So I was talking to this person I met the other day about vampire fiction and how 99% of it was dross (and the other 1% was Bram Stoker and Sheridan Le Fanu and similar), and they said, "Let's see you do better!" when I expressed exasperation at the success of The Dark Heroine which originated on a sub-Fanfiction.net forum. The other things they said, of course, were "You're just jealous," (damn fucking straight, it's money for old rope) and "Don't like, don't read!" (How am I supposed to know if something's any good without having read it?)
Fine, I thought. So I will.
Just so you know, this took me about one hour.
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THE STORY SO FAR... It is February. Rachel Rodgerson was an otherwise ordinary high school student living in a dreary provincial town whose location is not important, but if you must know, is, in fact, Ravenshead near Nottingham (no particular reason, I just like the name), who is awaiting to start at university in the next October. New to the town has come a rather unusual young man named Lambert, who turns out to be a vampire. The two of them have been meeting in the village cemetery for illicit hangings out all night, and they're getting a bit close. NOW READ ON...
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As soon as the sun had passed beneath the horizon, Rachel ran as fast as her legs could carry her to the churchyard. A light snow had fallen earlier in the day and it crunched under her boots with each step, but only lightly. Down the street she went, her breath misting before her, heart pounding despite the physical exertion, and into the village cemetery. Sure enough, Lambert - who wasn't American despite his use of a surname as his first name - was there, sat atop an aged, mildewed, mossed tomb within the graveyard, the third one along from the main gate, as always. She had no idea why he spent his nights in a cemetery because he never looked like the sort of person who you would expect to find hanging out in a cemetery, but hadn't he previously assured her he had his reasons?
He spotted her and raised a hand.
"Hey you," he said.
"Hey you," Rachel replied and sat alongside him, panting slightly. Her breath caught and froze in mid air. His did not.
Say something, she thought to herself. Just don't sit here like two penneth o' daft!
"Erhhmmm... where exactly are you from, Lambert?" she asked. Bloody stupid question, in retrospect.
Lambert looked at her. "Germany," he said.
"But you don't sound German. You sound like... like a... BBC... newsy-person-reader," she gabbled.
Lambert smiled. "You live for over six centuries, you pick up languages. Do you really want to know? It's very boring," Lambert said.
Rachel shuffled closer and looked at him imploringly. "Go on. Bore me," she said. She tried to make her eyes look big and mysterious and melt-worthy but knew she was probably making a stupid face. Not that Lambert minded. He picked up and dropped his hands onto this thighs.
"I was born in a tiny hamlet outside of Paderborn in 1396. Turbulent times, those were, in Germany, or as we called it then the Heiliges Romischer Reich. Holy Roman Empire, that means. Signed on with the army of the local Baron at fifteen, and seven years later, we were in Upper Austria waging a campaign against the Vogt, who back then was a Count von Karnstein. Well," he shuffled slightly as if recalling something unpleasant to which he later came to terms with. "we were massacred. I can still see it now. Corpses everywhere, the stench of blood and shit and piss from where the dying and dead voided them... themselves. They were the lucky ones."
Rachel put a hand on his knee. It was cold - both his knee and her hand. "You don't have to talk about this if you don't want," she said.
"Oh but I do; you asked me. So," he went on, staring off into the middle distance. "Those of us who remained alive were taken before the Count. He was a young man, with eyes like ice and a face... hard, like stone, it was. His mother was there as well. She was a tall, noble looking lady yet whose depravity and brutality knew no bounds. The Count had us stripped, hooded, and thrust into cells in the undercroft. We thought we were going to be left to die, or tortured to death. Instead... he came down each night, and took one of us at random. He would take them upstairs... and they'd never be seen again. On the sixth night, it was my turn. It was a cold November evening, cloudless, snow. Bit like tonight. He took me up into his chamber, manacled, nude. There, he descended on me, and bit into my neck. The pain was indescribable. It was so agonising I didn't even have the energy to scream. Not that anyone would have heard. Then... black. I can remember him giving orders to a servant to put the body on the heap with the others, then I was floating up a tunnel. However... then I came back to earth, with a crash."
"What happened then?"
"I wasn't dead, but I was surrounded by the cadavers of all my comrades from my unit. I'd heard the legends as a small boy, but then... to be one... I felt weak. I had a craving but not for something to eat, and I was unbound, and I was alive. At the time I thanked God for small mercies. So... I ran. One of the Count's guardsmen was asleep at his post. I crept up behind him. I'd heard the Count refer to him as Wichmann. He was my first kill. He was a corpulent, brutal-faced thing, and during the battle I saw him stripping the gear off the wounded, but he didn't deserve this. It tasted like... like the sweetest wine, but still coppery, like blood. The sensation as the blood of another entered my body both nourished and disgusted me. And I was starving, I'd never eaten before, it was like. As soon as I punctured his veins and the fresh, warm, red blood spurted out, it was like I was possessed. I had to consume it, to the last. So... I did."
Rachel looked at him. "But you don't seem like a murderer, or a predator, or anything. Besides, I've known you for three weeks or more, and I've not seen you nomming down on other people." She smiled at him. "So... you're not a - a vegetarian, are you?"
Lambert chuckled. It was hollow, like the rattle of a dying man. "No, animals don't work. I've tried it and it just tasted like filthy, metallic, unpleasantly warm liquid. Has to be people. However, it doesn't have to be fresh. It can be days, weeks, months old, and still it works."
"Oh aye?" went Rachel.
"Yes. I have a big catering chest freezer in my house. Before I moved here, I broke into the hospital in Nottingham and stole a suitcase full of blood bags from the transfusion unit. It wasn't pretty but it had to do. Can't draw attention to oneself. The hunters are still out there. Before that, I was working on the filling line at Bio Product Laboratory in Watford. Night shift only, of course. They make clotting factors and things. They wouldn't notice if a jar or two went missing every couple of weeks."
