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I rested within the forest canopy. My sharp eyes gazed through cracks in the leaves, staring at the moon. Its purity enamored me. The way its silvery light washed over the forest seemed to cleanse everything it touches. Reaching up in vain, I asked to be the same way. As I basked in the light, sleep closed my eyes. Suddenly, I was awoken by a dangerous scent, a human. In a panic, I reached for the closest branch in order to scurry away. However, my hastiness outweighed my coordination. A clawed hand slipped and I tumbled onto the forest floor below.
Dazed, I lifted my head to see a terrified human standing over me. Raising my clawed hands in surrender, I pushed away with my feet. The human’s face flipped to curiosity in an instant. Their eyes, typically filled with fear or scowling with scorn, were now wide and inquisitive. I know why. It is not normal for something like me to be shrinking away in submission. My pale form, hairy body, clawed hands, and sharp fangs are adept at dispatching humans. The typical response for my kind would be volumes of violence. Anyone would be curious if they pulled their hand from a river, and found it to be dry.
As I continued to propel myself backward, the human leaned forward, taking a step toward me. A curtain of light shrouded my head and I winced instinctively, but it was only moonlight. My peddling had brought me to a clearing in the forest. The human followed, one step at a time, and so their face became illuminated by the lunar sun.
They stopped. I am now bathed in moonlight, the entirety of my form laid bare. They stared at me. Day-tuned eyes ferociously scouring my body, examining every piece like a paleontologist who had discovered a new fossil. I stopped too, petrified by their curious eyes. Speaking in their language I said, “Please, I mean you no harm.” Their eyes, already at the bursting point with wonder and inquiry somehow purchased more of these things.
“You can speak Sapish?” It said.
“Yes, I learned it a while ago, please don’t hurt me.”
The human laughed.
“Don’t hurt you? I’m not quite sure a lion begs mercy from an antelope. Is something wrong with you?”
I looked up in offence. “Can the antelope not spear the lion with its great horns? And no, nothing is wrong with me, I think.”
“Then why did you suddenly crash from the treetops right in front of me?”
“I slipped, your scent startled me.”
“Startled you? Not, filled you with rage and hunger? Not, turned your eyes red and caused your fangs to drip with saliva? You’re a strange one, aren’t you?”
“I’m not strange, I just… don’t want to eat humans.”
The human crouched down to meet me at eye level.
“That statement, by merit of your nature, is strange.”
This human’s audacity both disarmed and annoyed me. “You’re not so normal yourself. Who walks around a vampire-infested forest at night?”
The human’s curiosity dimmed as they remembered what their situation was.
“I am heading to the next village over to deliver medicine. There’s a terrible plague sweeping over the town. I couldn’t wait till morning.”
I figured now was as good a time as any to stand up. This human was clearly not equipped with weapons and probably possessed little fighting skill.
“So you travel through a dark dangerous forest at night, and you don’t even bring a weapon?”
The human seemed taken aback by my height in relation to theirs. I’m sure they knew vampires were tall, but height was the last thing on a human’s mind when they came face to face with a blood-sucking fiend. They took a step back. Curiosity-dimmed eyes could be seen to slowly fill with fear.
“I don’t want to live in a world where I have to be afraid every time I go somewhere.”
“But you do.” I retorted.
The human let out an exasperated sigh.
“But I don’t want to. Change starts with one person.”
“Sure it does.”
“Ugh, you know what? I’m just going to be on my way.”
“Now wait!” I protested. “I, uh, there are other vampires that roam this forest who are very much my opposite. If I walk with you, my scent will cover up yours, and you’ll be safe.”
The human shifted uncomfortably. It was understandable: lions don’t often offer to protect antelopes, and if they do, the gesture is probably far from earnest. I prayed my geniality would show through fangs and fur.
“Ok, but if you try anything I’m making a break for it.”
“Deal.” I said. Though it wouldn’t have mattered if they did. I could outrun and overpower basically any human. Right as we started, the human stopped and turned toward me.
“What are you getting out of this?”
“The opportunity to talk with a human of course!” I responded emphatically.
They narrowed their eyes at me but said nothing. As we made our way through the forest, I was at first silent. Initially, the tension was too much to overcome, but I eventually broke the quiet.
“So… what do humans eat?”
“What do we eat? They don’t teach you that in vampire school?”
“No, well, they might. Everyone wants to learn about the various vampire wars and empires. The conquering of humans and land. The teachers give in pretty easily. I imagine they just want to talk about that stuff too.”
“I was… kind of joking about vampire school. I didn’t know that was an actual thing…”
“School is the only Sapish word I know for an area of learning, our word is fraternish. It is basically a gathering of vampires who share knowledge with each other, similar to your ‘school’. I do wonder what your kind learn, since it can’t just be about vampires.”
“Oh, well we learn about all sorts of things: maths, science, language, history as well.”
“How intriguing.” I said.
We walked in silence for a bit until I asked another question.
“What are you called?”
“My name is Alex. What are you called?”
“Dasju is the name I was given.”
“Dasju,” Alex pronounced carefully. “Does it mean something?”
“No, does Alex mean something?”
“No…” Alex said conscientiously. They flicked their long hair to the left, a nervous habit I assumed. In the brief flying of the hair, Alex’s neck caught the moonlight. I stole an instinctual glance at it. Muscles pressed against their tanned skin, and in the middle, a long tube connecting their head and chest, the jugular. My surgical eyes caught the subtlest of pulsations as a heartbeat forced blood through the vein. I made sure to place my eyes forward before Alex realized what I was doing. At that moment, I realised what I had done and a powerful wave of shame washed over me. This was my first, and perhaps only time to talk with a human, and I was busy looking at their veins like some sort of depraved vermin.
