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Paint the Town Blue

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With hindsight, I suppose I should have guessed what was happening before this point. Before I found myself with the tracks of long ago dried tears running down my cheeks and inhaling the pungent smell of blood. Someone once told me it tastes almost metallic, but I don’t see it myself as I sit here with it swilling in my mouth and it slicked to the side of my face. I really do wish I’d guessed before now, because it feels as if these ropes have cut through to the bone of my wrists and some beast has clawed at my throat. They did tell me this morning- maybe last night; I have no way of knowing with the windows boarded up- that it would be a wasted effort to scream because no one could hear me. Believing them too, I still screamed for dear life, at least until every breath down my windpipe became like swallowing glass. It feels a bit better now, as I sit here in the blinding darkness, with only my gasping breaths to keep me company. I know that these breaths are better company than them, those things that took my friends. I should have seen it coming, anyone else from anywhere else would have, but I maintain that the circumstances were different than just anywhere. This is the Upper East Side after all.

The Upper East Side, in the borough of Manhattan, home to New York’s elites. Our territory lies between Central Park and the East River. We are-were- the aristocracy of the East Coast, with good manners, good grace and excellent parties. Only years of ‘good breeding’ could make a group of socialites so well spoken and attractive, and better than everyone else. That’s what my mother had always taught me anyway and with the promise of Yale or Harvard, who was I to disagree? Maybe we deserved what we got; maybe I deserve what will most certainly happen to me.

However, if there is one thing those on the Upper East Side are known better for than their aversion to integration of social classes, it is the wealth. But money is a fickle thing, as are the people who associate themselves with it, especially on the Upper East Side. Some families, like mine, have their fortunes rooted deep, but others and their money come and leave the borough with every new scandal. So this is why now, as I try and face my mortality, I still hold that I would not have noticed someone out of the ordinary arrive to town, however strange they were.

I can undoubtedly state that it all began three months ago, in mid- winter. No snow had fought its way into the concrete maze of New York City of course, but the midnight clouds, the type that consume all light they cross, had managed the feat. It was that grim January that She arrived.


“Lane, darling.” A voice shattered through my blissfully unaware state.

“Mother?” I echoed in a similar polite monotony.

“Are you going to welcome the new girl or not? She’ll be starting school with you soon.”

“I’ll go and see her now mother.” I said, and with a tight-lipped smile stood up to find this girl, Juliet.

I moved across the empty dance floor of the party- very elegantly I might add- listening to the low murmur of civilized conversation and cheerful chime of shifting cutlery and glasses. The party was too upper class, even for me, with its perfect layout, bland, cream decorations and subdued music. The dullness of it all had my concentration waning so much that I almost didn’t notice the faint tap on my shoulder, but there was no way I could have missed the girl who tapped. Her beauty was the picture of angelic perfection, and yet what caught my eye was not her perfectly pouted lips or golden ringlets that easily outshone my brunette locks. It was her eyes. Eyes so black that I feared if I looked too long I would fall into their bottomless abyss. While her lips turned up in a pleasant smile, her eyes remained empty. Hollow. Can you see a person’s soul through their eyes? I wondered, because all I could find in hers was an inescapable darkness.

“You must be Lane Cavendish.” The girl said in a singsong soprano voice, “I’m Juliet… van Vuren.”

“Hi Juliet, it’s nice to finally meet you.” I replied, almost through gritted teeth. Because she was holding my gaze for some reason, and the longer her eyes stayed on mine, the lighter and less anxious I felt. But with a shake of my head I was rid of the strange hypnotic state. I thought I saw Juliet’s smile falter and a scowl run across her brow, but as quickly as the look was there it was gone again.

“Lane, hey!” a warm voice broke the building tension between Juliet and I.

“Daniel!” I exclaimed before he placed a chaste kiss on my lips and his hand on the small of my back, as much as is socially acceptable in the presence of scholars and noble men.

“This is… Juliet.” I muttered, and nervously brushed a hazel hair from my boyfriends, face and straightened his scarlet tie.

