The Night Life

In a tiny unnamed village on the outskirts of Spain there is a church steeple with the most glorious bells in the entire kingdom; but these bells never sound for fear of drowning out the Bells of the Night. A phantom choir lives in the forest- heard every night, but never seen. When they sing, hundreds of mouths unify into one voice. The sound is so whole, so pure, men go mad seeking its source. The village people named the forest el Strigoi Viu, the living dead, and every night they await its song.

One hundred girls, all bearing striking similarity, stood in perfect rows. They were pale as the moon and somber as the night. Their black gloved palms pressed together, as though in prayer; their hair pulled back into ballerina buns, accentuating their sharp widow's peaks. Uniform raven dresses buttoned up to the chin and dragged on the forest floor, a delicate lace lining the front. Their deep red lips moved in perfect time. The words they sang had no language and needed none. Gently, slowly, the sound faded. Their hands dropped and the sisters relaxed.

"The song needs much work, granddaughters," said a woman who stood in front. Her eyes were creased with time but sharp and hawk-like. "There was a hint of vibrato near the end."

A girl in the third row shifted her weight, scowling. She knew it was the tremble in her voice that tainted the music. She was young, skin still soft and smooth as a lotus blossom. Her face was angular and inhuman, like the outline on an artist's canvas before he smoothes away the harsh lines. She looked to the girl standing to her right, her dearest sister, Victorine. They could have been twins, but Victorine's face was softer, somehow less defined. Their eyes met and agreed, rolling toward Vanna who further explained the importance of a steady pitch.

Victorine's lips puckered as she spoke. "Vanna is so old-fashioned. Vibrato is revered as a mark of talent among the living. All the operas I saw in Italy had vibrato so exaggerated the room would shiver," she whispered, although she knew Vanna would hear, even if she were at eight yards distance.

The other girl sighed with admiration. "Oh Victorine, truly? You are so lucky. I can hardly imagine…"

"Victorine, D'nastra," snapped Vanna. All the girls straightened their posture and lifted their chins, as they'd always been taught. "You may all have one half hour pause. We will meet back in the clearing then, and practice until sun up." She turned to Victorine. "Then perhaps, we will speak once more of marks of talent."

The dark choir bowed their heads in acceptance and took three steps back before turning away from their grandmother.

"D'nastra," whispered Victorine, walking close and lowering her voice, hoping to have it lost in the chatter of her sisters, "do you know what time it is?"

D'nastra smiled, but looked straight ahead. "It is midnight." D'nastra's eyes were wide and innocent, her face sharp and angular.

"I have something for you." Victorine pressed a box into D'nastra's arms. It was large, but light.

"Victorine, what is-" But she could no longer hear her sister's breathing, and no longer felt her presence at her side. Sure enough, when she turned to look, Victorine was gone.

D'nastra pulled away from the group and walked slowly into the deep wood. She kept her stride even for what felt like an eternity. She listened to the ground give, just slightly, beneath her feet. She stepped so lightly as to leave no indentation in the moss. Her movement was fast and sharp, like an old film with too few frames. Hours later, when the forest was silent to her save her own breathing and gentle steps, she broke into a sprint. Her cat like grace was in no way feminine or dainty. She ran -faster and faster- until the trees were only a blur of green and brown- faster until they were barely visible. She felt her canine teeth point and dutifully she slowed. There were no birds or animals to muffle her movement, but now she was alone she sat beneath and old fir tree and started to unwrap the box. She tired to suppress her excitement at first, her teachings of rejecting human emotion coming back to her as second nature, but she ignored it and let her white fingers tremble as they pulled at the ribbon. Last year, Victorine gave her a dress of deep burgundy. The colour was strictly forbidden for its resemblance to blood; it distracted the girls from their studies, made them think of feeding. The fabric was flowing satin and covered only her thighs. D'nastra only tried it on once- her bare knees made her giggle and blush. She'd changed back into her uniform black dress quickly. The year before, Victorine gave D'nastra a red hair ribbon and scent; she hadn't yet had the chance to use either. All of D'nastra's favorite pieces of her human collection had come from Victorine, and now, opening this birthday present, she shivered with anticipation. She held her breath as she pulled off the last ribbon. Deep brown leather caressed her fingers. She pulled the jacket to her face, inhaling its delicious sinfulness. She did not know from where Victorine attained these items, and she would never ask. The box fell to the damp ground as she donned the jacket. A piece of mulberry paper fluttered to the ground, catching on an imaginary gust of wind. She looked down, and saw black ink starting to bleed into its fibers. She snatched it up from the ground. It had a message:

Dearest D'nastra,

Congratulations on surviving for 100 years.

