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End Game

After 'The Waking Dream' John Polidori (1795-1821) returns to England and prepares to meet his fate.

John strode across the bustle of Piccadilly, the wide road alive with people even at this late hour. He was glad to turn his steps towards home and to disappear into the huddle of dark streets that was Soho. He felt more at ease here in the shadows than he did in the melee of the West End. There, flaming torches lit the way, gilding the streets with an orange glow leading towards the gambling dens masquerading as Gentlemen’s Clubs.

In that particular area, the pavements were crowded with men of all walks of life, ambling along, now that the good folk of the respectable world were safely in their beds. So, they were able to enjoy the lures of London in the early hours of the morning, eagerly accosted by streetwalkers trying to ply their wares. The bright light and harsh voices made John’s head hurt, especially after the close and foetid atmosphere of the gaming tables. It was a relief to turn into the side streets and embrace the cool and quiet darkness.

Now I have truly become a creature of the night, he thought to himself with an ironic smirk as he noiselessly made his way down the black side streets towards his lodgings in Great Pulteney Street. The night was cold and dank and his greatcoat flapped behind him like a cloak as if he were silently hovering over the pavements.

Even after some months of living here, he did not know whether to be relieved or sad that he was back in London. It heralded a close of a chapter, perhaps even the book. When he’d returned from his extended sojourn abroad he had found hospital work in the country town of Norwich. It had been a happy enough exile and had provided a wealth of experience for a young doctor. The daytimes were full and busy with treating patients and conferring with more experienced colleagues. However, the nights told a different story.

His generous mouth curled in a grim smile as he thought of the wildly sensual adventures in the dark hours that had spoiled him for any mortal woman. During his time in Norwich, he had been able to fool himself during the daylight hours, making plans for a future he may have had the chance to explore in another lifetime. It was easy to talk enthusiastically with other scientists about a proposed expedition to Brazil. John had eagerly joined in with conversations of travel to here, there and everywhere for research, as though he were about to embark on a long and glittering life’s work.

His impetuous imaginings were given even greater scope because in his empty heart he knew they would come to nothing. In the early morning hours like this, caught between worlds, he knew that his soul was no longer his own and his days were numbered. His brilliant career; lived too fast and too fully, had so many experiences beyond what ordinary mortals could imagine.

His mobile features were set in a grimace as he pondered on what the outer world would think of his demise. There would be the immediate assumption that he had been corrupted by Byron and Shelley during that wet summer in Switzerland. He would be gossiped about as just another promising youth who had been burned up by outrageous, revolutionary minds. However, he did not object that to assumption. After all, it was his alibi.

As he stole down the murky streets with their darkened, empty windows, he could acknowledge the fate that awaited him and the cold, hard fact that he could not escape it. Coming back to London had been an acceptance of that, even though he had arranged an elaborate cover. As he was still too young to practice independently in his profession, he had returned to London to re-train as a barrister. He had shown sufficient enthusiasm on this course of action to reassure his family, but inwardly he knew he was simply killing time.

The warning had come from Marcella, at least he thought that was the name she had whispered to him. She was the voluptuous brunette who first came to him on that memorable twilight at the Villa Diodati. Although, since then, other creatures in exotic and delectable female form would slither into his bed, they would remain only for one or two nights at most. They inevitably drifted away to slake their thirst on other willing victims. However, Marcella still visited him most nights, as a willing spectator and participator in their dark, fleshly revels.

Over time, she seemed to have developed almost a fondness for him in her own strange way that was not simply a rabid, short-lived craving. Amongst all the salacious bodies that littered his bed whetting his appetite and craving his taste and making his mind a blank of other-worldly pleasure, she was a constant companion since that first conscious night on the misty shores of Lake Geneva.

As he walked around the leafless, enclosed, central garden of Golden Square, he knew he felt a connection to Marcella as well, be it confused and carnal. He had known also in the recesses of his own mind that the pleasure he was given over and again by these midnight-time houris was not a free gift, but a growing debt he would have to pay.

Back in Norwich, one tempestuous evening, he gazed at the delectable pile of female flesh at the end of his bed. They had exhausted themselves on his body and were resting between bouts of intoxicating pleasure. Marcella alone lay beside him, fully conscious and had murmured in his ear, “He will come for you.”

She did not need to explain further, for had he not written the first English vampire novel? Polidori’s private grin was almost a smirk at this irony. The fact that the polite world seemed to think his former master Byron had written the novella merely added to the helpful confusion. This aided him in hiding the truth; that this was not an inspired burst of creative imagination. It was a tale based on truth and experience, strange though it may seem.

As his curvaceous paramour had breathed the words privately to him, he had felt almost relief. The intangible fear had become inevitable fact and knew he would have to think ahead. He realised his peaceful, useful sojourn in Norwich must soon end as he must make plans. So, inwardly at least, he dismissed the years ahead full of travel and discovery and returned to London, where it had all begun.

He trusted his fellow succubus enough that she would warn him when his true master would come for him, and he pondered on this as he turned the corner into a wider road banked by the fine houses of Great Pulteney Street. Over these past months in the capital, he had prepared his course of action, spending each night at a private gambling hell. He was careful not to lose or win too much just yet. He was simply paving the way.

As he approached his own front door he clutched the tiny vial of Prussic acid, deep in a hidden pocket of his coat. With his medical credentials, no one had questioned his taking of it from the dispensary in Norwich. It was his insurance, as well as his escape.

His face was fixed in an amused sneer as he thought how he had evaded Byron’s casual advances, mainly out of ignorance. He pondered how this encounter would not have been unpleasant, given Byron’s fondness for him, had he been so inclined. What his new master has in mind for him would be very different. It would be a final payback where his body and life-blood would be seized in a vicious frenzy. He was determined to escape such a fate; he would not be taken, used and drained like a mindless toy.

He had set his plans carefully enough, he thought, as he relaxed his grasp on the small, cold bottle and let it fall back into the recesses of his coat. When the time was right, when he was warned of his imminent fate, there would be a sudden, overwhelming gambling debt. He would take his medicine calmly, knowing his family would be spared the bizarre and devastating truth of his end. Or rather, he surmised, thinking of countless, endless nights of playing cards, his End Game.

Entering the house, he drifted up the stairs like the wraith he was to become, and went towards his bedchamber. He put aside any morbid thoughts as, licking his lips, he prepared for another gluttonous night of such hedonistic pleasure that made Byron look like a shy country virgin. As the door creaked open, Marcella was waiting for him impatiently, her curves outlined by a bare wisp of red lace. Positioned in the middle of his bed, two hungry, naked, nubile females were entwined with each other.

Any dark thoughts left him as he stripped quickly, watching the tumultuous action. Marcella's eyes were on him, flickering with expectation, and in a gesture that unconsciously echoed his, she licked her lips in anticipation.

As she did, she showed an enticing hint of fang as he approached the bed eagerly, his urgency banishing any of his doubts. The future, with its anxieties, disappointments and dire fear faded as Marcella claimed him with a hungry kiss and his hands reached greedily to rove over her curves. One of the creatures on the bed moaned with enjoyment as Marcella’s mouth trailed luxuriantly down his body, preparing him for that rapturous little death.

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