I sat on the tree stump and waited for the rest of the class. The night was warm and humid, a drastic change from the snow-filled nights our little paradise had been experiencing. But, I wasn’t there anymore. I was back at Elkridge, attending Braxton University and awaiting the start of class…on a tree stump in the middle of the woods? At night?

I looked around the clearing and sighed. A chill passed through me as my eye caught something in the darkness. A man in chains struggled before me, only he wasn’t struggling to break free. He tugged against the chains for more range to do what he was stationed for, yet it was obvious if he ever pulled hard enough his bindings would snap.

A hum sounded behind me—a lulling, mesmerizing tune. I turned. A dark, hooded figure stood before me. I could see nothing of the woman’s face, save for vague features her blue, glowing eyes revealed. Her song continued, soft and wavering, until it intensified into strong, steady notes.

She lifted her hood and I gasped at her dangerous beauty. Her raven black hair lay over her shoulders like silk, setting off her sharp eyes and flawless skin. Jealousy swirled within me at her dark perfection. I narrowed my eyes at the silliness of this emotion. What did this woman have that I wanted?

Still, I couldn’t peel my eyes from the scene as she performed. Her song was intoxicating, yet something about it felt evil—deadly, even. I had better stop listening before I become like her. Then, again, would that be such a bad thing? No, I can’t. 

I staggered back and shook my head. The tune reverberated through my head as I covered my ears. It beckoned me back. I refused to let my eyes return to the woman. Instead, I turned and peered at the chained man.

I gasped as I took in his features. His dark, curly hair and emerald green eyes glimmered in the moonlight. His muscles flexed against the chains as he fought against them.

They wouldn’t hold for long.

A smile spread across my lips. Good. Soon, he would be free to embrace me in his arms. Soon, I would feel his heart beat strong as I laid my head against his chest.

His eyes began to emanate that familiar blue light. I dropped my hands to my sides as I watched. The music surrounded us. I could almost see it as bluish-black, illuminated clouds billowed about us—a thousand snakes flooding the empty space. Euphoria enveloped me as I watched them slither about. The cuffs burst from Alaric’s arms with a jolt. In an instant, he was inches from my face.

I staggered back and a startled laugh escaped my lips. I thought I was used to his warping by now. Why had he even struggled against the chains so long? He could have teleported from them in an instant.

Small beads of sweat covered his face. Why was it so hot tonight? This wasn’t Texas, where we suffered nature’s frequent mood swings. In Massachusetts, October meant cool, crisp nights.

My hand slid up to caress his cheek. I stopped short as my fingers cried out. A smile crept across his face. Wide-eyed, I stared back. Small, black dots appeared on his skin and spread, decaying the flesh as they touched.

A shrill scream resonated in my ears as I watched my love transform into a revolting demon. Now, it was I who struggled to pull free, yet his grip was stronger than any chain.

“Alaric, you’re hurting me.” I pulled against him.

Tears poured down my face and my vision blurred. I blinked and wiped my eyes with my free hand. He caught it and pulled me closer until I choked on his rotting breath. With all my strength, I sent a blow to his gut with my knee. He released his grip and my shoulder slammed against a raised root.

I winced and attempted to stand. Alaric appeared on top of me and pinned my arms to the ground. I fought to pull free, but to no avail. I wasn’t strong enough to beat him. I had never even tried. I had trusted him too much.

I relinquished all resistance and stared into his electric eyes as the cold began to rise in my chest. He was a scene to behold, and my stomach churned at the stench. Why had I never noticed his appearance, before? The captivating music continued around us, billowing out until it blackened the stars above, with only his eyes to light our faces. It was only me and Alaric in eternal darkness, where we would stay forevermore.