confessions of a flesh eater and the story of a boy - beingmadissad (2024)

*

1973, San Francisco

Louis grew hysterical over Claudia and Paris again that night.

He ended up leaving their home in a frenzy, forsaking Armand all alone in the ravaged living room, picking up with his rawboned hands broken pieces of a vase from the soiled floor. Cleaning up the mess again. Nothing more pervaded the premises apart from the haunting, harrowing silence of desolation and his companion’s words imprinted in his mind, such cruel words again.

He didn’t have to follow him to know where Louis was headed. It was a Friday night, bars just got opened and there was nothing that Louis loved more than passing his time in dissipation. Was there something wrong with Armand that he wished to belong to one and the one only? Was he too old, mentally? Was he too old-fashioned?

And so Armand sat on the sullied ground, still and motionless the way subjects posed for portraiture. His blank, emotionless irises were riveted to the burning candle at the nearby table, and for a fleeting moment he had a whim to turn his head right and set the whole building on fire. He thought of Louis, resentful, envisioning him at that point in one of their flats, making an unfortunate, broken child sink on his knees in front of him, oblivious he was destined for slaughter.

He felt it again, that night. Was it loneliness? An agonising, eerie feeling that there was nothing else in the world but him and abhorrent daemons in his head, enchaining him to his mental prison. An unbearable fear that no one will save him from himself. That the void filling his chest will engulf him whole.

The air was cold and calming, as he left the flat some time around midnight, draping a woolen coat over his arms. He lit a cigarette, his air composed and stoic, a marble statue with a pallid mouth and sunken, vacant eyes. Whomever stumbled upon his way, would bid farewell their life. A week now since he last fed, his flesh was going ice cold in hunger.

As he strolled past the desolate streets of San Francisco, he sensed another presence nearby. Soon two male voices resounded — one low and the other hoarse, somewhat caustic and ironic. And strangely, vaguely familiar.

“So, uh, how far away is your place?”

“Just round the corner. Impatient, are we?”

“You have no idea, man.”

Armand stopped in the middle of the dark alley and rose slowly his apocalyptic stare towards two young men walking on the other side of the road. There he was. No other than damned Daniel Molloy. The drug fiend.The fascinating boy.His would-have-been victim. A testimony to his companionship with Louis. Except what companionship was there, if the companion in question was now buried in someone else’s filthy flesh, getting more carnal gratification from bedding a mortal than being with him?

Perhaps not so much a would-be victim, but not-yet a prey.

The mere sight of the boy made him furious. Foul feelings of envy, insecurity and betrayal once more rose in his chest. Armand dropped the cigarette to the ground and dimmed it with his leather shoe. He watched the young men from afar as they turned left towards a nearby townhouse, too immersed in their conversation to notice the ravenous predator on the horizon.

If anything was meant to be a sign that he had unfinished business with that revolting drug fiend, that was it.

Mortals were pitiably reckless. Armand studied from a great distance away the young man, as he entered the lodging of a complete stranger with so little regard for his own safety, almost as if the dim memory of Louis ravaging his throat left in his brain didn’t lecture him enough. Almost as if the boy tempted death; invited it for a duel, challenged it out of ennui, tried to welcome it. Seeking the thrill, adrenaline, actively pursuing the danger.

Is that what makes you fascinating?

Or perhaps it was just stupidity. It was, after all, painfully human to repeat the same mistakes over and over and never learn from them. Armand watched the whole spectacle, by the courtesy of uncovered blinds, leaning against a tree with a good view of the window.

Cocaine stayed in blood for at least two days.

His dinner required patience, a virtue he certainly possessed. In less than an hour, the boy left the townhouse, drunkenly walking down the street. Now that was his time. He came out from behind the tree and got in his way.

“f*ck, man, you scared me—”

And as Daniel looked up to see the man in front of him better, he froze. His face went ghastly pale and mouth trembled in shock. The interesting way his violet, dazed with drugs eyes widened —it almost spoke of recognition.

Armand remained silent, pensive. There was no way he remembered him. His stare went blank again; almost indifferent, listless. He remained motionless and poised as he raided the mind of a boy and saw something he did not expect to see at all.

“f*ck, I—,” Daniel slurred and blinked a few times, fighting off the blurry vision in front of his wearied irises. “Oh, f*ck.”

Armand smiled at him in the most gruesome, sinister way possible. Daniel looked at him in horror, a sudden realisation dawning on him. His parched mouth parted and a desperate scream for help almost forsook his tongue—

“Rest, boy,” Armand whispered with such ease, and the boy fell unconscious into his arms straight away, like nothing more but a rag doll.

Right into the welcoming embrace of a beast.


*

Armand.

Armand, Armand, Armand.

Such an unusual name etched in his delirious memory. It followed him in his dreams, haunted his soul at nights when there was nothing else but him and a dirty bag of cocaine at the wooden table, or when he was sinking down on his knees in front of a stranger in a dark alley, prey to his impulses and weaknesses. All in a pitiable plea for some co*ke or heroin.

The young man didn’t know anyone with such a name. Was it merely a drug-induced fantasy then?

And the eyes. Oh, the ghastly eyes of a daemon.

Not entirely crimson-red, not quite yellow. Amber irises shimmeringin the morose twilight of his bedroom. Endless,disturbing whispers in the back of his head, rising terror and confusion in his trembling chest. He was surely going mad. Crazy, deranged; sweet drugs finally doing some damage to his brain. There wasn’t any other rational explanation to his condition, was there?

A number of times he would wake up in the middle of the grim night, his pallid flesh covered in cold sweat, his dreams disturbed by this sinister visage. As he lay pressed into the mattress of his own bed, with his twitching limbs paralysed, he would see the face of the devil himself. Not able to move, it was almost as if some abnormal force was seizing his thin wrists and preventing him escape. Golden-brown, ablaze eyes that spoke of nothing but derangement, chaining him to his bed with their unyielding, unnerving stare. Talking, whispering, chanting the words he could not understand. Was it Latin? Daniel cried and screamed, acute terror rising within him, fear gnawing his soul. But no one heard him.

But then he was waking up again, realising he was double-dreaming.

And yet the harrowing specter of a fair, beige complexion never ceased to chase him. It must have been connected to Louis, somehow, he knew. He was sane before that night of their calamitous interview, in that dirty little room the vampire owned. All he wanted was some drugs and good sex. But instead, the unstable f*cker bit him, dumped him into a drug den and even since he was walking around town delirious.

But he couldn’t ask that unstable psyche, no. What if he would bite him again? Or worse? Shouldn’t he have just been grateful that he stayed alive and move on?

Except how could he move on, now that he knew that there more to this world than pitiable mortality? Now that he gained the awareness that some men — blended in the society, looking exactly just like him — were ravenous beasts on the lose? Gods, almost... They ruled the world in quiet, daemons among weak men. Daniel wanted to know more. He wanted to study the entire species, find them all, question them,become one of them. He wanted to live forever.

He thought of Louis often. He remembered Lestat, too, and everything crazy he heard about him. Sinister torpor he was falling into every single morrow, getting turned would surely fix it all.

And that evening was nothing out of the ordinary; the deed was done, and the drugs were received. He left the townhouse of the man as quickly as possible, swaying on his feet from the narcotics and booze in his blood.

He stepped out into the dark street, draping his leather jacket over his shoulders. It was cold outside and he started trembling, as he walked briskly forward, looking at the ground, which is exactly why he didn’t notice a man in front of him. He bumped into him and chuckled drunkenly, hasting to say;

“f*ck, man, you scared me—”

But the boy did not finish his sentence. He was riveted to the spot as if enchanted, trying in vain to break through the paralysis which held his flesh. He saw him, the handsome devil from his dreams —his stare was sinister, his delicate features possessed an aspect of menace and beauty, inspiring fear, wonder and respect in equal measure.

He recognised with dread his amber irises, the way they attracted, subjugated and devoured —his bright, langurous and glistening stare that cut through him like a blade. Daniel could almost swear he felt their sharp coldness enter into every single crevice of him.

And so he stared at this thing —completely unnatural, monstrous, unhuman —and somehow he knew its name. Why? Why? Why?

He held his own breath in alarm, his pale flesh quivering in trepidation. He was off his head on cocaine and vodka, but he still recognised the danger in front of him straight away. An apex predator.

He was so close to getting help, so close to hollering—

But the monster in front of him disarmed him with a one, single word. And after that, there was only horrid darkness.

Armand, was the last thing Daniel feebly whispered.

*

The first thing Daniel saw when he awoke, was a Picasso painting on the wall. It was a portrait of a young man with a disfigured, fractured skull. His elongated face seemed torn to pieces; mutilated by the fangs of a beast.

He looked down and realised he was lying on the soiled floor with his thin wrists enchained. He remained unsure about his whereabouts; it looked like a dim living room, unkempt and uninhabited. There was no windows and the only source of light came from a small lamp.

Only after a few minutes, as his fatigued irises adjusted, did he realise with horror that there was a human form sat on a chair in the corner of the murky room.

Human form. Expect it wasn’t human. It had all the very characteristics of a human being, but it was dead, still and cold. And in the pale light of the room the creature’s amber eyes were almost luminous.

His raven, short locks were tossed about, the sinister irises enormous, almost child-like. He looked young. Way younger than Louis. And yet for all the gentle innocence of his face, he kept his malicious eyes fixed on him almost to the point they seemed vibrating, and all of a sudden the boy’s mind was flooded with harrowing words and whispers, commands and threats. You will be torn limb from limb, just like the man in this distasteful painting you’re staring at.

“How the f*ck... how the f*ck do you do it,” Daniel whispered feebly, hyperventilating in terror. “How are you getting in my head like that...? Y—you’ve been in my dreams... I knew it... f*ck... I knew I wasn’t crazy!”

