I have no recollection of how it started.
There was no glorious awakening; no moment of exquisite, almost sexual ecstasy as an impossibly magnificent monster killed me. Disappointingly, I don’t even remember if it hurt. In my more melodramatic moments, I fancy that I might have died screaming in agony only to be reborn, clawing my way out of my own freshly covered grave. I rather suspect that the truth was rather more mundane, but I can’t remember either way. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, but I’m three hundred years old and have no past. Is it any wonder that I seem melancholy?
All I know about what I am, I have been forced to find out the hard way. There are others, of course, but apparently we’re solitary creatures and not at all inclined to exchange tips with newcomers.
The first thing I can remember is the hunger. I don’t remember who I was before, but when I came to my senses, I was immediately consumed by a terrible thirst. No one taught me, but dumb animal instinct told me what needed to be done. I don’t know if I was a good man before, but now my only thought was to kill. I wasn’t even careful, but the thirst drove me on. A stranger paused and I needed no further invitation: I tore his throat out and rejoiced as my thirst melted away with each hot pump of his weakening heart. Sated, I didn’t even trouble myself to move myself away from his stiffening corpse.
Looking back, I’m amazed I lasted more than a week. But apparently – remarkably - no one saw me, or if they did, no one cared. Life is cheap now, but it was cheaper then. In those first few days I think I must have killed – or tried to kill - every single person who happened across my path: man, woman or child. It was of no consequence to me. It was only later, when that initial hunger subsided, that I began to wonder what I was. I felt no revulsion at the killing, and I certainly wasn’t troubled by an uneasy conscience, but it’s a messy business and I quickly grew tired of the tedious business of concealment. You soon learn that, although you may not care how many people die, there are plenty of other people around you who will. If the bodies pile up too high, people start to ask questions and to point fingers…. Before you know where you are, you’re on the wrong end of a pitchfork-wielding mob. Metaphorically speaking these days, of course.
But I am not a beast. Soon, I came to myself and I began to be defined by things other than my appetite. My initial instinct was for solitude, but I’m not by nature a solitary man and I craved the human company. It’s ironic, really: I seek the companionship of the very same thing that I must kill in order to survive. Maybe that’s the most monstrous part of it all.
I wouldn’t kill at all if I could help it, but unless I do, the hunger drives me to madness and I can’t afford to be mindless. I must have control above all other things. The price of that control? Sucking the life from a human until the life has flowed from them. That’s it. Nothing else will do. No half measures.
So I kill. It’s probably in poor taste to keep a tally, and I’ve long since lost count, but over the last three hundred years I’ve been killing at a rate of – what – about twenty people a year. My God. That’s 6000 human lives. I almost feel remorse, but the plain truth is that it is the price of my existence and I must continue to exist.
Has it got harder to survive? You might like to think that, but the truth is that, as the years have passed, if anything, it’s got easier. Forensics be damned: there are always people who will not be missed. You just need to know where to find them. I haven’t bothered to move away from the city that has been my home for the last century. I haven’t even moved house in fifty years. After all, how well do you know your neighbours? As the police van pulls away, don’t the neighbours always tell the papers that he seemed like such a nice man?
It tickles me, in the tedium of my job, to think of how I would like to kill the people who wound me every day with their petty indignities. Don’t try and tell me that you haven’t done the same yourself. Everyone has. Like you, mostly I am able to restrain myself and the thought alone is enough…but sometimes the hunger and the insult are both too great to ignore. Who will miss this one idiot in a sea of idiots?
Not as many people as you might think. In the big bad world of business, as we’re often told, we’re all replaceable. Not everyone who disappears from the office has gone to explore exciting new opportunities.
a philadelphia story
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