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By: Elise Skidmore

My name is Edmund Howard, both names derived from the old English; Edmund meaning "happy defender" and Howard, "chief guardian," both of which are invested with an irony that will become clear later on. I became what I am on a battlefield in the south of England long centuries ago. The exact date is unimportant; let it suffice to say Henry VIII had not yet begun collecting wives and be done with it.

Anne Rice based all of her vampires on me. She took certain liberties, not the least of which was turning me into a Frenchman, but Louis, Lestat, Armand and the others were all parts of me. I was the vampire she interviewed and most of what she turned into her literary legacy has happened to me at one time, in one form or another--with the notable exception of Lestat's adventure with the Body Thief. I could never be so stupid as to fall for a trick like that one. Still, writers are expected to fabricate tales to enthrall their audience, and at least she stayed truthful on the salient bits unlike some others I could name. While I have been able to see the sun without burning to ashes, I'm an exception, rather than the rule, and on those occasions my skin did not sparkle as if I'd been brushed with fairy dust. I am most assuredly a creature of the night, existing in the world of dark and shadows. After so many centuries, I can go for long periods of time without feeding or taking rest, but again, I am the exception which proves the rule.

Most vampires don't survive long enough to get to this point. The initial feeding frenzy abates, followed by the thrill of the hunt, which later becomes a necessary diversion, until finally ennui settles in and existence loses its appeal altogether. When that happens, one has no choice but to act foolishly, doing things that will lead to the ultimate demise. I have seen this play reenacted many times, and I think most of us would not consider it an unhappy ending. What is a life without purpose, after all?

To avoid that end, two hundred years after I became what I am--or it might have been three hundred, time is funny that way, especially when it appears it will go on forever-- I challenged myself to find a hobby that would never become boring. One might wonder what would hold the interest of someone who had forever--I know I did--and after much consideration of the matter I decided to invest my energies in the ever-changing, always unique, sea of humanity. While some might argue that mankind is predictable, I have found, that taken individually, human beings hold the constant promise of surprise. Once a generation, I will seek out one who strikes me as having potential to take under my wing and I become a sort of guardian angel to them (you should pardon the expression). Thus we arrive at the irony I spoke of earlier.

It was in Brooklyn, New York, in the summer of 1969, not long after I had risen for the night, but early enough that children still played in the streets, that I first saw Francine Scanlon. She was a beautiful child on the edge of womanhood, with red hair that glittered like rubies in the reflected lamplight and the incarnadine skin of someone who had spent more time in the sun than was wise. Even from my distant observation point I could see the laughter shimmer in her green eyes as she played with a younger, less striking version of herself. She turned a rope that had one end tied to a parking meter and sang some nonsensical chant while her sister attempted to jump in time. Each time her sister faltered, Francine would encourage her to try again. Her sister had no talent for jumping rope and tripped up after two or three successes each time, but Francine had the proverbial patience of a saint and this play went on for nearly an hour until the street was full dark, when a frowzy woman stuck her head out of a second storey window and yelled for the girls to come in.

Something about Francine called to me. It may only have been her resemblance to my long-dead daughter, Mary. She, too, had red hair and laughing green eyes, though I doubt she would ever have had Francine's forbearance in lieu of what transpired. In ancient times red hair was thought a sign of the devil, but I have always been enamored of women with red hair. Mary's mother had red hair, though it turned out she lacked the fiery spirit common to most redheads. While good-natured, Mary did not suffer fools lightly, and was just as likely to forge head first into the fray at perceived injustice as she was to look for help from other quarter, much to her mother's dismay. What can I say? She was her father's daughter and came by her temperament honestly.

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About the Author

Elise Skidmore is native New Yorker and has been writing for most of her life. She was on staff in Compuserve’s Writers forum for 9 years, and currently runs a private writer’s forum.  Her story, The Devil Hath Charms, was chosen for inclusion in The World of Myth’s 2nd Anthology.
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