Flint was a very indolent Vampire, letting the world around him drift on by, not really caring about anything that did not directly affect him. As a mortal, this complacency has been a vague habit which his family admonished, urging him to be more independent and eager to work. Flint’s father had been a blacksmith, and he had worked so hard every day that Flint saw tears of exhaustion in his eyes some nights when they ate their supper.
When he was a mortal, Flint grew up in a village on the edge of a small narrow wooded area called Waltham Forest. He had been born Simon Flynt to James and baker and midwife Abigail. He had a sister six years his junior named May. Simon dearly loved his sister, protecting her from the insipid violence so secretly tolerated in his day and age. May idolized Simon. As children, the two were all but inseparable.
He lingered at his family home until he was nineteen years of age, which was unprecedented, given that most young men his age were most often apprenticed at the age of twelve or thirteen, and working on their own by the time they were Simon’s age. Simon began helping his father in the forge and also worked as a stocker in the village’s small market. He left the family home at the age of twenty, living alone in a tiny one-room thatch dwelling. He was well-pleased with himself.
Besides May, Simon had a friend whom he had met when he was a very young child. His name had been Gareth Owen and his family had moved from Wales to the financially friendlier England. Simon always loved to listen to Gareth’s musical lilt when he spoke, and often tried to imitate it. Being a chameleon of sorts, Simon was very good at accents and often engaged in Welsh concourse with Gareth. Gareth and Simon were always together, and it was rumoured that the two young boys were more than friends, their callow youth so very receptive to such illicit love. The folk of the village would watch them suspiciously, but said nothing, tolerating their intimacy. Some of the men looked at them with a secret desire, their lecherous eyes slipping over the teens’ young bodies.
Truth be told, the boys had twice engaged in the forbidden acts for which they were silently accused to have enjoyed. Walking in the Waltham wood, the two looked curiously at one another, and found themselves shed of their clothes, fervently embracing one another, clinging to the love they shared as though they would never seen one another again. Simon was desirous of Gareth’s attentions, and he found himself celebrating the compliant flesh he caressed in reverence. Afterward, they basked in the afterglow, lying on a soft bed of moss, gazing at the tall trees that concealed their furtive love. It happened again a couple of years later but, as they grew into manhood, the two abandoned their intimate deeds and returned to their platonic friendship. Neither married, despite their promiscuous behaviour with the girls of their village.
Gareth was luckier than Simon in the ways of love. He was an expert at chatting up the girls, where Simon was often awkward. It wasn’t that Simon was unattractive. His was an uncommon beauty. He sported large hazel eyes and a nose a bit too big for his face. His mouth was an ironic line that made people wonder if he was mocking them or if he was just mildly amused. More often than not, Simon was simply pleased with the world around him, his carefree nature influencing the expression on his face. He had dark blonde hair that limply reached down just beyond his chin, hiding ears that seemed peculiar, quite different from others’. He always kept it clean and people wondered at its fairness. Indeed, Simon possessed a singular charm.
Perhaps it was this to which the Vampire was drawn. Or perhaps his inherent oddness. Whatever it was, Simon was engaged by the Darkling when he and Gareth parted company after a night at the local pub. Simon was taken up and whisked into Waltham Forest, where the Vampire drank from him, then forced the Blood into his mouth. The Darkling whispered “Your name is Absinthe,” and licked the young man’s cheek. Before Simon could fight, before he even knew what had been done to him, the Vampire flew away in crow form, leaving behind his dark work.
For three days, Simon lay in the forest, aching from the transformation. He curled up into the foetal position and covered himself with dry leaves, staring at the autumn moon. After the third day, he didn’t just see the moon, but he could see galaxies far beyond the Earth’s precious orb. The void of space was now somehow populated with constellations and impossible colours. Flint’s eyes had changed somehow. He was seeing things everywhere that had once been invisible to him. He blinked and could feel their strange difference deep within his psyche. Looking around, he could see the far off firelights of his village, and he felt his eyes reflect that light back for a brief moment of lucidity. This perplexed and delighted Simon, but also scared him a little. What was he?
And then it came. The hunger. The unmistakable thirst for blood. It was at that moment that Simon realized that he was now like the spectre that had attacked him. The name Absinthe danced along the peripheries of his awareness and he knew that this was what he was to be called within some secret colleges of the night. But Simon willfully rejected this, whispering “My name is Simon Flynt. I will always be a Flynt.”
His mouth firmly set and his stomach growling, he walked back to the village, his clothes a mess of dirt and leaves. It was no time before he reached the door of Gareth’s modest cottage. Before, Simon had always just walked in, for he and his friend hid nothing from one another. But, this time, Simon was held back by some unseen and misunderstood force. He knocked on Gareth’s door. When his friend opened, he said “Simon, where have you been?”
“In the forest,” Simon said, his voice sounding remarkably like bells. He noticed that Gareth took a step back.
“What has happened to you, Simon?”
“A wraith of some sort swept down on me four nights past, when you and I left the pub. He took me to the forest and drank my blood, then fed me his. He named me Absinthe and left me to suffer alone. Now…now, Gareth, I share his lust. I share his hunger. I am so damned, Gareth. I feel so hopeless now.”