“I’m Dan Ashford . And before you ask, yes the Ashford whose father was thrown into prison for embezzling millions of dollars.” Dan grinned and held out his hand for Juliet.

She was quick to let out an airy laugh that was almost as empty as her eyes, and took Dan’s hand in her own perfectly manicured one. It was not until I saw the goosebumps run up Dan’s arm that I noticed how pale Juliet was. Her skin as white as the first snow of winter and judging by the way Dan shivered, I’d say just as cold too.

Daniel had never been good at hiding his emotions, so his doubt in Juliet was perfectly readable in the form of an unattractively gaping mouth and knitted together eyebrows. Then it happened. He looked into Juliet's eyes, those dead eyes, and just... smiled. And I could hardly hold my polite smile as I watched Dan go from tense to perfectly comfortable with Juliet after looking into those eyes. I knew he wasn't just pretending not to see how wrong Juliet was, because this was Dan after all, who wore his heart on his sleeve and his emotions on every feature of his face.

I registered that I could just be paranoid; Juliet was beautiful after all, my biggest competition. A sunflower in a field full of daisies. I was a daisy, and if she wanted to, Juliet could take anything from me.

So I wrote off my worry for Juliet, convinced myself that I just found her a threat, and carried on ignoring my instincts. Even as one by one my friends met Juliet van Vuren, and I watched each crease of doubt disappear from their faces as she hypnotized them with her beauty. Only resident bad boy and better off than Richie Rich, Harry Hawthorne, held a front of obvious disdain towards Juliet. For the rest of the night she ignored us both.

_____________________________________________________________________________

It was in the weeks that followed Juliet's arrival that people started to disappear. No, disappear is the wrong word, because they always came back. Even if it seemed they'd lost a part of themselves. First there would be a spontaneous week away, skiing in Aspen, shopping in Saint Tropez or sunbathing in Barcelona, and then they'd be back. A completely different person. Tired all day, alive at night, with dove white skin and eyes that shone hungrily from their skulls like onyx. And while more and more of my friends became strangers and blindly followed new queen bee Juliet, the back streets of New York became increasingly unsafe. There were new reports every day of another body, from the Lower East Side, Brooklyn or Queens, found festering behind some dumpster or other after being mutilated and drained of blood. I could only imagine the horror of waiting amongst the scuffling of rodents and smell of damp decay to turn and lock onto the red eyes of death. Because only a beast, a beast with teeth sharper than blades and eyes hotter than hell, could commit such vile acts.

And yet, in my oblivious bubble of wealth, even with seeing Juliet's cult everyday at school, I was completely unfazed and less than suspicious. Homeless people and prostitutes were those dying, and as long as I was not stepping on their putrefying bodies on my way to buy Louis Vuittons, then I thought it wasn't my problem. But it couldn't be avoided when Nate came back from his weeklong trip in the Hamptons.

________________________________________________________________________________

The sky was an ashen grey with looming storm clouds and the biting cold had cleared the courtyard at Constance School of all life but me. Stiffly sitting down on a bench and wrapping my scarf tight around my neck I silently watched my breath make distorted shapes in the air. The silence at school had become deafening, and week-by-week it had gotten quieter still. I had only been sitting a moment when a hooded figure appeared before me. His face was shaded but I knew who hid beneath the sweater.

"Lane we need to talk." Dan said monotonously, his face unreadable.

"I was just about to say the same thing." I scowled and stood up, "Not a word from you all week except to say you were 'away'"

"Yes, I was in the Hamptons."

"The Hamptons? In the middle of winter?"

"Yes. Look, Lane, we need to break up." he said stiffly. Too stiffly.

We had been dating for three years, since we were fourteen, how could he just be so dismissive? How could he be so cold? Cold! In my shock came a revelation, because then I really saw him. Past the windswept hair and perfectly set jaw were the things I had failed to see in everyone else. Icy skin and light consuming eyes, which right then, were decorated with the dark circles underneath of being out in the day. And suddenly I was truly scared.

"What are.... why?" was all I managed to choke out as my body temperature rose with hysteria.

