The long black hair of the vampire smelled of wildflowers and fresh soil. I inhaled hungrily, absorbing in every way I could think of.
His lips were fastened to mine as his hands sought out little scribbles of pleasure on my skin. My heart beat so fast I feared that I would die. Or maybe I wished it.
Adam’s lips left to focus on the light bruises on my neck. The reddish spots were my pride. They signified his kiss. He drank from me almost every day now.
“You must learn to share, my dear.” Lily’s silken voice licked at the edges of my reverie. My lips were now assaulted by hers, and her hands snaked upwards to cup my breasts. Adam shifted himself off me to make room for her. His teeth retreated from my neck. They moved to the lightly indented veins of my wrist. He was never satisfied easily.
Lily lightly pierced my lower lip with her fang and licked it. She was a sparse drinker, choosing to savor each drop with an ungodly relish.
My head began to reel with the loss of blood. I didn’t care, however. I was never as happy as when they were devouring me.
My soul would come soon after. Or so I hoped.
My name is Aisha. I am plaything and slave to two vampires. Husband and wife, they are the most beautiful creatures you could set your eyes on. And they are all that I need to live.
My earliest memory of my father is him screaming at my mother to take me and leave his palatial house. I think I was three at the time. I can barely remember why he threw us out. My mother wouldn’t talk about it. She didn’t talk much about anything.
She ran a tiny, dirty food joint in the poorest part of the dying town I lived in. I worked for the local bookstore which mostly dealt in yellowed second-hand copies. I was paid a meagre wage for manning the cash register and for making deliveries. I didn’t have to do much of either because people here were too tired. They couldn’t keep their eyes open long enough to read. Everyone just wanted to get through the day and looked forward to their nightly bouts of unconsciousness.
I met Lily first when she came in one evening. I was leafing through a copy of Isaac B Singer’s short stories. I didn’t hear her come in.
“You like that kind of thing, do you?” The voice was like a shot of some concentrated liquor. Something that my mother would drink if she could afford it.
“Um..yeah.” I mumbled, standing up. “Can I help you with something?”
“I’m a little bored at the moment. Could you recommend something for me?” She smiled.
Lily had hair that seemed colored with wine. A deep, mesmerising red. It hung in glowing folds down to her waist. Not a single split end.
I pulled out Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald’s Bits of Paradise. “Have you read this?”
Her lips spread to reveal glistening white teeth. Lily had the most enchanting smile.
“I’ll take it.”
“Okay, let me ring it up for you.” I got to work. “We also do deliveries in the town so just call me and let me know if you want something taken to your house.”
She leaned on the cash register. “That sounds like a marvelous idea.”
Soon afterward, she called to ask for a delivery of five books. I walked to the address she had given. It was near the river that cut through the town. Their house was situated in an abandoned orchard that nobody really used because the trees had stopped bearing fruit for some reason. But their leaves were as green and glistening as ever.
I went with the delivery on a dark, starless evening when the wind was loud and powerful. The trees with their loud rustles and madly moving shadows reminded me of the spirits of the insane. It felt like the place was inhabited by raging misery.
My heart quivered as I quickened my pace to reach the porch of the large, somewhat dilapidated red-brick house they had taken. I had noticed the house before, but it always looked like a dump.
I crossed the overgrown garden and knocked on the door. The porch was strewn with dry leaves and weeds. I hoped there were no spiders around.
I stood shivering, the shadows closing in. My throat was dry and the cold seemed to intensify.
The sound of the trees was now almost a wail. I grew unnaturally afraid. I could have left but the thought of walking back through that path terrified me. Something could have been waiting.
The door suddenly swung open.
“Hello dear…” She began and then stopped on seeing my face.
“Come in, my dear. You must be freezing.” She touched my arm. “You are freezing.”
I stepped into the hallway which was just as cold. The walls were high and imposing. Lily wrapped an arm around my shoulder and led me into a room towards the back of the house.
It looked like a study. Books, and an impressive array of musical instruments were strewn across the place. On shelves, tables, the carpet. I did not know much about music in general, but a number of them looked antique. All of them looked expensive.
