Authors: Duncan McGeary
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Dark Fantasy, #Horror, #Gothic, #Vampires
The basement was huge, as if it was below an apartment building or an office complex instead of a small two-bedroom house. It was this unusual feature that had probably attracted the Monster. He didn’t live in the house. The windows were boarded up, the lawn was dead and the single functional light was a bare bulb that burned day and night over the steps to the basement. The basement walls were bare rock, crumbling, and the floor was cracked concrete. It was one large, open space, and the three corners farthest away from the light were eternally dark. There was a toilet under the stairs that each of them could barely reach. Small slotted windows near the ceiling had been covered up by cardboard, but they could see the passing of day and night.
After nearly six years, Simone still didn’t know anything about the Monster––his name, where he lived, what he did for a living––except that he wanted sex and wanted it rough, and didn’t ever look them in the eyes or talk to them.
Simone wondered what would have happened if she had been alone. Though it wasn’t something she would wish on her worst enemy, it was a blessing to have the two other girls with her. Patty was difficult and Laura was simple, but Simone had learned to love them both, perhaps more than she ever had her own brothers and sisters, whom she barely remembered. The girls knew every single fact of each other’s brief thirteen years of experience outside: every story, every feeling, everything they could describe. They’d spend day after day trying to bring the outside world alive, but only Simone had managed to hang onto hope.
Laura had begun as a frightened little girl who could still occasionally giggle at jokes and talk endearingly about her plans to become a veterinarian. As the years passed, she’d begun to fall silent, to become nonresponsive. Meanwhile, Patty had become more vocal, more strident, especially as the Monster began to lose interest in her. The more he ignored her, the more she tried to get his attention, nearly stripping whenever he came down the stairs, talking to him in a morbidly erotic way that made Simone blush.
Simone endured what the Monster did to her, pretending to be someone else, somewhere far away. She didn’t fight him; she didn’t encourage him. She certainly wasn’t disappointed when he began to turn more of his attention toward Laura, though she felt for the younger girl, and sometimes, when Laura was being particularly nonresponsive, she tried to seduce the Monster in much the same way that Patty tried.
“He’s not coming back,” Simone said.
She started to pull at her handcuffs, trying to squeeze the fingers of one hand into as narrow a space as possible. She reached her knuckles and couldn’t get any farther. She pulled harder, felt her bones almost crack under the pressure, felt her skin splitting and blood running down her forearm. But no matter how hard she tried, even with her newfound strength, she couldn’t get her hand loose.
Simone cried out in despair. She fell back on her rear and put her arm over her eyes, feeling the blood seep onto her neck.
“Told you,” Patty said. “We have to wait.”
“We can’t wait!” Simone shouted, sitting back up. In frustration, she grabbed the chains and yanked with all her pent-up fury. She’d done it a thousand times before and had always met the solid resistance of rock and steel. This time, she felt something shift in her hands and heard a grinding sound. She looked over and saw that the hook was coming loose from the wall.
One last wrench and it detached and fell to the floor with a loud clang.
All three girls froze, waiting for the Monster to hear and come down the stairs and punish them.
Then Simone was gathering up the chains and wrapping them around her shoulders and arms. They were heavy, but she could move. She started up the stairs.
“Wait!” she heard Patty cry out.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to get us free, Patty. Free from the Monster.”
Hoss and his followers were trapped in the Armory. The skylights washed the floor with daylight, and the breaches in the walls from the Wildering attacks exposed most of the warehouse to the sun. Only one corner was still dark, and Hoss and his twenty or so supporters were clustered close together there.
Facing them, as impossible as it seemed, were vampires with blood the color of gold. The sunlight washed over them, exposing their pale white skin, but doing nothing more damaging to them. The legendary Terrill stood at the center of this group, with his human love, Sylvie, next to him. She had never left his side during the fighting, though she could not bring herself to kill. She’d scrounged for ammunition and weapons, and every time Terrill had needed to be resupplied, she’d been there.
Clarkson, the blonde-haired female member of the Council of Vampires, stood beside them.
