With the excitement building for my new series, I felt like doing a short story week for the Dark Days and Asylum Tales series. You know, show them a little love. I am kicking it off with a story from the Dark Days series. I was digging through my old files and I forgot that I even wrote this so many years ago.
It’s about Tristan. I know some readers didn’t love him. In fact, I think few loved him the way I did because the series never shed much light on his backstory, which I always found to be quite tragic. Tristan shows up in the series for the first time in Nightwalker and he has a rough time getting on his feet while he’s running with Mira. This short story talks about Tristan’s last day as a human and how he met Sadira, the nightwalker who would change him.
Tristan’s Last Day
It was February and my hands were stiff and numb. I’d been walking for hours along the narrow streets of Paris, oblivious to the exquisite architecture rising up around me.
Earlier in the day, I delivered the watches my father and I had made to the various dealers around the city and now there was nothing for me to do but lie down in my empty hotel room and wait for the dawn. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t stand another second of the being locked up with the silence that squat fat and heavy like pile of rotting garbage in the corner.
So I walked. From the Hôtel des Victoire down past the Musee du Louvre, barely sparing the looming palace a glance, to the Musee Delacroix and then up the Rue du Saint Germain. I walked with my head down and my collar turned up against the bitter winter wind that whipped through the slender passageways.
My footsteps knocked against the flat fronts of the buildings, their windows black and drawn for the night. The cold and the lateness of the hour had left me alone on these streets, as I wound my way through the Seventh Arrodissment toward the northern half of the city. I walked without direction or purpose, just trudging along as far as my legs were willing to carry me.
A thin wisp of fog threaded its way through the narrow, cobblestone streets like a white silk scarf leading me through this maze, beckoning me down one nameless alley and then up a wide strip near Invalides. I could feel Violetta’s small hand resting in the crook of my arm as she walked with me, her thin body pressed close as she fought to keep warm in the bitter night air. She whispered to me, pointing out the curious little shops. I promised to take her again in the morning so that she could pick up a new pair of gloves or a fashionable hat that would make her the envy of all the women back in Geneva.
At the base of a wide set of stairs, I paused, winded and my eyes tearing from the cold, to look around. Violetta was gone. Not just from Paris, but from my life. Two years she had been dead along with a daughter that had never been named. I walked these streets with her memory, teasing and taunting, calling me to her side. I shuddered, my muscles trembling from something other than the cold.
Shoving my hands into my pockets, I turned and started up the stairs that led to Sacre Coeur, its great white towers gleaming against the night sky. Violetta would have liked this hill in the day. She would have been able to look down to see all of Paris laid out before her like an spider’s intricate web. She would have liked the little cove of artists settled in nearby Montmartre.
I had climbed only a few stairs when I looked up to find a woman standing on the stairs above watching me. She was an older woman, appearing to be in her late 40s to early 50s, with her dark black hair pulled up and away from her delicate face. A woolen white shawl was wrapped around her thin shoulders and over her long, navy blue dress. I stood transfixed as she slowly descended the stairs toward me. Her skin was luminescent in the faint lamplight, as pale as the moon and as flawless as the feathers of a dove.
She stopped just a couple of stairs above where I stood, her thin, leather-gloved hand resting lightly on the railing. “Pardonnez-moi, mais… Quelle heure avez-vous?”
Her voice was softer than a caress, and while her French was flawless, I could tell it was not her native tongue. It was something rarer and more exotic like a tropical bloom seen only in a conservatory behind a pane of glass.
Fumbling with my coat, I pulled my gold pocket watch from my vest. My fingers were numb and clumsy from the cold and as I attempted to flip open the front, the watch slipped from my fingers. The cold, crisp silence was shattered as the watch clattered down two of the stone stairs before rolling to a stop.
I lurched forward, frozen muscles crying out at the sudden movement, snatching up the errant timepiece that my father had made for me as a wedding gift. Opening the front, I discovered that the glass had cracked, with two long, jagged lines snaking across the front. The second hand had also stopped.
I looked up, lost and wordless. The woman extended her hand to me, and smiled. It was two hours before sunrise.