Letters to Elise: A Peter Townsend Novella / Page 1

Page 1


April 19, 1836

I’m writing this in the corner of the room with trembling hands. The candle long since burned out, and I sit in darkness, yet I can see perfectly. I wanted to believe this was some parlor trick, that the man who found me was merely a magician or a doctor, but I’m unable to refute it any longer.

My name is Peter James Monroe, and I am a vampyre.

I’ve taken a few sheets of paper from the one who made me. I have to write this all down, as if to convince myself that I’m not mad.

It was only a few days ago that I was still human, but it feels like an entire lifetime has passed. I had been riding my father’s horse into the city. My younger sister Caroline had been bitten by a dog, and despite my mother’s best remedies, she was gravely ill. That morning, when I awoke, she could no longer move.

Father had me take Lysander, his fastest horse, and sent me to fetch the doctor. Lysander might be faster than our elderly mares, but he was a horse built for work, not speed. He must’ve sensed my urgency, though, because he pushed himself.

We didn’t make it far when a pack of wild dogs came upon us. They may have been the same dogs that attacked poor Caroline, because they acted nothing like dogs should. They appeared mad, and continued to give chase, even after Lysander kicked at them.

I turned Lysander off the road, hoping to lose the dogs in the thick trees of the forest, but I didn’t think it through. The smaller dogs were much better suited for dodging through the thick tree trunks than the big work horse.

The dogs bit at Lysander’s legs, and one of them managed to latch onto Lysander’s haunch. The horse couldn’t take it any longer, and he reared up, bucking me off him. I fell to the ground, cracking my head against a tree.

For a moment, I could see nothing but blackness, and the sound of the growling dogs muffled in my ears. By the time I came around, the dogs were already on me. One of them had me by the arm, dragging me away.

Lysander was gone, and from the echoed barks through the trees, some of the dogs gave chase after him. The rest of them stayed behind, stalking around me.

I tried to pick up a stick or a rock, anything to fight off the animals, but my right arm wouldn’t move at all. The dog had begun to gnaw on my left arm, and I couldn’t even pull it away from him. My body was paralyzed.

I called for help, relieved to find that I could still make a sound. I was breathing and I could yell, but that seemed to be the only things I could do.

A dog howled in the distance, maybe in victory at conquering Lysander, I’m not sure. The dogs that had stayed behind realized that I wasn’t going anywhere and ran ahead to see what their comrade was howling about.

They left, but I knew they were coming back, and they would certainly finish me off when they returned. I tried desperately to move my arms or legs, but they refused to budge.

My arm had been chewed up viciously, with my blood spilling onto the dirt. The one good thing was that I couldn’t feel it. I was incapable of feeling anything except for the ache in the back of my skull from where it hit the tree.

I lay in the cold ground, feeling weaker as my life drained from me. I yelled as long as I could, until long after my voice had gone hoarse. My throat was raw, and it ached to even swallow.

It wasn’t that I believed anyone could save me – if I couldn’t move, it would only be a matter of time before I died. But my sister needed a doctor. Caroline wouldn’t survive much longer without one, and my family thought I was getting help. They needed to know that I hadn’t made it so they could go fetch him themselves.

I wasn’t sure who they would send in my place. My father shouldn’t leave my mother and sister alone at the house, not with the mad dogs on the loose, and both of my brothers had moved and lived too far away to get help soon enough.

My younger brother Joseph lived in New York City caring for an elderly aunt, and that was almost a full day’s ride from our house.

My older brother Daniel lived half a day away from us, but he had a wife and two small children to worry about.

The thought of Daniel made me grimace. Every time I spoke to him, he lectured me about how I needed to grow up and be a man. He never failed to remind me that when he’d been seventeen – two full years younger than I – he’d gotten married and built his own home.

When it grew dark, I began to feel better. Father would’ve realized something was wrong and set out to fetch the doctor himself. Since I hadn’t come back, he’d be more careful and smart enough to bring his gun, something I would’ve done if I hadn’t been in such a rush.

Father would get help for Caroline. Mother would lock up the doors to the house, and she wasn’t a bad shot herself, if the dogs came around. Father would have to take Helena, who was a slower mare than Lysander, but she was younger, so she had more stamina.

Caroline would be alright, even if I wasn’t.

I imagined I could hear the hoof beats of my father’s horse on the road past the forest. They pounded heavily in the dirt as he raced to the doctor. I could’ve called for him, but I didn’t want to slow him.

Then the hoof beats got louder. They grew closer, crunching on the twigs and leaves. This was all wrong. Father needed to help Caroline. He didn’t have time to worry about me.

I tried to yell out, to tell him to go back and leave me be, but my voice only came out in a croaked whisper. I sounded like a dying toad.

The horse stopped next to me, snorting loudly. The moonlight cast splotches of light through the tree branches, so I could only see bits of the brilliant white horse and the rider. Helena was a dark brown, and Lysander was black. This wasn’t my father’s horse.

The rider dismounted. I saw his legs swing down, but his feet didn’t make a sound when they landed. He walked over to me, still silent when the ground should’ve crunched beneath him, and he crouched down next to me.

His face was hidden in the darkness, but I heard him sniffing the air, inhaling deeply. He touched my arm, covered in drying in blood, and then put his hand to his mouth.

“Can you move?” he asked finally, his voice deep with a heavy accent. Something about it made me feel strangely comforted.

“No,” I whispered, barely making a sound at all.

“You’re dying.” It wasn’t a question or filled with pity. He was merely stating a fact. “Do you want to live?”

I was surprised by his question and didn’t know how to answer it. Of course I wanted to live. I had so much that I still wanted to do, so much I hadn’t done yet.


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