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Then night was cold and dreary like most of the nights in December. I lay awake in bed waiting for the almost inaudible tap on my window. The cotton of my tee shirt clung to my thighs with sweat; as well as my hair to my face. The red, flashing lights of my alarm clock read two-seventeen AM. He should be here by now.
My arms felt like lead resting across my bony chest, or maybe it was just my heavy heart sinking through the supple mattress to the floor. It was now almost two-twenty and my throat began to close; my steady breathing grew weak. A salty, metallic taste filled my mouth and curled around my tongue. He was close.
I knew before I heard the weak knock that he was waiting for me. I grabbed a towel from the floor beside my bed and hurried to open the window. It slid open with little to no effort and I silently maneuvered myself onto the damp grass below. The individual blades slipped through my toes as I walked towards the edge of the forest behind my house.
The trees towered above me, their long, brittle branches reaching towards the stars. The grass beneath my feet quickly turned to pine needles and soft dirt that squished each time I took another step. A violent cough erupted from my lungs, sending a light spray of crimson over my hands. It was normal to me by this point so I cleaned my hands with the towel and dried the blood from my lips. I was getting closer.
Another cough crept up my throat and then another, and another until I fell to my knees in defeat. A steady trickle of blood trailed from the corner of my mouth. "Well this is a bloody mess", I mumbled to myself. A branch above me dipped down and hooked onto my arm, pulling me to my feet: but of course it wasn't a branch.
"I hate that you have to put up with this, Charlotte." He said, shrinking down to a more human size-seven feet- which was still not very human at all.
"It's worth it though," I replied, walking closer to him. He looked the very same as every time I have ever seen him: black suit jacket, black slacks, crisp white button-down, and a black tie. "I have to see you." I carefully wrapped my arms around him and he leaned down so I could kiss his cheek.
"You'll forget me soon enough, my love." He whispered, lightly pushing me away. "Amnesia is another symptom that I can't hold off much longer. I'm amazed you've not gone brain dead yet."
I sighed and sunk back to the surprisingly warm forest floor. "Maybe it's love?" I whispered. My bleached blonde hair slipped from the tie holding it out of my face. The loose strands brushed my cheeks and got tangled in my eyelashes.
"Don't be foolish, Charlotte!" He said a painful edge in his haunting voice. Ironically, it was music to my ears. "I'm a faceless monster with disgusting aesthetics and I kill without shame. How could someone even think about loving that?"
I laughed, brushing my hair from my eyes and I gazed up into the hollow pits where his eyes should be. "Well you haven't killed me."
"Oh, dear," he whispered, "but I have. You can't ignore the fact that you're slowly dying because of me. I marked you and you know it. You're destined to die, my beauty."
I reluctantly stared down at my chest. It hurt to feel what was beneath the thin cotton and it hurt even worse to know that he's right.
I was marked the night I had to chase my kitten in the trees behind my house. It was roughly one in the morning and I knew it was dangerous to be out after dark. I had a weak flashlight with me and as soon as it flickered out; I knew everything was about to go from bad enough to considerably worse. Little did I know that the worst would soon become the best?
I heard a faint meow to my left so I felt my way towards the sound. The trees were rough against my delicate hands until I arrived at a small clearing. At first I couldn't believe what I was seeing but eventually it began to register.
"I didn't know mythical creatures liked cats." I said, cautiously making my way towards the incredibly tall man holding my kitten. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my chest; like a burning blade tearing into my skin. I peeled down the collar of my shirt and stared wide eyed at the bloody symbol cut into my flesh. It was simply a circle with a fat 'X' through it.
"You're destined to die." The man said; as if those were the most normal four words in the world.
"Well that sucks for me I guess." I cough and pulled the kitten back into my arms. The tall man turned to face me and I stood staring where his eyes should have been.
"You’re not afraid of me?" If he was truly shocked, I couldn't hear it in his voice. "That's quite foolish of you. Now give the cat back to me and go away." The man started to sound more like a literate and educated teenager rather than a clean-cute gentleman. Any sort of fear I had of him quickly diminished.
"No, she’s my cat: I don't think it's very gentleman-like to steal peoples' cats." I replied, scratching my kitten's furry chin.
The man laughed: a deep, hearty laugh. "You think I'm a gentleman?" He asked, leaning down to rest his elbows on his knees. He was eye level with me: bent all the way over to match my five-feet-seven. His face was close enough that I should have felt his breath tickling my lips, but I didn't. "I'm ageless, silly girl. Why act like a dull old man when I could act so much younger?"
"I nodded in agreement.”That's logical, but why give yourself an age at all?"
The man stood and stared down at me. "Because people do not stick around long enough to ask so many personal questions." and with that, he walked away. It was so graceful, the way his long arms swayed at his sides; he was practically gliding.
"Will I see you again?" I called after him; my heart practically beating out of my chest.
"You were marked weren't you?" Then he disappeared back into the trees.
I did see him again after that-many times.
I smiled at the vivid memory, saddened by the fact that something so wonderful was killing me.
"I'd stop it if I could, Charlotte; you know I would." He rested his hands on my cheeks and pulled my gaze up to meet his. "But if it stopped, you'd never see me again."
My eyelids grew heavy and tears welled. He gently stroked my cheek; brushing away the salty trails. "I'd rather die." I murmured.
"I do love you Charlotte, and I will love no one else for as long as I do exist." With those final words, my face grew hot and a tickling stream of blood spilled from the corners of my mouth. I left him with an adoring smile and collapsed, face first, into the forest floor.
He watched her go, emotionless, but devastated all the same. As he has done with every victim, he removed her organs and replaced each of them; un-functioning. Her heart, however, he kept for himself.