Chapter 1: “We are the bait, but we are also the trap.”
tw: alcohol, hypnotism
He feels magnetic, like a string tied in your stomach is being pulled invisibly. Charismatic, you think, but more than that, captivating in a way you couldn’t possibly explain. With the lights and the music and the people pressed in around you, and your inability to break his stare, you feel as though you’re in some sort of trance. Or maybe dissociating into another dimension. Either way, next time you are so not having those undefined shots your friend bought.
The time between the club and the house seems to shrink unnaturally. Your back hits the couch and you realise you have no memory of the journey, not even of agreeing to come. You almost panic, but when Vladislav smiles at you all negative emotions melt away and you are left with nothing but a generalised contentment. He asks about your interests, and you happily slide into conversation.
He feels nothing, usually, for the people he eats. It’s been far too long for the whole killing-human-people thing to bother him now, if ever bothered him in the first place. But as the conversation continues, he starts to feel guilty for hypnotising her. It’s invasive, sometimes disorienting. He knows. If it’s a question of deserving it, not many people fall into that category. But it seems a little too stark with her.
He’ll still end up eating her, of course.
You smile until your cheeks hurt, but you can see as the evening wears on that part of his mind is somewhere else. That tugging feeling in your stomach faded almost immediately after entering the house and while the inexplicable magnetism has gone, you still can’t help but be drawn to him, in a more metaphorical way.
The inevitability of her death by his hand seems increasingly diminished. She’s just a little too intelligent, a little too congruent with his sense of humour for him to comfortably complete his routine: hypnotise or deceive, then eat. Hours long conversation was never part of the plan. Wanting it is even worse.
He isn’t one to hesitate. But every time he goes to touch her, grab her, kill her, his hands turn to concrete, welded to his lap in a bond unbreakable even by immortals.
“Oh god, it’s so late! I should be heading off.”
You wait, but it takes Vladislav a few seconds to reply.
“Of course, of course.”
“I had a really good time tonight. Maybe I’ll see you again?” He seems preoccupied as he walks you to the door, but the smirk he gives you is genuine.
“I’m sure you will.”
Chapter 2: “She seems like she’d be a good victim!”
Vladislav sighs as the door clicks shut. His mind is racing, thoughts running in circles too quickly for him to grasp.
“What?” He turns and Deacon and Viago stand before him, Deacon with arms crossed, Viago with lips pressed together. It’s clear he won’t be able to have the luxury of sleeping on it.
“Did she smell bad or something?” Deacon asks.
“What do you mean no?” Deacon uncrosses his arms.
“Don’t raise your voice, Deacon.”
“That was a perfectly good meal and he just let it walk in and out of here!”
“He’s right, Vladislav. You know the rules, bringing humans into the house and not killing them is a big no-no.”
“Leave me alone.” Vladislav moves to exit the room, averting his gaze from his two flatmates.
“But Vlad-“ Deacon advances to follow him.
“Leave me alone!”
Viago holds Deacon back, shaking his head slightly.
“Viago!” Deacon protests.
“Vladislav!” Viago calls.
He’s far too tired for their petty gripes. Bringing a human into the house isn’t that much of a big deal, right? Vladislav leans his head against his bedroom door.
Should’ve just told them she smelled bad.
Chapter 3: “I just like having a good time, with my friends.”
tw: mentions of alcohol / hypnotism after effects
It’s been almost three weeks before you go back into town again. One of your friends teases you about that guy you went home with last time, but most have nearly forgotten. You didn’t talk about it much afterwards – there was a foggy quality to your memory that had you questioning whether you dreamt the whole thing up. It would explain how you randomly came across a sexy magnetic man who magic-ed you away to his dusty flat share. You would’ve quite happily dismissed the whole experience if not for your friend confirming you didn’t come home with them.
As much as you don’t like to admit it, you had hoped to see him again. A lot. So when you exit Boogie Wonderland for some fresh air, you have to stop yourself from grinning when a familiar voice speaks behind you.
“Enjoying your evening?”
