May the 19th, 1536; Anne Boleyn’s execution, she had never looked as glorious as she did that day walking to the scaffold, with the hush of the gathered crowd, the weeping of her ladies was the only sound at that moment. Even after the ladies helped her undress, leaving her in just a plain linen smock and tucked her lustrous hair into a cap, she looked divine. I remember being amazed at how brave and dignified she appeared, never showing fear of her impending death or spite to those who had put her there. I wept as she knelt, the executioner took a deep breath as he clasped the sword. And then it had happened in one quick swoop, her head rolled straight off and blood spattered everywhere. I swear I saw her eyes blink for a few more seconds and that’s when I fainted. I was carried home by my brother Thomas and taunted by my younger sister Kat. It’s funny that I was so averse to the bloodshed then; but things were about to change. I was about to change and I had no idea what was coming.
I was at my most attractive then, sixteen: petite yet curvy, tiny waist, long dark hair, almost black in colour, emerald eyes, a wicked smile full of promises and lust and betrothed to Henry Seville. I couldn’t wait to make love; I spent most of my days thinking about it and my nights dreaming of it. I was obsessed by the notion of the wedding night so I could strip off all my restrictive layers of clothing and lie with Henry who I hoped would kiss me ravenously and touch my naked breasts.
The evening after the execution I was walking through the market square when I became aware that I was being watched, a real sensation of eyes burning into my soul. I felt afraid although nothing had happened to cause this feeling. I looked around, desperately searching for the eyes that made my breathing sharp. A menacing laughter echoed around my head. My feet gathered speed and knew where they were going; as though they had some secret instruction that my mind was not privy to.
I felt like a puppet, a marionette operated by an invisible force that seemingly was leading me to the old, crumbling chapel. I knew I should go home, dusk was quickly setting and my Mother would be irate if I wasn’t back in a few moments. The Seville family were coming to dinner to discuss the final wedding plans. Henry would soon be at the table, smiling, blonde locks and sapphire eyes, waiting with that look of wonder he always saved for me. But I feared I wouldn’t make it.
As my feet marched up the path, the wide, wooden chapel door opened with a creak. Nobody had pushed it open; there was nobody there, just darkness and flickering candles, illuminating patches of the dark wooden beams occasionally. A shape in the corner I couldn’t identify shifted slightly at the bang of the door as it slammed shut behind me.
‘Ah, my bewitching Bess, how long I have waited for you,’ a loud voice boomed from the dark shape in the shadows. ‘And you look more becoming than ever’.
I flinched, struggling to match the voice to anyone I had ever remembered meeting. Blank. Nothing.
‘I don’t believe I know you Sir,’ I managed, my body shivering, my heart racing, though the name Erasmus now pricked my consciousness which seemed absurd.
‘I hear your heart beating rapidly in fear of me. Why? I am your saviour,’ he teased, invisible and intimidating. My black gown felt more constrained than usual, dizziness swayed me a little.
‘I don’t know what you mean Sir. I have to go home, my Mother will be worrying. I am betrothed to be wed, I must go home,’ I stammered as resolution and control slipped away with each word I uttered.
My eyes searched for the shape that I could no longer see, the lick of the candles not providing enough light. I felt a presence behind me and unlike before, my feet were glued to the spot. I couldn’t have moved them with all the will in the world.
An icy cold breath tickled my neck and a hand stroked my braided hair. My body defied my dread and reacted to the touch, calming and resting into his hard body.
‘Beautiful Bess, the most stunning girl in all of England. I nearly took you as a child, I entered your chamber as you were sleeping, nigh on a decade ago and resisted, knowing that you’d grow into your voluptuous self and it would make the dance all the more sweet,’ his voice was smooth and authoritative.
It was pure vanity that had sucked me into the vortex of his words; I could never turn down a compliment. I was a silly little thing rushing to grow up. I felt sure he could read my mind.
‘Rushing to grow up, Bess is not what you should want for yourself. Imagine yourself in even five years, fat with child, your hair and resplendent eyes will lose their shine. You will age and become the toothless woman in the market square, grey and faded. You can’t let that happen. I can help you. I must keep you as this sparkling jewel for eternity,’ his hand cupped my breast at his last word, sending a darting ripple of lust and passion down my body. I was drowning.
My head tingled as though he were actually inside it, probing and reading and a wave of serenity enveloped me, as had his strong arms. I wanted him. I wanted him to take me in any way he saw fit. I was his and he knew it.
I felt his cold lips skim the sensitive flesh of my neck and I groaned out loud, the echoes of my cries throughout the chapel so arousing. And then pain, the frightful pain. Searing, scorching, and burning as I felt his sharp fangs pierce my skin, his mouth sucking my blood, my heart galloping away. I struggled but it was no use. His grip was tenacious and his strength immense. I felt weak but still he continued, depleting my very being. I was shocked when he let go, I was sure he’d planned to kill me, I felt close to death.
He faced me for the first time, this pale, spectacularly striking oddity with raven black hair and dark eyes and forced my head down on to his neck. I didn’t even think, instinct took over and I bore down with my blunt teeth and bit him hard, ripping the skin a little and taking back the vital blood he had stolen from me.
I was shaken to find I liked it, I wanted it and I just took more, even when I felt his knees buckle I could not stop, possessed and wild, with an urgency I had never known. He broke free and I snarled, demanding more but he was firm that I’d had enough.
I slept then, beside him in a crypt, too weary to argue. Upon waking, I was too frail to move but I discovered I was like him: whiter than white with sharp teeth, other worldly and I could not go home. Erasmus said that the sun would burn me alive and nobody must ever know what I had become. I thought of Henry and wept salty tears of crimson blood, staining my pretty ghostly face. Despite the warnings, I frequently visited Henry over the years. He never even sensed my presence though I watched him intently, bouts of anger flaring when he married my younger Sister Kat and desolation as he grew into an old man. I do believe this broke the bit of heart that remained in my cold body.
I stayed with Erasmus for a long while, until he felt I could make it alone. I occasionally hear stories pertaining to his audacity and outrageous deeds; he’s one of the oldest of us which comes with a legendary form of gravitas among the fellow shadows of the night. I feel no menace towards him, I have had plenty of time to reflect and accept his actions. I don’t particularly crave the company of others like myself or attempt to pass as a human as some have done. I know my place. The decades simply dance, knitting together the centuries as I watch the changes they duly bring, my face as beautiful as ever, and sweet sixteen. I never did get the chance to make love but now my nightly outings consist of finding a handsome man, as much like Henry as possible and I make him mine, if just for a few moments before I watch him die.