I see you walking down the darkened streets
Wrapped in some secret, sullen loneliness,
Your empty steps the only sound for miles,
Your phantom thoughts an echo in the night.
What drives you from the fellowship of man
To these dark places, where no human voice
Sings out in fevered pitch the words of thanks
Which echo in this season on the wind?
What brings you to this street where thoughts unwind
In solitude, their secret undisturbed
by mortal means, or else immortal guile?
I follow without sound, giving no hint
Of my true nature, or of my intent.
As for my hunger, that is best unsaid.
The dead have secrets too.
Hours have passed
Since bright-lit windows faded into dark
Since songs gave way to silence, food to dreams
And prayers of thanks dispersed upon the wind.
What are those things to you? Even the whores
Have gone inside tonight. And the drunkards,
Bereft of liquor, seek what space they can
To shelter them. The taverns are all closed;
Likewise the shops that trade in bottled dreams.
There is no one abroad but you, my friend,
No dream but yours, no need but yours...
I move from out of shadow, so the light
From distant street lamp picks out my features.
I hear you gasp to see my face, this mask,
Designed for you, sculpted to suit your need.
I sense your heartbeat quicken - and why not?
I am what you desire me to be.
Clothed in that fantasy which is my art,
My sweet seduction born within your soul,
A dream made real. Oh, my lost, lonely one,
Did you not know your hunger draws my kind?
As predators are drawn to weakened prey
So am I called to you, your sweet despair
A siren's song no hunter could resist.
I greet you now. Soft sounds, but filled with power.
If I so willed, one word would hold you fast
Or bring you to your knees, where your own hand
Would move without volition, cutting flesh,
Shedding red blood, warm blood, to suit my need.
But this is not the night for such commands.
It is but hours since this season's theme
Resounded in a thousand mortal prayers.
Its echo lingers, softening the night,
Blunting the cruel edge of hunger's blade.
So I speak gently, even as my craft
Sculpts an illusion that will draw you in.
What is it you desire, on this night?
What hunger draws you to this lonely place?
What fantasy do you most wish fulfilled?
I have the power to give you what you want
And ask in payment... only fair return.
And so I wrap you in my veil, I feed
Your heart with visions, and I give your soul
One moment's taste of what it most desires.
All in my voice, my eyes. One moment's glance.
I feel you tremble, and I sense your heart
Spurred on to heightened rhythm. Do you dare
Invite me home with you, to share these hours
In warmth and privacy, daring to trust,
Soul touching soul, cold solitude denied?
The words not need be voiced. I understand.
Who knows loneliness better than my kind?
And so we walk, you with your measured steps,
I with a hunter's pace, silent and cold.
And if someone should hear us, he would say
That but one living creature walked the night.
And judging thus, he would reveal the truth.
But who is there to care?
The streets are cold.
I willingly relinquish them for now,
Trading the quiet darkness of my realm
For this domain of light and warmth, your own.
Pausing for just a moment at the door,
Taking the measure of what lies within.
Photographs scattered, bottles spilled, and pain
So poignant I can taste it. Near the door
A picture lies, glass shattered, stained with tears.
Ah, do I look like her? Is she the one?
I wondered whose it was, this face I wore.
And now I see you hesitate, as if
Seeing me there beside her is too much.
The wound is bleeding freshly now, and pain
Wells up inside you with hot urgency.
Ah, come into my arms, sweet wounded one,
And drink in the illusion I have made
While I, in turn, drink deeply of your life.
A fair trade, is it not?
Though Death awaits
I will not give him access to your soul.
Not tonight. Though the hunter in me yearns
For consummation of this killing game
There is another voice inside, gentler,
That speaks in echoes from another life
And says no man should die on such a night.
So give yourself into illusion's arms:
One brief embrace, in which to deny truth.
One short respite, in which to forget pain.
Who gives to whom? And one must ever know?
The question's never answered. Drink your fill,
You cannot kill my kind with loneliness.
And I, though death looms dark at each embrace,
Will not let hunger sever life's last tie,
Not on this night, when mortal grace holds sway.
So do not fear this feasting, nor its price.
This predator remembers mortal days.
And though the years have dimmed my human view
I recall gratitude, remember prayers
And in my unliving, unbeating heart
I, too, give thanks.
This poem is copyright 1997 by C. S. Friedman. Any attempt to copy it or publish it in any format, including electronic, without her permission, will meet with such dire legal consequences you will be sorry you ever learned to read in the first place.
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