I think it is pathetic you are still a Bell. Tragic, really. You are not like them and you know it. You were meant for adventure, like me. In the right breast pocket of the jacket there are two plane tickets. Go, live a little, and come home in one piece.

Love,

Victorine

D'nastra held in a cry of joy. One hundred years of waiting, hoping, praying to false gods and singing until her throat was raw, and finally she was leaving the Choir. She ran to Victorine, following her scent back to the clearing. The Choir was practicing, and there was a hole where she should have been standing. She met Vanna's scowl, and took her place next to Victorine. Quietly, under the song of her sisters, she whispered, "Victorine, my dear, you have saved my unholy life."

Victorine smiled, fangs glittering. "Contrary to what Vanna would have you believe, the Vampyr have a long and glorious history of adventure. We have legends, you know. I just couldn't imagine the baby of the family missing out. I couldn't stand by-"

"Vanna is going to kill us both."

Victorine answered slowly, so that her blood red lips moved with a distinguished grace. "That, young sister, is the joy of being virtually immortal."

D'nastra slipped away during the day, while her family was sleeping. Carefully, she shielded herself from the burning sun and made her way to the airport, bringing only her dress, jacket, hair ribbon and scent in her carryon. On the airplane, passengers did not hide their curiosity at her strange attire and apparent wonderment. To them, she was a teenager in a long black dress, pale as ivory with hair dark as charcoal. Her cheekbones were too defined to be human. She'd considered taking on another form, but she was young and shape shifting required skill and energy. A mistake could be disastrous. Also, she did not want to waste energy on her appearance when she had so much to take in. To them, she was strange. To her, they were fascinating. Here black eyes were stretched as open as possible, as to not miss a detail. As the plane left the ground, she thought most Vampyr do not fly until their three hundredth year, and here she was, soaring through the air at one hundred- witnessing such things of which she'd only read in her forbidden books.

As the plane dipped to land, her stomach caught in her throat. She gripped the arm rests, her wide eyes narrowing into slits, her face turning from child to killer. When the stewardess went to prepare the seats from the next flight, she found seat J 10's arm rests mangled into twists of raw iron.

Victorine lay on the forest floor where the trees were thick enough to block out the sun and thought of D'nastra. She worried about her sister, but smiled inwardly. She sighed. Adventure… real adventure.

The London night was never dark. Even when the city was dead, the street lamps and house lights polluted the air. D'nastra's eyes ached. They needed rest. They needed dark. From all around her, her ears isolated sounds, her eyes caught twitches of movement. A man down the street clicked his tongue as he walked- a cat three alleys down knocked over a trash can- a newlywed couple whispered to each other at the restaurant across the street- and all around her she smelled fresh blood. She inhaled it, closing her eyes and trying to block out her other senses- the smog on her face and taste of salt. Sweet Hecate, she thought, it was the most delicious scent ever; but she knew she could not eat. There was too much to lose. She thought back to Victorine's stories of big cities, and remembered one word associated with food: restaurant. D'nastra looked around for a sign or indicator. Five blocks down the dark street there was a building radiating music. The sign hung out from its side read "The Three Bell Club", and in small cursive letters below, it read "Pub & Restaurant". English had been easy enough to pick up on the flight over; this was the type of place of which Victorine had spoken.

She looked around. There were no witnesses. She was at the restaurant in under a second. The glass on the door had been covered with black paper. She pushed it open so harshly it smashed against the wall. D'nastra stood by the door, absorbing the sensory overload. The music- each note, each chord, each beat, breath, pulse- flooded her. She'd gone from one hundred years in a dark forest empty of any living creature to a nightclub throbbing with movement and sound. And everywhere, everywhere there was skin: bare ankles, wrists, necks, backs, midriffs, legs… skin of all different colours like she'd never seen. The large dance floor in the center of the room was filled people half clothed, moving with such reckless release. The walls were lines with peeling wallpaper and tables where some people ate. There was a bar where people sat tapping their feet and nodding their heads with the music. She smiled. They were free.

"Hey sweetheart, you looking for someone?" A red head man with foul smelling breath smiled at her.

She ignored him.

"You hear me?"

She barred her fangs and growled at him, shifting into a fight stance so quickly he didn't see the movement.

"Holy shit!"

