“You don’t remember your name, servant?” Johann said. I frowned, his words cutting. “Others remember you. I know it.”
I jerked my head up, meeting his eyes. “Tell me,” I snapped.
“No,” he said, and I stepped forward.
“Tell me!” Something filled me, a need that for once had nothing to do with hunger for blood. Memories of the cat and the old woman wouldn’t leave my head, and there was more, blocked by a haze of alcohol and the image of my master in the alley.
“You are not human any longer,” Johann said. “Chasing human memories will only hurt you.”
“Then why did you ask me my name?” I growled.
“Because there is a way for you to get them back. To reclaim who you were, in a way.”
I backed up, lifting my head as though he had slapped me.
“Why are you telling me this?” I growled. “Why would I want that?” The memories began to fade, as they always did, in a haze of indifference, but this time they left edges behind. I should have tried to kill him, back with the others. I probably would have died. Why had I even cared then?
“Maybe you don’t.” He shrugged, turning to leave. “But if you do, come find me. You have my scent now. If you want something more than to die a mindless, blood crazed servant, that is.”
I blinked. “You think you can just go, and I’ll let you?”
“If you kill me, you’ll never know.”
“I could bring you to my master.”
“And he’d kill me.” He began walking away, leaving me alone with only the deer I had killed for company. “It’s your choice, servant. Probably the most important one of your short afterlife.”
I could have chased after him. I could overpower him, force him to reveal whatever he knew.
My name. Who I had been. Who I was.
Instead, I stayed put, until the moon shone directly overhead. I waited for the apathy to return, subsumed by the return of the hunger.
The hunger returned, but the apathy didn’t.
I hadn’t been to the village since my master had turned me.
The night had turned cold, the cold that permeated the air just before the morning began. I shouldn’t be here, darting through the trees close the to the village borders, just over the river that separated me from them, the bridge mere yards away. The sun would be up soon.
The village of Penthorn blended in with the woods, the houses made of the same pale bark. No fires burned in the town square. Winding alleys radiated from the bell in the center of town, framed by thatched houses that looked small and cramped from my spot in the tree above the river. The houses were dim, silent, the only sound the quiet clucking of chickens in the front yard of one of them. Beyond the houses, fields stretched into the distance, and small dots marked sheep that grazed overnight.
It was familiar. The bell had marked every morning and evening, and even now I could hear the sound every night, wafting even to the castle. No one slept in the alley I had once lain in, though I may just not be able to see them in the various twists and turns.
Part of me wanted to enter, immerse myself in a life I had once but could not remember.
I also wanted the blood. Hunting in the middle of a village, surrounded by the beating hearts and scents of living people, would be torturous bliss until I sank my fangs into one of them. Then it would be bliss. I licked my lips, the deer forgotten.
As I watched, a light flickered to life in the window of one of the houses. I leaned forward in the tree, straining to see.
The light traveled, and I realized it was a candle, held by someone inside the house. The window dimmed, and then the front door swung open.
“Out you go, Whisk,” a reedy voice spoke. “Out, out. Go and hunt.”
That voice struck me hard.
“Hey, you boy,” a woman said. She was blurry in my vision, and I stumbled when I tried to stand. “You can’t sleep here. It’s too cold.”
“No. I’ve seen you. You want to freeze to death? Follow me. Sleep on the floor, but I won’t have you sleeping outside in this weather. You’ll catch your death.” Matilda turned on her heel, and like a child, not a twenty-year-old man, I followed.
Her house had been warm, and upon laying down on her couch I was asleep in minutes. Her cat had slept on my stomach. I had left in the morning before she woke, my head pounding.
I blinked, the memory and sensations of warmth and something deeper fading. This time, though, they left something behind. A hollowness, that had nothing to do with hunger for blood. I watched, unmoving, as the door closed, and Matilda’s cat prowled away into the night, its ears twitching for the sound of rapid heartbeats and tiny feet.
The sound of wheels on wood made me turn.
“You chose to be turned, didn’t you?” The hunter’s voice was loud in my ears after the silence of the river and the village.