To Sleep, Perchance to Scream

He does not always go to sleep as soon as the sun rises, but he always wakes just before it sets. He likes to feel the tingle on his skin that the sun causes, no matter how far below the surface he hides. He likes to feel it vanish as the vanquished day star falls and the night stars, the friendly ones, appear.

Nowadays, he often wakes to feel a warm, bare body beside him. She snuggles close and they talk in whispers for a while. Sometimes she silently slides on top and eases him inside her. It's like being pushed inside the sun, she's so hot against his coolness and the sensation is almost painful, almost enough to trigger release even as he enters her. But not quite.

She usually asks him, "Sleep well?"

In the instant before he answers - and it can only be a short pause after such a banal query, a longer one would be odd, revealing, dangerous - he remembers the dreams. Then he clenches every muscle to avoid trembling, keeps eyes wide open so that no betraying tear can fall.

"Fine, love, how was your day?" he replies easily.

The dreams; they begin gradually in the days after his soul was returned, fugitive, quickly forgotten fragments of nightmares that dissipate before he's even opened his eyes. Then they begin to increase in intensity, getting clearer, until the memory of them clings like smoke to all his waking hours.

Every night the hunt. Every night the victim is chosen, cut out from the pack, stalked and devoured. Every night he endures the panic, the fear, the disbelief, all emotions swamped at the end in the vast pain.

Sometimes the end comes after a prolonged chase that any cat would recognise and applaud, the building terror giving a delightful spice to the spraying blood. Sometimes, the need to feed overwhelms patience and there is a swift attack, causing a heart stopping moment of frenzied panic. Then the blood is sweetened with the rush of adrenaline. Which is best? Does it matter?

Not to the victim and he knows that for a fact. Now he does - because every night the last thing he sees before he wakes is his demon face, contorted and ugly, fangs stained with blood, a terrible triumph making the yellow, slitted eyes gleam. Strange to finally see that face, and even as he dies, yet again, he reflects on its utter lack of humanity.

Perhaps, if there is mercy somewhere, even for him, it will end when he has relived the pain of each death he caused. If only he could remember how many there were!

Meanwhile he hopes that this time, this time he would wake alone. Then he can rest in peace a while, and let the remorse rack his body with no need to hide his guilt. Because one night, she will ask how he slept and he will have to tell her the truth.

"As well as I deserve."

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