“So…” Alex continued. “How old are you?”
“901 years old.”
Alex stopped abruptly. “901 years old! That’s insane! I have never heard of a vampire living that long!” They said.
“Well, most of us live a long time, but longevity often breeds arrogance. The older a vampire gets, the more powerful they think they are, so they take increasingly dangerous risks when it comes to humans. Eventually, one of those risks ends with a stake through their heart.”
“How come you’re still alive then?”
“Well, I don’t take those risks. As I said, I don’t hunt humans. So it’s rather easy to survive when your only opponents are mindless animals.”
As we continued our journey, I could tell Alex was attempting to process this information. It must have been hard for something that lives such a short time to imagine surviving for hundreds of years.
“Why don’t you hunt humans?”
I thought for a moment. No one had ever asked me this, at least, not in a genuine way. I took a moment to compile my thoughts.
“It just doesn’t seem right. Humans and vampires are really quite similar. We’re the only sentient life on this planet. We both feel hunger, boredom, loneliness but most importantly, pain. Yet, vampires seem to largely ignore this. Perhaps they don’t care, perhaps the taste of rivign, the thrill of the hunt, and the flavour of blood are all that matter to them.”
“So,” Alex said slowly, “you don’t need to drink human blood to live?”
I shook my head.
“Nope, vampires are immortal. They don’t need to feed on human blood. The only real purpose a vampire has to feed on a human is to make another vampire. Although that takes extended, and repeated contact, not a quick feeding raid.”
Alex made a noise that sounded like a cross between a hiccup and the dying scream of a crow. “And what was that other word you said?”
“Rivign?” I asked.
“It means first drink.” I said, with great reluctance.
“In regards to…?” Alex pried.
I let out a sigh.
“In vampire culture, the first drink refers to the first time a human is fed upon. Supposedly, the more vampires that have preyed upon a human, the worst they start to taste. Following this logic, the first time someone is fed upon is when they taste the best.”
“That would incentivise vampires to go after younger people right? Since there is less of a chance they would have already been bitten?” Alex asked.
I winced and muttered some sort of confirmation.
“Oh,” Alex said.
We continued walking when Alex suddenly let out a sharp cry and fell to the ground.
“Are you ok? What happened?” I shouted.
“I’m fine, just tripped on a root is all.”
Alex stood up and started brushing themselves off. Again, a ray of moonlight caught part of their body, this time their arms. As Alex brushed the dirt off their shoulders, long sleeves fell to their elbows. Alex had beautiful arms. Each was tanned like their neck, spotted with freckles, and well established with strength. On the right arm lay a small bruise, and in the middle of the bruise, a tiny cut, probably caused by some rock. The motion of wiping off earth caused a small droplet of blood to form. Its lustrous odour filled my nostrils. My mouth began to water and I could feel my fangs becoming soaked with saliva.
“Ok, I’m all good now. Ready to keep moving?”
Alex’s voice pulled me away from my fantasy. I nodded in affirmation and we kept venturing through the woods.
I didn’t much feel like talking anymore. I could still smell the blood even with Alex’s sleeves down. It excited me, awaking instincts, or maybe dredging up things I had learned so long ago. In either case, it depressed me. It might be 900 more years before I could speak to another human, and yet I was being relentlessly attacked by unwelcome urges. However, it seemed Alex had more questions for me.
“Why have you waited so long to talk to another human?” They asked.
I chuckled for a moment, but when looking at Alex’s face, I could see that they were serious.
“If you saw me approach you in the woods at night, would you wait around to see what I wanted? I know what I am, what I look like. I’d rather not terrify humans needlessly for my own selfish curiosity.”
“I know, it’s just that… it seems rather sad you haven’t had the opportunity until now. Knowing what you are like now, I would have spoken to you in a heartbeat.”
A warm flutter brushed past my heart.
“Thank you for the kind words, but I don’t expect humans to take that risk. I know I wouldn’t if I were in their shoes.”
By this time we had reached the edge of the forest. I could see the windows of villages flickering with candlelight. The full moon shone brightly upon everything the trees did not cover, showering it in a silver glow.
“Well, we’re here,” said Alex. “Thank you so much for all your help and knowledge.”
“The same goes for you,” I said. “Good luck with your mission and farewell.”
I turned to head back into the forest when I heard a “Wait!”
I had rotated just in time to receive the full force of a hug from Alex. Their body pressed against mine so tightly that I could feel a heartbeat. Every hair I had stood on end. The aroma of Alex’s blood was closer than ever, and it was overpowering. Their strong yet tender frame was too close to mine. Sensations of unbearable intensity lit up my body. I kept having to swallow the saliva that was flooding my mouth as a horrific site started to display itself. The silvery town began to change. A pink hue was beginning to creep into my vision, staining the moon’s glow. My eyes were turning red. I shut them quickly and broke away from Alex.
“Bye! I hope I see you again soon!” They shouted after me. I responded with silent grief.
I tore through the forest, my ruby eyes now filling with tears. After making sure I was far enough away from the forest’s edge, I slumped against a tree and let the sorrow flow. I could scarcely open my eyes, it seemed a sin to see. The once peaceful forest dotted with pure moonlight beams was now despoiled by crimson lust. I violently spat out the saliva that had been collecting in my mouth. The expulsion was so profuse that I had accidentally scraped my tongue on one of my fangs. Being reminded of weapons I possessed intensified my anger and despair. In an act of self-mutilating defiance, I pulled them from my mouth. But the effort was in vain, as they were bone, and forever attached to my skull.