To Know Death – Short Story
By: Amaryliss White
It carries her body through the night. You watch the thing as it slithers through alleys and around corners, feet touching stone but making no sound, red-tinged eyes darting around to make sure no one is watching.
But it misses you.
It may be the creature of the night, but you are the ruler of the hunt. Your body is frail compared to its; soft skin against brute strength, twenty years against hundreds, grit against wit. You fight for the light, and it defends the darkness. You have been trained to track, capture, and kill, while it only knows how to escape.
You are human, and it is a vampire.
The vampire enters its domain the woman’s body. Her blood-red dress starkly out of place in the dark, devious shadows. You know there is no chance in saving her for she is already dead; a quick nip to the neck severed her ties with life just moments ago. Regret might’ve filled you once, but now you are only left with the burning desire to hear the crack of the vampire’s bones, see the red leave its eyes forever, feel the triumph of the victory. You live to know death.
The vampire inhabits an abandoned apartment building near the edge of town. The place looks empty and dangerous, but you know better. You have been following this vampire long enough to know it, as all other vampires, is a master of illusion.
You wait until the vampire disappears deep into the apartment before entering it. Spiders drip down the walls, holes gape in the floor, and the smell of a rotting corpse pervades the air. This might look like the typical place you’d find a vampire, but real vampire hunters can immediately tell when they’re in an illusion, and know that vampires live in luxury, and that they never feast on a corpse long enough for it to rot.
You reach the stairs and hear shuffling above. When you reach the second level, the whole place changes. Instead of wooden floors, they’re richly covered with deep red rugs; instead of ripped-up wallpaper, famous paintings and fancy, unlit lamps adorn the walls. The only thing that is still repugnant is the smell: rotting corpses are replaced with fresh blood.
A long hallway stretches before you, and you hurry forward, your footsteps light upon the plush rugs, making only whispers of sounds. At the end of the hall, a door stands slightly ajar. You take a wooden stake out from within your cloak.
You slip through the door, and spot the vampire. It is kneeling over the woman’s body, sinking its teeth into her already torn neck to drink her blood. It moans with pleasure from the blood and does not notice you.
Not until you are one step away from it.
A cry emanates deep from within, and it leaps up, staring at you in alarm. Its eyes are black streaked with vicious red. They are filled with confusion. “No!” The vampire’s cry slices through the air as it looks down at the body. “I didn’t do it! I just found it here!”
You hear your mentor’s voice: Sometimes vampires get stuck in the past, unable to differentiate between real and unreal. You raise up your wooden stake and smile. This is your favorite moment. Their shock of being caught before you pierce their heart, separate their head from their body, watch them ignite.
Your arm pulls back, a millisecond from plunging it into the vampire’s body — and then you are gone from the room. Your mind whirls before you finally realize you’re in one of the vampire’s illusions. Sapphire-blue waves slap against sand while the sun’s scalding heat burns your skin.
You scream in frustration and swing your stake around. It’s just an illusion, you tell yourself. An image, a fabrication. You stumble forward, and your foot hits something invisible — the woman’s body. The illusion twists and disappears entirely, blessed darkness taking its place.
Instinct fuels you now; you turn around, looking for the vampire, waiting for it to pounce on you.
It happens like a dream. You feel something inching behind you, and as you turn, it turns with you, and — you feel something inside your chest. When you look down, a silver stake emerges from your chest. It’s impossible.
“Kill your own kind, do you?” a voice snarls. The silver stake is yanked out of your body and you rotate to see not a vampire, but a boy, facing you.
“I — I’m not a vampire,” you stutter, your thoughts turning incoherent. Blood is pouring from your wound, but you feel nothing. “I hunt vampires. I kill them.”
“Maybe you did once,” the boy says. “But no more.” With those words, he drops the stake and whips something out of his pocket: a match.
You can only watch numbly as the boy sets the place on fire. Light flickers through the room and you can see what you never could before. A mirror stands before you, and in the glass, a person stands, a hole in their heart. As you watch, your eyes connect with the person in the mirror’s: red fleeing from the black, turning the irises darker and darker.
Memories flood you. You don’t know when, but somewhere, sometime, you became a monster, killing both humans and vampires alike in your bloodlust; the lines between good and bad blurred and you knew only violence and death.
The pain seems to come suddenly in streams and rivers. You fall to the ground gasping, clutching the hole in your chest, silently begging and screaming for life.
Vampires are deceivers, and you’re one of the best, but you cannot deceive yourself any longer. It was not a person in the mirror. It was a vampire. It was you.
As life trickles from you and flames embrace your skin, you close your eyes. In some past life, you lived to know death; now, you will die to save lives.