[written by speculative author Lisa Kessler – Immortal Beloved and its follow up Subito Piano can be found in the Morrigan Books anthology Dead Souls, available at all well known online bookstores and from the Morrigan Books site]
As I pen these words, I am sitting in my room, my flesh stone cold and without colour. Melina’s feverish pounding of the Moonlight Sonata is beginning to wear on me. I have given my word to my dear friend Marcus to keep her safe but I fear she knows that I am weakening. She begs me with each sounding of the grandfather clock to give her the Dark Gift. I have never met a mortal who yearns so deeply for immortality. If she only understood what it was she longed for, then she would know it for the curse it truly is.
I am beginning to believe Melina derives pleasure from tormenting me with her warm, intoxicating mortality, teasing me with her scent. Each time the piano goes silent, she is touching me, offering herself to me as if I were the only man she had ever known. I have no desire to make another vampire, to damn another person to an eternal existence such as mine. But I am so greatly tempted by her, and I am infuriated with myself for my own weakness. Her future is for Marcus to decide, not me. I gave my word she would be safe while he was away.
But I didn’t know her then. Didn’t know that she played the damned piano…the Moonlight Sonata of all pieces…She plays Beethoven’s masterpiece with a flawless, insane brilliance and a feverish intensity that makes my blood race through my ancient veins with a fiery passion that leaves me dizzy at times.
She is in danger with me, I know this, and yet, I cannot keep her away from me. And now the melody is playing again, the third movement with all of its agitated fire. She plays the piece just as he did, making me feel sensations that I haven’t experienced for nearly two hundred years, not since the night I heard Beethoven begin his work on the Moonlight Sonata.
He was thirty years old, the night his frenzied melodies first attracted my attention. I was walking the streets of Vienna late at night. All of the homes were dark and quiet, save for one. I could hear a mortal man’s crazed ranting, followed by the most intricate, complex, and passionate piano melodies, unlike anything I had heard since the death of young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Intrigued, I followed the sound and quickly located its source. In the upper room of a modest home, I saw flickering candlelight illuminating through the window, and in the shadows cast against the walls; I saw the form of what seemed to be a mad man.
Silently willing my body into the air, I peered through the upper window. Inside I found two pianos, and a wild-eyed man sitting on the floor between them. The legs of the pianos sawn off, leaving the huge instruments to rest on the floor as he banged fiercely at the keys only to follow the action with hurried scribbling of musical notations on crumpled parchment.
I remember that night as if it were yesterday, hovering in the darkness for hours watching this mortal genius at work. I found his thoughts were as scattered as his hair when I attempted to read them. He was a paradox, his mind full of passion and anger, while his heart was full of love and divinely inspired music, or so he believed. I watched him each night for a week as he spent countless hours composing his Moonlight Sonata, until I could no longer stand to observe him from a distance. I needed to know him. I wanted to understand him.
I was intrigued with the genius that was Ludwig Van Beethoven even though we had never met, but that was soon to change. I arranged to meet the man I had been secretly watching, explaining that I was a wealthy Lord who admired his musical genius. He welcomed me into his home, and I was shocked to find that my mortal companion was completely deaf. I soon learned that was the reason for the pianos resting on the floor. He explained to me that he could feel the music through the vibrations in the floor while sitting between them.
I remember finding myself awe-struck at his accomplishments. How could a man write such difficult, intricate, and emotional music without being able to hear a single note?
Being a vampire made it possible for me to send my voice past his deaf ears, directly into his mind, which frightened him at first, but eventually he came to welcome my silent voice. When he was with me, he was no longer a prisoner of silence. And how happy I was to set him free.
When I finally revealed my true nature to him, he surprised me again. He never questioned the truth of my existence, and did not turn away in fear. Instead, he became even more fascinated, wanting to know about past civilizations that had long since died. He even went so far as to ask me if I had ever seen the face of God. His undying faith inspired me. I had never known such a man, who could love his Creator in spite of the tremendous loss he suffered when his hearing was taken from him.
Many nights we spent debating why God would have inspired him to a life of music only to steal away his ability to hear it. He never had an answer except that God’s will be done. He was furious over his loss, but he never allowed it to take away the music that he loved.
Days turned to weeks, and weeks into months, when I began to realise that I loved the crazed mortal composer. His music spoke to me in ways that words could not, and his fiery passionate spirit ignited my immortal heart with a new zeal for life.
After a few years, I could see that my beloved Beethoven’s health was beginning to fail. I could hear it in his fluttering erratic heartbeat, and I began to worry for him each sunrise when I laid to rest. Would my friend still be alive when I awoke?
Human life is such a fragile gift…I begged him to accept immortality, to drink of my blood and live forever, but of course he would not. He was still devoted to his God. He was convinced, regardless of what I told him to the contrary, that his music was a divine gift from heaven. If he were to become a vampire, he was certain that he would be cursed and lose his music forever. Without it, he saw no reason for living.