The room was much warmer. It was lit dimly with a combination of low electric lights and candles. An enormous couch sat in the middle of the room, on which lazed the man I would soon give my life to.
“Adam, darling. Meet Aisha. I told you of her, did I not?” Lily intoned, guiding me to the couch. Red velvet and leather.
Adam looked at me wordlessly.
“Sit, love.” Lily goaded.
I did as I was told.
Lily wrapped a shawl around me. The shiver left my bones.
“Um…your books…” I mumbled.
“I got them.” Adam said. He took the pack from me, ripped into it and began to flip through the pages. He executed every movement with such startling elegance. It was my first inkling of their non-human nature.
Lily had, meanwhile, taken a seat on one of the tables. She wore a gorgeous nightgown that was, now that I paid attention, very revealing. The neckline, done with a light frill, hung low, offering a glimpse of the smooth circle of her breasts. The fabric was partially transparent. I averted my eyes.
“Adam, don’t be rude.” She admonished. He continued to focus on the books.
“Look how lovely our guest is.” Lily persisted. “The most stunning eyes.”
“Too young.” Adam turned to look at me. “She’s too young, Lily.”
I should describe him. He was lean, beautiful in the least Adoniac way possible. His cheeks were slightly hollowed, his hair as long as Lily’s but tinted by the deepest black. The robe he wore as loosely as his wife showed a smallish chest with visible ribs. It made him look a little starved.
He exuded a certain melancholy that was warm. When he looked at me, I saw eyes set in a face lined with boredom. He looked perpetually tired.
“Nonsense, my love.” Lily came to my side and sat between him and me. Her eyes bored into mine. “She’s perfect.”
Their conversation was starting to discomfort me greatly. They made me sound like a puppy in a pet store.
“She’s already scared, Lily. I told you I want someone willing.” He almost snapped.
“She’ll rethink her position soon enough.” Lily began to caress my hair.
I was scared, but not yet enough to try to make a run for it. It was just as well. I would not have made it far. Of course, it was entirely possible that even then, I didn’t want to run from their presence. Perhaps I already knew that my life was tied to theirs.
Lily didn’t let me get through the crowd of curious confusion in my head at the moment. Before I could ask her what she meant by my “position”, I felt a sharpness at my neck. With the inhuman speed that I would soon become accustomed to, Lily had dug her fangs into my veins.
“Lily!” I heard Adam call.
I didn’t have time to feel fear, though enough to feel the pain. She held me in a vicious grip that supported me when I began to lose consciousness.
I awoke on a four-poster bed with flimsy white curtains that cast an unearthly haze on everything on its other side. Or maybe I was still recovering from the blood loss.
I felt so weak. My neck throbbed.
I tried to stand but my legs immediately gave away. I tried to haul myself up by holding onto an old-fashioned nightstand, which I did. But my body refused to listen beyond that.
Even in the half-aware fog I was trying to navigate, I could see that there were no windows. The door was securely locked. Later, when I could, I tottered to the attached bathroom and found that its window was so high that I couldn’t reach it even on my toes on the toilet seat.
Finally, fear claimed me.
I began to sob, half-sitting on the bed. I could barely move, let alone figure out a way to freedom. Who knew what the mad woman outside wanted with me? The man seemed more reluctant to participate in whatever it was she planned, but I couldn’t believe that his reluctance would translate into my defense.
My sobs grew louder.
Suddenly the door opened. Both my captors entered.
I scrambled to get away from them, my legs tangling with each other and tripping me in the process.
Lily rushed to my weakened frame. She lifted me gently onto the bed and tucked me in. Then she began to stroke my head in a motherly fashion.
“Don’t cry, little love. You will find joy here in our arms.” She whispered into my hair.
“What do you want with me?” I slurred amidst sobs.
“You, my love. We want all of you.”
Adam stood by the bed, watching us.
I continued to cry. But I was exhausted at this point, and fell asleep without knowing it.
I don’t know how long it took for me to stop protesting. I was locked in the room the entire time. One of them brought me food and books three times a day. But I was too anxious to eat more than a few bites. Which, in turn, kept me weak.
