Damn him!

Emmeric rushed around the bedroom, rummaging through dressers and wardrobes, trying to grab only the essentials. He didn’t have many possessions of his own, but his mind was reeling too much for him to locate any of them. For now, he was keeping his hands busy and doing anything to stop himself from looking over to the four-poster bed and the haunting form that lay in it.

Damn him! Damn Cyrus!

For months, Emmeric begged Cyrus to see a doctor about his sickness; the pain in his chest and the blood he coughed up from his lungs. He begged Cyrus to tell someone about it—anyone else but Emmeric, who had to pry the secret from Cyrus and could do nothing about it. Cyrus made him swear to tell no one, and Emmeric was in no position to deny him. He didn’t know what was more painful; watching the man he loved wither away or feeling hunger claw at his stomach from the sight of blood in Cyrus’ handkerchief. But he could never, not Cyrus. He had only wanted to avoid the inevitable scenario that they ended up facing less than twenty minutes ago: Emmeric, cradling Cyrus’ frail body as he drew his last breath, and slitting his own wrist to let his vampiric blood drip between dead lips. Maybe he had hesitated, held the body for a little too long before acting, because he was too late, and Cyrus did not awaken. To think someone could be too dead to become a vampire.

Damn him! Damn him to hell, the stubborn fool.

Emmeric continued to swear and curse Cyrus for loving him so tenderly then leaving him so suddenly with nothing to do but run. A vampire in human territory with no sponsor, leash, or muzzle was practically dead already—well, more than usual. What did Cyrus expect to happen to his precious pet vampire once he succumbed to his illness? Write Emmeric into his will and pass him on like a family heirloom? Or perhaps he didn’t have the time to decide before—Time! Time was what Emmeric needed to focus on right now, not dwelling on the plans of a dead man. He had gathered most of his clothing, books, and a dagger. There was only thing left to grab. Emmeric knew that and had specifically left it for last. He braced himself and turned towards the bed.

Hanging on the wall was Emmeric’s beloved viola and bow. It was custom made, hand crafted, and a gift from Cyrus—perhaps the greatest gift he had ever given him. Emmeric had played many different string instruments in his lengthy lifetime, but none resonated quite like that viola. If Emmeric needed to leave his love behind, then he must at least bring something to remember him by, right? That is what Emmeric told himself as he finally looked at the bed.

His knees almost buckled beneath him at the sight. If he had anything in his stomach, he would have spilled it onto the floor. There is nothing more sickening, more violently unnerving that seeing a loved one’s lifeless corpse. The bed—their bed—looked like the scene of a foul murder. Any servant who walked in would assume Emmeric the culprit. As if they needed another reason to hate him. The once pale satin sheets were stained with blood, both from Cyrus’ heaving and Emmeric’s attempt at revival. In the middle of the bloody pool, Cyrus lie in a crumpled heap. Under any other circumstances, Emmeric’s mouth would have been watering in the presence of so much blood, however most of the blood was his own. The scent of it was putrid, like a sulfuric poison. Vampiric blood, near black in color, stained Cyrus’ chin and the front of his nightshirt. If only for his solemn, closed eyes, Emmeric could have imagined him sleeping, but he would be lying to himself.

Emmeric turned his eyes to the floor, fearing he might unravel if he stared any longer. He made his way to the instrument on the wall, taking the viola in one hand and the bow in the other. The familiar echo of the hollow wood was a comforting sound. On any other night, he would have played a gentle melody for Cyrus before bed. Would it be too dramatic, Emmeric wondered, to play one last song before parting? He carefully stored the ridiculous idea in his bag with his viola and bow. Only Emmeric would consider something so cliché at a time like this. Cyrus would have laughed—if he were still alive.

Oh, Cyrus.

Again, Emmeric turned to the bed. He felt terrible leaving Cyrus’ body is such a state, but he already wasted too much time. A servant could come into the room at any second and could ruin his escape. Just a moment longer. Taking a deep breath to steady himself, Emmeric leaned over Cyrus to wipe the vampire blood from his chin. He pressed a kiss to his temple, holding there until he heard the distant sound of footsteps in the hall. He had hoped they wouldn’t find Cyrus till the morning, when Emmeric would have been long gone, but nothing was going his way tonight.

As the footsteps grew closer, Emmeric made his way to the window and pushed it open. He once mocked Cyrus for having his bed chambers on the first floor of the estate, but in this moment, he was thankful. Emmeric wished to curse and hate Cyrus for leaving him unprotected and alone, but he kept finding himself feeling grateful. The many years he spent as Cyrus’ musician and the more he spent as his lover, Emmeric knew he could do nothing but love Cyrus after all he had done for him. After giving one last look towards Cyrus’ body, he stepped out the window and into the night.

Goodbye, Cyrus, you damned fool.

By the time Emmeric reached the edge of the estate grounds, he heard the tell-tale shriek of a maid discovering Cyrus’ body. It wouldn’t take long for vampire hunters to be sent after him, like the servants have been waiting to do for years. Let them say he killed Cyrus. Let them paint him as a killer and beast. Let them chase him across the country. They would never believe him, but Emmeric would have drained all the cursed blood from his body to save Cyrus. He gently hummed the melody of Cyrus’ lullaby as he began walking down the road.

Maybe he was a damned fool too.

Madeline Brzeczek Portrait Bio
Madeline Brzeczek is a queer writer and artist living with their family in the Chicago suburbs. They are currently studying English with Creative Writing and Art minors at Lewis University. They spend their days knitting, gardening, and doing anything except sitting down to actually write. They have been published in Lewis Voices.