(from an idea by Ed Bernstein)
The pale pre-dawn light in the eastern sky blinked out, was replaced with a handful of stars like sparks tossed from a fire into darkness. Cherna stepped through the door as it hissed open, then turned to wait, cocking her head to better hear the faint strains of music that drifted across the lawn. The door slid gently closed; and a momentary, almost indiscernible brightening of the light beyond it heralded Ilya’s arrival.
The door opened once again and Ilya stepped out. Strips of black silk rustled and swirled about her legs, allowing an occasional glimpse of pale thigh and ankle as she walked.
“Shall we?” Cherna murmured. Arm in arm, they strolled across the lawn toward an archway.
“Where are we this time?” Ilya asked.
“Who knows?” Cherna said. “Mika didn’t say. Istanbul, perhaps?”
Ilya glanced around. “Where is Mika?”
“He must have gone on ahead.”
They continued through the archway into the courtyard beyond, into the hubbub of laughter and music, into the party.
The synthesist’s break after his second set was nearly over when Ilya finally cornered him near a table of punch bowls and glasses on the third floor of the mansion, under a crystal chandelier. She lifted one black eyebrow and the corner of her mouth to catch his attention, then moved closer to him before he could turn away.
“Aren’t you Terry Winters?” she asked innocently.
He laughed, surprised and pleased. “You’ve heard my music?”
“I’ve heard a lot about you. You’re earning quite a name for yourself.”
He laughed again, with a touch of self-deprecation. “In some circles, maybe.”
She smiled, a brief flash of white teeth. “Would you like to accompany me outside?” she asked. “It’s very nice out tonight.”
“I’d love to.”
Ilya led the way to the ornate French doors at the end of the room. Winters followed her out onto the stone balcony beyond. The quarter moon had moved nearly halfway up the sky, lending a silver glow to the courtyard below them. Guests wove back and forth in intricate patterns, laughing, dancing, singing.
“You know,” Winters mused, looking down at them, “I sometimes think if I watched people moving around for long enough, I could translate the motion into music. A theme or a melody for each of them, weaving through each other until—”
Ilya’s soft touch on his arm interrupted him. She put a pale index finger, half-sheathed in black silk, to her too-red lips. “Shhh,” she breathed.
Surprised, he forgot to blink for a long moment, lost in her eyes. Then: “You’re very—” he began, but she stopped him again.
“Don’t talk.” She lifted her face toward his—hardly lifted at all, really; she was almost his height—and he bent toward her. Their lips met, opened. Winters brought his left arm up behind her back and pulled her toward him. He reached backward with his right hand to set down his wine glass, but it slipped from his fingers, shattering with a crystalline susurration on the stone floor. His vision blurred.
He felt his knees buckle, but something held him upright. From a great distance, he heard her soft voice: “Beautiful. Such a prize.” Then came a stabbing pain at his throat, and blackness.
Ilya shut the French doors gently behind her as she returned to the room. Mika, obviously bored, watching the well-dressed partygoers surrounding the punch bowl, leaned against the wall by the door, one black boot at the end of a bent leg resting at the top of the wainscoting. His bright red lips turned up at the corners when he saw Ilya, one black eyebrow lifting above his dark glasses. He pushed himself away from the wall as she approached, leaving a dusty footprint on the mahogany.
“What of the night, dear sister?”
She smiled back, a flash of white teeth. “A true prize, dear brother. Have you noticed our hosts’ appalling lapse of taste? The musicians have been playing without a synthesist for nearly an hour.”
The eyebrow again, and a gesture with the red wine in his left hand toward the balcony doors. “Terry Winters?”
"That is quite a catch, my dear. My congratulations."
They kissed. Drawing back, Mika licked his lips and said, “Sweet.”
Ilya touched the corner of his mouth, brushing away a tiny spot of red. “Yes. Music in the blood, or so it’s said.”
Mika nodded. “I’ve been only a trifle less successful. Jacqueline Pierce.”
“The senator? Well done,” Ilya said. “And Cherna?”
