Hampstead Heath, 18—
When Nathan Ashe disappeared from the ruined streets of Southwark, I couldn’t help but think the horror was, at least in part, my own design. I’d infected him, after all, filled him up with my so-called disease. The rank shadows and gaslight in the human warrens beyond Blackfriars Bridge did the rest. Madeline Lee, my dearest friend, would come to hate me for what I’d done. She said I ruined Nathan because of love, and that infecting him was my way of laying claim to his attentions. I couldn’t make her understand how he begged for it, begged me to touch him until he was changed. It wasn’t me—Jane Silverlake—he desired. He wanted the Empyrean, that improbable paradise, and I was its doorway. By the end, Nathan was no longer the boy we had adventures with on the Heath nor the young man who went to war in the Crimea. He grew to be half a human being and half some ancient and unnamed thing, and despite my warnings, we were all pulled into his hell, as if by the swift currents of an unseen river.