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E. M. Anderson

Death gains its foothold when love is no more.

But he didn’t learn the truth until it was too late.

“When dreams are no longer real, and life is nothing but dreams, it is lost,” she had told him. The words were forever etched in his heart, a tearing knife thirsty for the blood of his soul. But he had no more to give; it had all been lost to a dream that would never again be.

He had lived for that dream, the dream that now haunted and sustained him. He survived only in those faded illusions of what had once been. Every day he lived it over and over, the wonderful joy as well as the killing pain that now left him empty and bare, a shadow trapped in his own mind. It was a reoccurring dream of the battle he had lost. The battle he had lost to himself.

She had been his joy and his happiness. Her soft, soothing voice still echoed through his mind. She was like heaven itself, a bright star shining through his darkness. He had loved her.

But the darkness had returned and cast its curtain of misery to reclaim him. It was vivid in his mind, a picture painted from the tears and sorrow. He could never forget.

Summoned to fight in the war, his will had been stolen from him as he was trained to be a ruthless killing machine. She despised him for leaving her, but he had no choice. Stripped of all he knew, of all he had been, he had fought in with a band of vampires, stalking the enemy secretly in the night. Finally, he escaped from the war.

He returned to his castle in the clouds, but it was too late.

She stood before him, the knife clutched to her chest with pale hands and strong arms. Her face was stone, her eyes cold as death itself. She stepped slowly toward his crippled body crouched in the corner, her footsteps echoing through his mind like the crash of thunder on a stormy day. He sat helplessly, lacking of the faintest strength, the horrible truth now clear to him. He had been living in a dream, and now that dream was shattered.

“Why, Love?” he pleaded, but he knew the answer.

“When dreams are no longer real, and life is nothing but dreams, it is lost. You’re a dreamer.” Her icy words pierced through him like a thousand needles. He had loved her, he had given her everything!

The knife plunged toward his chest mercilessly, as if in slow motion. It tore through his flesh and pierced through his heart, leaving its mark in him forever. His life, his dream, had been balancing precariously on the edge of a cliff, and now she had pushed him off that cliff. His dream and his life, for know he realized that they were one, had collapsed into the darkness that was inevitable. She had meant to kill him, but instead she had scarred him forever and let the darkness and gloom take over, a fate worse than death.

But she had forgotten the children. Her children, their children. She had fled the castle, leaving them behind. He knew he could never again bear to see them, to hear their voices, so much like echoes of hers.

No, he could not bear it.

He jerked the knife out of his chest, the wound sealing itself shut. She had not known that he was a vampire, but the damage had still been done. The wound in his heart, the gaping hole, he knew would never be healed. The wound that would eventually take his life.

The children were half-lings, and they were young. He knew he could end it all quickly. He could end every last memory of her.

He found the three children, resting peacefully in their bed. He approached the oldest one first, his son. The boy’s face was a replica of hers, his sharp facial features and his ruffled brown hair. No more, he thought, No more will she haunt me. He drew the knife up, and cursing the memory of her, thrust it downward through the boy’s heart. He pulled the knife out, blood seeping from the wound, then approached the other two, his daughters. They were sleeping still, oblivious to the murder of their brother. He glanced upon their faces that so closely resembled hers, then pierced the knife through each of their hearts. He looked at their lifeless bodies lying on the bed, blood streaming from their hearts and pooling onto the sheets. He knelt down beside them, his hand clutching their tiny lifeless hands, as he cried in anguish. What had he done? He cradled his dead children in his arms, tears running down his face onto theirs. She had succeeded in killing him twice.

When the sun rose, he buried his children along with the knife, along with every torn memory of her.

But he could not escape her.

He fled as far as he could, and still her words, her voice, echoed through his mind. He knew she would haunt him forever.

He dwelled within the deepest shadows, his life slowly fading away. His heart burned with hatred as the years passed slowly, painfully. Never again would he love. Never again would he trust.

His thirst for human blood grew stronger and stronger in his solitude. His tongue yearned for the sweet taste of the warm, life-giving blood. The instinct that he had stifled for so long had begun to take over again, slipping into his mind, its dark hand reaching out, tempting. He knew he must taste blood again. He emerged from the depths of the castle, black as night, and crept through the snow-covered forest, the light of the moon guiding his path. He sniffed the calm night air, and a rich smell overcame him. The smell of blood. Yes, blood was near.

He trekked through the woods like a shadow, searching for his prey. The smell was overwhelming now, spreading through his body like wildfire. The prey was near, just a few steps away. He approached it silently.

“Help me!” a soft, urgent voice cried out, piercing the night’s silence. It was a woman, lying in the snow, her side ripped open and a bloodied sword lying beside her. Her golden hair fell down her shoulders, shimmering in the moonlight. Her face was wet with tears as she looked up at him. Her deep blue eyes pierced into his and their gazes locked. He sensed a deep pain and bitter hate in her eyes, pain and hate that he knew, too. He felt a glimpse of hope in his heart.

The snow around her was stained crimson, and blood covered her clothing, yet it did not impede her beauty. Her eyes closed as she fell back in the snow.

He knelt down beside her, and gently lifted her limp body into his arms. Warm blood spilled from her wound onto his arms, but his desire for blood had left him. He could not harm this beautiful creature. Her blood dripped down his hands and fell softly into the snow. Warm, bittersweet blood. The blood that he, too, had bled and spilled forth until he was left hopelessly empty.

He trudged through the deep snow as he held her in his arms and carried her back to his castle. He laid her unconscious form onto the bed. Blood soaked the sheets she lay upon, and he searched anxiously for the source of the blood that poured out of her. He found a deep slash in her side where the sword had pierced. He worked tirelessly until sunrise, dressing the wound.

She did not wake for three days. He stood faithfully by her side, determined not to lose her, his only hope. Finally, as night fell, she stirred, then looked up at him. He could see in her eyes that they were filled with pain and misery, with hardship and betrayal, with hopelessness. He saw a reflection of his own pain and sorrow, of his own tragedy. She was hurting, just like him. She had experienced the same pain and sadness as he had. She had been lost in the darkness, just as he was. But her eyes pierced through his darkness like the sun through the clouds, and burrowed deep into his soul, flooding his heart with a new life, a new hope, a new love.

“Why did you save me?” She asked. He hesitated.

“Because you give me hope. At first I just wanted your blood, but now I don’t.”

“Well you shouldn’t have saved me. It was almost over with.” Her voice sounded strong, but he sensed that she was crumbling underneath.

“Why did you try to kill yourself?”

She looked at him, then turned away as a tear ran down her face. After a moment, she said, “Because I’ve lost touch with life. Life holds no purpose for me anymore.”

He stared at her, then said softly, “You don’t know how much I wish I could end it all, all the pain and misery. But I can’t, so instead I took it out on others. I should’ve been dead years ago.”

“So you do understand,” she whispered. He nodded solemnly as he grasped her hand. His eyes searched into her soul, and he felt a deep, comforting warmth bubble up from within. Somehow he knew he had overcome the darkness and reclaimed his life. He was no longer a shadow, no longer a prisoner of his sorrow. He had broken free of the chains that had fettered his heart. He was free of his past that had haunted him for so long. He was free of the darkness that had stolen his soul and had smothered him to near death. His soul broke free from the lies that had ensnared him, the bitter dreams that would never be. Now a new dream blossomed from within his soul, a dream sweet and pure as a rainbow after a storm. A dream he knew would last forever.

He was a dreamer, and he always would be.

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