The creature in front of him smiled and got up from the chair.

“You remembered my name,” he said in a calm, mellow voice, with a charming, unusual accent. “I had seen it in your mind. I find it quite interesting... I never let anyone walk free with the knowledge of my name... And certainly I wouldn’t let you.”

Daniel looked up in dread as the creature got closer to him and sank on his knee as if to see him better.

And all of a sudden the boy’s mind was flooded with memories. He thought his head was going to explode.

Oh my god.

“Oh, f*ck, it’s you,” Daniel whispered in timid awe, as well as with the growing dismay, “Oh God, you were there... I remember... pieces... fragments...”

In high school, you told a girl you’d only do her if she had a paper bag over her head. You did it even as she cried... A splinter of coldness in you! Is that what makes you f a s c i n a t i n g...? I have been calling to you for some time. An ugly duplex back in Modesto. A woman in the mold of your mother, vacuuming on valium. A genteel drinking problem like your father. Like honey on your tongue. Hush now, I’ll hold you. I’ll hold you. You rest now.

“What have you... what have you done to me?” Daniel asked slowly, his purple eyes widened in mute fascination, along with dread passing down his spine. “You’re in my head. I can’t get you out of my head. Oh God. I am not turning crazy. I know who I am. It’s you. You did something to me! I know it now.”

“I have done nothing to you,” Armand said with a soft smile, as he turned his head right, a sinister glimmer in his eyes. “Yet.”

“L—Louis told you not to touch me,” the boy told him, trying for his quivering, feeble voice to sound firm and brave.

Armand looked at him with cold amusem*nt tinging his features.

“And how long shall I have to atone?”

“What—”

“Y o u r b e l o v e d L o u i s doesn’t even look at me anymore, you fiend!” Armand raised his voice, and beneath the modulation of anger, one could almost sense a shocking tinge of sorrow and despair. “I... I used to believe he would get over it all... that under all of the coldness there was love and wisdom and light, hidden under a thin, translucent veil... But no... he is dead inside to me; he is awfully cold and beyond my reach. It isas if I am not even there, beside him. And... now being there with him, I have the dreadful feeling that I do not exist at all. I look into his eyes and my reflection isn’t there.”

Daniel was speechless. There was nothing he could say. There was nothing he could do. He just had to let him.

“Tell me,” Armand continued hastily, his eyes wide and deranged, as the mellow voice grew unsteady, almost desperate. “Look me in the eye and tell me... do I still exist?”

“Yes, you do,” the boy replied quickly, horrified. “Of... of course you do.”

“Then why doesn’t it feel like it, then?”

Daniel had his watery eyes fixed at the gruesome visage and began to cry. He was terrified of him; the way his emotions circulated, changed every five seconds.

He could swear he saw boundless misery in those amber eyes, and a child-like confusion, almost as if the monster was hopeless and sad. But then, only a few moments later, Armand’s face assumed an eerie aspect of coldness. He was suddenly like a blank canvas, and there was nothing there. Nothing at all. He was dead and he looked very much like it.

“You are a void,” Armand said then, his words fraught with disdain. “You collect the miseries of men, feed on them, chain them to a piece of plastic tape. Do you think there is depth to you?”

“Release me, man. Please. I will do whatever you want me to do.”

Armand turned his head right and a ghastly, sneering smile wrinkled his lips as he spoke in a hollow voice;

“Then we find ourselves in trouble. Because there is n o t h i n g... absolutely nothing at all... that you can grant me, child.”

Apart from your blood.

“Oh, God,” Daniel sobbed and closed his reddened eyes, aqualm of terror coming over him.

Well, for now your blood is no use as well.

You are still polluted with drugs like a pig on a farm.

But mind tortures, that was different. There was always room for that.

*

Daniel wanted to die. The amount of times he broke down, weeping like a woeful small child, it surpassed description. Between those gruesome moments of being thrown back on the floor with a loud thud, and his head breaking apart from the foul, sinister screams and whispers imprinted forcefully into his brain, he wished for the daemon to simply drain him at one go.

“You son of a bitch,” he managed to say at one point, his timid whisper swelling into a cry, pellucid tears blocking his vision. “It excites you! You will watch me suffer and then you’ll play with my dead corpse! Is that what you find thrilling?”

Whatever Armand said back to him, was utterly incomprehensible. It must have been surely a different language. Was it Latin? Greek? French? Arabic? All of the languages of the world and its wonders and horrors?

A voice most irresistible, a power omnipotent, drew him closer. At times, chantings were back in English again, just to leave enough damage. Evil, inhuman, callous outcries taking possession of his fractured mind, telling him he was worthless, flawed, making him remember and relive the overabundant times his drunk father had lain a hand on him. Flooding him with memories he craved so badly to suppress, when his mother was so drugged up that she lay prostrated on the floor in their living room, so ghastly pale he thought she was dead. The first time he got high when he was still yet only a child. Repulsive, vulgar men that he got with in a bar, or in their shuddersome houses, God only knows why. Was it to punish himself? If so, then for what?

Just kill me. Kill me, I beg you!

Drain me and spare me this suffering.

However beyond the trauma, sorrow and pitch darkness in his mind, Armand also saw most glaring, resplendent light. He saw such restorative, wild and insatiable curiosity, unquenchable hunger for knowledge. He saw a young, emaciated boy finding solace in the public libraries in the city, hiding his bruised cheek within the welcoming seclusion of a book after his father’s tantrum. Sitting in the very dark niche of the book repository, in his worn-out and porous trousers, so that no one could disturb nor find him. He saw him scraping through the old, decrepit books speaking of history, warfare and men, starved for more wisdom and guidance.

Armand saw a troubled child wandering around the closest to his house art galleries, always shunning contemporary exhibitions with discontent framing his pale, thin face. Looking with disdain and horror at those strange modern paintings of lines and hard, incomprehensible forms, at the grim mechanical sculptures having no human lineament. Making his way to the rooms filled with artworks from the glorious, begone times of Renaissance, touching with his hand pieces of the canvas, starved for any connection.

And so the night he was meant to finally drain him, he suddenly wasn’t hungry anymore. Not thinking much of it, he simply decided to wait until the next morrow.

Rest.

Except after another twenty-four hours, he still felt well-fed. Not tonight. Tomorrow. He had no desire to feed whatsoever and the next evening it dawned on him, that even though he wasn’t hungry, the boy certainly was.

Daniel awoke that night to the view of the vampire kneeling in front of him, granting him pieces of sallow bread, and a chalice of crimson wine. The sheer shock he was in at the unexpected sight, concealed completely his starvation and fatigue. He ate it all, everything he was given, every pitiable crumb. Gulped on the wine with abandon, with his violet eyes watery and lambent with gratitude.

And before Daniel knew it, he found himself in some sort of a trance, unable to look away, chaining his stare to the amber, glimmering irises in front of him; the exact same ones that once evoked in him dread and horror, now inspired something else. Something he couldn’t yet name. But it wasn’t a negative thing. Under the mild sway of those agleam, wide eyes, he was obedient.

Armand’s cold fingers found their way towards his chin that was dripping with wine, and settled around the corners of his cracked mouth, gently wiping the crimson drops away. A shriver ran through the boy’s spine at the sensation, sudden fever claiming his cheeks. His breath went uneven, as he peered up again at the monster kneeling in front of him, and for the first time he saw that perhaps it wasn’t so much a face of a beast, but of a wounded, lonely animal.

It was ferocious, yes. Ravenous for his blood, also yes. A hand that dwelled on his cheek brought death and destruction. It was an evil thing, barbarous even. And yet it thrilled him at the same time, to the very core of his soul. His smooth skin, shiny wide eyes, disheveled raven locks —they were as gruesome as they were beautiful.A comely, innocent face straight out of Botticelli’s canvas, with eyes of the most sad*stical daemon; the discrepancy was intoxicating, enslaving. He wanted to know more. He wanted to study him. He wanted to get under his skin.

“You should rest, now,” Armand said quietly then, in that sensuous and mesmerising voice of his, while withdrawing his hands and standing up.

Daniel shuddered at the sudden loss of touch. He blinked a few times, dazed and confused. What was happening to him?

“Please, don’t go,” a timid whisper forsook the boy’s tongue, desperate.

Armand glanced at him then with disdain and chuckled, amused. It was a cold, foreboding gesture, as if he was thinking him pathetic. All poignance was gone from his face in an instant, and instead this sinister, blank look painted once more his features. Daniel thought at that very moment he was going to get killed.

But Armand simply left the premises in silence, forsaking him, and before the boy knew it, he was hysterical and his cheeks were covered in tears.

What was happening to him?

*

He didn’t know how many days he spent in his prison. He didn’t even understand why he was being kept there for so long. It was understandable that at first the blood-drinker waited for the drugs to clear out of his system. But he was definitely clean by then. Was it just a whim that kept him alive?

One night then he awoke to some noise in the room. He opened his reddened, bloodshot eyes to the image of his captor standing in a dark corner, leaning against the wall. He was wearing a black, immaculate suit and his raven hair were combed back.

Daniel looked down to see that the chains enfolding his wrists were gone.

“Get out,” Armand said then, his voice impassive and callous.

Daniel peered back at him with his eyes wide and mouth parted.

“You won’t kill me, then...?”

A cold, frightening chuckle.

“Do you want me to kill you?”

Daniel said nothing and slowly got up from the ground. He could barely feel his limbs. He felt dizzy, hungry, sleepy and drunk, craved drugs like a madman.

“You won’t turn me into one of you either, then,” he added, almost disappointed.