His efforts to be dramatic, while obvious, are not ineffective as he emerges from shadow. Having gone unnoticed the last time you met, his clothing strikes you as slightly odd, old fashioned, but then again everything about him seems slightly odd.
“I didn’t expect to see you again.”
“Didn’t you? I said you would.”
“Well, you’re a little mysterious for my liking.” Understatement of the century.
“Really? I can be sincere.”
“Oh, I’m sure.”
“Why don’t we spend some more time together, and you’ll see?”
“You’re gonna have to take me out properly, if you wanna do that.”
He smiles. “It would be my pleasure.”
You laugh, and his smirk turns into a grin. Your heart catches in your throat and the reservations you have about him seem inconsequential.
Chapter 4: “Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of tension.”
“Okay, everyone, let’s begin the meeting.”
Deacon sits in between Vladislav and Viago, determinedly sewing the sleeve of his latest knitting project. Vladislav sips a water glass full of blood. Viago shuffles his papers, and speaks.
“Firstly I just want to say well done to Deacon, he ate a victim in the hallway the other day and when I had a look later it was all cleaned up, so, thank you for that.”
Deacon smiles and nods smugly at Vladislav.
“You wouldn’t even know I’d just killed someone there.”
“Yes, good job Deacon!”
Viago and Deacon exchange a look, and Viago shuffles his papers again, uneasy.
“Now, Vladislav, there was something we wanted to talk to you about.”
Vladislav stills, mid-sip.
“That girl, that you let leave the other day…” Vladislav sighs but Viago continues.
“We saw you with her on Saturday and, we’re just not sure what’s going on there-“
“I can’t do anything without you two criticising me?”
“No it’s not that-“
“You are acting like you’re not a vampire and she’s not a human!” Deacon pauses his knitting just long enough to exclaim.
Vladislav doesn’t meet their stares, keeping his eyes on the table, lips pressed together.
“We just don’t want you to do anything, you know…”
Viago’s voice trails off as he speaks; ending his sentence with a vague half shrug half squirm.
Deacon and Viago exchange another look. When Viago tilts his head, Deacon sighs, picks up his knitting and huffs out of the room.
Vladislav exhales but doesn’t meet Viago’s eyes.
“I know how you feel. I do.”
Vladislav tentatively looks to Viago, and is taken aback by the sadness on his face.
“I just don’t want you to get hurt. Or hurt her. That’s all.”
Vladislav concedes a nod.
“Unless you eat her.”
“So eat her, or…”
Another vague shrugging motion and Viago sighs.
Chapter 5: “They say that vampires’ hearts are cold and dead.”
At first you just keep bumping into each other, but soon you fall into a sort of unofficial pattern, which turns into something resembling a regular date night. Almost like a real couple.
Truthfully you have no idea what this is. But you can think about the semantics later.
Sometimes it was a late night stroll, a dance at the Big Kumara, or, more rarely, a meal together at a proper restaurant. For the first time since your first meeting, Vladislav accepts your suggestion to go back to his flat. You had rarely suggested it since his initial refusal, but when it’s cold, and you’re bored of the main attractions in town, hanging out somewhere warm and quiet has its attractions.
The journey to the flat is longer than you expected – or at least, it feels longer compared to last time. Sobriety can do that, you suppose.
It’s a chilly evening, and the taxi is air conditioned far beyond necessity. You squirm slightly, pulling your limbs closer in an effort to retain heat, and Vladislav notices. Wrapping his coat around your shoulders, with you nestled within the fur trim, he gives a small nod at his efforts.
“Aren’t you cold?” You ask.
“No, I’m fine. I’m warm.” He replies, giving you a gentle smile.
Emboldened by his display of concern, you rest your head on his shoulder. So far, physical touch seems to be something he somewhat avoids. Some people prefer a lack of physical touch, but Vladislav, to you, doesn’t seem like that sort of person. His shoulders tense slightly under your scalp, but almost immediately relax. There’s a few seconds of awkward second-guessing of your decision – is he uncomfortable? Maybe I should have asked first – before he reaches up and places his arm around you.
With your cheek pressed against his chest, your can feel that he’s not nearly as warm as he claimed. But you’re enjoying the moment a little too much to scold him.