I respected his wishes and was lucky enough to enjoy his company for nearly twenty years. During that time, he composed some of the most brilliant music I have ever heard. His ninth symphony still moves me to tears.
Over our twenty-year relationship, there were periods of time when I was called away, but even then we kept in touch through letters, wonderful letters, that expressed a love we could never discuss face to face. For what we felt for one another in our hearts, was forbidden by his God. So we buried our true feelings from the world as well as ourselves. I had no choice. I loved him too much to do otherwise.
He was beginning his tenth symphony when his liver began to fail. He continued to refuse my offer of immortality. It was relentlessly painful for me to stand by and watch him suffer. During our last night together, I cradled my beloved friend, kindred spirit, and love of my soul, holding him close to my heart. And although he could barely whisper, his mind spoke clearly as I read his thoughts. But what he told me was not what I wanted to hear.
He asked me to leave him.
I shook my head, refusing to move, but he begged me to go, to remember him as the man he was and not the invalid he had become. Tearfully he asked me to never forget him. I wept with him, and vowed to honour his wishes. I spoke into his mind of my undying love for him, promising to remember the Moonlight Sonata that brought us together twenty years before.
He drew me close and very tenderly kissed my lips. It was the first and last time that our lips ever met to bond us for a brief moment as we allowed our secret adoration for one another to surface beyond our hearts. I met his eyes as he whispered, “Ever thine, ever mine, ever ours…My Immortal Beloved…”
And now Melina sits in my home, playing my beloved Beethoven’s feverish melody on the piano. Igniting his memory in my heart and mind. His florid Moonlight Sonata once again filling my ears and burning into my soul. She is driving me to madness.
For nearly two hundred years there has been speculation about the identity of Beethoven’s secret love, his “Immortal Beloved” from his letters. Never would anyone guess that his love still walked this earth; that the immortal love he described was an ancient vampire. Never would they guess that his Immortal Beloved still missed him.
Damn that woman! Will she never stop her infernal playing? She no longer calls to me with her voice, but with her music. I cannot stand the pain and temptation his memory kindles inside of me. Perhaps she knows this.
My beloved Beethoven would have approved of her interpretation of his masterpiece. She plays his Moonlight Sonata with the same combination of blind anger and carnal passion that he had in his soul when he composed the piece nearly two hundred years ago. She knows his fury and his pain. But Melina is teetering on the brink of insanity; I can see it in her eyes. And her playing is no longer coming from notes on a page, but a masterpiece written in her heart. There is a striking difference when music comes from the soul rather than the page, no matter how tortured that soul might be.
I cannot stand to hide away in my room any longer. I must go listen, and pray that listening is all that I do. Her music is hypnotising me, wrapping me in her spell and I am helpless to resist.
Standing in the doorway, watching her play, I cannot help but wonder if it is really Melina that I hear? The longer I listen to the piano sing, the more I see my beloved Beethoven, sitting on the floor of his upper room with candles flickering around him.
This is madness! Surely his spirit cannot live again inside of this tormented mortal woman’s body…But what if I am wrong? What if he lives again inside of her? Perhaps that is the reason behind her insistent playing. Could my Beethoven be calling me through his music to save him and free his soul?
Her heartbeat is pounding in my ears; I hear it and I wonder if it might be his. The scent of her mortal blood tempts me, calls to me, until I can no longer fight my thirst.
The piano bench crashes onto the floor, as I pull my beloved back from the piano keys and sink my fangs deep into the fount of blood hidden inside of her throat. I drink deeply, my ancient flesh warming as I quickly take Melina’s life, for sadly this is not my beloved composer. I know this now. And now it is too late.
The body in my arms does not hold Beethoven’s spirit. This is simply a tortured, angry young woman on the edge of madness, and I am about to give her eternal life. Her eyes are dead as her lips search blindly for the open vein in my wrist.
It would be best to let her go, to just let her die. But I gave my word to my only friend left in this world that she would be safe in my care. Am I such a monster to kill her after promising to give her sanctuary? I must let her drink, but in my heart I know that even immortality will not save this one from death. Her mind is not strong enough to face an endless eternity of dark evenings, but she will not perish this night. I have learned over the centuries that a friend is more precious than gold. Marcus is my friend, and he loves her.
Melina is pulling at my veins now. Drinking deeply of the eternal life in my blood with a voracious appetite. My decision has been made. She will be a vampire.
I watch her open her eyes, the madness is still burning deep within them as she stares at me with a twisted grin. What have I done? But I already know of my horrible mistake. And all that I can offer my dear friend, Marcus, is a silent prayer. Forgive me…Please forgive me.