One might say this comes too easy for her.
She hides there in the shadows, her glassy eyes bright and feverish, the color of melting gold, and her breath billows in white clouds where it battles the icy air and dies. This nebula of frost surrounds her always. And after a moment, if you look closely enough, you might realize that the gold is neither igniting nor warm, but instead cold and hard. Maybe a reflection of the heat surrounding it, but never -- never -- anything but an illusion.
It is always winter where she is.
But you could not know this, and perhaps you should forget I ever told you. It is easier to pass her by without a second thought to her worries, to her troubles… to her cruelties.
Yes, she is cruel.
So many summers have passed and not touched her. The sun's warming rays are no different than the ice that coats her heart. You cannot see it now, perhaps, as the early dawn flickers over her angular cheek and highlights the soft curve of her bottom lip, but it does not change anything. She is not a monster, but she was destroyed by one.
Walk silently on your way and pretend you did not notice her. Ignore the soft fall of footsteps echoing at your back. It is not you she chases as she weaves stealthily through the vanishing shadows; it is a myth, a remembrance, of what she lost.
Perhaps you pause at the corner while a car careens crazily down the deserted street. She steps to the curb, hovering at the edge, as that car spins madly through the intersection and under the harsh glare of a red light. Raising a cigarette to her lips, she inhales, and the acrid scent of smoke floods the air around her. Maybe the smell nauseates you and you step away.
And when she moves closer to you, a wicked light gleaming in the steaming gold of her eyes, you might think she knows.
She glances at you and smiles, the expression fleet and taunting as it flits across her sculpted face. Challenge tinges the pale tones of her skin a dusty rose. She takes another drag from the cigarette, long and deep, and then she throws it carelessly into the street, where it smolders hotly.
Her smile deepens and she beckons you to follow.
Despite your misgivings, perhaps you do.
The street stretches straight and narrow before you. Tall buildings soar on either side, casting shadows where the sun might sometimes fall. But here, now, those shadows seem appropriate. They swallow her in their midst. She cannot walk in sunlight with those who live and love and breathe; she cannot pretend that she is like them. Her humanity dissipated too long ago.
The shadows have become her home.
Running lightly in front of you, she slips between the buildings and around corners while the darkness grows ever deeper. And perhaps you realize that not only does ice continuously surround her, but that dusk is the only light she ever sees.
Finally, she stops. A silken sheet of coal black hair whips behind her as she turns, her face lighting with a savageness that seems so very out of place. As if too much emotion has been etched across those chiseled features. And truly, you should not be fooled, because her emotions died centuries ago. Unlike her, they cannot be resurrected, but only mourned.
And mourn she does.
Perhaps you should take this time to stop and to look at what lies around you, to notice where you stand. She is silent still. Waiting. Watching. Something guarded steals over her features like an unsuspected undertow near ocean's shore and maybe you realize they are tears.
Do not stand there too long, staring, if you are astonished. She has not brought you here to watch her cry. Her tears are nothing and they are not uncommon. They go unnoticed against the pain that causes them. Glance at what sits sagging behind her before you say that you are shocked.
It is a church.
The walls are crumbling now, faded and broken with age. They might have been white once, that pure color of snow before it touches the ground and becomes sullied by humanity. They might have stood straight and proud, proclaiming a faith long dead, and welcomed sinners to their depths.
Now they are only old and decrepit. The paint is cracked and chipped under fallen arches that once flew with pride. They are forgotten in this sullen crevice, nestled between two buildings that neither care nor notice.
Follow her inside, through the heavy, scarred oak door. The wood is gouged and blackened from years of neglect and abuse. The building, though razed, will not collapse or decay under your scant weight.
Here, in the darkness, light streams. Shattered windows of stained glass bestow a myriad of colors on the littered stone floor. Shards glitter like precious gems among the rubble. Oak pews tumble on their sides or sit dislodged at odd angles. And, as if to complete the sadness of destruction, paintings hang tilted on the walls, their images marred by gaping slashes.
Once, it was precious.
Once, so was she.
