Oct 01 2009

Thablue’s Review Forum

Published by at 6:22 pm under Review Forums

Please see the comments below.  Thanks!

24 responses so far

24 Responses to “Thablue’s Review Forum”

  1. thablueon 05 Oct 2009 at 6:53 pm

    About the Author: Hiya – my name’s N.L.Blue – and I am old enough to know and too young to know better. I grew up in The States, but currently live in the west of Ireland. I am a professional musician, published poet and – more recently – part-time piecemeal writer of comics and novels. I can take criticism, appreciate it more if it’s constructive, and am very happy to have found a place where that just might happen.

    What I’m writing: I’m currently writing a few things at once, but this first bit is part of a Novel about a 4,000 year old Vampire named Rue, and some difficulty she gets into, among other things. There is a plan to have Graphic Novels attached as well. This novel (actually it’s a trilogy) – and the setting – have been in my head for ages, and there are other novels with other supers cueing up behind this one, all the characters pushing and shoving for attention. Rue is simply the loudest right now :)

    My target audience: I guess anyone from 13 up. Maybe younger than 13, although there are adult themes, swearing, sex, violence, etc.

    How thick is my skin?: Well, I am a singer, lead singer of two bands, a songwriter, and poet already. So my skin I’d say is fairly thick.

    Comparable works: I suppose my work in this novel might have comparison’s to Anne Rice’s, and these days, The Twilight Series, although my Vampire is more Lestat than Edward in personality. I have developed my own take on what Vampirisim is (although that part isn’t written yet outside my head) I think it is fairly original. We shall see.

    What I want in a critique: I want your opinions, and advice. I may take it, I may not, but I am very glad to have a place to share this, my first endeavor to put on paper what goes on in my head.

    Anyway, Here goes:

    BLOOD BOURNE
    Book 1 of the Rue The Vampire Trilogy
    A Novel by N. L. Blue

    Chapter One: Rue

    Smoke and screams fill the air around me. I cannot move, cannot breathe, cannot scream. I try to run, but my feet are heavy as lead, and I sink, suffocating, into the burning floor as monstrous shapes spin and leer around me, formless faces bathed in ash and blood. Their razor tipped hands tear at my skin, ripping and clawing at me as I am jerked and torn like a rag doll between them. Red-hot blades lash out at me, glinting in front of silver eyes that flash in dark cruel faces. Finally I have the breath to scream as blades of fire pierce my flesh, burning light that sears me into eternal and burning darkness. I am falling into a night as hot as a furnace while someone is laughing, a high-pitched, maniacal laugh, almost like a scream – and I sit bolt upright, tearing unknowing at the tangled sheets of my own bed, a siren splitting the night as it speeds past on the street below my window.

    I take a shuddering breath as the nightmare fades away. The same dream again, over and over. It takes me a few long moments to remember where I am, who I am, what I am. Each time the dream seems to linger for longer. Untangling myself from the sheets, I get up, making my way across my open-plan flat to the fridge, my pale tattooed arm glinting in the glow of the light as I hold the door open – and stare disbelieving at three wrung out and quite empty iv bags.
    “Shit”
    I had forgotten, still half-asleep. Fresh out. Fuck.
    Wait…this doesn’t make any sense. Jude was just here…was it two days ago? I rummage through and squeeze out a few of the bags, in denial, hoping that a drop might be left – but no – not a one. Waking up a bit more now, I turn to the sink – and drop the bag in my hand. Piled next to the basin are 4 more bags – empty. And the counter and sink are stained crimson.
    “Shit, shit!”
    Something is wrong – drastically wrong. Fully awake now, I move to check the door, then the corrugated shutters on every window. All shut tight. I check the wards and the alarm – still armed. No one could have got in – not without waking me. I move back to the sink, gripping the edge with cold hands and staring at the dark stain around the drain. No one but me. I know that I poured it all out. Something in my gut tells me that I did this, no one else. In my sleep. I can feel the truth of it. And judging by the way I feel now, it must’ve been a while ago. And the worst of it is I have no memory of doing this at all. No memory of the past few nights. Nothing. Which meant the blackouts were getting worse. Which was a bad thing. A very bad thing. At the scent and sight of the mess, my stomach rumbles like thunder. Swearing again, I move to the press, grabbing a small bottle of Iron supplements and spilling out a handful as I fumble around the bedside locker for my mobile. They should last just long enough in my system to take the edge off. I hit the speed dial and swallow the handful of tablets as I wait for an answer. The voice on the other end is all too awake for my liking.

    “Where the hell have you been? Do you have any idea what time it is?”

    Shit. Must’ve over slept. Oh well –

    “Not quite sunset, by the feel of it. Listen, Jude, I really need some more nourishment…”

    “I’ve been ringing you for six days, Rue! Would it kill you to pick up the phone?”

    “Probably not” I sigh – better make nice, he’s in a bad mood, and I should’ve called…”it’s the heat…I just tend to sleep when it’s like this. Summer. You know.”

    “And drink, obviously – how did you go though all of that so quickly?”

    “Well…” I want to tell him about the blackouts, but I’ll wait until he’s actually here. I hate talking on the phone. Don’t like talking in general, really.

    Then it sinks in.

    “Six days?”

    “And nights. I was going to come over if you didn’t answer tonight.”

    “Shit.”

    “Listen – are you okay?”

    I shake my head and run a hand through my tangled black hair – then remember that he can’t see me.
    “Fine. I’m fine. Just … well, I really – really need some more – soon.”

    Gods I hate all this talking in code shit. But it’s necessary. You never know who might be listening. Another reason I hate talking on the phone.

    “It’ll be a few hours before I can get any more. I can maybe get a couple to you by…3… but after that I’ll need more time. It isn’t easy, you know.”

    “Shit.”

    Shit shit shit shit. I’m already shaking. Six days is too long. Dangerously long. And it’s like the nightmare took the last of what I had in me away.

    “Rue?”

    “Yeah?”

    “Will you last?”

    “Yeah…don’t worry.”

    “Don’t do anything stupid in the meantime, okay?”

    “Yeah. Okay.”

    I end the call, toss the phone on the bed, toss the empty bags, clean up the mess, and head for the shower. I can feel my own heart beat and flutter in my chest, like a bird caged with a cat. Not good. I turn the tap to cold, and get in. The water brings relief – for the moment anyway, and I just stand under the spray for a while and try to calm down. The damn dream, every time I try to sleep it off, always the same – and I can’t shake the feeling that comes with it – panic, terror – helplessness. That’s the worst of it – not being able to fight back. Fuck it. I need to get out. I turn the tap to hot and finish washing. Stepping out, I swipe steam from the mirror and take a good look. I can see the rising need behind my pale blue eyes, but I don’t think anyone else would notice. Yet. I dry off and dress quickly; jeans, T-shirt and my favorite old leather coat, vintage 1933 – remembering to bring my sunglasses as I head to the lift.

    My flat is the top floor of an old converted Nineteenth Century office building – mostly converted anyway. The whole thing’s mine. I use the top floor to live in, two for storage, the ground floor I rent to a used bookstore and the basement I use as a garage. On the whole it’s convenient, private and safe – with the bookstore providing extra security during the day. I take the lift all the way down, cutting up through the garage to the outside. It’s not the only exit, but it’s the dark side of the building, and I’m feeling way too jittery to step into the light and noise of the Dublin summer night without warming up to it first. Walking past my old cars and bikes – well, one actual bike, the other two are in various stages of rebuilding – I exit through the small door – and stand for a moment, breathing in the evening. The sun has just set beneath the shadows of the buildings around me, although the light of sunset is reflected in the river, giving everything around me a crimson glow as night begins to creep into the eastern sky.
    Out of habit more than anything, I carefully scan the street and surrounding buildings, doorways and rooftops before heading south, moving at a slow pace despite the rising need within, heading away from the main street, further into the dark.
    I leave the clubs and pubs behind me, and move deeper into the old industrial streets – now mostly “under development” – cranes and scaffolding of soon to be shiny new glass buildings rise around me like bones in some strange elephant’s graveyard, their shadows bending and crossing one another, creating patterns of light and dark that would entrance me if I weren’t so damn thirsty. I still can’t quite believe I did that. It wasn’t like me to waste anything – I can’t, every drop is precious – and to dump it all down the drain? What the hell, even in my sleep I wouldn’t do that…but I did. And to make matters worse, the nightmare still hangs around me, and with it, a growing anxiety – like I’ve forgotten something important, and very soon I will remember, but it‘ll be too late.
    I turn the corner and head for the docks. I need the space – sea air and all that. The night grows darker as I head east, and darkness brings some relief.

    I slip through the Saturday crowds smoking outside the pub doors, making myself unnoticeable – although I notice them, the life and heat radiating from their bodies in waves that I can almost taste. Again something in my gut turns and snarls and I move faster, away – towards the Quays and the Sea. I can move pretty damn quickly when I want to, and, once I am pretty clear of any people I pick up the pace. Soon enough I reach the North Wall, and meander my way out through the Shipyards and warehouses. It’s quiet enough here, and I relax my hold on myself a bit, letting the night sink in. I want to be inside the darkness – it’s comforting, like a mother’s embrace. Heading for the tallest of the new buildings under construction, I climb up; hand over hand, towards the top – sometimes dangling over empty space, sometimes almost falling and catching myself at the last second – risking a fall more than a few times to distract myself from my worry and thirst. It even works – for a while. Until I reach the top in a leap, and land on the half-finished rooftop to the surprise of a small group well-dressed men who are in the process of dangling a less well-dressed man over the opposite edge. It surprises me too – in my enjoyment of the night, I hadn’t heard or smelled them – and for a few seconds, no one moves. Then all hell breaks loose.

    One of the men – the one not holding the feet of the man hanging over the edge – pulls out an automatic begins to fire away without a word. He’s fast, I’ll give him that. But I’m faster. Still two if his bullets connect, one to my arm, and one to my left side – the pain burns like fire and I feel the hot flow of my own blood down my arm, as I dodge the rest of the onslught. Moving at a blurring speed. I hear the other men yell in surprise as I am suddenly beside them. I use all my strength and yank all three together away from the edge, tossing them to the middle of the rooftop. That costs me some effort, and probably hurts the victim as well as the tormentors, as they land in a heap of suits and shiny shoes – but at least he’s not dead. Yet. The man with the automatic finds me in his sights and shoots again but this time I move faster and he misses as I slip behind him in a fraction of a second and wait for him to turn around before twisting the gun from his grip – snapping his arms like twigs in the process. He screams and the control I have over myself slips away just a little bit more. I feel my fangs push against my gums as the he keeps screaming in pain and shock and falls to the floor. A bullet whizzes past me, then another, and I turn in time to take yet another full in the chest – one of the men I tossed from the edge has got to his feet and is busy reloading. I guess he didn’t get an automatic. The wound hurts and I start to get mad. I take a running leap and grab the shooter by his expensive lapels – using my momentum to spin him around and toss him into the open construction lift a few meters away with a rattling crash. He doesn’t get up. I turn to the other suit with him – he’s already up and running away but there’s nowhere to go. I am on him in seconds – one blow and he is out like a light. I turn back then, toward the bloke whose arms I broke…he is whimpering and scuttling backwards into a corner of the rooftop. I cross over to him and stare at him for a long lingering moment, feeling my hunger rise and turn like a snake uncoiling inside me, knowing what that looks like and enjoying the terror in his face before I knock him senseless with one blow. I stand up then, proud of myself for not ripping his throat out.

    Everything is suddenly quiet, and I can smell my own blood in the rising wind. The two initial wounds have already healed, and the chest would is in the process. I am still in control, but just barely as I cross the rooftop and bend down to pick up the guns – and realize that I’ve forgotten someone just as the shotgun blast tears through me from behind. The blast knocks me forwards onto the rooftop and for a moment I lie still, eyes closed, my hunger raging into a dark whirlwind of need as I feel the heat of my own blood spill out beneath me. A rough kick to my side rolls me over, and I open my eyes into another blast at close range – fired by the not-so-well-dressed man – the bastard whose life I just saved. He misses taking off my head by an inch at most. And that does it. I simply let it all go. The gun goes off again, but I am already moving. I rip the gun away and toss it over the edge with one hand as I grab him up by the throat with the other – and then everything goes all disjointed, like a film with most of the stills missing, but the reel still spinning like mad. He screams as he sees my eyes and begins to flail and fight, kicking and punching at me like a toddler, with much the same effect – then he begins to cry and beg…but it is far too late. For both of us. I sink into the fire of the thing inside me, reveling in the freedom of it. Pure Animal. All I know is the hunger, the blood, the prey and, the sweet, sweet release as I pull him still struggling in vain close to me, sink my teeth into his neck and drink my fill, in deep, dark draughts. My heart begins to beat in time with his as his blood speeds into me, coursing through me in a rush greater than any drug. My ears ring with the thrill of it and I sink down to the rooftop, dragging him struggling down with me into blessed oblivion. Gods I’ve missed this sweet, blissfull blood high. It’s been too long, far too long. The blood courses into me, and through my waiting body like a flash flood through a waiting desert. I am in Heaven.

    Gradually he stops fighting – and I let him drop to one side as everything fades to a sweet, swinging dream high. The sky and the ground change places as I am rocked like a babe in the womb. I lie on the rooftop, spinning with the pleasure of it. It’s been a long time since we have hunted. Myself and I. I lick the blood from my lips and take a purposeful deep breath. I don’t know how long I lie there, but gradually I become aware that there are sirens in the distance – and coming closer. Slowly I stand and stretch every limb, feeling power course through me as I look around at the damage I have done. The man on the rooftop beside me is unconscious and barley breathing. He may live, he may not. One man is still unconscious in the lift, one unconscious a few feet from me – and the other – with the broken arms – is slumped and out cold. I can smell the fear and pain in the air. And that brings me back to myself a bit. Regret seeps into the high, spoiling the moment. I lost control. Something that hasn’t happened in nearly two decades. Something I swore would never happen again.
    The sirens and the cars they belong to scream into the street below. Nothing to be done now but to get away. I gather up the guns, and the unconscious men and drag them to the lift – piling the men in and tossing in the weapons, then closing the door and sending the lift down to the ground. That should buy me some time.

    I go over the side, jumping down ten stories and landing in the darkness of the laneway as the police cars skid to a halt in the lot. The blood thrills through me as my body changes it and makes it my own. I hear shouts and radio blips and squeals behind me – but I am already far away, running past next building and around the next, until I get to a place where I can climb up again and jump rooftop to rooftop. I don’t slow down until I am at the building opposite my own. I wait for a moment there – the blood high still pounding through me, struggling to regain some control. Part of me is fully aware that I’ve fucked up. I am fully healed – but covered in blood – nearly all of it my own. More of which is back there at the building site. Not to mention my fingerprints and DNA and whatever else. Jesus I’ve made a mess of things. I take a deep breath, attempt to run my hand through my tangled and blood-caked hair before jumping down into the dark laneway below, walking slow and as casually as I can over to my own building.

    I get to the side door without incident – it’s pretty late, not very many people around. I am just typing in the key-code when the bookstore entrance a few feet away opens wide and light spills out into the street, along with a sandy haired, twenty-something woman, her arms full of books. For the second time in one evening, I am the one surprised. And not simply by her appearance, but by her appearance…she looks exactly like someone I used to know – a long, long time ago. Not just looks like – no, she could be her. It’s uncanny, and for a moment I am in the past, swept away in a rush of memory. She jumps and gives a little shriek at the sight of me, dropping some of the books – and the moment passes, and I have to think of a reason to be standing here, covered in blood, and I realize that I lost my sunglasses somewhere and I turn away before she sees my eyes.

    “Oh” She leans down, picking up the books. “Sorry – you startled me. Are you alright?”

    I should help her, but I can’t – instead I pull away from the panel of light from the doorway, back into the shadows.

    “I’m fine…just…heading in for the night.”

