The rain continued to fall outside, slowly cascading down the window. An eerie reflection of the emotions that built within me. I could barely keep my eyes open. And as they slowly began to shut and my body began to finally give in to sleep – a loud, heavy thump jolted me awake.
“What was that?”
I walked from my desk and made my way towards the balcony to investigate. I lived in an old house so unexplained noises weren’t uncommon, but this sounded like someone – or something had landed upon my roof.
As I pondered, a young woman landed in front of me, soaked by the rain. She looked at me, her long unkempt brown hair shrouded her face, yet I could sense she was beautiful. I snapped out of my confusion and let out what can only be described as a high pitch scream.
I know what you’re thinking, a beautiful girl lands in front of him and this guy starts screaming? I apologise, but it was rather unexpected and wasn’t something I did intuitively.
The unknown woman took a step back. I regained my composure and opened the balcony door.
“Hey…can I help you with something? It’s not safe to be traversing roofs in this weather, you could fall-
Disregarding my cautionary tale of how roofs become slippery when wet, she shook her hair and asked whether she could come in. Harmless – right?
“Sure, come on in,” I motioned stepping back.
With a speed that didn’t seem humanly possible she crossed the threshold into my house. I turned and looked to see her sitting, almost too casually in my desk chair. It was a good chair I will admit, but something seemed off about her.
“How did you get there?” I stuttered as I whirled around to face her, my body stiffening.
She looked at me, eyes fixed, with a smirk spreading across her face.
“Oh, you know, just in a bunch of movements and motions, same as you would do but at a much faster pace.”
All I could think was that this was oddly familiar to the events that transpired within the books Interview with a Vampire and Twilight but with a role reversal.
“It is exactly like that!” she said excitedly as she straightened walking towards me.
“But I didn’t say anything?” I replied.
“There is no need for you to say anything, I can read minds. So, let me just get this out of the way. Yes, I am a vampire. Yes, to enter a residence or dwelling I need an invitation. And yes, I am immortal,” she recited this like she was reading from a shopping list.
I had subconsciously started to walk away from her, slowly backing up until I reached the stairs. In an awkward manner whilst giving her the thumbs up.
“Please, don’t be alarmed I’m not going to drink your blood – I passed an orphanage on the way here and am full to bursting!”
Horrified at those comments I panicked and ran down the stairs two at a time towards the front door. To my shock, she was already standing there blocking any form of escape.
“My goodness! Why god?” I shouted to no one.
“I know that was a tasteless joke, but I can ensure you, I won’t be drinking your blood, so you can stop praying to the man upstairs.”
I looked at her, frozen in place. Getting my nice wooden floor wet – I lived in London so that was a regular occurrence, but still… How dare she? That would require some mopping later. If there was a later…
“Let’s just forget about the floor for a moment please,” she said, bringing me back to reality.
My heartbeat slowed. Fear wasn’t what I felt anymore, I felt calm. I had forgotten about the rain, I’d forgotten about the work I was doing at my desk. I’d forgotten about everything. I saw her and only her. She was glowing. However, I could sense something wasn’t right. She looked troubled. Scared even.
“Who are you?” I finally managed to ask.
“I’m Jane,” she replied smilingly.
“I’m Tim,” I put simply.
Having established each other’s names Jane went and sat in front of my fireplace, her face was furrowed, deep in thought.
“Well I don’t mean to be rude, but what are you doing here exactly?” I tried to say this as politely as one can when a vampire pays unexpected visit. Maybe I should offer her some tea, do vampires even drink tea?
Jane looked up at me, and before I could say another word she embraced me. We hugged for only a minute in total but each second seemed to stretch longer than the last. I could feel that she was in pain. She released me and once more sat by my fire place. The embers had now died down to a soft glow. She breathed heavily and told me everything. A story like no other. The tea would have to wait…
“You see, I can read peoples spirits. I can literally find out everything about a person who I choose to focus on. Your spirit and everyone else’s on this planet, rises above you, towards the sky, like smoke from a chimney. And if I choose to, I can inhale it, breathe it in. I can discover who that person truly is. Whether they are kind and gentle or sinister and evil.”
I looked at her while trying to digest everything she was saying. And I believed all of it.
“Tim, do you want to come on an adventure with me?” she said with an unbreakable gaze
“I do,” I said, and without so much as batting an eyelid she grabbed my hand and off we went into the cold Winters night.
London is a different place at night, the buildings and streets seem to morph like creatures that have a will of their own. And all I could wonder, as my heart continued to beat ever faster was that this is what it felt like to be alive!
