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The shadows stretched across the room as the skies darkened outside, barely illuminating the ancient coffin in the far corner. The lid cracked open, Mordis’ long fingers extending outward into the room. Wrapping his hand around the edge, he pushed the lid open, the hinges squealing in protest. The 300-year-old vampire sat up and looked carefully at the darkening skies outside of the window.
Comfortable that he was safe from the deadly rays of the sun, Mordis rose from the coffin and walked toward the window. He pulled the curtain back and breathed the night air deeply, testing the winds for scent of prey.
His current home was an abandoned house on the edge of a forest, far from the crowds of towns and cities. Over the years of being hunted, he had learned to sleep at a great distance from humans who might attack when he was most vulnerable trapped inside his coffin. While safer, the distance from humans forced his diet to consist of woodland animals, filling but hardly exciting. Tonight, however, the air was thick with the smell of humans, tantalizingly close to his lair. His deadly teeth glistened as he smiled at the thought of feasting on their succulence.
Eager to hunt such sweet prey, he left the house and walked through the woods, safe in the shadows from the waning rays of sunshine. Just as the sunlight was extinguished, he stepped from the trees into a giant meadow. To his astonishment, humans – hundreds of humans – sat in the grass and stared upward at the skies as the stars twinkled into view.
Unlike the days of old, he had found he could walk among humans at night undetected. In a more superstitious era, they would have suspected his nature, but literature about vampires in this modern age had turned silly. Humans couldn’t be afraid of a deadly creature when it was portrayed as a harmless high school student sparkling in the light of the sun. Such rubbish. The sun was a mortal enemy, its rays burning deep the skin of any vampire exposed, but night was a time of grave danger for humans.
Knowing that he was safe from their suspicions, Mordis leisurely scanned the crowd, searching for a person isolated from the others. One near the trees. One who would be easy to draw into the woods. One who would satisfy his hunger.
Large families or groups of friends were dismissed. He could overpower them in their innocence of his nature, but such an act would expose his ways to the remaining. Stealth was the key to keeping these people ignorant of his breed’s existence.
Spying a possible target, Mordis approached a man sitting alone snacking food from a bag. Inhaling his scent, Mordis rejected him. His blood was tainted with cholesterol, as so many in this country were.
Sighing, Mordis longed to return to the old world where people were healthier and leaner. Soon, he thought, soon.
Continuing to scan the crowds, he spotted a lone young woman on the other side of the clearing, sitting with her back to the tree line. He crossed the meadow, approaching slowly, testing the smells in the air. She appeared quite vulnerable and smelled sweet, innocent, and tasty.
But more. He sensed something much more tantalizing about her.
After decades of being alone, Mordis longed for a mate to share the days and years. A partner for the hunt. A companion for traveling the world. Potential mates had to have a singular quality that was quite rare in this land. She had that something that so few had.
She was a virgin.
Perhaps tonight was not for feasting on humans. Perhaps tonight was the beginning of a new adventure. Perhaps the fates had gathered the humans here so that he could select someone special to convert, to treasure, to love.
Pausing in the center of the open field, he stared at her beauty, mesmerized. The silly humans surrounding him were too entranced in the skies to sense his true nature, so he lingered and savored the moment.
His senses sharp, he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. One of the humans lifted a cardboard object in his hand and placed it across his face. Glancing around, Mordis noted that others had similar items. They were all placing them on their faces, small masks that covered only their eyes. Mothers covered their children’s eyes, shielding them with maternal care.
He looked back toward the girl, his target of desire. She was still alone, but also settling the cardboard mask over her eyes.
What sort of strange human ritual had he stumbled upon? A religion he did not know? A cult of some sort?
Those matters did not concern him, so he resolved to remove the young woman from their midst and return to the house with his captive.
He took a step forward, but was immediately frozen by a sharp, stabbing pain. The back of his neck screamed in agony, the nerves tingling down his spine. An agony he had not felt in centuries, not since his early days as a vampire as he learned the rules of his new life. A searing he avoided with extreme caution. The burn . . . of sunshine.
No! Impossible! Dusk had just settled, so dawn had to be hours away. What was happening?
Mordis looked around for a vampire hunter, so rare in these modern times, but the humans were still oblivious to him, their eyes covered by the strange masks. In his scanning, he noted that their features were clearer. Sharper. Lighter. Shadows appeared on the ground behind the humans. The light was growing.
Turning in horror, he looked where the people looked. High in the sky, well above the horizon, peeking from behind the moon, was the midday sun.
An eclipse! He had been fooled by an eclipse. He stood in the middle of a field, totally exposed, far from the safety of the shadows of the woods. He lacked the time to escape to the comfort of their darkness and the shadows of his coffin. The moon uncovered his nemesis quickly, the sunlight bore down upon him, his skin shriveling and smoking.
No sparkling, only fire consumed Mordis.
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