    She stands up, books in hand, and looks from me to the keypad and back. “Oh – you must be the landlady – wow, I thought you’d be older.” Then she stops, grimacing. “Sorry, that was rude.”

    I shrug, and smile slightly, still in the shadows. “It’s okay. I’m older than I look.” Okay that was a cheesy thing to say. Moron.

    After an awkward moment, she continues. “Sorry, Mr. Donnelly didn’t tell me your name. I’ve taken over the bookshop – and the lease. Mr. Donnelly told your Solicitor? I was just doing inventory.”
    I blink – I never got the notice – but then again, my Solicitor has strict instructions to take care of everything and not to contact me unless absolutely necessary. I guess a change in the leaseholder isn’t that necessary. I’ve seen a few come and go. When I don’t answer, still caught up in what has just happened and my spinning thoughts, she leans forward, trying to see me better, and I try to pull back a bit more into the shadows – but there is streetlight behind me as well, and she gets a glimpse of my clothes.

    “Jesus_ Your shirt -!”

    I look down and realize that my once white t-shirt is now in dripping crimson shreds. My jeans and jacket as well. I look back up and meet her eyes for a second, then look away.
    “Um…I got in a fight…I’m okay”

    I have to get inside – but she is now standing in my doorway. I have to risk it – I take a step closer.
    “Sorry – I’m really wrecked.” I give her another smile, projecting as much ease and well being as I can muster – but it doesn’t seem to be working. She frowns.

    “That’s a lot of blood. Are you sure you’re all right? Should I call someone?”

    “No – I’m fine” – I come up with a quick excuse – “Just…broke my nose – bleeds a lot.”

    Dumb – my nose is fine and she notices – but she doesn’t say anything, just frowns and gets out of the way as I punch in the key code again and the door clicks open. She is very close to me now, and I know I should say something before I head in…but I can’t figure out what. Fortunately, Jude picks just that moment to arrive, out of breath and carrying an insulated backpack.

    “Jesus, Rue –!”

    He stops, on seeing the girl and instantly corrects himself, brushing his longish brown hair back and smiling at her. She smiles back and looks at me, then him – and his priest uniform, as I like to call it – confusion and curiosity rising in her green eyes. But I don’t say anything. Jude takes everything in, my clothes, my eyes that I am still trying to hide, the half-open door, the girl – and clears his throat.

    “Sorry I’m so late” that’s to me – then he turns to the girl.

    “And you are…?”

    She smiles, and shakes his hand, her other arm full of a stack of books. “Jessica Lynch – good to meet you, Father.”

    He gives her that charming smile of his and I can feel the tension ease a bit.
    “Just call me Jude. I really don’t like all that ‘Father’ shite – good to meet you. I see you’ve already met my sister.”
    He gives me a nod, and I manage a smile as he turns back to me. “You should have called me earlier. I got here as soon as I could – lets get you inside and cleaned up, ya daft thing.”

    He pushes gently past the girl – Jessica – and she moves out of the way as I head inside. I give her a nod and manage a dumb “Bye” – before the door closes and I rush upstairs, leaving him to deal. He follows me up after a few moments, and switches on the light, tossing the backpack on the table in front of me. I collapse into a chair, and look up at him. “What did you tell her?”

    “That you have an anger management problem and drink too much and are always getting into fights, and I have to take care of you, like a good big brother. I think she likes me.”

    I glare at him, exasperated. “ Great! Now she’s afraid of me!”

    “She should be afraid of you, Rue! Look at you! What have you done?”

    The blood high is settling to a low and dizzying buzz now, leaving room for regret to hit me like a ton of bricks. I bury my head in my hands and tell him everything, starting with the nightmare and the spilt blood. He listens without interruption, – then shakes his head.

    “Christ, Rue – I…I’ve never known you to go that far – not in twenty years. What’s going on with you?”
    I shake my head, looking up to meet his eyes. “There could be more. The blackouts…maybe…I don’t know. Maybe this is…y’know. IT taking over.”

    He interrupts me. “No – no…you’re fine. Look, I’ll check into everything, and sort it all out. In the meantime, you’d better get cleaned up. I’ll burn those.”
    He nods to my clothes – and brings me the bin. I grimace and stand up, removing my now ruined favorite leather coat, jeans, t-shirt, everything is past saving…and tossing them one by one into the bin. Then I head for my second shower of the night. Jude talks to me through the open door as I wash.
    “I’ll grab tomorrows papers and bring them over – if anything else has happened, it should be in there somewhere. You check the web – and I’ll go to the hospital and see what’s going on with your rooftop.”

    I don’t answer, enjoying the feeling of the water against my skin. I had forgotten what fresh blood does to my senses – everything is more of what it is. Clearer, brighter, better. Taste, touch smell, sound, sight, emotions…it’s like I haven’t been truly alive in years. Stored blood gives me sustenance, nothing more. Jude pokes his head around the look door.

    “Rue?”
    I come back to the present. “Yeah. Thanks.”

    “And I think you’d better lay low for awhile. No more nighttime excursions – at least until I know more – okay?”

    I look at him through the glass, love welling up inside me for this man, my only friend. Blood tears sting my eyes and I smile. “Thanks, Jude. You are…good.”

    He smirks. “And you are high. I left the bags in the fridge. Don’t dump them out this time, okay? I could only get enough for a week, but we’ll sort something out soon enough. I’ll be back tomorrow night – I’ll lock up.”

    I nod and he heads off. I hear the door shut behind him, and I close my eyes, letting the water wash everything away – if only it could. But it can’t. What’s done is done. I stay in the shower until the water runs cold, wasteful, I know, but I need it. By the time I get out, the sun is rising, and, after checking the locks, I stumble into bed, hoping that today at least, I will not dream.

    (ok, that’s the first chapter….*waits with baited breath for input* )

  2. thablueon 05 Oct 2009 at 7:09 pm

    (oh, and sorry about all the typos! of course I only see them now :P)

  3. thablueon 09 Oct 2009 at 4:02 am

    BLOOD BOURNE
    (Re-vamped)
    By N.L. Blue

    Chapter One: Rue

    There’s a Demon in my blood. And if I let it out, all Hell will break lose.

    Smoke and screams fill the air around me. I cannot move, cannot breathe, cannot scream. I try to run, but my feet are heavy as lead, and I sink, suffocating, into the burning floor as monstrous shapes spin and leer around me, formless faces bathed in ash and blood. Their razor tipped hands tear at my skin, ripping and clawing at me as I am jerked and torn like a rag doll between them. Red-hot blades lash out at me, glinting in front of silver eyes that flash in dark cruel faces. Finally I have the breath to scream as the blades pierce my flesh, burning light that sears me into eternal pain. I am falling into a broiling sun, hotter than a thousand furnaces. I sink and burn to ash, slowly, while someone is laughing, a high-pitched, maniacal laugh, almost like a scream – and I sit bolt upright, tearing unknowing at the tangled sheets of my own bed, a siren splitting the night as it speeds past on the street below my window.

    I take a shuddering breath as the nightmare fades away. The same dream again, over and over. It takes me a few long moments to remember where I am, who I am, what I am. Each time the dream seems to linger for longer. Untangling myself from the sheets, I get up, making my way across my open-plan flat to the fridge, my pale tattooed arm glinting in the glow of the light as I hold the door open – and stare disbelieving at three wrung out and quite empty iv bags.
    “Shit”
    I had forgotten, still half-asleep. Fresh out. Fuck.
    Wait…this doesn’t make any sense. Jude was just here…was it two days ago? I rummage through and squeeze out a few of the bags, in denial, hoping that a drop might be left – but no – not a one. Waking up a bit more now, I turn to the sink – and drop the bag in my hand. Piled next to the basin are 4 more bags – empty. And the counter and sink are stained crimson.
    “Shit, shit!”
    Something is wrong – drastically wrong. Fully awake now, I move to check the door, then the corrugated shutters on every window. All shut tight. I check the wards and the alarm – still armed. No one could have got in – not without waking me. I move back to the sink, gripping the edge with cold hands and staring at the dark stain around the drain. No one but me. I know that I poured it all out. Something in my gut tells me that I did this, no one else. In my sleep. I can feel the truth of it. And judging by the way I feel now, it must’ve been a while ago. And the worst of it is I have no memory of doing this at all. No memory of the past few nights. Nothing. Which meant the blackouts were getting worse. Which was a bad thing. A very bad thing. At the scent and sight of the mess, my stomach rumbles like thunder. Swearing again, I fumble around the bedside locker for my mobile. I hit the speed dial and wait for an answer. The voice on the other end is all too awake for my liking.

    “Where the hell have you been? Do you have any idea what time it is?”

    Shit. Must’ve over slept. Oh well –

    “Not quite sunset, by the feel of it. Listen, Jude, I really need some more nourishment…”

    “I’ve been ringing you for six days, Rue! Would it kill you to pick up the phone?”

    “Probably not” I sigh – better make nice, he’s in a bad mood, and I should’ve called…”it’s the heat…I just tend to sleep when it’s like this. Summer. You know.”

    “And drink, obviously – how did you go though all of that so quickly?”

    “Well…” I want to tell him about the blackouts, but I’ll wait until he’s actually here. I hate talking on the phone. Don’t like talking in general, really.

    Then it sinks in.

    “Six days?”

    “And nights. I was going to come over if you didn’t answer tonight.”

    “Shit.”

    “Listen – are you okay?”

    I shake my head and run a hand through my tangled black hair – then remember that he can’t see me.
    “Fine. I’m fine. Just … well, I really – really need some more – soon.”

    Gods I hate all this talking in code shit. But it’s necessary. You never know who might be listening. Another reason I hate talking on the phone.

    “It’ll be a few hours before I can get any more. I can maybe get a couple to you by…3… but after that I’ll need more time. It isn’t easy, you know.”

    “Shit.”

    Shit shit shit shit. I’m already shaking. Six days is too long. Dangerously long. And it’s like the nightmare took the last of what I had in me away.

    “Rue?”

    “Yeah?”

    “Will you last?”

    “Yeah…don’t worry.”

    “Don’t do anything stupid in the meantime, okay?”

    “Yeah. Okay.”

    I end the call, toss the phone on the bed, toss the empty bags, clean up the mess, and head downstairs one level to my workout area. I’ve gotten into the habit, over time, of working through my restlessness though various martial arts. It’s good to stay busy, good to have goals. Tonight my entire being is shaking, however, and it’s difficult to stay focused. After only an hour, I give up, and head for the shower. I can feel my own heart beat and flutter in my chest, like a bird caged with a cat. Not good. I turn the tap to cold, and get in. The water brings relief – for the moment anyway, and I just stand under the spray for a while and try to calm down. The damn dream, every time I try to sleep it off, always the same – and I can’t shake the feeling that comes with it – panic, terror – helplessness. That’s the worst of it – not being able to fight back. Fuck it. I need to get out. I turn the tap to hot and finish washing. Stepping out, I swipe steam from the mirror and take a good look. I can see the rising need behind my pale blue eyes, but I don’t think anyone else would notice. Yet. I dry off and dress quickly; jeans, T-shirt, harness boots, and my favorite old leather coat, vintage 1933 – remembering to bring my sunglasses as I head to the lift.

    My home is the top floors of an old converted Georgian building – mostly converted anyway. The whole thing’s mine. I use the top floor to live in, two for gym space and storage, the ground floor I rent to a used bookstore and the basement I use as a garage. On the whole it’s convenient, private and safe – with the bookstore providing extra security during the day. I take the lift all the way down, cutting up through the garage to the outside. It’s not the only exit, but it’s the dark side of the building, and I’m feeling way too jittery to step into the light and noise of the Dublin summer night without warming up to it first. Walking past my old cars and bikes – well, one actual bike, the other two are in various stages of rebuilding – I exit through the small door – and stand for a moment, breathing in the evening. It’s a late summer night, and although it’s nearly eleven, the sun has just set beneath the shadows of the buildings around me. The sun sets pretty late in Ireland in summer – which gives me less time awake – but the country more than makes up for it in the winter months, and there’s plenty of overcast days. All in all I’m fond of it here. The light of sunset is reflected in the Liffey, giving everything around me a crimson glow as night begins to creep up the eastern sky.
    Out of habit more than anything, I carefully scan the street and surrounding buildings, doorways and rooftops before heading east, moving at a slow pace despite the rising need within, heading away from the main streets, further into the dark.
    I leave the clubs and pubs behind me, and move deeper into the old industrial streets – now mostly “under development” – cranes and scaffolding of soon to be shiny new glass buildings rise around me like bones in some strange elephant’s graveyard, their shadows bending and crossing one another, creating patterns of light and dark that would entrance me if I weren’t so damn thirsty. I still can’t quite believe I dumped all that out. It wasn’t like me to waste anything – I can’t, every drop is precious – and to dump it all down the drain? What the hell, even in my sleep I wouldn’t do that…but I did. I must have. And to make matters worse, the nightmare still hangs around me, and with it, a growing anxiety – like I’ve forgotten something important, and very soon I will remember, but it‘ll be too late.
    I turn the corner and head for the docks. I need the space – sea air and all that. The night grows darker as walk into it, and darkness brings some relief from the shaking in my veins.

    I slip through the Saturday crowds smoking outside the pub doors, making myself unnoticeable – although I notice them, the life and heat radiating from their bodies in waves that I can almost taste. Again something in my gut turns and snarls and I move faster, away – towards the Quays and the Sea. I can move pretty damn quickly when I want to, and, once I am pretty clear of the crowds I pick up the pace. Soon enough I reach the North Wall, and meander my way out through the Shipyards and warehouses. It’s quiet enough here, and I relax my hold on myself a bit, letting the night sink in. I want to be inside the darkness – it’s comforting, like a mother’s embrace. Heading for the tallest of the new buildings under construction, I climb up; hand over hand, towards the top – sometimes dangling over empty space, sometimes almost falling and catching myself at the last second – risking a fall more than a few times to distract myself from my worry and thirst. It even works – for a while. Until I reach the top in a leap, and land on the half-finished rooftop to the surprise of a small group well-dressed men who are in the process of dangling a less well-dressed man over the opposite edge. It surprises me too – in my enjoyment of the night, I hadn’t heard or smelled them – and for a few seconds, no one moves. Then all hell breaks loose.

    One of the men – the one not holding the feet of the man hanging over the edge – pulls out a semi-automatic and begins to fire away without a word. He’s fast; I’ll give him that. But I’m faster. Still two of his bullets connect, one to my arm, and one to my left side – the pain burns like fire and I get a flashback to my nightmare as I feel the hot flow of my own blood down the inside of my jacket. Coming to my senses, I dodge the rest of the onslaught, moving as fast as I can. And I can move fast. The other men yelp in surprise as I am suddenly in their midst. I use all my strength and yank all three together away from the edge, tossing them to the middle of the rooftop. That costs me some effort, and probably hurts the victim as well as the tormentors, as they land in a heap of suits and shiny shoes – but at least the guy’s not dead. Yet. The man with the semi-automatic finds me in his sights and shoots again but this time I move faster and he misses as I slip behind him in a fraction of a second and wait for him to turn around before twisting the gun from his grip – snapping his arms like twigs in the process. He screams and the control I have over myself slips away just a little bit more. I feel my teeth push against the inside of my lips as he falls to the floor, still screaming. A bullet whizzes past me, then another, and I turn in time to take yet another full in the chest – one of the men I tossed from the edge has got to his feet and is now reloading in a panic. I guess he didn’t get an automatic. The wound hurts – bad – and I start to get mad. I take a running leap and grab the shooter by his expensive lapels – using my momentum to spin him around and toss him into the open construction lift a few meters away with a rattling crash. He doesn’t get up. I turn to the other suit with him – he’s already up and running away but there’s nowhere to go. I am on him in seconds – one blow and he is out like a light. I turn back then, toward the bloke whose arms I broke…he is whimpering and scuttling backwards into a corner of the rooftop. I cross over to him and stare at him for a long lingering moment, feeling my hunger rise and turn like a snake uncoiling inside me, knowing what that looks like – and enjoying the terror in his face before I knock him senseless with one blow. I stand up then, proud of myself for not ripping his throat out.

