Short Story: ‘The Devil Behind My Eyes’

I don’t usually post full-length stories just in case I want to submit any of them to magazines that don’t take simultaneous submissions. But I’m not planning on sending this delightful, dark romp to anywhere.

It’s a story that I first wrote when I was in sixth-form and was, in fact, the first thing I ever read out at an open mic during Freshers’ Week at UoG. I remember I was shaking so hard I thought I would fall over.

I’ve updated it over the years, giving a massive rewrite when I realised it fit a character from my dissertation perfectly. As mentioned in my previous post, yes, I’m now doing vampires for my dissertation.

This character, Jacques, is a five-hundred-year-old libertine who is the Maker and on-again-off-again partner of my protagonist, Edmund.

In this extract, Jacques is out for a night of murder and mayhem, then takes a philosophical turn as he walks the streets of Paris.


The Devil Behind my Eyes

By Elizabeth McIvor

The knife slides cleanly between his ribs, my hand over his mouth catching his pathetic cry. He twitches like a deer in a wolf’s jaws as I sink my teeth into his throat. The brilliant crimson of his blood rushes from the soft prison of his body, bubbling like a springtime stream. The taste makes me giddy.

Even before his wheezing breaths have ceased, I drop him into the mud, my fingers scurrying over his pockets. I snort in disgust at the meagre pickings, his blood turning sour on my tongue. So much time wasted for so little. I can’t even take his clothes now that I have soiled them. As if I would want them anyway: two seasons old and stained with wine. My tastes are more refined than that, thank you very much.

The squandered time vexes me and when I am extremely vexed, someone usually ends up extremely dead. The bloodlust is not yet sated, but it must wait until tomorrow night; I can smell the approaching dawn.

I kick the drunken student’s cadaver to the side as I leave, secure in the knowledge no trace of my hunt will remain by morning. The rats and the destitute will descend on his carcass, cleaning up the mess left by the apex predator. The clothes will be sold, the little silver ring on his right hand not worth my time will be fought for, and his body will be tipped smoothly into the sewers in little less than half an hour.

My knife fits neatly into its sheath at my hip. My second set of curving teeth retract up into my gums. I stretch my jaw and grimace, feeling them prickle just under the skin. Many of my kind abhorred their affliction – I loved every perverse, bloody, obscene, everlasting part of it.

I growl briefly at a girl huddled by the side of the alleyway. She whimpers and shrinks away; I laugh. The power, that crackle under my skin, the buzz in my brain, is a drug far more powerful than any I have tried in my long and hedonistic life.

Around me, the people of Paris are beginning to stir. I’m heading for the artist quarter where I left my sweet Edmund pouring over some dense book.

Ah, Edmund. Had it truly been four hundred years already? We’d seen some good times together – partying with the Borgias, dodging pitchfork and fire-wielding mobs, drinking, fighting, fucking, and killing our way through eternal life.

Not that we did much of any of that anymore. Tonight was not the first night I had hunted alone. When I’d pressed kisses to his neck, whispering my plan to stalk some students, he’d shrugged me away.

“I told you, Jacques,” he said, petulant. “I don’t kill anymore.”

He had told me, repeatedly, ramming the self-righteous philosophy down my throat until I gagged whenever he mentioned it.

I snarl silently to myself, sending a filthy child skittering away from me. How can he not understand that we are not like regular people? We are different him and I; we’re made up of primal fear and shadows and bloodshed in the twilight. We are sly and smart and as insubstantial as curling smoke in the wind. We are not made for light or for goodness. I know I’m certainly not.

The untouchable gold of dawn drops over the shacks and ramshackle houses to illuminate the murkiest strata of human society. I wince at its glare, out of place, uncomfortable with the brightness. My eyes are better suited to stalking prey in the velveteen night-time, not the gauzy light of day.

The street is becoming less deserted, workers and vendors and students and beggers stepping out into another day. I wonder what it is people see when they look at me. Do they see only what I want them to see? Or do some occasionally see past the pale, unblemished skin, the red lips, the sleek red hair, and see the darkness residing within me that Edmund seems to intent to cast off. How many of them see the beast behind the charming smiles? See bloodied hands hidden beneath the expensive gloves?

Some sense it, I know they do; they edge past me with suspicious eyes, tense shoulders, the delightful scent of their fear washing over me as they hurry away. I enjoy their fear, just as much as I enjoy their admiration, of which there is plenty. It is the ones who admire me that are really the fools.

I enjoy the attention, of course, even going out of my way to secure it, tossing out honeyed words and flirtatious winks to the commuting grisettes that pass me as I pause to lean against a building’s corner.

One of them smiles back, her dark eyes promising me everything I could ever want. But could she grant me that? Would she be willing to receive pain for my pleasure? Would she be quite so confident if she knew that her terrified whimpers were the sweetest of melodies to my ears?

I pull my eyes up and away from the swing of her hips to meet the eyes of her companion. She is looking over her shoulder, a pretty slip of a thing with a long, slender throat, that would fit nicely within my grasp, and golden hair that would look best tangled taut in my fingers as I forced her head back. Her pale eyes are mistrustful, shadowed, and I know she sees it, sees the thing so few others do, much to their misfortune.

She sees the thing many only gaze upon in their last moments.

The devil behind my eyes.

 

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