Story by Callisto
What does it mean to be in love with Tragedy? When the sorrow weighs heavy on my heart, and continuing on means more agony. But then this disparate love somehow… drives me forward.
But what is the point, when sadness begets only sadness, and I find myself more comfortable with its caresse? Happiness becomes a fleeting memory, and a mere gauge to measure how far I’ve fallen into despair.
I feel this anguish seep into my veins, tainting what little is left of my true self.
And so, as a matter of survival, I have learned to extract such venom, through much hardship, and mix it with oil. I use this combination to devise my paintings, and infuse them with my very essence. These are the pieces that have held you spellbound for nights on end.
It all stems from my love for you, Melpomene; my love of Tragedy.
Then I begin wonder if perhaps pain is the purpose – and to experience the beauty in such pain – before our candles are finally, and mercifully, snuffed out.
I admit my current projects to be a far cry from my earlier work that caused you to take notice: great murals of sun rises that were once formed from youthful optimism and recognition of the divine. Did they remind you of the natural beauty you beheld in mortality? Is that what caught your eye, and sealed my fate?
Do you even remember what it was like to be alive? To feel the warmth of the sun on your face, and the strong beating in your chest, as you ran across a green field, or along a sandy stretch of shoreline? How long did it take for these memories to be dissolved by your beastly thirst?
I remember what it was like.
And I remember that night, exactly one year ago, like it was yesterday.
I can still smell the roses placed in the gallery that afternoon. It was the first showing ever for my sister Audryna and I, and breathing in that vibrant bouquet helped calm my nerves. I was having trouble grasping how my work was finally being recognized, but Audryna always had faith we’d make it someday. And it was finally happening: a joint affair to showcase my landscape paintings, and her sculptures. Despite numerous affirmations to the contrary, I had always felt inadequate when seeing my work next to hers. Sure, I tried my best to capture the heightened hues of a pleasant scene, but she could somehow carve the semblance of someone’s soul from of a simple piece of wood. Truly, if you were to stare into one of her formed faces, you would begin to feel like it was returning your gaze with the same curiosity.
She had always been more adept in her craft, which makes me wonder why you chose me instead of her. Maybe you knew she’d never adapt to this savage life. Audryna was passionate, but benevolent. As far back as I can remember, she was there to lift my spirits with a song, or embrace me in silent comfort as I cried. She always understood her little sister, and even though I could never give back all she gave to me, I loved her more than anything. So I should have done more. I should have been there for her.
Of course I blame myself for what happened.
I was drinking more than I should that night, but it helped with the stress of maneuvering through the endless throngs of guests. Ever the restrained, Audryna chose not to partake of the libations, and instead enjoyed the attention of several admirers that would surround her. We enjoyed ourselves greatly, and were roused not only by such personal attention, but also through the positive critiques we received for our work. I still remember sitting next to her by the bar during a brief lull. Her eyes began to well as she told me of her plans to finally quit her job, and make a living doing what she loves. After years of hard work, her dream had finally come true. I threw my arms around her and held her tight, overcome with joy. And amid the laughing and cheers, I noticed you, across the room.
I knew you had been watching me. You had made your interest known, but only advanced after midnight. You waited patiently until my sister was taken away by friends, and I was alone at the bar.
The vision of you approaching has been burned into my psyche forever: a raven-haired enchantress who strode along the marble floor with purpose. You wore heels that made you tower over everyone, and a silky black dress that accentuated your perfect form. A timeless beauty, poised with grace. The crowd instinctively moved out of your path as you walked by, and maintained eye contact with your prey.
When caught by your emerald gaze, I was bewildered, yet unable to look away. You greeted me like an old friend, and began to speak of the essence of art, and Platonic Forms. I struggled to follow the best I could, and to not lose myself in your charm. I’m sure I looked quite enthralled, because you smiled a wolfish grin, before moving to loftier topics. You must have known you had me, then.
It’s no surprise I lost track of my sister after meeting you. We promised to look after each other that night, and to have a celebratory breakfast when it was over. I vaguely remember her coming up to me later, as you and I conversed, but I brushed her off, and broke our plans. I found out later that she would also met someone; a charismatic young man who would whisk her away to places unknown.
As the gallery was about to close, you invited me back to your loft, and I eagerly accepted. Your abode was lavishly furnished, and impeccably clean, with priceless paintings adorning its walls. I was instantly drawn to an ancient looking sword hanging as the centerpiece, and marveled at its workmanship for several minutes.
You took me by the hand, and escorted me to your equally imposing balcony, and we continued to converse beneath the stars. Soon, you began to speak of preserving not only my work, but myself as well, for generations to come. Your gracious words tenderly caressed my troubled mind and in this moment, I felt perfectly at peace. You confessed to watching me for a long time, much to my surprise. You now wanted me by your side, to be embraced, and continue my work forever. I welcomed your spirited advances, for who could deny an offer from one so alluring? Then you gently kissed my lips, and I was too caught up in the moment to notice the coldness of your skin, or the scarcity of your breath against my face.
I would have agreed to anything, in that moment. I wanted to be yours forever. I couldn’t deny these feelings, but wonder how much of my own agency was still available to me. When I did say yes, were those my words that escaped my lips, or were they placed there by you?