“Come in. Hide away here.”
Instantly the ward that held Simon from crossing Gareth’s threshold was gone, and he hurried into the cottage, sitting down in front of the fire and wiping some of the mud from his face. Gareth followed him and plopped down in front of his friend.
“I have heard of these beings before, from the Gypsies who sometimes pass through here. You are a Vampire now, Simon, I am sure of it.”
Gareth stared deeply into Simon’s eyes. “Your eyes. Turn your head to the fire, Simon. Or should I call you Absinthe now?”
“I am keeping my God-given name,” Simon said decisively. “I will not abide this.”
He did as Gareth said and pivoted his head around. The fire caught into the recesses of his eyes and he could feel a veil pass over them. Gareth scooted around and looked at Flint’s eyes. He nodded.
“They glow like the forest wolves’,” he said. “The ones who watch us from the edge of Waltham, when you can only see their eyes. Owl’s eyes. Cat’s eyes. Simon, they are beautiful.”
Simon blinked slowly, looking at his friend with a lazy affection. Despite his hunger, a blanket of complacency draped across him. It was as though everything would be just fine. He needn’t worry about a thing. Even though he had always had this outlook, it was ten times or more stronger than ever before. The orbs of heaven could come crashing to the ground, and Simon would perish with an ironic smile of unconcern.
“What can I do to help you, Simon?”
“I am hungry,” Simon said matter-of-factly. “It is blood that I need. You cannot do anything for me.”
“I can give you my blood. I will do anything for my friend, you know this.”
Simon looked shyly at Gareth, then leaned forward impulsively and hugged him with more desperation than when the two had shared their young bodies with one another. “I love you, brother, I love you so much.”
Gareth hugged Simon back then, taking a knife from the low mantle, sliced shallowly into his arm, offering it up like he was a supplicant in an arcane church. Simon needed no prompting; he was on Gareth almost instantly, sucking at the self-inflicted wound with more hunger than he had ever felt in his life. He glanced up at Gareth, his rheumy eyes glinting with their newfound verdant strangeness. Even this, even this offering of blood seemed like the most natural thing in the world to Simon. He settled into his new skin with an almost surprising ease.
After he had drunk his fill, Simon pulled back and took the blade from Gareth, opening up a vein of his own. But Gareth shied away from him, if only infinitesimally. Simon saw the action, though, like it was a stain on Gareth’s face. Every nuance was magnified to Simon’s unceasing gaze.
“Why won’t you take my blood?” he asked, his voice breaking.
“Because of what you told me. You said that the wraith, the Vampire, stole your blood, then forced his upon you. Simon, if I drink your blood, I will be the same as you. I’m not ready to go there yet. But, over time, you know I’ll join you whenever you wish.”
Realisation burned through Simon’s soul, then almost instantly faded away in a mist of unconcern. He said levelly, “No. I don’t want you to feel what I’m feeling. That rawness, that physical longing for something so unholy as a human’s blood. No, Gareth. I won’t do that to you. Consider us brothers in blood, on a completely different level. An unspoken bond between us…another.”
Gareth’s eyes moistened, and he took his brother’s hands in his. “I will forever be your friend, Simon. And I will teach you everything the Gypsies taught me about this new life you have. You will find it one of wonder. But I will tell you this. Long after I am gone, you will remain in youth. Long after you yourself have almost lost the memory of this place, you will still walk this Earth.”
Gareth reached over and traced his thumb along Simon’s lips, then moved his upper lip up, nodding slowly. “You are already developing them. Your first taste of human blood brings ‘em on.”
Simon moved his tongue along the edge of his lips, inadvertently passing over his teeth as he did. His eyes widened with shock. “What - ?”
“They’re fangs, Simon. Like I said, you are a Vampire. You will need cover with the rising sun. I have extra blankets. I can make a tent around my bed. You can hide underneath, and I will keep your secret, and ready your cottage for you.”
“Thank you. Thank you for everything.” Simon cocked his head and looked at his friend with genuine love. He never thought they could be any closer, but this night had proved him wrong. They had always been brothers. But, now, the blood had made it all deeper somehow.
The rest of that night was spent with his head in Gareth’s lap, waiting for the inevitability of the sun and the unexpected effects it would have on him.
Gareth had been wrong; Flint had never forgotten Waltham. And he had certainly never forgotten his friend, nor had he healed from the heart wound Gareth’s dreadful death had ripped open. Really, his memories of Gareth were the only thing that exuded any extreme emotion in the Darkling. Everything else Flint hardly noticed. His was a lackadaisical existence.
Okie-dokie (as Hannibal would say), last night at Diane's house, I finished up editing the first draft of The Waltham Phantom, then added over 2,000 words to the mix in order to include Flint's history, and his friendship with Gareth. I'm not sure why I didn't include this in the original, as it's quite relevant to the overall story, considering what Cadmus Pariah does to Gareth. I also injected my take on a certain "bromance" that just fascinates the hell out of me. I know it's nowhere near as extreme as what I wrote, but a girl can dream. Yes, I'm a pervo. This is the unpolished text, though. I have not yet examined it, as I wrote it in a frenzy last night. It's behind the cut. Those who read, I hope you like.