I have known death. I do not wish to misconstrue my meaning; I do not mean that I have seen the specter of death (if one exists), or that I have glimpsed the meaning of it as some seek to grasp the meaning of life. Rather, when I say that I have known death, I mean that I have known it intimately, like a lover comes to know the body of his partner as well as his own. Over the course of my life, I have become well acquainted with death; I have come to know her supple curves, her touch, have come to recognize her scent as I seek her comfort on a long, cold night.

Death as a lover—a curious notion, to be sure. Not so curious, I suppose, when the nature of my life, or lack thereof, is taken into account. I cannot take a real lover without first feeding, due to a cruel trick of the anatomy that can make it rather difficult to achieve a state of arousal. Due to this unfortunate aspect of my current existence, sexual contact with others (human or not) can be a rare prospect indeed for my kind.

And thus the preoccupation with death begins to be illuminated. It is not only this, however; death is our livelihood. We are predatory beings by nature, and we cannot survive without feeding on others. The first time I killed a human, a sense of guilt was curiously absent during the act itself; even at that early stage, I could already feel my heart hardening to the thought of killing humans. I felt little pity for the poor devil I had sucked dry, and even less as time went on. A note about being turned. It is a part of our beliefs that the one who turns you is responsible for your education as a member of our dark fraternity, such as it is. Education is a heavy burden, and thus you learn not to turn humans lightly. Most people (myself included) are turned by mistake; being careless and not sucking all of the lifeblood out of your victim will turn them (and give you a harsh lesson about being diligent in your killing).

I was turned the night President Lincoln was shot. People always say they still remember where they were when they heard Jack Kennedy had been shot; I have had the dubious honor of being alive for three presidential assassinations, but the only one the above has held true for is the most recent. Perhaps humans have a greater capacity for empathy than we do, and we damned souls experience death firsthand regularly. But then, I knew Jack and Bobby Kennedy personally, and both their deaths rocked me to the core. No young man should have to die for his political beliefs, in war or peace.

I was turned by a woman named Gabriela—at turns my teacher, my taskmaster, even my lover, after a fashion. Despite her pallid complexion, a commonality all who possess our damned souls share, Gabriela still had dusky, olive-kissed skin, complimenting her ample curves and her long sable curls beautifully. She was glorious, the most beautiful creature I've ever been with—alive or dead. Gabriela. I still savor saying her name. I love the way the three mellifluous syllables move across my tongue, like caressing a lover's bountiful charms. Gabriela. My muse.

Gabriela introduced me to this world; she shared first the mystery of death with me, and then the wonder of what comes next. We are not so much dead, though, as we are caught in a sort of limbo between waking life and this nightmarish dream I now live. I cannot claim a level of authority on the existence of an almighty God or our immortal soul, but I can say that I do know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Hell exists, and that our kind live it every day.

The first person I killed was a child. I do not take pride in this, but nor do I apologize for it. The simple fact is, children are much easier to kill than adults, and a young vampire may sustain himself on less blood; in other words, an adult may have too much blood to take in (which can lead to inadvertently turning your victim).

The child was small for his age, no more than eight or nine. He was sickly, pitifully thin, and his unruly mop of white-blond curls hung in his face as he walked home in the chilly Baltimore rain. We followed him, watching him stumble and cough as the cold November rain soaked through his clothes. There are very few advantages to being like me, but a reduced sense of feeling the cold is one of them. Gabriela and I followed the boy at a distance, waiting for him to turn down an empty street.

When the time came, I was hesitant; Gabriela pushed me down the alley he had entered forcefully, and the boy turned as I stepped in a puddle loudly. His soft blue eyes looked up at me in the dim light as I approached. I was appalled at the level of violence and brutality Gabriela employed in her feedings, but as I drew nearer to the boy down the alley, I felt the thirst for blood, previously a dull ache, blossom into a feverish need. A loud crack erupted from his body as my hands gripped his fragile vertebrae. Warm, wet viscera and gristle sprayed my face as I broke his spine in two. For a few moments, I simply enjoyed the sight of the boy's life-force raining out of the wound I had created; I gripped the two pieces of his spinal cord greedily as I felt his throbbing life-force drain out of him out of him onto the street. I buried my face in him, feeding voraciously. The open maw of his wound was sticky and inviting, meeting my eager mouth like the hungry kiss of an enthusiastic lover. The boy didn't cry out as I descended on him. The only sound he made the entire time was a ragged, labored wheezing as he struggled to take air into his crumpled, broken body.

After I was done, I stood over the kill, staring at Gabriela as the cool rain mixed with the blood running down my face. She smiled at me, and lasciviously beckoned me to her.

"Now I can teach you what happens after feeding," she said cryptically as she took my hand in hers. I took one last look down at the twisted form lying in the gutter, the little body I had mangled moments before. I felt no remorse for what I had done; rather, I felt energized, fulfilled. Feeding gives you a moment of blinding, atavistic ecstasy, and leaves you with an almost sexual afterglow.

