He spent the night in the cinema house, slipping effortlessly into a small brown rat, one of many of them that the clean-up crew would probably see. After a very productive night of watching a compelling movie, he also supped on a luscious female, who was all too happy to share with Flint the needed nectar from her veins. Spying up from across the aisle, the woman could not watch the movie for stealing more glances with every passing minute. By the time the film was halfway finished, Flint had also lost interest and was sitting next to his new admirer. It wasn't every night that the unassuming Darkling could attract a human without using an almost uncomfortable level of Glamour. He just really did not have it in him to be naturally irresistible. So when such a opportunity presented itself, Flint always gladly took advantage of it. It would mean that he wouldn't have to kill to eat this night; rather, he could take all the blood he needed and all the pleasure he may want without the inconvenience of having his prey realise what he was doing, and begin an angry protest. Flint just could not be sussed with such, and would bring their lovely little encounter to a close by affixing his mouth to the throat of the unwilling before him, and draw out all the blood, taking the lifeless husk to his favourite hill above Tinsel Town. It was just a pain in the arse, really, and there was no bonus of intimacy to be had, just food.
Flint liked the company of humanity, even if the attentions were brief. He preferred them that way, as often times, the brief encounters were the most intense. For instance, in a dark movie house, surrounded by other people, to bring a person to the desired orgasm for the best effect of taking blood was a feat that Flint was more than ready to attempt. He liked challenges like that, and Flint was not prone to do much of anything that he did not fully enjoy.
And the afterglow from this one...well, it had been more than satisfactory for them both. Blood was enough to bring a Vampire to climax, particularly the Incubi and Succubi of the Darkblood Hive. But to have a human do what this woman did to him after the fact was nothing short of extraordinary. They both floated in one another's orbits, reaching levels of pleasure rarely experienced, especially in public and particularly in utter silence. The happy lassie had left quite fulfilled, but also left Flint profoundly spent.
He really could not bother trying to make it back to the abandoned warehouse where his spent his days. Instead, he decided to stay right where he was, and catch the early matinees while he waited for the night to fall again. Truth be told, Flint could live in a movie house, and never want for anything ever again, but he wasn't really that keen on being a rat every day for the rest of his life, or existence, or whatever it was that he was living now. No, this was merely a temporary inconvenience, a price to pay for a chance to melt into another as they desirously surprise you and do the same to you. He would go home after feeding on the night crowd once again, and start home early, so he could rest in his own humble bed.
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.
Flint returned to the present, his rat self scratching his chin with a hind leg. He liked to get into his roles. He watched the cleaning crew finish up their half-baked attempts at making the dim theatre as clean as possible. One of them stopped and looked directly at him.
“What is it, Vince?”
“Another goddamn rat. When are they gonna call a professional to clean this dump out before someone gets bit on the toe by one of those nasty bastards?”
“Ah, leave it alone. We don't get paid enough to care, remember?”
Flint snickered, but it came out as faint rat chatter. Both men looked at him in disgust, and Flint tensed a little more.
Just as quickly, both men averted their eyes, and Flint relaxed, absently picking up a kernel dropped from a popcorn bucket and munching quietly as he listened to the crew walk out.
“Larry, you are so right.”
Flint smiled inwardly and eased out of the corner of the theatre, looking about and wondering what seat he could curl up in for the rest of the night and tomorrow. Before he could choose, however, there was a stirring in the back of the theatre. Flint stood back on his haunches and gazed strongly into the now completely dark stadium. Before the entity ever walked into the dim light of what Flint had always called cinema nightlights, he saw the saw the other Vampire. It was undeniable that this was a Vampire. And he was dragging a person behind him with one hand as he dabbed the corners of his mouth with the other.
How could a kill like this have been made without Flint knowing about it? Vampires always knew when another of their kind was close by, or at least Flint had assumed such over the long years of his wandering the night.
The Vampire turned his head, and narrowed his vast eyes when they set upon Flint’s eldritch face. Immediately Flint changed back, his clothes manifesting around him as his form moved up and out from the rat to the man.
“Um...Hi?” He said, the greeting coming out as a question, his accent already peeking through, even with such a short utterance. He lifted a hand in a wave and slowly lowered it, letting his too large sweater cover him down to his first knuckles. “Didn't see you earlier. Are you off, then, to dispose of the body? I know a great secluded place right outside Los Angeles. I can give you directions. Eh?”
The strange Vampire said nothing, just looked at Flint as if he were nothing more than a fly.
“Oi, can you hear me, then?” Flint said, his accent getting stronger, as it was wont to do during times of insecurity or discomfort. He was only a little concerned by this, but Flint was also sure that he did not entirely enjoy this Vampire’s gaze resting on him so keenly.
The other Vampire remained silent and still as stone, looking down at Flint from his higher stair. Flint saw his nostrils flare slightly, and so briefly no one but even the most insightful Vampire would have noticed, and he was one of the best of his kind at seeing the unspoken words that flashed across the faces of humans and Vampires alike. He chalked it up to his uncommon eyes. Flint felt a twinge of offence at the expression of disgust Cadmus had betrayed with the tiny movement of his nose. He also knew that Cadmus was taking in his scent, that strange combination of tobacco and opium that clouded about Flint like a mess of senses. The corners of Cadmus' mouth tightened from a mild amusement that was gone almost as soon as the Vampire had given away this still very foreign emotion.