When you reach the house, Vladislav tells you to make your way inside while he pays the cab fare. The house looks more, well, normal than you remember. Like a regular suburban house.
When you open the door you immediately rescind your judgement. It looks like it hasn’t been renovated since 1940-something, although the outside of the property indicates it’s much newer. Surely.
It’s taken him six tries but Vladislav finally convinces the taxi driver that he’s paid his fare. He couldn’t very well ask her to pay a fare for a taxi to his own house, which he invited her to, could he? The whole leaning-on-shoulder thing threw him a little – usually taxi drivers only take him two or three goes. He’s been avoiding touching her too much lest she notice he’s as cold as a human can’t be. He’s slightly ashamed that his whole thought process was ‘fuck it’. But really, in the back of a car, with her snuggled against him? Words simply cannot convey the intensity of his desire to be close to her.
He half-jogs up the driveway to catch up with her. Leaving her alone in the house, even for a short while, is another thing that he should probably be ashamed of.
“Are these antique?”
Entering the hallway, he finds her inspecting a pair of lamps, with moulded depictions of the countryside around the base.
“Yes. My flatmate collects.”
“I’ve seen better.” You smile, and Vladislav gestures for you to follow him.
“Would you like something to drink?” He asks, leading you into a sitting room, further up the hallway.
“No thanks. Last time I was here I think I had enough for a lifetime.”
You chuckle, but Vladislav looks troubled. In the silence that follows, you inspect the room. Turning to your right, you find a box of dusty vinyl records.
“What are these? Another collection?”
“Yes.” He smiles, and joins you. You both reach for the records at the same time, hands brushing before he snatches his back. His smile disappears before he blurts, “This one is my favourite”.
He picks out a record and puts it on the gramophone, seemingly also an antique. As the music begins, you start to dance, trying to bring his good mood back after his inexplicable sudden slump.
Her dancing, so clearly unfitting with the instrumental he’d chosen, overrides the worries that prevent Vladislav from enjoying these moments with her.
“C’mon, c’mon!” Moving her arms through the air, she gestures for him to join in. Shaking his head only encourages her efforts, and he decides resistance is futile.
He feels silly, stupid, but he doesn’t mind. They’re stupid together, and their dancing gets more and more ridiculous until, spinning, she catches her foot on a side table and almost trips. Impulsively, he rushes to catch her. Momentarily, he’s too distracted by if she’d noticed his unnatural speed across the room to realise that she is fully in his arms, and when he does, looking into her eyes, he can’t seem to be able to push her away. The music is slower now, softer. He takes her hands, her warm, living hands, and they sway.
You’d be quite happy to keep it casual (casual?), but when you’re slow dancing in Vladislav’s half-lit living room, flatmates conveniently absent, soft instrumental and gentle swaying, you just know this means more to you than you might be able to articulate. Maybe it’s not exactly what you always envisioned. But fuck it. Maybe it’s better.
Chapter 6: “This is what happens when you’re a vampire.”
It was only the first ‘date’ when he seemed to try to warn you off him.
“I’m more complicated than I seem.” He said.
“You don’t seem uncomplicated.” You replied.
A half-hearted warning at best. But you knew something was off about him. He never ate with you, he and his friends were in town an awful lot, always talking to new people who you glanced at across the bar and never saw again. In fact, Vlad seemed to shield you from his friends, especially Deacon. But every time you thought to bring it up you would lose your train of thought, or he would change the subject, or make up some excuse about being a fussy eater or something and the conversation would end.
His hypnotism was only in effect for their first meeting, and sometimes when she thought to question some of his habits (as much as it hurt him to do so). So all the bits in between, all the intimacy, the smiles and stares are real. And that, frankly, is fucking terrifying. That responsibility. He’s not sure whether he’d prefer for it to all be a fantasy instead. At least that would be easier to let go of. Maybe.
He’d thought long and hard about telling her. He knew telling her would probably mean the end of whatever this was. She would have to be hypnotised to forget him. She might be killed, eaten. He wasn’t sure which fate was worse, for him.