I tried pleading with them each time food was brought. Lily smiled like a saint and kissed my forehead when I begged her, assuring me that I would be happier here if I just accepted them. Adam remained silent. Sometimes he shook his head before leaving.
I tried multiple times to find a way to leave. No luck. I was never a particularly resourceful person, but this room really was a fortress.
It may have been weeks before I stopped crying. It became apparent that they did not intend to traffic me, or impose any form of conventional torment. Lily was emphatic about how I belonged to them. She entered my room often to speak and hear me speak.
“Why are you keeping me here?” I whimpered.
“Because I cannot let you leave. You are the only one me and my husband want. We want you with us.”
“What does that mean? Do you want me to sleep with you two?”
“Only if you want to. I’d rather not visit that form of violence upon you. And my husband is disgusted by such a thought.”
“Then why won’t you let me go? I don’t want that.” I begged.
She smiled and kissed my forehead, as she often did. I had stopped flinching away from her touch at this point.
“Because we need you.”
I’ll explain what I later came to understand. While Lily loved Adam, her nature did not allow her to survive without stimulation. She often disappeared to drink, dance and carouse entire nights away in search of a distraction. Adam, however, could not stand carnivals and balls and secret sex parties in the gilded halls of New York, Prague and Bordeaux. Hence a compromise was formulated when they decided to bring themselves a little pet that Lily and Adam could both entertain themselves with. Lily would thrill herself on the feeling of absolute control over another life, and Adam would be able to stay true to his ways of immersion in silence, books and music.
Wasn’t I a lucky girl?
My surrender came on the day I decided to escape. I had grown disgusted by my prison. The familiar sight of its darkened confines sickened me. I needed to leave it if I could start to think of escaping this madness.
When Lily entered, my words spilled out.
“I’ll do it.”
She stopped in the middle of putting a plate of food on the nightstand. “What?”
“I’ll do what you want me to. I can’t stay in this room anymore. “I was sitting in bed, having showered and brushed my hair after a long time. Gross, I know. But they never seemed bothered by it.
Lily’s entire body changed. Her face lit up and she turned to clasp my hands. “You will?”
“Anything you want. Please just let me out of here.” I was careful to not let my voice shake.
“Oh, my darling.” She hugged me tightly. “You have given us such joy.”
She let go and took my hand. “Come, come, we must tell Adam! He will be so pleased!”
“Jackpot.” I thought. But I would have to play my cards right. I had long realized that they weren’t entirely normal in terms of strength and speed. The implications of this eluded me at that moment. I just needed to be free of this room.
“Adam!” Lily called as she led me out. The cool air of the hallway tasted like manna. The door to the world outside was not too far, but Lily’s grip could not be overcome.
We entered the study which was the same as the day I had first seen it. Who knew how long ago that had been? Adam even reclined on the couch in the exact same fashion.
“Our little bird has agreed.” She sang out as we came in.
Adam stared at me for a bit. Then he left his seat. He placed a book on one of the shelves, straightened his coat and beckoned.
“Go on.” Lily gave me a little shove.
I went to him. He stood a foot over me.
“Look at me.” He said, voice devoid of command or plea.
“Is that it, then? Our plaything for life?”
His eyes were the bright gold of a pricey scotch. And the analogy made perfect sense because looking at them was like courting drunkenness. In moments, I was floating in them.
I was about to reply when he spoke again.
“Don’t you want to return to your world?”
My world. How could I have missed it?
To my surprise, I meant it. What did I have to return to? A drunken mother who spent her days screaming at her customers and at me. A filthy apartment with rats. Stale leftovers from an equally filthy shop. Cigarette smoke choking a kitchen with a window stuck closed since the beginning of time.
It struck me then. Why was I trying to leave? What was I trying to go back to? Complete and utter isolation. I had passed my life like a ghost. Invisible to everyone, and perhaps even to myself. I could not remember that last time I was truly aware of the reality of my existence. I never even felt real. Nobody looked at me.
But here he was. And he looked straight at me. So did she.
