The Red Door – short story

I used to think my being was hollow and empty.  I used to mope about in dark places full of the irredeemable sadness of the blackened soul.  I used to be a whiney little bitch.  How has that changed?  In one short night, that lasted the entirety of my life, my eyes were opened to the true tragedy; I wasted what time I had.

“Joie de vivre,” I said to the young woman cowering in the corner of my room.  “It means ‘love of life’.”

“What are you going to do?” she asked, the tremble in her voice matched by the tremble in her lower lip.

I turned my back to her and stared at the front door.  The room we were in had a bed, nightstand and through an arch, a small bathroom.  The one window, next to the door, faced east.  It would have an unobstructed view of the rising sun in a couple of hours; it was perfect.  The woman shifted, her heart beat fierce in my ears, her blood warm and tantalising like hot chicken soup on a winter’s day.

“I’m going to do nothing,” I said. “Nothing to you.”

“Will you let me go?”

I shook my head and turned to face her.

“That isn’t up to me.  It will come down to you obeying my command.”

Her pulse jumped and her throat constricted as she swallowed.  I didn’t want to scare her too much so I let the corners of my mouth lift.

“I’ll tell you a little about me, about what is going on here,” I said, taking a seat on the bed, leaning forward with my elbows on my knees.  “I was once like you.  I bought into the romance and mystique of the vampire.  I watched the movies, felt my heart soar in sympathy with that wretched girl and her vampire boyfriend.  It seemed that my life meant nothing if I couldn’t devote it to someone who’s heart was as empty as mine.  I even wrote vomit inducing poetry and signed it with a drop of my blood.”

The girl bit her lip to still its trembling.  Her heart slowed a little from its breakneck pace, so I continued.

“The club I found you?” I asked and she nodded. “I was there doing the same ridiculous things you were.  Can you believe I’m actually less pale now than I was then?” I shook my head with the memory.

“I was approached by a beautiful man.  He had thin, bright red lips and haunting eyes so deep I swear I saws stars sparkling in them.  He spun such wonderful images of darkness lit by bright blooms of life that I immediately fell in love with him.”

The woman’s eyes widened and I heard her take a sharp breath in as if she was going to ask a question.

“No, I’m not gay,” I leant back, my palms pressed against the mattress. “You’ll see what I mean when you meet him.”

I sat for a time, maybe a minute or two, staring at the wall above her head, remembering.

“He made me,” I said into the silence. “He took me back to a hotel, not unlike this one.” I waved one hand about the small room.  “I didn’t think he really was a vampire, the same as you don’t think I am.  In my mind he was a step further in the same fantasy you hold.  He had somehow managed to bridge the gap between wishing for the peace of figurative death and achieving it.  I was wrong and so are you.”  I lowered my eyes to lock onto hers.  Her nervous twitching ceased and the slight slackening of her features told me I had her mesmerised.  I’d be able to offer suggestions to her in this state, get her to do just about anything.  She wouldn’t break any of her strongly held morals, but everything up until then.  I broke the connection.  She would be useless acting on my suggestion, he’d sense it.

“Suffice to say he turned me.  I died that night, just a week ago.  Now I’m sitting here with my first victim.  You’re my initiation, my first taste of untainted human blood.”

The girl took a deep breath and held her delicate white hand over her mouth, her eyes wide.  She wouldn’t scream, I’d told her not to.  The sweet aroma of fear laced the room like the delicate perfume of the star jasmine.  I chuckled at the flash back to my indescribably bad poetry.

“I won’t be a full vampire until I drink your blood.  I imagine it to have something to do with leaving the last vestiges of my humanity behind, to perform the taboo act of cannibalism.”

Black streaks of mascara ran with her tears down her cheeks.  It wasn’t that long ago that I would have had empathy with this girl, but where there used to be emotion there was just a cold feeling in my gut.  I used to think I was empty, but that empty feeling was my heart and mind conspiring to keep me numb from the magnitude of what I felt.  I watched her until she got control of herself again.  She was perfect, such self control and poise.  I picked up the wooden box behind me on the bed and proffered it to her.

“Take it.  Open it.”

Her hand shook as she wrapped her fingers about the rich, brown case.  When she opened it she paused and flicked her eyes up to me.  I nodded.  She picked up the small steel crucifix and turned it in her hands.

“My sire will be along shortly to watch me feed, to join me in draining you.”

