As Exquisite and Unsatisfying
as a Cigarette
by Amanda Krenicki
Not many people know this, but Will Shakespeare came on to me and pretty strongly, at that. He wooed me after I saw a performance of Julius Caesar, which was very good, just after the Globe Theatre opened in 1599.
I’d read many of his plays and sonnets and hoped he’d be someone who’d capture my attention. Granted, I was 565 at the time I met Will and not much could hold my attention. Living totally off of sex makes things dull; you’d think that it would be fun, but it gets old. It loses the luster of pleasure and becomes more like a chore.
I hoped that a man of brilliant words could change that for me. I could, in theory, have anyone I wished simply by willing them to want me, but where was the fun? The one trait of my human self I retained after I became an Incubus in the early eleventh century is the thrill of the conquest.
I was lingering outside the Globe Theatre, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. The sweet smoke disappeared above me into the night. Passers-by gave me looks, but I ignored them; they were either enthralled by me or offended I was smoking. Neither mattered to me. I was only after one person.
I hadn’t “fed” in a long while; I avoided it, for fear of killing someone and being the monster I was supposed to be. I was a demon of a sort, but I wanted to hold on to all that made me human. But I could feel the tug in my blood, the desire.
I felt hot from the inside out and a lust in the pit of my stomach, a knot of want that far surpassed innocent desire between cautious new lovers. The lust I suffered from then — and now — is greedy. Once I notice it, nothing else will distract me. I need to slake it.
It was almost midnight. The audience flooded from the theatre, eventually slowing to a trickle. I knew the actors and the playwright would leave soon. I threw my cigarette to the ground and stamped it out. Not worrying about being seen, I slipped behind the theatre, waiting at the back door for the actors to take their leave. A couple of them gave me questioning looks, but I smiled widely.
“You lads were bleedin’ fantastic in the show,” I said, letting my native Irish accent roll off my tongue. It was still natural to me then. Now it only comes out if I force it to, or if I’ve been drinking.
“Thank you kindly, sir,” one of them said.
“Would... er” — I feigned bashfulness — “Would the writer of this grand play also come ou’ this way? I was hopin’ to catch a glimpse of him, y’see...”
At this, one of the actors laughed. “Why don’t I just go fetch him for you? William always enjoys meeting adoring fans.”
I nodded my agreement, hardly roping in my genuine excitement. Finally, someone who could make me feel again. The blood in my veins yanked at me, more desperate as my desire grew. A feeding was so close and it was driving me mad not to have it now.
The actor returned but I hardly looked at him. My eyes were on the man behind him, who looked impatient. His jaw was clenched and his skin was almost as pale as mine, nearly pasty white. His eyes were narrowed, and I could see the bands of dark, rich brown in them.
When he saw how thrilled I was, his impatience faded. His eyes warmed and lit up. My veins tugged again. I ran a hand through my dark brown hair to settle myself.
“I hear you’re a fan, sir, did you enjoy the show?” he asked, his voice dark and deep, with a lilt that made me swoon and, as a rule, I don’t swoon. He sounded as though he talked in poetry all the time. I could have listened to him speak forever.
“I...” I had to struggle to gain my composure. “Yes, it was fantastic, Sir Shakespeare.”
“Please, call me Will,” he said, laughing at my eagerness.
“Will, then,” I corrected myself.
He bid goodnight to the actors and they all waved at him, and the one who’d spoken to me offered a half-wave. We were alone.
“You’re from Ireland then, sir?” he asked. “Might I ask what brings you to our glorious city?”
“You brought me to London. Your plays, I mean.”
“That’s very flattering,” he said, pleased. “I should write you a sonnet in thanks,”
“’Tis not necessary,” I mumbled, shocked to find I was blushing. Usually I was confident in myself and my appeal. But it was nice to be wooed and complimented.
He moved closer and I could feel the heat rolling off his body. My veins jerked in my body again, reminding me that my purpose was not to be seduced but to finish it and move on.
He reached over and rested a hand on my shoulder. His touch was rough but warm. “You’re deserving of sonnets.” His voice was full of want.
“Y’don’t even know m’name, Will, Good God, you’re layin’ it on thick.”
“Tell me, then. I must know. And where are you lodging?”
