Dawn

He thinks: if someone could describe this scene,
it would be stark and simple, a blond-haired man
leans forward on a folding chair. The air is chill,
though no breath rises from his nose or mouth.
He is quite still, as night-bird songs beyond
the French windows subside to that hush
that precedes the dawn, the guard change
from nightingale to lark. To him,
the room appears to be empty. Although he feels
cold steel through his tight, black jeans
and the damp tug of the back of his T-shirt
to the seat-back, he cannot see himself.
His clothes are likewise invisible to him.
He can feel the breath in his nostrils, press lips
against the back of his hand to prove he is there.
His vision, sharp as an owl’s, sees all
that passes on the lawn and garden,
down to the tiniest roil of mouse and vole,
but he is blind to his own hand before his face.

Anyone entering the room would see him.
He supposedly looks awfully good for his years,
three hundred to the day if his memory serves him.
This English house has endured much: riots and war,
Zeppelin and V-2 attacks, the onslaught of blight
and public housing. His well-paid agents
have kept the house intact, managed his gold
with great discretion, and shielded his name
from prying scholars and historians. A blind wall
of trust funds secure his quotidian (quotinoctian?)
needs and secures the multiple vaults, some linked
to one another by passages no rat could fathom.
He has been the perfect vampire, discreet
in his comings and goings as a Windsor heir,
and London’s finest have never discerned him
as a creature of great need and urgency:
a city envelops and forgets so many deaths.
His very contentment, the ease with which
he goes about his business, is the very cause
of his decision to end it – his life – or whatever
this existence is called – at the three-century mark.
He will let the sunlight do it: he waits for dawn
by the eastern doorway, the old drapes
and their dustwebs pulled to the floor, the lace
of even older curtains torn to tatters, panes
broken to admit the acid beams of daylight.
And after this? He assumes: oblivion.
The vampire life did not come with a manual.
The already undead are all clueless; for all
he knows the universe was just one vast
hunger for blood, the feeding and being fed,
the summa as well as the sine qua non.

Just one thing has him curious:
It is said that a vampire, on dying,
can see his own reflection then,
and at no other time in his undead
existence. All the more poignant,
that he has assembled all the mirrors
this decrepit house possesses:
two sets of dresser triptychs; a pile
of hand mirrors and shaving glasses
(the vanity of guests and how much fun
to creep up on them as they regard themselves
in all-too-flattering lamplight!);
three full-length wall mirrors leaned
against chair-backs.
Mirror upon mirror, until the gaze dizzies
in endless fun house angles,
an infinity of floor tiles, chair legs
and angled corners, eye-twinkle
of the six-armed candelabra
into constellations of ever-diminishing stars,
a kaleidoscope of everything there is,
but not a glimmer of him.

What will they find, afterwards,
if they track his most careless, audacious
killing to this house at last,
or when they come some day to demolish it?
The dust or whatever it is that he leaves behind
like a spilled hourglass? Or just the empty room
with its puzzlement of mirrors, that wide bed
canopied with cobwebs, whose dark sheets conceal
untold congelations of victims’ blood?

They will find the clothes, of course:
a closet full of black suits, black jeans,
black leather jackets, black Calvin Klein
dress shirts and T’s, all fitting his mode
of “fashion model gone Goth boy.”
Yes, too, there’s a black opera cape,
wolf-fur trimmed with red velvet lining,
black shoes in every style since 1780
(strange how they never seem to wear out)
right up to present-day sneakers, all black,
black gloves and a variety of useful luggage,
leather, black. Odd that he can only see them
as they hang in the closet: one slip of hand
into a glove or jacket, one toe inside
a shoe or pantleg, and it vanishes, gone
to his own eyes and to the mirror.

How strange to be real only to others,
to touch a willing neck or shoulders
yet never see his hand doing it, never to sense
except by touch his nose-end, toe or fingertip.
How long it took to become at ease and graceful,
even — to see a wineglass rise magically
before one’s one eyes and come to lips,
and then on top of that to have to feign
drinking, to let a wine-wash cross his palette
then fall discreetly back into the glass, that took
a lot of practice! At least the clothes were simpler
now: no more the Edwardian dandy, he slid
into a T-shirt and pulled on jeans as fast
as any teenager. One merely had to remember
zippers and not be inside-out or backwards.

This could have gone on forever, of course,
but the people have grown less interesting,
more easily fooled, more of them glazed
stupid drunk or reeling from drug to drug,
others were smug oxen, waiting the day
their personal savior delivered them.

Who knew it would come, the night
when he could walk into a Goth bar,
and announce “I am a vampire” and silence
followed. A trio of black-clad women
flashed plastic vampire teeth and smiled,
asked which coven he belonged to.
He discerned two types: the overdressed
in opera garb though none, from their dull
look had even been to an opera, and the
down-dressed in some kind of torn rags
punctuated with metal grommets. The men
in both groups eyed and dismissed him.
No uniform, no admission, it seemed.
He lingered a while over a red drink
he didn’t even feign to taste, his ears
offended by machine noise attempting
to form itself into music. A young man
in the torn pin-cushion mode came up,
made sure he saw the Old English lettering
on his T-shirt that read, “Vampire Victim.”
“You’re new,” the young man said.
He nods. “You’re the real thing, aren’t you?”
He nods. “Will you kill me?”
He nods. He’s happy to oblige, but bored.