It was all I could do to control my erratic breathing and hummingbird heartbeat while tearing the scarf from my neck. Wrong move, an alarm in my head blared as Dan took a step forward, face set into a look of anguish. His movement swept the hood from his head, and he let out an animalistic hiss as the fleeting light caught his face giving me enough time to stumble away.

But Dan's eyes were still locked onto my neck, where the pulse beat frantically. And he bared his teeth. And I tried to turn away. Too slowly. His right hand gripped my arm like a vice, so much stronger than he used to be, and spun me to his empty face.

I prepared myself to let out a scream or a sob when an unmistakable sing- song voice echoed from behind.

"Daniel." Juliet said through gritted teeth, stepping towards Dan, her face hooded "I knew it would be hard for you to tell her. You should have let me."

Juliet took a step forward, her arm linking through Dan's, the movement disguised as a caress but really designed to pull him back from me.

"So, you two huh?" I whispered, feinting disappointment whilst edging my way backwards clumsily.

"I'm sorry." Juliet tilted her head to the side and regarded me pitifully, "Let's not let this get in the way of our... friendship, though."

"Of course not." I turned on my heels and rushed away, knowing she would assume I was heartbroken and distraught over the loss of Dan.

But, no, I had finally figured out what was going on. What had turned my high class society on it's head. Finally, I knew what they were.

_______________________________________________________________________________

“Vampires?” Harry Hawthorne’s sultry voice echoed back from over the phone, “You’re kidding right.”

I could hear the smirk in his voice with every word and it pained me to know that the narcissistic playboy Hawthorne was the only person I could trust. The only person who was still a person. If my parents weren’t on a permanent vacation in France then maybe I wouldn’t have had to depend on Harry so much, but at least he wasn’t short on… resources.

“I know how crazy it sounds.” I said in exasperation after having explained it to him for hours.

“I don’t think you do.”

Ignoring him I continued, “I don’t need you to believe me Harry.”

“No, you just need my money apparently.”

“It was only your help I needed. Look, if there’s nothing you can do…”

“Oh calm down Cavendish.” Harry interrupted, “While you’ve been rambling on about missing people, white skin and eyes ‘darker than midnight’, I’ve had my P.I. watching our queen of the living dead for any suspicious activity. And it would seem that ‘the sparrow has taken flight.”

“You have a P.I. on retainer?”

“Is that really what you want to be talking about right now? I’ll have a town car pick you up in ten.”

“Wait! Where exactly has Juliet gone?”

“Brooklyn.” Harry laughed before leaving me with nothing more than the dial tone.
________________________________________________________________________________

Harry rolled down the tinted window of the pristine town car, letting the sulphurous smell of New York hit my nose heavily. A shady looking man leant into the car, the P.I., and with the orange streetlight casting a shadow across his face he began chatting under his breath. While my knuckles had turned white from clenching them so much in nervous anticipation, Harry looked completely ill at ease, but I hadn’t expected anything more from someone who regularly spent his days in seedy back alleys and clubs. So it was easy enough to ignore the amused smirk that played lightly on Harry’s lips- the smile of a non- believer- as I gazed past his P.I.’s head to the Brooklyn street behind. We had pulled up in front of a dilapidated block of flats, a building just a few days earlier I would have strived to avoid out of disgust. The sight of it still turned my stomach, but now out of fear. I was scared. Scared of what lay behind the shattered, jagged windows and blackened walls of a city-infected building.

“So, they’re in there?” I asked Harry, nodding toward the building, after his P.I. clambered lazily back into his car.

“No.” he replied with a smirk, “They went down there.”

__________________________________________________________________________________

Standing at the mouth of the alley, the one hidden to the side of the old apartment building, I tapped my foot nervously. Beside me Harry sighed impatiently, the sound like a deflated balloon, but he waited all the same. A wall of shadow stretched across the alley’s entrance, seemingly unable to creep past its crumbling walls. The pungent stench of overflowing trash cans hit my nose, even from the safety of the streetlight, and I wondered what would compel a person to come here. What sort of comforts could be sought in the cold and unwelcoming arms of a deserted back alley?