“At an inn further along Newcastle Street. And the name is Shax O’Connor.”
“Might you need company to get there safely?”
“Only if you compose a poem for me, Will. It doesn’t have to be a sonnet,” I challenged.
“I was going to anyway, Shax,” he said with a soft, almost tender smile. His hand touched my arm again. “The god of night who needs no light; his eyes burn like the stars themselves, eternal flames of guidance...” He paused. “Not bad. I ought to write that down...Where he goes, my shadow follows, forever entranced by the beauty he possesses; the sun is put to shame and shall refuse to rise...”
It was hard for me to believe but I was blushing again. I was quite glad he couldn’t see me.
“Christopher Marlowe could have written better.”
“That man’s a hack of the greatest degree,” Will answered, though I could hear his smile.
We reached the inn, and I’ll admit by that point I was as enthralled as I knew he was. He had certainly lived up to his expectations as a linguist. The pull of lust that plagued me had almost disappeared.
“Would you like to stay a while? I’ve some whiskey to pass the time with.”
He looked guilty for a moment: he ought to have been home. “I’d like that very much, Shax,” he said.
I could feel his eyes on me as we trudged up the stairs, my boots heavy and knocking on the wood. His steps were light as though he was only putting his toes down. I’ve tried walking like that and, demon or no demon, my steps are still clunky and loud. It was just how I was built.
I shut the door to my room and inhaled the scent of straw from the bed. The bottle of whiskey matched my eye color precisely. Will noticed this.
“Your eyes are a thousand times warmer than the whiskey could hope to be,” he said softly, placing his palm on my back. The warmth of his skin seeped under my shirt into my very bones. I felt... loved, which wasn’t something I was accustomed to. The last time anyone had made me feel that way, I’d been human.
“Thank you, Will,” I said as I took a gulp of the whiskey from the bottle.
He slipped it from my palm and took a long draught. “Shall we? We both know why I came,” he wondered as he slipped his fingers on the buttons of my shirt, trying to undo them.
I froze. I wanted it as badly as he did, but was that any excuse for poor manners? Even in my ghastliest conquests, I’ve always maintained my manners before the act. And this was bloody William Shakespeare, wordsmith extraordinaire and the be-all-end-all romantic poet. His version of foreplay was “Shall we?” He was already undressing me? The tug in my veins was back and ready for vengeance.
I allowed him the pleasure of undressing me. His fingers slipped along my chest and I let my eyes close. It felt good for certain, but all I could think of now was the screaming in my veins just to take what I wanted.
I didn’t take my time the way he did. I damn near ripped his shirt off; I heard the buttons fly across the room. My breathing grew quicker; I could feel how close I was to being fed. I shoved him back onto the bed after removing all but his leather boots, which still smelled new.
It was over quickly. I could be neat about it if I wanted to, but Will had offended me so grievously I couldn’t help it. He had totally fooled me, the one who lived off of convincing people I was worth the time, the sex.
I didn’t know whether I was angry at him or myself when my nails lengthened just past normal and sharpened. I was straddling him and his head was tossed back in ecstasy when I sank them into his torso and dragged down. I stabbed him over and over, still moving above him. I had to finish what he’d started, after all.
His moans turned into a guttural sound of horror. He was already drained; I’d stolen most of his life... essence, if you will, and he didn’t even put up a fight. He stared up at me, eyes wide, and I smiled, my warm gaze cold.
“You were right when you called me a god of the night, Will,” I said and kissed him on the lips.
When they found his body, he had scratches along his chest, back, and lower. His throat was slit and he was badly bruised. The word “Fraud” was carved into his chest, and I was long gone, back to my native Ireland.
I didn’t want to hold onto my humanity after that. Will had appeared to be the most genuine of men and he was the biggest fake; why would I want to return to that?
At least I could be honest. I was what I was and I accepted that; I’d earned it by being a bit of a rogue while I was truly alive. My feedings after that all ended in murder. For nearly three centuries, I lost my charm. I seduced with my looks, with my words, took what I needed, and let the bodies pile up.
I was constantly on the move; I could never be connected with any of the violence. As I embraced my nature, I got sloppier with my murders. Necks were broken; blood stained the grass or floor below the bodies. Some were totally drained.
* * *
Copyright © 2015 by Amanda Krenicki