“Oh...I know you,” the dark-clad Vampire said, his voice a deep purr of seduction. Flint felt a blanket of Glamour wrap around him, and he intensified his tight gaze upon the beautiful Vampire before him. And, even though he was quite sated with blood and sex to last several nights if need be, Flint found himself musing over the idea of revolving around this Vampire, sharing Blood and joys only Vampires can truly imagine or appreciate. Ambrosciata was something Flint had rarely engaged in, preferring the unexpected benefits of taking human attentions, and their excited blood, so eager to be drunk in that climactic state. But Flint found himself imagining the darkest and most delicious of acts with this birdlike beauty standing so still and regal in front of him.
Flint lifted his chin a little in order to get a more direct bead on Cadmus' face. He took in the hint of Blood flow in the veins at Cadmus' temple, and wondered at the blue hue that gave the Vampire an undeniable strangeness and otherworldly attraction. His head was fraught with the periwinkle powder, which also touched his ample lips, curling now more noticeably in a deadly smile.
“You are the Waltham Phantom that they all talked about in the pockets of supposed civilisation that dotted along the peripheries of that great wood. I looked for you once, caught your scent just barely one night whilst doing so," Cadmus said, surprising Flint with a knowledge few, if any, had about him in these modern climes.
“Once? Most people don't know that it was called Waltham,” Flint said, something holding him back from approaching the enrobed Darkling before him.
Cadmus tsk'd quietly, his teeth flashing too briefly for even Flint to catch the double fangs that framed his mouth. “Epping, if you will then, young one.”
“I'm not that young anymore,” laughed Flint, who found it a little disturbing that Cadmus did not join him in a much-needed moment of levity between them. He fell silent after a minute of chuckling to himself.
“By my standards, you're nothing but a titch.”
“Um, don't call me that. So why did you want to meet the notorious 'Waltham Phantom,'?”
“I wanted to rid the forest of any unnecessary hauntings,” Cadmus said slowly, letting his measured response sink fully in to Flint's brain, with all its dread ramifications.
Flint absent-mindedly scratched his nose with his thumb. He looked up at Cadmus, then cut his eyes to the body Cadmus was still holding by its dark red hair. It was a young man, still in the prime of his life. Flint felt a fleeting twinge of regret before returning his keen attention to the dark Vampire.
“You really shouldn't stand over someone like that, you know. It is a sign of a person's feeling of inadequacy as an individual.”
Cadmus widened his endless eyes at this Vampire's irreverence. At that precise moment, the strange-eyed Flint reminded him of Orphaeus Cygnus, which left a trail of distaste in his mouth. The Waltham Phantom stood in a slumped posture, his over-large clothes giving him a ridiculous hobo chic. Cadmus studied Flint's face, a circus of expression, his eyes flashing the occasional phosphorescent gleam of a cat in a car's headlights.
“Tapeta lucida,” Cadmus uttered quietly.
“Your eyes. They are not human, nor are they Vampire. You have tapeta lucida, like that of a cat or an owl. Why is this?”
“I'd know how to answer that if I knew what the fuck you were talking about. Why don't we move this conversation to more level ground, how about? I'm getting a catch in my neck. Besides, things'll get ugly if any cinema employees are still around and happen to walk in.”
Cadmus dropped the body and started down the stairs toward Flint, who backed up a step with each measured advance Cadmus made. After all, this Vampire had sought him out to kill him back in the day, it seemed. Why would Flint think this Darkling had changed his intentions? His back was to the movie screen by the time Cadmus had reached the floor in front of the seats.
“Follow me,” he commanded Flint. This speck of a Vampire deserved nothing but his scorn, and Cadmus wondered at why he ever thought that the Waltham Phantom would have been a satisfactory meal, as Cadmus engaged in yet another rampage across England, purging the land of as many Vampires as he could find. That green land oftentimes ran red with the Blood of the Night Martyrs, all of them lying prostate beneath the Blood inscription Sanguinem Mittat. “Let the Blood be sent forth” indeed. Cadmus did not wait to see if Flint did as he was told; rather, he promenaded out of the movie house, his priestly robes billowing behind him, as he made his way to the busy sidewalks of Hollywood.
What a filthy town this is, Cadmus thought, his lip curling in disdain at the unwashed throng before him. Perhaps these humans may think that they are clean, but they fill the atmosphere with their unending stench. They sully every corner of the world in which they infest. They are nothing more than naked roaches, scurrying about their unimportant lives as though there were nothing greater, nothing holier than they. And this Darkling who follows me out into the night, he enjoys their company. He deserves a death greater than what I, in my new form, can mete out. How I wish that I had been able to find that Waltham Phantom. His would have been a much more delicious kind of suffering than what he will be enjoying this eve.