“The vermin of the world inhabit places like this.” Harry said, answering an unasked question, “It’s a last resort. A hiding place.”

“And Juliet and Dan are down there.” Quietly, I replied.

“It’s strange, I’ll give you that.” And he took a step into the darkness. One moment there; the next engulfed by hungry shadows.

When I did not follow, Harry sighed and with an exasperated sounding ‘Cavendish’ he reached out and took my hand. Under the circumstances I found the warmth of his hand in mine a comfort, I hoped I lived long enough to never have to find Harry Hawthorne’s presence a comfort again. Agonizingly slowly we walked down the alley, I must have felt like a dead weight to Harry who dragged me into the belly of the beast, jumping at every subtle scurry and scratching. Pattering lightly at first, the rain started to fall, and I could only hope that it would wash away the darkness of the alley as it became heavier still.

Convinced that if I took another step forward it would be the end of me, I started to pull against Harry's grip.

"Are you kidding Lane?" he growled back at me, "You wanted to do this, we're not turning...."

He was cut off by a high- pitched scream that ripped through the rainy night air, it was unlike anything I had heard before because I could truly hear the fear entrenched in its sound.

Dropping my hand, Harry darted around the corner towards the source of the sound while I stood rooted to the spot, feeling like my feet were strapped to concrete blocks.

"LANE!" he called out after a few moments of me being blissfully unaware to what lie ahead.

Rounding the corner I was stopped dead in my tracks by the sight. The sight of a young girl, younger than me, sixteen maybe, lying twisted and lifeless on the filthy alley floor. Her hair was matted with blood, her own blood, that spilled from a wound in her neck and her limbs were distorted and broken. The rain helped little with washing the blood away. With skin as white as that she could have been made of porcelain. If she didn't already look so broken that is.

On his knees beside her, Harry’s hands fluttered uselessly over her body, and I was ready to do the same, before I heard a pained whimper from the shadows. A boy, just older than me this time, sat against the wall, hand limply covering his neck in a poor attempt to stem the blood flow. His body was slumped and his head lolled forward, a marionette on a thousand strings after every single one had been cut, but he was alive. Every gurgling breath and moan gave indication of that.

Dropping to my knees beside him, vision blurred by oncoming tears, I pulled of my jacket to hold to his wound, "Hey, hey, it's gonna be ok. Can you hear me?"

"M-my s-s." I heard him choke, and with my free hand I lifted his chin so he could speak, "M-my sister?"

I looked back to Harry, who had pulled the girl onto his lap, and he shook his head at me before placing his it into bloodied hands.

"My friends with her, she's fine." I lied, "What's your name? Who did this to you?"

"Ben, it's Ben." he whispered, "I don't know. Jenna heard something down here so we- we, I don't know. It all happened so fast."

"Alright, just stay awake for me, I'm gonna call for help."

I let Ben's head loll forward again and fumbled around in my pocket, the blood on my hands making it hard to grab anything. Finally I got a hold on my cell, but before I could even lift it up cold fingers curled around my wrist, squeezing so tight that I was forced to let go of the phone. So fast she was soundless in thwarting me.

"Lane," Juliet said quietly and in response my airway contracted leaving me gasping for air, "I didn't take you for the gallant hero."

There was a scuffling from behind me and I knew that Dan had his suffocating arms around Harry, probably a hand over his mouth.

I took a deep breath, "I didn't take you for the cold blooded murderer."

"Now we both know that's not true." she sighed, pulling me up to face her.

