“And wicked dreams abuse the curtain’d sleep.” – Macbeth
It feels like moving through cobwebs, like sea-washed glass against her fingers, like the smoothness of old lace. It is different from any other time in her life that she has sleepwalked, and she knows, even in that hazy half consciousness, that this does not come, as other such incidents have, from something deep within herself. No dream, washing up on the vulnerable shores of her sleeping mind like a wave, has startled her feet into movement. This is something different, something unfamiliar, something bringing her the same thrill as Arthur’s fingers brushing up against the inside of her wrist.
She would expect her mind and body to fight such an invasion, just as she imagines they would fight, instinctively, against one of those new vaccines injected into her bloodstream. But that is unimaginable – this is nothing like coyly turning away from Arthur, or Jack, or Quincey’s compliments. This call is like chains around her wrists, but chains made from moonlight and whispers and spider’s silk.
So she walks, her feet bare against the dew-damp grass – yes, she can feel that, this is not ordinary sleepwalking – the sound of her own breath in her ears, thick and heavy.
She opens her eyes then, finally, when she can stop walking at last, but it is as though she sees the world through a veil – all is grey-lavender, soft at the edges and yet as vivid as anything will ever be. He is there, like a shadow, a blot upon the vague ambiguity of it, his angular silhouette seeming as though it will block out the moon. Her breath catches in her throat, then, as though she will suffocate merely from the shock of them, but then she lets her eyelids flutter and forces herself to focus upon the simplicity of it. Breathe. Breathe.
She does not see him move, but he is at her side in an instant, a blur of mist and darkness. His hands cup her face, cold as ice, and yet she finds herself leaning into them, like a cat with its master, but she is no cat, looking deep into his eyes, which are so vividly green in the midst of all the grayness – or are they red, red like embers, gleaming in the ghastly paleness of his face, which is itself perhaps but the bone-white of a skull? Oh, but she cannot see, not with this gauzy veil of half consciousness. She can only feel, his lips unexpectedly soft against her own, the world tilting.
She feels half like a puppet, falling when he wants her to fall, into the wet grass, on her back, her hair spread out like a siren’s. He pushes the white, gauzy fabric of her nightgown up, his nails sharp against the insides of her thighs, his hands pressing, still so cold, against her. And it is becoming even more difficult to breathe, as she finds herself reduced to sharp exhales. She feels that she would speak if she could, though she cannot imagine what she would say, but it is as though her voice has been stolen from her in any case, all her words coming out in unreliable breath.
There is more, sensation so thick with intensity that it should tear apart the cobwebs, but somehow it only serves to wrap her further within them, even as her nightgown grows so wet with dew that it begins almost transparent, even as his teeth brush almost against the soft hollow of her throat…
It seems almost to be that thought which triggers another switch, the world twisting yet further until she is on her feet again, his arm around her waist, supporting her, leading her to yet another place and setting her down, stone cold beneath her but not so cold as his skin.
He leans over her, fingers methodical, careful against her pulse for an instant, and then he lowers his head, teeth so sharp, and…oh! Pain as bright as a sudden star, and the gentle sound of grass rustling in the distance, and the nightmare ends.
Her hands tremble as she lays down her pen – it is the mist, making her shiver. Him again, of course, though she cannot see how she knows that so suddenly every evening as he arrives, and forgets all to do with it so promptly as she wakes in the morning. But for now it is all clear. He seems almost more human in the light of the gas lamp, and all the little facts will not stop fluttering about in her mind – the servants drugged, her mother, oh, her mother fallen and so likely dead. All the mist in the world will not make her forget that.
But he stands there, calmly regarding her, and she must say something. “I’m cold,” she says finally, without thinking, the words as plaintive as a child’s.
He pays them little heed, a smile twisting upon his features. “What have you written?”
She clutches the letter close to her protectively. The smile turns indulgent. “We’ll deal with that later, then, if you like.” A hand around her waist, like a long accustomed gesture, and he draws her close to him, so easily, the sound of the letter crinkling between them deafeningly audible.
She can feel the chill of his fingers through her nightgown. “I’m cold,” she repeats, insistent.
For a moment, she almost sees a vicious snarl of impatience in his eyes and face, but it is soon gone. “Shh,” he murmurs, his thumb against her cheek, and she feels the cobwebs in her throat again, an intricate pattern knotting her vocal cords into stillness. Fear almost comes to turn her consciousness into a sharp-honed knife, but that dissipates as soon as she even becomes aware of its presence, leaving her feeling as though there is no sharpness about her, nothing that could cut or scratch.
He does not talk to her or touch her. He picks up a letter opener from her desk and, unflinchingly, cuts a long thin line down the inside of his left arm. She cannot help staring. She has so rarely seen blood.
He does not command her, or force her head down violently. His presence is all within her, and though she knows how to begin fighting it now (while vaccines were once a vague imagining for her, since then she has had so many blood transfusions, and she knows how to fight against the foreign substances within her very skin), she does not do so. She opens her mouth when he wills her to, she drinks, watching his eyes.
And then, before she can even grow accustomed to the taste of his blood, there is the familiar, sharp pain of his teeth in her neck, and he drinks and drinks and drinks, drinks till they both know that the dream shall not end.