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Mankind has fallen to darkness and a new breed rules the earth. The age of the vampire has begun.
Few survived the fall of man. Those who remain to witness the darkening of the world live by the gun or live in fear. There is no middle ground.
The cities lay in ruin after the last war and vampires have inherited the blasted remnants.
And yet some will not cower in the night. They fight because there is nothing left to them. They fight without hope of peace or victory.
In a war with no end, in a land without succour, what chance do the survivors have? The war was lost as soon as it was begun. But there is still the past...and perhaps, a future.
And through it all, one man stands vigil.
He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am.
The Gospel of Thomas
The Present (1)
The Parisian Countryside
Year Zero: Apocalypse
A cold wind blows in from the west. It blows from the
English Channel, across ploughed fields
and through the city. It carries the sea and a feel of the French countryside,
fragrant brown earth and bitter stones. It brings with it all the tastes and
smells and textures of the world that was. But also, in that gusting, chill
wind, a taste of things to come.
Fire and blood and black rain.
A chateau stands in the last gasp of sunset. It sprawls across the landscape. Two floors of white walls. Leaded windows in dark wood frames. The first floor is hidden behind a long expanse of wall, as white as the house. The outside of the wall has been cleared of brush and grass and trees. The surrounding countryside is flat and bare.
In the distance behind the house, the lights of the closest village brighten against the rising night.
A man, dishevelled, stands before the gates. His head is poised, his legs slightly bent, like he’s prepared to run. He turns his head toward the night that rises from the east. The chateau’s white walls take on the fading glow of the setting sun, the colour of sullied gold, then the illusion passes and the man is left standing before gates held fast only by a ghostly wall rising from the black earth. Nothing gold remains.
The man’s face is a map of scars, each line a road drawn from pain. His features are still clear despite the scarring. His nose is long and noble. His cheeks are just slashes of bone, pushing against pale skin. He looks as though he has never eaten, and if he did, it was so long ago that his body has forgotten the taste of food.
A fierce light burns in his dark eyes. They twinkle and darkle as the light laces through their deep shadowy sockets.
He doesn’t feel the bitter cold seeping from the earth. His feet are muddy, leading to pale white flesh of an unclad ankle, scars visible even there, ghostly in the dusk’s late light. His trousers are torn.
He takes a deep breath, like a man getting ready for a hard and dirty task. Favouring his left leg noticeably, the limp doesn’t stop him leaping to the top of the wall and balancing there like a bird perched on a telephone wire.
He listens to heavy-booted footfalls and an accompanying clack-clack-clack of a dog’s nails on the paving surrounding the chateau. The last of the light fades outside the walls, but inside, the artificial glow of security lights set around the chateau light every dark corner in their unforgiving glare. But this section of the wall is in darkness. It is a long time since he was last here, but he remembers it well enough.
Silently, the man pulls his long coat around him to stop it flapping in the cold wind.
A guard and a dog on a leash round the corner, walking calmly. The guard wears a stab vest, blue in the hard lights. He carries a baton but the dog is the only weapon he needs.
The guard is ignorant of the intruder. Then the man drops on him from above. With a hand held like a claw and power unhinted at in his narrow shoulders, he swipes the guard’s throat and tears through the windpipe. The guard’s scream whistles, the sound blanketed with blood.
Before the man can silence the dog in the same way, it snarls and takes a lump of flesh from his arm along with some of the threadbare coat. The man in the dark coat drops to one knee, bringing the dog down with him, and sinks his teeth into the dog’s neck. He rips fur and spine free with his teeth and spits. It is the first sound he has made. The grimace he makes is for the taste of the dog, not the pain.
The dog’s grip does not slacken. The man pries the dead jaws from his forearm without complaint.
Now the risk of discovery is greater. He is bathed in light.
Time began with that first impotent cry from the guard’s burbling throat. The man in the coat breaks into a run, limp barely evident now, and lowers his shoulder. He crashes through the door to the guard house. The second guard, far too slow, leaps from his seat and tries to reach a gun by his side, but the scarred man is faster. Much faster.
Time is still running down, but slower now. Both guards are dead and silent. Two nurses and the housekeeper wait inside the house. No alarm has been sounded.
He punches a hole in the front door, two inches of hard wood, reaches through and turns the latch.
Too much noise. Move. Faster. There’s an alarm in the kitchen, and one in the master bedroom.
But it’s quiet, and he’s close enough. He runs.
The hallway is empty. A twin staircase leads to the second floor. Nothing’s changed. Of course not. How could it?
The nurses would be staying on the second floor, but the housekeeper would be on the first floor.