She did not see the red head man again.

She sat at the bar and ordered a rare steak. The man behind the bar eyed her high collar warily. He had a handle bar mustache and a bald spot. She licked the blood off her plate and giggled at his reaction.

The mustache man made his way onto the stage as the band finished up, bowing and smiling. He held the mike close to his mouth so his p's puffed.

"Welcome all you creatures of the night to the Three Bell Club. It's 11:00, and you all know what that means-"

The crowd roared with applause.

"Open mike. Open stage. Take the spotlight." The crowd cheered and stomped their feet as a small band took the spotlight and started jamming. The drummer had blue hair and carried his drumsticks in his belt at the nape of his back so he could cross his arms and pull them out dramatically before he played. The singer was a harsh looking girl- skinny and bony, with a voice like gravel. She sometimes bit her red lips as she sang. But it was the guitarist who caught D'nastra's attention. His face was intense- he didn't bask in the spotlight, like the others; he basked in the music.

D'nastra had only read of such instruments. All she'd ever sung was a cappella. She suddenly longed to be on the stage, singing like the red-lipped girl.

She finished her steak and threw some coins on the bar, leaving before anyone could notice they were Spanish. She took her bag and went into the washroom, holding her breath to block out the stench. She pulled on her dress, adding her jacket on top. The tough leather contrasted the delicate satin. Her tiny black slippers and salsa skirt framed muscular calves. She looked at herself in the mirror, running her finger along her chiseled jaw line. She looked nothing like the other girls out there. She ripped the black ribbon out of her hair. It tumbled down from its ballerina bun straight and did not waver where the tie had been. She ran her hands through it, smiling as she thought of what Vanna would say if she saw her like this. D'nastra took a deep breath and shape shifted, just slightly as to soften her face. She made a point to not think of Vanna for the rest of the night.

Victorine tried to hide D'nastra's absence for the early hours of the night. When Vanna asked, she shrugged and said D'nastra had mentioned something about leaving the group to practice her pitch and work on stifling her vibrato. For the first few hours, Vanna seemed to accept this, but then she grew suspicious. All her sisters watched, necks snapping toward Victorine as she passed- eyes narrowed and evil. Their fangs were sharp. Even Victorine, brave as she was, felt nervous. She kept her chin high and met their gaze, but inside her stomach flittered, and they knew it. When one lives with one hundred murderesses, one has much to be nervous about. Especially when they all suspected her of treason.

D'nastra made her way onto the dance floor. All the people, bustling and pushing gave off that smell she so adored. The human smell made her lick her lips. She wore her Victorine's scent around her face in hopes of muddling it, but it did no good.

"Hey there," said a voice from behind her. The British accent was thick and slurred. She turned and saw the blue haired drummer, eyeing her how she might eye her prey. "You got a name, sweet?" he said, clutching a glass in his right hand and letting his left rest on her bare arm. She flinched under his touch.

"I am D'nastra of the Night Bell Choir."

"Dinnah- what?"

"She said Dianna, you blubbering drunk," said the singer too loudly, laughing and slinging her arm over the drummer's shoulders. "I'm Sarah. He's Robert." Her speaking voice was not nearly and raw as her singing voice.

"It is a pleasure to meet you. Your music is amazing."

Sarah snorted as she laughed. "You should hear us when we're sober."

"You a musician?" said Robert, setting Sarah on her feet.

"Yes. I sing."

"Really?" said Sarah, step faltering. "You should be up there jamming."

"Pardon?"

"Jamming. You know, improvising. Well, singers don't really improv it, but you get what I mean. Where you from anyway, Dianna?"

"Spain."

"A foreigner," said Sarah to Robert, lifting her glass as though in toast. She added, "welcome to London," and took a deep gulp of the golden liquid. "You should meet Eric, he's American."

"Canadian," corrected the guitarist, steadying Sarah as she stumbled again.

"Oh, whatever," she laughed.

Up close, Eric was even more breath taking than on stage. His face wasn't rigid like Sarah's, but smooth. He walked with his chin high and shoulders square. He was tall, even taller than D'nastra. And above all things outstanding were his forget-me-not eyes, and how they met her gaze when all others averted her black irises. She tried to tell herself he was human; the beat that moved with him, slow and steady, was his heart; his skin was coloured because of blood- but her self didn't listen.

Sarah's eyes shifted from D'nastra to Eric and back. She let out a low whistle and laughed. Robert said "well, I guess I blew it here," with a huff.

