Revised 10-06-01

[Revised October 6, 2001. Final Draft]

At a party, Lily is forced to face a personal demon…literally…

Cold Black
by Anne Sinclair

When I saw him, the word 'evil' whispered in the back of my mind. If anyone had asked, I would have been hard pressed to explain what inspired the sense of dread that settled in my stomach. On the surface, the man was strikingly handsome, the kind of person who immediately attracts all attention upon entering a room. He was the sort of person that other men envied and women vied for. The man was dressed-no, draped -in black and the color suited his fair complexion. His pale hair spilled over his broad shoulders in soft layers, lending him an almost feminine appearance. He was tall and slender, the hint of well-formed muscles outlined by the taut cloth of his shirt.

No, his appearance gave me no cause for worry. Admiration, perhaps, but not worry. It was the look in his eyes. They shone with something inexplicable and vaguely revolting, sending unwanted chills up my spine. His eyes were as black as the clothing he wore and just as devoid of feeling. No pupils visible, only a fathomless void. Those eyes spoke of pure evil and malicious intent. Seductive and disturbing all at once. His pallor, rather than clashing with the darkness of his eyes, complimented them perfectly. Cold black eyes that offered a glimpse into a hollow soul, set off against the pristine paleness of his smooth skin.

For some reason, I continued to stare at the man, convincing myself that there was no danger as he had yet to notice me or even glance in my direction. I watched him for quite some time, entranced by the display yet horrified by the hold he seemed to have over me, even at a distance. He glided across the room with fluid grace, pausing here and there to dazzle some unsuspecting partygoer. As trite as it sounds, he reminded me of a cat on the prowl, lithe and self-assured. He was hunting, but with casual interest of a man shopping for a new suit.

He strolled leisurely among the guests and occasionally condescended to joined a conversation. Any group he invaded was quickly consumed, all eyes focused on him, every ear straining to catch every enticing word that dripped from his perfectly shaped lips. The man did not stay with any group very long before moving on to another willing knot of people. I realized he was weeding. Discarding the unsuitable, searching for the best picks. After a time, he joined a rather large group, among them a young couple I had noticed earlier. They were your typical newlyweds, disgustingly sweet and unable to keep their hands off each other. The husband stood behind his wife with his arms wrapped comfortably around her middle. She, in turn, leaned back on her lover with complete contentment. As expected, they were enthralled with the beautiful man who deigned to speak to them. Gradually, the man's attention turned solely to that couple, focusing all of his evil intent on those two innocents. He moved closer to them, reaching out periodically to touch an arm or caress a shoulder, each time growing bolder. The rest of the group continued their lively conversation, oddly oblivious to the horror that was unfolding in their midst. Suddenly the mysterious, handsome stranger was none of their concern.

I continued to observe him from afar, a strong sense of fear welling up inside me. The man continued to fondle the young couple as they became increasingly disoriented. I felt as though I should do something and quickly. Warn them, scream, something. Instead, I simply stood and watched, too frightened to act and too fascinated to turn away. I watched as he wrapped an arm around them both and buried one hand in the other man's hair while moving his other hand slowly down the woman's thigh, trapping both victims in one embrace. He began to kiss the woman rather forcefully, eventually moving his lips down to the curve of her neck. As he bent over her, his hair fell forward and covered his face. When the man raised his head again, I half expected to see the clichéd fang wounds in the woman's neck. There were none, of course. That man was no vampire or any other fabled creature of the night. He was something much worse.

Without warning, the man glanced up and looked straight into my eyes. We stared at each other for one disconcerting moment before a smirk spread across the man's exquisite face. He had been aware of my scrutiny all along. Holding my gaze mercilessly, he licked the woman's ear and languidly began to trace a path down her neck with his tongue. I swallowed hard, repulsed by the entire display, and turned away. I walked across the room to the balcony as quickly as I could, still reeling with revulsion, as much with my own fascination as with what I witnessed. The young couple was in serious danger, I was certain, but from what exactly I couldn't say. I didn't care to watch. I didn't want to know.

As I stepped outside, I tried to cleanse my thoughts. I tried to focus on anything and everything other than that evil man. The warm night air, the clinking of wine glasses, the musicians beginning a new selection. I latched onto the melody and breathed deeply. It was a haunting refrain from an obscure opera. It sounded vaguely familiar and I concentrated on drawing the name from the depths of my subconscious. The story was a dark, lurid tale, that much I remembered. This piece was played somewhere in the middle, the turning point.

"Death Takes a Mistress."

I was startled by the unexpected sound of a man's voice behind me and I whirled around. It was him. The man was casually standing behind me, a wineglass resting delicately in his hand. I stared at him for several moments, too stunned to respond, too frightened to run. I attempted to reply, hopefully with some comment innocuous enough to send him searching for another, more lively companion, but the words were trapped in my throat. My unease seemed to amuse the man immensely and he continued speaking, a salacious smile contorting his features.

"That is the literal translation. I'm impressed that such mediocre musicians were able to learn such a complex piece. Quite a tale…very dark and lurid."

He spoke with purpose, catching my eye as he concluded. He used the precise words that ran through my mind when he approached. The expression on my face must have been quite a sight, for he laughed excessively. Laughter has always been one of my favorite sounds, but his sent a new wave of revulsion through me. There was nothing joyful about his laugh. It was frigid and maniacal.

