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Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The Rising - Chapter 37: 'Fight It'

Carl opened the door and we were faced with what he had called ‘our room’.

All four solid brick walls were coloured with grime and brown streaks indicated where blood had splattered and long since dried. Two single metal bed frames that held yellow and brown-stained mattresses sat in the middle of the room. A toilet sat in the corner, which used to be white but was now an unhealthy shade of brown. With no windows, the only light in the room came from a bare bulb hanging from a wire in the ceiling.

Believe it or not, this is the best one,’ Carl said.

I looked at him and my face must have told him I didn’t believe him.

It’s not exactly the Hilton, I know, but with the crazy shit that happens to rebirths in here, I’m fucked if I’m going to clean it.’

What kind of crazy shit happens to rebirths?’ I asked, almost wishing I hadn’t.

Carl looked me up and down. ‘You seem to be dealing with it pretty well so there’s no point telling you any of the horror stories. Don’t worry, you’re not going to be here for long, just until Roxy’s guy picks you up.’

We reluctantly stepped inside. The door slammed shut behind us and we heard a metal bolt slide shut.

Hey, what are you doing?’ I shouted.

It’s okay, it’s standard procedure. Just taking precautions.’

Precautions against what?’ Skinner asked.

Breakfast will be here soon,’ was Carl’s cryptic reply, ‘You’ll see.’

Left alone in the unholy cesspit, neither of us dared to sit on the dirty beds. I couldn’t bring myself to go over to the corner of the room where the toilet stood and I hoped that Mother Nature wouldn’t call on me any time soon.

Have you been here before?’ I asked Skinner.

Not here but somewhere like it. There are places like this all over the city. Some of the buildings you see that look derelict or abandoned are actually used by the vampires to hold their recently-turned brothers and sisters or to provide shelter for those who are in trouble.’

The size and scale of the vampires’ operation shocked me. ‘This is unbelievable. How do they manage to keep such a low profile?’

I’m not exactly an expert but in my opinion it doesn’t seem very difficult at all. The humans, especially The Brotherhood, always thought the vampire community was small but from what I hear, the treaty never stated exact population levels that had to be maintained.’

Have you read the treaty?’

No. Very few have. You just hear second and third-hand bits of information.’

I guess it made sense in a twisted kind of way. Who would ever think that there were outposts all over the city? Who would ever think to examine the contents of all the abandoned buildings? There were so many, how would they ever know where to start?

I was taken to a place like this and spent a few weeks being acclimatised to the way of life.’

A few weeks?’

That guy was right. This room is the Hilton compared to where I stayed. Trust me. At least they bother to clear the bodies out of here.’

What bodies?’

The vampires that drive around like the one who picked us up also search for food. They pick up people who don’t look like they’ll be missed. Thankfully, they were all dead by the time I got to feed on them. I don’t know if I could bring myself to kill someone for food, no matter how bad the hunger was.’

So you’ve never killed anyone?’

No. I worked in the morgue at The Brotherhood. Until yesterday I only had to deal with bodies very occasionally but I managed to train myself to go days, sometimes weeks without feeding.’

As soon as Skinner finished his sentence, my hands went to my stomach. The fire in my belly had returned and I dropped to my knees. I reached a hand out and grabbed the bed frame, trying to steady myself as I fought against the excruciating pain.

Fight it, Tom,’ Skinner said, ‘Remember what I told you yesterday. It hurts like hell. You’d suck anyone’s blood right now to make the pain go away but remember, it does go away.’

I remembered alright. I remembered that the pain had gone away but my animal desire to feed on human blood had only been kept at bay while we made our escape from the clutches of The Brotherhood. Now that we were in the clear, the hunger had returned. My thoughts turned to Captain Stein.

What happened to him? Did they kill him? Did he turn? What would he do to me if he found me?

Another sharp stab to the guts brought me back to reality. My hand left the bed frame and my body hit the floor. I grabbed my stomach and writhed in agony.

My canine teeth shifted in their sockets. My jaw clicked, as if my whole mouth was re-aligning itself.

Skinner’s hand gripped my shoulder and he started to say something that was undoubtedly reasonable and comforting but I beat his arm away with my fist and screamed at him.

Get off me! Don’t fucking touch me!’

Skinner took a step back. ‘You’re turning.’

I moved my tongue round my mouth. My canine teeth had grown. My mouth was filling with saliva. I tried to swallow it but the hunger had arrived and it wasn’t going to go away any time soon.

I’m ready to feed.

There was a commotion outside our room. In addition to Carl’s voice, I heard another man and what sounded like two other people.

Two young people. A boy and a girl.

What are you doing?’

Why are we here?’

Who are you?’

You’re here because you’re special. We need you.’

There were two muffled screams and then the voices stopped.

I heard the bolt sliding across and the door creaked as it slowly opened a fraction. It opened just far enough for Carl to throw something inside and say ‘Enjoy your breakfast’ before slamming the door shut and locking it again. Skinner edged over to the door to see what Carl had dropped in our room.

From my position on the floor by the bed, I could already see what he had delivered. My mind became ravaged by an awful tangle of hunger and repulsion, pulling my conscience in opposite directions.

Our breakfast was a little girl, no more than ten years old.

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