Armand glanced at him with amusem*nt and raised one of his eyebrows in a mocking, almost belittling gesture.

“Now, why would I want to do that?”

“I want it,” Daniel replied as he got closer to the other. “I want it more than anything else in the world.”

Armand looked at him pensively and couldn’t help but frown. Most mortals held captive for five days would begin to thank him in manic hysteria and rush to the exit to enjoy their granted freedom, but the boy did not even twitch. Hestood there, in the very same living room, and even though he was starved and maimed, there was a fearless spark in his violet eyes as instead of running for his life, he was making outrageous commands.

The blood-drinker hesitated.

“You are painfully, woefully naive,” he responded slowly, a contemptuous chuckle painting his mouth. “I think I see now why dear Louis was fond of you.”

“Oh, have I passed the test finally? Am I fascinating?”

Armand ignored his caustic remark, his irises going empty and distant as if he was pondering about something.

“I don’t want to kill you,” he addressed him simply then, shrugging his arms like a child. “Not yet, that is.Not now.I won’t make empty promises. I want to study you for now. I wish to observe you, follow you, see where you go and what you do. I want to see what you eat, who you sleep with, I want to look at you when you’re asleep... it’s as simple as that. I think I finally find you interesting... albeit I am not sure yet. Nonetheless,as long as I think I do, you will remain alive. Who knows... maybe one day I’ll decide to kill you. Or maybe one day you’ll manage to escape from my surveilance and our paths shall never cross again... Maybe one day I shall simply lose interest in you? I suggest you pray for that. Now, flee.”

Daniel said nothing, thinking he was surely dreaming.

Armand heard his musings and smiled gently, albeit coldly.You’re not dreaming, boy.

Go now.

Run for your life.

Be interesting.

Daniel stared at his amber, glimmering irises for the last time and slowly turned towards the exit. As his pale hand met the doorknob, he looked at the creature behind him again, as if hesitating. One last glance. After that, he started running.

*

It was thrilling and blood-tingling, that little chase that they had.

Paris, Lisbon, Pisa, and then Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna and Athens. London, Copenhagen, Oslo. Daniel took his time to explore the fellow European cities, something that he always wanted to do. Managed to conduct a few interviews. Was he struggling financially, lodged in murky inns and motels, fed on cheap pastries and bitter black coffee, also yes. He wandered around quaint cafés, museums, and grotesque bars, passing heedlessly his mortal days through acquiring knowledge in a decadent air of self-indulgence. Whiskey, bourbon, vodka, anything they were buying him. He would sit at a cafe in Brussels, chew on a piece of a dry croissant and partake in a newspaper, and then all of a sudden see Armand on the other side of the street, standing in his long, woolen coat and a gray fedora.

He was in scenic Antwerp then, a few days later, taking a stroll down the Great Market Square, as he sensed an ominous presence in the air and for a transient moment he saw the sinister, amber irises in the crowd. He was sat in an obscure, dingy pub in Dublin, being just offered a casual, non-committal sex proposal, when he turned to his right and noticed the blood-drinker staring at him from afar, his eyes blank and unreadable. He made it all the way to Prague, snorting cocaine at some man’s house, when he looked out of the room and saw Armand looking at him vacantly from a window across.

Was there something wrong with Daniel that he did not mind the vampire following him everywhere? The vampire had tortured him, twice now, imparted sheer terror to his brain —and yet he was running away from him as much as he was awaiting him.

Their charming, little heedless dance lasted for many long weeks, months. And then, one warm evening in Florence, as the boy sat at the old-fashioned, little cafe with an astonishing view to Piazza del Duomo, Armand appeared out of nowhere in front of him and did something he never did before —had a seat at the very same table, facing him. He wore a gray, woolen suit and his supple raven curls were combed back, in an impeccable, flawless manner. His air was impeccably stoic and calm; a Renaissance muse straight out of a painting.

Daniel stared at the creature wide-eyed, speechless. Was this it, then? His pitiable end? Are you going to kill me now?

But Armand only smiled at him, the gesture aloof, mocking and yet gentle, as he snatched the book out of his wan hands.

“What is it that you’re reading, Daniel?”

“Uh, Stephen King.”

“Who’s Stephen King?”

“He’s, uh, an American writer. Writes horror tales, mostly,” the boy replied timidly, not knowing what to expect, as his gaze plummeted back on the book’s brown cover. The Shining. Was he meant to scream for help now?

“Is that what you fancy? Horror?”

Daniel narrowed his hawk eyes slightly, smiling under his breath. His voice was low and slightly seductive as he warily answered;

“It keeps you on your toes, for sure, yeah.”

Armand smiled at him, and this time the gesture of it was surprisingly, oddly friendly. As much as a still, motionless marble sculpture can express amiability.

“Well, you don’t need it now,” he said, his voice mellow and calm, almost polite, as he shut the book down and dropped it on the table between them with a thud. “Walk with me. Show me around the city. You surely had a reason to come here, didn’t you? I want to know everything. Come on, get up.”

That lukewarm August eventide they walked around the length of the entire town. They talked, fed their irises with the captivating views of little, quaint, colorful streets and alleys, the Florentine bridges and conservatories. When they made it to the Boboli Gardens, Armand bewitched the guards so that they could enter.

They took a heedless stroll down the various trees and rare flowers, and Daniel gazed at the old marble sculptures in awe, lit only by the pallid, crescent moon. They discussed warfare, philosophy and murder. Armand asked lots of questions, all appertaining to mankind and its motivations, and it startled the boy — for since when he possessed the desire to learn about humanity, to regard it as more than just cattle?

Probably that was the first time Daniel heard Armand laugh, too. Experiencing it for the first time was beyond intoxicating; it was an insouciant, child-like gesture, that made him look mortal and heavenly at the same time. It was a rich, deep laugh, which rendered him much more engaging and younger, which seemed to move things around them, put lambent stars in motion. The might of his laughter could have tamed a hungry lion. It was a seductive, beguiling thing, which rose crimson to the boy’s cheeks. He stared at the vampire transfixed and mesmerised and he wanted to kiss him.

But only a few hours thereafter, as the somber dark night began to yield to the morrow, the vampire was gone. The boy was left alone, back in the place they met, and he was doubting his own sanity.

He knew he was of a sound mind. He had to be. Two months later, he was visiting a friend in New Orleans, and finding himself in a small, humid room that he temporarily rented, he was at night unexpectedly stirred from a heavy sleep.

The view in front of his drowsy, bleary eyes rendered him speechless. Armand sat at the edge of his bed and kept shaking his arms, his amber irises wide and crazed and violent and dictatorial.

“I want you to do something for me,” the blood-drinker said, his voice demanding and stern.

“What—”

“It’s important.”

Daniel felt a tinge of fear and uncertainty. Was there something wrong?

“What’s going on?”

Nothing could have prepared him for the vampire to simply drop a landline telephone into his hands. His voice was serious and determined, as he addressed him then;

“How does this thing work?”

Daniel stared at him for a while in silence, assuming he was surely dreaming.

“I am sorry, what,” he hissed then with a frown.

“I heard you can call people from other countries with this thing. I want to talk to Paris. Can I really talk to Paris with this thing?”

“You can’t be f*cking serious, man.”

Armand shook his arms again violently and raised his voice;

“Wake up, Daniel! I demand it! I want to see if it can really talk to Paris.”

At that very moment he seemed almost like a petulant, impudent child, waiting for the whole world to bend over backwards just because that was his whim.

“Goddamn it, I will do no such thing!” Daniel roared at him, his voice hoarse and angry, as he covered his face with another pillow. “Can’t you read the instruction manual...? You’re a five hundred-year-old ancient vampire and you can’t use the f*cking phone, you immortal idiot? Leave me alone!”

There was odd silence, then, pervading the murky room. After a while the boy looked out from behind the linen pillow. Armand stared at him with his eyes widened in surprise, motionless. Guileless, innocent. Almost sad, like a child denied his new favourite toy.

“Okay, I’m sorry, I will dial Paris for you,” Daniel said at last, a small pang of guilt lacerating his chest as he got up. “But you pay the f*cking bill. I’m broke.”

“But of course.”

Armand threw on the bed thousands of dollars and smiled at him wanly.

Perhaps it was that sheer joy, the raw frank excitement, innocuous delight that the vampire exuded, that made his heart ache. When he did as he was told, Armand spent the next two hours sat next to him, reveling at that very technological device, frantic and elated, laughing like a schoolboy.

Where was Louis? He never mentioned him. It dawned on Daniel then, as he smoked a cigarette on the bed, when the other was too distracted with his plaything to raid his mind. Armand was lonely.

Their meetings grew longer, their occurrence more often. Lavish theatres, generous dinners. I didn’t know what you liked, so, I ordered everything they had. But there was more than that, too. Wake up, Daniel, you need to run away now! This inn will be engulfed in fire in an hour from now!And even when the vampire wasn’t with him physically, he still dwelled in his mind. He spoke to him in his sensuous, calming and alleviating voice, when the boy tried to fall asleep. Do you ever think about death? Come to me, Daniel. Come to me. Follow my way. I will show you the way to all your dreams and hopes. Do you think about me, Daniel?

And yet one day, it all stopped. One week of silence, two, three, and then a month. Two, three, four, five, six months. Armand was nowhere to be seen, the voices in his head ceased to exist.

Maybe one day I shall simply lose interest in you? I suggest you pray for that. Now, flee.

Was this it, then?

*

Rome, 1978

Daniel passed an uneventful, tranquil summer in Rome, dedicating himself to writing. Long hours spent on reading, pondering, trying to name the calamities that befell him and being at a loss for words.