“Little luck thus far tonight, I’m afraid,” Mika said. “Only a dancer, and an unknown one at that.”
Ilya licked her lips. “Well, there should be time for one more round before we move on.”
Cherna’s pale face and hands were barely visible in the dimness, despite subdued lamplight seeping in from the hallway and starlight through a high window. Mika stepped all the way into the darkened room, shut the door behind him, removed his sunglasses.
“What brings you here, dear brother?” Cherna asked. She leaned back in her chair, her short, fashionable black leather jacket falling open to reveal a thin blouse.
“Looking for you, my sweet,” Mika said.
She stood, and they kissed, hungrily. After a minute, Cherna stepped back, breaking the embrace. She laughed: a high, wild sound that stopped abruptly. “You haven’t had your second turn yet.”
“No,” Mika said. “But I’m about to rendezvous with a certain important personage....”
Cherna asked, “And who might that be?”
Mika smiled, slowly, starlight glinting in his pale eyes. “Chris Washington,” he said.
“Very nice,” Cherna said.
“Ready to concede?”
Cherna glanced at the door. “Not quite yet, dear brother. I’ve a prospect arriving shortly who should put me solidly in the lead. Would you be so kind...?”
“Best of luck,” Mika said. He replaced his glasses, opened the door a crack, and slipped out. Back in the room, Cherna sipped her wine, moistening her red, red lips, and settled back in her chair to wait.
The moon was gone from the sky, and pale talcum light powdered over the easternmost stars. Cherna and Ilya toasted each other with champagne across the remnants of a tableful of hors d’oeuvres, then kissed. Recorded violins whispered from speakers hidden in the foliage. Of the other remaining guests scattered across the courtyard, a few still chatted quietly, but most had drifted off to sleep in chairs or lounges.
Mika stepped from the shadows of an ornately-carved doorway to join Ilya and Cherna. To Cherna he said, “Ah, there you are, dear sister. Ilya told me of your success; I congratulate you.” He drew her close, and they kissed.
At length, Mika stepped back and turned to Ilya. “Shall we depart?”
“Cherna’s turn, I think,” said Ilya. “Winner’s choice. Though how you managed Sarah Fiona Cheng, dear sister, is quite beyond me.”
“It was merely luck, dear sister,” said Mika.
“Skill, rather,” replied Cherna. “You wouldn’t have managed it, dear brother. Remember Hans Frieling?”
A black eyebrow twitched with annoyance, above dark glasses. “Very well. Point conceded. Your choice.”
Cherna smiled, white teeth behind red lips against pale skin, a curve of dark wine on chalk, blood spilled on snow. “I know just the place,” she said.
The three strolled back through the arch, back toward the booth. Ahead of them, another group of guests, laughing, blinked out one by one, going home. When they were gone, Cherna stepped in, adjusted the settings, vanished.
“Good night, dear sister,” Mika whispered to Ilya as he followed Cherna.
As she waited for the door to cycle open again, Ilya whispered to herself, “Yes. Yes, it is.” A good night: the fading night now part of the long night past, and the renewed night to come, to be followed by night after night after unending night, free of interfering daylight, uninterrupted darkness stretching forward into eternity....
The door opened, and she stepped through.
This story was first published in 1990 in Swarthmore’s annual science fiction magazine, the Bug-Eyed Magazine, which I was an editor for. It was reprinted in 100 Vicious Little Vampire Stories, ed. Robert Weinberg, Stefan Dziemianowicz, and Martin H. Greenberg (Barnes & Noble, 1995). I previously characterized that reprint as having “some fairly big changes,” but on closer inspection I now (2023) see that there were only about ten small changes of phrasing and punctuation. The version on this page is a mix of the original BEM version with some of the changes from the anthology version.
In retrospect, I think I was being too cagy about the core idea, because various readers have interpreted it as something other than what I intended. The idea is meant to be that in a world with teleportation booths, vampires would never have to face daylight; they could teleport from nighttime in one part of the world to nighttime in another part.