France, April 1918
Wars have always existed. From the simple foot soldier on the battlefields to the generals, hundreds of miles away, safe, I have watched. The stench of blood, the rot of fear, the roar of rifles and cannon fire is well known to me. Before the battle, after the skirmish, during the fighting, I watch and I wait. Then I walk through the carnage and set free the suffering, the anguished and the dying. I set their souls, if they even have them or believe in them, free.
Over the many years, the many soldiers who have slipped past me, to go on with their lives and live, have given me a reputation. They talk of a dark figure that huddles over their fallen comrades, only to walk on and leave their friends dead. I am called many things: the Angel of Death, the Grim Reaper, even the spawn of Satan. I was born and named Caleb. I am neither an angel nor devil. I am a vampire and I go from battlefield to battlefield, trying to stop the suffering of those who are about to die. My bite ends the pain and eases the soul into the next life. I don't do this out of any sense of justice. I am a hungry man who must feed, and there is no better place to dine than a war torn countryside.
Tonight I walk over the lines, slipping into the trenches of the German soldiers. I found a young boy, perhaps twenty, who was ripe with fear. His heart beats rapidly, knowing deep down that he will die. He has given up. I can smell it on him. Even if there is no battle tomorrow, he will die. His soul has given in to the fear. I slipped down beside him, speaking the archaic German I'd learned over the centuries.
"Do not fear, little one."
"Who are you, sir?" His smile is tremulous. He is already dead.
"I am no one. Just another soldier like you." I caressed his face. He pushed it into my hand, letting me feel the barely there stubble on his cheek. So young, so new to have already given up, I felt a moment of pity, a second of hesitation. No one this young should die. But I stamped it down; the hunger already riding me. I slipped beside him, lowered my body to his, lying on him as I pressed him back into the dirt wall of the trench.
My power reached out to him, quickening his blood, stirring his lust. My lips found his pulse, deep in his throat. My power calls it to the surface, where I licked it. I undid his trousers, feeling him hard and leaking in my hand. I can give him this as I take him. I can give him pleasure. I find his gun and in his pocket is a glass bottle of gun oil. I poured some out onto my hand and pressed it to him, parting him, stroking him. The boy has already given himself to me.
Once he opened, I pressed myself to him, joining with him, sinking deep into his body. As I began to move, the soldier's heart started beating with passion instead of fear. I hate the taste of fear. It sours the blood, taints it with its negativity. I wanted purity. I crave the flavor of lust and love. I could give the boy lust, and when he is consumed with it, end his life.
I feel his body quickening below me. He fisted me with his warm body, pulling me towards my own release. As I kept pushing into him, his belly tensed and his moans filled the night air. With the first jet of his release, my teeth entered his flesh, drilling into his neck, searching for his vein. The first drops hit me scalding hot and full of youthful lust and the rush of orgasm. I continued to pump my hips, feeling my own body quake with the explosion of release. My last pump of semen coincided with the last drop of blood I took from the boy. I felt his heart beat one last time, and then stop.
The boy lay against the dirt wall, his trousers around his knees. No matter how many times I'd taken a life, even one so close to death, I have never left them as they died. I straightened his clothing and wiped up the spilled blood along his neck. I sat him back against the dirt wall of the trench. As I left, his eyes were closed, but he had a trace of a smile on his lips. I had fed for the night.
Through the trees of the Ardennes, I made my way slowly towards my home. The late April night and full moon made the bare branches look like claws waiting to rend the flesh of unsuspecting nightwalkers. The dead zone between the lines is always so silent, so still. I liked walking it. There are owls and a few other birds of prey that hunt in the night, but all other creatures were gone. They should be gone. No one should be here, not even the soldiers.
My home was a simple stone structure, built two hundred years before. The previous occupants were a miller and his family, all of them stricken with small pox. As I took their lives, I took their home. I was born over five hundred years ago and I have seen many wars. I have amassed a fortune greater than most of the world's wealthiest people. Yet I always come home to France, to my mill by the river. With the new steamships, I have traveled all over this world, and yet I cannot abide to be away from my home for more than a few months at most.