As he wandered around town at nights, he was sad and despondent. The unsettling, ardent desire to see Armand again became a burning thirst. He felt hollow, and the shade of his skin was a disconcerting pallor. He barely ate or slept, and even the best opiates he found did not bestow him pleasure anymore. Nor did the human bodies of young men he met in the bars. He lay empty afterwards, staring at the cracks in the walls, resentful and cold. There was nothing that could bring him warm.

His sanity came back, the clarity of his mind. Not seeing the vampire made him think of how they first met, he recalled the mental tortures and sorrow and pain and the harrowing memories. His thin, sallow wrists enchained, his lithe body being thrown over and over on the floor, how starved and petrified he was. How sociopathic, sinister and apocalyptic Armand looked. He entertained a lunatic, a brutal and vicious thing that wanted his blood, that could have killed him in a few lucid seconds.

And yet despite it all he yearned for him. He longed for his wickedness, the sheer insanity beaming from his eyes. That gentle, seductive, striking voice, and an electrifying laughter of his, when his small full mouth creased like a Cupid’s bow or snake’s curves. He longed to see his bewitching, youthful face again, of salient cheekbones and a boyish, daredevil charm. He missed him. Missed him in unspeakable sadness.

Until finally Armand returned.

One night the boy was wandering around the quiet, deserted streets of Rome, nearby the Colosseum and Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli. There was a loud rustle all of a sudden and before he managed to turn around, one hand was on his waist, grabbing him from behind, while the other settled on his mouth to keep him from screaming. The thing is, however, he did not resist at all. He knew well it was Armand.

Soon he was pushed into a dark, narrow alley and shoved towards a nearby wall.

Armand stood in front of him, a tender smile painting his features, his face of an angel a sylphlike form with ominous, daemonic eyes.

“Hello, Daniel.”

Daniel at first, said nothing and only stared.

Damn him, ah, damn him! How happy he was to see him!

He bit his underlip,as the crystalline tear gushed from his fatigued eyes and began to flow down his pale cheeks. His parched, dry mouth trembled as he tried to speak, and yet he found himself completely immobilised.

A small crease came to dwell on the impeccable, smooth foreheadin a response.A tinge of inconvenient compassion. A few eerie seconds, then, and the vampire got closer to the boy. At first,he brushed the unruly, hazellocks from hiswanface, then gently wiped his salty tears away.Danielshuddered as he leaned into the touch, desperate as if unable to subsist without it.

And then Armand embraced him, locked his quivering flesh within a firm snare, enchaining and numbing his senses.

“Do you wish to come with me?”

As the blood-drinker spoke, the boy felt instantly subject to him, subdued by the honeyed accents, by that sensuous and mellow, tender voice.

And so Daniel only nodded in silence, enfolded in the tight embrace, inhaling the vampire’s scent with abandon and frenzy.

Come with me.

He did.

Armand led him through streets, alleys, and unknown corridors. Daniel didn’t know where they were. They walked for hours. Were they still in Rome? Daniel didn’t understand anything and was too weak to even care. He could barely recall what was a dream and what was reality in his drunken delirium.

And before he knew it, there was a glass of crimson wine placed in his hand. As he warily looked around, they were in a mansion, vast rooms full of rare flowers. It was a magnific dwelling of an opulence and luxury; an enchanting haunt made of crimson bricks, with vermilion-stained glass windows that seemed to sway and move. Endless corridors and floors. Gardens, fields, waters surrounding them. Night Island.

This is yours, Daniel. All of it.

“You are a free man.I am not going to enslave you. Trying to catch your... tempestuous spirit is but impossible,” Armand said with an unusual flare in his irises, charming in his fluency. “But if things in your mortal existence ever get mundane and you’ll find yourself thinking about me again... this is your home. You are always... most welcome.”

Daniel fixed his irises on him, the vampire’s mellow voice awakening him from a dream. Armand’s stare cut through his flesh like a knife. His honeyed, gentle accent gave birth to outrageous suggestions within him.

“I will grant your every wish. Well, almost,” Armand chuckled as he continued, a devillish gesture. “Do you want gold? Fame?—

Fame? All the world’s riches? Mansions? Servants? I will give it all to you.

That was when Daniel had realised. The chase that they had, the stalking, all of it... It was never to kill him.

“But my dear Daniel,” Armand then said with a timid smile forming on his well-chiselled features, placing a hand on his arm, “You only understood it now? Have you awaited something that would never happen? I am not killing today, nor tomorrow, nor anywhere in the future. I love you. I love you beyond reason. I love you to the point of insanity.”

The boy was grimly silent. He took a sip of the scarlet, sour wine and felt sudden nausea.

“You look unwell, Daniel.”

Daniel looked at him angrily and hissed;

“And why do you think that is?”

Armand peered at him slowly, with a childish, innocent glimmer of surprise in his amber irises. As if he was truly taken aback and confused.

“How could you... how could you just disappear like that? I... Damn you, you devil! I missed you! I thought I’d never see you again!”

Perhaps that was all Armand ever needed to hear. He got closer to the boy and kissed him, his palms settling on the boy’s cheeks with such wariness and care as if it was porcelain in his snare that he was fearful to drop.

A few more pecks, outrageous kisses then, a cold shiver passing down the boy’s spine, and his flesh going weak.

And then the hungered mouth traipsed down, gushing with kisses the boy’s pale throat. Daniel breathed out heavily and cast his head back, his quivering palms buried in the supple, raven locks, gently pulling on them. He was delirious and exhilarated, when, sharp and vicious fangs lacerated through the pale skin on his throat. Daniel cried out, but he didn’t resist, didn’t try to fight. He didn’t care. If Armand decided to drain him dry that very evening, he would simply let him.

However, Armand only drank a few drops. Before the boy knew, they exchanged another look and some abnormal, diabolical energy forced him down to his knees.

Daniel peered up at the vampire wide-eyed, not even thinking of defying him. Not that he particularly could either, as Armand’s mind kept him stilland subservient, clung to the ground. And instead of getting scared, the boy trembled with sheer arousal and lust, biting his parched lip until it bled.

Armand saw that and smiled. His claw tore through the skin of his own wrist and he got closer to the boy, giving him a sample of his blood.

Daniel trembled as he drank it greedily, primal instincts awakening in him, corrupting him. A wild kind of hunger tore through him and hollowed him out, filling his mind with unspeakable visions, as if he was bewitched by ancient black magic. A violent lust to bite and kiss dried out his mouth, a rage to touch and embrace. And then, slowly, as the vampire withdrew his wrist, the boy rose back to his feet. He stared into the beastly, mad eyes of the blood-drinker, crimson drops flowing down his own pale chin.

The ancient blood made him agitated. He could swear he heard screams of children, doleful cries of women, pleas of men. He saw centuries of death, destruction and sorrow.

Daniel began to undo the buttons of his shirt. He threw it soon on the floor before any common sense told him not to, and got closer to the other.

Their lips met again, covetous and desirous, and their dance was of a crazed, frenzied nature — they tore their clothes off, shoved each other against the nearby walls until the books were falling off the timbre shelves and the furniture was overturned. Armand’s strength was a brute and untamed force, transcendental and awe-inspiring. All of Daniel’s both mental and physical power liquified under his touch. His knees went weak and soon there was nothing else but the feeling of another flesh covering his, the warmth of the sleek skin brushing the pale canvas of his own.

Daniel was possessed, taken in a series of violent, frenzied thrusts. His pale cheeks were now crimson, bleeding mouth sealed with mute temerity and then parted again, once the assaults became more savage and a sequence of delightsome sighs forsook his tongue. For a human to experience it all for the first time, ensnared in a firm grasp of the blood-drinker who was as evil and terrifying as he was beautiful, it inspired in his chest emotions he never thought even existed. A few tears gushed down his flushed face, but they were tears of boundless devotion.

“Do it again,” Daniel said, his voice hoarse and uneven, as he sat on his lap, then, facing him. “Bite me. Bite me again.”

His wish was his command.

Armand did as he was told, ravaged his pale skin with his teeth. Daniel cried out, a wicked mixture of pain and delight, a damned soul hurling himself into an abyss;a vortex of abomination and immoral pleasure.

The vampire could not get over it, how audacious the boy was, how fearless. It was almost as if the greater the risk and the more afraid he was, the more unhinged he became. The greater was the danger, the more he welcomed it. It was alluring. It was entrancing. He was drunk on his warm blood, his quiet whimpers. The boy was a wonder.

He fed on him greedily, and when Daniel got weaker in his grasp, the vampire hid his fangs away, bestowing upon the crimson wound a few gentle kisses. Daniel was delirious and senseless in his firm snare. Stuporous and dazed, he clung closer to him, ah, yes, snuggling with dead things, yes, hold me, nestled into him completely, breathing softly.

Armand sunk his svelte hands into the brown curls, closed his own irises and inhaled the boy’s tender scent.

My Daniel.

A few last thrusts, frantic.

My beautiful boy.

Daniel’s gnawed, scarletmouth forsook a loud sob. He captured Armand’s bottom lip with his teeth and buried his hands in the supple, raven locks. And as they both reached their climax, they stayed like this, embraced, blood connecting them, their uneven breaths synced, desperate hearts beating as one.

They had lain down on the vast bed, silk sheets enclosing their luminous with sweat bodies, facing each other in silence. Armand stared at him, his amber irises wide and aglow in the dusk of the bedroom, his hand gently reaching for the hold of his. Daniel teared up a bit again, overwhelmed and oddly satisfied at the same time. His trembling palm rested on the vampire’s cheekbone and traipsed down then, towards his mouth, sodden with his crimson blood.

Armand parted his petals of lips, allowing the boy’s fingers to glissade inside and touch his sharp fangs. There was a mischievous, sinister glimmer in his eyes then, and the boy could not refrain himself from locking the cold bodyof his lover in another embrace.

