"In the Evening"
By Niko Wilde
Copyright © 2001, all rights reserved

The secret garden is alive with shadows, shadows with sharp teeth and sharp claws…hungry shadows that creep ever so silently through the darkness, spurned on by the heady scent of musk, and the earthiness of freshly spilled blood. Like dream revenants, they are- nearly mindless in their wandering. In their stalking of that which is weaker and easy to kill.

And I sit in the midst of it, alone and never afraid, because as mindless as they are- they recognize the fundamental difference in me, and stay away. Resigned to being nothing more than shadows in my mind’s eye, barely acknowledged…barely thought of. Vague annoyances, like flies buzzing around your ears on a hot and close summers night.

And a hot summer night it is, indeed. Off in the distance, where civilization starts and this quiet place ends, I can hear them. Doors and windows open, and humans step out into the oppressive heat of the night, looking for the first breath of a cooling breeze. In secret gardens of their own, seeking respite and the comfort of close companionship…they reach for one another, desperate for understanding. Desperate to shed the burdens of life for the time being, and to simply enjoy -being-. Perhaps to celebrate having lived another day, having conquered some unforeseen obstacle. I think there must be something primal about this, something that has gone on since the dawn of time.

The celebration of a life continued. The facing of the darkness, not with fear but with defiance.

This is precisely why I admire humans so.

And what of my predator brethren? Surely, I hold more in common with them than with the humans I seem to be contemplating so thoroughly this evening. Ah, but you would be surprised if only you could walk in my shoes for any brief period of time. Shall I explain? Yes, I believe I shall.

I’ve known many during my time on this earth. I’ve shared my bed with a select few, and I’ve subjected myself to learning more about the way in which they view the monotony of their existence. They are killers who delude themselves into believing there is some divine purpose behind the murders that stain their nights a ruddy crimson. By killing, they therefore allow themselves to live another night…to see another sunset, to love with all of the archaic, barbaric ferocity such a beast can muster.

Vampire.

You’ve doubtlessly heard the word before. If I know you at all, gentle reader, you have glorified these beasts into romantic, often times tragic anti-heroes. You believe what they tell you. You identify with the pain and loneliness of such a solitary existence, and you ache to be a part of it. Yes, you ache with the need to be held tightly in the monsters grip, to feel the rapture of their deadly kiss.

They are all skilled liars, I will give them that much.

Do you find them beautiful, with their sparkling eyes and pale flesh? Do you believe that something so un-naturally beautiful is incapable of inflicting pain and torment? Or perhaps it is simpler than that. To die in the arms of beauty…to catch one fleeting glimpse of the myth would be to admit that there is more to life than what meets the eye.

Does a tiger love its prey? Does an animal seduce with visions designed to entrance and befuddle? Does a wild beast pretend that there is some noble purpose behind taking out the weakest member of the pack?

Everything has to eat. You would do well to remember that, the next time you find yourself staring for too long at the man with the luminous skin and pale, violet eyes.

There is a natural order to things, even among the beasts who wander the darkest, deepest shadows, seeking to quench their insatiable appetites. They are as much prey to me as you would be, gentle reader, if we were to meet in a smoky bar, sometime between 3am and eternity.

And that is why I am here now, sitting alone but never afraid, as the shadows keep a respectful distance- ever mindful of my presence, just as I am of theirs. It is born out of instinct, perhaps- the ability to recognize that which is stronger. Or perhaps, more accurately, it is born out of fear…fear of what is different, and un-nameable. I can taste their fear sometimes, when the wind carries it to me…when a brave one strays too close to my secret garden, without being aware of what sits here in quiet contemplation. Of who sits here.

I can taste it, and it is sweet.

This is the breaking down of life. Escaping into quiet solitude, to remind oneself of the basic truths of human and inhuman nature. Away from the bustling streets, and the crowded clubs, where anyone can put on a mask and pretend to be anything they wish.

Humans pretend to be monsters. Monsters pretend to be human. And I am neither. Or perhaps, more accurately- I am an exaggeration of both. I can still remember how it felt to be a child, afraid of the dark…afraid of the nameless, faceless monster that lived under the bed. And I remember just as well how it feels to be so far removed from humanity to fear nothing- even after I had realized that the monster did indeed have a face, and a name.

In the immortal words, quite literally, of my bastard brother- this is a period of ritual and reflection, one that takes place every year on the night of my son’s birth I await the time when we will sit in this quiet place together, and share our thoughts…share the fact that we are of the same blood- and no creature, mortal or immortal alike, holds dominion over either of us. In strange, almost incomprehensible ways- his life has mirrored my own. Even from a distance, I have been paying attention. How can I not? He is a piece of me- my own contribution to immortality, and one that I cherish. He has never been a dead thing, burned back to life with the spark of inhuman blood. He was born alive, and has lived his life in sunlight.

But the time for shadowstalking is growing nearer with every passing year. I can feel it, like an internal clock ticking out its mad rhythm in my bones. An awareness. An awakening. And when we are finally reunited, gentle reader, oh what a grand moment that will be.

But I fear my time here is drawing to a close. The sun will rise soon, and I will find my way to another city…to another crop of hopelessly lovely faces, and the soft, sweet tangle of pliant limbs- mortal flesh to wrap myself in, and treasure for the briefest of moments, before the demon in my blood begins to scream for sacrifice. Yes, like my predatory brethren, I am a killer- and I apologize if my words have deceived you into thinking otherwise. The basic difference between us is that I recognize what I am, and I glory in it. There need be no noble purpose assigned to death in my arms. I kill because it is my right, as a creature stronger and more hungry for death than you can ever hope to fathom. I kill because I can appreciate the aesthetic beauty in pale flesh, stained crimson. Because I can hear the music in even the most plaintive, whispered moan.

Death is an art, and one that I am most appreciative of.

Keep that in mind, gentle reader, the next time you happen upon a secret garden. Be mindful of the strange young man with eyes like sapphires, as he sits beneath a moonless sky. You may find him beautiful, but all he will be thinking about is how lovely it would sound, to hear you scream.

Zane
August 9, 2001



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