The sun would soon rise, the horizon already purpling as I made my way through the woods and the rocks until I got to my house. There were soldiers all around it. I plunged into the river, knowing I had an emergency entrance if need be. I slipped behind the old wheel and let myself into the basement through the wheel casings. I was so weary of it. All I wanted was to lie down and sleep. The rising of the sun would take care of that for me. I made my way deeper into the flooring, past the old grindstone there was a door. It led down into a deep chamber that was damp and cold, until I reached a door. Inside was my private keep. The room was hidden deep within the earth, no windows, and only the one door. If need be, I could stay here, outside of the sun for as long as I needed to be.
I slipped out of the German uniform I had taken and trudged over to my bed, I could tell the sun was rising, my arms and legs became heavy, and my heart was slowing. The warm blood of the soldier was becoming sluggish in my veins. As the sun pierced the horizon, my body stopped. My heart stopped its beating and I died, sprawled on my bed.
I do not stay dead throughout the sun's journey across the sky. I am old enough, been a vampire long enough that my heart starts beating relatively quickly after sunrise. It is only the new ones that stay dead until the sun sets. I slept for a good part of the day. But I rose and stretched my body, feeling and touching it. I died in the prime of my life. For the time, I was tall. Now, I'm still tall, but not as tall as some. At five-nine, I have a wiry, rangy build that is lithe and muscular. My arms are defined, as are my legs, belly and chest. There is some chestnut hair fanned across my chest, between my nipples. There is a dark swirl of it around my navel. I let my beard grow out; I hate to shave. My hair is clipped close to my head. I slipped on my clothes, the clothing that I wear around my home. It would be a few hours before I could go above.
My hunger was met; I hardly needed to feed that often anymore. It is only during times of war that I gorge myself. I can, if need be, go months between feedings. But while the foolish nations tried to garner territory, and the feeding so plentiful, I would take advantage of it. I slipped out my door, going into the dank, damp antechamber. There was scuffling in the grinding room. I opened the door and hid behind the old grindstone. The unmistakable sounds of rutting filled my hypersensitive hearing. I peeked around the old stone to see a man pushing into a woman. Her eyes were glazed with hatred, her body tense and bruised. She had been used before, broken but not lost. She wasn't fighting; she was biding her time.
The sight before me filled me with disgust. In all my years, I had never once found it necessary to take what wasn't freely given. I had seen men take their pleasure, force women and some men into satisfying their lust more times than I could count. I moved silently from behind the grindstone, walking stealthily behind the soldier. Once behind him, my hands reached out and in a flare of fury, I snapped his neck. His body hit the floor long after he was dead.
The woman looked at me with fear, until she realized I had helped her. Tears of gratitude filled her eyes and she blinked furiously to clear them. She stood shakily, and when she stumbled, I reached my hand out to steady her. She shied away from my touch, but nodded her head in thanks. The woman looked down at the body of her attacker, kicking him viciously then spitting on him.
I didn't want to leave the carcass on the floor. The body would let go and soil my home. Slipping him out the same hole for the turn wheel wouldn't have been a problem; my superhuman strength would easily let me. But she was there. The woman got dressed. I hefted the body while she dazedly fixed her clothes. He slipped out the hole and landed in the river.
Her French called to me. "Merci, monsieur."
Her face was no longer lost; anger had taken hold. "Madame."
"My sisters, monsieur."
Helplessness stabbed at me. Her concern I could taste in the air. I could do nothing until the sun set. "Madame, I will save your sisters, but I cannot go to them yet."
Her despair shimmered in her eyes as she blinked back tears that pride would not let fall. "You must."
She walked closer to me, her hips swaying in a timeless beat of seduction. She had just been raped, but still hoped to use her wiles on me. "Please monsieur. I will do anything you ask."
Shame had me turn my head. "I cannot go above until the sun sets."
She reached out to me and turned my face to her. The woman looked into my eyes and I opened my mouth, so she could see. Shock widened her eyes, but she did not move away. "Monsieur vampire, thank you."
I took her hand in mine and raised it to my lips, kissing her hand gently. "Madame, I am at your service."