How could I not have seen it? I was amongst people that looked at me. They looked at me. And only me, because here there was no one else to look at.
“I’m home.” I said. The truth of those words was like baptism.
Adam lowered his face to my neck. His hands supported the small of my back. His teeth sunk into my veins.
Lilly had come to our side. She placed herself behind me and clamped down on the side of my neck that was vacant.
I moaned weakly. As they drained me, we transformed into a single glut of hunger, lust and unheeding longing.
I had fallen in love.
I was, in effect, their toy. They drank from me often. My body was peppered with red punctures. Since I never left the house, my skin began to grow pale until I almost began to resemble my keepers.
Lily was the more enthusiastic of the two. From the moment they marked me as their own, she set about to transform me into a more pleasing figure.
I was thoroughly bathed in floods of scented water. Lily would not hear of my shame in nakedness. She waved aside my objections and removed my clothes.
After soaking me for an hour and washing my hair for another, I was given robes of the softest tulle. My hair was dried, brushed and sprinkled with perfume.
While she cleaned and clothed me, Lily sang. She had a voice that no one could mistake as human. It was too pure and too menacing. She sang in a language that sounded utterly alien. It did not sound like anything that a mortal would use to communicate. It smacked of lore, hate, love and fear.
Adam painted my nails a million colors, and sometimes worked out exquisite designs of my palms and my calves with mehendi. Less frequently, he would paint my naked breasts, stomach and back. He was obsessed with the quality of my skin, and often asked me to strip so that various salves and unguents could be rubbed into every last inch of my skin.
They undressed me often, and spent hours adorning me. I sat on the couch while they played with gowns, scarves, bracelets, bangles, earrings, hair ornaments and every imaginable accoutrement. Everything they placed on my body was fit for the most supercilious of royal brats.
I was fed nothing but the most salivating delicacies. They controlled my diet completely, preventing excess sugar from entering my system. The most fragrant varieties of tea welcomed me each time I woke from a nap. Fruit and honey was compulsory. Vegetables made in the most delectable soups and curries became regular fare. Meat, according to them, thickened and salted the blood. Hence it was forbidden.
I learned quickly to not speak unless spoken to. They never, ever caused me an iota of physical injury, but if I tried to talk when they had not addressed me, they simply ignored me and went about whatever it was they were doing.
While Lily didn’t seem to care about my thoughts or opinions, Adam would strike up a conversation when all three of us lay in the study, doing nothing in particular. I would lie on the couch or the floor with my head on Lily’s lap. She would run her fingers through my hair, sometimes raising one of my wrists to her mouth for a drink. Adam would play one of his instruments or read aloud from a book. Then suddenly he would stop and call me by name,
“Aisha, tell me about your mother.”
I told him what I could. My life was of very little interest to me. It was a sequence of no consequence. Nonetheless, Adam asked me a million questions every time I spoke to him of my past poverty and pointlessness.
“Why didn’t you ever leave?” He asked.
“She was waiting for us, of course” Lily answered for me.
I buried my face in her lap and smiled. She was right.
While Lily’s love caused me enough joy, it was Adam that I stayed for. He was my world. The touch of his finger tips was the only version of Paradise I could imagine. When he touched me, I had to fight to control the frenzy of my heartbeats.
You’re probably wondering what I thought about discovering that vampires are real. Truthfully, I didn’t care. When I gave myself to them, I also surrendered my reason. The fact that they fed from me and were induced with superhuman abilities made very little difference to my love-addled brain. What did it matter what they were? They gave me love and that was all I needed to know.
I could never risk revealing the extent of my preference for Adam. As much as they adored me, I was all too clear on the fact that they were each other’s first preference. It was evident that Adam was never happier than when his wife looked at him or spoke to him. Even when Lily overruled his objections in order to do things her own way, Adam didn’t seem bothered. He was content, even overjoyed to cater to her pleasure.
My presence was a stimulant for them. A hobby they could both share. A new activity to partake in as a couple. Something to bring them closer to each other.
I did not care, of course. I was already obsessed enough with him to not care as long as he still looked at me.