Sarah giggled and swayed. "Well, I'm done for the night."

Eric looked at her. "It's not even midnight."

"Well, you know how it is," she said with a hiccup. "Hey, Dianna here is a singer. I wouldn't mind much if she took my place." She winked at Eric, opening her mouth and nearly entirely closing the other eye.

Eric smiled and nodded. He turned to D'nastra and said, "You want to sing?"

"Yes, I would."

He nodded toward the stage and started walking, motioning for her to keep up. "What do you usually sing?"

"I'm in a choir back home." She laughed inwardly at the understatement.

He turned to her and gave her a quizzical look. She liked the way he brought his eyebrows closer together and sucked in his cheeks. "You've never sung rock."

"No."

"And you want to try for the first time in front of all these people?"

"Yes."

He shrugged. "You've got guts, I'll give you that."

She didn't mention how insane she found it to be afraid of the spotlight after living with literal cold-blooded killers all her life.

"You know any songs?" asked Eric.

"No."

He took a deep breath and looked her up and down, settling on her eyes. "I think you're crazy," he said.

"Question my sanity if you like, but I can sing, no matter how crazy."

He sighed. "Alright, 10 minutes, center stage.

"Sweet Hecate if that girl does not return shortly, I will rip her throat out," Vanna growled at the Choir, which stood in its usual rows. D'nastra's hole gapped open. Victorine tried to take it up somewhat, but it was no use.

"She must have gotten lost," said Victorine.

Vanna's gaze was on her. Vanna was next to her, in D'nastra's place. Victorine could smell the flesh on her breath. "Lost? Lost! She is a Vampyr. She can track a cricket three miles away, you think she could get lost in her own home?"

Victorine stuck out her chin defiantly, but did not answer.

Vanna was back at the front. Her scowl twisted into a smile- which made Victorine all the more afraid.

"Girls," said Vanna, snapping her head toward the Choir, "Find her. Bring her back. If she refuses, kill her."

The hundred vampires, all clad in black, split into the night and were out of sight in a second. Victorine was left standing in the clearing with only Vanna. Victorine turned to leave, but Vanna was on her, clutching her arms behind her back.

"Not you, wild one." Vanna laughed, and Victorine could imagine her deathly smile. "Not you."

D'nastra stood on the stage and tapped her foot as the band started to play behind her. The lights hurt her eyes, blinding her. The heat was overwhelming. The audience was immense; she could hear every heart beating, every vein flowing. She listened to the band to catch the tempo, finding the pattern in the melody. She felt a flutter in her stomach as she took a breath and opened her mouth- but then the sound came, resonating, unholy and sinful, yet pure as a babe, and she was no longer on the London stage, but back in the forest clearing, singing with her sisters. The music flowed through her. For a moment the audience was silent. Robert missed his beat. Her alien voice sounded almost tangible. Then the crowd erupted into applause, screaming and whooping like wild animals before fresh prey. D'nastra felt the edges of her mouth rise at the look of wonderment on Eric's face. She let him take a solo, and clapped with the beat with the crowd, dancing over to where Robert played.

"Holy shit," yelled Robert, "you weren't kidding when you said you could sing."

"It's my birthday," she said, laughing.

"Well happy bloody birthday, Dianna! Now get back to the mike before the crowd revolts."

She smiled at Robert over her shoulder, and tired to catch Eric's eye as she took the mike. She needn't have bothered; he was staring at her with a blatant look of marvel in his eyes.

She would have blushed if she still had blood to rush to her cheeks.

They finished the song and started another- and another and another. When she finally descended from the stage, everyone in the club was on their feet for the largest standing ovation the pub had ever seen. Eric was half a step behind her.

"What- who- you-"

She pressed a finger to her lips, hushing him and guiding him to the dance floor. No singer dared take the stage after her, but the band carried on into the morning.

She danced into the morning. All her drinks were on the house. Men, and even some women, slipped her phone numbers, but she let them all fall to the ground.

"What do you mean, 'she left'?" growled Vanna, barring her fangs.

Victorine stifled her terror and smiled. "I got her a very special birthday present this year. Do not worry, she'll be back."

"It is not her I am worried about you insolent fool," cried Vanna, slashing Victorine across the face with her razor claws. Victorine snarled and pulled at the restraints that held her to her chair. The wound would not bleed, but flesh was missing where the nails had touched. She turned her face away from Vanna.

"D'nastra is young and stupid. She will ruin everything- attack a human in public. After all these years, our secret will be exposed because of one adolescent's arrogance."