Not that it really matters, anymore.
You swiftly reacted by tilting my head to the side, making me feel strangely exposed. I tried to speak, but stopped when I felt a sharp pain in my neck as you sunk your fangs in deep, and began draining me of my mortality.
Who knew dying could feel so euphoric? I moaned in ecstasy as you were drinking my blood, sucking at the wound you had made, and making your own blissful sounds. I felt a warmth down my neck as wayward drops began to trickle from your chin. My strength began to leave, and I could no longer stay upright, but you continued to hold me in a firm embrace, and feed.
I knew I was dying, but still wanted to offer you every drop; to feel this ineffable pleasure for as long as possible. In that moment, I had forgotten your promise of eternity. I was instead drawn to the call of a waiting abyss, and it was pulling me ever closer. I continued to drift towards the brink until I suddenly felt perplexed. You had placed some of your blood on my tongue, and was calmly coaxing me back to this world.
I could have denied your dark gift, and that would have been the end of it. Maybe I would have found peace in the void.
Instead I found myself back in my body that was lost in its death throes. The look in your eyes told me you had seen this many times, but to your credit, you made the attempt to soothe me in this terrifying moment.
I died on that balcony, in your arms.
And was reborn, with a terrible hunger.
That’s when you brought her in; the red-haired woman who was to be my first. And you smiled that same wolfish grin when I discovered my new fangs, and quickly sought out the tender flesh of her neck.
You were a proud sire, I could see, but insisted on leaving soon after, to acquire more sustenance.
I was left alone, to bask in euphoria, which I admit I did enjoy. That is, until I received an urgent message on my phone. A few simple words on a screen were enough to grab me from this high, and throw me back to earth.
My sister had been in an accident.
She died on the scene, flung from a car that had been driven by the young man she had left with.
Just like that, she was gone.
The promise of this new found life; the rapture I had just experienced – it all melted away.
I fell to the floor, and started to sob. But as the tears rolled down, I realized they weren’t tears at all, but blood. I couldn’t even weep for my sister; I could only bleed.
How could I live the rest of my life without her? How could I possibly accept this gift, as she lay dead on the ground?
And then it struck me. If I hadn’t left her there, to be with you, she’d –
She’d still be alive.
That’s when I remembered your sword, hanging on the wall. Its sharpened edge whispered a promise of reunion. And so I fell on it; its blade piercing my heart, and leaving me to lie in agony until you found me, soon after. The steel had deceived me, and mocked me in my despair.
As you knew it would.
I’ve had some time to think since then. Countless hours spent wondering how it could have been different. One question always springs to mind, though, in those darkened hours of self-reflection.
Where did you go, Melpomene?
You were to return with someone, were you not? More food for your fledgling… but you came back alone. And yet I spied a spot of blood on your coat, after having vowed you found no one worthy of my desire, or partook of anything yourself.
It made little sense, but I was too absorbed in grief to care, unable to even attend the funeral. And then, only last week, did you refer to that young man who perished with her by name, after saying prior that you never knew him.
That was when I began to wonder.
I know how you work, Melpomene. My craft may employ brushes and paint to construct my scenes, but you employ people to create yours. And now I think back to how he was the perfect type for my sister, right down to his perfect cologne. They said she was instantly bewitched, and left with him happily, though she was never the type to be so reckless. That had always been me.
This led to more questions. How did he lose control on an empty stretch of road? How did they perish so quickly? So I acquired some reports to shed some new light. You know, of course, how easy it is to come by such information, if you know where to look, and how to ask?
And so I’ve finally pieced it together.
I know you witnessed the accident, Melpomene. But what I fear to know, is if she was already dead when you approached, or if you had to… finish the deed, yourself.
Is this the price of immortality? You took everything I had, then promised me a better life.
But this isn’t life.
It’s death, borne from more death.
And as much as I love you, I also despise you. I would end your life if I could, but will settle instead for a simple concession.
I want to join my sister in death. I’m aware you’ve been keeping this desire in check, ensuring I steer clear of the sun, and other dangers. Thus have you kept me imprisoned within this unchanging frame, forced to consume the blood of the living, while you watch in gleeful delight as I bleed onto my canvass every night.
I have become a slave to your artistic fancy.
That light you saw in me a year ago; that glint of wonder and hope, is gone. It died with Audryna. And yet I remain. And here you still stand, a terrible beauty with wicked eyes that have inflicted more pain than a thousand cuts of your blade.
I’ve heard it whispered that you are a Muse, and throughout ages have inspired great works. That you seek out the very best talent, and raise them to heights they never thought possible. I know now how you achieve this: by taking what they value most, and enhancing their artistry through suffering. But what becomes of your charges, once their pinnacles have been reached? A vampire may live forever, but her artistic flame will eventually burn out; and even faster when it is made to burn brightly.
This candle’s wick is at its end. And so I must leave you.
I refuse to be Tragedy’s love any longer. And though I can’t stop you from creating more pain, my own path to freedom has been revealed. And by the light of this path, I will see my sister again.
Farewell, my Muse.