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Thursday, February 6, 2014


            Roland stood at the edge of the Mississippi River, his vision blurring slightly as the thousands of tons of water surged past him lazily. It had been many decades since he had crossed over the river, and even though he had hitchhiked to Cape Girardeau from Las Vegas, he now stood paralyzed in front of the great twisting snake of water.

            He leaned against the wall that separated the river walk from the train tracks behind him and closed his eyes tightly, his skin itching and crawling uncomfortably and when the wind tossed some of the spray onto his face he retched and backed away slowly.

            He was about to leave when he suddenly caught the bitter scent of old blood on the wind and when he turned he saw a woman on the other side of the train tracks lounging on a green bench with her back turned to him. There was nothing special about her to the naked eye: she was middle-aged and wore an unflattering floral dress that fell to her ankles, but there was something incredibly eerie about her that Roland couldn’t quite place. He knew from her smell and from the unnaturally smooth movement of her head as she turned to look at him that she was a vampire.

            He slowly approached her, all too aware of the type of vampires that lived west of the Mississippi. The vampire clans to the east dumped their convicts across the river, counting on the water to keep them in their exile. Every crazed revenant with rabid bloodlust or who had failed in their attempts to depose a vampiric leader wandered aimlessly across the better part of a continent, as dangerous to each other as they were to the humans. Roland was no exception: he had murdered fellow vampire en masse in his youth and had been sent not only away from his homeland but across this second barrier as well.

            As he approached, the female vampire twisted her torso so that she could watch him and Roland paused slightly as he noticed the skin on her cheek was livid and twisted into a cross-shaped scar.

            “Roland Blutsauger Esser.” The woman said with a smile. He walked in front of her and she settled back onto the steel bars of the bench, “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

            Roland blinked at her for a moment before he opted to not ask the cliché question about how she knew his name. Instead he growled, “Who are you?”

            She lovingly patted the brown rectangle that sat in her lap and Roland was startled to see that it was a bible. She was unusual for a vampire in that she was not beautiful in any way: her face was oblong and jug-jawed, with high cheek bones that made her expression seem permanently creased into a not-so-genuine smile. Her hair was curly and sand-colored, and even though it was pulled back into a ponytail, stray curls looped around her skull like the frayed ends of rope. Her lips were tiny and thin, and her tongue quested out to lick them every few minutes as if it were bored and seeking something to keep it occupied, and her eyes were the color of light swamp water with a strange, feverish luminescence. The only thing really remarkable about her was the brand on her cheek, which looked like it had never properly healed.

            “I am a messenger from a higher power, Mr. Esser.”

            “And do you have a name?”


            “Huh.” Roland gestured down at the bible, “You working late or something?”

            “In a way.” She stood up and extended a hand, “I’m here to talk to you about the Choir of Zuriel.”

            Roland folded his arms and stared into her strange face, “I have heard rumors about the Choir. Didn’t you take down four hospitals back east?”

            “Yes.” Dinah shrugged, “I do not like to brag though: we are simply God’s tools, and the victory is His, not ours.”

            “Excuse me?”

            The strange vampire moved a hand from her bible and set it down on Roland’s bare forearm for just a moment. White-hot pain surged through his skin, and when he looked down Dinah’s handprint had been seared into the flesh.

            “Wha…?” Roland recoiled and pressed his own hand to the burn, “What the hell?” his jaw dropped as a revelation dawned on him, “Oh my god.”

            “You are correct.” she lifted the bible and grinned, “The Choir are the tools of god, and our faith is in and of itself a weapon. This holy book gives me the strength to smite my foes with a mere touch. This strength is not mine alone,” her eyes surged with terrible light, and Roland found himself frozen in horror, “All those who join the Choir are blessed with True Faith, and we shall become God’s own holy legion.”

            The German vampire shook his head, “I don’t understand…”

            “Everything becomes clear once you join the Choir.” Dinah’s voice was breathless, almost as if simply talking about her faith made her insides hot; “Our divine leader asked me to find the exiles and to bring them into our fold. I have heard many stories about you, Roland. You were the top assassin in the European courts, rivaled by none, and yet you were cast out here simply for doing the bidding of your lord. Zuriel is a kind and forgiving leader to his flock and a merciless tool in the hands of God to his enemies.”

            Roland  backed away, his eyes wide with horror, “No.”


            “I am no follower,” Roland said, trying to hide how much the skin on his arm seethed with pain, “I have been alone so long that I wouldn’t know how to take orders.”

             Dinah cocked her head to the side, “All the more reason to join, Esser. Besides, Zuriel has the answer to all of your questions.”

            “Such as?”

            She grinned broader at him, and Roland could see that she had broken all of her teeth into sharp fangs, “Our faith lets us cross water.”

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