I began to back away from the man slowly, trying to muster enough strength to run. His eyes followed me as I cautiously made my way to the door. Or, at least, that was what I thought I was doing. After a moment, my back met with the hard stone wall. The man immediately took advantage of my mistake and stepped in front of me. He advanced no further, seemingly content with blocking my means of escape. Smiling with satisfaction, he continued his dissertation on opera and specifically the symbolism in the current piece. At strategically placed intervals, he absently sipped his wine, holding the liquid in his mouth for several moments before slowly swallowing. He stared into my eyes as he repeated the process. Speak, sip, swallow. Speak, sip, swallow. His smile grew broader with each passing moment as did my discomfort. He clearly enjoyed my fear more than the sweet red fluid swirling in his glass.

"I believe it is the turning point of the entire opera, isn't it? The girl finally succumbs to the Black Knight. Innocence consumed by Darkness...though one wonders how innocent she truly was if she could allow herself to be seduced by a demon."

"No one is completely innocent," I blurted out, immediately regretting my lack of reserve.

"Exactly, my dear Lily...exactly..."

He leaned forward as he spoke, reaching past me to set the empty glass on a small table to my right. He pulled back slowly, sniffing at my hair as he moved. I was at war with myself for that brief span of time. I was attracted to him and repulsed by him. His scent surrounded me, making me dizzy with his essence. I feared him, I wanted him. I wanted to run away, scream for help and I also longed to feel his body against mine, tangle my fingers in his silken hair. Somehow, a lucid thought made may through my disoriented haze of trepidation and desire. He called me Lily. I was about to ask how he knew my name when he paused at my ear to whisper something.

"Innocence is so very boring, don't you think?"

I shuddered at the sensation of his cool breath against my warm skin, too overwhelmed by his presence to push him away. Everything about him was cold. His breath, his stare, his words. I felt myself being drawn in by something. I didn't know exactly what was happening, but I knew he was responsible. He removed his jacket, leaning in closely as he did so. His proximity had a powerful affect on me and he knew it…he used it to his advantage. I fought through the fog and tried to collect myself. I looked to my left and gazed inside at all of the happy people enjoying themselves. It gradually dawned on me that the young couple was nowhere to be found.

"What did you do to those people?" I tried to keep my voice firm, my tone even.

"They are gone, Lily, you should not concern yourself with them."

"Then you killed them."

"I said they were gone. I didn't say they were dead…" He leaned towards me again, placing one hand against the wall on either side of me. "Dead implies that they have gone on to another existence…they are simply gone."

We stood there in silence for a time as I considered his words. He had me trapped between his arms, his body pinning me to the wall, yet he did not touch me.
"Why did you do…that…to them?"

He smirked. "Why didn't you warn them," he moved closer, "or scream," and closer, "or something..."

He enjoyed mocking me with my own thoughts. It began to anger me and he knew it, he reveled in it. He ran one hand down the wall, tracing the outline of my figure. He leaned forward, a fraction of dead air the only thing separating my face from his. He smiled at me and moved his lips around to my ear.

"I came here for you, Lily," he whispered with sickening glee. "You're the one I want. The others were just..."

"A diversion," I spat out angrily.

"A demonstration," he corrected, "I wanted you to see me for what I am." He continued to whisper in my ear, careful not to make physical contact. "Were you impressed, my lovely Lily?"

"I know what you are," I prattled desperately, "I knew from the moment you walked in." I had, actually. The realization hit me hard. I knew what he was the moment he glided into the room. I knew and I stayed learn.

"Naturally you recognized me. I would not have chosen you otherwise."

I shivered. I was beginning to feel cold. I was beginning to understand. "You chose…"

The rest of my statement was abruptly cut off as the man finally grabbed me. He jerked me forward and slightly off my feet, pulling me to his mouth as he bestowed a crushing kiss. Any other kiss would have sent a momentary surge of heat through me. This kiss was cold. His lips burned against mine as though made of dry ice. He held me tighter as the kiss became harsher, more insistent. He parted my lips easily, delving into my mouth without regard for how I might react. In fact, I did not react at all. I could have pushed at him, struggled, but did not. As he continued the plundering kiss, his coldness began to seep into me, spreading outward into every nerve ending. Rather than dulling my senses, they were heightened.

A burst of energy entered me, eliciting a muffled gasp. Fueled by the strange surge of power, I finally and wholeheartedly began to respond to his kiss. I wrapped my arms around him, gripping his hair with one hand as the other began to explore his body. I slipped my hand beneath his shirt and ran my fingers along the smooth, cold skin underneath. I tugged at his hair, pulling him closer, wanting to absorb him completely. He matched my wandering hands touch for touch, pouring his essence into me through that kiss.

I was gradually lowered to my feet as the strength seemed to drain from the man. I leeched away the last drop of his power, supporting his superior weight until I was certain he had nothing left to give me. We parted and the man looked at me one last time, smiling with satisfaction. He had succeeded. The triumph he felt lit his face as he slumped to the balcony floor.

"I came here for you, Lily."

I looked down at the once beautiful man crumpled at my feet and licked my lip, enjoying the lingering taste of his death. I understood completely now. He wasn't trying to destroy me. His actions were part of a carefully planned seduction, but even that wasn't the point. He was looking for a successor. This was all a test of my fortitude. He wanted to determine if I was strong enough to bear his gift. He came here to make me the beneficiary of his legacy.

I picked up his discarded jacket and idly brushed away a few specks of dust. I wrapped the black garment around myself, noting that it was still perfumed with his scent. I knelt down and, with the last vestige of pity I possessed, kissed the man's pallid lips. I pulled back and stood to look down upon my predecessor. His eyes were still staring upward blankly, cold and empty. The power that had shone so brightly only moments ago was now coursing through my own veins.

I slipped back inside and discretely made my way to the front door, eager to begin my new life. I couldn't hunt here. The man had already consumed the freshest fruit. I would have to look elsewhere. As I departed, I caught a glimpse of myself in an ornate mirror hanging in the corridor. My hazel eyes were black now, just like his. Cold and black.


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