Feeding and its orgasmic feeling were only a precursor to other, more conventionally erotic pleasures that Gabriela would share with me that night. We returned to the expensive hotel at which we stayed while in Baltimore just as dawn was beginning. We are not as sensitive to sunlight as popular legend would have you believe—we do not explode or shrivel into nothingness upon direct exposure. It is more a strong sensitivity to sunlight that we possess. While it is not fatal, and can be endured if one does not mind the intense nausea and headaches that accompany us into daylight, it is much safer and more comfortable to be the "creatures of the night" that we have been billed as.

Gabriela directed me to arrange for champagne to be sent to our room before she went upstairs. I spoke briefly with the concierge, and soon went up myself with a bottle in a bucket of ice. When I entered the room, Gabriela lay supine on the bed, her head turned toward me. She was almost nude, wearing just a short, sheer nightdress. She smiled mischievously as I took her body in; the diaphanous fabric of her dress clung to her curves, hugging her body closely as her large breasts rose and fell with her breathing.

"Your cheeks are look like life itself," she purred at me as she turned towards me onto her side. My eyes were immediately drawn to the neat triangle of dark hair between her legs, and I was taken with desire.

"You look like sex," I replied, breathily.

She stood and approached me; I set the champagne bucket down on the table near the door, putting my arms around her as she kissed me lustily. I began to feel my manhood engorge as I ran my hands down her back, finally finding their way to her thick buttocks.

Gabriela pulled my body to hers as we kissed; I ran one hand over the gentle slope of her stomach, tracing my fingers over her navel on their way to her ample breasts. I pressed my thumb into her small pink nipple, feeling it harden against my touch. She then bit my lower lip, drawing blood, before taking a step back and sinking to her knees in front of me.

"Open the champagne, Will," she purred as she undid my belt. As I started to remove the foil from the bottle, she removed my sex from my pants. She took my balls in her mouth and sucked them gently as she wrapped her small hand around my quickly hardening cock. The cork of the champagne popped off, and Gabriela looked up at me, her large brown eyes meeting mine as she flicked her tongue across the base of my penis. She held my gaze in hers as she dragged her tongue achingly slowly up the shaft, licking the tip in increasingly smaller circles before wrapping her lips around me. I moaned, almost dropping the champagne as her head began to bob up and down rhythmically between my legs.

After what seemed like a blissful eternity, she stood back up and slipped her sheer gown over her head, dropping it to the floor. Then she grasped my cock in her hand and led me to the edge of the bed. She took the champagne from me and gently pushed me to my knees before her. She spread her legs, exposing her sex to me as she sat before me.

"Have you ever tasted a woman before, Will?" Gabriela took a drink of champagne straight form the bottle before passing it to me.

"I've been with two women," I answered, somewhat defensively.

"That's not what I was asking," she said, smirking at me. She dipped her finger into the folds of her pussy and ran her now-moist finger over my lips and into my mouth. I sucked on her finger, tasting her. I took a drink of champagne, handed the bottle back to her, and bent before her womanhood. I took her heavy breasts in my hands as I began to lick her. She tilted the bottle over her body; I could taste the effervescent crispness of the dry wine mix with her tangy musk as my tongue lapped at her. I slipped a finger inside her as I licked; she gasped as I began to slide my fingers in and out of her.

She put her hands on either side of my face and pulled me up to her, kissing me with a fierce hunger. She lay back on the bed and spread her legs before guiding me into her. Gabriela was tight around me as I entered her; we began to move in a slow and steady rhythm together, the bed creaking quietly under us. She wrapped her legs around me, surprising me with the strength of her compact form. I grabbed handfuls of her long, curly hair, burying my face in it and its sweet scent as we made love.

I raised myself up onto my arms; I watched a bead of sweat trickle down her graceful neck, into the valley between her breasts. Our pace quickened as we both neared climax. I thrust into her with more force as she began to call my name out low, almost grunting it, uttering the battle cry of triumphant lovers everywhere. Her body tensed as she came, her back arching as she grabbed the bedcovers. I continued thrusting, and felt my orgasm explode into her as I joined her in ecstasy.

Afterwards, we lay in bed all day, enjoying each other's bodies. As the sky darkened into dusk, we watched the rain fall in sheets outside our window. Her head lay on my chest, her luxurious dark hair splayed across my body.

As the sky darkened into twilight, I thought of the boy I had killed and felt my first sense of guilt. Tears began to stream down my face; I turned to Gabriela, who cradled my head on her breasts, rocking me back and forth as I wept softly.

"How did I become something so evil?" I forced out between sobs. Gabriela kissed the top of my head affectionately and held me tighter for a few moments before speaking in her Castilian-inflected English.

"People think we are monsters, but they don't believe in us. The truth is, we are not what they think; we kill out of necessity, not out of desire. Will, my love, true evil is not what we are. True evil is in the hearts of men, and every day we have to make the decision to resist it." She held me to her as my tears rolled onto her naked body. The rain continued to fall.

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