Selfish? Maybe. But she makes him feel a way that he hasn’t felt in a long time. She makes him feel joy again, real, unbridled joy that can only come from that kind of profound connection with someone, hope, belief in the possibility that he might not spend the next however many years just wasting time, enjoying himself, sure, but missing something that would make everything that much sweeter.
If he doesn’t tell her, the buffer between them will eventually drive them apart anyway.
At least, that’s what he tells himself to justify what he’s about to do.
Chapter 7: “I’m a vampire.”
Tonight something felt different. Before you’d only ever met in town, but tonight he asks you to meet him at his place. When he opens the door your suspicions are confirmed. He’s nervous. His smile falters slightly. His eyes are terrified. You’ve never seen him like this.
You walk in silence down the hallway. He closes the door behind him softly, hesitating with his back to you. You sit, expectantly.
“What’s the matter, has something happened?”
“No, no.” He pauses, and exhales, turning to face you. Every movement on his part feels stilted, like he’s walking underwater, held down by weights.
“I have something to tell you.”
You pause for him to continue, eventually offering a “What?” once you realise he won’t continue on his own.
His mouth opens and closes, and opens again before he finally speaks.
He knows once be starts he won’t be able to take anything back.
“I’m sure you’ve noticed, some things about me, might be… a little … odd.”
He looks down and then up, struggling to meet your eyes. The house is conspicuously silent. Your eyes finally meet, and it feels like an eternity before he finally speaks again, oceans between you coming to a standstill.
“That is because, I am a vampire.”
“A vampire. I am a vampire.”
Vladislav searches for fear and finds it in a volume that hurts him more than he thought a vampire could feel.
She turns, and stands. Every inch she moves away from him feels like a string tied to his sternum is being pulled taught; skin stretching painfully, bones under strain.
“Explains a lot.” She speaks in a detached monotone.
“Yes.” He can’t tell if she’s taking it well or not. Her back to him, she crosses her arms and sighs.
“Do you… you know…”
“I do drink human blood if that’s what you’re asking.”
Fuck, why did he say that? Now she’s got to be terrified of him.
She turns and barely looks at him before abruptly exiting the room.
She doesn’t stop until she’s out the front door.
Vlad doesn’t try to follow her, instead burying his head in his hands and sighing.
The door slams.
Chapter 8: “What do you do when someone tells you that they’re a vampire?”
You’ve never really believed in the supernatural, never really been interested in it until you’re forced to confront it to a startling degree. A vampire. A real life blood-sucking centuries-living undead living dead vampire. Your first instinct is to think it’s some sort of joke, but he’s so anxious, so earnest in his confession that you know he’s not kidding. You get a lift from your friend, silent all the way home, promising to tell them the story in the morning before you go to bed and hopefully wake to find that there’s some sort of alternative explanation.
Did he say he drinks human blood?
You’re not getting out of bed voluntarily anytime soon. It’s 3pm before your friend messages you and upon finding out you’re still in bed, comes over to force you up.
“You know people generally get up in the morning. Like that’s the whole purpose of mornings, is starting your day.”
They enter with a glass of water and a smile, though genuinely concerned. Slowly, you sit up in bed, taking the water gratefully although not without gentle complaining.
“What happened last night? Do you want to talk about it? Did he hurt you?”
“No, no, I mean not physically.”
You go to laugh but there’s no sound. Your friend waits and you struggle to find the words.
“It’s just, I thought I knew him, and it turns out I didn’t know him as well as I thought I did.”
They nod and their gentle consideration makes you want to cry.
“He just kept this thing from me, for the whole time we’ve known each other. And the thing he kept from me, it’s a pretty big deal.”
You sigh, and close your eyes, tears starting down your cheeks.
“I don’t know, he clearly felt terrible about it and I know it’s not something he can change. But it’s just a lot to deal with.”
Your friend nods again, handing you the tissue box from your bedside table.
“You’re right to be upset”, they say, “Take some time to think about it. There’s no rush to do anything. Okay?”
You nod, staring into the water cup like it’ll give you the answer to this riddle you’ve been placed in, tissues in hand. To be or not to be with a vampire?
