Alistair has sought to be loved for centuries
The ancient trees seemed to shake their boughs in sorrowful disapproval when Alistair returned, head hung low, to his simple abode set deep in the forest's heart.
He entered the dark interior, recognising the familiar feelings he was experiencing; shame, guilt and a longing to be other than what he was. This wasn’t the life he wanted for himself; It had forced him into it, much preferring death instead of this interminable, tortuous existence. Over three hundred years ago, something irretrievably changed within him.
Throughout all those years, he had occasionally experienced love and companionship with a few human partners; those who gave their blood willingly in exchange for eternal life. Inevitably, they’d leave him seeking the life’s blood of the innocents.
Each time Alistair’s hunger forced him to hunt for food, he felt a self-loathing, even though he found the strength to resist feeding on humans, preferring instead to seek sustenance from nocturnal animals.
He lay down to sleep, but his dreams always were the same…
The massive stallion tosses his head and whinnies. Alistair sits astride the sweat covered flanks. He too is breathless from exhaustion and stares at the utter devastation surrounding him. The field of battle, which days before had been a pleasant, flower filled meadow, now blooms red with the blood of slaughtered soldiers from both sides.
Darkness is fast ascending, the cries of the injured pierce the air.
Alistair shudders in his sleep, he knows it’s a dream and tries to waken, but he’s trapped back in that time, three hundred years ago, a time of war and chaos when his life became a living nightmare.
He stands next to his horse, soothing him after the battle. Out of the darkness comes the tall figure of a man. Against the backdrop of the light of the fires burning on the field, Alistair can see he’s dressed in dark clothing; a cape flows behind him as he walks amongst the dead and dying. He seems to search for something or someone. His eyes alight on Alistair.
He woke with a start, as he always did at that part of the dream. Although he knew it wasn’t a dream, but a memory of his first meeting with his maker, a ruthless vampire lord who had forced this curse upon him, leaving him to grapple with an irresistible thirst for blood.
Over the last fifty years, he’d attempted to live a quiet life in the forest not too far from a small village where he had a reputation of being reclusive, a strange one, someone to be avoided at all costs.
It was only once darkness fell could he could safely leave the confines of his casket and step outside into the night air. Raising his head to the sky, he saw the silhouettes of a colony of bats crossing the full moon on their nightly foray to seek sustenance. He envied them their closeness to each other, accentuating his loneliness. How he longed for a companion, someone who saw him for what he was, a man who wanted to be accepted, someone other than a vampire.
He knew the villagers warned their children about the “creature who lives in the forest,” attributing any misfortunes that may have befallen them to his presence among them.
This had been his experience for so many eons, being forced to leave, to run, to escape the wrath of fearful people who wished him dead. What they didn’t know was that death would be preferable to this existence he endured.
As he walked amongst the trees, his bat-like hearing sensitive to the sounds of the night, he heard distressed, rapid breathing and the occasional sob. He glimpsed something white in the moonlight.
“Is someone there?” The question, though hardly above a whisper, Alistair recognised as being filled with terror.
He heard the fear and replied in a soothing tone to the young woman cowering behind an ancient oak tree. “Don’t be frightened, I won’t harm you.”
“Oh no, it’s you!” She’d been told stories of this monster living in the forest ever since she was old enough to comprehend. Covering her face with her hands, she turned away, cowering as if she was expecting him to strike her.
He saw the white skin of her neck and felt his incisors growing, his salivary glands filling his mouth with liquid, readying his body for a meal of fresh young blood.
Yet he pushed down every instinct in his body to bite into that soft skin until the urge subsided, and he was in control once more. “Are you lost?” His voice was kind and gentle.
Still unsure, she turned to face him and saw a tall man, who she judged to be in his thirties, dressed in dark clothing, draped in a black cape. Lifting her face to study his features in the warm glow of the moonlight, she saw nothing but concern. “Yes, I’m afraid I am. I’m unfamiliar with the forest, I shouldn’t have attempted to find my way home this way, and then when darkness fell, I lost my bearings.” She wiped tears from her cheeks. “My family will be worried.”
“I’ll walk you home. I’m Alistair. What’s your name?”
“Lilia. My family raises cattle just outside the village.”
Alistair nodded. “I know the place; I keep your beasts safe from the wolves at night.”
His thoughts went to the taste of wolf blood, the sharp, tangy, acrid taste which had sustained him throughout the summer months while they left the cattle out to pasture. He’d avoided killing any livestock, as he knew that would make the farmers come for him, screaming and yelling. They’d be carrying pitchforks and flaming torches to drive him out of the district, as had happened so many times before over the centuries.
Lilia was still talking; “My father will be pleased to hear that you’ve been protecting us and will be grateful. You must come home with me and meet my family. Mother will make you supper.” She smiled now, feeling utterly safe with this strange man.
“No, that’s not possible.” He thought how wonderful it would have been to walk into the lightness out of the dark and sit with a family and eat a meal.
The lights of the village came into view, and Alistair stopped walking. “You’ll be able to find your way now.” He turned to go back into the thick darkness of the forest.
Lilia reached for his hand, their fingers touched, their eyes locked, and in that instant they both felt it, a connection. “Thank you, Alistair.”
Over the following few months, their secret friendship grew stronger. Alistair attempted to dissuade Lilia from getting closer by revealing his true self to her, his history, and how he would be forced to live this way forever. He also revealed his need for blood. Yet in his heart, he craved to be loved, to end this loneliness.
She placed a finger on his beautiful lips, “Hush. I love you Alistair.”
Rumours reached Lilia’s father’s ears that his daughter had been secretly meeting the forest beast, that he had cast a spell on her, using her for his own gratification. In the villager’s eyes she was spoiled goods, nothing more than the Beast’s whore.
“I’ve been hearing things about you, daughter. Wicked things, dirty things. You’re a disgrace to my good name.” Lilia’s father slapped her hard across her face. “You’re no daughter of mine. Get out!”
Taking nothing but the clothes on her back, she ran, tears cooling the handprint her father had left on her face. She ran all the way to Alistair’s cottage. The sun was at its zenith, Lilia knew he would be sleeping, unable to withstand the light.
She opened the door, closing it behind her so as not to allow the sun’s light to enter the darkness. Although she had been inside the cottage many times, the bedroom had been off limits. Taking courage, she slipped into the room where Alistair slept unaware in a closed casket of dark ebony. Gently, she lifted the lid and climbed in next to where he lay. Unconsciously, he wrapped his arm around his love, and both slept until sunset.
When they awoke, Alistair cried in anguish. “You must return home; I can’t allow you to ruin your life.
In reply, Lilia lifted her long golden tresses, exposing her throat. Alistair saw the pale blue veins under the white skin. He saw a steady pulse, the beat of the heart she was willing to give to him so readily.
“I want to live with you forever,” she whispered. “Please.”
“Alistair groaned, unable to resist, he sank his fangs into the softness.