I had been a virgin until the day Adam took me. It was a rainy day. I was not permitted to look out the windows (they didn’t like me desiring anything but their company – and that included the outside world) but I could hear loud raindrops pelt the glass and the leaves. Inside, Adam had got a large fire going in the old fireplace. Lily was not home.
The room was also lit with kerosene lamps. Adam loved the sharp pungent scent of the oil.
Both of us were reading. I wore a skimpy silken dress that didn’t intend to cover much. Before leaving, Lily had tied my long hair into a single bun with a golden hairpin.
Suddenly, I felt Adam’s fingers on my head. He pulled the pin out and let my hair fall. His hands played with it, smoothing out the locks and undoing the little tangles.
“You’re such a lovely little thing.” He breathed the words into lining of the dress on my neck.
This was an unfamiliar intimacy. I was with the man I loved, unobstructed by the presence of his wife. His touch had taken on implications of eroticism. My body grew warm with anticipation.
I didn’t say a word as his lips grazed my collarbone. They felt different now. No longer going straight for the bite, they played with more pleasurable possibilities.
He undressed me with a gentleness that nearly broke my heart. Adam held me like a very precious, very fragile toy. One that he did not wish to damage or break.
When the pain came, Adam held me so tight that I thought he was scared that I was falling apart. And that this was his way of holding me together.
“Do you love me, Aisha?” He whispered.
“Good. Lily will be happy.”
Unlike every other time that he touched me, Adam did not drink from me.
Since that day, I was no longer to sleep in my own room. Instead, I slept with them in their bed. After Lily returned, she made love to me as well. It was not unpleasant by any means, but I could not stop thinking about Adam.
My sleep schedule was the same as theirs now. Since they slept through the day, they now made me lie between them after a night of passion and blood. I woke with them as the sun set. I had adapted to the sleep cycle of a vampire without having been turned into one.
I never had any privacy. Either of the vampires was always with me. I don’t think they realized the extent of my dependence. I couldn’t even imagine functioning without their word. I couldn’t even imagine bathing myself, dressing myself or arranging my own hair. I could not imagine lying in bed without the comfort of their limbs. I could not imagine a day when I would not see my image quiver in the pupils of Adam’s eyes.
I know it looks like an illness of the mind. I know that is exactly what it was.
But I was happy. For the first time since my own memory had been formed, I was happy.
So what if my happiness stemmed from captivity? So what if my happiness emerged from being a mindless source of blood and pleasure? So what if I had no opinions anymore? So what if I made no decisions?
What difference did any of that make? I was happy.
I promise you, if you had felt a whisper of the happiness I lived each day, you would not have cared for what brought it to you. You wouldn’t have had time to think of an alternative, because there could be nothing better. Freedom would mean nothing. Free will would be the easiest thing to abandon.
Which is why it hurt so deeply when I heard Lily speak of another girl.
“Her name is Melania. Though, I think that once she is here with us, we should give her a better name.” She said one evening.
My blood froze.
“Not everyone has a name as lovely as Aisha. Its quite tragic. Human should really pay greater attention to what they call their children.”
She began brushing my hair, unaware of the fact that I was trying to choke a sob in my throat.
“Where did you find her?” Adam asked.
Neither of them noticed, in the slightest, the reaction I was having. Or perhaps they simply did not care.
“She is the daughter of an English baron. I met her in France last week.” Lily had been gone all of the previous week.
The daughter of an English baron. She must be very beautiful, and once she was in their hands, they would adore her into greater beauty. If they could have made me so absolutely breathtaking, wouldn’t they do the same with someone of noble blood?
My thoughts ran wild. They would soon begin to love her the way they loved me. Perhaps, more. Given her lineage, she would be well-read, well-mannered, refined in her ways of being. She would probably know how to play an instrument, and that would win Adam’s heart. He spent hours with his instruments. They were his greatest love, after Lily.
I would be replaced in a single breath.
You could wonder if they were simply bringing me a playmate. But that was equally unacceptable. Don’t you understand that if I was not their only toy, I would be nothing?
