FOREVER

He found her in one of the dingy Whitechapel brothels. As soon as he stepped inside, he was drawn to her: a pretty, frail creature, no more than twenty years old. She was timid, frightened, and clearly new to a life of prostitution. Her dress hung loose on her undernourished frame, and when she coughed, he caught sight of a few drops of blood on her pale hand before she wiped it away onto her dark, threadbare skirt. He could practically smell death on her, could almost see the Grim Reaper himself standing behind her, waiting to steal her away from life. She was perfect.

Coin—far more than any of the emaciated, diseased ladybirds in the building were probably worth—changed hands and the girl was nudged forward. The brothel’s owners—an obese, balding man and his scowling, pregnant wife eagerly instructed her to smile at her client and make him happy. Give him whatever he wants, they had said. He grinned a little at the thought; perhaps if they had known precisely what he had in mind, they would have refused his business. Or at least tried to coax a few more coins from his pocket.

Up in the dingy closet that passed as her bedroom, she stood before him with her fingers twisted tightly into the fabric of her skirt. It was almost as though she wasn’t entirely sure what to do. He smiled.

“How long have you been here?” he asked.

The voice that answered him was small and soft—almost inaudible. “A week.”

No wonder the poor thing was still nervous. He assured her that she needn’t be shy and pulled her close. Her heart was pounding—he could practically feel it. She reached for the laces on her dress and he stopped her. There would be time for that later, if they chose. Endless time.

He wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight. She squirmed and he leaned down, murmuring assurances and ghosting his lips over her pale pretty neck. Her body stiffened and she gave a small gasp–of fear or pleasure, he wasn’t sure. And he didn’t care.

His mouth opened and he bit down, pricking flesh with too-sharp teeth.

A scream slipped past her lips before he could stop her, but it didn’t matter; no one would care about a scream in a whorehouse. Another few seconds and the girl was too weak to scream again. He felt her legs buckle and she fell limp in his arms. Time to stop.

He dropped her onto the grimy bed and watched her. Each of her breaths came slow and shallow. Her eyes, half-closed, seemed not to truly see anything around her.

“It hurts, I know,” he soothed, sinking down onto the bed beside her. He took her wrist in hand and felt her fading pulse. “I can make it stop.” He could. It would be so easy to end the girl—another few gulps of her sweet blood, a quick snapping of her neck, a pillow held over her face…but he didn’t.

“I could give you something better, though,” he continued, watching her struggle to cling to life. “I could give you life. Forever.”

“P-please,” the girl whispered. He didn’t know what she was pleading for—death or life—and he didn’t care. They were almost the same thing for the dying girl, anyway. After all, she was heading for death even before he chose her.

In one swift movement, he sliced open his own wrist with a small knife and pressed it to the girl’s dry lips. She coughed against his flesh, resisting the blood that flowed into her mouth, but he was firm. One had to be, when making a newborn. Still pressing his wrist to her mouth, he leaned down and bit into her neck anew, freeing the remaining blood from her veins. She thrashed and tears spilled from her eyes, but still he held firm, only pulling away when her body stilled and her eyes fluttered shut.

He stood and looked down at her. Blood dripped from the corner of her mouth, and more blood stained her pale neck. Her struggles had left her skirts in disarray, tangled around her and exposing her legs. The scene was almost right, but he needed to hide the puncture wounds on her neck. A knife pulled across her throat hid them well enough. The wound would heal by the time he found her again, anyway, and she was beyond feeling the pain of the cut. He straightened his own rumpled clothes and left her there, just another prostitute murdered in Whitechapel.

The next day, he checked the papers for some sign of his little darling’s death. Not one mention of it. Surprising; he had half-expected them to blame the Ripper for the crime. But her death went unnoticed. Undoubtedly she had been dumped into some pauper’s grave. And there she would remain, until the changes took hold. He would find her then, once she awoke, and make his offer. She was content to let the pimp sell her body to men for coin; she could scarce refuse the simple company of the man who gave her immortality. And if she did refuse, he could always finish what he started. It would pain him to kill the sweet little creature, but he was far too old to deal with a rebellious fledgling.

What he needed was a companion. If she stayed with him, she would still eventually leave him; he knew that much. She would grow restless and feel an urge to break away from him, to take off into the night on her own. And then he would go in search of another companion, as he had done through the centuries.

He had watched empires rise and fall, civilizations progress and collapse…and through it all, he had always kept someone at his side. He needed them, even if none of them thought they needed him, even if none of them stayed for more than a few decades. They would feel that same need, in their own time, and long for companions of their own. They would learn what he had known for millennia:

Forever is far too long to be alone.

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