“You know, you’re awfully brave,” Jane said nonchalantly, as she turned to face me in the middle of an empty street. “After everything I’ve told you, you still didn’t hesitate to follow me out into the night, a vampire’s playground…”
“Well if I followed you out into the day you might disappear on me, you know with the sun and all that? Or worst begin to sparkle – now that would be truly terrifying!” I said this as a joke but she seemed to react sombrely as if there were truth to my words. “Well, where do we go from here?” I said as I removed my hands from my pockets.
Jane gave a mischievous smile and said, “have you ever explored The London Library at night?”
“I have not,” I replied, thinking that generally you needed light to read.
“Well let me be the first to introduce you to the magic that is a library bathed in moonlight!”
Locked doors were not a problem for Jane, she pushed, they opened. It was as simple as that. Although, I had to go in first and then invite her in, given that she was a vampire. As we entered the library, a shard of moonlight caught her face, her beauty was truly breathtaking. It almost hurt to look at her. We made our way through rows and rows of books, a lifetime of knowledge shadowing our every step. Past words that seemed so fragile, that would eventually outlast us all in the end.
We came to an abrupt stop, resulting in me running in to the back of her with a hard thud. Literally, as pleasant as colliding with a brick wall head-on.
“I want you to read this to me,” Jane said whilst holding a book to my face. The book was William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
I took the book from her and looked at it, turning it over in my hands. “You know, this isn’t the happiest of bedtime stories,” I said wryly, whilst shaking my head.
“I don’t want you to read it to me in the form of a bedtime story, I want you to read it to me as if we were the last two people left on earth.” Given the vastness of the library that wasn’t hard to imagine. “As if you were reading this for the first time and I was hearing it for the last.” Gone were the anecdotes and humorous undertakings in what she had previously said. Her words were now filled with a deep yearning. I looked into her eyes and then opened the book, the moonlight guiding my way as I began to read while she laid her head on my shoulder;
“Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean…
I read well into the night, only breaking every so often to see if she was still listening. She always was, she seemed absorbed by what she was hearing as though it had taken her to another place.
And as I uttered those last fateful words, I could see a single tear escape her eye-
“For never was a story of more woe,
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”
I sighed heavily and fought back the tears in my eyes as I closed the book. I then felt her take my face in her hands. She leaned in and kissed me fiercely. Time ceased to exist anymore, we were one in this moment. And as suddenly as it had started it was over as our lips slowly drew apart.
“What did I say about libraries at night?” she teased. “That they were magical,” I replied jokingly but I could tell she knew that I now believed those words.
Jane and Tim then made their way out of hallowed halls of London library. Vampire and man, once formerly predator and prey, each other’s guide as they stole into the night, blissfully unaware of what the morning would bring. The door eased shut and they left not a trace, but for one small book, that was left de-shelved on the floor. A remnant of their time together there, nothing less, nothing more. In the distance – as their silhouettes danced in the street lights – Big Ben chimed hauntingly signaling that it was now 2am. A stray taxi sped past them as they made their way across the cobblestone streets arm in arm. Where else would the night take them Tim thought with excitement? All he knew was that if Jane was leading the way he would follow.
They stood opposite the House of Parliament on the South Bank of the river Thames, outside the now closed ticket office for the London Eye.
“Two tickets please Messieur,” Jane said in a newly developed French accent. “One for me and one for my dear friend,” she motioned to me with exaggerated hand gestures. I took it as my role to play the ticket officer. “Why certainly Madame, will you be paying by cash or credit?” I queried trying to keep a straight face. “You see, my dear dispenser of tickets, I have no money,” Jane shrugged and revealed empty pockets. “Ah but of course that is no problem given that we are off the clock, you and your painfully handsome friend can ride free of charge.” I said motioning towards the London Eye. “Oh, but we couldn’t!” Jane said feigning resistance as she placed a hand over her heart. “Please, I would be insulted if you didn’t!” “Well if you insist, par ici (this way) Tim.” Jane took my arm and lead me towards the Ferris wheel that stood like a lone mountain stretching towards the night sky.
Running my hands through my hair I said rather disappointingly “well, unfortunately I don’t think even you have the ability to operate a dormant Ferris wheel Jane.” “You underestimate me my good man, magic isn’t just relegated to the libraries of the world, it is all around us, in our very being. You just need to look.” As she said this she placed one hand on an empty carriage and closed her eyes, her face becoming still. And in the next moment the Ferris wheel sprung to life. I took a step back amazed at what I had just seen.
“How?” I stammered softly.