Her golden eyes watch you, glistening with unshed tears. She has not spoken, nor does she need to. Words would be out of place in this haunting edifice. She does not look away and she does not show any empathy for the feelings coursing through you, if any do. She simply stands there, defeated and broken, but then she turns away.
Perhaps your gaze melds with hers, meshing into one, until you see only what she sees. What plays before her is not the present or the future. It is the past. And then, more quickly than you can turn and run away, the church becomes new and unsullied, the way she remembers it.
How trite, you might think, that her name is so closely tied to where you stand. How base, you might think, that something so saintly should be linked with someone so cruel. And how sudden, you might think, that her name enters your mind.
It is morning outside the church, far from this dark alley where memories try to rest in peace. The light creeps in slowly and sneaks over the wooden pews, illuminating their newly finished backs.
At the front, three small children kneel. Their heads are bowed, praying to a god that does not answer, but they are silent and they believe. The smallest, a child with curling midnight hair, stiffens as though she feels your attention focused on her. She glances around, her golden eyes suspicious, but she does not see you. Let your breath exhale if you were holding it and step a little closer.
The other children, both crowned with tousled platinum locks, glare feebly in her direction. Guilt floods her face before she quickly ducks her head. She resumes her silent chant.
Seconds fall like diamonds, priceless and dear.
They slink in slowly, unnoticed, and their shadows stretch like nightmares across the cold, hard floor. Call out if you feel the need, warn the children that they are coming if you must, but they will not hear you. Your voice will go unheeded; the past cannot be changed.
One by one, those figures whisper toward the altar. One by one, those figures draw the startled children toward the pews. One by one, the children try to break away.
And one by one, they start to scream.
You might want to cover your ears, burying your mind far from those distorted wails as they rise higher and higher around you. You might want to pretend this does not happen, that the scene before you is just a dream.
Let me assure you, it is all too real.
These figures -- these monsters -- sneer behind silver eyes and phantom fangs. Those fangs are sharp and lethal, extending far longer than one might expect and tapered to finer points than one might realize. They are frightening and they are deadly and they sink into the children's throats like a knife through butter.
Maybe you wonder at the agony the children feel. Imagine, if you can, the blood being drawn from your body, your soul being drawn from a place inside you cannot name. Perhaps then you might know their pain.
It is over quickly, but not quickly enough. As silently as they came, those figures leave. Crawl to the children and search for an elusive pulse. You will not find it. After all, one cannot live without one's blood.
But then, maybe you notice the girl you followed, so quiet, so apathetic, kneeling over the child with hair the color of night. And maybe you see that her chest rises and falls slightly in the silence.
Perhaps you weep for joy.
Her eyes slide open, those two deep pools of precious metal, and they look through you, shattered and hopeless. You might realize that those two dead children lying next to her were all she had in this world, the only ones that she could turn to.
Drawing on her last vestiges of strength, she climbs to her feet. Her movements are shaky, uncertain, and she is dizzy. She has lost enough blood that one must expect this. Still she looks through you, but now fury leaps from and in her eyes.
She stumbles to the back of that desecrated sanctuary. At the door, she pauses, tears welling in her eyes when she stares hard at those two small bodies crumbled on the floor.
I will never forget.
And then she leaves, clutching at the wall to stay upright. Her footsteps are too light to make any noise as she hobbles away. Her whimpers are the only sounds you hear.
Then, rising from her crouched position on the floor, the girl you followed stands, accusation shining from her eyes. And perhaps now you understand why those golden orbs are empty, why that full mouth tightens in cruelty.
Stand unmoving while she stalks toward you, the sinuous slide of her body mesmerizing to your senses. Do not blink or scream when she sinks her fangs into your neck. Let your weight fall into her; let her catch you. Maybe you know she will protect you.
She stops then, her lips moving silently over your skin with a tenderness you cannot bear. Whispering something you cannot make out. And then she sets you gently on the floor, arranging your limbs in the position she remembers.
With one last frightened glance, she runs away, clutching at the wall to stay upright. She has left you living, her story imprinted on your mind and pierced into your throat. No longer is she an angel or an innocent. She has become something more appalling. Something more fierce.
And maybe now the words she whispered against your throat are clear… I will never forget.
She is not Death, but it has touched her.
And now it has touched you.