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Tuesday, July 15, 2014


            From where he lay on the ground, Roland could see carrion birds circling, nimble as angels on the evening breeze. His eyes tracked them intently, and, despite the small trickle of blood that ran from the corners of his mouth, he managed a smile. 

He was vaguely aware of a coldness spreading across his body from the gash that ran from his collar bone to his pelvis, and since the birds were circling closer he assumed that he, like the hundreds of other men that lay in their blood in the meadow, was displayed like a fine feast for the vultures. He imagined that he should be in an immense amount of pain if it weren’t for the fact that the armored horse that lay dead on top of his hips had managed to shatter his spine. All he felt was an intense cold that ran up his dying nerves towards his heart.

            His view was suddenly blocked by a young priest’s face, and Roland blinked in surprise, his mind returning to his broken body with a start. The man of God was probably in his mid-twenties, but his face was timeless and perfect in the way that a master’s paintings were. He smiled with his sculpted lips as he knelt beside the knight and gently put a hand on his shoulder, “You are in bad shape aren’t you, my son?”

Roland gasped, and the trickle at the corner of his mouth became a river. The monk pulled back his cowl and his blonde hair fell around his shoulders like a halo. Roland noticed despite his situation that the monk was missing the traditional shaved ring on the crown of his head.

            “I have been watching you, Childe. You are reckless. You charge into battle and take unnecessary risks.” the perfect mouth smiled further, “That must mean that you crave death.”

            Roland coughed and tried to turn his head away. He had not been on good terms with God for a long time, and there was something about the feverish brightness of the monk’s eyes that made the knight’s rapidly slowing heart tremble.

            The monk pulled a charm out of his pocket and held it up so that the light danced off of its faceted surface, “I believe that this is yours, is it not? Such a dainty trinket for a warrior…I found it on the floor of the barracks after the army had left for this little massacre. It was careless of you to leave it behind. What would your Jacinthe think?”

            The dying knight’s eyes opened sharply, and he looked over at the monk and gasped, trying desperately to form words. His heart stumbled and stopped just as the monk’s lips parted and a pair of elegantly curved fangs caught the dying light.

            Roland’s eyes shot open, and he realized that he had been asleep. He shook himself to get reoriented and glanced over to where Steven lay in a huddled heap on the floor in a puddle of sweat, his entire body shaking with a fever. The vampire got to his feet, still stiff from his newly healed injuries, and before he quite knew what he was doing, he knelt over the fallen man and sniffed the air.

            The unmistakable stench of sickness hung around him thickly, and it made Roland recoil with a quiet hiss. Steven’s eyes opened and he sat bolt upright so quickly that the vampire could see the blood drain from his head.

“What are you doing?” the doctor gasped.

Roland smiled enigmatically, and Steven tried not to stare at the livid scab that had once been a gaping bullet hole between his eyes, “How do you feel?”

Steven looked around him rapidly and shrugged, “Like I was hit by a truck, actually. Where are we?”

“In a warehouse off of the main road. I dragged you here after I regained my strength. It isn’t safe out in the open.”

Steven swallowed hard and put a hand to the two needle-thin punctures in his throat, “I remember that you…I thought you…what did you do to me?”

“Well, considering what you must have witnessed since you got here, I don’t think that it would do me any good to bullshit you.” Roland opened his mouth wide enough to show off his incisors and Steven swore loudly and scuttled backwards along the floor like a horrified crustacean. “I’ll spare you the details. What you need to know is that the generally accepted opinion held by humans that they are the top of the food chain is utter crap. My kind has hunted your kind for as long as there have been hominids, possibly longer. That being said, I am not your enemy,” he jerked a thumb towards the large steel door behind him, “The things outside are.”

 Steven’s eyes were so wide that Roland could count his veins, but the scientist inside him took over, “What are you called? Did we evolve from you, or was it the other way around? What do you eat?”

“We don’t have a specific name, I have no idea, and we feed from living blood,” Roland gave him an almost apologetic shrug, “Which brings us to your original question as to what I did to you.”

There was a very ugly silence. Steven finally closed both of his eyes and hissed, “This is either a very convincing nightmare…”


“Or I know of a lot of colleagues who would literally shit bricks if I told them all that has happened here.”

Roland stood up, and his cat-like movements made Steven shudder, “I also have some bad news, friend.”


“The creatures outside are human beings like yourself. They are suffering from an incredibly potent disease that my kind is able to transmit through direct contact. You have been bitten by one of them, so…”

Steven shut his eyes tightly, and his labored breathing sped up until it rang through Roland’s eardrums like gunfire, “I’m infected.”


“There isn’t a cure, is there?”

“No. You are still in the early stages of the disease, so you have a little time before…well, before you end up like them.”

“How long?”

“A day at best.”

Steven’s hands shook, but he still managed to bury his head in them. After a long moment, he cleared his throat, “How much is known about this disease?”

“My kind has known about it for centuries. Yours has various legends about it.”


“No, not zombies.”

“But those things that we fought out there…they were soulless, decomposing creatures.”


“So they were zombies.”

“No. Not zombies at all. Nothing like your zombie myths.”

“That sounds exactly like our zombie myths.”

“No. I’m telling you. It isn’t the same at all.”

Steven nodded slowly, and let out a long breath. Finally, he set his jaw firmly, “Dr. Wagner kept fairly details records about the people he treated in town. Maybe I can supplement them a bit from a first-hand perspective. At least that would make my death fairly helpful.”

“To who?”

“To the next CDC team that arrives. I can’t leave them unprepared to deal with all this.” Steven caught Roland’s sharp look, “I’m a doctor, I can’t just die. That would be very unscientific.”

“You are taking all of this very well.”

“I’m in deep emotional shock, what with watching you sustain horrific injuries without dying and seeing people getting massacred like cattle. Learning that I’m about to die horrifically is sort of part for the course.”

Roland’s alien eyes appraised him carefully, “Dying isn’t so bad, really. It’s an end to pain, and all of the fear that comes with living.”

Steven snorted, “You say that like you’ve done it.”

“I have.” He carefully unbuttoned his blood-soaked Hawaiian print shirt, and Dr. Yeats’ breath caught in his throat when he saw the horrific scar that ran the length of the creature’s torso. Roland added, “All of the members of my race wear the scars that killed them. We all were like you once: we were all dying when we changed into whatever the hell it is that we are. I had the pleasure of dying, but I didn’t get any of the peace that usually comes with it.”

“How…? What killed you?”

“An axe. A big horse. A broken heart. It was a mixture of things.”

“Am I going to…am I going to become one of you?”

The vampire looked at the dying man for a long moment, and Steven trembled at the intensity of that eye contact like his ancient, wooly ancestors must have when a cold, ravenous predator finally bit into them. Finally, he slowly shook his head, “No. You are going to become like one of the people you saw out there, like the one that bit you.”           

Steven swore quietly, “I’m going to become a zombie.”

“No.” Roland answered firmly, “Not a zombie.”

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