1

A child, no older than twelve, sits surrounded by books. He reads voraciously, one tatty book after another, devouring everything he can unearth; the only sound the rasp of pages turning. The legends, the tales, fascinate him like nothing ever has and nothing ever will again. He is enthralled. He wraps himself in them like a cloak.

He believes.

They will be his salvation.

In a tiny room, in a rundown cottage, an obsession is born.

2

Time passes; seasons come and go. One thing remains constant.

A child no more, he prowls, night after night, endlessly searching, following trails that go abruptly cold, or else taper off into nothing. He refuses to lose heart. Years blow by likes autumn leaves, and stills he searches, confident that one day he will come face to face with the creature that will make him.

3

Years age into decades, finally the trail he is on grows warmer, and the signs become almost impossible to miss, the fleeting shapes seen out of the corner of his vision can no longer be dismissed as fancy. It's… exhilarating.

He's sure they know of him, know his desire, thinks that they must surely be playing with him. Toying with him. More and more frequently it feels as though they are.

It's a winter night and a fresh corpse lies on the frozen ground, puncture wounds in her neck. He was meant to find her, he's certain. He wonders what they want of him, what it would take to bring them out.

He touches his fingers to the wound, and stares with fascination as they come away slick with crimson liquid.

Blood.

He tastes it.

Looks off into the night.

4

He follows wherever the trail leads, wherever they choose to lead him. They leave no more death in their wake, least none that he has seen, none that they have allowed him to see.

He waits for them to make the next move and understands when he sees another girl lying on the ground so reminiscent of the first, that the next stage of the game has begun.

This time the girl is alive. Her clothes are torn and her breath comes in weak puffs, while her hands clutch helplessly at the lush summer grass. She sees him and tries to form words that might be 'help me', or might not.

He regards her, sees the tears, the terror, the blood… and the spark of life in her struggling to catch fire again. His mind flashes back to the body from before, all stunning porcelain pale skin and splashes of red, like paint.

It's the fire that will make her ugly.

He smiles.

Such beauty is there in death and such power has the one who delivers it.

5

He doesn't know how many days have passed, but he knows they've been watching him far more intently since that night.

They know. They know how incredible he could be. They see it. He feels his time drawing closer and rejoices in it.

6

And then it comes.

This, this is what he has been waiting for.

A cold hand caresses his cheek from behind. Words whispered at his back,

"I hope this will be everything you dreamed of.

My gift to you."

He feels the fangs in his neck and gives himself over to death, that he might be reborn.

He has earned this. He will be beautiful.

7

Years still pass, so very many of them. At times they flit by unnoticed, at yet others, they drag past in an endless parade.

He's not sure how long it's been. Centuries, perhaps, since he's felt the thrum of his own blood through his veins?

He has no memories of before. Humanity is something he can only vaguely recall, some distant fluttering thing that he cannot seem to recapture. At times he yearns to understand it, to catch it once more in the palm of his hand, just for a second.

He thinks it must be beautiful to be alive.

Epilogue

One day he dreams of a small boy sitting alone in a room. The emotions are beyond him, but the look on the boys face is easy enough to read: ravenous hunger.

It's the way he feels about blood.