By Aaron R. Shotwell

He stood there at the dry wind's mercy, gazing down, down, down through the hazy lift of light smog to the busy crowd below, and their finely detailed faces formed a spiritually drab tapestry of boredom and depression. To a man ignored by mortality, and for that matter, time itself, no single face had any more meaning than the other. The vampire Adrianus, new leader of the people of the dark, is what they'd used to call him. Maybe those were the days that the immortal looked around them and longed for the simplicity of life, in its intense flavor and blissfully short span. Maybe they knew something that the mortals didn't, something they never wanted to know: he who walks the eternal road walks alone.

Much had changed around him, in the form of electronics, vehicles, buildings, trends, population, but none little more than bothersome noise to him. His true name was Adrianus Lucius, but he went under assumed names and titles every half-century to pull a veil over the image of his immortality. Of course, that also meant moving to remain an unknown face, but he returned to his manor in Rome occasionally.

He remembered little of his human life before being turned, but this place, this towering ruin of age-stained stone, dragged memories from his soul of long lost happiness. It alone provided him with comfort and a sense of belonging in his first few centuries of immortality. However, he who walks the eternal road walks alone. Now, even this humble abode left dead and alone offered him no escape from the unforgiving masses, offered him no return to peace and livelihood.

The stones themselves had forgotten his touch, cold and clammy beneath his palms as he leaned on the balcony ledge, coated with an uncomfortable dust and thicker filth that blackened his skin. Those beneath his leather soles made the sound of sandpaper and the slide of wet tile. Dust coated everything in a very unwelcoming manner, and yet clung to his overcoat, as if pulling him in, begging him to stay.

As he stood there, he remembered the view he used to enjoy, the view of the auburn sunset behind the small surrounding houses, fading the light of day to candlelight in the windows. He loved the feel of the crisp night air that embraced him and lightly cooled the silk within his robe. In the early evening, he could smell bread baking and the burning tobacco in pipes of the old men that sat and talked each day on the bench not too far away. Those were the best memories that he could still recall, and they would soon fade with the rest.

The power of vampirism once thrilled him, but it had become a heavy, drilling burden. Obviously it brought joy only to the pureblood. He used to look down on humanity as ants, insignificant specks of food that lasted no longer than the blink of an eye. He was a god among men, but not worshiped as such. It brought nothing but lonely emptiness. At this point, he'd rather end it himself than live it another day.

He turned back into the old bedroom to escape the loathsome sight of the city, but it offered him no more comfort. The walls were crumbled and uneven, and the decorative carpets were faded and thin. The chandelier that hung above the bed grew lackluster, and chipped beyond repair. The wooden shelves in the corner of the room and the door near there were flimsy and barely supported their own weight anymore. As depressing as the sight was, he had no intent to dwell on it long.

He drew down a small, wooden box from atop the flimsy shelf, a golden crest that represented his clan of the past bolted to the top. Removing the top, a red-stained, crystal dagger with silver, decorated hilt that bore the mark of the skull added an anomaly of shine to the room. It was the Dagger of Eternal Scar, a cursed dagger handed down to him from the great necromancer of his clan, Marcus of the Fallen Petals. It was forged from the crystal of blood, a rare ore found in the mountain near their stronghold, alleged stained with the blood of Death, the legendary vampiric mage. This crystal would bring death even to those who knew not an end. The wounds it inflicted would never heal.

"How ironic," he thought, "that I should end my lifeless life with a weapon awarded to me for ending the lives of others. How ironic, that I might end my curse with a curse."

Taking the dagger in hand, he continued back through the hallway, and the dagger reflected the light of the torches he lit upon his arrival. The hallway turned into passing a dining hall, decorated and centered around a lengthy table with several decorative chairs, cabinets on the left side of the room containing fine china and crystal goblets. The room was dark, with few surrounding windows facing west, no torches or candles, and a black marble floor that reflected no light, coated with the same dust as on the tiles in the bedroom. Very fitting for an event of such morbidity.

He stepped over to the china cabinet, the fine glass coated with an even finer dust to the point where it wasn't clearly transparent anymore. It served its purpose though, as the delicate dishware within remained glistening, reminiscent of its early days of use. Still, even such a well- preserved set of inanimate objects was just that, inanimate. They added no life to the abandoned building.

He opened the cabinet door with a loud click and high pitched creak, taking hold of one of the crystal goblets within. Its decorative etchings embraced his sensitive touch, and reminded him of the night that destined the house to be lonely. It was the night of his only lover's death, the death of Emma Lamont.

She was a traveler, journeying in seek of thrill and life enrichment before their fateful encounter at a local noble's party. He was there for one reason that night, to find his next victim, his next life giving source. Their meeting was stereotypical, one of the likeness of a romance novel. Their eyes met across the dance floor, past the crowd. She was attracted to his sly grin and stare, but only her supple flesh interested him.

"Quite the bite." He thought to himself. "She lusts. Her blood must be hot. It beckons me, and I will answer its call." He calmly walked across the floor, his gaze fixed on hers, and she swooned, blushed. He seemed to glide, as if he willed himself to her without walking at all. His grace was unrivaled, save for that of the object of his stare. He stopped in front of her, staring slightly down into her pale blue eyes, and they were of a heaven he would never know.