We waited together the few minutes until sunset. After five hundred years, I can always tell when it happens. The last sluggish bit of sleepiness left me. I took her hand and walked towards the stairs to the main part of the house. I touched my finger to my lips, asking for her silence. Once above, we found two soldiers drinking and smoking in the main room. There was male grunting and female screaming coming from one of the rooms. It was simple to take the two mostly drunk soldiers. Their necks snapped as easily as the other's had.
I whispered to the woman. "How many others were brought with you, Madame?"
"My two sisters."
I opened the door to the bedroom, peering inside. One man pounded his body against a woman who had lost consciousness. Another man was hitting a woman who fought him as he tried to undo his trousers. I was loath to go near either man. Their emotions tainted their blood, poured out in their sweat. I steeled myself against the feelings and moved behind the soldier who seduced with his fists. His neck snapped in my hands. Before he even fell to the floor, the other died as well, but not by my hands. The woman I had rescued had found a knife and slit his throat.
The sweat and blood were too much, filled the air with the negative, raw hatred. But I stayed. I moved the bodies and dumped them in the river. Let the water cleanse their wounds of the stench. I left the women to care for themselves, they knew I would not touch them. I walked out into the night, searching for I knew not what.
Wearing a French uniform, I walked the lines away from the Germans. I had had my fill of their kind for the night. Even though I knew that had this been German soil that French or British soldiers would be found doing the same, tonight I wanted clean, pure, and fresh. I did not need to feed again. But I craved something that would cleanse my nose, clear the air, and wipe away all that I had felt earlier this night.
I walked the lines, staying just inside the dead zone, near the trenches. I could feel the men. I could taste their feelings. There was fear, but nothing like death. I had been walking for a few hours when I sensed something different. There was a new taste on the air. It was compelling, as if it reached inside me, pulling me towards it. The siren song of the scent called to me, I was powerless to resist.
I was unaware of the stony, tree limb covered path I took through the night, searching for the source of that call. I found him in one of the outer trenches, alone. He was American. I slipped into the trench with him, moving a little loudly, so I wouldn't startle him. He raised his rifle in alarm, but recognized my French uniform.
He stared at me for a few moments, more than enough time for me to take all of him in. He was a tall, big man. His hair was blond, his eyes the color of the summer sky, at least what I remembered of the summer sky. I hesitated to speak, because my English I had learned from years spent in London. In my travels, I had been to America, mostly New York and Boston, but also San Francisco. But the accent I had been unable to adopt.
There were other men in the trench with us and I did not want to draw their attention. The line was at least five hundred feet long and there were two men at each end and the blond man before me. His eyes were bright and innocent although weary at my presence. He had relaxed once he realized that I was his ally, but his confusion as to my presence was obvious.
Trying out my English, "Who are you?"
His smile was warm, his eyes curious. "My name is Ethan Johansen. Who are you and why are you here?"
The lie rolled off my lips so easily, I had used it before. "My name is Caleb. I was trapped behind the Germans and waited until dark to come home."
That seemed to satisfy him. He reached into his pack and offered me some water and some food. I shook my head at his generosity. Even though I had tasted neither food nor drink in five hundred years, his simple act of kindness touched me. "You can wait here until dawn, then I suggest you get back to your people."
A far off explosion broke the stillness of the night and Ethan instantly went alert, raising his rifle to rest at the top of the trench. I knew it wasn't near enough to worry, so I observed the man who had drawn me here until he calmed. I closed my eyes and let my senses take over. I could smell his essence on the night wind. He was pure and innocent; the breeze was filled with the scent of it. His skin radiated with his energy, his life force. I could taste it, and it was intoxicating. His outer beauty was something that artists would weep for, but his inner beauty was beyond any other I had seen.
When Ethan calmed and sank back into the trench, I opened my eyes and watched him calm himself with a few deep breaths. It wasn't that he was afraid. His body reacted with adrenalin. I think that is what first caught my senses, his lack of fear for himself. I had to fight the urge to reach out and take his essence from him, take it into myself and savor it. I did not need to feed, but I knew of no other way to share his life energy without taking it away.