    Everything is suddenly quiet, and I can smell my own blood in the rising wind. I am bleeding profusely, and now that the fight’s over, the pain hits me hard, along with a dangerous thirst – a hunger that is now beginning to gnaw at my own insides. Not good. I am still in control, but just barely as I cross the rooftop and bend down to pick up the guns – and realize that I’ve forgotten someone just as the shotgun blast tears through me from behind. The blast knocks me forward onto the rooftop and for a moment I lie still, eyes closed, my hunger raging into a dark whirlwind of need as my own blood spills out in a pool beneath me. A rough kick to my side rolls me over, and I open my eyes into another blast at close range – fired by the not-so-well-dressed man – the bastard whose life I just saved. I move in a split second – and he misses taking off my head by an inch at most. And that does it. I simply let it all go. The gun goes off again, but I am already moving. I rip the gun away and toss it over the edge with one hand as I grab him up by the throat with the other – and then everything goes all disjointed, like a film with most of the stills missing, but the reel still spinning like mad. He screams as he sees my eyes and begins to flail and fight, kicking and punching at me like a toddler, with much the same effect – then he begins to cry and beg…but it is far too late. For both of us. I sink into the fire of the thing inside me, reveling in the freedom of it. Pure Animal. All I know is the hunger, the blood, the prey and, the sweet, sweet release as I pull him still struggling in vain close to me, sink my teeth into his neck and drink my fill, in deep, dark draughts. My heart begins to beat in time with his as his blood speeds into me, coursing through me in a rush greater than any drug. My ears ring with the thrill of it and I sink down to the rooftop, dragging him struggling down with me into blessed oblivion. Gods I’ve missed this sweet, blissful blood high. It’s been too long, far too long. The blood courses into me, and through my waiting body like a flash flood through a long dry desert. I am in Heaven.

    Gradually he stops fighting – and I let him drop to one side as everything fades to a sweet, swinging dream high. The sky and the ground change places as I am rocked like a babe in the womb. I lie on the rooftop, spinning with the pleasure of it. It’s been a long time since we have hunted. Myself and I. I lick the blood from my lips and take a purposeful deep breath. I don’t know how long I lie there, but gradually I become aware that there are sirens in the distance – and coming closer. Slowly I stand and stretch every limb, feeling power course through me as I look around at the damage I have done. The man on the rooftop beside me is unconscious and barley breathing. He may live, he may not. One man is still unconscious in the lift, one unconscious a few feet from me – and the other – with the broken arms – is still slumped and out cold. I can smell the fear and pain in the air. And that brings me back to myself a bit. Regret seeps into the high, spoiling the moment. I lost control. Something that hasn’t happened in nearly two decades. Something I swore would never happen again.
    The sirens and the cars they belong to screech to a halt in the street below. Nothing to be done now but to get away. Moving quickly, I go through all their pockets – finding a rather large amount of cocaine, heroin and hash, bagged and ready for sale – and a tidy sum of money, several credit cards, plus more passports then there are drug dealers – all of which have their photos and all of which I pocket, along with the drugs, cards and cash. I gather up the guns, and the unconscious men and drag them to the lift – piling the men in and tossing in the weapons, then closing the door and sending the lift down to the ground. That should buy me some time.

    I go over the side, first climbing, then jumping down the last four stories and landing in the darkness of the lane as the Sirens scream to a halt in the front lot. The blood thrills through me as my body changes it and makes it my own, healing my wounds, and making me tremble with the lingering rush. I want more. I always want more. But it’s too late now. I hear shouts and radio blips and squeals behind me – but I am already far away, running past next building and around the next, until I get to a place where I can climb up again and jump rooftop to rooftop. Nobody ever looks up. I don’t slow down until I am at the building opposite my own. I wait for a moment there – the blood high pounding through me, struggling to regain some control. Part of me – the Demon inside – is screaming for more more more! Loving the thrill of what I have just done, and needing, demanding we go deeper, into the night, let ourselves go and see what havoc we can wreak along the way. Part of me is fully aware that I’ve fucked up. I am fully healed – but covered in blood – nearly all of it my own. More of which is back there at the building site. Not to mention my fingerprints and DNA and whatever else. The second part of me wins. I’ve spent too many years maintaining control to lose it on one little slip up. But Jesus I’ve made a mess of things. I take a deep breath; attempt to run my hand through my tangled and blood-caked hair before jumping down into the dark lane below, walking slow and as casually as I can over to my own building.

    I get to the side door without incident – it’s pretty late, not very many people around. I am just typing in the key-code when the bookstore entrance a few feet away opens wide and light spills out into the street, along with a sandy haired, twenty-something woman, her arms full of books. For the second time in one evening, I am the one surprised. And not simply by her appearance, but by her appearance…she looks exactly like someone I used to know – a long, long time ago. Not just looks like – no, she could be her. It’s uncanny, and for a moment I am in the past, swept away in a rush of memory. I can see the heat from her body; smell the sun on her skin, the scent of her hair…vanilla. My heart catches in my throat and I can’t move for a moment. She jumps and gives a little shriek at the sight of me, dropping some of the books – and the moment passes, and I have to think of a reason to be standing here, covered in blood, and I realize that I lost my sunglasses somewhere and I turn away before she sees my eyes.

    “Oh” She leans down, picking up the books. “Sorry – you startled me. Are you alright?”

    I should help her, but I can’t – instead I pull away from the panel of light from the doorway, back into the shadows.

    “I’m fine…just…heading in for the night.”

    She stands up, books in hand, and looks from me to the keypad and back. “Oh – you must be the landlady – wow, I thought you’d be older.” Then she stops, grimacing. “Sorry, that was rude.”

    I shrug, and smile slightly, still in the shadows. “It’s okay. I’m older than I look.” Okay that was a cheesy thing to say. Moron.

    After an awkward moment, she continues. “Sorry, Mr. Donnelly didn’t tell me your name. I’ve taken over the bookshop – and the lease. Mr. Donnelly told your Solicitor? I was just doing inventory.”
    I blink – I never got the notice – but then again, my Solicitor has strict instructions to take care of everything and not to contact me unless absolutely necessary. I guess a change in the leaseholder isn’t that necessary. I’ve seen a few come and go. When I don’t answer, still caught up in what has just happened and my spinning thoughts, she leans forward, trying to see me better, and I try to pull back a bit more into the shadows – but there is streetlight behind me as well, and she gets a glimpse of my clothes.

    “Jesus_ Your shirt -!”

    I look down and realize that my once white t-shirt is now in dripping crimson shreds. My jeans and jacket as well. I look back up and meet her eyes for a second, then look away.
    “Um…I got in a fight…I’m okay.”

    I have to get inside – but she is now standing in my doorway. I have to risk it – I take a step closer.
    “Sorry – I’m really wrecked.” I give her another smile, projecting as much ease and well being as I can muster – but it doesn’t seem to be working. She frowns.

    “That’s a lot of blood. Are you sure you’re all right? Should I call someone?”

    “No – I’m fine” – I come up with a quick excuse – “Just…broke my nose – bleeds a lot.”

    Dumb – my nose is fine and she notices – but she doesn’t say anything, just frowns and gets out of the way as I punch in the key code again and the door clicks open. She is very close to me now, and I know I should say something before I head in…but I can’t figure out what. Fortunately, Jude picks just that moment to arrive, out of breath and carrying an insulated backpack.

    “Jesus, Rue –!”

    He stops, on seeing the girl and instantly corrects himself, brushing his longish brown hair back and smiling at her. She smiles back and looks at me, then him – and his priest uniform, as I like to call it – confusion and curiosity rising in her green eyes. But I don’t say anything. Jude takes everything in, my clothes, my eyes that I am still trying to hide, the half-open door, the girl – and clears his throat.

    “Sorry I’m so late” that’s to me – then he turns to the girl.

    “And you are…?”

    She smiles, and shakes his hand, her other arm full of a stack of books. “Jessica Lynch – good to meet you, Father.”

    He gives her that charming smile of his and I can feel the tension ease a bit.
    “Just call me Jude. I really don’t like all that ‘Father’ shite – good to meet you. I see you’ve already met my sister.”
    He gives me a nod, and I manage a smile as he turns back to me. “You should have called me earlier. I got here as soon as I could – lets get you inside and cleaned up, ya daft thing.”

    He pushes gently past the girl – Jessica – and she moves out of the way as I head inside. I give her a nod and manage a dumb “Bye” – before the door closes and I rush upstairs, leaving him to deal. He follows me up after a few moments, and switches on the light, tossing the backpack on the table in front of me. I collapse into a chair, and look up at him. “What did you tell her?”

    “That you have an anger management problem and drink too much and are always getting into fights, and I have to take care of you, like a good big brother. I think she likes me.”

    I glare at him, exasperated. “ Great! Now she’s afraid of me!”

    “She should be afraid of you, Rue! Look at you! What have you done?”

    The blood high is settling to a low and dizzying buzz now, leaving room for regret to hit me like a ton of bricks. I bury my head in my hands and tell him everything, starting with the nightmare and the spilt blood. He listens without interruption, – then shakes his head.

    “Christ, Rue – I…I’ve never known you to go that far – not in twenty years. What’s going on with you?”
    I shake my head, looking up to meet his eyes. “There could be more. The blackouts…maybe…I don’t know. Maybe this is…y’know. IT taking over.”

    He interrupts me. “No – no…you’re fine. Look, I’ll check into everything, and sort it all out. In the meantime, you’d better get cleaned up. I’ll burn those.”
    He nods to my clothes – and brings me the bin. I grimace and stand up, removing my now ruined favorite leather coat, jeans, t-shirt, everything is past saving…and tossing them one by one into the bin. The drugs, cards and passports I pile onto the table to deal with later. Jude frowns, but doesn’t say anything about any of that, just looks at the passports, shaking his head. I give him a shrug, then I head for my second shower of the night. Jude talks to me through the open door as I wash.

    “You deal with that shite on the table, okay? I’ll grab tomorrows papers and bring them over – if anything else has happened, it should be in there somewhere. You check the web – and I’ll go to the hospital and see what’s going on with your rooftop bad guys.”

    I don’t answer, enjoying the feeling of the water against my skin. I had forgotten what fresh blood does to my senses – everything is more of what it is. Clearer, brighter, better. Taste, touch smell, sound, sight, emotions…it’s like I haven’t been truly alive in years. Stored blood gives me sustenance, nothing more. Jude pokes his head around the look door.

    “Rue?”
    I come back to the present. “Yeah. Okay. Thanks.”

    “And I think you’d better lay low for awhile. No more nighttime excursions – at least until I know more – okay?”

    I look at him through the glass, emotions welling up inside me for this man, my only friend. Blood tears sting my eyes and I smile. “Ok. Thanks, Jude. You are…a good person.”

    He smirks. “And you are high. I left the bags in the fridge. Don’t dump them out this time, okay? I could only get enough for a week, but we’ll sort something out soon enough. I’ll be back tomorrow night – I’ll lock up.”

    I nod and he heads off. I hear the door click shut behind him, and I close my eyes, letting the water wash everything away – if only it could. But it can’t. What’s done is done. I stay in the shower until the water runs cold, wasteful, I know, but I need it. By the time I get out, the sun is rising, and, after checking the locks, I stumble into bed, hoping that today at least, I will not dream.

  4. Ragged Boyon 12 Oct 2009 at 7:59 pm

    I haven’t read this yet, but I’m guessing from the length that this is an incredibly long first chapter. Is there any way you can split this up into two (maybe three) chapters? It will probably make reading it less daunting.

  5. B. Macon 12 Oct 2009 at 9:08 pm

    5000 words or so. I’d sort of recommend splitting it into two, but it’s not wildly long. (My first two chapters were 10,000 words each before I cut them into three each).

  6. B. Macon 12 Oct 2009 at 10:16 pm

    –I don’t think Rue is an effective title for chapter 1. Will it mean anything to prospective readers?

    –”all Hell will break loose” is a cliche. I’d recommend shying away from cliche this early in the book.

    –”I cannot move, cannot breathe, cannot scream.” What would you think about “I can’t move, can’t breathe, can’t scream.”?

    –I’m not generally a fan of this sort of style (long paragraphs filled with description), but I feel it’s pretty effective in the second paragraph. But maybe we would care more about her fate if we knew something about her character?

    –”silver eyes that flash in dark cruel faces…” Show, don’t tell. Some more evocative details might help. Like the razor-tipped hands! I like that.

    –”I am falling into a broiling sun, hotter than a thousand furnaces.” Personally, I feel this is a bit overwrought. But, as I noted above, there are people more receptive to this style than I am.

    –”and I sit bolt upright, tearing unknowing at the tangled sheets of my own bed, a siren splitting the night as it speeds past on the street below my window.” I feel like this sentence should be shorter, more abrupt. I’d recommend trying to convey the feeling of the really short, intense breaths that people have when they wake up in the middle of an intense nightmare.

    –What’s the point of describing the car metaphorically as a siren? What are you trying to accomplish?

    –”The same dream again, over and over.” You can show us that this isn’t the first time without explicitly telling us. In fact, I’d recommend suggesting that as it happens.

    –”each time the dream seems to linger for longer.” I’d recommend replacing “linger” with a more sinister, violent verb. A bad odor lingers– I think this dream is a lot stronger than that.

    –Punctuation issues. “Shit.” should have a period between the word and the end-quote.

    “Wait…this doesn’t make any sense. Jude was just here…was it two days ago?” I feel that this could be shown rather than expositioned.

    “Waking up a bit more now…” Show us! Put us in this scene with details. For example, little things like your eyes coming into focus or getting full feeling in your extremities or your hair feeling better against the back of your neck or whatever. I’d recommend taking a notebook to bed tonight and jotting anything you feel in the five minutes right after you wake up. What turns “normal” first? What makes you feel like you’re actually ready to start the day?

    “And the worst of it is I have no memory of doing this at all.” Could probably be shown? It should be pretty obvious that she doesn’t remember if she’s speculating about other possibilities.

    “Which meant the blackouts were getting worse. Which was a bad thing. A very bad thing.” I think the last two sentences here are unnecessary.

    “At the scent and sight of the mess, my stomach rumbles like thunder.” I feel like the phrase “rumbles like thunder” is too artsy. That voice doesn’t feel real to me.

    “Shit. Must’ve over slept.” Overslept is one word. Also, this could be moved into dialogue. As a rule of thumb, I would recommend showing something with action first, dialogue if action doesn’t work, and exposition as a last resort.

    “I want to tell him about the blackouts, but I’ll wait until he’s actually here. I hate talking on the phone. Don’t like talking in general, really.” I think all of this could be shown in conversation.

    “Gods I hate all this talking in code shit. But it’s necessary. You never know who might be listening. Another reason I hate talking on the phone.” This exposition strikes me as necessary and effective. Aside from using needlessly cryptic language like “do you have the package?” which makes the characters sound like bad spies, it’s hard to cue the reader that the conversation is coded.

    “Tonight my entire being is shaking…” strikes me as too artsy. She’s on death’s door, right?

    I’m generally not fond of telling this in the present tense.

    “My home is the top floors of an old converted Georgian building – mostly converted anyway. The whole thing’s mine. I use the top floor to live in, two for gym space and storage, the ground floor I rent to a used bookstore and the basement I use as a garage.” Infodump. Is any of this necessary? I feel like it detracts from the whole ABOUT TO DIE thing.

    “Walking past my old cars and bikes – well, one actual bike, the other two are in various stages of rebuilding – I exit through the small door – and stand for a moment, breathing in the evening.” Too calm. She doesn’t even feel at the level of urgency of needing to use the bathroom badly.

    “It’s a late summer night, and although it’s nearly eleven, the sun has just set beneath the shadows of the buildings around me. The sun sets pretty late in Ireland in summer – which gives me less time awake – but the country more than makes up for it in the winter months, and there’s plenty of overcast days. All in all I’m fond of it here.” See the previous notes about urgency.

