They slept, curled like animals in their den, their breath and limbs intertwined. The sun reached its zenith in the sky, the light and noise of the daylight world fading as it reached the walls of their room.
When the boy awoke, it was to stillness and the setting of the sun. The space at his side was tousled blankets and the incline where his body had been, but the vampire was gone.
There were no lights kindled in the room; the lamp with the small glass disc to reflect the light sat idle on the shelf. The room was alive with shadow. The quiet, still grey light that only the dying sun produced filtered bloody through the red curtains in the room. The windows concealed beneath the makeshift curtains were open, as evidenced by the breeze drenched with the earthy scent of night that rippled the swathes of cloth. The room appeared to breathe, its crimson walls like the heart of some great beast.
The cloth in front of the door to the balcony had been pushed aside and the encroaching dark of dusk waited in the gap. The curtains stirred; the room inhaled.
It was cool, the air saturated with the damp of the storm that had serenaded them through their slumber. The lingering smell of smoke was enough to conjure the vampire’s presence in the mind’s eye, the scent of him copper and chthonic, resinous and primeval. It drove Colombe’s perfumed ghost from every corner. The red walls exhaled.
Fabien awoke nestled in the thick blankets of the kingly four-poster bed that dominated the room. The dark curtains to his right, against the bedroom wall, had been loosened from their cords and draped along the edge of the bed, leaving only one glimpse of the room exposed between the draping fabric to his left.
Were his eyes to sweep the room for signs of his companion, they would be disappointed. The vampire’s high boots with their complicated laces idle near the tall wardrobe would offer the only clue as to his whereabouts. The rest of the room remained cryptically unhelpful. A soft breeze fluttered the curtained walls like a coy inhale.
To the boy’s left sat a small table flanked by two high-backed chairs. They were large enough for the boy to curl up into without touching the floor. The thief’s hoard on the table had changed character since the first time the boy had seen it. The fine silver chain with its ornate key remained, but the rest had vanished, replaced by a handful of miscellaneous coins and thin-banded rings. A gold pocket watch with a broken chain lay as still as the muted shape of a dead bird next to a small piece of ivory that upon close inspection was revealed to be a white tooth, spiked roots and all. A bronze censer with a patina of colourful tarnish rested in the center with a belly full of ash. It did not seem to have been used recently.
Against the far wall was a large desk on which a different assortment of items were strewn. A thick parchment lay unrolled on its surface, the words written on it in thick, maroon ink indecipherable even had the boy been able to read his mother tongue. Across the top of it lay something that appeared to be a smooth length of blasted wood. Its surface was blackened and pitted with fissures, and one end was split to a sharp point. Two books, their age revealed in cracking leather and thread-worn spines, lay stacked to one side.
The only other item of interest was the thick iron-bound chest squatting at the foot of the bed. The walls of the room were panelled in wood, and there were odd square-shaped gaps of faded colour as though something heavy had been removed from its habitual position on the walls.
The gentle breeze stilled. The curtains fell. For the first time, the room appeared to be holding its breath.