The house is large but the intruder’s hearing is astounding. He hears the flush of a toilet down a long corridor and turns toward it at a flat run. He should make a sound. There should be a slapping with a hint of squeak. The floor is slate, his feet bare, but he’s silent, a ghost. Eerily, on soundless feet, his loping gait takes him down the corridor. As he runs, his limp is gone and suddenly he is in perfect balance, strength evident in every stride. Still, some sense makes the housekeeper turn toward him as he flies toward her, but without a cry she falls.
Upstairs the nurses are in conversation. It doesn’t matter now. There is no one left to hear them scream, no alarm in this lounge on the landing of the second floor. The chance of failure has passed. Time slows yet again.
The second nurse has time to plead but it’s too late by then.
Then there were just two left in the chateau.
He walks along the hall. The bedroom is at the end. Hissing breath comes from behind the door, punctuated by a gentle beep, beating out time with a heart. The heart he can almost hear from within the room.
He pushes the door open and walks into the room.
A man lies on the bed. He’s old, perhaps as old as time. His skin is paper-thin. Waxy. A thin sheen of sweat stands out on a febrile brow. Wisps of hair float in the breeze coming through an open window. Liver spots stand proud on his forehead and scalp. His eyes are closed, but the man in the long coat imagines they will be cold and calculating, rivers of red capillaries running through them. Intelligent eyes, if rheumy.
The man in the coat turns and looks toward the far wall. There is a picture of a woman there in a gilded frame. He approaches it, the man behind him forgotten.
He stares at the picture for a long time. He remembers.
He checks the clock in his head and turns to the west facing window.
The machine beeps.
The sky brightens suddenly, impossibly bright, and he has to shield his eyes for a moment. When he opens them again, the white light is gone, replaced by a glow that is as beautiful as a sunrise. The sunrise of a new dawn. A new age.
A fierce wind blows hard and hot, even this far from
When it finally stills, the digital clock on the nightstand bleeps once and
dies. The heart monitor fails too, but the old man’s chest continues to rise
In the depths of this darkest winter, 2025, true night arrives. There are no lights burning between the chateau and
The only light is the raging, nuclear fire.
The ashes of mankind’s reign on earth begin to fall, and by the light of that distant fire the vigil begins.
Base of the
Pain was the first word. Hunger was the second.
Awake, the pain was fierce. It was filed to the finest point, honed sharper than a razor blade. The pain was studded boots on shards of glass driven through bone and gristle. Sanded and abraded skin drowned in whisky and daubed with salt. Every inch of flesh screamed and every bone pounded. My head thrummed and danced a dervish while a horned Satyr fucked my brain raw.
That was the first. My birth was into blood. As a babe, the pain came first. As a man the hunger came second.
I hunger now and forever. The pain is nothing compared to the hunger. Even through the pouring blood and the knowledge, the surety, that my life bled and my bones crumbled as I hungered…the hunger ruled.
The pain let me know I was alive. The hunger told me if I did not eat I would die.
My first cry, a scream, then, nothing.
Was it sleep? I don’t think it was. I think it was hibernation. Becoming anew. Leaving the old behind. My body healed while I was under a blanket of stars, unaware of this fresh beauty above me. I wasn’t a creature made for beauty. I was a creature born of pain, not poetry.
So, in passing into life bloodied and broken, torn and sullied, my mind raped by something unknown, I was born a babe in a man’s mind. I had no words but a thousand feelings and thoughts I had no name for, save two.
As the night passed, the pain from my body and limbs faded. It faded as much as the distance between my eyes and the stars now…closed…to now. But that special pain, the one inside, was growing. The everything pain. The pain that had a name of its own. Hunger.
I opened my eyes to a new night. In this one there was a scimitar blade of light at the limit of my vision, a Moorish moon brightening the sky. The cold clean light hurt my eyes.
I closed them. Opened them. Everything was red. I discovered I could blink. I could feel arms, legs, chest…the parts that make the image of a man.
I could not move the man, though, nor my head to see. I blinked and cleared the red with my eyelids. Black swam into the void. But it wasn’t complete.
My blood pounded in my head and heart, a torrent growing in my veins. The red came back for just a moment and so I found my anger.
The words were falling into place now. The words of my life.
Sky. Space. Suns. Night. Moon.
It was night and they were stars. Distant stars. This concept was immense, powerful, overwhelming. I reached out to touch them but I couldn’t move my arm. They were so far away. So beautiful. Glittering promises in the night sky.
Sorrow. This was new. The rush of discovery brought joy.
And in this way I was born. Is this the way all men are born? Through discovery?
I was a creature, I told myself, made of bone and muscle and breath and blood. But not just that. I was made of words and sorrow and joy and anger and pain.
But most of all I was made of hunger.