A short little Halloween story:
MUTTON DRESSED AS LAMB
By Katherine Tomlinson
Vannetti sighed when Bruce knocked on the door of his study. He could tell from the sheepish look on Bruce's face that the reason for his unannounced visit was not anything good.
It was Bruce's first Halloween after his second birth and Vannetti had hoped he was out on the town, making the most of his new status and moving about freely, his pale skin and red-rimmed eyes dismissed as just another costume by the human revelers.
"Yes Bruce?" he asked, irritated by his passive body-language he displayed, more appropriate to prey than to his position as an alpha predator.
"Um," Bruce said, which annoyed Vannetti even more. He hated indecision of any sort and verbal hesitancy drove him mad. He'd been born into an aristocratic Venetian family that had valued intellectual rigor. He'd been thoroughly trained in the art of conversation by his father's courtesans and his mother's priests. Of all the changes that had occurred in the long years since he'd been born into the blood, Vannetti mourned the decline of meaningful discourse the most.
"I have a problem," Bruce said and Vannetti sighed again, which is actually not that easy for someone who doesn't need to breathe but a useful trick he'd found to communicate his emotions noverbally.
"I need to show you," Bruce said as he retreated from the doorway in the direction of the Grand Hall.
Vannetti wanted nothing more than to return to the book he was reading, but he knew Bruce would give him no peace until he attended to whatever drama had been created.
There was a masked woman standing in the Grand Hall.
Her figure was sublime, enhanced by a tight, long-sleeved gown of peacock silk that was wrapped around her like a present.
Her hair was golden, piled on her head and threaded with colored stones that almost looked genuine in the firelight. A few wisps of hair had escaped the hidden pins anchoring the coiffure and they dangled to the woman's shoulders and tangled with the chandelier earrings she wore.
Her mask, a cunning thing of feathers and glitter and more gems, covered the woman's entire face, but the twin fang marks on her neck were visible, the bruises around them already fading.
"She's exquisite," Vannetti breathed, realizing he had not seen a woman of her sort since a long-ago carnival. He felt a rush of jealousy that it had been Bruce and not he who'd bestowed the sharp kiss that had given her a new life.
"That's what I thought too," Bruce said, a subtle whine in his voice.
"And the problem is?" Vannetti asked, impatient again.
Bruce stepped forward and gently removed the mask from the woman he'd brought home to the house he now shared with the largest vampire family in Chicago.
The face revealed beneath the mask was slack with the shock of the newly reborn but even so, there was no mistaking her flaw. The newborn was old. Really old, her pale skin like worn-out corduroy. She had luminous blue eyes but they were trapped in a web of wrinkles and half-hidden by drooping eyelids.
Vannetti was horrified.
"What have you done?" he asked Bruce.
"I couldn't tell," Bruce said, his tone plaintive. "Not with the mask."
And Vannetti had to admit that what he saw before him was the result of an elaborate illusion meant to costume the woman in the appearance of youth. Her golden hair was the result of artifice, newly gilded with a wash of Clairol's Nice 'n' Easy "Medium Golden Blonde."
Her gown was cut high to hide her turkey neck, the sleeves dipped in a V that covered all but the tips of her fingernails, which were shellacked with youthful iridescent green polish.
"I'm sorry," Bruce whispered. "I couldn't tell. Not with the mask."
Vannetti ignored Bruce and reached for the woman's delicate wrist and brought it to his lips.
She had small hands, the dry skin stretched tight across bones and veins. There were rings on all her fingers, big costume jewels she'd chosen to coordinate with her costume.
Vannetti almost pitied her, but mostly what he felt was disgust. Old people revolted him, their very existence a reproach to his own eternal youth.
He turned her hand over so he could kiss the tender skin on the inside.
The woman made a small, soft sound of pleasure when he bit into her and stood passively as he sipped her life's blood as delicately as a vintage wine.
In truth her blood tasted sour to him, filled with odd chemical tastes that told him she was being treated for some disease and would have died soon anyway.
He did not stop drinking until he had drained her completely, leaving nothing more than a colorful husk.
Vannetti let go of her wrist and the woman's body collapsed on the floor.
"Clean up your mess," he ordered Bruce.
"Yes master," Bruce replied.
"And next time look before you bite."
Bruce ducked his head like a beaten dog.
"Yes master," he said again.
Vannetti had the taste of the woman in his mouth the rest of the night. He wished he was still able to enjoy sweets. He'd once kissed a woman right after she popped an Altoid and he'd found the hint of mint in her blood quite pleasant.