Ending up on my tiptoes to reach her height, Juliet dropped my wrist and gripped my upper arm instead, forcing me to face her. Flecks of red littered her pale jaw and arms, and on her designer clothes it looked little more than paint. She was too beautiful, making even blood look like a fashion statement as it dyed the tips of her golden hair auburn. Juliet bit her lip as if contemplating what to do with me next, and in attempt to avoid her gaze I looked over her shoulder. Struggling in the grip Dan had around his neck, Harry twisted and writhed, but he knew as well as I that one wrong move and his neck would snap in two. Dan's hand covered Harry's mouth, nails digging into his cheek in attempt to distract himself from whatever it was they felt when vampires could feel the pumping of blood around a warm human body. Every ounce of self restraint he had was going into not tearing Harry to shreds. His mouth smothered in blood and left agape with craving as his smoky eyes gazed at the fresh blood that pooled around Jenna's dead body instead. Dan Ashford was the most sought after boy at school, and not just for his money, but at that moment he wasn't a boy anymore, he was an animal.

"He's young." Juliet said noticing my gaze, "Shiny and brand new. Unimaginably strong and fast, but with no self control whatsoever."

"Unlike you." I almost sneered, and Juliet dropped my arm to squeeze my face patronizingly instead.

"Well I am quite used to this."

I could only raise my eyebrows with her hand on my face and she continued in response to the look, "I'm century's old, child. Your... boyfriend is but an infant to me. He can't even glamour yet."

Dropping me, so that I crumpled to the floor landing almost on top of a barley stirring Ben, Juliet tuned away. I could just about feel my oncoming demise as she finalized the decision to herself, so I did the only thing I could in that situation, I talked.

"Glamour? W- what's that?" I spluttered out.

Juliet turned on her heels, a certain spark in her eyes at the question, like she hadn't had a fresh human audience for a while.

"Funny you should ask, seeing as how it doesn't work on you." Juliet gave a small smile, almost in annoyance, and moved to stand above me, "It's like hypnosis. I can convince anyone everything is fine, even as I'm killing them, just as long as they look into my eyes. But it doesn't work on everyone, otherwise you and Hawthorne wouldn't be bothering me now."

Harry kicked out in wildly the background, but Juliet ignored him and kneeled down by me, a manic sort of excitement sparkling in her black eyes as she anticipated my next question.

"Could you not g-glamour them, Ben and Jenna?" I asked.

"Of course I could, how do you think I got them down here?" she gestured lazily to the dank alley.

"Then why did she scream? Why don't you glamour him, put him out of his misery?" I whispered this, my hand finding Ben's on the floor, this stranger who was dying in front of me.

"But you know why, don't you?" she said, moving her lips centimetres away from my ear to whisper, "I like to see the light leave their eyes. I love their fear."

My whole body was shaking but still I managed to, in my biggest voice, spit out, "You. Are. Disgusting."

That look of thrill died in her eyes at my words and she sat back on the balls of her feet to observe me with a shadowed look.

“I know. And that’s just too bad for you isn’t it?” She said dryly before standing, dragging me with her by my shoulders.

Glancing over at Harry, I stared into his wide, fearful eyes, the eyes of someone who believed something they wished so desperately wasn’t true, and said, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean for you to be dragged into this. But- but it’s going to be ok.”

Promptly I was thrown backwards by Juliet, as if my hope had been one step too far for her, head slamming into the wall behind and body following limply in suit. Drowsily I brought a shaky hand to the back of my head, the dampness there making me want to scream, but I could find no sound to make the noise. I could only imagine my voice had been scared away by the shadows that crept from the depths of my mind, threatening to engulf me behind closed lids. I could only strain against the pressure of my heavy eyelids for seconds.

“No. No it won’t be.” Was the last thing I heard before the shadows swallowed me whole.

And I woke up and it was all a dream.

Oh god, please be a dream.

__________________________________________________________________________________

But it wasn’t a dream, as surreal as it all felt. And I didn’t wake up in my bed at home, as much as I wished I had. I woke up in this room, my prison, and have been waiting for my death sentence since.

I am alone now, but I wasn’t for a while (however long a while may be in this seemingly timeless box).

When I had awoken from a concussion induced slumber, Harry was the first thing I saw, hovering above me with concern etched one every line of his face. The first thing I had done, after Harry had sat me up, using himself as a rest, was ask about the dying boy, Ben. Harry could only shake his head mournfully, and I could only stare blankly back, a bitter taste in my mouth.