From behind a small gap in the linen curtain one could see it was already morning. Daniel was drowsy, slowly dozing off as the vampire stroked his brown curls of hair and at one point addressed him calmly;

“Do you know what I am most afraid of?”

“Tell me,” Daniel said, his voice sluggish and lethargic, as he buried his face in the crook of his neck.

“What happens to us when we die... The chaos, the darkness and the lost clarity of who you were. It’s the only thing that saves me from the fire.”

Daniel felt a tinge of dread passing through his spine.

“And what am I supposed to say? How many years do I have left?”

Why are you letting your beautiful head be bothered with this now? I love you.

“Oh, yeah? You won’t love me when I’m old and sick.”

I will always love you, Daniel. You think I care if wrinkles cover your beautiful face? If your hair get grey? It will still be you. It’s still my Daniel.

“You’ll change your mind the day I die.”

Armand said nothing, as his lambent irises went blank and he looked at some dead point in front of him.

And that day, my beautiful boy, I will die with you.

*

Affair. It was an engulfing, death-defying affair. Sleep when the sun rises, my beautiful boy, but the nights are mine. Nightfalls spent in dissipation and ravishments, soft cotton beds, luxury of the silver trays of food waking him up, classical music being played from the other rooms, the glasses of scarlet wine placed in his hands, manservants alert at his every wish and desire. He, a human, led an opulent existence of an immortal. He barely saw any sun, he had no contact with any of his friends, it was nothing but only Armand in his life, Armand, Armand, Armand. Armand took him to the operas, purchased him mansions, held dominion of him completely, bathed him, dressed him and fed him, f*cked him into oblivion every night until his flesh and bones ached, until God, he felt alive again, until he sobbed in his arms and bled profusely in his firm hold. He loved it, he loved it all, being thrown on the silk mattress like a rag doll, the vicious fangs breaking through his pallid skin without asking, forceful hands enclosing his throat. You’re mine, beautiful boy.

“Do you feed every night?”

“Not anymore.”

“How often then?”

“As we age, the desire to feed stabilizes. Around once a week now.”

“How many killed?”

Armand laughed with sheer amusem*nt, forsaking for a moment his supernatural composure.

“And do you count how many dinners you have had so far in your life, beloved?”

Daniel rested his forehead in the groove of his long neck, letting his mind do the maths. Hundreds of thousands of kills. There it was again, an ice-cold shudder passing down his spine, dread and horror. A sudden alarm, a gruesome recognition coming to his dazed senses that he had lain with a monster.

But a few seconds of gazing at him, at those wide and child-like irises that seemed to read his very soul and that pouty full mouth shaped for forbidden kisses, almost as if he was made for him, sculpted by the God’s hand to bring him pleasure, and he was weak again. My monster. Oh, the thrill at the mere thought! Killing any time the vampire wanted, the whole world within his grasp. He was kissing him again with abandon, the indignant blood rushing into his cheeks. Locked in aconfiningembrace, he would cast back his headheedlessly, dreamily gazing upon the ceiling as Armandgushed with kisses the canvas of his pale, bruised neck. My beautiful monster.

Daniel tried to fight it, sometimes. He would run away, hollering at the other just before passing the exit, a heated argument or a quarrel. He would leave the Night Island, trying to seek absolution, come back to his senses, regain his humanity and autonomy. But being physically away from Armand felt like a withdrawal, the most harrowing form of withdrawal he ever had to suffer. He couldn’t sleep at night, nor eat any sustenance. Drugs, cigarettes and alcohol, he partook in everything and yet nothing could alleviate his pain. He wandered aimlessly, whispering the vampire’s name in woe, seized with insanity and hysteria, his dirty clothes speakingof neglect and decrepitude.

He always came back in the end. Armand would welcome him, his agleam eyes loving and kind, youthful face radiantin his ethereal composureand a stoic, timid smile painting his features. He would embrace him and kiss away the lavish, salty tears, as the boy sobbed in hisfirmarms in a drunken delirium. Keep me. Please, don’t ever let me leave. Make me your captive. Lock me here away from all the world, I don’t care. Make me yours. Make me yours every single day.Make me yours forever.

“You are already mine, Daniel,” the blood-drinker whispered, placing a gentle kiss upon his temple. “And no one else’s.”

Anyone who dares to put a hand on you will be torn limb by limb.

“No, that’s not what I meant. You know what I mean.”

Turn me. Turn me! I beg you, turn me! I want to be with you forever!

“No, Daniel.”

“Please, turn me.”

“You are begging me for a fate worse than death. I wouldn’t wish to turn those whom I find despicable. So why would I want to curse you?”

Let me tell you from my heart that life is better than death. Don’t you know that any one of us would give it up for one human life time?

They would make up, kiss, drop on their knees for each other until they both cried out in pleasure. Sharp, savage fangs would find a way towards the wan skin, tearing through it and consuming a few crimson drops. And then the vampire would press his claw against his own wrist, vermilion blood flowing down his skin, his other hand gently guiding the boy towards it, hand buried in the brown curls. There you go, my boy. You have been so good to me and this is your reward. Thousands perishing in smoke and ash. Gruesome cries of mortals. That’s it, yes, very good. You’re such a good boy. Daniel drank the blood docilely from him,never more than just a few, paltry sips, enough to render him intoxicated, to make the rare flowers in the walls sing and dance, to make his dream for eternity a burning thirst, to awaken in him the nightmares of children destined for slaughter.

Daniel began to covet it every day, demand it, its overwhelming, intoxicating taste and how delirious it made him feel. When Armand cut his palm, the boy would run his tongue against the crimson drops heedlessly, savouring it with untamed delight. Andthenone night, as he climbed onto his lap, he tried to tear at the tender skin of Armand’s throat himself, laughing witlessly. Armand would share his deranged glee, a strong shiver rushing down his spine, as he patiently made the tear himself and guided the boy towards his welcoming throat, down the throbbing veins painted with crimson. He cradled Daniel’s skull, played with the hazel sleek curls, led him with the words of encouragement. That’s enough, now. Daniel, beloved, I don’t want you to get ill.

Armand would get fascinated with recent technological objects, first the landline phone and then blenders, mixers, broilers. Daniel would find him in the kitchen in the midst of carrying out his little, peculiar experiments, rats thrown into the microwave or blender, and Daniel couldn’t refrain from manic laughter, having a seat across the vampire with a freaky grin, shaking his own head in disbelief and staring at the morbid ventures, transfixed. However, one of Armand’s favourite activities was exploring the hidden functions of a coffee machine. He has soon mastered brewing coffee to perfection. They had a little routine then, Daniel being woken up to the strong, hooking smell of coffee in the room, a cup placed right next to his nightstand. A porcelain mug with a double espresso, enough to rouse him from sluggishness. The boy would have a seat on the bed, a smug smirk painting his features, and have a sip of the delightsome drink, glancing at Armand from under his eyelashes, a come-hither look. You spoil me, boss.

It was a rare and peculiar thing, to see Armand asleep. He barely did, seldom suspended his own consciousness, as there was an aspect of vulnerability in it. And so one time when Armand slumbered right next to him, his limbs sprawled around the bed, black tossed locks forming a laurel wreath over his head, Daniel tried to draw him. He studied him with attention as he traced the pencil over a piece of paper; not a single crease desecrating his forehead, full mouth parted like two rose petals,raw as if a flowering pomegranate, coruscant with scarlet.His transcendental composure and self-control enchained to his bloodless features even when he was unconscious. His skin a canvas, as he looked most angelic, almost human. When Armand woke up and the boy threw the drawing towards him with a self-satisfied, cheeky grin, the vampire remained unsettlingly silent.

He stared at the sketch and for the first time in a few decades he could feel his identity tangible and palpable. This is how Daniel perceived him. He was perceived, and therefore, he was real.He still existed.He saw himself through the boy’s tender eyes and it moved him to the point his ancient collectedness for a few seconds seemed to wane away. He kept the drawing, and even decades later he would look at it at times, when he needed a reminder he was still alive, flesh and blood and emotions and desires, having forgotten himself into oblivion in his derealisation and deteachment.

They were equals. One winter, brisk and snowy night, after they fed and landed in each other’s arms, Armand offered himself to the boy. Daniel’s sleek, pallid skin against his deadlike coldness warmed him like a coal fire. It was an another gift, an evidence of his boundless commitment, to let the boy conquer and own his flesh. It was disarming, the way Daniel held him during it, and the way he did afterwards. He didn’t know one could be held in such a tender custom. Louis never did. A grasp strong and tight, a protective hand over his skull, almost crushing it. Like he mattered. Like he was important. No one ever made him feel like this before. Other palm doing circles around his waist. A splinter of possessiveness, mixed with tenderness and care.

Daniel venerated him. Even afterwards, as he had given himself to him completely, the boy helf him in the most venerable way, kissed his hands, whispered words of ardency and care.

He thought that whatever Louis offered him was the best he could get. How painfully wrong he was.

Daniel wandered with his kisses down his cheeks, corners of mouth, his neck.

“You okay?”

When was the last time Louis asked him that? Did he ever ask?

Armand simply nodded his head in the affirmative, unaware of what to say. Did he know what to say? Did he genuinely know how he was feeling? Where was he? Who was he? Daniel whispered his name with devotion, but for a moment he did not recognise the word. He thought he was back in Delhi, and then in Venice, in his maker’s vast studio, responding to whatever debasing name he was called, embodying whatever they wanted him to be, his maker's esteemed friends pinning him down and taking him in turns, as his maker stood and watched, ran his hand through his raven, damp locks, whispered into his ear with a perverted glimmer in his eye, his lips drawn back in a carnivorous smile, my beloved Amadeo, you are made for suffering.

