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The Note Beside the Body

by Lawrence Watt-Evans

      If you let me in I'll kill you.
      You won't believe that, of course. No one ever does. I'm giving you fair warning, though - if you let me in, I really, truly will kill you. I will tear open your throat and drink your blood, and you will die of it. No, I can't stop myself before the blood loss is fatal; even when I've tried, even when I've struggled with myself so hard that I thought my bones would break and my head explode, even when I've left enough blood that I thought survival was possible, the end has always been death. Perhaps there's some toxin involved, some venom I produce; I don't know, and there's no one I can ask.
      And no, you will not rise again, as I did. I don't know the technique of creating more of my kind, nor would I use it if I did. I remember my own rebirth, but I have neither the knowledge nor the desire to recreate it. The creature that made me what I am is gone, long ago; I don't know where or how.
      If you let me in I'll kill you, and you will be dead, dead, dead. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes - whatever lies beyond death, if anything does, you'll know it long before I do.
      I imagine you standing there reading this, thinking, "The poor little thing has gone mad." You don't believe in vampires - or if you do, you don't believe that the pitiful waif you met at Ron's party could be one.
      Believe it. I am a vampire. I am a bloodsucking creature of the night, and when I come to your door tonight, if you let me in, I will kill you.
      Think about it - have you ever seen me by daylight? Have you ever looked closely at my teeth? And doesn't it feel unnatural to be so strongly drawn to someone you barely know? Especially a scrawny, pale slip of a girl who can't be older than nineteen, at the most?
      But then, even if you accept that I might be what I claim to be, even if you begin to believe that I have existed for one hundred and twenty-four years by drinking the blood of the living, you still can't imagine that I would harm you, can you? You're a head taller than I am and probably twice my weight, with broad shoulders and solid muscles. You don't fear me; you can't. You know the stories say that vampires are inhumanly strong - the strength of three men, or ten, depending which books you read - but I'm so small and frail that you can't see me as a threat.
      That makes me all the more dangerous, of course. My victims never believe until it's too late. It's protective coloration, like a tiger's stripes. I can tell you this, and you still won't believe it.
      If you let me in, I will kill you. In your last few minutes of life you will finally believe me, finally understand that every word of this letter is true - but it will be too late.
      And of course, one reason you won't believe me is that I am writing this letter. If I were truly the heartless, murdering predator I say I am, why would I warn you?
      I am a predator, a murderer, yes - but I'm not heartless, or at least I don't think I am. Sometimes, after so long, it's hard to be sure just what's honest emotion and what is merely memory or lingering habit.
      I was human once. I loved, and hated, and was caught up in all the everyday concerns of life beneath the sun. I had a brother I adored, but when I had become what I am now I killed him. I was devoted to my father, and I murdered him, as well. I slaughtered my own mother. I loved them all, and yet I drank their blood, sucked the life from their veins, watched them weaken and die, and when the frenzy had passed I screamed with grief each time, I shuddered and wept and flung myself across their bodies.
      I don't react quite so emotionally any more. Anything can grow familiar with repetition, and the pain of knowing I've destroyed what I love has grown less acute.
      But the pain is still there. I love you, Jim; I love life, and light, and laughter. I love people, love the flash of wit and the charming smile and the comforting arm. I'm alone in the world, and in the end I must always stay alone; what makes it tolerable is the brief encounters, the human contact, the genuine warmth that I find as I hunt.
      To destroy a human life is a terrible thing, Jim, and yet I can't help myself. The craving is unbelievable in its intensity; the fiercest hunger you ever felt, the most unbearable yearning, is nothing to it. It builds slowly, very slowly - I feed no more than two or three times a year, and sometimes, when my will is strong, even less. Those tales of vampires striking night after night - nonsense! We're cold-blooded creatures, and a human body holds an amazing amount of blood; just as some snakes will go weeks between meals, we go months.
      There's a cycle to it. When I have fed I'm bloated and torpid; I want nothing but to rest, to lie quiet somewhere in the comforting darkness. You'd hardly recognize me as the skinny little girl you know.
      But then the torpor passes, and a certain edginess begins - an edge that manifests itself in that elfin smile you remarked upon when we first met. I long for human company - and at first, only for company.
      So I find it. I seek it out. And sometimes I tell myself that this time, I will resist; this time, when the urge for companionship begins to turn to a lust for blood, I will force myself to withdraw, to go away, to leave my new friends behind - for of course, I don't dare return to the same circle of friends after I've killed.
      I never resist. I never withdraw. The transition is so subtle that I never notice it until too late. I will suddenly find myself looking upon the people I sought out for their warmth and intelligence not as companions, but as potential prey. Invariably, infallibly, the change occurs and the hunger begins to grow.
      I think this is hell, Jim. When I come to realize that it's too late, that I must destroy everything I have been enjoying, that I will kill the one I love best and leave the others shocked and grieving - I think this must be hell.
      I grow thin, and tense, and take on what one victim described as an erotic glow; I become almost irresistible to men and women alike.
      And I choose my prey, Jim, as I chose you.
      I fight it as long as I can, but in the end it's always the same - I come to my lover's door and knock, and when I am admitted...
      Sometimes I lunge immediately. Sometimes I'm able to speak, to hold off, sometimes even to warn. At such times I must sound quite mad - I rave, I weep, I scream as I struggle against the hunger.
      The struggle makes the inevitable so much sweeter, Jim. The pumping rush of blood on my lips is always a delight and a release, but when I have resisted it's heightened, infinitely more intense. This is the heaven that I survived hell to experience.
      You know, I've never noticed that it matters whether my prey has resisted. Vampirism is selfish, to say the least.
      Afterwards, when I am alone with a still-cooling corpse, the ecstasy passes and the grief blooms briefly. I flee, aching, swearing that it would be better to die forever than to go through it all again.
      But then that passionate regret is smothered by the growing weariness, the torpor; I find somewhere I can hide and rest, and it all begins again.
      I cannot stop myself.
      But I can warn you. I can give you a chance. I can't fight my nature, but perhaps you can.
      One part of the vampire legends is true - I cannot enter a home until I have been invited.
      Another part, as well - the sun can destroy me.
      So when I come to your door at midnight, wearing that silk dress you admire so, with my hunger radiating from me as an almost-visible aura of overheated sensuality, my scent reaching into your heart, don't let me in.
      If you let me in I'll kill you.
      If you can keep me outside until dawn, I'll flee, I'll seek shelter from the burning sun, and you'll be able to build defenses, to keep me out. I'll go elsewhere, seek other prey - perhaps little Brandon, or that Ashley we saw at the theater. If I retain enough control I'll even warn them, as I am warning you.
      If you can keep me outside until dawn, you'll be safe.
      I love you, Jim - I love you for your warmth and your beating heart, for your smile and your rich, deep voice. I don't want to kill you. I want you to live and be free and happy. I don't want to hurt anyone.
      That's why I'm warning you. That's why I've warned the others, time after time, for more than a century. I've told them all to keep me out, to forbid me entrance, to hold out until dawn.
      How hard can it be? It's not forever; it's just until dawn.
      I may beg. I may weep. I may scream with anger, shout bitter threats, tell you I hate you. Don't let me in.
      The others did. All of them. They all died, Jim, snuffed out to appease my hunger for a few more weeks. No one has ever believed me strongly enough, or loved his own life enough, to keep me out.
      Maybe you'll be the first. I hope so. Or part of me does.
      Believe this, Jim. Really believe it. Don't let me in.
      If you let me in I'll kill you.

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