"Good evening, my fair, young maiden." He softly greeted, kissing her hand, but felt no flesh there; her silk glove held a beautiful secret.

"And to you, good sir." She squeaked, lightly giggling. She averted her gaze, her nearly involuntary smile lined with reddened cheeks.

He paused, following her eyes, and his smile hypnotized her further. "Your eyes seem lonely, my dear. How might one so radiant, one so alluring, come to such an event unaccompanied? Surely the men realize that you alone illuminate this dark night, do they not?" Words escaped her, her rapidly pounding heart rendered her breathless. "Might I have the honor of being your partner for this evening? Would you lend me happiness and your hand in a dance?"

Finally, she became confident enough to respond. "Might I ask the name of my handsome, yet insistent, flatterer?" She coyly inquired, with a raised eyebrow and half smile.

"Call me Adrian." He replied, never dropping his own devilish grin.

"Well, Adrian, I'd be happy to have you court me." She said, taking his hand and approaching the dance floor.

As the violinist began the music in light-hearted play, they bowed to one another before embracing. The music gained tempo, and they waltzed to an isolation of their hearts. They ruled the world, for in that moment, only they existed. The music quickened further, as did their steps in synch with it, and the floor seemed to heat itself beneath them. She stared into his eyes as the song declined to a slow paced end, and they seemed to catch the combined flame of the surrounding candles, as well as her heart. He returned her deep gaze, and for the first time in ages, saw into her eyes, past the flesh, and to her very soul. For the first time in ages, he knew true love. Their eyes were magnetic, and they drew one to the other, into a soft kiss.

"I never asked your name, did I?" He asked in a whisper.

"Emma, Emma Lamont." She replied with a warm smile.

That night, she explored the town with him, and the both of them found utter joy in idle banter, laughing, growing closer, and their hearts bound. The night refused to end, but the air grew cold, and they sought shelter and comfort in the study of his mansion. Their conversation continued for hours, and the glow of the fireplace dimmed. She fell asleep against his arm, carefree and glowing with newly found love. He carried her up the stares to his bedroom, and laid her beneath the sheets and quilts, watching over her for a moment. She truly was of a heaven he would never know.

As he headed for the door, she stirred awake, calling for him in a tender voice. "Adrian, don't leave me." She pleaded, reaching for him. "Come, stay with me." He smiled the smile that decorated his otherwise glum face the entire night, and returned to her side, lying next to her.

They made love till the full moon shone brilliantly through his window, and at a satisfied rest, shared a goblet of red wine, promising to never let the passion of that night end, even if destiny parted them. Through eternity, they would keep the moment.

All was peaceful for the following few hours, and sleep came over them in a protective embrace beneath the sheets. Soon however, he awoke, and his torso burned fiercely, leaving him in hyperventilation. In his night of love and passion, he had forgotten to feed. He grew weak, his legs felt unstable, and his vision became hazy. He was left with no other choice, for the urge for survival was dominant over love.

He returned to the room, breathless, and opened the door in haste. She awakened and attempted to ask what ailed him, but to no avail. He could no longer control his actions. He lunged for her, and bit down deep into her throat, tearing at her jugular vein and gulping the red flow. Upon gaining control, he looked down at his blood soaked sheets and the shell of his former infatuation, and realized what horrible deed he had done. He could do not but isolate himself in the corner and weep. From that night on, immortality was a lonely curse.

The goblet he now held was the very one that they shared, and now, it would take place in his undoing. Sitting at the far end of the table, he placed the goblet before him, and examined the edge of the dagger, gripping it rigidly.

"They say one goes mad if he feeds on his own blood." He murmured to himself. "Well, better mad than aware of my everlasting torment."

Without much thought, he slowly slit his left wrist, holding the wound over the goblet, and tensing his fist and forearm slightly to extract the blood. When nearly half full, he brought it to his lips, but did not drink. A thought passed his mind: would Heaven make an exception for the damned that loved and lost? Would God turn away he who had killed, but cast away his own threat to man, cast away his curse in respect for life?

"Even if not, an eternity in hell would be a release from an eternity in this accursed flesh! I'll not deal another the fate that parted me from Emma!" He shouted in rage, throwing the goblet aside, against the wall.

He clenched his fist hard, and his entire arm shook with the force. Blood began pouring onto the table, coating the surface, then dripping over the sides and onto the stone floor. He winced as he felt his immortality slip away, along with all of his powers. Yet, he remained steadfast in his endeavor. He would steal the death that he was so long ago denied. His body began to fail; his eyes grew bloodshot, and blood seeped from his lips and nostrils. Eventually, his weakness overcame him, and his pale, limp body fell upon the table in its own lifeblood, but the flow continued.

His eyes remained open, and he stared silently, breathlessly into the shadows. Darkness shrouded the glimmer of the room's glass and crystal, and he stared onward. For what seemed like days, he wasn't sure if he had truly died or not, but time weighed heavily, and at last, with the final calling of his beloved's name, he forced himself to pass away from the world of the living.

No one knows the fate of a vampire after death, and no one can know if he returned to his lost love. Nevertheless, one can assume his fate. His last expression held no grimace or pain, but peace.