In the later part of the 1800's, I'd climb into a crawl space up above the ceiling of The Academy of Music and stare down at the audience, while losing myself in the wondrous sounds, through the intricate open naturalistic design surrounding the huge, magnificent chandelier. The small, swirly holes were designed into the motif so workmen could see down into the orchestra seats when they lowered the elegant crystal structure. The lights were originally candles. Later they went to gas. The chandelier didn't move then, but the crawl space was still there.
I'd gaze down at the formally attired patrons... ladies in off the shoulder gowns... gentleman in white tie and tails. When they lowered the lights (to my vampire eyes) the dazzling collars and shirt fronts seemed to glow.... so did the ladies... at least the parts that showed. Sometimes I'd pick a couple. I'd lock on.... Night-folk can do that. Everyone has a vibration. Each is unique and coupled with their scent, very easy to remember.
When the music stopped and the applause was over, I exited that crawl space and climbed down. Those in the know instructed their coachmen to drive around all night and return at the proper time. Can you imagine how long it takes carriages to exit a livery stable? And before you feel bad for the coachmen condemned to wander icy streets on cold winter evenings, please know that most left their conveyance in an alley somewhere behind their favorite taproom, while they sought shelter, plus beer and oysters, inside....
Then I tracked my special couple to their home. Some lived in the newly popular Rittenhouse district to the west. Others in the huge brownstones flanking North Broad Street, or the environs of Washington Square.... You know I like Washington Square. The streets and houses are thick with ghosts.... Maybe for some paranormal reason they're just easier to detect. Adepts claim underground granite 'shelves' reflect ectoplasmic emanations. One such 'shelf' runs under that part of the city. Who knows? But I ran through the shadows of the city, keeping up with their closed brougham, and saw the couple as they ascended the steps and entered a new (for those times) brownstone on a street just south of Rittenhouse Square... A few heartbeats later I sublimated through a cellar window and waited for the house to grow quiet.... Just me and a dressmaker's dummy with a painted on face and a wide brimmed bonnet, plus a neat, little bullet hole just to the inside of her left breast... right where a heart would be...
OH! Did I ever tell you I never ate chocolate?... Not once... by the time they brought it back from the Aztec Empire, I'd already been night-folk for like five hundred years.... So that's another experience down the drain. I did once get a victim all liquored up on some kind of chocolate cordial drink before I had her... Sort of got the essence of it, but it's not the same thing. Funny what pops into my brain.... If I still have a brain. Do I need one, or does my spirit simply keep everything going... (sinks into a silent trance)
(sighs and wakes up) Forty minutes later the house was quiet. She had a mild laudanum concoction He had a big glass of madeira. The new maid girl turned down the lights, pilfered a few bits of truffle from the kitchen and settled in for the night in her maid-bed. I slipped her three ounces of twenty four carat gold. I always give the most put upon servant something. Just how I am.
The husband was who I wanted. His people had rice plantations in the low country (coastal South Carolinas). Kept them after The War too. Ran them on a share-cropping system. Slaves kept right on going... Same cabins. They filled in the chinks, hung little curtains... patched most of the leaks.... put in a few outhouses instead of just a latrine ditch... And nobody made enough to get out of there, or get themselves doctored up when the yellow fever comes through. But the big house folks got theirs... And Mister Upstairs with his madeira got this brand new Townhouse on Rittenhouse Square in Old Philadelphia plus a whole drawer full of equities in northern plains railroads and a seaside 'cottage' mansion on Belleview Avenue in Newport. Please know, he was only the second son. Used to pester all the field girls when he was a young buck. Still does all the housemaids now that his daddy got him all set up as a 'gentleman' lawyer in the city. Folks still dying from Yellow Fever back home. Big Daddy says it gets rid of the trouble makers... 'Cept some of those trouble makers only nine years old. And nobody even thinks about it.
I went upstairs, silently passing through errant moonbeams sneaking in through slits in the draperies. Vampires dance so quickly upon the stairs. Dancers in the dark, we are. A small Pomeranian dog woke from its slumber and saw me on a landing.. I went 'shhh.' The dog just stared. Animals know magic when they see it.
The mister and missus had separate rooms. Many did in those times. Besides, dalliances with servants felt so much naughtier. His door was locked. The custom was for ladies to have double doors. Gentlemen made do with one. But I tracked by scent and vibrations and sublimated into the right chamber regardless of the doors.
Shall I tell you about jaws ripped off, eyes sucked out, or hands stripped of flesh? These things and worse are common. Some gnaw through the belly, bite through the diaphragm and drain the beating heart. Such pure indulgence. Nothing richer. Stuffed with oxygen and nutrients. Tapping the jugular is nothing compared to that. Just know that I am quite the gourmet.... and the 'meat' certainly deserves it. Do they scream?... No... They tremble and twitch. The eyes open wide. Sweat pours from every surface. When it's done. When they die. The 'cool' blue fire ignites till all is consumed and only the ashes, plus perhaps a grease slick remains.... When I pull out my hair, my face, my ears, neck, my shoulders are slick with blood. That's when I fly away and hide, waiting for the blood to dry. After it does (and that happens rather quickly) a vigorous shake (like dogs do) sends thousands of scab-like particles flying everywhere, till my hair, my skin and clothing are completely clean... Then, I might continue the evening or return to my domicile. That's how it happened one night during the pentultimate decade of the nineteenth century..
Strange, but I was listening to a favorite piece of music. The one featured at the top of this tale... and I wanted you all to know... I've experienced many things, though the flavor and texture of chocolate is not one of them...
<more to come>
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