to the stove and poured a rich smelling liquid into two cups. "Do you want some hot chocolate?" He picked up the mugs and walked back to the couch.
Her urge to refuse was bred into her, but a long forgotten desire won out. She took the hot cup from him and held it to her lips, letting some of the sweet liquid slide down her throat. "That's fantastic," she exclaimed and took his hand in hers.
For a long moment she stared deeply into his eyes, searching for the fear that she was so used to, but all that was echoed was her own sense of yearning...a delicate curiosity laced with a feeling of intimacy. A new tingling aroused in her body, a sensation that sent ebbs of desire lapping against the shores of her mind. As he moved closer, she became intensely aware of where his flesh touched hers, as if feeling it for the first time. A panic flashed through her, as if her whole existence suddenly revolved around a clock, a timepiece that ticked this precious day away. "Please kiss me," she asked, her voice a hoarse whisper.
Without hesitation he leaned forward, and brushed his lips against hers. Feeling her melt to his embrace, he reclaimed her lips, this time crushing her against his chest. Then he gently pulled back, as his eyes sought hers.
"I don't even know your name," he said softly.
"Does it matter?" she asked while returning his gaze, her eyes pleading for more.
He answered by pulling her lips to his again, as his tongue sent shivers of desire racing through her. Then he lifted her chin, and kissed the pulsing hollow at the base of her throat, sending a moan of pleasure from her lips.
She pulled his shirt off, allowing her fingers to knead into the firm muscles of his chest, as he slipped her out of her clothes, and pulled her down onto the couch. For what seemed a brief eternity, he lay there, gazing intently into her soft jade eyes, then she gripped his shoulders firmly and pulled him into her, hungering for this worse than any desire for blood. She breathed in deep soul drenching drafts as he pushed in deeper, his raw sensuousness carrying her to even greater heights. Heat rippled between them as they found their rhythmic tempo, as wave after wave of ecstasy flooded their veins. They soared together, reaching the peak of delight, as she cried for the release that finally came. Then she felt his warmth fill her, and she experienced a contentment that had long since been foreign to her. Gone was the hunter, as she hugged him close, and breathed a sigh of relief.
She sat in her apartment and watched the coming sunset with a deep feeling of regret. They had spent the day laughing and talking, and returning to the couch more than once. Never had she felt so free or happy with anyone before. She had hated leaving him while there was still light left in the day, but she didn't know when the change would happen again, or even if it would. The thought that there could be a possibility that she wouldn't go back ached at her subconscious, and was almost enough for her to stay with him. But she couldn't bear the thought of what she would do if she did go back to what she was.
She lay on her couch, her eyes riveted on the large picture window that had always been closed off tight, allowing no light in. But this late afternoon she had opened it, to witness the end of an all too short day. Her fingers gently traced along a single strand of her auburn hair, as the sunlight sent ripples of fire along her ivory skin. She smiled, thinking of him and the glorious day that they had, as the last rays of light sunk beneath the tallest skyscrapers.
The hunter watched with ice cold eyes as the students milled around the campus. She couldn't explain why she was here, on top of the campus library, watching them dart along from one night class to another. Yet somewhere in her mind she did know...despite the dangers of exposure, there was unfinished business to attend to. She scanned the suddenly deserted streets, as the students settled in for the last class of the night, and watched and waited, letting her instincts lead her to her prey.
Then she looked up sharply as he exited a building across the street from her, and pulled his thick coat tightly around his muscular frame. Silently she watched as he walked past her, down the side street that would lead him to his home. Soundlessly she glided after him, her pale frame shimmering with the mist that ensnared and uplifted her. Like a shadow she followed her quarry to the door of his apartment, allowing him to go inside. She dropped to the steps behind him, unafraid of entering an enclosed structure...for she was welcome here, he had invited her himself.
The hunter padded up the stairs after him, never letting him suspect the deadly follower he had. As she reached the door of his apartment, she hesitated, suddenly unsure of her purpose. But she cleared her mind, her purpose was clear. Survival.
She watched him cross the small studio and turn on the television, then collapse on the couch. But he paid it no heed, as he glanced along the length of the couch, and sighed thoughtfully. He is weak, she realized with satisfaction, and will be an easy kill. She effortlessly glided up behind the couch, and placed a cold hand on his shoulder.
He spun with a start, then beamed as he realized who it was. Without hesitation he got up and pulled her over the couch, gripping her in a tight embrace. "God, I was so worried about you," he said between his kisses to her unresponsive lips. Then he pulled back, confused by her lack of warmth and saw her eyes.
The hunter was pleased that it was going to be this easy, her prey was still infatuated with her, and was powerless to resist. She fixed her steely glare on his eyes, and reveled in the fear that she saw there. But then his eyes softened, as he finally understood, and instead of fear, there was pity...and love.
She gazed intently at him, suddenly confused. The hunger within called for his blood, her survival instincts of anonymity called for his death. She parted her lips, her teeth glistening in the moonlight and froze. No longer was there a couch, a television, an apartment...or the hunger, all that was left was his eyes.
"I love you," his voice whispered hoarsely.
She was stone, unable to move, to think, only stare into his warm brown eyes. The hunter died in a flash of fire, as she pulled him close, her velvet lips pressing firmly against his. For a moment they held each other closely, as if fighting back the world in which they lived. Then she pulled herself away, and raced to the door. She hovered there for an instant, as they stared at each other one last time. Neither spoke, neither tried to express a desire that they knew could never survive. In a wink she turned and fled down the stairs and out the building, gliding to the rooftop across the street.
"I love you too," she whispered, as a single tear caressed her cheek. Then she lifted herself up with the wind and disappeared into the dark city night.