Your friend pats your leg under your doona.
“And get out of bed!”
Chapter 9: “It’s a real mess in there.”
tw: self-hatred, vlad’s a bit depressed
Vladislav doesn’t know how long he’s been sitting there after she leaves before Viago interrupts him. Vladislav looks to Viago and Viago nods, mouthing a pitiful “oh”.
Sitting next to him, Viago pats Vladislav on the shoulder gingerly.
“I know it’s hard. I wish I could say it gets better. But to be honest, it doesn’t.”
“You watch them live, or maybe you never see them again, and you can never forget them. You can never forget what could have been. But you’re just going to have to learn to live with that.”
Vladislav nods and sniffs, but when he looks to Viago, his eyes are dry.
“Okay?” Viago asks, cautiously. Vladislav nods again, and Viago leaves him to his grief.
When Viago goes to wake up the household the following evening, almost every easily breakable furnishing is smashed, with half a dozen soggy handkerchiefs littering the flat embroidered ‘V’.
He doesn’t try to give Vladislav a wake up call. As he ascends the stairs, he can hear a muffled sobbing, interrupted infrequently by periods of silence or the sounds of violence.
On the second night, he leaves a large glass of blood outside Vladislav’s door.
On the third night, the blood untouched, he tries to make contact. He knocks on the door gently.
“Vladislav? I’ve just left some blood out here for you, I don’t know if you saw it. Don’t let yourself go hungry.”
Vladislav is silent, lying in his coffin immobile. It’s quite easy for vampires to sleep for extended periods of time, which is part of the reason Viago is so picky about waking up every evening. But Vladislav is not asleep.
Torturing himself with happier memories, he replays his confession over and over, her terrified face, her abrupt exit. He was ridiculous to think it could have ever worked out between them. He led her on, let her into his life and forced his way into hers without thought of the eventual consequences. And now everything he taunted himself with the hope of having is gone. And it’s his fault.
Vladislav’s eyes are closed, but he can hear Viago trying the locked door before giving up.
On the fourth night, Viago knocks again, but this time the door swings open at his touch. The room is chaos, unidentifiable pieces of debris, fabric, blood, Vladislav’s coffin lid at an angle too extreme to be unbroken, and in the middle of all of it, Vladislav’s mirror, shattered. But no Vladislav.
The repetitive dripping to his right is the only indicator to Vladislav that time is passing, that he’s still in reality, the world still spinning even if he feels overwhelmingly inert. Breaking the cycle, a quiet footstep outside the door. Vladislav knows it’s probably Viago, peering in to check he’s not stringing himself up to be fried in the sun, or something otherwise destructive. What he must think of Vladislav, sitting there on his own torturing chair, totally still, head in his hands, pathetic, miserable.
Another damp footstep indicates Viago’s exit. He decides it would be best to leave Vladislav be.
Chapter 10: “I hope I made you feel better.”
“How’re you feeling, Sleeping Beauty?”
Your friend visits again, on day three after the mystery bombshell, but this time you’re out of bed by 12, moved from lying immobile in your bed to sitting immobile at the kitchen table. You did spend all of the previous day and most of the night watching shitty dramas in a cocoon of blankets and chocolate in the hopes that not thinking about your problems will make them disappear, so it’s an undisputable improvement.
You feign amusement as they enter the room, but you’re still feeling terrible. You tell your friend as much.
“Well, I’m here if you wanna rant.”
“I just don’t know what to do about this whole thing.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, is this it?”
“You don’t have to end it.”
“I know I don’t have to but I’m not sure if I even want to.”
“Okay, well, let’s pro/con this out then.”
“You and your fucking pro/con lists.”
“Hey, they’re very effective. So, cons first. Do you think you can trust him again?”
“I mean, even though he’s done this, I feel like he understands what he did, and that it wasn’t great. So if he gets that then, yeah.”
You friend gives you a look.
“Yes, the answer is yes.”
“I didn’t say anything!”
“You didn’t have to!”
You laugh, and you’re relieved to do something that makes you feel human again.