Look at you, Amadeo. All eyes of men devouring you, drinking down the philtre of your morbid, debauched beauty. Your mouth sealed by such mute defiance, this wild look in your huge, suffering eyes! Oh, my Amadeo, your bruised beauty awakens primal instincts in me. My beautiful starveling, how beautiful you are when you weep!

“Armand?”

The vampire looked at the boy in front of him, his irises widened and mouth parted, hands on his cheeks then, setting his mind back on a good path. Daniel grounded him without even realising it, and the horrid remembrances did not last long, because the boy kissed him again,his violet eyes lambent with devotion and reverence, love. Armand, I love you. You are the only one I ever loved.

Armand would scrutinise the boy’s pallid face then, a sharp pang of disquietude arising in his throat. Could he really do it? Could he just take away the light out of his life for another three, four centuries? Could he just condemn him to apalling darkness, even though the boy was at his most beautiful when the dazzling sun rays tinged his cheeks? Armand sensed nausea at the mere thought of it. How could he possibly reconcile the fact that he wished for his boy to be most happy and contented, when he couldn’t give in to his desires?

It was one of their most favourite activities that they shared together, going for strolls andwanders when the evening yielded to grim twilight.Under the pale, lambent luminescence of the moon they would walk around the old ancient ruins, see different cities, conquer the world together side by side. And yet at times Armand could sense the malevolent presence of other vampires. He would get closer to Daniel then, his amber irises suddenly tinged with that familiar, yet so rarely seen now flare of madness, sinister hostility, as he was looking around, sending signals through his mind,keep away from me and ye shall live.

“I had put a shield on you, months ago,” Armand said then, his voice mellow and gentle as he brushed the boy’s cheek tenderly. “No one will touch you. But you need to stay at my side. Only then I am able to fully protect you.”

Armand didn’t tell him that everywhere they went, he always murdered the young ones, out of fear they could touch Daniel.

I will kill them, kill them all, my beloved. Anyone who even dares to think about putting their filthy hands on you, I will shred the skin from their flesh and feed them to dogs.

It was intoxicating, how powerful and fearless he felt in the vampire’s presence. His merciless, brutal, beautiful daemon.

That night, after they got back home, Armand put an amulet onto his neck, a small vial containing his blood.

“Break the vial if you ever find yourself in danger,” he told him with a tender, loving look in his eyes. “They won’t come near you. They won’t dare.”

Armand gave him everything, all of the riches in the world. Van Goghs, Rembrandts, Botticellis, emeralds, diamonds, gold bars, pianos, Indian silk, medieval tapestries, Renaissance marble sculptures. But no matter how many fortunes he was granted, there was a growing, bitter aftertaste in the back of his head, you say you will grant my every wish, and yet you deny me the only one I genuinely want.

“You’re a liar,” Daniel replied then, coldly and disdainfully, looking at the vial with contempt. “You lie to me, over and over and over. You could give me the power to protect myself on my own. But instead you think a small locket with your blood will solve the problem?”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Daniel.”

“Oh, I think I am. You watch me die every day. You will never die and yet look at me every night, you son of a bitch, and you’re sentencing me to death!”

Armand looked at him angrily and enclosed his hands on the boy’s throat, shoving him with harrowing force towards the nearby wall. His grasp was merciless, and his amber irises turned malicious as he hissed rawly;

“How can you say this to me? How can you be so cruel?”

Daniel gasped for air with sheer panic, and a few tears arose in his eyelids, as he tried to yank away in vain from the abnormally powerful grasp.

“Entertain this belief! Hug it to your heart, make it a pillow to your head, an opiate for your dazed eyes! But don’t you... don’t you understand the undefiable laws? Are you so blinded in your mortal naivete that you cannot fathom that every fledgling grows to abhor their maker? You think I would be granting you immortality,” Armand continued, anger making his accent much rawer and sharper, his eyes sinister and bloodshot as the snare around the boy’s throat only tightened, “when in realityI would be taking away your soul. You would be euphoric for a while, yes, partaking in everything this world has to offer to the extent of foolish delirium... but the centuries will pass and a great disappointment will befall you. You will start to shun every familiar face. And before you know it you will throw yourself into the fire, whilst cursing my name for taking away your life. Ask me to kill you! It would be easier than that...”

Only then, Armand let go of him and the boy fell to the ground with a thud, clutching his throat and desperately gasping for breath.

For a moment they sunk into grim, morose silence. Daniel all of a sudden remembered the six days in San Franciscoand another capture.He remembered the tortures and torments. He remembered how scared and maimed he was. He slowly looked up at the vampire, raw hurt and betrayal painting his ghastly pale face.

“f*ck you.”

“Don’t say things you will later regret.”

“You haven’t thrown yourself into the fire. Why do you think I will? Is that how little faith you have for me?”

Armand narrowed his eyes with mockery and held his gaze with an uncanny, baleful tension.

“I haven’t, yes... Because I am a coward. And I’d rather die than turn you, Daniel. It is because I love you that I say—”

“f*ck you and your f*cked up love!” Daniel hissed with contempt and got up from the ground, his hand still on his own bruised, pained throat. “You love me so much you will let me die, is that it?”

Armand looked strangely vulnerable.

“No.”

“What is it, then? You won’t turn me, you bastard, and instead you will look at me every day as I get closer to my death? And you call it love? You don’t know what love means, man! I could die tomorrow for all I know!”

“You will not.”

“You don’t know it!”

Armand got closer to him and swallowed with hardship, his amber eyes wide in unspeakable sadness.

“Provided there’s any danger, I will always save you, Daniel.”

The vampire tried to touch him, enclose his palm on the boy’s, but Daniel shoved him away and raised his voice;

“f*ck you and your saviour complex. I don’t need you!”

That was the last thing that Daniel said before he left. Armand saw him drift off into the terrors of mortal, daily life. He did not chase him down. He kept his promise. You are a free man. I am not going to enslave you. Trying to catch your... tempestuous spirit is but impossible. He would never bring him back by force. That had been done to him, those grim centuries ago, when for the first time he envied the sleep of the dead as a mortal. Daniel did not deserve such bleak fate.

*

Danielwas however very soon on the brink of self-destruction.

Amortal, naive child of no consequence taken for a lover.

A plaything for sheer amusem*nt, to pass the infinite time.

Why would Armand care about someone who had been no more than a toy, Him — a god on this earth, an immortal creature for whom a decade spent together felt like a few unimportant days?

An almost a decade shared together and yet he would let me die.

He stood at the desolate, abandoned cliff in the west of Ireland and he felt miserably alone. He felt cold, small and irrelevant. There was a storm, a gruesome downpour of water, the torrential rain fell out of the gloomy sky and flowed down his pale, morbidly cold cheeks. He wept like a wretched, scaredchild as he peered at the tempestuous, North Atlantic in front of him, the way the dark water swayed, thinking that he had come to an end of the line. He took a steel flask out of his wearied pants and gupled a desperate sip of brandy.That was the end of it. There was surely nothing else. Why would there be? What was there left for him?

As the crystal, pellucid tears flowed down his pallid face, he saw his past. He thought of every decision in his life that had led him to annihilation. And then he envisioned his hopeless, bleak future. An ugly duplex back in Modesto. A woman in the mold of your mother, vacuuming on valium. A genteel drinking problem like your father. Your children shunning away from you. Daniel was hysterical, as he took a few steps forward to the very end of the coastal cliff. The Night Island, a so-called home, with its closed gates forever. Its opulent, splendorous walls impossible to reach. He had no home. Among the other mortals he was an outcast, and the gates of eternity were closed for him.

An easeful and sweet cessation. Death. Why were people so scared of it? Why was Armand shunning it? Death was nothing more but the understanding of the immediate present, that there is finally nothing else.

He took another step forward and spread his arms out.

And in that exact, very moment, there was a strong snare around his waist from behind, pulling him down to the drenched, dirty ground. His name hollered, then, with such sorrow and pain,it was daunting.

Daniel was dazed and confused, did not understand at all what was happening, as everything around him spun and moved way too fast. As he slowly, wearily opened his teary eyes, he was lying in the mud. Someone was talking to him, then, asking if he was all right, shaking his arms. Of course I am not all right, why should I be?

A hand on his cheek, then, trembling. He saw Armand on the ground with him, the immaculate pallor of his white, rich clothes soiled and defiled by the wet dirt. He did not believe it, at first. He stared at the visage in front of him, somehow expecting it to soon disappear, thinking it was just his drunken fantasy. After all, why would he be there? Armand wouldn’t care if he died.

And yet soon morose, grim seconds passed and the image of the beloved vampire did not disappear. Daniel blinked several times, shunning away the salty tears, an odd and warm shiver traipsing through his chestat the realisation.

Armand was lying on the ground with him, breathing heavily, looking at him in horror. Had he been running?It was such a strange, overwhelming thing to behold, most likely the first time he ever saw sheer fear tinging Armand’s delicate features. His amber eyes were widened, his facea picture of pure devastation, his dry mouth pervaded in quivers. A few crimson, bloody tears making their way down his salient cheek. All the composure of an ancient, baleful immortal stripped away.

Armand cried in front of him, sobbed uncontrollably as if some lost emotion had been rediscovered which threatened to tear his flesh apart. It sobered up Daniel immediately, terrified him. He did not think such a reaction from the other was even possible. He thought he would feel appeased, knowing how much power he had over him, but it was horrid to see his beautiful monster suffering.

“You saved me,” the boy whispered, a timid disbelief.