"She will not endanger her family, she is more loyal than that. Unlike some," spat Victorine. "She is not nearly as weak as you seem to think her."

Vanna smiled. "Perhaps not, but you are." Her hand moved so quickly Victorine never saw it. She was free of her restrains, but hanging above the ground, Vanna's hand at her throat. Her feet kicked wildly below her.

"Amazing, is it not? You have neither lungs nor blood," said Vanna, running her claw along Victorine's jaw line, peeling away at the flesh, "yet you can be choked. You are dead, and yet you need to breathe."

Victorine sputtered, lashing out at Vanna with her own claws.

"Where is D'nastra?" screamed Vanna, digging her claws into Victorine's hand.

Victorine managed to clip Vanna's temple, stabbing right through the skin. Vanna tightened her grip. Victorine choked and gasped, ripping at her throat, berserk as a cornered beast. Fear, terror like she had never known filled Victorine's screaming eyes- and then they were blank.

Across the continent, D'nastra let out a cry of despair and crumpled to the dance floor.

"Dianna, Dianna-" Eric was at her side. She clutched his shoulders and trembled. The image was imprinted upon her eyelids.

"Eric, get them out of here."

"Who?"

"Everyone."

He pulled back. "Why?"

She opened her eyes. Their plea broke him. "Please, Eric. Please."

What else could she say? 'My scent will lead my vampire sisters here, and they will leave no witnesses.' Hysteria swelled in her, she didn't need to start a panic.

The last thing she saw before she lost awareness was Eric taking the stage.

"What the hell are you doing?" she heard the mustached man say.

"-emergency-"

"-get out-"

"-gas leak-"

"-rats-"

Eric promised to play every Saturday for a whole month, free of charge. The owner didn't agree until he said Dianna would sing.

The door shut for the last time, and Eric and D'nastra were alone. The pub was still and lifeless, and yet D'nastra couldn't help noticing how Eric could fill up the whole room.

"Tell me what's going on," he said, pulling her to a seat."

"I can't. I am so sorry, Eric. You have to go."

"Are you in some sort of trouble?" His tone was serious.

She broke his grip on her arm. "Yes. No. Just go." She had to get back to her coven- to forget this whole thing.

"Whatever it is, I can help."

"Not with this, Eric."

He held her, and she was more acutely aware of the fresh blood flowing through his veins. Her teeth barred and she leaned in. Her claws extended, cutting into his bicep.

She threw him off, so hard he flew against the back wall. "Go away!" she screamed, tears streaming down her face.

His eyes were wide with fear- fear of her. She couldn't bear it. She ran to the washroom and changed back into her black dress uniform, shifting back into her true form. She tried to pull her hair back into a bun, but it would not fall back into place. It was as though it had tasted freedom and refused to return to its prior confinement.

"Coward."

D'nastra's head whipped around to see Victorine leaning casually in the doorway. Her arms were crossed and her voice was smooth. She wore a short dress and high heels, her hair falling to her waist.

"You are hiding your true self. You will not even admit it. Coward."

"But you- you- Vanna killed-"

Victorine scoffed. "You trust your visions far too blindly, naïve sister."

"Victorine, I'm sorry, please, I'm so sorry."

Victorine paced the floor. She licked some blood off her lips.

D'nastra froze. Victorine had come through the front door. She had seen Eric. D'nastra listened for his heartbeat, but all she heard was the click of Victorine's stilettos and the steady drip of the leaking tap.

"You cannot come back. We will never let you." Victorine spoke in Spanish.

"You brought me here," yelled D'nastra.

Victorine clicked her tongue. "Young Dianna," D'nastra flinched at the name, "so stupid. It was a test of your loyalty to the coven. You failed. You must sacrifice to return."

"Yes, Victorine, anything! I just want to go home."

Victorine pulled a dagger from her garter. "Kill him."

D'nastra could not move.

"We will forget this if you do." She pulled the door open, and Eric fell into the washroom, bound and bleeding. Three sisters surrounded him, cackling, circling around him on all fours. Their movement was sharp and jagged. Victorine turned to D'nastra. "Emotion is your problem. You are practically human you are so weak. Kill him."

Eric's eyes stared up at her. The dagger was in her hand.

"Kill him."

"Kill him."

"Kill him."

She clutched the dagger in both hands above her head, kneeling at Eric's side. He writhed and struggled to no avail. His eyes cried 'betrayal'.