He had tried the door, the boarded up windows, hammered against every wall until his hands were bruised and his knuckles bled, all whilst I lay unconscious on the ancient four poster bed. But there was no way out; I had dreaded to think what lay on the other side of that door anyway. In the hours, however many they had been, I had been unconscious; Harry Hawthorne seemed to come to terms with his end which would no doubt come. It shocked me, and drained my remaining hope, to know that Harry had given up, but I guessed that’s how the emotionally neglected boy billionaire handled all problems that faced him. He became resound to his fate because it was just easier to give up.

Weakened by the head wound, I complied with Harry and together we had sat against the back wall of the room, the one furthest from the door, and wordlessly counted the seconds down.

“You thought I was evil and heartless.” Harry had suddenly said, “But I’m nothing compared to Juliet and her minions. That boy, Ben, and his sister they weren’t upper east siders, but they didn’t deserve that.”

“I didn’t think they did. Of course I didn’t.” I replied

“Who are you trying to kid, Lane? There’s no point in pretending you cared about all of those people who got killed, finding out about Juliet was to protect your own interests. Of course it was, but what more could anyone expect from little Miss Debutant.” He rambled bitterly, but I knew better than to be hurt by his sharp words.

“You’re scared.” I stated plainly, grabbing his hand, and just squeezing harder when he tried to pull away.

“What do you expect?” I could hear the small, sad smile in his voice, however weak it was through the suffocating darkness.

“The mighty Harry Hawthorne is actually scared. Not so cold after all. It would seem I had you pegged all wrong.”

“People aren’t as straight forward as you, Lane Cavendish, make them out to be. There’s no black and white, just..... shades of grey.”

Those were the last words I ever heard Harry say.

Laughing had echoed from outside the hall. They were laughing just before they came into the room and took him away, as if it was nothing. Louise Bell and James van der Built I recognised them as, although my eyes were unable to adjust to the shift in light, they used to be my ‘minions’. When I was on top. They were the closest things I had had to friends before all this, friends who carried my books and picked up my shopping and who I didn’t care about. They were dispensable like the latest fashion trend, and I had never cared for them but I hated what had become of them.

Blinking tears away I had grabbed Harry’s arm, when James had sneered at him to get up, but I was pushed down as if it was no effort at all. I guess it wasn’t for him. Within seconds they had taken my last hope, put out my last flicker of light in an ocean of darkness, and politely shut the door behind them.

That’s when I had started to scream. Bellowing, for help and mercy and Harry, until my voice was hoarse and the room spinning around me from the lack of air to my brain. Apparently it is not good etiquette to scream that loud and for that long, or they are more worried than I thought about someone overhearing, because the wooden door was soon splintered with the force of impact as it hit the wall.

It happened much too fast for me to register anything from that moment. A figure in the doorway had me stumbling backwards, hands searching blindly behind for something weighted. A lamp, I think it was. James had his hand around my wrist before I'd even lifted the object. He laughed, the lamp clattered to the floor, I screamed. Then a dull thud. Followed by blood. Not that I had time to think about the blood or the fact James' fist to the side of my head had caused it because the blackness of unconsciousness does not wait for anyone, no exceptions to it's hunger.

And then I woke up here again. But this time with wrists bound around the back of a chair, with blood dried around my face but fresh and coppery in my mouth. Only this time there is no Harry, no hope and not point in fighting on. And if I could end this myself, I would, just to deny her the satisfaction. But I know what is coming, something an Upper Class, Manhattan upbringing could not have steeled me for, but I shall face it with my head up, and a faux fearlessness in my dying eyes. I am a Cavendish after all.

I have seconds now. How I know this is uncertain, because I cannot hear footsteps for the pounding of blood in my ears, but as I sit here I am sure I can feel the seconds of my clock thumping away. I am not ready for this.

Groaning, as if protesting against the thing that pushed it, the door creaks open, pushing away the darkness as it does. But I like this darkness, it helps with me hide in my own blindness. Standing in the doorway, the light of the hall glows behind making her look almost celestial. Bitterly, I laugh at her intoxicating beauty and the peril that lay beneath it for any man so tempted into her arms.