Ethan turned to me and smiled, his white teeth showing in the moonlight. I'm sure he could barely see me, but my eyes were long adjusted to the murkiness of night. My hand shook as I reached it out to Ethan, to stroke his face. I think I must have startled him because he drew back. This was something new to me. Usually, I chose those who had given up or who were dying. This boy was full of life. To end his life would have been tragic, but I wanted to share in his energy. I reached out again, and this time Ethan didn't pull away.
My hand felt the smoothness of his skin, slightly prickly with beard stubble. His cheeks were high and well formed, his skin warm. My hand trailed down to his throat and I could feel his heart beating in his pulse. My power took over and called it to the surface. Beyond my control, I moved to him, letting my mouth cover his pulse, sucking at the skin, feeling his life force beat against my lips. I felt Ethan shudder beneath me as his huge hands reached up to grab at my shoulders.
My powers include the ability to seduce. This time, I didn't want my powers to do my seduction, but I didn't know how to turn them off either. So I let my powers go and continued to taste Ethan's skin, feel his pulse beneath me, and let his body quicken. I unbuttoned his jacket and felt the hard plains of muscle beneath my fingers. He wore a thermal suit of some kind, but it didn't hide the muscular man beneath me. The crinkly feel of hair beneath the fabric made my pulse stutter before beating hard. All the while, my every basic instinct demanded that I bite into his neck, draining all that purity into me.
As I undid his trousers, I felt him tense. I reached out with my mind, fighting over the seductive swirl of his flavors on my tongue. This was a pure soul. Ethan was untouched. My desire ratcheted even higher. I began to nibble on the tender flesh of his throat as I undid his pants and pulled them down. Trembling beneath me, I pushed Ethan back into the wall of the trench, lifting his legs in my hands, pushing myself against him.
Ethan's hands were restless against my back as I lowered his thermal drawers, letting my hard, naked flesh press against his quivering opening. The man was hairy; I could feel it where our skin was naked against each other. My body trembled, excited beyond the norm. Sticky essence left my body, coating him, slicking him for my entry. I shook so badly, I knew it would be over quickly, perhaps even before I got inside him. His body, his innocence called out to me. I couldn't take his blood or his life, but I could have his body. He was open to me. I felt his body opening. His hands became forceful, pulling me to him.
The call of his blood, the sweet innocence that flooded my senses, and the hot body, opening itself to me was too much. I pushed forward, parting Ethan's virgin flesh as I slid deep inside him. I heard his breath leave him on a slow, earthy moan. As his slick channel quivered around me, adjusting to my length and girth, my body shook hard and I came. My fangs of their own will scraped lightly against his neck, drawing three drops of his sweet blood to the surface. It coated my tongue with his innocence, purity, desire, and lust. If fueled my body, driving me as my body started thrusting hard.
My previous release slicked Ethan's body, letting me slide in and out with ease. I refused to lift my head from his neck, knowing if I were to see Ethan's face, it would be over again. The strong legs bracing my hips began to flex with each push of my body. The arms around my back grew tight, pulling me closer and closer against the warm, hard chest beneath me. I felt Ethan's heart beat it's rapid staccato, feeling him climb higher and higher. His low moans and throaty gasps fed my ears, knowing there was extreme pleasure happening for my lover. My body, my soul was drenched in Ethan. There was no other focus for that moment as my body plunged harder and faster into his heat.
I felt the fluttering quivering of Ethan's belly beneath me. I knew he was close. From somewhere deep inside, I found the energy to pull back and look in his eyes. What I saw stole my breath, making me teeter on the edge of completion. Ethan's eyes were filled with the wonder of what was happening. They were heavy lidded and drowsy as I felt the first signs of his release. He opened his mouth wide, as if to cry out. On instinct, I covered his lips with my own, kissing someone for the first time in almost five hundred years. I drank his moans and gasps as his body exploded beneath me.
The taste of Ethan's lips, the sweetness of his mouth was too much and I found myself shaking and shuddering hard into him. My arms shook too badly to brace me. Ethan's strong arms came around me, holding me to him as my ear rested over his heart, hearing the strong beat slow and steady. I felt a sweet drowsiness descend over me. I wanted nothing more than to sleep in his arms, but the tingling in my spine let me know that dawn was soon approaching. Slipping gently out of Ethan's body, I kissed his cheek then straightened my clothing.