“Well, if you think you can trust him again, what would be another con?”
You open your mouth but stop yourself before you speak – your friend, as open as they are, probably wouldn’t appreciate him being a vampire as a simple con. Upon seeing your hesitation, they continue.
“Okay, what about pros?”
“Well…” You can’t help but begin to smile, and your friend breaks into laughter.
“Shut up!” Your reproach only encourages their giggles.
“Sorry.” They take on a deliberately blank expression, and gesture for you to continue.
“I don’t know. He’s funny, and kind, and charming. He makes me feel… good.”
They smile again and you give them a scolding look, half embarrassed.
“No, no, that’s good! We’re making progress! If he makes you happy, and you think you can move forward from this bump, assuming that his secret surprise isn’t that he’s a serial killer or something, then what’s the problem?”
Your friend laughs at their hypothetical, but you can tell your chuckles sound empty.
“How do you feel about not seeing him again?”
You think for barely a couple of seconds before giving the more confident answer you’ve given all day.
“It’s probably the most painful thing I can imagine.”
“Then maybe it’s worth giving him a second chance.”
Chapter 11: “I don’t know, I think I still feel things…”
Vladislav is finally convinced to exit his bedroom and torture chamber on the sixth night since he ruined his chances of a fairytale ending. Viago seats him in one of the sitting rooms, sitting in there with him, reading, but mostly supervising. At least under Viago’s gaze Vladislav won’t be breaking more of the household and injuring himself.
A knock at the front door breaks the quiet. Vladislav glances to Viago but remains still as Viago stands. Vladislav can hear indistinct murmuring before Viago returns.
“Uh, Vladislav…” Vladislav looks up, and Viago is at the door, only head visible.
It takes a second for Viago’s words to process, but when they do, Vladislav impulsively stands, almost knocking a lamp over. If he had a beating heart, it would be racing. Viago steps to the side and she’s there, really there, in the same room as him. She walks over to him slowly, hands twisting in front of her.
“Hi.” Is it possible for a vampire to be out of breath?
“Can I sit?” She seems relaxed enough, but Vladislav won’t stop feeling anxious until… he stops feeling anxious.
They sit. At some point Viago has made himself scarce, so it’s just them, half a metre apart, closer than Vladislav ever thought he would be to her again. The turning knots in the pit of his stomach seem to slacken and still. He doesn’t know what to do with his hands, so he places them on his knees and waits for her to speak.
“I’ve been thinking.”
“Yeah. It was a lot to deal with, learning about vampires and… everything.”
“And it hurt that you kept this huge thing from me.”
“Yes.” He nods, and you can see on his face that he appreciates what he’s done. There’s a pause, and you almost think he’ll cry.
He speaks with such sincerity that the room seems to snap to attention, reality grounded in the intensity of his words.
“I just hope you can forgive me. All that I desire is to be with you.”
“Well, I think I can live with that.”
He relaxes, and offers a smile, the first in days. And to his delight, it is returned.
He’s so relieved he almost laughs. Before he can stop himself the floodgates open and he tells her everything, the whole saga from beginning to end.
He loves to tell anecdotes, sure. But actual openness? Emotional vulnerability? He’d rather wear a onesie made out of pure silver. Usually. But he’s almost happy to feel vulnerable with her, knowing he almost lost the opportunity loosens his tongue. She stays quiet through his whole retelling until he concludes.
She’s moved closer, slowly, and now they fall into an embrace, the distance between them, small as it is, finally unbearable.
“I never thought I could have something like this.”
You look up at him, emotions swirling, and smile.
“You’re an idiot.”
He laughs, a deep, cathartic laugh.
“Did you really think I would leave?” You ask.
“I thought you might.”
You pull away from him so you can see his face, and shake your head.
He pauses for a moment before speaking again, a wistful half smirk as he looks at you.
“May I kiss you?”
You answer by leaning forward and placing your lips on his. He is cold, and this time you finally notice his lack of heartbeat, but his arms feel safe and gentle wrapped around you. He whispers “I love you” against your lips and you can feel his grin when you repeat it back.
Yeah, definitely better.