“The Tasmanian tiger,” you say, a quiver rising in your voice. Whether it’s from the question, the gleaming hunger in his eyes, or the electricity crackling in the air you can’t say.
The man smiles, and taps the tip of his tongue to the sharp point of a fang. “Are you certain?”
“Nothing’s ever certain,” you answer and the man nods his head.
“Exactly!” he exclaims and drops the book to the desk. Blotting a quill in crimson ink, he continues, “It is not our place to know, but observe. To see the world as it is, not shape it to fit into the piece we carved for it back in the smoking room.”
With that out of the way, the fanged man begins to write in his book. The script is cursive, and while you can read some, the words and letters make no sense. You stare around the library, wondering how many of these books are filled with his scribbles.
“You want my name,” he says, startling you. “It’s Orpheus. Though my interest in traveling to the underworld is low these days.”
“Let me guess, Count Orpheus,” you respond, trying to draw him to admit to what he is.
Laying the quill down, the man turns. He cups a hand to his chin naked of a single hair. With thumb and forefinger he parts down the fangs, the vampire fangs. “Professor Gravestone, actually. No Count, no Earl. Though I think there is a Lord somewhere in my title. I never bothered with such puffery. Anything of worth is found outside out of the gossiping parlors.”
You watch him work, realizing that he’s leaving out the e’s in words. It makes his writing go faster and requires less dipping into the pot. There are other shorthand notes, some of which pass you by. But as he reaches the end, you exclaim, “The Tasmanian tiger isn’t still around.”
He pivots from writing his speculation on its numbers in the wild. At the burn in his scarlet eyes, your tongue dries out and you glance to your feet. “Pray, continue?” Orpheus prompts, folding his hands together on the table.
“It’s gone. Extinct.”
A snort trembles in his nose, the force shaking the papers on the desk. “Of course. Leave it up to bravado and insatiable hunger of the governors and constabulary to strip the world of a gentle creature. I spent six weeks tracking a mother and her cubs until one trusted enough to eat from my palm.”
Orpheus clenches his fist tight and every candle’s flame in the library leans toward him. The air grows thicker, shadows hardening to impassable walls and pushing you near. “I wanted to preserve the majesty of nature but look at me, trapped forever in…”
His rant fades and he turns to take you in. The dismissive eyes of before now sweep across your body. You watch the vampire draw his tongue over his lip, his fingers clenching around the fragile feather. How long has it been since he last fed?
You ease a step back, the whole of your back bursting in goosebumps. Meanwhile your face and chest burn from an inescapable heat crackling off his eyes. “Tell me, mortal…” Orpheus rises from his chair. “What know you of the world beyond these walls?”
“Some stuff that… I mean, there’s a lot of it,” you mutter, slipping backward on the balls of your feet. “It’ll take awhile.”
“True enough. I fear I only scratched the surface in my time abroad. Decades wouldn’t be enough. And the centuries afforded to me have been a cruel joke.”
A pressure rises around you, the room reacting to its lone occupant growing incensed. You ease back further and glance behind to the door. It’s only a quick run, but the chances of you making it feel small.
“Tell me of Siam. How I miss their crystal beaches and warm breezes in winter.”
“It’s…it’s called Thailand now,” you say, still easing back.
Orpheus frowns, a long finger tutting against his chin in thought. Those crimson eyes spin to you and open wide. “Mortal!” he shouts. “Do not move another step!”
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