The pain surprised her, she had thought it would hurt less this time. Looking down, a tear fell from her cheek and disappeared into the pool of warm blood. She knew she would have to find somewhere to wash. She knew she would have to find somewhere to hide. Already the sky was bright with the coming dawn. The hunters would be awake by now, eager to sniff out her trail. Like this one had. He should have stayed with them instead of charging into the night to look for her.
The hot-blooded fool. But who could blame him, he who had always loved her, he whose brother she had savaged, driven by a raging hunger that had relented only when the flow of blood finally ceased. Only then, her mouth still pressed to her husband’s neck, had she understood what she was, what she had become. The horror sent her screaming from the house into the woods, and she had run, and run, because the pain of running was as nothing to the pain of remembering, to the pain of knowing.
And of course they pursued her, a monster risen from the earth, a creature to be feared and destroyed, and who could blame them? She agreed with them. But still she ran, and wept as she ran, until the sun peeked its head above the horizon, the sun that judged her, and hated her, and burned her, unless she returned to the earth where she belonged, the cool, moist soil like a soothing, comforting blanket in which to sleep the sleep of the dead, for a few hours at least.
Down at the river she’d bathed, its deep flow seductive yet terrifying. She stayed on the bank, scooping up the water to clean her skin of blood, to wash away the mud, insects nesting in her filthy hair. The calm surface reflected the moon and stars, and the shadowy trees, beautiful, serene, but denied her existence, an unnatural thing in the natural world.
Unnatural, but beautiful, like a pale goddess, naked in the moonlight. The fool had charged through the night in pursuit of her, his stealthy movements like a stampede to her newly sensitive ears. She had fled before him, could easily have escaped him, but had been caught in the fork of the river, unable, or unwilling, to cross. His eyes had shone with anger. His face had been etched with fear. His limbs had trembled with weariness. And then he had seen her, properly, the way perhaps he had always imagined her.
And he had wanted her. And she had wanted him. They had clashed in a violent, confused embrace, once again her hunger satisfied only when his blood infused her. The blood of her secret lover.
She screamed his name to the skies. She kissed his cooling lips. ‘There is nothing left of me now,’ she whispered to him. Her second kill. She had thought it would hurt less this time.