    Plotwise, is it logical for her to leave the apartment? Isn’t that where the blood is being delivered? If you really want to have her moving, it might make more sense to have her go to meet the deliverer somewhere. (You know, in case her home is under surveillance or something).

    “Then all hell breaks loose.” Still too early for cliche. ;-)

    “One of the men”– be more specific.

    “I use all my strength and yank all three together”– rather than the exposition “I used all my strength,” I would recommend a verb phrase that SHOWS strength. If she’s supernaturally powerful, you can take this over the top. Like ripping the three off their feet or whatever.

    “That costs me some effort…” Doesn’t feel like she’s actually in a fight. Too removed.

    “I guess he didn’t get an automatic.” This aside could be wittier. Or removed.

    “expensive lapels” feels like a forced insertion of an adjective. What about “silk lapels”? At least that suggests what she feels when she grabs him.

    “using my momentum to spin him around and toss him”– that sounds too clinical, like how a physicist would describe this action. I recommend using stronger, uniquer language here. This is a supernatural fight and I think that the language should convey that.

    “he is out like a light.” Cliche. Since this story is very mature, could I recommend something like “out like a ten euro hooker” instead? (It also sort of foreshadows her lesbianism– I think it’d be very, very strange for a straight woman to use that language, but wouldn’t be too weird for a hardbitten guy or lesbian).

    “I cross over to him and stare at him for a long lingering moment”– I find this a bit unsatisfying. First, the word lingering. Second, I feel like this sentence doesn’t do a particularly good job of suggesting the tension of the pause.

    “I’ve forgotten someone just as the shotgun blast tears through me from behind.” Perspective issues. This is told in the present tense. At this time, she doesn’t know that the guy behind her is holding a shotgun, right?

    “I rip the gun away and toss it over the edge with one hand”– this is better! It shows the force much more effectively. I would recommend changing “toss it over the edge with one hand” to “toss it aside with a hand,” though.

    “Pure Animal.” Why is animal capitalized?

    I feel like the lack of character development is beginning to catch up to her. Only identifiable trait so far is physical toughness. I don’t know anything about her personality or style so far. Voice-wise, she seems disjointed. Her ponderous, winding narration is FAR removed from her short, curt dialogue. It’s almost like she’s another person.

    “I don’t know how long I lie there” is awkward in the present tense.

    “barley breathing.” Unless he has a very unusual superpower, I suspect that this is a typo. God, if my superpower were the ability to breathe barley, I’d be pretty angry. No wonder he tries shooting her– she has real superpowers! :)

    “He may live, he may not.” I would recommend shortening this to “he may live.” We can infer that “may” leaves open the possibility of “may not.” And it makes her more mysterious. :)

    “Regret seeps into the high, spoiling the moment.” Too artsy. I recommend showing this. Maybe she punches something in frustration with herself. If I were her, I could even see myself lightly kicking the guy that made her lose it in the boot.

    “I lost control. Something that hasn’t happened in nearly two decades. Something I swore would never happen again.” She doesn’t seem like she’s terribly in control of herself earlier in the chapter. Ahem– she doesn’t even remember throwing out her blood. I would recommend mentioning that this level of control is not typical for her then. (Introduce the character in her element).

    “as the Sirens scream…” why is Sirens capitalized?

    “I want more. I always want more.” These short sentences are like a breath of fresh air.

    Is this character a Christian? If not, I would recommend cutting out the phrase “But Jesus, I’ve made a mess of things.” Earlier in the chapter, she used “Gods” as an interjection where a typical Irishwoman (particularly a Christian) would use “God.”

    I would recommend breaking into a new chapter right after she gets shotgunned. Alternately, you could try a chapter break when she first sees the woman with the books.

    “she looks exactly like someone I used to know…” — it might be more effective to replace “someone I used to know” with a brief description of her relationship to that person. like “an old friend” or “my ex-girlfriend’s stylist” or whatever. (Ack, there I go trying to insert wacky humor into everything again ;-) ).

    “Okay that was a cheesy thing to say. Moron.” I think this could be expositioned more artfully. Or maybe her self-frustration manifests itself in an action? Sometimes when I feel words have failed me, my feet get restless. Do you think she has a tic like that?

    Is “Solicitor” capitalized? In America, the equivalent (lawyer) is typically not.

    “Are you sure you’re all right? Should I call someone?” This is actually pretty effective, I believe. The natural reaction– so natural that I think people will notice the absence– is something like “I’ll call for an ambulance!” “Should I call someone” is almost unmistakably demure. Incidentally, at this point in the story, I feel like I know more about her than I do about the protagonist.

    You could probably do another chapter break when she enters the apartment? However, one problem is that it wouldn’t be much of a cliffhanger…

    “She should be afraid of you, Rue!” I’d recommend shortening that to “She should be! Look at you.” I’d recommend cutting out “what did you do?” because it’s natural enough for her to explain herself even without him asking. (That will help personify her as proactive and assertive– she is, right?).

    “tomorrows paper” should be “tomorrow’s paper,” I think.

    I think the chapter could use a better cliffhanger.

  7. thablueon 13 Oct 2009 at 10:12 am

    Wow! Thanks a million for the review… I have lots of work to do!
    First, a few responses/questions:

    ~On Length: It’s funny – here I was thinking it wasn’t long enough(!). I can split it up, no problem – the best place I think to do it would be right after she leaves her flat – although that isn’t a big cliffhanger, it seems logical. I can totally break it up, no problem. I would break it up with different chapters (not about Rue), however, to keep the style of the whole consistent. I’ll do that when I re-post the re-write, to show you what I mean.

    ~On Chapter title: The way I’ve formatted the book is, Rue is telling us what goes on with her in the first person present. I chose that style for the sense of urgency. All the other goings on in the book – anything involving any other characters are told 3rd person. So all of Rue’s chapters simply begin with her name, so readers will know that she’s talking again. The other chapters are topical. Is that okay to do?

    ~On “All Hell Breaks Loose” – I know it’s a cliche. I tried other ways to say it, but nothing came to mind. I’ll try harder.
    I want to make clear right from the get go that Rue’s chief motivation is to stay in control. All the while, however, she’s devolving – partially due to circumstances she has no control over (which we find out about fairly quickly).

    ~You’re right, I’ll totally change the “cannots” to “can’ts”. :)

    ~On the siren – I was trying to let the readers know that the high pitched scream in her nightmare was the police siren in the waking world slipping over into her dream. Obviously that didn’t work :/

    ~On the repetitive nightmare: Do you mean showing the readers later on in the story by Rue having the nightmare again? Or do you mean starting the story earlier? We do find out later about the beginning of the dreams. For about half the book Rue is out of action, and so her sections are filled with flashbacks relating her origins and some of her history (which I will keep consecutive).

    ~On having her meet the blood delivery – I could do that, but I want to introduce Jess early on, and I think the “coming back covered in blood – oh shit, a pretty girl” scene works. She leaves because she’s too far restless to stay put – even though she should stay put. Plus there are other forces at work, gnawing at her usual self-control. The demon wants out – and although she’s usually in control of her demon – lately that control’s been slipping. I’ll work on showing that better, however.

    ~ On the whole Urgency thing: I was trying for urgency – but it’s more the urgency of addiction. She’s not about to die, she’s about to kill someone. She knows she’s fully capable of doing it, and part of her even enjoys it. The other part of her has developed a calm, controlled, careful existence – which seems to be getting in the way from a storytelling point of view of making her personality clear and sympathetic.

    ~On ten euro hookers and lesbians: (now THAT would make a great chapter title!) – I feel I have to note here that not all lesbians leather-clad-buzz-cut-no-butt-swear-a lot macho women. Have you never seen “The L Word”?
    Anyway, I am a lesbian, and I never use phrases like “Ten Euro Whore” even though I am a truck driver’s daughter. :p
    On the other hand, you are right, “Out like a light” is horribly cliche. And Rue is a tough cookie. I can do better. I’ll work on that.

    ~On the control issue: You are absolutely right, I need to make very clear that this is unusual. Will do. I also realize I need to rework the fight scene again. It’s still not clear enough.

    ~On random capitals: Yeah, I’ve always had a problem with that. Will work on it.

    ~ On “God, Gods and Jesus”: no, Rue is, if anything, a pagan. But she’s a mimic – it’s how she survives and is also why she doesn’t speak like a 4000 year old creature. And if you’ve ever been to Ireland, you will note that everyone, all the time, says “Jaysus!”, “Christ!”, and “F___”, to punctuate nearly everything. You are right, however – this is a Christian country, and I should change “Gods” to “God” in it’s use as an expletive.

    ~On the ponderous winding narration vs curt dialogue: Rue mostly lives in her head. She is a loner, and has been, off and on, for a long time. When she speaks, it is brief, because she must maintain the illusion of being just like everyone else. But when she is thinking, it is long-winded, almost Victorian. I can work harder on making the two meet in the middle, however. I think I was inconsistent with that anyway.:D

    ~I’ll also do more work on making her personality clear. I realize now that although she is clear in my head, I didn’t make her clear enough on the page!

    Okay, so lots of work for me to do – thanks a million, and I’ll get writing!

    Cheers!

  8. thablueon 13 Oct 2009 at 11:17 am

    Oh yeah – the building and the cars…I wanted to convey a part of her personality by describing where she lives – not in a modern posh glass apartment complex, but in an older one. Plus the bookstore is important. And the cars and bikes – well, she takes up hobbies to fill her time. The latest one is building old cars and bikes from scratch. Again I meant to convey something about Rue with these descriptions. I’ll rework them and see.

    :D

  9. B. Macon 13 Oct 2009 at 2:00 pm

    “I feel I have to note here that not all lesbians leather-clad-buzz-cut-no-butt-swear-a lot macho women.” Okay– I was just using that as an example of a particular voice that could work. Perhaps some of our more literary readers could weigh in on whether her current voice (very literary?) works for them? Personally, I think it is very uneven. But I’m predisposed against literary voices compared to most editors in this field.

    I am actually glad to hear that you are a lesbian. To overgeneralize a bit, there are two main demographics that write lesbian characters: lesbians and horny guys. Only one of these groups actually gets published. ;-)

    “On the repetitive nightmare: Do you mean showing the readers later on in the story by Rue having the nightmare again? Or do you mean starting the story earlier?” Actually, neither. I mean showing us in this particular nightmare scene that this is an experience she’s used to. For example, maybe she knows what is going to happen (because she’s used to it), but the last part of the dream takes her to unexplored territory and that’s particularly scary. Words like “same” and “again” may also help create the impression of recurrence. IE: it’s the same demon that stabs her, the same leer, like she’s seen this movie over and over.

    “because she must maintain the illusion of being just like everyone else. But when she is thinking, it is long-winded, almost Victorian…” Then I’d recommend emphasizing that her natural voice is in conflict with the voice she has to use in public. Then, in stressful situations, the facade might slip a bit…Also! She falls in love with a bookworm, right? Maybe part of the attraction is that the bookworm is literate and can handle a more flowery sort of speech. It wouldn’t seem strange to her, would it?

    I think that’s it. Now, I’d like to try something new. In the past, I would have reviewed chapter 1 and the author would have revised it and we would have gone back and forth a few times. Not particularly productive. So let’s move on to chapter 2. I wouldn’t recommend spending more than a few minutes rewriting chapter 1 at this point.

  10. Thablueon 14 Oct 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Cool beans – I like the suggestions. I still think I’ve alot of work to do on Rue’s voice. More character work too. I’ve chapter two ready to go – and, as you suggested, B.Mac, I’ve now broken up the original chapter 1, so that it ends with Rue getting shotgunned from behind.

    I’m not sure I am completely happy with Chapter 2 – but here it goes anyway!

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Chapter Two: Vatican City, Beneath the Pontifical Academy of Sciences

    Vatican City, away from the meandering photo-clicking tourists and most of the hurrying employees, is a maze of locked and Swiss-guarded corridors, rooms, halls, anterooms, storerooms and chambers. Even The Pope himself doesn’t know all that goes on in his city. For example, he has no idea that this laboratory exists, hidden away as it is beneath the sub-basement of the Academy of Sciences. A fitting place for such research, Father Raimon thinks, as he quickens his step to intercept Cardinal Vieri at the secured entrance to the lift that will take them below. The Cardinal is already there – and he gives Raimon a nod and a kind smile when he steps to his superior’s side. Punctuality pleases the Cardinal – and Raimon is always punctual. Raimon allows himself a satisfied smile as he punches in the key code and presses his index finger into the security scanner. After a moment, it beeps and goes green as it opens the triple bolted blast doors with a series of deep clangs. Never can be too secure when you are doing God’s work, the Cardinal always says. Raimon falls in a half step behind the Cardinal as they enter the long cold stainless steel and white walled room that is the B-laboratory. Here, the majority of the Cardinal’s team of scientists work at their stations, each one busy with a different part of the whole project, and none but a select few knowing what the whole project actually is. It’s flawless, as it should be. They have worked long and hard to keep it that way. And they will succeed. Father Raimon watches the Cardinal as he interacts with his workers, listening, smiling and giving praise, constructive criticism, encouragement and benevolent words where he deems they are needed. Then the two make their way to the A-laboratory, two levels below. Another blast door, this one even thicker than the last, another code and scan and the lift takes them silently down. Father Raimon waits for Vieri to address him first – which he does, after a few moments.

    “Do you have the latest figures?”

    Always ready, Raimon pulls out a folder, handing it over to the Cardinal. Vieri peruses the notes, nodding and continuing reading as the doors slide open to reveal a sterile hall and another set of blast doors. They walk the few feet to the doors in silence, and again Raimon does the honors. With another beep and green light, the doors slide silently open. The younger man winces as they are assaulted by a cacophony of screams, snarls, and grinding, grating metal – underscored by the constant humming of working machinery. Vieri hands the paperwork back to Raimon, with a nod.

    “God’s work often messy, Raimon.”

    “Yes, your Excellency.”

    They move together into the chaos. Unlike the long room above, this room is broken up into a long hall with tables for equipment and experiments in the center, bordered by a series of small steel barred cages on either side – half of which are empty. Each cage contains a metal t-shaped table in its center that can be moved to different positions via a series of hydraulics. Each table has attached a series of steel bindings that can be adjusted to fit and hold something quite strong captive. Not all of the tables are empty. Cardinal Vieri stops before the first cage and calmly observes the creature that rages and screams therein with a detached calculation that Raimon can only hope one day to emulate. These creatures of Satan secretly terrify Raimon. He wishes they did not need to keep them alive – if that’s what you could call it – for the work. Again he waits for the Cardinal to speak first.

    “See how it has already bent some of the bars that hold it? Fascinating. A truly great specimen. We are getting closer, Raimon.”

    Raimon nods and swallows hard as a white-coated technician – whose badge identifies him as a Mr. J. Aldridge hurries over to meet them with a short bow.

    “Your Excellency, Father Raimon – I see you have already found our latest acquisition.”

    The Cardinal smiles. “Indeed. Where did this come from?”

    “From Barcelona, Your Excellency. Our hunters had quite a time bringing it down. But the drugs worked, devolution has already begun, and I believe we can begin the experiments tomorrow.”

    “Very good.” Vieri smiles, and turns away from the cage and the creature, taking the Eldridge by the arm and walking down the rows of cages toward one at the end, where the door of one is wide open.

    “And what of the test subject from Vienna? I was informed there has been a break through? What was the final result?” Excitement and expectation lights the Cardinal’s eyes.