“It doesn’t matter how,” she replied faux-mockingly, as the carriage door opened. I smiled back at her and took her outstretched hand as we bordered the carriage. The compartment jolted slightly and then proceeded to ascend. I took hold of the cold steel railing and looked out over the city skyline. Lights flickered from down below and all I could think was how fragile everything looked. Jane on the overhand, seemed to be studying my face intently. Her face displaying a canvas of both joy and sadness. I looked at her and grinned “one day,” I said as I wrapped my arms around her, “none of this will be ours,” I said gesturing towards the city. She laughed cheerfully and squeezed my hand. “Luckily for you I didn’t choose to embark on this adventure with you for your fame or fortune,” she said warmly.
“Why did you choose me?” I asked as I looked out over the lights of London. “Out of all the spirits you could have inhaled, you chose mine on tonight of all nights.”
Her body stiffened and she pulled away from me and moved to the other side of the carriage. She breathed deeply as if contemplating what she should say next. I looked at the back of her, confusion and frustration began welling up inside me.
“Jane, why did you choose me to share this experience with you? What is this all about?” I couldn’t conceal the pain in my voice as it broke, “is this some sort of game? I asked angrily whilst taking a step towards her. “Just tell me!” I implored her just to say something. Anything. Jane turned around and faced me, tears staining her cheeks and I felt a pang of sympathy cut through my chest. “Jane…please…” She couldn’t look me in the eyes as she began to speak. “I know what’s wrong with you Tim,” Jane said no louder than a whisper. However, I heard each word as if it was carved into my mind. I staggered away from her, “nothing is wrong with me!” I half-shouted. “Nothing is wrong with me, I’m completely fine, can’t you see that I’m fine!” I began spewing out words frantically, trying to convince her, trying to convince myself that I was okay. I turned away from her, I couldn’t bare seeing the anguish etched across her face. And the thought that I may be the cause of her pain was unbearable. “I’m all sweet, I’m not sick! I mean I don’t smoke! I don’t drink! I don’t do drugs! I FUCKING RECYCLE- for god’s sake!” I dropped to the floor and broke down. My whole body shook as I sobbed, “I’m fine aren’t I…?”.
Silence consumed the carriage as tears fell.
Eventually I managed to look up at her and ask, “why am I sick Jane?” Desperately, half-hoping she could give me an answer. She just looked at me somberly. She wrapped her arms around me and knelt as I laid my forehead on her lap. What could she say? She just held me as I continued to cry – all this pain that I had been carrying around for the last six months since the diagnosis poured out of me like rain in the heart of a storm. Jane ran her fingers through my hair, soothing me as I wept, the carriage slowly rocking whilst perched in the night’s sky.
We walked home through the dark, silent streets of London. My body trembled, I felt both physically and emotionally drained. The night had begun with such a sense of wonder and adventure, but now I could only feel the bite of the cold Winters air. Inside, the fire had nearly died out. No words had been spoken for a while. I let my body sink into the sofa and Jane eased into the armchair opposite me. We watched the flames dance before they eventually disappeared sending us into pitched-blackness.
“I’m sorry Tom,” Jane said softly. “I should have told you that I knew about your illness, I should have told you a lot of things…” I looked towards where her voice had come from, why was she apologizing? Before I could speak Jane continued, “you see, I’m more than just some vampire, I am Death.” Death? As in the Grim Reaper? I thought to myself. “I am here to collect your spirit and accompany you to what lies beyond.”
It was my time. After months of watching the clock, each second bringing me ever closer to the precipice of life itself, my time had come. Strangely, fear wasn’t what I felt, I just smiled and said “you aren’t what I envisioned death to look like? In all honesty, I thought you’d be taller, and how can you be both Death and a vampire, that doesn’t seem really fair?” Taken aback by what she had just heard, Jane straightened, “Taller?” she said rather indignantly. “That’s what you took from that revelation? That you thought I’d be taller?” she chuckled. Jane then took on a more serious tone, “Usually I don’t intervene in the affairs of mortals but upon inhaling your spirit I felt the purity in your soul, the beauty and kindness that encompasses your heart, I thought it only right that I would take you on one last adventure…” She trailed off, it seemed that even for Death the subject of dyeing was still a hard thing to talk about.
“But isn’t dyeing the greatest adventure of them all?” I said, surprised by my own enthusiasm. “Jane, what you have done for me tonight… I got to truly live once more, I ended up where I guess I always wanted to be, here with you. I’m now ready for whatever comes next – I love-”
And before Tim could say anything else, as night turned to day, Jane kissed him one more time, one last time – and with it Tim found peace, as his eyes slowly closed, forevermore.