They play chess in silence, one great monster in disguise of a man sitting surprisingly straight on his pouf at the low table, the other slouching on his couch in a miasma of foul,
sweet smoke that dulls his mind.
This is not the first time.
Rolled-up shirtsleeves are the mortal man’s only concession to the informality of their pastime; the other is wearing ragged around the edges as he lounges,
in white and bright red silks creased with use.
With each passing day, the curls in his long dark-brown hair lose precision, there are more of those subtle lines around his mouth and eyes,
and minute flecks of grey show in his orderly little beard.
By now, his hands are so thin his nails seem to be talons, like those of a mummy; the reddish tinge in his eyes mirrors the maroon of his opponent.
Should the vampire care to look into the mortal’s mind, he will see a room, dark-panelled like most in that great, ever-changing palace of memories,
with pictures hung on the wall: photographic portraits of Vlad Draculea himself, day by day, chess game by chess game, almost imperceptibly wearing thinner and thinner.
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