The Dancer in the Dark

Emma Johnson-Rivard

“Would you still love me if I ate you?” asked the vampire.

“I love you,” said the woman, “because you will not.”

“But I could. You might even say it’s my nature. This devouring. La petite mort. Your little death on my teeth.”

                “You could say it was my nature to die,” said the woman, who was a philosopher. “And you could say it was my nature to build tools to prolong that death, as my ancestors did, and those tools would inevitably lead to other deaths. You might even call it the inevitable violence, the expected bloodletting. But we are not so predictable, my darling, and I have built nothing to destroy you.”

                The vampire laughed. She had been human once, and in humanity had been many things. She remembered none of them now. In the aftermath she was called a beast and considered herself one in turn. The woman called her my love and often painted the vampire. Tonight she did so by candlelight. The canvas rested on her knees. The vampire reclined against a pillow. Behind her was a glass window, the curtains unbound. Stars gleamed in the sky.

                “My dear,” said the vampire, “you could not kill me if you tried.”

                She said it with exceeding kindness, for her beloved was many things in addition to human but that was the truth that would define them in the end.

                The woman smiled. “Do you know why I picked this room to paint you?”

                “The candles, I assume.”

                “Certainly the candles played a part,” the woman agreed. “But it was your window that intrigued me. Not the glass or the frame, though both are well made. I have made a study of stars. Have I told you about this?”

                “You have not,” said the vampire.

                “It is theorized,” said the woman, “that we are all composed of stardust. Only in miniscule amounts, of course, much finer than even sand. In this way, we are all bound together. Every creature that has lived or died upon this earth comes from the atoms of distant stars. And one day we shall return to them. Dust to dust.”

                “An interesting theory,” said the vampire, “though I see no practical application here.”

                “It was the metaphor that intrigued me,” said the woman. She inclined her head to the window and the sky beyond, which had just begun to soften in the east. “Your window affords a lovely view of a lesser known constellation. The Dancer in the Dark. Do you see her? Three points form her arms and then just below, two more on the line of her dress. She spins alone all winter, but oh, in the summer . . .”

                “The summer?” the vampire prompted.

                “In the summer, she is joined by her partner. And they dance together so sweetly for one season before they part again.”

                “I see,” said the vampire. “A derivative of Persephone and Hades. Shall we be parted soon?”

                “You aren’t afraid of me,” said the woman, tucking the paintbrush behind her ear. “You haven’t considered the possibilities.”

                “You could not kill me,” said the vampire, who felt very sure of this.

                “Couldn’t I?” The woman leaned back, regarding her lover in the window. “Couldn’t I keep you up here, distracted by all our talk of stars? Couldn’t I whisper in your ear about mythology and lovers, couldn’t I keep you here until well past dawn because the light, my love. The light here is perfect for the portrait.”

                The woman retrieved her brush, dipping it into the pot. “Couldn’t I have done all that, and then, just when you started to realize, couldn’t I throw sand before your eyes and leave you to burn as you counted every last grain?”

                “That is a myth,” said the vampire, though she was not sure. She had never tested it.

                “Is it?” asked the woman.

                They regarded each other.

                The woman smiled. She wet her brush. “Would you love me if I killed you?”

                “I love you,” said the vampire, “because you will not.”



Emma Johnson-Rivard received her Masters in Creative Writing at Hamline University. She currently serves as the Poetry Editor and Assistant Fiction Editor for the Macabre Museum. Her work has appeared in Tales to Terrify, Fearsome Critters, and others. Her chapbook, The Witch’s Cat and Her Fateful Murder Ballads, was the winner of the Esthetic Apostle’s 2019 chapbook contest.