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When the Sun Rises

When the Sun Rises
by Christian Riley

I found Andara's letter under a rock near the white simeon tree east of my village. I didn't read it, but I knew what it said. I knew exactly what I had won, and without a doubt, what I had lost. The tree was where Andara and I left our notes for each other, our secret place where no one would care to look. We had many secrets, Andara and I—our love for one another being the purest of them all.

* * *

"They trapped my mother and chained her to a pole in a meadow." Andara had told this to me after our first kiss, and I didn't need for her to explain. In my mind's eye, I saw her mother shriek with terror when the first sign of daylight crept over the horizon. And then, a shriek of anguish when the sun finally rose, igniting her body into liquid fire, melting her right off that pole and into the ground.

"Your life will be forfeit if your people find out about us, Luc." This, she had said after we made love for the first time. Then her eyes welled with blood, and her smile faded into the saddest corners of the night.

"They won't find out about us," I'd assured her. And they never did.

* * *

There is an ancient limestone dock that juts out into the Blue Marshes, like a crooked, white finger poking the belly of that dead place. This is where I first laid eyes on Andara, but more importantly, where she laid eyes on me, because you see, I have a gift. Although my own mother did not burn at the stake, like Andara's, her words had been burned into my mind since childhood. Your eyes are your greatest tool, Lucco. It all starts with the eyes, never forget that.

On that white dock overlooking a sea of death in the black of night, Andara had risen above me, poised for the kill. Her arms were spread like great bat wings, fingers stretched like flower petals, teeth sharp as chipped onyx. Then she looked into my eyes...

Love at first sight, as the saying goes. My stare had caught hers dead on, and Andara crumpled to the ground, weeping at the thought of murdering me. "It's as if your eyes have the gift of life," she had said. "Red as blood, hot like fire—the gift of life."

* * *

For all her potential cruelty and hunger for blood, hunger for death, Andara had a sweet spot for generosity, as she eagerly revealed to me the legendary secrets of her kind. On the nights that we met, she would sing a verse of ancient lore in a voice that sounded like wind blowing through the reeds. Her touch, although cold and course as a cadaver, always ignited with her excitement, turning warm and smooth, like silk on glass. She had a spirit that defied the essence of her very being, a spirit that defied death, which I witnessed every time we chattered on about the future, or embraced one another under the moonlight. Every time she trembled after an evening of passion.

And Andara's smile, her laughter—they always brought to my mind the innocence of youth; another characteristic that challenged the monster in her.

* * *

While exploring the catacombs deep below the ancient bone yards, Andara would tease me as a cat does a mouse. She called the place her necropolis, their necropolis. Intentionally Andara would lose me down there until I grew nervous, even fearful. Until she laughed, sending her childish glee to my ears on a whisper through that dead, limestone labyrinth.

Despite my fear of being eaten by her kind, I indulged Andara with this game, knowing how much she enjoyed chasing me through those halls, watching me bite my nails, hearing my heart race from afar. I indulged Andara, and as much, she indulged me with my everlasting hunger for knowledge. Years were like drops of rain to her. She had watched the paltry history of humankind pass before her eyes. And for someone who finds great pleasure in learning, someone like me, there is no better source of information than the eyewitness. For every question I had, there was an answer.

Like I said, we indulged one another. Every night, when the murdering sun had vanished, and the cruel people of my village had slept, Andara and I gave to each other. And through this, our love blossomed like the white flowers of a simeon tree.

But as the sun sets, so too will it rise. The people—my people—shall always wake, and therefore I could not escape my duty any longer, despite any of them knowing about it, as they would surely kill me as well. They are superstitious folks, and would have little understanding for my talent. Their tolerance would lack for the way in which my eyes can lure the dead into a dreamy state of submission. They would have little compassion for the love Andara and I had shared. Nor would they have empathy for our sacrifices. Yet they are my people nonetheless.

I never opened Andara's letter. I tossed it into the morning fire that heats my hovel, but in my mind's eye, I read it word for word. I read her sweet confession of love, and her painful sacrifice, knowing that the two of us could never last. I read her sad goodbye. Finally, I read her resolve to take her own life, as the thought of existing without ever looking into my eyes again was just too much for her to bear. And with a bittersweet smile, I stepped outside my door and watched the sunrise.

* * *

With over fifty story acceptances in less than two years, as well as a recent Honorable Mention at L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Contest, Christian Riley sees no end to his writing addiction. His stories have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Underground Voices, Cover of Darkness, Bete Noire, The Absent Willow Review, Residential Aliens, and Bards and Sages Quarterly. You can reach him at, or at his blog:

Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

I'm often intrigued by how I discover an idea for a story. The truth is that I draw inspiration from many sources. Music, art, and reading are the biggest, but sometimes I get an idea just by running across a particular word or phrase. Ursus Horribilis comes to mind. I heard that name and thought, wow, that would be a great title for a story, so I wrote it. And of course, it's about a grizzly bear. I also get ideas from dreams. My story Gravity 101 came to me in the form of a nightmare. I woke up the next day and wrote the piece, which ultimately became my first published story.