    Eldridge begins to look nervous, and keeps looking down at Vieri’s hand on his arm. “Well – Your Excellency – I mean – the experiments were going quite well – and, as I told you before, the subject was of a mature breed. As I noted in my report, he outlasted the others by nearly a month. Very impressive. And we had begun to isolate over the past week. It’s just that – well, there was an…unfortunate… reaction to attempted separation…again…Excellency”

    The man blanches and stops talking as they reach the open cage. Masked technicians in white coats surround the table inside the cage, each one painstakingly gathering and bagging what appears to be, at first glance, bits of dirt and dust. Father Raimon steps closer – and can see that the dust is actually ash, and amongst the ash are larger bits of still-smoking blackened flesh. He winces and looks at the Cardinal. Vieri is silent for a moment – staring at the table. Then he turns back to the Eldridge, with a cold edge to his smooth voice,
    “And the blood samples?”

    There is a frightened, tense pause –the rest of the lab techs look up, tweezers hanging in mid-gather as all eyes turn to the terrified Eldridge.

    “…Also destroyed, Excellency. All that we had gathered, and at the same moment – even the samples we had stored for later experimentation. It is really quite facina- ”

    “Enough!” The Cardinal’s command echoes shrilly in the metal cage – and someone drops a pair of tweezers. The Cardinal takes two slow steps forward until he stands very close to Eldridge, forcing the smaller man to pull his head back against his neck and swallow repeatedly. There is a long silence before the Cardinal speaks again, this time so softly, only Eldridge and Raimon can hear.

    “And the Entity?”

    Eldridge swallows again, hard. “We…never actually isolated it…your Excellency. I fear…the subject was – despite our information – too immature to endure the separation for the length of time needed for full isolation and capture.”

    With something like a snarl, the Cardinal whirls away from Eldridge and out of the cage so abruptly that it throws the man off-balance, and he stumbles against the table – sending ash spilling to cloud the air, and the technicians bumping into each other to get away from the cloud of remains.

    Raimon hurries to keep up with the Cardinal as he walks back through the room, Aldridge at their heels like a beaten dog, still trying to please. Vieri stops abruptly again before the cage holding the creature from Barcelona. The thing is still thrashing and struggling against its bonds – and has now managed to warp the entire table. Vieri motions to the creature, raising his voice to be heard above the din.

    “And this – is this thing more mature than that last one?”

    Eldridge nods, eager to show that he is not going to fail again.

    “Oh yes, your Excellency – our intelligence shows that this individual creature is far more mature. By a few centuries at least.”

    The Cardinal watches the captive vampire for a few long moments, making the technician sweat. Then he nods.

    “Then you’d best prepare it for the process. And you had better hope the intelligence is right. And make sure you get all pertinent information from it and from each of these things – “he gestures to the other full cages – “before you dare to attempt separation again. Oh and double the strength of those bands. That rabid beast is nearly through them already. We don’t want to repeat our mistakes, do we?”

    He gives Eldridge a chilling smile, not waiting for an answer as he turns and walks smoothly back the way he came. Father Raimon keeps pace, a step behind as always. Vieri nods to his protégé.

    “What do you think, Raimon?”

    “Well…” Raimon frowns, thinking of the latest capture, and comparing it with all he already knows, from the results of past – failed – experiments to the latest intelligence from their sources around the world. “I think we need to step up the experiments. We have gone through four test groups already, and we have only succeeded in the separation and capture of seven entities. If you’ll forgive me, Excellency, I think we should re-double our efforts. Contact our field agents and have them move to phase two. We have the facilities – and the drug is proven to work. I think we are ready to operate at capacity, your Excellency.”

    He stops, watching the Cardinal, waiting for either approval or reprimand. To his relief, it’s the former. The Cardinal smiles, and claps him on the back as they move through the blast doors, and on to the lift, leaving the cacophony of A-Lab behind them.

    “I believe you are right, Raimon. I’ll leave it to you. Contact the operatives we have so far and have them increase the dosages. And report on the progress. We’ll take them as they fall, Raimon, and somewhere in the ruins, we’ll find the ones we need.”

    He smiles at Raimon, calm and collected as ever – pausing before going back through B- laboratory to brush the dust from his black and red robes. Raimon watches him as he moves back through the sections, then he too leaves, making his way to his office to make the necessary calls.

  11. thablueon 14 Oct 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Bah humbug! I forgot to log in before posting! Oh well – rest assured that the above post is by yours truly! :)

  12. B. Macon 14 Oct 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Yeah, I sort of guessed that it was yours. I’ve added your name to the chapter 2 posting. ;-)

  13. thablueon 15 Oct 2009 at 3:14 am

    Cheers! :D

  14. thablueon 15 Oct 2009 at 4:09 am

    I’ve re-written the last bit of Chapter 2 – for a better cliff-hanger and (hopefully) a clearer explanation of what they are doing with all their bad guy spooky experiments. I’ve made a third laboratory, and changed the names of the others for it all to make sense (the top lab is now C, the next is B, and there’s a bottom one now..A).
    It picks up as Raimon and Vieri are heading back to the lift. See below :)

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “I believe you are right, Raimon. I’ll leave it to you. Contact the operatives we have so far and have them increase the dosages. And report on the progress. We’ll take them as they fall, Raimon, and somewhere in the ruins, we’ll find the ones we need.”

    He smiles at Raimon, calm and collected as ever – pausing in their conversation to take out a key and slip in into the panel of the lift – only then does Raimon press the lowest button on the panel. Only the two of them have access to A-Laboratory. The lift glides smoothly down; the doors opening into a short hall and a set of ornately engraved ebony doors. The engravings on the doors form a sort of seal. Even Father Raimon is not sure what all of the patterns and lettering mean – although he is more than familiar with Ceremonial Magic, as it is called. Cardinal Vieri brushes the dust from his robes and takes a long and deep breath before closing his eyes. Then he begins tracing the pattern on the doors with his first and second fingers, muttering the ancient words under his breath. Raimon has not been trusted with the spells – yet. He knows the Cardinal will tell him all these things in due time. He is nothing if not patient.

    Vieri finishes tracing the patters a third time – and deep within the room before them there is a sonorous clang – like the tolling of a large bell. Then the doors glide open, with surprising silence. The room beyond is dark, and ancient chamber carved out of the earth hundreds of years ago. The room is lit only by a circle of red-jarred candles placed in careful order in a circle around an antique ebony table. Stacked on the table are seven small wooden boxes.

    The Cardinal takes three steps into the room – but does not step past the circle of candlelight. Raimon stays behind, at the doorway. He watches as the Cardinal simply stands at stares with longing at the seven plain boxes for a few long minutes. He waits.

    The Cardinal nods then – to himself or to what is held in those boxes, Raimon isn’t sure – but then Vieri turns to face him, and the glint of power in his dark eyes is frightening and thrilling all at once.

    “We will succeed, Raimon. We will heal it – and make it whole. And when we do – Hell itself will bend to do our will.”

  15. thablueon 15 Oct 2009 at 4:45 am

    Oh – and I corrected all of the “Eldriges” to “Aldriges” …bloody Word Automatic Correction my arse! *grumbles*

  16. thablueon 18 Oct 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Okay, Chapter 3 is back to Rue…picking up at the shotgun blast…I’ve done a rewrite and added a better cliffhanger…here goes:
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Chapter Three: Rue

    The shotgun blast knocks me down onto the rooftop, knocks the breath out of me, and for a few moments, the life out of me too. But not for long. I come to hearing the crunch of shiny shoes on gravel near my head. I lie still, face down, eyes closed, my hunger raging into a dark whirlwind of need as my own blood spills out in a dark pool beneath me. A rough kick to my side rolls me over, and I open my eyes into another blast at close range – fired by the not-so-well-dressed man. The bastard whose life I just saved! I move in a split second – and he misses taking off my head by a few centimeters at most. And that does it. I can’t hold on any longer. The gun goes off again, but I am already moving. I rip the gun away and toss it aside with one hand as I grab him up by the throat with the other – and then everything goes all disjointed, like a film with most of the stills missing, but the reel still spinning like mad. He screams and begins to flail and fight, kicking and punching at me like a toddler, with much the same effect – then he begins to cry and beg…but it is far too late. For both of us. I sink into the fire of the thing inside me, reveling in the freedom of it. It’s perfect. Pure animal. All I know is the hunger, the blood, and the sweet, sweet release as I pull him still struggling close, sink my teeth into his throat and drink my fill, in deep, dark draughts. My heart begins to beat in time with his as his blood speeds into me. It’s a rush greater than any drug. My ears ring with the thrill of it and I sink down to the rooftop, dragging him struggling down with me into blessed oblivion. God, I’ve missed this blissful blood high. It’s been too long, far too long. The blood pours through my waiting body like a flash flood through a long dry desert. I am in Heaven.

    Gradually he stops fighting – and I let him drop to one side as everything fades into a swinging dreamy high. The sky and the ground change places as I am rocked like a babe in the womb. I lie on the rooftop, lost in the rush. It’s been a long time since we have had fresh blood. Myself and I. I lick from my lips clean and take a purposeful deep breath. I don’t know how long I’m there, but gradually I become aware that there are sirens in the distance – and coming closer. Slowly I stand and stretch every limb, feeling power careen through me as I look around at the damage I have done. The man on the rooftop beside me is unconscious – but breathing. He may live. One man is still crumpled in the lift, another unconscious a few feet from me – and the bruiser– with the broken arms – is still slumped and out cold. I can smell the fear and pain in the air. And that brings me back to myself a bit. I kick the prone form of shotgun boy in frustration. God Dammit. I lost control. Something that hasn’t happened in nearly two decades. Something I swore would never happen again. What is wrong with me? First the mess in my flat, then not remembering any of it – and now this? Jesus!
    The sirens and the cars they belong to turn into the street below. Nothing to be done now but to get away. Moving quickly, I go through all their coat pockets – finding a decent amount of cocaine, heroin and hash, all bagged and ready for sale, a tidy sum of money and several credit cards. I pocket the lot.

    I go over the side, first climbing, then jumping down the last four stories and landing in the darkness of the laneway as the sirens scream to a halt in the front lot. The blood moves through me as my body changes it and makes it my own, healing my wounds, and making me tremble with the lingering rush. I want more. I always want more. But it’s too late now. I hear shouts and radio blips and squeals behind me – but I am already far away, running past next building and around the next, until I get to a place where I can climb up again and jump rooftop to rooftop. Nobody ever looks up. I don’t slow down until I am at the building opposite my own. I wait for a moment there – the blood high pounding through me, struggling to regain some control. Part of me – the Demon inside – is still screaming for more, more, more! Loving the thrill of what I have just done, and needing, demanding we go deeper, into the night, let ourselves go and see what havoc we can wreak along the way. Part of me is fully aware that I’ve fucked up. I am almost fully healed – but covered in blood – nearly all of it my own. More of which is back there at the building site. Not to mention my fingerprints and DNA and whatever else. The second part of me wins. I’ve spent too many years maintaining control to lose it on one little slip up. But Jesus I’ve made a mess of things. I take a deep breath; attempt to run my hand through my tangled and blood-caked hair before jumping down into the dark laneway below, walking as slowly and as casually as I can over to my own building.

    I get to the side door without incident – it’s pretty late, not very many people around. I am just typing in the key-code when the bookstore entrance a few feet away opens wide and light spills out into the street, along with a sandy haired, twenty-something woman, her arms full of books. For the second time in one evening, I am the one surprised. And not simply by her appearance, but by her appearance. She looks exactly like someone I loved – someone I lost – a long, long time ago. Not just looks like – no, she could be her. It’s uncanny, and for a moment I am in the past, swept away in a rush of memory. I can see the heat from her body; smell the sun on her skin, taste the scent of her hair…vanilla. My heart catches in my throat and I can’t move for a moment. She jumps and gives a little shriek at the sight of me, dropping some of the books – and the moment passes, and I have to think of a reason to be standing here, covered in blood, and I realize that I lost my sunglasses somewhere and I turn away before she sees my eyes.

    “Oh” She leans down, picking up the books. “Sorry – you startled me. Are you alright?”

    I should help her, but I can’t – instead I pull away from the panel of light from the doorway, back into the shadows.

    “I’m fine…just…heading in for the night.”

    She stands up, books in hand, and looks from me to the keypad and back. “Oh – you must be the landlady – wow, I thought you’d be older.” Then she stops, grimacing. “Sorry, that was rude.”

    I shrug, and smile slightly, still in the shadows. “It’s ok. I’m older than I look.” I attempt to run a hand through my hair again – and bits of dried blood crumble around my face. Shit. Forcing my hands to my sides, I look down at my boots. Ruined. Of course.

    After an awkward moment, she continues. “Sorry, Mr. Donnelly didn’t tell me your name. I’ve taken over the bookshop – and the lease. Mr. Donnelly told your solicitor? I was just doing inventory.”
    I blink – I never got the notice – but then again, my solicitor has strict instructions to take care of everything and not to contact me unless absolutely necessary. I guess a change in the leaseholder isn’t that necessary. I’ve seen a few come and go. When I don’t answer, still caught up in what has just happened and my spinning thoughts, she leans forward, trying to see me better, and I try to pull back a bit more into the shadows – but there is streetlight behind me as well, and she gets a glimpse of my clothes.

    “Jesus_ Your shirt -!”

    I look down and realize that my once white t-shirt is now in dripping crimson shreds. My jeans and jacket as well. I look back up and meet her eyes for a second, then look away.
    “Um…I got in a fight…I’m ok.”

    I have to get inside – but she is now standing in my doorway. I have to risk it – I take a step closer.
    “Sorry – I’m really wrecked.” I give her another smile, projecting as much ease and well being as I can muster – but it doesn’t seem to be working. She frowns.

    “That’s a lot of blood. Are you sure you’re all right? Should I call someone?”

    “No – I’m fine” – I come up with a quick excuse – “Just…broke my nose – bleeds a lot.”

    Dumb – my nose is fine and she notices – but she doesn’t say anything, just frowns and gets out of the way as I punch in the key code again and the door clicks open. She is very close to me now, and I know I should say something before I head in…but I can’t figure out what. Fortunately, Jude picks just that moment to arrive, out of breath and carrying an insulated backpack.

    “Jesus, Rue –!”

    He stops, on seeing the girl and instantly corrects himself, brushing his longish brown hair back and smiling at her. She smiles back and looks at me, then him – and his priest uniform, as I like to call it – confusion and curiosity rising in her green eyes. But I don’t say anything. Jude takes everything in, my clothes, my eyes that I am still trying to hide, the half-open door, the girl – and clears his throat.

    “Sorry I’m so late” that’s to me – then he turns to the girl.

    “And you are…?”

    She smiles, and shakes his hand, her other arm full of the stack of books. “Jessica Lynch – good to meet you, Father.”

    He gives her that charming smile of his and I can feel the tension ease a bit.
    “Just call me Jude. I really don’t like all that ‘Father’ shite – good to meet you. I see you’ve already met my sister.”
    He gives me a nod, and I manage a smile as he turns back to me. “You should have called me earlier. I got here as soon as I could – lets get you inside and cleaned up, ya daft thing.”

    He pushes gently past the girl – Jessica – and she moves out of the way as I head inside. I give her a nod and manage a dumb “Bye” – before the door closes and I rush upstairs, leaving him to deal. He follows me up after a few moments, and switches on the light, tossing the backpack on the table in front of me. I collapse into a chair, and look up at him. “What did you tell her?”

    “That you have an anger management problem and drink too much and are always getting into fights, and I have to take care of you, like a good big brother. I think she likes me.”

    I glare at him, exasperated. “ Great! Now she’s afraid of me!”

    “She should be! Look at you!”

    The blood high is settling to a low and dizzying buzz now, leaving room for regret to hit me like a ton of bricks. I bury my head in my hands and tell him everything, starting with the nightmare and the spilt blood. He listens without interruption, – then shakes his head.

    “Christ, Rue – I…I’ve never known you to go that far – not in twenty years. What’s going on with you?”
    I shake my head, looking up to meet his eyes. “There could be more. The blackouts…maybe…I don’t know. Maybe this is…y’know. IT taking over.”