D'nastra closed her eyes and let the weight of the blade carry itself.

In one swift movement, she averted it from its path, and stabbed it into Victorine's throat.

Her sisters cried out, and Victorine sputtered and choked. Slowly, a feature at a time, she shifted back to her true form.

Vanna.

D'nastra pulled the dagger from its place and threw it against the mirror. The glass shattered across the floor, reflecting the early morning light shining in from the window. She was in a fighting stance, turning from sister to sister as they circled her.

All together, they pounced.

The scene was a flurry of claws and fangs. D'nastra was cut from forehead to jaw line, paralyzing her mouth. She fought harder. She slit one of her sister's throats with a claw. The flesh gave way beneath her force- the push and give. Her animal instincts ran high and she yearned for their demise. The violence engulfed her. She ripped out the second sister's throat with her fangs. She never reached for the dagger.

She and her last sister circled.

"You are young."

"You are heartless."

"You are mortal."

"You are already dead."

They met in mid air. Her sister's claw sung deep into D'nastra shoulder. She cried out in pain, and fell to the ground, clutching her wound. Her sister struck again- this time for the heart. She ripped at the skin until the bone showed- paler than her pure white skin. She punctured a lung. "Not so immortal anymore, are we D'nastra?" hissed her sister, face twisted into a bleeding smile.

D'nastra's mind reeled. She couldn't go. Not like this. Not now, not when she'd found a world she loved- a world that loved her. She looked over at Eric who watched helplessly as the scene played in front of his eyes. She thought to herself he might not even recognize her in her true form. It was funny, in a tragic sort of way.

As her sister descended on her for the final blow, D'nastra stuck out her claws- nearly four inches long. All ten stabbed into her sister's chest.

She coughed and sputtered, as D'nastra had, as Victorine had.

"Sister, spare me."

She thought of Victorine- gone. She thought of Eric- breath shallow and pulse fading. "I'll spare you only your vile existence." She extended her claws further, until their bone showed through her sister's back.

The undead corpse fell limp to the ground.

D'nastra whipped around, looking for others. No one.

She went to unbind Eric, but the blood drew her close- too close. Her claws and fangs came at a price- the loss of her humanity. She moved her sisters' and grandmother's corpses out of the room, to spare Eric. She took the scent Victorine had given her, and sprayed herself and Eric down, and left the washroom the spray the whole pub until her smell was completely hidden under the flowery perfume. She breathed deeply, but didn't return to the washroom until her canine were blunt and her claws fingernails. When she unbound him, she could not look him in the eyes.

"You- you-"

"Please, Eric. I'm so sorry. Just please, please don't make me explain."

She crumpled to the washroom floor and sobbed.

Eric did not comfort her. He did not move.

She looked up at him, wiping her eyes. "You are dying. I can hear you pulse fading."

Eric nodded. His eyes were no longer filled with terror, but with acceptance.

"No…" she said, cradling her head in her hands.

"You saved me."

"You're dying," she yelled.

"Yeah, but I'm not afraid. You're here."

D'nastra sobbed. She could not look at him at all.

They sat there a long time with nothing but the drip of the tap and Eric's dying pulse to fill the air.

Finally, D'nastra raised her head. "Eric," she said slowly, "there is a way I can save you."

He closed his eyes and didn't answer.

She bit her lip. "I'm a vampire…"

"Really?" He smiled. She couldn't laugh.

"You could… become like me."

Eric took a raspy breath. "Become a vampire?"

She nodded solemnly.

"Hunt people?"

"No," she started quickly. "You can choose to resist the thirst. I do."

"You do?"

She smiled. "Eric, you're bleeding. I'm not wild."

She waited in silence. "Do you want me to leave for a moment?" she asked.

"No. Stay."

The tile was cold against her skin. The broken glass bit into her palm; she ignored it. Her dress was torn. She clutched her shoulder and chest, waiting for her natural healing abilities to kick in. When they did she smiled as the wave of pain subsided slightly. She closed her eyes.

"Yes."

Her eyes snapped open. "Yes?"

Eric nodded. "Yes."

His scream rang out into the still winter morning.

In the darkest forest of London, there live no animals. Some say they have been killed- some say they ran from some terror unknown to humans. Most do not care, for the cause is the same. The city goers call them superstitious, but the country folk know of the evil spirits who live in the forest. Every once in a while, you can hear their music floating through the silent night; and when the country people do hear it, they stop everything to listen- forgetting their own lives, if only for a moment.