There was something to be said for the struggle.
The hunt, and its danger, and the threat
of discovery had been The Great Game for him.
He liked it best when they resisted. Sometimes
he almost let them win, or even escape
in order to overtake and surprise them later.
There was a moment, always, the pause
when he pulled from a throat in drinking
and looked the victim eye-to-eye, a dark
and terrible secret that nature withholds:
the victim in that moment loves the killer,
admires his superior essence, gives up
his life force in abject adoration.

Every one of them said “Kill me,”
if not in words then in eyes’ surrender.

What he could never know, was what they saw:
whatever was in their eyes, was not him.

He takes the boy by the scruff of the neck,
and passing the bar he reaches deftly
for three crystal sherry glasses, cupped
between the fingers of his left hand.

The club, which billed itself Tartarus,
(the place beneath Hell if one needed explaining),
has, as clubs are wont, an alleyway out back,
trash cans and strident ailanthus trees, dark spots
behind high shrubbery against a chain link fence.

Right hand against the boy’s chest, he feels
the terrified and excited heartbeat rise
as neck veins flush to readiness, oh, too easy!
He rends the shirt away, leans down, parts flesh
with his expert incisors, inhales the blood
like a breath of fresh air, takes it in fast,
faster than he has done for years, the breath
fails, the heart falters -– no! he pulls back,
pounds at the ribcage to start the heart again --
he would not be cheated -– the boy’s mouth
is frozen in an oh! of horror and no, I
didn’t really want this won’t you please stop?

He doesn’t stop – he ends the life that bleeds
beneath him, sucks dry the husk of heat,
life and the great force that animates all things
like a great and overflowing battery.
This ought to be exciting, yet in a moment
he is sated, this death as boring
as a fast-food hamburger. What to do
with the body? With strength he knew
no way to measure he lifts the limp form
and shakes it against the steel grid of fence,
firm, then fast, then faster, till bone and tendon,
flesh and skull and garment all pass on through
like a cabbage passed through a grater,
soft wet fragments falling through, as cloth
slides down, a heap of belt and cloth and grommets.
This was not his usual, careful feeding. The mess
would be considerable, the mystery
of how a man passed through chain links
a riddle for the local police station.
Dogs were coming; he sensed them already,
a feral pack that followed him everywhere
and often helped him in the aftermath.
With luck, they would drag off the bones
and fragments: no matter anyway,
since this would be his last feeding.

Re-entering the Goth club, quite unaware
of whether his T-shirt is dark with heart-blood
he approaches the trio of vampirellas
and puts down, with perfect balance,
three brimful sherry glasses, still warm
with the victim’s body heat. “On the house,”
he tells them. “Drink – if you dare.”

He smiles his best smile, puts hand to lips
and makes a downward, smearing motion
in hopes they will see blood there.
They stare at him, then at the glasses.
He is at the door; he is out. No one
has said a word or moved to stop him.
He hands a hundred to the bouncer, who nods
an assurance of his forgetting his ever
having been there, turns the corner
as the dogs begin turning into the alleyway.

If he were only one century old tonight
perhaps this would be amusing. The weight
of fresh blood within him slows him
and he window-shops on the long walk home.
No one seems to notice the blood all over him,
or if they do they pretend not to notice
another young man’s Gothic fancy.

Now home, he waits for dawn.
The sun seems his most reluctant prey:
it just will not arrive on schedule, the clock
seems to have slowed its ticking, the intervals
between seconds get longer and longer.
When will it end? Does anyone in London
even have a rooster as harbinger
of the upcoming solar disk? The bats,
the owls, have all retired: is that red line
beyond the oak trees the edge of sunrise.

He turns to face the mirrors. It starts.
His eyes begin at last to see eyes, a face,
dark lips, those fine and perfect teeth,
the line of neck to shoulder, the skin,
as white and soft as ever he was twenty.
He leans to the glass: oh, oh,
so beautiful, so —-
by some dark instinct unknown to him
his mouth finds his wrist and pierces it.
He watches himself drink from himself,
the blood flows out and inward,
an Ouroboros circle, feeder
and feeding, self-murdering Narcissus,
frozen, visible in the yellow glory
of the morning sunbeams.

He could do this forever. The sun
is doing nothing so long as he keeps
circling the fresh blood inward, outward.
If he can do to this till sunset
he will survive this burning.
Three hundred years more, at least,
he needs to exhaust his beauty.
He could take hundreds more,
or thousands; he could let
all life on earth flow through him.
It need never end.
The universe wants him in it.
Maybe he is one of the Horsemen
of universal doom and never knew it.

Sunset is only hours away.
He sways in the ecstasy of his feeding,
the sublime dream of untold victims before him.
Now that he knows the difference
between hunger and desire,
there are lists to make.
He will start with the three vampirellas.
Later, the Goth club bouncer.
Night will be his blood carnival.

Comments

  1. OMGoth, Brett~

    This is stunningly brilliant!

    I am grateful and in awe.

    Susanna

    ReplyDelete

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