    He interrupts me. “No – no…you’re fine. Look, I’ll check into everything, and sort it all out. In the meantime, you’d better get cleaned up. I’ll burn those.”
    He nods to my clothes – and brings me the bin. I grimace and stand up, removing my now ruined favorite leather coat, jeans, t-shirt, boots – everything is past saving…and tossing them one by one into the bin. The drugs and credit cards I pile onto the table to deal with later. Jude frowns, but doesn’t say anything – just looks at the pile, shaking his head. I give him a shrug, then I head for my second shower of the night. Jude talks to me through the open door as I wash.

    “You deal with that shit on the table, ok? I’ll grab tomorrow’s papers and bring them over – if anything else has happened, it should be in there somewhere. You check the web – and I’ll go to the hospital and see what’s going on with your rooftop bad guys.”

    I don’t answer, enjoying the feeling of the water against my skin. I had forgotten what fresh blood does to my senses – everything is more of what it is. Clearer, brighter, better. Taste, touch smell, sound, sight, emotions…it’s like I haven’t been truly alive in years. Stored blood gives me sustenance, nothing more. Jude pokes his head around the look door.

    “Rue?”

    I come back to the present. “Yeah. Ok. Thanks.”

    “And I think you’d better lay low for awhile. No more nighttime excursions – at least until I know more – ok?”

    I look at him through the glass, emotions welling up inside me for this man, my only friend. Blood tears sting my eyes and I smile. “Ok. Thanks, Jude. You are…a good person.”

    He smirks. “And you’re high. I left the bags in the fridge. Don’t dump them out this time, ok? I could only get enough for a week, but we’ll sort something out soon enough. I’ll be back tomorrow night – I’ll lock up.”

    I nod and he heads off. I hear the door click shut behind him, and I close my eyes, letting the water wash everything away – if only it could. But it can’t. What’s done is done. I stay in the shower until the water runs cold. Wasteful, I know, but I need it. By the time I get out, the sun is less than an hour away from the horizon. I wring my hair dry and pin it back as I check the locks, and then sit down to check the web. I do a few searches, looking for any local assaults that I could have done during a blackout over the last couple of weeks – but I don’t find anything. Which only tells me that if I’m losing myself to the demon inside me, he’s better than I am at covering our tracks. The last thing I do before heading to bed is check my email accounts. I have a few, even if I don’t check them that often. Amongst the junk mail and spam is an email I almost miss – the subject line says simply: “Hi Mom – from Jerusalem.” With a growing feeling of dread, I double-click. The message inside is short and to the point, and worded so that only I could get the meaning:

    “Miss you! Saw a few old friends yesterday. Think they’ll want to hang out. Tried to hook up with my fellow travelers, but everyone seems to have gone missing. Things are hectic, more so than usual! Might not be in touch for a while. I’ve sent the information you requested. Talk soon! – Love, M.”

    There is a folder attached. I click to download it to my desktop, and worry while I wait. M is Matanyahu. And I am his Mother – after a fashion. I haven’t heard from him in over a hundred and fifty years. He didn’t miss me. We don’t exactly get on. The email is a warning, disguised because he thinks – or knows – he’s being watched. The folder finishes downloading, and, as I open it, that cold feeling of dread inside me grows into an iceberg.
    It contains scanned clippings from newspapers from all over the world. Each one is a small notice, from a local, district or community paper. None of the larger papers are represented. Some of the articles outline properties going up for auction, or a search for a next of kin. Some of the articles are missing persons notices. All of them are small, unlikely to be noticed by your average individual. They are all seemingly unrelated. But all of them involve, either by circumstance, property or name – Vampires. I know this – as Mat knew I would. I read the email again, and then go back over each clipping, looking at the cities they come from. Florence, Cairo, Paris, Delhi, Lisbon, Genoa, Athens, Barcelona…and Vienna. Where Mat was last living. The email means he’s in trouble – and the clippings mean that he isn’t the only one.
    Something – or someone – is hunting us again.

  17. B. Macon 18 Oct 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Okay, this is a review of the original chapter two, without the amended ending. (I’ll get to that next).

    –The chapter title could be a lot more interesting. (Not to worry– most writing starts out pretty bland early in the development stage).

    –The first sentence strikes me as awkward. Make the main point clear. Do the tourists matter? I would recommend focusing on the elements of secrecy (the locks) and security (the guards).

    –”Even The Pope”– I think “the” shouldn’t be capitalized here.

    –The first chapter was in first-person. This is in third-person. I’d recommend being consistent throughout the book unless you have a really good reason to do otherwise. I don’t think “I want to show what the villain is doing” is sufficient.

    “For example, he has no idea that this laboratory exists, hidden away as it is beneath the sub-basement of the Academy of Sciences.” I feel like this sentence is intrusive narration. I’d recommend replacing “this laboratory” with something that builds more distance between the narrator and the scene. Unless the narrator is actually a character in this story?

    –I’d recommend introducing Father Raimon in the first paragraph.

    –The paragraph that begins “a fitting place” has more than 275 words. I don’t even think it could fit on a typical novel page. I’d recommend breaking into at least 2, and maybe 3 different paragraphs.

    The first trait introduced about Raimon is that he’s punctual. Is there something, umm, a bit more distinct about him?

    “After a moment, it beeps and goes green as it opens the triple bolted blast doors…” can be shortened to “The triple bolted blast doors swing open…”

    “…none but a select few knowing what the whole project actually is. It’s flawless, as it should be.” What? I think this last sentence is a bit awkward. Also, it raises questions about the narrator’s reliability. Is that intentional?

    –I feel like this extremely long paragraph has a LOT of filler.

    –I’d recommend introducing urgency and/or conflict and/or high stakes sooner. Nothing seems to be happening.

    –The blast doors are getting redundant. It’s already been established that the facility is secure. Okay. I don’t think it needs to be used more than once. If the security is really crucial– and it could be– I’d recommend showing it in a way that ties the characters to the plot rather than just setting up idle scenery that doesn’t really affect the plot.

    ““Do you have the latest figures?” Always ready, Raimon pulls out a folder, handing it over to the Cardinal. Vieri peruses the notes, nodding and continuing reading as the doors slide open to reveal a sterile hall and another set of blast doors.” This could probably all be removed and any relevant statistical data could be brought into conversation.

    “God’s work often messy, Raimon.” I’m not sure the word “messy” befits a cardinal (particularly one addressed as “excellency”). Also, I think the sentence is missing a verb (probably “is”).

    “These creatures of Satan”– shorten to “These hellspawn”?

    break through should be one word– breakthrough.

    Why is Raimon necessary? What does he add to this chapter? It might be more interesting to present the technician as the POV here– he probably has a more interesting perspective and goal than Raimon does.

    Raimon needs more of a personality, I think. Also, if you keep him here, I’d recommend giving him a more distinct voice.

    The ending to this chapter has a lot of potential, but it could be smoother…

  18. B. Macon 18 Oct 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Okay, looking at the revised ending…

    “I believe you are right, Raimon. I’ll leave it to you” could probably be shortened to something like “I agree.” I think “I’ll leave it to you” is made redundant by the sentence that begins with “contact the operatives…”

    The paragraph beginning with “he smiles at Raimon…” has 170 words. I’d recommend breaking it up into two paragraphs or taking out about 50 words.

    Generally, I’m not sure that this adds enough to justify the length. What are we supposed to walk away from this with?

  19. thablueon 19 Oct 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Hmmm. Points taken. The transition of being a poetry and songwriter to a prose writer is a heckuva lot harder than I thought it would be! :)

    On Title: Yeah – so far the chapter titles are more placeholders than anything else.

    On Paragraph one: I can see that it is very long – I will break it up. And as far as the tourists part – I was trying to paint a picture of Vatican City – sort of like a Camera panning in from above until we get to the secret parts. Actually I’m seeing the entire novel like I’m watching a movie. Maybe that’s not the way to go about writing prose? It’s interesting – when I write poems I go for sounds, and imagery more often than not. It’s a looser way to write. I need to tighten up! :P

    On the narrator – hmm. I see your points. I actually had originally written this with Cardinal Vieri as the one whose thoughts we get to hear – but then the ending of the book changed, and I realized that Father Raimon – although not the main villain here – is the better character (and will be a main villain in later books).
    Raimon is very important – I will make him more interesting. :) I tried to write through his eyes without going 1st person present (as that is only for Rue).
    The premise/reason is that Rue is writing the book. No one else. I feel that if I tell anyone else’s part in the 1st person present it will confuse the reader. The other option of course is to write the whole thing in 3rd person present, changing the premise. But Rue’s voice keeps coming to me in the now. Hrm…:(

    And on the chapter ending revision…I wanted to readers to know right away that Vieri is in the process of capturing and holding vampires hostage to remove from them the demon in their blood. My version of Vampirism is that it is a Demonic virus that communicates upon transmission a small piece of the same demon into each Vampire. So the more vampires there are the bigger and more powerful the demon gets – only he’s diluted. No one has realized this except the Cardinal. He is putting the demon back together piece by piece. I had hoped that the new chapter ending would start to explain this. But if the old chapter ending works, I can totally move the other part to somewhere later in the book.

    Anyhoo. Thanks again. I’ll go back over things again. I’m writing Chapter five now – (up until now I wasn’t writing in any order – the other bits are all over the shop, lol!)

    :D

  20. thablueon 23 Oct 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Well, I’m re-thinking certain plot points and realiseing that I have some major things to iron out. I still am holding on to the 1st person P.O.V. for Rue and 3rd for everyone else, but I realize that Rue needs to be better written. In the meantime – and I have a creeping feeling that this bit (below) is “too much tell, not enough show” – but this is a part I’ve written that begins Chapter 6 (as things stand right now anyway). I think it might show a bit more of Rue’s personality. I realize now what show, don’ tell” means – and I also realize I could use this bit as a guide to “show” these facts about her throughout the book. But I like the way she talks here.
    I dunno, maybe it’s not as clear as I think it is.
    Anyway, cheers! And as always, I value your thoughts! :)

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Chapter Six: Rue

    So by now you’ve probably figured out that I’m a Vampire. And now that we have that out of the way, let me clear up a few things; I am not dead – or undead – what ever that means, just different. I still breathe, old habits and all – and I do have a heartbeat, which gets stronger when I’m well fed. I am not in any way adversely affected by garlic, crucifixes, running water, silver (that’s Werewolves), Holy Water, or spilt mustard seeds. I can’t turn into a bat, or mist – or control packs of wolves. I don’t carry around a box full of dirt from my homeland. I can’t fly. I can see my reflection in any reflective surface. My skin is colder than average, but can be warm enough when I’m well fed. I don’t sweat – but if I cry, the tears are blood. I don’t know why, but it’s annoying, let me tell you.

    I do have to be invited into any private residence (so do many things, by the way, not just Vampires), or I won’t be able to enter at all – but once you let me in, I’m in for good. Oh, and Sunlight hurts. Although if I have to I can stand to be in the shade for short periods of time on a very cloudy day, even that is painful for me, and it makes me horribly weak. I cannot tolerate direct sunlight at all – it will burn me, and prolonged exposure can kill me – just like in the movies. Which is why I generally sleep during daylight hours. In a bed, not a coffin. Decapitation would most likely kill me as well, just like it would most things. Except Chickens, apparently. And a stake though the heart -? Well, it’ll hurt, but I won’t explode in a cloud of ash – Vampire Slaying Cheerleaders notwithstanding. Being staked might make me angry, though. And you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

    My eyes go incandescent whenever I get overly emotional – or hungry – and that and the fact that I am fairly pale are the only telltale signs that I am anything “other”…but sunglasses are great things, and these days I could just be an odd Goth without all the complicated black clothing. Speaking of Goths, no I am not one, nor do I skulk around Goth clubs wearing lace and velvet, or skintight leather, and looking all mysterious and broody. Why would I want to do that? I wear whatever is comfortable, and although I do go out at night, it’s usually for long walks alone, or to the movies. Alone. I’ve learned a lot from the movies. How to blend in, for example. How to act and talk like the humans around me. It’s an invaluable skill – being able to mimic your prey. Any hunter will tell you that.

    I’m pretty strong. I have superior speed, balance, agility and night vision. I heal very quickly, especially when I’m well fed – although much more slowly when I’m not. If I am severely wounded, it can take a few days for me to heal, but rarely more than that.

    I do have fangs, but four not two – how could you bite with only two? Humans have four fangs, if they have a full set of teeth anyway – you call them “Canines” – mine are simply sharper and more deadly. That’s all. And they are not the kind that drop down suddenly with a “snick” sound – that’s only in the movies. My fangs are always there, nice and sharp and ready to go – they just extend a bit when I am aroused, angry or hungry. Speaking of biting, I don’t go around turning everyone I bite in other Vampires. The process is far more complicated than that. And yes, I derive all my sustenance from blood. Human blood. It’s like the man said – The Blood is The Life. I need blood like humans need water. At least an average-sized person’s worth per week. And that’s the minimum for my own survival. I have been known to drain a few people dry per night, on a spree. But that was a long time ago. I don’t do that any more.

    Oh, and I am 27 – and I’ve been 27 for a very very long time.

    But I’m not every Vampire. We are all different – the thing that changes us works with what we were originally, and the changes wrought in me might not be the same in another. Keep that in mind if you’re thinking about hunting one of us. Which you shouldn’t be.

  21. thablueon 23 Oct 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Oh – and my reasoning behind all this exposition in this bit – is that the book is less about Rue being a Vampire than it is about the Bad Guys and heir experiments. I wanted to get away from the whole cliche of “Bleh, I’m da Wampir, Aren’t I dark and mysterious – lets spend 3/4 of the book talking about that…Bleh”.

    And Rue is kindof “Yeah Yeah – Vampire, meh, so what…moving on…”

    But I could be wrong about that approach! :P

  22. Thablueon 01 Dec 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Sorry about the recent absence – I have been very busy with my “Real Job” lately. I had a sudden realization about the beginning of the book. Which was basically that I didin’t like it at all. :P So…I did a complete re-write. Keeping some bits while changing others entirely. I know I should have been moving on to chapters 5, 6. 7 and so forth – but the whole thing was just bugging me to no end.

    Anyway – I have to re-write of Chapter One ready to go. Chapter Two is next in line – I have a decision to make about the first person – 3rd person switch. I tried dealing with Rue in 3rd person, but it just isn’t working for me. Which means I probably need to have the whole novel be from her P.O.V., I know. That would change LOTS of things, however. Like how to show what the bad guys are doing of course. And what the other characters are thinking. So anyway, still dealing with that issue. Any suggestions/advice is more than welcome!

    So getting down to it: Here’s the Brand New version of Chapter One. Cheers!

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    BLOOD BOURNE

    A Novel by N. L. Blue

    “The mind is it’s own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven. What matter where if I be still the same?” – John Milton

    Chapter One: Rue

    Smoke and screams fill the air around me. I can’t move, can’t breathe, can’t scream. I try to run, but my feet are heavy as lead, and I sink, suffocating, into the burning floor. It’s then that I realize I’ve been here before. Frantic, I try to reach the door I know is there, but even as I reach out, the walls begin to melt away. Monstrous shapes spin and leer around me, their familiar formless faces bathed in ash and blood. Razor tipped hands tear at my skin, ripping and clawing at me as I am jerked and torn like a rag doll between them. Red-hot blades lash out at me, glinting in front of silver eyes that flash behind leering jagged grins. Finally I have the breath to scream as knives pierce my flesh with burning, seething light. I know what happens next, but there is nothing I can do to stop it. The knives rip me to shreds as then I am falling into a broiling sun. I sink, choke on molten fire and burn to ash, slowly. All the while someone is laughing – a high-pitched, maniacal laugh, almost like a scream – and I sit bolt upright, tearing in a panic at the tangled sheets. I’m in my own bed. Safe. Not burning as a police siren splits the night as it speeds past on the street below my window.

    I take in a shuddering breath. The nightmare fades away, slowly, leaving me with fragments of images like broken glass. It takes me a few long moments to remember where I am, who I am, what I am. Each time the dream seems to cling to me longer. Untangling myself from the sheets, I get up, making my way in the dark across my open-plan flat to the fridge, my pale tattooed arm glinting in the glow of the light as I hold the door open – and stare disbelieving at a pile of wrung out and quite empty iv bags.

