The artificial lights had dimmed, simulating nightfall. The low light that was often the norm in the wellbase, be it day or night, suited the stranger perfectly. He was out of place here though, physically at least. He was an elegant man - one whose appearance spoke more than anything of wealth. His smart black trousers and cloak contrasted starkly with the brilliant white of his shirt. His hair and eyes, also dark, added emphasis to the pallor of his skin. He walked with a fluid, easy gait, his eyes gazing straight ahead, ignoring the shadows, for they held no threat to him. Indeed he was either unaware of or uncaring of the many hidden and some not so hidden dangers this place held.
They saw each other at the exact same moment; the elegant man and the young girl. Though he had sensed her presence long before he'd been able to see her. Sensed it and been drawn to her. She hadn't been on the game long, not long enough to be either corrupted or destroyed by such a soul-destroying existence. She still had her dreams. Still thought that one day she would manage to save enough to fund her departure from this place, her search for a better life. Reality had not yet disillusioned her. And she was thus perfect for the elegant man who, not missing a step, not even pausing, continued on his way towards where she stood, only half obscured by the shadows.
He looked wealthy, the girl decided. And she knew he had seen her, saw the light catch his dark eyes as they looked at her. Hopefully he would pay well. She was tired. So tired. It had been a long night, and all she really wanted to do was rest her head upon the pillow of another and sleep...
He didn't speak, merely inclined his head slightly. She fell into step beside him, wondering what a man as tall, as elegant and as undoubtedly wealthy as him was doing in this hellhole. He was as out of place here as she no doubt would be in the higher reaches of this miserable chunk of rock.
'You - you won't hurt me, will you?' she queried nervously. She'd barely been on the game more than a fortnight, yet already she had encountered more than one who gained pleasure from her pain. It had made her more cautious. But such unpleasant experiences had not put her off. What else could she do? What else did she have to offer but her firm young body?
Those dark, dark eyes gleamed in the dim light as they gazed down upon her upturned face. He was so tall, she thought again. And now there was a graveness about his expression. His skin, she realised, looked like fine white porcelain. Solid, smooth and in another time and place might even have appeared unnaturally white. But not here, not on this miserable chunk of rock. Here it wasn't unusual for people to have white skin. Here he didn't look anything out of the ordinary ... but for that casual elegance he wore so easily. That aura of being somehow different to the rest of the people who walked these rocks.
'No,' he told her seriously, his voice deep and rich, his feet crunching in the dirt underfoot. 'No, I won't hurt you. With me you'll experience no pain. It will be a kinder loving.'
The girl dropped her gaze, suddenly unsettled by the intensity in those dark eyes. An intensity that could only be hunger. She didn't doubt that he meant it, that he wouldn't hurt her. But what had he meant by a kinder loving? Sex was sex, wasn't it? A purely physical act to be completed and forgotten about as soon as possible. But a kinder loving ... where did that fit in?
And where was he taking her?
The girl had been half-expecting that he would take her to the higher reaches. That he would live in a fine home, wealthy and luxurious. Yet elegant like him and not at all ostentatious. But instead he led them deeper, deeper, through the squalor that he seemed somehow apart from, oblivious to even.
'Er ... I don't think we'd better go much further,' she said awkwardly. 'There are some very nasty types on down here. They'd not hesitate to jump one who looks ... as you do.'
Wealthy, she'd been about to say. Worthing mugging. Worth killing...
Again he fixed those dark intense eyes upon her face. 'Don't worry,' he told her. 'They won't hurt you. Not whilst you are with me.'
And somehow she trusted him. She who had lived in this hellhole ever since the unexpected death of her over-protective father had left her destitute. She who knew full well that the gang members who roamed down here valued human life far less than they valued their next fix or their own inflated egos. It touched her in a way nothing ever had that he should apparently be more concerned for her wellbeing than for his own.
Movement up ahead made her freeze, hesitating uncertainly as she threw her silent companion a nervous glance.
He held out a hand, the fingers long and slender and so very white. 'Come,' he said, and she took the offered hand, allowing him to draw her into the shadows of a deep, dark doorway.
'Your hand is so cold,' the girl murmured. She felt suddenly breathless, as if something momentous were about to happen.
'Soon I will be warmer,' he said, and there was no indication of crudity in his words, not a hint that he was being crass. He was merely stating a fact.
'What about them?'
The gang of youths didn't appear to be drawing nearer, but the girl was afraid that they might suddenly come this way, find her and the man hiding in the shadows. She knew what their fate would be should that happen...
'They won't bother us,' her companion assured her gravely.
'What's your name?' she asked, not doubting him despite the fact that he had done or said nothing to indicate how he could possibly be so sure.
There was a long pause, during which she felt sure he was considering the question carefully.
'I'm Loralei,' she told him, suddenly sure that he wouldn't divulge his own name. Smiling when he looked dubious. 'No, really. That is my name. At least, I know no other.'
'You are so young,' he murmured, moving closer to her.
Suddenly she felt drawn to him. It was as if his confidence, his strength was somehow enveloping her, drawing her in, robbing her of any free will. Yet she felt no fear. It felt right ... so right that she should be here with him like this, the distant sounds of the gang no longer threatening despite the fact that she knew how deadly those who made such sounds could be.
She placed one hand upon his chest, marvelling at the way that his shirt felt so very like silk. Real silk, so soft, so pure. Surely even he couldn't be that rich?
'How old are you?' he asked softly.> 'Nineteen,' she replied, her big blue eyes wide and beguiling as she gazed up at his face. His pale skin seemed to almost glow even in the darkness, and he still felt so cold to her touch...