The girl’s hands froze and her eyes fixed onto me.  The fear scent grew.  She must have been wondering if I had given her the crucifix to save her or so she could say her final prayers.

“If instead of feeding on you, I drink his blood.  If I drain him completely until he is nothing but a withered husk…”  I pursed my lips and watched her squirm before I continued. “If I do that, I will kill the beast growing within me and when I greet the sun, I will be human once more.  I need you to help me do that.”

Her fear dropped.  I almost wanted to frighten her again to breathe that heady fragrance, but I needed her in command of her senses.

“He will come and I will offer him the first bite, as is custom, or so I have been told.  You,” I said as I jabbed a slender finger toward her head. “You will press that crucifix against his forehead.  It will stun him and that is all you need to do.”

She started breathing more easily, her eyes falling to the small bit of steel in her hands.  I was glad she couldn’t detect my lies like my sire could.

We sat for another twenty minutes, maybe thirty, before the door opened and a man stepped in.  He moved with such grace and exquisite confidence it was hard not to stare.  It appeared that his shadow moved a split second after him, adding to the dramatic and beautiful aura that draped him like a cloak.  The girl noticed too.  She looked to me then back to my master.  Now she understood what I had meant when I said I had fallen in love with him.

He turned his gaze on me and it was as if I was staring down a clear plastic tube.  I could see only his face, all else was blurred and distorted.  As he turned to look at my victim, the effect dropped and I could see and think clearly again.

“Master,” I said. “I hope she meets with your approval.”

He tilted his head then let his eyes swivel the rest of the way.  The edge of his mouth lifted, revealing a needle sharp fang.  I concentrated only on the smell of the girl, the sound of her racing heart.  If I let any thought of betrayal into my mind he would detect it.  He bent forward, grabbed her hair and dragged her up the wall until she stood with her neck arched back, her eyes straining to retain contact with my master.  I moved in closer.  She wasn’t going to do it.  I had to take action, but quickly or he’d realise.  My sire’s neck was so close to me, I could see the veins beneath his skin.  I opened my mouth, pulled my lips back.  My master turned to look at me with a frown.  I seized up, transfixed as if by icicles.  He’d figured out I was tricking him.

“You can wait your turn, like a good puppy,” he said then turned back to the girl’s neck.

With his eyes off her, she had managed to get the crucifix out and up.  When he turned back, she pushed the steel cross onto his forehead.  She grinned in victory.  For a couple of seconds, my sire stood staring at her.  It was then that she realised I had lied to her.  His hand clenched her hair as he pulled back and snarled.  Instead of the stately, calm feeding he had begun, his fury at the girl’s audacity launched him into a berserk frenzy.  In his red rage he paid no notice to the change in my posture, he missed the telltale scent of betrayal my pores oozed like black mud.  I threw myself on him, the hot lure of the girl’s blood driving me.  At first he ignored me.  Once my fangs sank into his beautiful, porcelain neck he must have realised what was happening, but it was too late.  A vampire’s bite induces a kind of ecstasy, a release of worry and a joy borne of inevitable finality.  Hot crimson life gushed into my mouth and I drank.  I sucked until there was nothing left.  My master’s neck withered and crumbled beneath my thirsty lips.  I pulled back, satisfied and watched as the girl lay dishevelled and bloody beneath a human shaped ash pile.  Her throat irrevocably torn, she gazed at me with wide, black-rimmed eyes; an accusation that reached into me and crushed something.  I fell back on the bed and stared at the ceiling, breathing heavily, eyes burning.

I must have lain there for another half an hour because when I decided to move, the first pink fingers of dawn were creeping across the sky.  I looked at my hands, at the blood covering my pants.  This was the moment of truth.  Was the guilt and pain I felt a sign that I had regained my humanity, or was that impossible considering what I had done?.  I looked at the dead girl, her features locked in an expression somewhere between pain and joy.

“Joie de vivre,” I said to her still form.  I wanted to live; I needed to see the sun rise.

Pulling back the blinds I stood marvelling at the orange cast the low lying clouds had taken.  I returned to sit on the bed and stared at the window.

That’s where I am now.  I’m watching the orange sky turn pink, setting the wispy gauze curtains aflame, like the gates to hell.  Blood was like a door, a portal to undeath and now the window glowed red; another door, but I don’t know where it leads.  It can’t be worse than where I am now.

About sjohnhughes

Author, nerd, father, runner and more View all posts by sjohnhughes

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