Hoss still couldn’t believe that Terrill was real.
Here stood the author of the Rules of Vampire, which had given Hoss the meaning of his existence. As a human, he’d been adrift, seeing things that those around him couldn’t see, knowing the answers to problems but unable to get anyone to see the sense of his suggestions.
Then he’d been Turned. At first, that had been equally confusing, but then he’d found the Rules of Vampire, and everything had fallen into place:
Rule 1. Never trust a human.
Rule 2. Never leave the remains of a kill, or if you must, disguise the cause of death.
Rule 3. Never feed where you live.
Rule 4. Never create a pattern. Kill at random.
Rule 5. Never kill for the thrill. Feed only when necessary to eat.
Rule 6. Never steal in the short term; create wealth for the long term.
Hoss had become a believer in the Rules, and had made certain that the poor lost souls that found and surrounded him also believed. Because of this, they had survived the holocaust brought on by the Wilderings. At least, until now.
Surrounding the vampires, both blue and gold bloods, were human vampire hunters, led by the two FBI agents Callendar and Jeffers.
“They came to help us,” Terrill was arguing. “Without them, none of us would have survived.”
“All right,” Jeffers said. “For that, I thank them. But for their future human victims, I damn them.” He turned to his partner. “We have them in our power, Callendar. Let’s finish it.”
“These are not Wilderings,” Terrill said. “These vampires follow the Rules of Vampire. They will not kill unnecessarily.”
Jeffers laughed. “How reassuring. I’m sure that their victims will be glad to know they were ‘necessary.’” He turned back to his fellow agent. “Come on, Callendar. We don’t have any choice. This is our job; this is what we were trained to do. But even more importantly, it’s what needs to be done.”
Callendar hadn’t spoken since the argument began. He had his head down and was deep in thought. As the senior agent on the scene, it would be his decision: life or death for Hoss and his followers. Hoss thought he knew the solution to their problem, but it would be better if it came from the humans instead of him.
Smoke curled over Crescent City. The wind was coming off the foothills and blowing the dark clouds out over the ocean. Everywhere a Wildering had been caught by the sudden emergence of the sun from the clouds, there was a blackened patch of soot, a shadow of a once-existing being. Some of the foliage and structures in proximity to the Wilderings’ doom had caught fire as well, and parts of downtown were now blackened rubble.
The FBI agents and their police backup had just finished the unpleasant job of dispatching those victims of the Wilderings who had not yet Turned. This had entailed chopping off their heads, so the humans were covered with a mix of the red blood of those not yet Turned and the blue blood of vampires.
Now the cops wanted to finish the job. They had bona fide vampires in their power, trapped by the sun and by their weapons. But some of the cops looked uneasy, for they knew that without the help of this band of vampires, in all likelihood, they would have perished under the onslaught of the Wilderings.
As it was, only the unexpected emergence of the sun after days of fog and clouds had saved them from the Wildering infestation. Half the population of Crescent City had been Turned into vampires, creatures consumed by hunger for human flesh and blood. None of these newly Turned vampires had been instructed by their Makers in how to behave, so they had become a horde of Wilderings, consuming everyone in their path.
In the distance, the survivors could hear sirens approaching. News vans had found their way to the fairgrounds and were pulling up outside the Armory, waiting to see who or what would emerge.
It’s going to be hard to sweep this disaster under the rug,
Vampires are secret no longer.
Hoss and his followers were of the old school of vampirism, trained and restrained to kill only when necessary, and above all, to follow the Rules of Vampire, which Terrill had formulated long ago. But they were no less dangerous for it. Hoss was young and newly Turned, but he’d always been smarter than everyone around him, young or old. He’d figured out early on that the only way to survive was to do as the Rules suggested.
The only thing that confused him was that he’d just broken several of the Rules in succession, and yet it had seemed like the right thing to do.
“This is bullshit,” Jeffers exclaimed. He raised his crossbow and pointed it at Hoss. “Let’s end this.”
In a blur, Terrill was at his side, snatching the weapon away before Jeffers could pull the trigger. “You’ll have to kill me first.”