A frown creases her forehead, creases her perfection, at my laugh; at once I cease, but not because I fear her, which I do, but because the sudden shifts in my temperament disconcert her. Small victories.

Juliet takes a step into the room and something is brought with her, other than that knawing sense of hopelessness, it is neither site nor sound though. But I cannot put my finger on it, not that it matter now as Juliet walks around me, the light from the hall making her onyx eyes glint from her skull like beetles, and she unties the rope that binds my hands but something about the way she paced made me think of a hungry animal sizing up their prey. I guess that isn’t far from the truth.

The narrow hall stretches out in front of me, fluorescent lighting flickering dimly, its institutional blue tint looks suffocating but much more welcoming than my prison of too many hours. My hands are untied, Juliet lingers aimlessly behind, and freedom beckons. Ridgeley a hand is placed on the back of my chair, and I need not have word or look from my captor to understand that she just dares me to jump up like a startled fawn and run. Inconceivably fast and strong, isn’t that what she said about Nate? Yes I shall be running any second now, I think through a haze of sarcasm. Even in the face of death, I have yet to lose my Upper East Side stubbornness; there are better qualities to maintain in these situations, I’m sure.

Longingly, I cast my eye down the hall, and when Juliet doesn’t move (still waiting for a desperate slip up I expect), I begrudgingly take in my surroundings, although I know I have already missed something sickeningly important. The blue light of the hall has unflatteringly illuminated my holding cell, throwing ugly shadows across the faded yellow wallpaper, shadows that try to claw their way upwards using the sporadically placed flowers, of the grimmest brown, as footholds. It occurs to me that I sit in the bedroom of an old townhouse, judging from its Victorian roofing of plaster jutting out in sharp spirals, the only room that probably hasn’t been modified (like the new ugly fluorescent lighting) to fit the needs of beings that fear Helios and Apollo.

A chifforobe in the corner is the same faded oak as the four poster bed to my right, and the moment I think this, I realize that a keen eye for antique furniture is another thing I could swap for a useful talent in this situation. Like the power to figure out what it is I have missed.

“Pity,” Juliet says when I do not even move to rub my raw wrists, and I see her smack ruby lips together, tasting disappointment rather than my life, she cast me a sardonic look and continues, “But sensible.”

When I do not reply she just sighs, and moves somewhere far behind me. My stomach lurches. Hands are at my throat, my own hands, trying to cease the sudden choking and gagging. Because I have found what followed Juliet into the room.

Not sight nor sound, but smell. Masked by the sweet scent of gardenias, honeysuckle and lilac, that must perfume every inch of Juliet’s body, before, but now powerfully potent, stinging my nose and making me pointlessly wretch on an empty stomach. It is decay intertwined with misery, rotting and hopelessness. There is no odour more imminent, I concur, than the smell of death.

“Yes. Sorry about that.” Juliet hums insincerely, pulling a chair in front of me, blocking the hallway, as I gag, “There isn’t much we can do about the smell I’m afraid. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to mask the smell of rotting meat.”

Casually, she sits down in front of me, as if expecting a civilized chat and her flowered scent once again stifles that of decay. Blonde hair curtains her face, casting shadows across the crooked smile she wears on her lips. I shudder involuntarily, as I feel deaths hands settle on my shoulders ready to greet me, but remain silent.

“You’re upset?” Juliet looks genuinely confused, a pout tugging the corners of her mouth downwards, and I clench my jaw to refrain from spitting or screaming at her.

“Harry?” I finally manage, though my voice is heavy with the threat of an oncoming sob because I know that my last flicker of hope is now just a piece of meat, now part of the stench of death that hangs over me.

“Harry Hawthorne.” She weighs the name on her tongue, briefly weighing the trouble caused by killing someone with the well known name Hawthorne, and the trouble she saved herself by killing him.

Leaning forward in her chair, so she is centimetres away from me, she sighs, “Do you really want to tell me what you already know?”

