Lazarus closed his eyes and waited for dusk to fall. He didn’t want to leave Melissa, but at least he didn’t have to worry about a mad vampire trying to kill the both of them this time. As noon passed them by, he realised that to buy her a new violin, they would need to go to a music shop... a music shop that wouldn’t be open in the hours that Melissa could leave the house. He bit his lip and pushed himself up, reluctantly, instantly wishing he didn’t have to get up. Glancing out of the window, he saw just how long he had to go to a music shop and get back to pick up what he needed.
‘Wh...where are you going?’ Melissa mumbled, shifting in the covers, though she didn’t open her eyes.
‘Out. I’ll be back soon, there’re just things that need doing, and I only just remembered them. Sorry. Go back to sleep,’ he whispered the last few words as he bent over to kiss her gently.
‘Hurry back,’ she muttered, returning to her original position and falling silent again.
‘I’ll try.’ But first he had to have a quick look at the remains of Melissa’s old violin. He didn’t know why he had kept it, laid out in an empty useless cupboard. The broken wood gleamed up at him sadly as he opened the door that hid it from Melissa’s eyes. Once he had an idea of what he was looking for, he scooped up the violin and put it in the bin, finally able to let go of it. He grabbed his wallet from the kitchen and the car keys, quietly letting himself out of the apartment.
The sun was sinking all too quickly towards the horizon, and Lazarus tore through the speed limit as he raced it into town. He liked the music shop. It was full of modern things, electric guitars and drum kits, but that was all downstairs. The top floor was for the classical instruments, and this was the floor that made him feel as though there was something still good in this world. At least, it had before Melissa. Now, it was simply a music shop. But it was a music shop that had the violin that he wanted to buy for Melissa.
He walked straight to the back of the shop. A wall full of violins presented itself coyly to him and he scrutinised each one carefully. He had two hours to find the right one.
‘Can I try these out?’ he asked the clerk. The clerk had seen Lazarus several times before. Each time he had seen the man, he had looked dishevelled, depressed and always hung over.
‘Yeah sure. Know what you’re looking for?’ the clerk asked, slightly dubious. He had only ever seen Lazarus play the piano; did he know how to play the violin too? Of course, four hundred years o free time tended to lend itself up to new hobbies, and though he hadn’t picked up a violin in fifty years, it seemed to come flowing back with relative ease. The clerk arched an eyebrow, a little surprised, but pleased that he didn’t have to hear the torturous squeal of the bow scraping across the strings that he usually heard when young children or particularly inept musicians tried the instruments out.
He tried each one, playing parts of the melody he wrote for Melissa each time. finally, he put down the last violin and turned back to the wall of instruments, mentally appraising the memory of each one, until he found the one whose tone matched Melissa’s old violin closest. He picked it off the rack and took it to the clerk, who had been watching with interest.
‘You kept that little talent hidden,’ the clerk laughed as he placed the violin carefully in a box. ‘I’ve seen you in here so many times, but all you ever played was the piano.’ Lazarus smiled and said nothing. ‘Any other instruments you can play?’
‘A few, but none as well as the piano. Piano will always be my favourite.’ Lazarus said as he watched the clerk put the boxed violin in a bag.
‘Awesome. Maybe you’ll show us some time. Is that all for today?’
‘Maybe. And no, that’s it, thanks.’ Lazarus smiled again and left the shop, grimacing as he noticed the sun was closer to disappearing than he thought. Crap, he thought. Realising he wouldn’t have time to wrap it up and give it to Melissa with time to enjoy her happiness, he put the bag in the trunk of the car and covered it with the blanket. Unfortunately he would have to wait for that. As he drove back to the apartment block, he had an uneasy feeling that the length of the previous night’s transformation would be more than made up for tonight.
As he ran up the stairs two at a time, he tried to mentally prepare himself for the all-nighter he was facing. He burst into the apartment and grabbed the first outfit that sat in the door of the washing machine, unable to pick something remotely worth wearing.
‘Are you okay?’ Melissa’s voice floated through the small apartment to him and he looked up as she emerged from his bedroom, standing in the shade while the sun was still setting.
‘I’m fine. That took longer than I thought, I’m sorry. I really have to go. I’ll see you in the morning, Melissa.’ He hugged her tightly for a second before letting an animalistic growl slip out in her ear. He swore and ran out the apartment. He thought he heard Melissa cry out after him, but he wasn’t listening. He had to get deep into the woods in less than twenty minutes. This time, he didn’t slow down for speed cameras; he didn’t care if he got a speeding fine.
He parked up in his usual clearing, scrabbling for his vodka, left in the car during the day. He picked up the bottle, locked the car and ran. He drank as he ran, eventually reaching the place he usually transformed with a few minutes to spare. He gulped down as much of the liquor as he could in the time he had left, trying to numb the pain before the cramps kicked in. Drinking, he had discovered, lessened the pain, the memory, the fear. It numbed him to the whole transformation, and made the beast slightly less dangerous. His sides clenched and he froze, the bottle falling from his hand. Time seemed to slow as he watched the glass clatter to the floor. He followed it in a matter of seconds as his structure once again began to change.
The screams that escaped his body echoed eerily off the trees and tortured his ears as they became more sensitive. His body twitched and writhed on the ground as the form altered, fur growing, his bones warping, his senses becoming sharper, despite the vodka. His pained cries died away slowly as the transformation came to an end, the beast on the ground by a half spilled bottle of vodka and ripped clothes. Slowly, the creature got to its feet and looked around, its vision blurring drunkenly. It pounded off into the dark woodland aimlessly, looking for something to maul.
The sun began to push the moon out of the sky and wearily, Lazarus stumbled around, collapsing at the roots of a large oak tree. His body began to change back, but he hardly noticed, numbed by the cold as he was. He passed his vodka on the way back to the car and hesitating for only a moment, he picked it up and began to drink thirstily, as though it was water. He scowled at the bottle and threw it with a shout of hatred into the trees. Wiping his mouth on the back of his hand, he staggered back to the car and just about managed to pull his clothes on, the shirt inside out, the fly on his jeans not done up. He crawled into the back seat and curled up, asleep in seconds.