“How could you be so reckless? So unwise?” Armand wept sadly, shaking the boy’s arms, his child-like face a vision of something raw and genuinely tender. “And you running away... from our hometo Edinburgh, from Edinburgh to Paris, from Paris to here... Who do you think I am? I didn’t wish to follow you, I wanted to give you your freedom... What if I didn’t make it in time...? My beloved, how could you put yourself to such danger? Did you think you mean so little to me?”

“I’m sorry,” Daniel began to cry again, his whole cold, drenched body shaking hysterically. “I—Ididn’t think you would care.” You don’t want to turn me. Why don’t you love me, boss? Why am I not good enough for you?

I will not do it. I cannot! I will never do it, Daniel! You don’t know what you’re asking for, you don’t!

“I’m so sorry,” Daniel repeated himself and touched his hand, gushed it with kisses, “please don’t cry, Armand. It terrifies me. I don’t know what to do.”

Armand looked at him wide-eyed, distraught as if he was in physical pain. Perhaps feeling so many extreme emotions at once after decades of emptiness indeed gave him carnal torment. He kissed Daniel, held him close, as they both tried to regain their composure, locked in a firm, desperate embrace. Danielcould suddenly forget himself in the seclusion of his arms, rest, ah, damn him, damn him! How much he loved that monster, it surpassed description. He buried his face in the vampire’s neck, in a drunken, delirious, timid plea for a remedial drop.

Not yet, beloved. Another, gentle kiss placed against his mouth. What do I do with you, Daniel? Especially now, when I myself am so afraid.

When they made it to their home, Armand held Daniel in his arms all night long. Daniel slept in his warm, tender embrace, dreamt peacefully of phantasms he did not understand. Armand had his hands buried in the brown, sleek locks, as he inhaled the boy’s scent, his amber irises distant and blank, deep in his hopeless and bleak thoughts. What do I do with you now, my beloved?

He enfolded the boy tighter and closed his eyes, a few crimson tears sulling his cheeks again. He felt powerless. Last time he felt powerless was when—

Daniel didn’t know.

Yes, he knew bits. My first memory? I am being run down by the slavers in Delhi. But not much. My second..

Beaten, loved, worshipped, violated, cherished, such a familiar and bittersweet sequence. My beloved Amadeo, your elongated neck invites and demands hands of a strangler. Your fragility, it calls forth my violence. I will never let you go, you wondrous little thing!

He wanted to tell Daniel, confide, except, how could he, when last time he did it wasbrutishlytaken advantage of?

Daniel was slowly ebbing away. He was half-mad from his blood. Drugs and alcohol he consumed were eating away his insides. He was suicidal. One more argument, a minor quarrel, and the boy would kill himself in front of him.

Daniel was dying, because he led an existence he wasn’t meant to live, trying to adapt into a reality that he wasnevermeant to share.It was an abomination from the start, nothing but a daemonic fusion, a heresy. He should have known from the start, he should have been smarter. But of course, love blinded him.

*

Daniel awoke some time at noon, having feltthose lavish, soft pillows underneath his head, rich pillowcases, duvets and silks. How good it was to wake up in his own bed. He looked around the dark room and smiled wanly. He reached up drowsily, felt his neck. The vial with ancient blood was gone. But it didn’t matter, did it? He wasn’t alone.

Armand sat in the corner of the bedroom with his legs crossed, his head resting against the wall. He wore a pale white, silk shirt, as his raven curls were tossed and disordered. He was strangely poised, motionless and quiet.

“Hi,” the boy whispered, his voice hoarse, as he rubbed his eyes slumberously.

Armand did not answer him. He simply kept staring at him, still, his face unreadable.

“Are you okay, Armand?”

“There has been so many morrows so far,” Armand said then, his accent emotionless and pensive, as he slowly got up from the chair and wandered towards the boy. “And so many more awaits me in my immortal existence. And yet... I will always remember today, you, us here.”

Daniel didn’t think much of it all and got closer to the vampire as Armand sat on the edge of the bed. The boy put his arms around his neck and kissed him with abandon, like there was no tomorrow. And then possessive hands settled on his waist, shivers ran through his body and they both fell down to the mattress in each other’s arms. Armand, I love you.Do you love me? Love me, boss. Covet me.

Armand opened his vacant, listless eyes then and froze, nothing but a marble sculpture, slowly moved away from the boy and held his breath, staring blankly ahead. Daniel looked at him in confusion and asked quietly;

“What’s wrong, Armand?”

“Daniel, my dearest,” the vampire whispered gloomily, as his hands came to rest on his pallid cheeks. “My beloved... it has to be done.”

“What—”

Everything happened so fast. Daniel was rendered astir by some malevolent, inhuman force. The whole world around seemed to be on pause. Hands on his face constricted, so that he couldn’t escape. Armand’s wondrous, amber irises seemed to all of a sudden vibrate and spellbind him, making his limbs paralysed and bound to the bed.

Armand turned his head right, as his eyes lit up with a disturbing glimmer.

“San Francisco, 1973. Louis bit you, you blacked out, and he dumped you in a drug den. It’s all a blur. You don’t remember much—”

“No, no, no... Armand, no!”

Armand tried to silence him, shush, be quiet, I beg you, his svelte hands on the boy’s cheeks and trembling mouth like a devil’s snare,as the crimson tears gushed from his amber eyelids and sulliedthe immaculate pallor of his white shirt.

“It’s the 70s... so many drugs taken, so many places you frequented. You don’t remember much. It’s a blur. Berkley, 1978. You get high on some black, mexican tar. Then you end up in a parking lot in Milwaukee and you have no idea how you got there. It’s the 70s.It’s all a blur. You don’t remember much.”

Daniel struggled and tried to yank away, screamed and sobbed.

“Armand, no! No, no, no, damn you, no! Please, don’t do it!”

“You’re dying because of me,” the blood-drinker said gravely, his cheeks painted with his bloody tears a sinister and gruesome sight. My beloved, I am begging you, don’t struggle. Don’t make me use force on you. Don’t turn me into a brute.

“Please, don’t,” the boy bawled, hysterical. “Don’t do this! I’d rather you just killed me!” What will you do without me? Who’s going to love you?

“What we had,” Armand whispered, his eyes strangely vacant and hollow, “it was more I ever envisioned, I ever wished for in my most audacious dreams. You were a gift to me from Louis. I will always worship it in my memory.”

“Then you should leave it in mine as well, you son of a bitch!”

“No, Daniel,” the vampire said simply, blinking away the crimson tears. “Rest now.”

Rest.

San Francisco, 1973. Louis bit you, you blacked out, and he dumped you in a drug den. It’s the 70s... so many drugs taken, so many places you went to. You don’t remember much. It’s a blur. Berkley, 1978. You get high on some black, mexican tar. Then you end up in a parking lot in Milwaukee and you have no idea how you got there. It’s the 70s. It’s all a blur. You don’t remember much.

You think to yourself, it’s time to get off drugs. It’s not good for you. You have holes in your memory and you want to get your life in order.

You are thinking about settling down. It’s now January 1982 and you’re almost thirty years old. You think of everything you have went through in life and you undergo a horrid realisation that if you don’t change, you will die in a few years from now on.

You think of marriage, children, your career. You crave a change.

Daniel slowly began to collapse, his mind put in a trance. His quivering, cold body fell into the other’s arms. Armand stared at him, his irises widening with horror as the vermilion tears continued to fall down his anguished face. A gruesome, ghastly silence pervaded the premises. The vampire kept his teary eyes fixed at the comatose, senseless body undernath him, kissing his temple and forehead one last time.

And that was the end of it. Armand said nothing. There was nothing more to say. He simply shed a few, another weak tears in distress as he cradled the unconscious flesh of his lover, mourning his loss.

*

When he got back to one of the houses that he and Louis owned in Sausalito, the other did not even notice him at first. Louis was in their bed, scrutinising the contents of some book with interest, humming to himself. As Armand joined him in mournful silence and lay down on the other side of the mattress, Louis simply gave him a quick, dull smile and went back to his paperback.

What was a paltry decade in their prison-like, doomed romance? Louis did not even notice how long he was gone for. Did he even notice he was gone at all?

And yet, at the same time, it was easier with Louis. Everything was easier, because everything was a lie. Lying was in his nature. Being truthful and vulnerable, on the other hand, was not.

“You know, I’ve never seen much of the Middle East before,” Louis addressed him then, his voice hollow and impassionate, as he put down the book on the night table. “Fancy a little trip? I think I am fed up with America for now.”

Armand peered at some dead point in front of him, his lusterless irises going blank and empty. And equally emotionless, feigned smile painted his cold features, as he said then with a dispassionate, aloof voice;

“Anything that will make you happy, Maître.”

Sometimes with Louis, he felt like he had never left Venice.

*

Twelve months later, Daniel was sat in a small, quaint cafe in Paris; a little tearoom in Rue Servandoni, up the way from Église Saint-Sulpice. He was waiting for someone; he kept staring at the watch enchaining his wrist, sipping his coffee with agitation. A woman soon joined him, tall and of a sweet disposition. Raven black hair, brown eyes, pallid velvety skin, and an elongated, woolen ulster draped on her arms.

Her air was however oddly cold and reserved as she said upon greeting;

“You look weirdly well.”

“So do you,” Daniel smiled at her and took off her coat. She wore that purple, long dress he always favoured. “Never feeling better since I got off the drugs, tell you what.”

The woman said nothing, most likely deeming the mention unamusing as she sat down in front of the man and asked politely;

“Why did you want to see me here, Daniel?”

“How are you? How is, uh,” he chuckled awkwardly, as he peered down at her stomach.

She remained stoic and poised, as her hand dropped towards her womb.

“I am fine. We are fine. Since when do you care? I thought you are working on your new novel.”