Rachel looked him up and down at his gaunt, thin form, a bit worried. "No wonder you look like you need a good feed," she said.
"You have no idea how true that is." Lambert ascended from the tomb. "It's also safer than hunting real live people, too. In 1421 I lived in the Kassberg, the slums of Nuremberg, where the wretched, the destitute, and the abjectly poor came to die. I depopulated it most efficiently, but one of them had some sort of disease. I think nowadays they call it Hepatitis C but back then, well, it was just another pestilence. I was sick for months with it."
Rachel looked over at him and into his eyes. They were big and grey and if he'd been a boy her own age they would have been a joy to gaze into. But they were the eyes of an impossibly old being who had probably seen countless lifetimes come and go. She was curious, about him. Probably more curious than she ought to be, even if he was the first breath of fresh air that had come through Ravenshead in the whole time she'd been an inhabitant of that dreary village.
Lambert turned to face her. "That's enough about me for now." He grimaced. "You must have some tales to tell. That face holds secrets in its creases."
Rachel felt slightly punctured by the idea of having creases but then... wasn't. Creases were character lines, and he hadn't said wrinkles or crow's feet or such. Besides, she knew of the popular reputation of vampires as memetic sex gods, so figured he'd probably broken the hearts and hymens of debutantes, beauties, and women all round Europe in his (un)life, so he'd probably seen better. "None whatsoever. I was born here in the early 1990s, I've lived in the same house in the village all my life, been to school in Nottingham, chased and been chased by the local boys, and I'm just bored of this place. I have to get out." Lambert made to speak, but she dove in first. "This place is awful. My friend Kayley had a child last year. She was only sixteen. She called it Daenerys after that character from Game of Thrones. This is the sort of place this is. If I don't escape now... I probably never will."
She looked at him and cracked a half smile. "So don't believe it's like you read in those godawful books either. I'll be out of here by the summer, and not to your super secret underground base either as the love of your life!"
Lambert's eyes went wide. "So, you know our secret then?" He smiled. "There is no secret base. We don't do it like that. We keep in contact but there's no conspiracy or anything. Well... not much, anyhow." For some reason Rachel thought he was serious about that last qualification.
Rachel raised an eyebrow. "So how do you do it then?"
Lambert rolled his eyes and looked off to one side. "Social networking, girlfriend," he said, affecting a vapid Californian accent. His attempt at doing this sounded for all the world like Bruno, from the Sacha Baron Cohen film of the same name. "Get with the times!"
Rachel snorted. "So, I could log onto Facebook right now and meet a whole lot of you all plotting to systematically bleed dry the population of England?"
"Not exactly," Lambert said with a slightly smug expression.
"Don't be ridiculous."
"So where then?"
"Yes. Hiding in plain sight. All you humans think it's a load of baby goths posing and taking pictures of themselves in their bathroom mirrors. They'd just die if they met a real live vampire. Thing is, half their friends are probably amongst us, let's be honest. It's absolutely perfect."
Rachel was even more curious now. "What do you talk about on there exactly?"
Lambert stared into space. "Wouldn't you like to know."
His phone went. He pulled it out his pocket and saw an e-mail from someone. "Right, got to go," he said, descending from the tomb. "Want to meet tomorrow night? I don't have anything on. And I promise I'll not give you a case of overnight anaemia!" he joked.
Rachel felt something shift in the pit of her stomach. Something a bit unpleasant, which came out the blue. The thought was quite revolting to her. Yet she didn't feel the taste of bile in her mouth that she associated with sickness. She reached over and squeezed his hands in hers, but something seemed wrong. Normally he would squeeze back, but he didn't. Rather, his fingers stiffened.
Lambert's nostrils were flaring. He could smell it. He'd been without for so long. He had to have it. The scent. Metallic yet moreish. It was igniting his cravings. He was shaking all over. "You should get out of here now, Rachel. It's for your own good. I can smell it. On you. Get out. Now!" His accent was slipping slightly, it sounded rougher and more, well, Germanic.
Rachel was looking nonplussed, then she felt it again. Then slicky wetness on her innermost thigh. She looked up at the moon. "That?" she said. "That's just my - "
"I know what it is, Rachel. But I've been without for so long that - " Lambert felt his heart pound and his head spin. He made to grab Rachel and upend her and satiate himself on her living, red moonblood, but only just held himself in check. "Go. Now. Seriously." He wanted it so badly... but he couldn't bring himself to injure her. She was the first person who he'd cared anything for since Gretchen had died.
Rachel suddenly, in a flash of blinding terror, understood. She ran, partly from mortal terror, and partly from the absurd embarrassment of being caught short in front of someone she liked. By the time she was at a safe distance, she squatted down and, reaching into her bag, attended to herself. While so doing she couldn't help but think of what she used so to do as the equivalent, for him, of a teabag. Weirdly, she thought that this wasn't something that those lying romances talked about. How could he possibly fall in love with her if five days every month, she thought, he saw her as dinner. She'd heard of winning a man's heart through his appetites but this was ridiculous.
Now the clenching in the pit of her stomach was not cramps from what the crude local boys referred to as "having the painters in," but from nauseating, abject terror. She heaved and left her partly digested tea on the pavement.
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In the next episode:
- Will we ever find out what Lambert does all day that's so deathly important?
- Why would a six hundred year old vampire come to a godawful hole like Ravenshead in the first place?
- When are they gonna quit arsing about and shag each other, like fucking Christ intended?
- Do we even care?
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And that's your lot for now. I mean no offence to the inhabitants of Ravenshead; in fact, I've never been there. I just picked it because it was a village with a cool name.