This story is by Scarlett Boleyn and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
A fierce bolt of lightening bleaches the cobblestone path momentarily white, illuminating a man approaching from behind her. Seeing his reflection in the cracked carousel mirror, Esme startles, dropping the scarlet lipstick she’s re-applying.
Clad in a mask and cloak, reminiscent of the Phantom of the Opera character, the figure reminds her of the theater performance she’d seen the week before. As he nears and removes the mask, their eyes lock in the foxed shards that are now all that remain of the grand mirror of the carousel’s prime.
“Rhett! You’re back!” Esme’s breath condenses on the mirror, obscuring him.
She shivers involuntarily. Even when he still had that new suitor smell, when she’d sneak out of her father’s house just to see him, she’d known he was dangerous. In her heart she’d known it was part of his magnetism – the ultimate bad boy. But she’d still fled when the cost of belonging was too high a price to pay.
And now he was back. He’d come for her – to finish what he’d started so long ago.
Ironic, the only day she had ventured into the park alone. Usually she had Felix, her Rottweiler pup, with her. She rescued him a full moon earlier, when she’d found him injured and whimpering on her doorstep. She’d needed to use all her power to save him; even dribbled droplets of blood from her wrists into his quivering mouth till his death tremors stopped, and he’d looked at her through adoring caramel eyes as he licked her face.
She’d only ventured out alone tonight because of the imminent storm; Felix hated thunder and lightening.
The park was seldom used now other than by dog walkers and those trying to cut a few minutes off their walk through the woods. The once heady days of the fairground and its historical elegance were less than a shadow of a memory. Those glory days and the faded carousel juxtaposed in her mind.
Through the haze of her memory, the carousel’s Wurlitzer-style organ music reverberates in her head. No, she realizes with a sudden intake of breath – not in her head, it’s coming from the carousel. Rhett was replicating it.
The night that marked a hiatus in the best and worst romance of her life floods back into her thoughts. She can smell her own fear as she recalls the chase. She’d been lucky last time. Not being able to outrun him, she’d thrown herself in front of a passing carriage. It had forced Rhett to retreat.
No one could believe she’d survived the trampling horses and brutal carriage wheels. But within days she healed, unmarked and as beautiful as ever. The Duke, the owner of the carriage, had given her shelter and later wed her. After a decade wherein she bore him no heirs, he’d dispatched her to his country house and married his distant cousin.
The country life had suited her just fine; they attributed the monthly loss of a farm animal to wolves.
Esme returned to the city and their town house only after the mysterious death of her late husband’s heir, two moons past.
But now, in the same park where she’d first met, first kissed, first fallen in love with Rhett – there were no carriages. With his extraordinary sense of smell and sight, there was nowhere to hide.
He was upon her in a heartbeat. Overwhelmed by the slow motion sense of disaster as her future flashes in her mind, she’s frozen.
His eyes glitter and his smile promises the unspeakable. His black mouth kisses her scarlet lips one last time before traveling to her slender neck, searching for the slight scar he’d left last time. The scar that had led to her everlasting youth and a penchant for raw steak, preferably still on the bone.
As his fangs sink into her throat, the lightening strikes again – making an erotic and garish silhouette of death across the lilies in the park. Her hide-and-seek tango with the vampire is finally over.
When she wakes she’s back in her chamber, having slumbered restlessly for two nights, hallucinating under the watchful eyes of Felix.
Hunger steals her from her dreams, desire flooding through her. Emerging from her semi-conscious state with a thirst for blood, an overwhelming need dictates her senses. Instinctively lunging at her faithful canine, her lips latch on to his soft velvet neck and her fangs drain just enough of his blood to sustain her immediate demand. Stopping herself, she falls back, experiencing a sensation of guilt and dread.
The puppy flees her chamber, his yelps turning into distant howls as he disappears into the night.
Licking the last drops of his blood that had trickled down onto her chin, her metamorphosis is complete. Viewing herself in the long mirror, she notices the subtle changes in her appearance, her eyes darker and her skin whiter – as white as Rhett’s. Only when Rhett’s face looms behind hers, meeting her eyes in the mirror, does she realize his presence.
Taking her hand, Rhett whirls his cape around her and they soar through the night sky; it is unquestioningly beautiful. Dark with a majestic moon cutting through clouds sending shards of light streaming to the ground, where it illuminates prey.
Esme feels almost at peace with the world for the first time in decades.
As she watches Rhett make his first strike, requirement floods through her.
He’d schooled her in the necessity of leaving some life force in her victims; just the right amount was the key. Leave too little and their spirits perish along with their flesh; too much and they morph into your predator.
Attacking one after another, she dissolves into torment and ecstasy; and a sense of satisfaction as she releases each of her victims just in time.
Later, as she lays in Rhett’s arms in her late husband’s town house, Esme’s thoughts are with her first victim, her lovely Felix. What has she done?
She craves his warmth and innocence, the way he would snuggle into her knees as she slept. Smoothing his soft fur had always soothed her nerves; his constantly wagging tail had told her he was happy to be with her. She recalled the tapping of his soft paws on the polished wooden floor, the roughness of his tongue as he licked her face to rescue her from her nightmares. She may have rescued him, but he’d also rescued her – from herself.
She thought of his velvety ears, always alert for signs of danger. She remembered his cold wet nose and his razor-sharp puppy teeth.
It had been two days since he had run from her whimpering… She ached for him. He was her first victim; would he be her first changeling? She wondered where he had come from, how he’d materialized on her doorstep, as she drifted into a deep sleep.
Moonlight shone through the window. Rhett was gone.
Somewhere close, a dog howled. It was Felix. Esme could feel it down to her cellular level.
Felix, her puppy, her first victim. Only days ago she had saved him as he lay dying in her arms, and now she had reinvented him by taking his blood. He would be the first of his kind, an aberration. Never before had a canine been saved and then turned.
Throwing on the cloak Rhett had left on the floor, she flies from her house. Leaving the sanctity of her home she follows the howls to the old fairground where she used to walk Felix. Of course he would have gone there.
Landing on the carousel inhaling deeply, a smile plays on her lips. Her eyes closed, she discerns his familiar puppy scent, mixed with something alien; something metallic, the intoxicating aroma of his blood and… Rhett’s.
Bewildered, she opens her eyes just as she’s pounced upon. Landing hard on the ground, she looks up into caramel eyes. Towered over by a deviant version of Felix – the puppy is now completely transformed into a snarling, salivating demon. Her last living memory is of fangs and razor-sharp teeth around her neck and a draining sensation as her aberration child takes her last blood and the carousel music groans in the background.
Rhett whistles and Felix drops Esme like a rag doll, racing to his master’s side, licking his hand with a blood stained tongue.
The music stops as their shadows disappear.
Lightening illuminates the path, revealing the figure of a young girl emerging from the woods.
Aware she is doomed to watch the re-enactment of her fate on other maidens for eternity, Esme weeps, as Rhett, clad in cape and mask, glides from the carousel and descends on his next prey.