In The Shade


I try to stretch my legs as much I can and watch as a juvenile deer tip-toes into the clearing before me, stops and chomps at a few tender blades of grass. It’s been so long so I’ve seen a deer like this, in the light of day. When was it now… Vienna perhaps? She pauses and flicks up her head – has she caught my scent? She is frozen, a vein under her eye the only indication of life. She does – she smells me now, even if she cannot see me obscured in the shadows just a few feet away. Her moist nose twitches a little and then she is gone, darting off into the undergrowth once more.

Like so many beautiful things in my life, her stay is fleeting. As fleeting as my encounter the previous night. Wild and full of youthful glee, we had chased each other through the gardens of the house and then into the surrounding woodland. As I ducked between branches, chasing the moonlight shimmering against her uncurled hair, the thrill of the hunt took over me. My veins tightened and pace quickened. Before I could consider my actions, I was upon her, my true intentions unveiled along with my incisors. The drained champagne bottle in her hands had been all but forgotten to me; its use as a weapon made more out of fear and adrenaline than genuine bravery. As gravity carried my dizzying body to ground, as with the deer, I could only watch as my young lady friend fled barefoot in the night.

The dampness of dew seeping into my chest had awoken me, mercifully in time to retreat hastily from the beams of golden morning sunlight breaking through the trees. Too far and too turned around for any hope of returning to the sanctuary of the house, I found myself a little cave. Formed from the lifted roots of a fallen oak, it proved just enough shade to envelop my body. And so there I have cowered, huddled amongst the ridges of orange fungus and writhing worms, trapped in a prison without walls, just watching and waiting.

Beyond my brief visit from the doe, my only other company has been the unwelcome buzzing of flies and my own memories. Reminiscing, I drift back through my many journeys and misadventures. Partying in Berlin, duelling in Verona, the Caste War Рfighting for both sides at one point or another. I have witnessed so many empires rise and fall, the crows picking at the bludgeoned remains of so many a battlefield, that such events almost seem blas̩ to me. History is just one great wheel, turning over and over. Love and loss, boom and bust. Each new generation thinking themselves superior to those that came before, yet in truth, no more significant than any other ape evolved to stand and walk upright.

Then I think of the lovers. So many beds, so many whispered promises meant in earnest yet revoked before the break of dawn. I pluck out of some of the names: Alexia, eyes brown like amber. Cassidy, pale blue. Madame Beliveau, a green so fragile they haunt me still. There is one face though, one bosom, more sacred and fleeting than the rest. Not a bedfellow, but just as intimate. Yet, no matter how hard I try, her name and her features are lost to me. Such a stain upon one’s soul, to have lived so long as to be unable to remember one’s own mother. I saw the name “Macedonia” on a map once and somehow knew I been born and raised there but nothing more.

I do my best to bury this twinge beneath a sea of far more agreeable sins. Assassination, torture, sabotage. I have no regrets – why would I? Mortal men have rewarded me handsomely for doing the tasks their moral fibres forbade them from doing themselves and so I have lived an eternity of over indulgence and excess. My every whim and hunger has been satisfied and beyond. Yet there are gaps in my existence, areas that I know I will never get to experience. Growing old with someone, seeing each other slowly disintegrate and not caring. Stepping into the coolness of an ocean and looking down at my feet refracting through the lapping waters. To teach or mentor another living being in a discipline other than bloodletting – to have that satisfaction of having left a legacy rather than being one.

The afternoon has taken on a distinct chill now and the forest floor is awash with more patches of shadow than of light. Just a little longer and I will be able to stretch my arms and legs and walk out of here, stroll through the refreshing half-light back to the house where the others will be waiting for me. I moisten my lips at the thought of what delights this night will undoubtedly bring us. Perhaps too risky to return to the nearby village just yet but Rufus said he had noticed a gathering of tents down by the lake, the churning of music and clinking of bottles. Teenagers. Yes, just a little longer and I can stop haunting myself with these echoes of pasts I can’t remember and futures that will never be mine. Another few minutes I will become myself once more.

The remainder of the sun gathers into a fierce amber, clinging to horizon and barely visible between the trees. It forms an intense triangle just a few feet before me – all that is left of the sun’s glory condensed into one burning beam. I clamber out of my little cubby hole, allowing my neck and back to crack back into place. Turning to the hillside behind me I see the end of the garden is just in sight – I’d been closer than I’d expected. The others will be waiting for me, I should get back. Back to my eternity. Yet something lingers in the fore of my mind. Not sadness, I haven’t felt that in an age. Something similar though. A sort of strange lament. I take a few steps forward, allowing that single beam of gold to bathe my ancient face. In that moment I am cleansed. I am free.

Title image courtesy 47803993@n08

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Published in: on June 9, 2011 at 7:16 PM  Comments (8)  
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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. At least he got free. It seems his own thoughts are worth running from some of the time.

    • Cheers John! Yeah I like to think this has a bit of a happy ending, our MC is clearly a tormented chap despite his thoughts saying otherwise.

  2. I had an inkling that he was going to creep out into the light; i liked the imagery you use to convey his deep yearning for things impossible to experience.
    Typo alert: first paragraph “moist noise”. I think you mean “nose”!

    • Cheers for pointing out the typo – I’m going to blame autocorrect for that one. Aww, I’m disappointed you sussed onto the ending – had hoped it would be seemed like he was more keen to go back to his wicked ways. Glad you enjoyed it though!

  3. The imagery is great. At least he found freedom. Though suicide seems a little . . . I don’t know. Does he commit suicide by letting the sun burn him? Not entirely sure.

    • Hi Sonia, thanks for the comments. Yes, without spelling it out, suicide was the conclusion here and I’m hanging it on the old adage of sunlight killing vampires (hence him being in the cave in the first place). I think considering this gentleman’s past, suicide is probably the least of his sins.

  4. I like this take on vampires. His brooding thoughts have an age that lends a mystique to this. The cleansed/free does a good job of hinting towards the suicide; or at least an Opus Dei self-mortification.

    • Cheers Aidan. A lot of recent takes on vampires have usually had then enlisted fairly recently (within the last century), I wanted to get as far away from that as possible (so far that he can’t remember). Thanks for the kind comments!


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