'Nineteen...' he breathed, drawing her to him with a sureness that she marvelled at. She wasn't a large girl, quite the opposite in fact, and the hard life she'd led recently had done little to put meat on her bones. Her hair hung loose down her back, long and white-blonde. Had life been kinder to her, she could have been beautiful even...
'I won't hurt you,' he murmured against the soft skin of her throat. 'Nothing and no-one will ever hurt you again...'
She made a funny little gasping sound as he sunk his teeth into her neck. The sharp incisors that had remained hidden until now puncturing her flesh cleanly. Shuddering as he sucked her life blood from her, she was caught up in a whirling, swirling kind of ecstasy. A kinder loving, she thought dimly as everything started to recede. And he had been right - it didn't hurt at all...
The Vampire felt her life drain into his own veins, shuddering in a similar kind of ecstasy as he felt her heartbeat, powerful at first as it struggled initially, then began to lose strength. He held the moment as the pleasure of it flowed through him like a warm river of pure sensation. Not wanting to let go of it - of her - yet knowing he must. Otherwise her fate would be his. He would share her death, drawn down with her as her young life drained away. Perhaps one day, when he tired of this immortal existence that had allowed him passage to this place, the forever half-life that had allowed him to witness all that had happened since that ship left Earth so many ages ago, he would stay with a victim. See an end to it at last. And if he ever did, the Vampire knew it would be with one such as her. One who, with a different set of circumstances, could have been so much more than she was...
She still lived when he finally laid her gently upon the ground, her white-blonde hair pooling around her like spun silk. Her eyes fluttered weakly and opened, but they were no longer bright now. Already her fading life was dulling their sparkle.
He gazed down at her, his handsome features troubled, knowing her life would soon drain away and he would once again be alone. So very alone as the shadow of forever once again fell upon him. Yet he'd felt a closeness to her, a connection that he hadn't felt for a very long time. The threatening loneliness clawed at him, clutching at his mind and twisting his emotions. Emotions he really shouldn't have, yet couldn't seem to help. It was a lonely and isolated existence, being the only one of his kind.
Still she fought to hang on to her life, and he marvelled at her tenacity, her strength. It hadn't been what he expected - she had appeared so weak, so vulnerable. He'd expected her to go quickly, just as most did...
'Let it go,' he urged, stooping beside her frail, pale form upon the dirty floor. 'Let it fade. There will be no more pain...'
'But I don't want to die!' Her whispered protest was so soft he would have been unable to make out the words but for his heightened senses. 'I've barely even experienced life yet.' She clutched at him, wrapping slender fingers around his wrist.
She was weakening fast now, yet still he could sense her struggle to hang on to life. An impossible struggle.
'Could you possibly be the answer?' he asked softly, speaking as much to himself as to her.
Finding an unnatural strength from somewhere deep within, the girl tightened her grip upon his wrist, her long nails digging in and drawing blood that was already cooling within him. He raised his wrist, with her fingers still clinging to it, to her mouth and urged her to drink.
The girl hesitated, then did as he urged.
After only a very short time, she made a funny little sound; partly a sigh, partly a groan, then closed her eyes and drew one last breath before the life finally left her body. The Vampire stood and gazed down at her silently. Had it already been too late? Had he allowed her to grow too weak? He sighed softly, fearing when she made no further movement, that he had indeed hesitated too long. Now he would never know whether or not she would have been the answer to his problem. The solution to his loneliness.
That loneliness swiftly moved in on him again, surrounding him, claiming him gleefully and threatening his sanity. Challenging his right to existence, even in this shadowy half-life.
The Vampire turned swiftly as a shape loomed up in the doorway.
'This is my territory,' the street-runner said, threat in his voice and his stance. He raised a blaster. But the Vampire knew as well as he did that he couldn't use it in such a confined space - it would take him out as well. He merely stood and gazed silently at the aggressive intruder. Intrigued as to what he would do or say next. The Vampire knew no fear. That was one emotion he didn't still suffer.
'What you doing here? You got ucreds?'
'Of course.' The Vampire reached into his cloak and drew out a handful. 'Here, take them,' he urged. He had fed once tonight, but his appetite was still sharp. And this one was unsuspecting, just as the girl had been. But this one deserved different treatment. This one deserved his miserable existence.
The young street-runner, greed making him incautious, strode forward. He reached for the money, the blaster still clutched in his other hand. And the Vampire's hand closed around his wrist, drawing him closer, closer. Suddenly scared, the street-runner tried to raise the blaster. But his strength seemed to be failing him, and he gasped in sheer terror when the Vampire smiled, revealing those sharp, pointed incisors mere moments before sinking them deep into the youngster's neck. The blaster clattered unnoticed to the ground.
The Vampire took the street runner only so far. He didn't want this one to die. He took his soul but not his life. This one had done nothing to deserve anything less. The Vampire released him with a sound of disgust, watching coldly as the unconscious street-runner slumped to the ground. Turning, he strode away. This one would live, until he perhaps chose to take his own life or somebody else took it for him. But it would be a haunted existence, tormented as he would be by nightmares of another existence where one couldn't die, but could only go on living in the shadow of forever. The loneliness of what he would see in his own mind would destroy his sanity just as surely as the Vampire could have drained his life away.
Experiencing the usual sense of wellbeing that followed such encounters as the dark shadows of the wellbase swallowed his tall figure, the Vampire reflected that this place suited his kind. There was no sunlight here to endanger his existence. But for the unfortunate fact that he was the only one of his kind, therefore the agonising loneliness that accompanied such knowledge haunted him constantly, this place would truly be a paradise for one such as himself...
Back to the light...