Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Echoes from another room

He was to move out tomorrow. World war—it would be interesting. He had only been involved in a few minor civil disputes so far—the French Revolution, the 1848 Uprisings—but a world war. What would that involve? He gazed down at himself and smiled. He looked quite the proper British officer. “How do you do?” He said quietly to himself. “How’d you do?” Better. More of an aristocratic laziness to it, as though he’d said it a million times before. Rather than only having been speaking English for a month.

Zero liked Britain. Beautiful countryside, mostly civilised people. Or the ones he chose to mix with, at least. He’d taken to scones with jam and cream and even tea. And the women! Oh, the women. So many docile, doe-eyed creatures with their long, prudish skirts and big, flowery hats. They were delicious. Giving himself one final glance over, he began to make his way down dark London streets to the Foggingtons’ little soiree.

“Zero! There you are, old chap! Ready for the big off tomorrow, eh?” Albert Foggington caught him just as he arrived. Six foot five inches tall, his shiny straw-blonde hair was caught by the glow of the overhead gas lamps. His baby-smooth face creased into a welcoming smile.
“Yes, all ready for the big set-to, old boy! You?” Zero whisked a glass of champagne from a passing tray.
“Ready as I’ll ever be, Zero.” Albert clapped him on the shoulder with one large, steady hand. “Come through, old chap and I’ll introduce you.”
Albert led Zero into a large, beautiful room. It had been furnished in the late Victorian era, Zero guessed. He remembered the dramatic wood carving and plush, richly hued velvet from his own drawing room of the time.

There was much laughter and chatter but it was underpinned with an almost tangible note of apprehension, given that most of the young men in the room were leaving for the Front tomorrow. Albert introduced Zero to his parents and his two sisters (sadly very like Albert but with longer hair) and he charmed them all. Weaving his elaborate tale of having been orphaned as a baby (that way parents couldn’t be sought out), an education at Eton funded by a secret benefactor (and so ticking the ‘right connections’ box as well as eliminating any other possible family links for anyone to follow up on) and the hilarious story of how he came by the name Zero, there was barely a dry eye in the room. He could almost hear them say, ‘Captain Zero Nicholas is one of us’.

In the corner of the room he noticed a girl sitting on her own. She was about nineteen, he guessed, and quite lovely. Red curls tumbled down onto her shoulders and her pale, creamy skin gleamed in the gentle light. The vibrant redness of her hair was offset beautifully by the cool green chiffon of her dress, dotted with a thousand shiny beads like stars in the night sky.

“Surely you’re not on your own?” Zero stood smiling in front of her.
She looked up with surprise and the emerald green of her eyes gave Zero pause for breath. “Yes, I am actually. Well, sort of. My sister is here…somewhere.” She smiled shyly.
“Well, you’re not alone anymore. May I?” he gestured to the seat next to her.
“Of course.” She said, gathering her skirt about her so that he could sit down.
They talked for half an hour or at least she listened, entranced, as he told her about his travels through Europe. He just neglected to tell her that most of them had happened two hundred years before and that most of the people he spoke of he had also killed.

Zero felt he had dangled the carrot for long enough. “Jane, would you care to take some air on the balcony?”
She paused and then, looking into his smiling brown eyes, she nodded. “That would be lovely, Zero. It is rather stuffy in here.” She rose gracefully and took his proferred hand.
Outside, it was a beautiful night. He steered her towards a darker corner of the balcony, away from the open French doors and the party, and gazed out up at the sky. It seemed a shame, she was a lovely girl. But he had needs and he could feel them pulsing and galloping through his body this very minute, urging him on to action.
“Jane, I hope you won’t take offence, but I’m moving out tomorrow as you know and…” He stopped, assuming a pose of delicacy.
“What is it, Zero?” She placed her hand softly over his own. He was in.
“May I kiss you, Jane? It would mean so much to me.” He met her eyes briefly and then looked delicately away. He even allowed a blush to creep into his cheeks.
“Of course you may, Zero.” Jane replied, with surprising swiftness. He’d done a good job.
He leant towards her, and rested his lips on her own. The sweetness of her breath, the fleshy plumpness of her lips—it was too much. He kissed her hungrily now, covered her cries with his gorging mouth and then, quickly clamping his hand over her mouth and watching as the fear rose in her eyes, he bared his fangs and plunged them into her tender young neck. She fought him for a surprising amount of time while he drank his fill. Then he lay her gently down amongst the potted roses and was over the balcony and away into the dark night.

Yes, the war would be interesting.

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