Infinitesimally turning his head to see if his prey was behind him, it heartened Cadmus to see the phantom. Once they both had cleared the movie house, Cadmus spun, bringing his face to Flint's, a mere six inches of space between them. Cadmus looked down his aquiline nose at the Vampire, enjoying the discomfort coming from the younger Vampire in waves muted waves.
“What is your name, phantom?” Cadmus asked, growing weary of using the title 'Waltham Phantom,' when it hardly applied in this present-time.
“You first,” Flint said disrespectfully. He wasn't finding this situation amusing at all. There was only about three hours left of night, and his opportunity to bask in afterglow within the protection of a darkened theatre was slipping from Flint with every second spent with this mysterious visitor to his crash pad.
Cadmus froze and widened his eyes enough to make Flint swallow. His newfound ability to communicate various levels of anger had, in itself, become a new legend in the Vampire Hives. Most referred to it as The Gaze. Those under the rule of Orphaeus Cygnus irreverently called it The Crazy Eye. Cadmus had the sneaking suspicion that this had been started and encouraged by Orphaeus himself, who never ceased to be amused at rankling Cadmus. The latest instance of this was Orphaeus' declaration to a host of Vampires that Cadmus Pariah was his “homeboy.”
No, Cadmus was not.
“You will tell me your name, youngling, or I will kill you where you stand, and no one will ever see your agony as they walk about their mindless business here in busy, happy Tinsel Town. Now...what is it?”
Flint licked his lips and swallowed again before answering. “It's Flint. My name is Flint.”
Cadmus eased his expression enough to set Flint at ease as well. This was not a kindly act, but one of deception, and Flint could tell this even in his own hazy state. Cadmus wanted Flint's trust, so the kill would be that much more interesting. He could almost imagine the expression of dumb surprise on the Vampire's face when Cadmus disemboweled him with his bare hands in the course of just a few seconds.
“I am Cadmus,” the Dark Chylde of Night replied, his voice caressing the night with a velvet sonorousness. “Known also as Pariah.”
“Wait wait wait,” Flint said. “I've heard of you! You're the one who reconciled the Great Hive and gave us all the chance to mortate.”
Cadmus narrowed his eyes. There was so much more to him than this little blip in the history of Vampiredom, so much more compelling information. Not for the first time did Cadmus toy with the idea of creating a biography of his life, enthralling some younger Vampire scribe to commit it all to paper and electronic storage before he took her little life and added parts of her to the Harming Tree as a remembrance of her valued assistance.
“Yes, well... Shall we move somewhere more...” Cadmus looked around him at the people and, when one slightly bumped into him, he shuddered with revulsion. “Somewhere, where you and I might speak without distraction?”
Flint lifted his eyebrows and nodded in a nauseating circular motion, shoving his hands deep into his jeans pockets. “Yeah, there's a small dog park nearby, but are you sure you don't want to go fetch your...y'know, your body, and just let me take you to my hill up there?”
“My body will be fine where it is,” Cadmus said, his voice oozing with a quiet power. “Let the owners find it in the morning, and marvel over its blood-free state.”
Flint shrugged. “It's your thing, mate. Come with me.”
Cadmus allowed Flint to walk around him and take the lead, down the street and around the corner. He watched the Vampire's odd, stiff-legged gait, and couldn't help but wonder why on Earth he had ever been transformed into a night child. There was nothing that would remotely give any member of the Hive rise to want this one as a brother in the Blood. Cadmus followed Flint, keeping a distance to encourage a false sense of security in the dumpy little bloodsucker.
There was something remotely disturbing Cadmus, though. He did not want to reveal to Flint that the young Vampire had been as much of a surprise to Cadmus as Cadmus had been to him in the movie theatre. Cadmus always sensed the presence of Vampires, being the strongest of them all, and the Plenipotentiary of the New Hive. But he had not sensed Flint. Even now, Flint's thoughts, crude as they most likely were, were muted at best, impossible to read at worst. Was this why he could never find the Waltham Phantom? Was this why most everyone in the villages, despite their inclinations toward superstition, just did not believe in his presence?
Only one had. An old man with undeniable indications that he knew the phantom all too well. He had timourously disclosed his name as Gareth to the inquisitive Cadmus Pariah. Once Cadmus pried all the information the old man would give on this phantom, he dispensed with him as was only proper. He hung the man by his ankles from a pike after he had “fed” him to the chalice, the blood gushing out of the man's cut throat into the sacred basin that was first amongst Cadmus' many treasures. Cadmus left the man to the frozen breeze, leaving only a trickle of blood to dye the snow beneath his tortured form. Then, Cadmus was only mildly interested in why old Gareth knew so much about the Waltham Phantom or why his arms were covered with thin scars that criss-crossed one another like maps of freely-given blood over the long years of his puny little life. This had been nothing more than a diversion for him, so his hunt was not a very intense one. The killing of what would become his kith and kin had more than met the holy death his master, the Apostate, demanded of him. The hunting of the Waltham Phantom was nothing more than sport.
But now...now, Cadmus wondered why Gareth had been so protective of this Flint creature. He tried to enter Flint’s mind and discovered he could not. He prickled at this surprise, but still felt unconcerned as to why this was. He was certain it was nothing more than a parlour trick on the tousled Darkling’s part.