Jeffers looked stunned, but not cowed. “Impressive. You really are a new breed of vampire. But there are only a couple of you gold bloods,” he said, raising his voice so that the other cops could hear. “You may kill me, and you may take out a lot of us, but eventually we’ll take you down.”
“Actually,” a voice said from the door of the Armory, “there are four of us.” Officer Robert Jurgenson walked in, accompanied by a stunningly beautiful woman.
“Jamie!” Sylvie shouted, and sprinted toward her sister. “You’re alive!”
The two girls hugged, the younger sister tall, dark and human, the older one shorter, red-haired and apparently now one of the Golden Vampires. “Thanks to Robert,” Jamie said.
Their appearance seemed to finally decide Callendar. The newly Turned policeman was his former brother-in-law, and it was obvious that he didn’t relish a fight to the death with this new breed of vampires, whose capabilities weren’t fully understood.
“Enough,” he said loudly. “We won’t fight you. But we can’t in good conscience let a pack of vampires free. This is what has to happen.” At these words, both sides visibly tensed. “I will require a promise from them.”
Hoss nodded. He’d thought this would be the compromise from the beginning and had been formulating his response.
Callendar continued. “You must promise not kill humans again. All of you… or you must leave this country forever. If you can’t agree to these terms, we will have to finish this now.”
“I accept,” Hoss said. He turned to his followers and spread his arms. One by one, they all agreed to the conditions.
“You believe them?” Jeffers asked, disbelieving. “These are vampires, Callendar! Lying, murderous, night-stalking vampires!”
“I will take their word,” Callendar said. He raised his hand to forestall the inevitable protests and looked at Hoss sternly. “But if you break your word to me, young man, I will hunt you and all your followers down, I promise you.”
Again, Hoss nodded. He was already planning his trip to England. It was time he joined the real Council of Vampires.
Terrill finally relaxed. He’d done his duty to Hoss. It was clear that the young vampire and his followers were not yet ready to be tested by the golden blood. Now he could turn his attention to the woman for whom he’d long been searching.
Jamie looked worn, yet even more beautiful than he remembered: leaner, her face chiseled, missing all the baby fat that had obscured her high cheekbones. Her freckles, which had made her seemed innocent and unspoiled, now seemed to highlight the experience written on her face. She was leaning against the cop, Robert, and it was obvious they were a couple.
Jamie was Terrill’s unexpected progeny. After decades of not feeding on humans, he’d had a moment of weakness, and this young woman had been his victim. In remorse, he’d tracked down the girl’s family, and had unexpectedly fallen in love with her younger sister, Sylvie.
He’d sworn never to kill a human again, and despite great provocation and danger, he’d stuck to his vow. When he’d been trapped and forced into the daylight, it had turned out that all his suffering, the provocation and temptation that only centuries of resolve had helped him overcome, had Turned him human again. He was the first and only vampire to Turn back since the beginning of time.
His own Maker, Michael, had long planned for a new kind of vampire to emerge, but Terrill becoming human had been unexpected. When Michael had Turned him back into a vampire again, so he could fight in the coming battle, Terrill had become something new to this world: a vampire with gold blood, who could walk in daylight, who was stronger and faster than any blue-blooded vampire.
He could Turn others, but there was one important catch: only vampires who refused to kill humans could be transformed. Any other vampire would be destroyed by the infusion of gold blood. So far, few had been willing to take the risk.
“Jamie,” Sylvie was saying. “Why did you run away?”
“I wanted to protect you,” Jamie said. “I didn’t trust myself.”
Sylvie smiled sadly, tears welling in her eyes. “You don’t protect someone by breaking their heart.”
Jamie grasped her sister and buried her head in Sylvie’s shoulder. Terrill heard a muffled sob. “I understand that now. I won’t leave you again.”
Around them, the police were cleaning up. Several of them stood near the cloistered vampires in the dark corner, still uncertain whether they wanted to let them go. Nightfall was hours away. The tension probably wouldn’t dissipate until Hoss and his crew were gone, but Terrill felt the situation was stabilized.