    “Shit.”

    I had forgotten, still half-asleep. Fresh out. Fuck.

    Wait…this doesn’t make any sense. Jude was just here…wasn’t he? I’m still bleary-eyed and numb with sleep as I rummage through and squeeze out a few of the bags in denial, hoping that a drop might be left – but no – not a one. Something’s not right. I stand up, leaving the fridge door open as my eyes come into focus. Running a cool hand over my face, I turn to the sink – and drop the bag in my hand. Piled next to the basin are more bags – empty. The counter and sink are stained crimson.

    “Shit, shit!”

    Something is wrong – drastically wrong. Wide-awake now, I move to check the door, then the blackout shades on every window. All shut tight. I check the alarm – still armed. No one could have got in – not without waking me. I move back to the sink, grip the edge with cold hands and stare at the dark stain around the drain. No. No one but me. A cold twist in my belly tells me that I did this, no one else. I can feel the truth of it. And judging by the way I feel now, it must’ve been a while ago. I close my eyes and try to remember, try to see myself doing this. But I come up empty. Which meant the blackouts were getting worse. Which means the thing inside me is trying to take over.

    At the scent and sight of the mess, my stomach twists and makes me aware of a slow burning, hollow ache slowly growing in my gut. Quickly, I wipe at the sink and counter with my hands, licking my fingers in a vain hope – but there’s not much there, and what is left has gone off. Way off. Gagging, I rip open all of the empty bags, one by one, licking the plastic clean. It’s only enough to make me even more aware of how hungry I am. Fuck. Okay, I have to calm down. This isn’t like me. I am always calm. Always in control. Control is the most important thing in my existence. I stand still for a moment, slowing my breathing, willing myself to be still, to take it easy. No need to panic. This is just a little hitch. But the terror from the nightmare is still with me, and somewhere deep inside, anxiety blooms and grows. Swearing again, I hurry back to the bed and fumble around the bedside locker for my mobile. It’s set to silent – another thing I don’t remember doing. The inbox symbol is flashing, but I ignore it as I hit the speed dial and wait for an answer. The voice on the other end is angry and urgent.

    “Where the hell have you been? Do you have any idea what time it is?”

    Shit. Must’ve over slept. Oh well –

    “Not quite sunset, by the feel of it. Listen, Jude, I really need some more nourishment…”

    “I’ve been ringing you for almost two weeks, Rue! Would it kill you to pick up the phone?”

    “Probably not” I sigh – better make nice, he’s in a bad mood, and I should’ve called…”it’s the heat…I just tend to sleep when it’s like this. Summer. You know.”

    “And drink, obviously – how did you go though all of that so quickly?”

    “Well…” I close my eyes, rubbing the sleep away with the back of my hand. – “It’s – not something I want to talk about right now.” He knows I hate talking on the phone.

    Then it sinks in.

    “Two weeks?”

    “I was going to break in if you didn’t answer tonight.”

    “Shit.”

    “Listen – are you okay?”

    I shake my head and run a hand through my tangled black hair – then remember that he can’t see me.

    “Fine. I’m fine. Just … well, I really – really need some more – soon.”

    Gods I hate all this talking in code shit. But it’s necessary. You never know who might be listening. Another reason I hate talking on the phone.

    “It’ll be a few hours before I can get any more. I can maybe get a couple to you by…3 or so… but after that I’ll need more time. It isn’t easy, you know.”

    “Shit.”

    Shit shit shit shit. I’m already shaking. Two weeks. Dangerously long. And it’s like the nightmare took the last of what I had in me away. This isn’t like me. Sleeping that long – blacking out, wasting all of that –

    “Rue?”

    “Yeah?”

    “Will you last?”

    “Yeah…don’t worry.”

    “Don’t do anything stupid in the meantime, okay?”

    “Yeah. Okay.”

    I end the call, toss the phone on the bed, toss the empty bags, clean up the mess, make certain everything’s back in it’s proper place, and head downstairs one level to my library and workout area. Have to stay in control. Keep myself calm. Physical activity is a good thing. I’ve gotten into the habit, over time, of working through any restlessness though various martial arts. I’ve mastered most over the years. I learned early on that it’s good to have goals. Goals make living easier.

    Tonight every form is a bit shaky, however, and it’s difficult to stay focused. It’s like my emotions – usually fairly stable – are on overdrive. I am impatient and restless. After a couple of hours I give up, and head for the shower. I can feel my own heart beat and flutter in my chest, like a bird caged with a cat. Not good. I turn the tap to cold, and get in. The water brings relief – for the moment anyway, and I just stand under the spray for a while and try again to calm down. That damn dream. Every time I try to sleep it off, it’s always the same – and I can’t shake the feelings that come with it – panic, terror – helplessness. That’s the worst of it – not being able to fight back. Not being able to control anything. The dream images flash behind my eyes again, and the lingering emotion feeds on my already growing hunger. Fuck it. I need to get out. The sun will have set by now. I can take a walk, distract myself, kill some time, and by the time I get back, Jude will be here. Simple. Easy. I turn the tap to hot and finish washing. Stepping out, I swipe steam from the mirror and take a good look. I can see the rising need behind my pale blue eyes, but I don’t think anyone else would notice. Yet. I dry off and dress quickly; jeans, T-shirt, harness boots, and my favorite old leather coat, vintage 1933 – remembering to bring my sunglasses as I head down the stairs.

    My home is the top floors of a converted Georgian building. Well, mostly converted anyway. The whole thing’s mine. I use the two top floors to live in, one for storage, the ground floor I rent to a used bookstore and the basement I use as a garage. On the whole it’s convenient, private and safe – plus having the bookstore there gives me extra security during the day. I take the back stairs all the way down, cutting back up through the garage to the lane outside. It’s not the only exit, but it’s the quiet side of the building, and I’m feeling way too jittery to step into the light and noise of the Dublin night without warming up to it first. I stand for a moment on the cobblestones, taking in the evening. It’s a late summer night, and although it’s nearly eleven, the sun has just set behind the buildings. The dying light is reflected in the Liffey, giving everything around me a crimson glow as night begins to creep up the eastern sky.

    Out of habit more than anything, I carefully scan the street and surrounding buildings, doorways and rooftops before heading east, moving at a slow pace for now. I leave the clubs and pubs behind me, and move deeper into the old industrial streets – now mostly “under development”. Cranes and scaffolding of soon to be shiny new glass and steel buildings rise around me like bones in some giant elephant’s graveyard, their shadows bending and crossing one another, creating patterns of light and dark that would entrance me – if I weren’t so damn thirsty. I still can’t quite believe I dumped all that out. It just isn’t like me – or even like the thing inside me – to waste anything. I can’t, every drop is precious – and to dump it all down the drain? I wouldn’t do that. I just wouldn’t. But I must have. Okay so why? Frustration claws at me, and threatens any calm. And still the nightmare hangs around me, and with it, that ever- growing anxiety – like I’ve forgotten something important, and very soon I’ll remember, but it‘ll be too late.

    I slip through the Saturday crowds smoking outside the pub doors, making myself unnoticeable – although I notice them, the life and heat radiating from their bodies in waves that I can taste. Again something in my gut turns and snarls and so I move faster, away. I turn the corner and head for the docks. I need the space – sea air and all that. The night grows darker as walk, and the darkness brings some relief from the shaking in my veins.
    I can move pretty damn quickly when I want to, and, once I am clear of the crowds I pick up the pace. Soon enough I reach the North Wall, and meander my way out through the docklands. It’s quiet enough here, and I relax my hold on myself a bit, letting the night sink in. I want to be inside the darkness. It’s comforting, like a mother’s embrace. It’s then, just as I’ve almost relaxed, that I notice. I hear it first – the gritty scuff of a misstep on gravel. Then, as I turn a corner, I see it. Not two blocks behind. A flicker of a shadow darts back into a laneway as I glance behind me.

    I’m being followed.

    I change direction abruptly, doubling back and heading for the tallest of the new buildings under construction. At the same time the wind changes, and I catch the faintest – and oddly familiar – scent on the air. Vanilla. I frown, picking up the pace. If it’s hunters – and it probably is – then I’ll be damned if I’m giving them any advantage. I’ve met hunters before. A few times. Our exchanges are never pleasant. This time I’ll choose the battleground. I reach the skeletal frame of the building, and begin to climb up; hand over hand. It’ll take them a good bit to catch up with me, and in the meantime I can suss how many there are and how strong. I reach the top with a final leap that lands me on the half finished roof. It’s quiet up here. The view down over the river and out to sea is exquisite. But I barely take it in as I search the streets below for my pursuers. For a few minutes I see nothing. No one. Then, a black clad woman steps tentatively sideways out of a laneway across the street. She looks very young. And scared. She’s wearing a utility belt and a back pack and is carrying a torch taped to a small crossbow – which she holds out in front of her awkwardly, aiming at every shadow. Great. A newbie. I really don’t need this right now. I scan the streets and buildings all around for her friends – but I don’t see anyone else. Which is odd. Either she’s alone – which I doubt, as hunters always travel in packs – or her friends are very good at hiding. Which is bad for me. Troubled, I go back to watching the girl. I doubt she can see me up here – but even so I lean back as she stops and stares up at the building. A flash of light glints off her face – then again as she looks around – and it takes me a moment to realize she’s wearing glasses. Odd – I’ve never seen a hunter with glasses before. Glasses are fragile things. I watch and wait as she hesitates, then cautiously crosses the street into the building site. Brave girl. Brave or stupid. The wind picks up her scent again, and something inside me shivers at the familiarity of it. I wrack my brain trying to think where I could have met her before, but come up empty. Frowning, I move back across the half-finished roof as the girl steps into maze of the framework below. She is managing to be pretty quiet; I’ll give her that. And I still don’t sense any others. Maybe she’s alone. Or maybe she’s bait. Either way, I’ll wait.

    It doesn’t take her long to find the stairs. I follow her progress through the framework of the building, moving to keep her in sight, and still alert for her friends, wherever they might be. She stops on the third landing a long moment, like she’s heard me, although that is pretty impossible – but still, I freeze. I can hear her breathing – fast and terrified, like a small animal. After a few moments, she begins to move up the stars again and I move to follow her progress. I can see her clearly, although she’s in complete darkness save for her torch, which flickers left and right as she ascends. Night vision is a nice side-benefit of my condition. She is plainly petrified. Unlike any hunter I’ve ever seen. They are often scared, don’t get me wrong – but are usually driven, and more than a little psychotic. This girl seems sane enough. Hunger twists again in my gut, hard and cold, a hollow, growing need. It would be so easy now, the thing inside me says. Just take her, and damn the consequences. But no. I am not so far gone. I wait as she steps tentatively out from the stairwell door, and out onto the roof. I watch as she moves into the night – eyes wide, searching – that crossbow held in front of her like a shield. I can see she’s a little older than I thought. Maybe early 20’s. She’s pale, with a spattering of freckles and ginger hair that frizzes around her face like a halo. A pretty girl. And so familiar…I feel like I’ve known her – or someone like her – before, but I still can’t place it.
    It doesn’t matter anyway. She’s followed me, and she’s got a crossbow with a wooden bolt knocked in place. Which means she probably knows what I am and may know where I live. Which makes things complicated. I have to try and talk to her – find out how much she knows and where she got her information. Which won’t be easy – as I am sure she assumes I’m going to try and kill her. They always do. I hate assumptions. Especially when they’re about me.
    I wait until she is a few feet away – then I step out into the open, all casual and easy.

    “Nice night for it.”

    She gives a little shriek – and the crossbow bolt comes speeding toward my torso. She’s fast; I’ll give her that. But I’m faster. I snatch the bolt out of the air, and hold it up to the dim light, inspecting it as I take a few steps toward her.

    “This is well made – where’d you get it?”

    She doesn’t answer – as she is busy backing away from me, trying to re-load another bolt in the crossbow and get something out of her backpack at the same time. Something has to give – and it’s the crossbow. She lets it clatter to the floor as she takes out a canister of what looks to be pepper spray and lets it loose in my direction. It covers me in a misty cloud. Only it’s not pepper spray. It’s water. I smirk.

    “Let me guess…holy water? Sorry to disappoint you, but that doesn’t really work on me.”

    She is trying not to cry now, but underneath her fear I sense an anger and desperation. I feel sorry for her, and stop walking towards her, letting her collect herself. She does, fumbling at a chain at her throat – then breaking it off and holding the charm up at me, defensively.

    “Stay back!”

    She glares at me – eyes wide. She is trying to be frightening, I know – but she succeeds only in looking more terrified.

    I give her a smile, trying to put her at ease.

    “Nice necklace. Is it silver?”

    She winces – and I take a slow step forward – my hands up in front of me in the universal gesture of ‘hey, I’m not gonna hurt you’.

    “Look – I don’t know who you got your information from – but they left out a few things.”

    She’s trembling – but doesn’t lower her hand. “I know enough…I know what you are…I know what you did -!”

    I reach up – ever so slowly – and take off my sunglasses – putting them in my jacket pocket as I take another step toward her, meaning to put her at ease.

    “Take it easy…let’s talk about this, okay? First…about what you think I am…and second, about what it is you think I’ve done…”

    Her eyes widen as she sees my own – and I realize that mine’ve got to be fairly incandescent with hunger by now. Shite. She scrambles for the crossbow – grabbing it up and holding it in front of her again, even though it’s no longer loaded. The torchlight shivers in my direction, glinting off my eyes, which makes nothing better. I blink in the light, and she takes another step backwards – bumping abruptly into a half-constructed wall. I close the distance between us with a few more steps, and then stop. She is shuddering, pressing as flat against the wall as she can – as if she could pass right through it – but she holds my gaze, even in her fear. This close, she is beautiful. So beautiful my heart catches in my throat and I can’t move for a moment. I can see the heat from her body; smell the sun on her skin, taste the scent of her hair…vanilla. That’s where it’s coming from. Her hair. Something in my heart gives a little twinge. Like a memory of emotion. And that surprises me. I’m just thinking of what to say to try and calm her down – when her eyes widen, the pupils dilating in further fear as she sees something over my left shoulder. Shit. Company. I don’t even have time to turn around before the shotgun blast rips through me from behind, and everything goes black.

  23. B. Macon 01 Dec 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Don’t worry about the absence. Day jobs should take precedence over writing until at least your writing makes enough money to sustain you.

    Normally, I’d recommend ditching the epigraph (the quote from Milton at the beginning of the chapter) because epigraphs are usually pretentious, but I feel like your target audience might be more receptive. However, I would recommend replacing it’s with its– it’s not being used as the contraction, so it should not have the apostrophe.

    “It’s then that I realize I’ve been here before.” This is pretty awkward because the rest of the passage is written in the present tense, but the “then… that I realize” only works if the character is looking back, I think. If the character is in the present tense, I’d recommend eliminating the phrase “It’s then that I realize.”

    “Frantic, I try to reach the door I know is there.” The narrator tells us that she’s frantic. I’d recommend rewriting this with a stronger verb than “try to reach” to SHOW us that she’s desperate.

    “Safe. Not burning as a police siren splits the night as it speeds past on the street below my window.” I’d recommend placing another period after “not burning.” Not burning doesn’t really fit in the same sentence as the police siren, I think. … Also, while we’re on this sentence. “A police siren splits the night as it speeds past…” I know what you’re trying to show here, but I think that this feels a bit awkward because it makes it sound like it’s the siren (rather than the car) that’s moving. I think this could be fixed pretty easily by replacing “it” with a noun phrase that refers to the car rather than the siren.

    “‘Shit! Shit!’ Something is wrong – drastically wrong.” I think that the second sentence here is redundant. Screaming shit obviously indicates that something is wrong. (However, I will note that the “something is wrong” does add the detail that she doesn’t know exactly what’s wrong– you might be able to convey that by having her pace across the room or some other action that suggests she doesn’t know what she should be doing).

