Requiem for a Vampire by @Ex Machina and @La Reina THIS WAS A NIGHTMARE, yet it was impossible to wake up or get out. It went on and on, and every time Cleopas open his eyes from the long sleep he felt sad. He felt afraid. He felt a misery, for which he didn’t know the name, a dread that made the scheme of things devoid of reason. He awoke every night as if jerked by a chain, hungry, staring blankly into the black darkness of his coffin — His coffin? — he felt an anger mingling in him. It was not possible that this was happening to him, that he was in this low-ceiling crypt beneath the floor of a burial vault, that this had been done to him. And then he saw the gaunt, rotting corpse on the edge of the coffin. He did not know this man, only that this was his grave. And he had invaded the sanctuary out of need, out of safety from the sun. For this unfathomable life he lived now was indeed a curse. He knew peace only when he slept, and when he satisfied the hunger that was constant. He knew he must leave this grave. He knew he must feed. The night was warm as it had been every night this summer, and as he stepped out into the grass, he saw countless stars overhead, uneven, some so clear they were faintly yellow or even pink, others merely tiny points of white light. And the fleeting clouds made him rock for a moment on the balls of his feet with his head back, for the whole earth seemed to move. Outside, staring out into the black sky with its wealth of stars drifting slowly down into the sea, he felt alive, and for a moment there was that ineffable beauty of life that permeated all around him. He craved so much to be part of it again, it tormented him. He moved from shadow to shadow undetected, too fast for mortal eyes to grasp. For if they did see they would see death staring back. And like a shadow he climb to the roof tops of the edifices, prowling the arches and dynamic rhythm of columns and pilasters, and external facades and embellishments of form, light and shadow that painted a picturesque city of Naples. It was the year 1715. Louis XIV, le roi soleil of France, had just died. Peter the Great was the czar of Russia. In the far-off North American colony of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin was nine years old. George I had just taken the throne of England. African slaves tilled the fields of the New World on both sides of the equator. A man could be hanged in London for the theft of a loaf of bread. He could be burned alive in Portugal for heresy. Gentlemen covered their heads with great white wigs when they went out; they carried swords, and pinched snuff from small jeweled boxes. They wore breeches buckled at the knee, stockings, shoes with high heels; their coats had enormous pockets. Ladies in ruffled corsets fixed beauty marks to their cheeks. They danced the minuet in hooped skirts; they held salons, fell in love, committed adultery. On the sunny Italian peninsula, foreign domination had made great inroads. The Archduke of Austria ruled the northern city of Milan and the southern Kingdom of Naples. Naples was more wondrous at night than anything he had ever beheld; overlooking town and sea, he searched for his first kill. He picked up the scent of blood. And he heard again the enchanting familiar thunder of blood in mortal veins. Blood. He was thirsty for blood. His insides cried for it, his tongued craved its honeyed-bitterness. In the pockets of light his skin looked like porcelain, and he had a little cleft to his chin that suggested a man, lacking the slightest roughness of a man’s beard. He was fair, a white-skinned youngman with a face chiseled out of the purest marble. His dark eyelashes and pink lips had such a sheen to them they appeared to have been painted. His dark hair curled naturally at his shoulders; it was just a little too long. He was all done up in a frivolous coat of gold-threaded brocade which gave him the tawdry look of one of those marble statues in a church which is dressed in real cloth garments by the faithful. With little ease yet a spurt of speed he took to the lower roofs. The scent of mortals was stronger for him, sweeter. And the gentle roar of excited voices, the natural sound of people beguiled him. He jumped and hit the pavements of the street below, so swiftly he seemed to simply appear. A blur to the mortals, but nobody was looking. Within minutes he was before the prey he had picked, it was his scent that lured Cleopas to him. He was bleeding — resting against the wall from a stabbed wound, head lolling to one side in pain. Before he could cry out, Cleopas had him in his arms — He was starving, starving for the blood of mortals, as he had been every night for the last six-months. The sweaty stench of the young man rose in his nostrils, mingle with that smell of his blood, that flooded his mind. He could hear it pulsing through ventricles and valves and painfully constricted vessels. His heart was laboring and nearly bursting. Cleopas lifted him to his hungry mouth and clamp his fangs down on the tender red flesh of the neck, and the boy stiffen as if his fangs were dipped in poison. And the fountain opened; it was rich, it was good. The boy’s life floated in the current; his childhood, his loves, his enemies, the memories tumbled against each other without meaning. A vague look of outraged, blind desperation, and perhaps with tragic realization, he pushed at Cleopas but it was fruitless. Draught after draught flooded Cleopas’s brain, he felt it electrify the tiny veins in his face, he felt it pulse even into his fingers, and a hot prickling warmth slide down his spine. And he felt his member stiffen beneath his breeches, deliciously pressing against the warmth body in his arms. Succulent, heavy creature — he heaved a euphoric sigh of relief — and let him go, the body tumbling soundlessly out of his grip. In a daze, Cleopas saw the boy tumbled over. He picked him up and tore his throat. The spark of life left the boy’s eyes. It was done. He stared at what he had done, letting his mortal feelings torment him, he ran as if creating a distance would help ease the guilt he felt. Outrage and with some regret he cursed his maker, he despised what he was. He wanted to be human and feel human, and this blood, this radiant living blood, with all the vibrations and memories of the kill pulsed through all his limbs, threaded all through him, and it wasn’t enough. It was never enough. On and on he ran, with no destination in particular. He meandered through the many cobblestoned streets, the narrow and treacherous roads, admiring the dense and darkly colors, the rank of lovely decay that he found had an eerie little charm. It was not long before he tracked down the rich scent of mortal blood again. He hid. For long moments he stood there, staring at the distant figures in the dark alleyway, a man and his victim, but it was not a mortal man he saw but another vampire. And when the creature finished feeding, without meaning to, Cleopas was following him.