Lily and Adam had asked of me that nothing in the world mean anything to me but them. As a slave, I knew it was not for me to ask that nothing mean anything to them but me. But I had always believed that I would be their only distraction within this house.
You see, while Lily flew around the house to brandish and brighten hr desires, Adam was always home. And as long as I was home, I would be Adam’s only distraction. His music, his books and me. When Lily was away, he had eyes only for me.
But if this daughter of a baron set foot inside, he would look away. He would have eyes for her as well. And who was I kidding? He would soon have eyes only for her. I would become, at best, an afterthought. At worst, they would see that I was merely crowding their beloved lair and dispose of me as they saw fit. Perhaps they would kill me. Perhaps they would let me go. The latter would mean a death far worse than I could imagine.
I heard Lily’s voice again.
“She won’t be too difficult to convince. Melania is eager to escape. Her father guards her too strictly. The poor thing has all the jewels in the world, and none of the joy.”
Adam nodded silently.
“You will love her, darling. I promise you. Her laughter would wound the gods with its beauty.”
Her laughter would wound the gods with its beauty. Lily had never spoken of me with anything remotely resembling such poetry.
Lily finished adorning my hair. She and Adam left the room. I saw alone in front of the dying fire, seeing my own self in the rapidly expanding heap of ash.
I could not sleep. No surprise. But I shouldn’t be sleeping anyway. There were things to do.
I wasn’t feeling much anymore. Somehow, I had realised that sentiment would only get in the way of what I had to go. Fine, maybe had to do was pushing it. It was what I wanted to do.
Could I have lived without doing it? Perhaps. But I didn’t care to find out.
After the vampires had drunk of me and lay down to rest, I kept my eyes open. The sun had risen. I knew even if I could not see it, because their bodies had gone into that inhuman stillness possible only of the undead. Their bodies were as if dead, perfectly cold, perfectly porcelain. No breath. Not even a flinch.
I lifted myself off the bed and slipped my feet into slippers. For a long moment, I looked at their forms in repose. Their beauty made me ache. Their love, however fleeting and conditional made me mourn. You would mourn too, if you were about to lose all the love you had ever known.
I raised the covers on their naked bodies. They felt no cold or heat, so there really was no reason for me to do so. I suppose you could have called it my parting gift.
The kerosene was easy to find. Adam hated leaving the house so ample quantities of it were stored in bottles in the attic. Normally, I was not allowed there. But they never bothered to lock the door. They were quite aware of the fact that I had no will outside theirs.
Until now, atleast.
I quietly picked up a bottle, unscrewed the top and began to empty its contents on the floor. There was enough to drench the house, and that was exactly what I did. All of it. Floor, furniture, curtains, books, instruments. Everything.
I emptied a bottle on the blanket covering my lovers. Did my hands tremble? Did my eyes sting? Did I choke a sob?
They had done this to themselves.
I almost wished that the soaking of their blanket, and the intolerably toxic smell of a houseful of kerosene would wake them. They would have known what I was done. They would have punished me, perhaps. They would have killed me, perhaps.
But I still wished it. You tell me why.
I used the last of the kerosene to bathe myself. Sitting between them, I tried to remember every last moment of my life in love. The first time they bathed me. The first clothes they draped on me, the first jewels in my hair, the first spray of perfume on my neck.
The first time Adam held me.
I couldn’t tear my eyes from Adam’s dead face. Even so, his beauty was, to me, like seeing God.
I lit the match, and watched the flame for a long time before I dropped it.
As the fire spread and began to consume my world, I wondered if the heat would awaken them. I didn’t allow my heart to break until it became clear that it would not.
The fire was burning away all the oxygen in the closed house. I wouldn’t even have to feel the bite of the fire before I passed out.
My scented, oiled, loved, spoilt, adorned body collapsed soon enough between theirs. I was never strong.
Through the haze of my escaping life, I felt the limbs of the only people I had ever loved. Fire kills a vampire. The love of a vampire kills me.
As my consciousness began to falter forever, I could have sworn I felt Adam’s dead fingers tighter just a bit around my wrist.
But it was too late for me.