    I love the phrase “the thing” instead of the red-herringish “the demon.” Also, “the thing” is almost ludicrously American. F*** yeah!

    “At the scent and sight of the mess…” Show, don’t tell.

    “It’s only enough to make me even more aware of how hungry I am. Fuck. Okay, I have to calm down. This isn’t like me. I am always calm. Always in control.” She’s expositioning herself. I understand that it’s important to avoid giving the impression that being out of control is typical for her, but you might be able to recount that with a reference to something she’s done in the past or flashback or whatever.

    “But the terror from the nightmare is still with me…” I think you can show her acting in a way that suggests that she’s still troubled.

    Overslept is one word, I think. “Must’ve overslept.”

    “It’s – not something I want to talk about right now.” He knows I hate talking on the phone.” You might be able to eliminate one of these. For example, maybe she says something brusque like “You know I hate talking [generic codeword, like "business" or "personal stuff"] on the phone.”

    “Listen – are you okay?” This question seems so obvious as to draw his intelligence/sense into question. Given that she didn’t know how long she’d been out for and hasn’t been answering and he was ready to break down her door, he really should know that she’s okay. At the very least, I’d recommend switching this to a somewhat more declarative statement, like “you don’t sound well.”

    “I’ve gotten into the habit, over time, of working through any restlessness though various martial arts. I’ve mastered most over the years. I learned early on that it’s good to have goals. Goals make living easier.” I think this is a mini-infodump. Generally, I think that action is strongest, followed by dialogue, followed by exposition. Do you think you could show this information through action?

    Why is “under development” in quotations?

    “Cranes and scaffolding of soon to be shiny new glass and steel buildings rise around me like bones in some giant elephant’s graveyard, their shadows bending and crossing one another, creating patterns of light and dark that would entrance me – if I weren’t so damn thirsty.” She really DOES sound entranced by this buildings. It’s an unusual amount of description– are these details important?

    To suggest that she’s sort of distracted by her thirst, you might have her get distracted by liquids, like a puddle of water or a fountain or someone drinking a beer.

    “If it’s hunters – and it probably is – then I’ll be damned if I’m giving them any advantage. I’ve met hunters before. A few times. Our exchanges are never pleasant.” I think “I’ve met hunters before. A few times” is a bit redundant because I think most readers would infer that she’s dealt with hunters before if she knows enough about them to associate the scent of vanilla with them with any degree of confidence. Newbies probably wouldn’t make the same connection.

    “She stops on the third landing a long moment, like she’s heard me, although that is pretty impossible – but still, I freeze.” I’d be careful with this sentence. Imputing an almost supernatural ability to this character (the perfectly human love interest, right?) might mislead readers.

  24. thablueon 19 Jan 2010 at 10:01 am

    Hello again and Happy new year! I’ve finally made it back to post the next two chapters of the re-write. Sooooooo busy with the Real Job it’s mental – but that is a good thing in the long run :)

    As I mentioned before I’ve done a complete re-write of everything. The entire book will now be written from Rue’s P.O.V. I am still fleshing out the flashbacks – I think the one below needs to be a tad longer, but there’s a good bit of study involved in getting the ancient history details correct, and I just haven’t had a lot of time for that recently.

    Also in the combat sequence – I had a question: do you think it is clear enough that Rue is a supernatural creature, and therefore can take quite a beating? Or should I make it more obvious? It’s a difficult balance – I want her to be vulnerable – invulnerable characters are soooooo boring – but yet I want to be ture to the fact that she’s a 4,000 year old vampire too. Hrm.

    Anyway – here’s Chapters 2 and 3, respectively! As always, thanks so much for taking the time, I appreciate it so much!

    Oh, and regarding the last bit above, it will soon become clear that the love interest isn’t *quite* all human :) Wheeeee!

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter Two: Ur Temple Complex, Sumerian Empire. 2019 BCE

    My name is Ruwaydah. I am twelve years old, and my knees are sore. I have been kneeling on the stone steps at the foot of the Ziggurat for a very long time, while above me the High Priestess, the voice of the Goddess – who is also my mother – recites the words that will formally dedicate me into the sevice of the Great Goddess Innana. After today I will begin my education. I will learn my letters, counting and mathematics, the history of my people and of my city, the paths and stories of the stars – and most importantly – the history and teachings of the Annunaki, our Gods. Although I already know more about the gods than most children in the city. I was born here, in the massive temple complex of the great city of Ur – the capital city of the Sumerian Empire, the greatest city in the world. As a girl-child born to a priestess of Innana, this moment was arranged soon after I was born. Not that I didn’t have any say in the matter – I could have chosen to become a merchant, a scholar, or even a married woman. But all of those choices seem foreign to me. I was born to this calling. Born to the gods. We are all their servants, of course – but I would be one who would know what they want from us, and tell that to my people. I am a little frightened of what is to come, but I am also proud. And right now, a little bored. And itchy. I’m not used to having to be so still. Until now I was allowed to do as I wished, running and playing games with the other temple-born girls through the maze of the complex. We were not allowed to play with the other children outside the walls – but sometimes we’d climb up the walls watch them, or tease them. They hated us, thought we were spoiled. And we lorded our place over them threatening them with the anger of the gods. I gaze out over the city, daydreaming as my mother drones on. The view from the height of the Ziggurat is amazing. I can see, to my left side, all the way to the river, and beyond, along the horizon, the mist where the delta meets the sea. Closer in, out past the walls of the city, and stretching out again to the river are acre upon acre of fields and gardens, the irrigation systems that feed them shimmering like jewels in the sunlight. Closer still the city gates, and the city itself, a maze of walls and houses, markets and people. My people. I test the words, whispering them to myself in the same way my mother says them – with a certain sense of authority and responsibility. It is the place of the Priesthood to dictate to the people the word of the gods. It is the responsibility of the people to carry out those commands. But it is the Priesthood that the gods hold responsible to make every law clear.

    The heat of the long summer evening beats down on my shoulders as I squint against the still – bright sun to look up at my mother. The ceremony seems to go on forever and I wonder how she has memorized all of those words, knowing that soon I will be expected to do the same. Finally, she finishes speaking and I can stand up to be led by one of the other priestesses up the steps to The House of the Goddess. My mother offers me a proud smile as she lays her hand on my unruly black hair – which has been platted tight to my scalp in neat rows for the occasion – and begins to speak again, aiming her voice so that the crowds gathered below can hear every word. I cannot hear her words, however – for at that very moment, the full light of the descending sun falls into it’s place in the doorway of the House of the Goddess – it’s rays hitting me full in the face, blinding me in a moment of pure intensity. I hear a gasp from the hundreds gathered below as a rushing fills my head, a crescendo like music, a roar like waves – and I am ecstatic, and filled with wonder, joy and gratitude. The Goddess has accepted me. Not only that but She has blessed me in front of thousands. It doesn’t matter that I am only one of many children to be dedicated this day. It doesn’t matter that the priests, astronomers and mathematicians plan every ceremony like this around the path of the sun. A child of the temples knows all of these things – but none of them matter. I am in my moment of epiphany. And I do believe. Tears sting my eyes as my mother finishes the final words and I am guided to stand beside another girl in the long row of neophytes. The ceremony moves on, but I keep crying. I can’t explain it – I see the other girl’s looks strange looks in my direction. Not all of them have been affected the way I am. But it doesn’t matter. I know what I am. With absolute faith I believe and have been blessed. I am a true servant of the gods. A daughter of Inanna. Forever.

    Chapter Three: Rue

    I wake up to the crunch of three pairs of boots on the gravel of the rooftop – one pair very near my head. There are voices to go with the boots – male voices, arguing. I lay still, face down, eyes closed, my hunger snarling in my gut as my own blood spills out in a dark pool beneath me. Better let them think I’m still out, at least until I can suss who, what, where and how many they are. The voice belonging to the boots nearest me speaks, interrupting the argument.

    “What about the half-breed?”

    A second voice, a bit further away and to my left side, answers.

    “Leave her. We got what we came for – she’ll come ‘round eventually. If the sun don’t get her first.”

    The owner of the first voice chuckles and pokes me with what is most certainly the barrel of a gun – and then he aims a hard kick to my side. That hurts like hell, but I still play dead, my mind working fast. Shotgun boy said ‘Half- Breed’… a derisive term for those like me, used by those who think they’re better. That phrase and a certain smell above and beyond the smell of my own blood all around me – a sickening scent of decay and sulfur – all add up to a conclusion that doesn’t make me happy. Not one bit. These boys are Demons. Fuck it. I really hate demons.

    I am still bleeding – although I’ve started to heal already, there’s not enough blood left in me to complete the task. And to make matters worse, the thing inside me is railing to get out – its need to feed is growing into an ever-louder murmur inside my head. I’m going to lose it. Soon. This is not good.

    A third voice speaks up, further away – a few feet behind and to my left as well.

    “I still say we drain this bitch now – all he needs is her blood anyway, right? Save us the trouble of carting her all they way back down.”

    The hell they will ‘drain’ me! Over my dead body. I start to tense up, ever so slightly. It’s been a long time since I’ve fought one of the Truly Damned. Never mind more than one. It’s never gone that well. This just isn’t my night.

    Then the second voice speaks again – he sounds like the one in charge.

    “No. We take her to him as planned. Alive…”

    His voice changes…a cruel pleasure coloring his next words.

    “He didn’t say we couldn’t play with her first, though.”

    He’s further away – and from somewhere beside him I hear muffled sobs and a scuffling sound. The girl. She’s alive. Realization dawns then. They aren’t talking about me. They’re talking about her.

    I lie there a few more moments as they laugh – and the sounds of a struggle get louder, accompanied by lewd taunts and sadistic laughter. The boots that were standing beside me move away – and I’m left to make my decision. I could make a break for it while they are otherwise occupied. They’ll never even notice, more than likely. Okay. So. I should go. It’s a good plan. They don’t want me – don’t give a shit about me, from the sounds of it. So why am I not going? Shit. Shit shit shit.

    I can’t leave her to them. Never mind for the moment that she was trying to kill me not all that long ago. I like her, for some reason. God damn it. Biting back a groan, I get to my feet, assessing the situation as I do so. About six feet away from me the Demons are huddled around the girl – two pinning her cruelly to the gravel rooftop and one in the process of pulling his pants down. Her glasses have fallen off, and she’s bleeding from a few nasty cuts and scrapes, but she seems otherwise unharmed. So far. And I was right – the Demon boys don’t even notice me. Until I clear my throat. Loudly.

    They freeze and all turn to gape me at the same time. It would be comical, if I weren’t about to get my ass kicked. They’re all great big thick thugs of men – their once-human bodies twisted grotesquely by their possession of them. I give them a little wave.

    “Sorry to interrupt your little party, fellas – but I believe I got here first.”

    The one with his pants partway down yanks them back up and looks to his buddies – then back at me, initial surprise giving way to a leering distain.

    “Well, well well…looks like the leech woke up boys!”

    He walks toward me, an arrogant sneer on his blackened lips as his cohorts yank the girl to her feet – one of them holding on to her roughly, a knife to her throat – as the other – the one who shot me – lifts that same shotgun and aims it at my head. Lovely. I take them all in, and then look back to Mr. Cocky Pants as he saunters up real close, his solid black demon eyes meeting my own.

    “I think you’d better leave, half-breed. This isn’t any of your business”

    I shoot him a toothy smile, buying time, measuring the distance between us, and between the girl and the other two as I do so.

    “On the contrary – this is exactly my business. In fact I was conducting a bit of my business – when you and your friends so rudely interrupted with that shotgun of yours. And don’t call me half-breed. That’s so crass.”

    He raises an eyebrow and tosses an incredulous look back over his shoulder to his buddies. Which is exactly what I was hoping he would do. It’s now or never. In that split second, I move as fast as I can, the base of my hand hitting the base of his jaw with a resounding crack. The blow connects and he flies backwards onto the rooftop, skidding to a stop a few feet away. Without stopping to see if he stays down, I jump over him and run right for shotgun boy. The gun goes off just as I reach him, ripping a new hole in my shoulder. But at least it misses my head. It hurts like bloody hell, and the muttering hungry thing inside begins to snarl. There is a sweet familiar pull in my jaw and I feel my fangs press sharp against my lips. I’m beginning to get angry. I growl and grab the shotgun by the barrel, ripping it away from shotgun boy – breaking his arms in the process. He screams – and I swing the shotgun around like a club against the head of demon-boy number three – who is still holding the girl – before he has a chance to even blink. He crumples to the floor and I grab his knife and swing back to shotgun boy, just as he leaps for me – his arms sticking out at wrong-angles – but it’s the human host that’s hurt, not the demon – the demon just doesn’t give a shit. He hits me with a blow that knocks me off my feet and halfway across the roof. Okay – so he’s strong. Somehow I manage to hang on to the knife with one hand, and the shotgun with the other. I roll to my feet, bring up the gun and aim for his head just as he leaps in for the kill. The resounding blast echoes around the surrounding buildings as he falls and doesn’t get up. I feel a rush of air and hear a sucking sound as the demon quits the body.

    One down – two to go.

    There’s a snarl like a really angry and really big cat from behind me, and I turn to greet Mr. Cocky Pants mid-leap. Spinning the knife around, I let fly into his chest. Surprisingly, he falls to the rooftop and lies very still in a crumpled heap. That was easy. I follow in for the kill – bloodlust thrilling through me – but then I hear a scream from behind me – and turn around to see Demon-boy number three dragging the girl by her hair back with him toward the side of the building.
    I change direction, leaping across the rooftop and cutting him off with a snarl. Unfortunately Demons don’t scare easily. He tosses the girl to one side, meets my snarl and raises me an ear- piercing screech as his skin begins to boil and shift – then split open in several places, as hundreds of oily black spines jut out from his arms, legs and hands. This is why it’s never a good idea to pick a fight with a Demon. They always cheat. Before I can do much more than stare, he backhands me – little more than a slap for him – and I go skidding across the roof yet again, a handful of his spine thingies imbedded in my face and neck. Blinding pain rockets through me, and blood fills my vision. The control I have over myself slips away like ice on a sunny day. I hang desperately on to the last shred of my sanity and claw some of the spines out of my face just as porcupine boy leaps in for the kill – then I realize I still have the shotgun. I bring the barrel up to his eye level just as he hammers a black spiny fist into my gut. It’s reflex more than anything like skill on my part that pulls the trigger. Another whoosh of air, another sucking sound. That’s two. But it’s cost me. The spines from porcupine boy have some sort of poison in them. Everything goes foggy and off-kilter. I try to turn back to check on the girl, but my legs won’t hold me up anymore and I fall to one side, losing my grip on the shotgun as everything becomes a wash of red.

    I watch as if from a great distance as Mr. Cocky-pants gets up from where I left him with that knife sticking out of his chest. I knew that was too easy. His human host body is warped and streached by the true form underneath. Steam rises up from his skin as it begins to boil from within, and horrid, fetid stench fills the air, burning my eyes and making me gag and choke. I struggle to stay conscious as he walks slowly across the roof towards me. Numbly, I reach out, grasping for anything at all – and my hand closes in around the cold barrel of the shotgun again. I manage to grab it, but I can’t get my hands to work well enough to use it before he’s on me. He yanks me back by my hair and slams me back down face-first into the pebbledash rooftop. The leftover spines from porcupine boy drive deeper into my face and things begin to go black – but he’s not done. Dragging me up again, he bashes my head into the side of the roof until I see stars, then whole galaxies, and then nothing but blood. He picks me up, holding me by the throat in one hand – dangling me over the edge if the roof for a long moment. My skin begins to smoke and burn where he touches me. But I refuse to scream. I somehow manage to meet his solid black gaze with my own in defyance – the last weapon I have – as he sneers at me with abject hatred.

    “Traitor.”

    He spits in my face…his demon breath sour and stinging. Then he lets go – and I go falling, ten stories to the pavement below.

    This is really going to hurt.

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