“I think you should marry me,” Daniel said, frank and blunt, a cheeky grin crooking his mouth.

“What did you just say?”

“Well, you’re pregnant and you’re carrying my child, so whether I am writing a book or not stays completely irrelevant,” he chuckled, a tad sardonically as he sipped his coffee. “Marry me, sweetheart. It’s not like you will manage to take care of the child on your own. I want to be a decent man here.”

The woman stared at him, taken aback, affronted.

“You know, I am happy you quit the drugs,” she said then, a tinge of anger in her frail voice. “But I’m afraid they did some irreversible damage anyway.”

Daniel looked at her in shock, a self-satisfied smile waning from his features in an instant, his pride wounded.

“W—what?”

“No, Daniel. My answer is no. I can’t marry you.”

“I think pregnancy is making you a tad hysterical, dearie. Alice, come on, be rational—”

“I am having this baby either way, with you or without you. Talk to me when you set your priorities straight and stop being a goddamn f*ck-up.”

I don’t trust you.

I want to, but you haven’t given me a reason to. You had failed me so many times. There’s a part of you that I don’t understand. There’s darkness in you that scares me. You... scare me.

Armand heard her thoughts from afar, sensed her trepidation and unspeakable sadness. He sensed her fear. She stared at Daniel’s handsome, pale features and saw the face of the devil, sheer madness in his eyes. Armand studied her brain, ambushed through the corridors of her mind and opened all the cabinets one by one, in a desperate pursuit to understand her motivations.

Alice was clueless, her imagination limited. Even in her worst, most horrid nightmares, her mind wouldn’t have had the capacity to envision the man’s true nature in its all splendour. She was not aware of his morbid, bruised tendencies. Compulsions, inclinations, transgressions. f*cking a girl in high school with a paper bag over her head, that was one thing, but his motivations was a complete another. She didn’t know the only reason he reached his climax was because he got off on the view of her, pallid, listless, docile body unerneath him, imagining it to be a bloodless carcass. He thought there was sensuality and beauty in the idea. Afterwards, he was ashamed. He didn’t leave his own bed for a few days, weeping in self-repugnance, loathing his own reflection in the mirror.

Alice would never accept that part of him. She would have run away in terror if she only knew. And yet she was gifted with a wondrously spot-on intuition; she could sense some kind of a danger, some kind of a monstrous presence.

She would never accept him wholly. Armand would. Did. He had met many monsters in his past, but Daniel was never one of them. Daniel he knew was tender, cheeky, audacious, gloriously unapologetic. Ordinary transgressions meant nothing, certainly did not define him.

Armand saw from afar how their conversation got heated.

And then he saw how devastated Daniel looked at her words of rejection, how he got up from the chair and left the tearoom before the bill was paid. Daniel walked right past him on the street, flustered and angry, passing the vampire like air, not even a single one glance of recognition.

A few months later, he saw Daniel hold his first newborn in the hospital. How overjoyed, as well as terrified, he was when he kissed its weakened mother on the hospital bed. Divorce then, along with the progression of his successful career. Remorse and rue never forsaking him, hatred towards himself when he thought of Alice, how he had never loved her the way she loved him, how much he had destroyed her, how he put her on valium and wasted her entire youth until she was nothing but a shell of a human being. She would turn into one of the biggest regrets of his life.

A second wife then, whom he didn’t love either, whom he resented. Another daughter beget, out of obligation more so, rather than from the actual desire to procreate. An overabundant, sad amount of paramours on side, as a means to alleviate in vain that unknown malaise he felt every evening, his family and marriage being nothing but a confining, suffocating prison.

Armand always found a way to protect him, shield him from afar, or simply seek him in whatever part of the world he was immured for the sake of a one, innocent glance from afar. However, as the decades passed, he began to grow bitter and resentful. It was cruel, most cruel, not being able to touch him, to run his fingers through those velvety, hazel locks, not being allowed to kiss him ever again, inhale his sweetest scent. Every single morrow his resentment and hopelessness only grew, nothing but bitterness and bile and acrimony.

Every night he put a feigned, emotionless smile on his face and played his role to immaculate perfection. After all, it was all just theater, wasn’t it? It was his way of endurance. But the harrowing, pathetic truth was that he never stopped loving him, never ceased to long for him when no one was watching, when it was just him and abhorrent daemons in his head, enchaining him to his mental prison.

But how lonely and alienating it was, to bear such a forbidden feeling in his chest for so many dire decades, to mourn over someone who did not remember him, grieve over the boy who was now nothing but a stranger, one of a billion faceless humans?

*

2022, Dubai

Daniel was dying.

It was a June, lukewarm night and Armand was sat motionless in their penthouse, not a shred of emotion desecrating the classical cast of his bloodless features. His vacant, listless irises were fixed on some blind spot in front of him. On the other side of the room, Louis was resting on the sofa, in the midst of some philosophical discourse. He was talking to him, flapped his tongue, thinking himself deep and astute.

Armand didn’t listen. He wasn’t even there.

A visible tremor in the right hand, followed by regular visits to the clinic in New York. His routine surveillance from afar left no doubt, there was no denying the pitiable truth. Daniel was dying.

“The world has changed... nothing is the same anymore,” Louis had said at one point, breathing out heavily in rumination.

Armand lethargically looked towards him, risen from his own grim thoughts. A peeved sigh then forsook his mouth, as he said;

“Said a man in every single century.”

Louis pretended he didn’t hear his caustic remark and peered down at the book in his hands, some French author from the Decadent movement. At one point he got up from the chair and wandered to the table with his drink lain, when all of a sudden, he stopped and got closer to some book resting on the wide, dinner table.

“Huh, that’s odd.”

Armand glanced at him nonchalantly, still in his seat.

“What is?”

“You remember Daniel Molloy?”

Armand maintained his air impervious and wondrously indifferent, nothing but a marble statue, his well-chiseled features tinged with boredom and disregard.

“Your fascinating boy? Now, how could I forget,” he said in a cold, mocking tone.

Louis chuckled at him, amused to the core, and added;

“It’s his book here. Last memoir. I’ve been meaning to read it. I wonder if he remembers me still... What’s it doing here anyway, I wonder?”

Armand remained silent for a moment, emotionless, and soon replied in a blasé, dispassionate voice, as he stared dully at the ceiling;

“Probably... Rashid was reading it.”

“Must be.”

Louis soon sat down at the sofa on the other side of the vast room, scrutinising Molloy’s memoir with ardent interest. Armand simply watched him from afar in silence, observed him carefully, spiritless and motionless. At that point he had the book entirely memorised.

A few days later, Louis had read all of Daniel Molloy’s paperbacks, followed with interest his online activity and after making enquiries, learnt about his illness. Armand inconspicuously scattered the tapes from the first interview in their bedroom then, observed like a ghost from afar how Louis stumbled upon them one night and stared at them for some time in a bittersweet recollection, a saddened smile crooking his mouth.

Armand was already plotting his next move.

He simply wanted to see him one last time. One last time before his demise. He would stay in the shadows, simply watch him, observe, listen. A bleak goodbye of some sorts. He didn’t dare to wish for anything more than that.

An advertisem*nt for one of Molloy’s online classes accidentally showed up on the television the following night. And then, Louis came across a magazine with an article about Molloy and how skilled he was in conducting interviews.

Is there anything you regret? Apart from the obvious, Armand asked then Louis one nighttide as they stood at the terrace and watched the Dubai Marina.

“All I am is regret.”

“But if we are talking strictly about the things you can still change,” Armand continued, his voice aloof and calm. “About things that perhaps ended catastrophically, but you could still change the course of history by something as simple as making amends? What would that be?”

Louis looked at him, his emerald irises lit by some passion, agitation. He did not answer him, but ever since that, the seed was sown, imprinted into his mind.

Not even twenty-four hours later, Louis had told him with a stern, serious look on his face.I think I want to do the second interview.

Armand held his breath then and looked blankly ahead, feigning well the affront and disgust.

“You will never let us move on, will you?”

*

“It’s Venetian. A contemporary of Tintoretto’s.”

Daniel slowly turned around, following the reverberance of his low voice. He looked at him the way one glances at the waiter in a bar, a cold and aloof gesture that lasted only a few seconds, enough to notice the lineaments, but entirely disregard the person. His hawk eyes did not register a soul; they saw a servant.

“Marius de Romanus. Never heard of him.”

Armand got a bit closer, not taking his wide irises off him.

It was true. Marius was never discussed. Fate wasn’t that kind to them.

He allowed himself to wander with his gaze, on every single wrinkle covering his pale face, locks that were now gray, the clothes more elegant. The man aged and matured and wisened, but Armand always stayed the same, locked in that cursed, youthful physique evoking associations with Botticelli’s angels. Always a sensual fantasy, a lustful muse, someone to look and marvel at, but who was never actually seen. The only man who once saw him, now stood in front of him and did not recognise his features. His purple irises passed over him like he didn’t exist.

“Little of his work survives.”

Daniel was indifferent and cold. He saw a stranger. That’s who they were now, woeful strangers to each other.

A paltry part of the vampire, some small shred of his emotion, yearned for the other to somehow remember, have any type of recollection at all, just a wan image or perhaps a single word once uttered. But Daniel remained saddeningly amnesiac. Armand soon began to ponder, that perhaps, it all simply never mattered to the boy as much as it did to him.

Armand left the room, having felt nothing but unspeakable grief. A vast wound that dwelled in his chest for so many decades, that he had managed to seal, was opened and torn back again. He mourned for someone who was still alive, for someone who stood in his very own house. Grief was all that he felt in those days.

Grief was all he was.

confessions of a flesh eater and the story of a boy - beingmadissad (2024)
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