“Yes.” I hiss.

“He’s dead. But it’s his own fault, he had a choice.” I go to scream at Juliet, tell her that she is a monster, but she holds up a hand of authority, and for some reason it brings me to silence.

“Just, clam down.” She sounds exasperated, like she is handling a stubborn child, “Why don’t we just talk.”

“Fine.” I contain my anger, staring blankly at her, although below the surface my blood is boiling.

"You are a wonder.” Juliet says softly, completely amused at my erratic moods, her face so close to mine now I can feel the absence of breath and lack of body heat.

I take a deep breath and level my eyes with hers, responding with “You’re just a sin.”

“A sin?”

“That, that is against God.”

“I know what….. I’ve just never heard that one before.” She smiles at me, it is not indignant and twisted; it’s just a smile.

That smile scares me more than anything she has done thus far. Her emotions are more unbalanced than mine.

“I have a proposition, of sorts, for you, Lane.” She weighs my name like she did Harry’s, weighing the problems of my life against the problems of my death, and then she says, “Harry, had the same choice. And he chose death.”

Her face is impassive, and I can only hope mine echoes this as a typical Cavendish curiosity consumes me because it would not do me good to let her have the upper hand.

“Go on.” I urge.

“Have you really not figured it out.” Juliet eyes me distastefully, as if she had overestimated my abilities and was disappointed with what she actually found, but she continued regardless, “You can die... or you can become like... like me.”

Slowly I lean away from Juliet, with wide eyes and stiff shoulders. Eternal life, eternal beauty and grace, is what she offered, and it was just oh-so tempting and once-upon-a-time Lane Cavendish would have taken that opportunity without a moments delay. But now, after I had seen and smelt the death that comes with being a ‘vampire’, it was not so appealing.

“No...” I whisper, almost illegibly, “I-I don’t want to be like you. Not what after you’ve done.”

Barely concealing the fury that blazes in her eyes, Juliet stands up and paces the small ring around my chair halting abruptly when she had come full circle. As much as she tries, I can see the veins in her forehead straining with the effort of not killing me in an act of blind fury, her pupils dilate but the only sign I have of this is the whites of her eyes shrinking away.

“It’s a shame…a shame really.” Juliet sighs and I hate how her forehead creases with some form of sad disappointment

This is it. The shadows that creep on the walls mock me as the flickering fluorescent light makes them quiver with laughter but still they attempt to creep back under the bed and behind the door because they know better than I of what will happen next. How many murders have passed in this prison? How many times had the walls been painted crimson? How many before me will die and how many after?

She’s an animal, she must be able to sense my fear by now. Must be able to hear how my heart thumps relentlessly against my rib cage and see how I shiver and shake in the dim light. It wouldn’t surprise me if she could smell the fear on my breath. This is it, but I’m not ready.

How could anyone be ready for eternal darkness? Surely that is what lies beyond, because there can be no God, so no heaven, if things like Juliet exist in our world.

“Such a shame.” Juliet repeats but now in a soft grow.

Pacing ceases and features becomes expressionless and finally Juliet faces me. I am reminded of the first time we met, when her eyes looked so empty but her mouth turned up in a sweet smile. Her mouth turns up now but it’s not a smile this time. It’s a snarl.

She is not beautiful anymore, not while she looks so hungry.

She steps forwards, that hunger smoldering in her eyes, and the full force of my situation hits me in the chest. I am not going down in a blaze of glory, with famous last words or even a loved one by my side. No, I am leaving the world how I came into it; alone and utterly terrified. And I am leaving it now.

I can't breath. But I'm not crying. Why aren't I crying? I guess it's my final screw you to the monster about to end me.

She rolls her shoulders and with eyes glinting says "Any last words?"

Last words. This is my legacy, the only thing I have left, it should be grand, noble and breathtaking. That's what my upbringing has taught me. But it hasn't helped me now, being rich and spoilt, as she advances with teeth bared.

This is going to carry on after I die. All this killing. And this is going to hurt. Right now.

Don't think about it.

"Last words? What a cliché."





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