Authors: Robert S. Wilson
The Sleeper Awakes
When George Nelson woke from the darkness he immediately knew something was wrong.
His sense of time for one thing.
But there was something else much more concrete. Through a haze of blurry vision he could make out the white walls and the suspended television set. His view was angled as he lay in what appeared to be a hospital bed. The rhythmic beeping to his upper right-hand side confirmed that he was indeed hospitalized.
He looked out the window. Waving in the wind with reckless abandon flew an American flag. At first he thought his sense of color hadn't yet returned. But he remembered the streaking flashes of color from the TV. As he puzzled over this the flag straightened from a great gust of wind. Not only were the stripes of the flag indeed black and white, but there was only a single white star clothed in black.
Movement from the foot of the bed caught his attention. George attempted to raise his head to see what it was. A man sat in a chair in front of the bed, sipping from the straw of a white Styrofoam cup and laughing as he watched the TV. He wore a long white coat and the top of his head was bald surrounded by a mane of short, bright red hair. George felt somehow disrespected by his presence. He cleared his throat to attempt to speak. The noise of the TV drowned out the sound of it. His voice was hoarse as though he had been screaming. Even the slightest intonation felt like his vocal chords were tearing.
A strange gurgling noise erupted from George as he attempted to say something. The man sitting in the chair started at once and jumped from his chair. When he'd looked to the door and saw no one, he scanned the rest of the room until there was nowhere else to look but the bed. A wave of shock hit him when his eyes found George's face.
"Well, I'll be damned to Necropolis," the man said. He yelled for a nurse and proceeded to examine the readouts on the screen of the machine next to the bed. A moment later a burly, female nurse with a large, dark mole on her right cheekbone entered the room and yelped when she saw George. Before long the room was full of doctors and nurses. Some of them tried to communicate with him while others stood marveling and discussing his state of health.
As the weeks progressed he was given speech therapy and began improving rapidly. All the while he learned bits and pieces of the current state of affairs from watching TV. Eventually he was told it was unknown just how long he had been in the coma, but he'd already figured that out. From television George learned from the date that it had been 21 years.
The first Sunday morning after he awakened brought a startling revelation as well. He was woken by a short, heavily made-up nurse with a huge smile as plastic as the name tag at her breast. Her brown helmet of chemically stiffened hair bounced slightly as she rolled a wheelchair by the side of his bed. She gave off an aura of overwhelming joy as she walked to the window and slid the curtains open, letting the sunlight saturate the room.
today is your lucky day," she said with that glassy smile. "Today you get to go to church."
Until then George had been tense, but the thought of some fellowship with other Christians was quite refreshing. Maybe that would help him to deal with some of the strangeness of his ordeal. He smiled back at the nurse.
Will be nice to spend some time worshipping the Lord," he said.
The nurse made a high squeak in agreement and helped him into his chair. One thing George had realized from watching TV, a very monumental change had occurred in the American government. It seemed that Christianity was now the official religion of the country. He was a little curious about how that would work with the sheer number of people of other faiths. Were they still allowed to worship their gods? The moment he could see inside the chapel he saw he had been wrong in his assumptions.
As the podium in the open doorway came into view, in place of Jesus on his cross, stood the image of a man with that same black and white flag furled behind him. The figure in the image was Joseph Caesar. George could have recognized him anywhere. Before his accident, George had worked for Joseph. Back then Caesar was starting a revolution. He was originally a Pastor from southern
who believed he'd been shown a vision from God. Or so he led his followers to believe.
It was all coming back to George. That last night before the darkness, the night of the accident he had found out the truth about Joseph. Being pushed forward into that awful chapel in a wheelchair and surrounded by smiling faces filled with zeal, George knew he had to force back the reaction of horror within him. It took so much at first but once the services began, he found himself in awe of what he was witnessing.
The pastor came out dressed in a long white robe, a thick book at his side. It looked like the bible but something about it was wrong. Aside from the fact that it was proportionately thicker than the good book there was something else that George couldn't quite place at the time. The pastor greeted the congregation with a genuine enthusiasm. The room erupted with reply. Once everyone was quiet again he began to speak.
"Brothers and sisters, today we're going to talk about revival.
About second chances.
You see, today we have been blessed with a second chance thanks to our loving lord and god, Emperor Caesar."
George's throat went dry and his vision sharpened at once.
"With us today is a man who has risen from the ashes of death, from the clutches of the devil, and from the mouth of the lion's den." The man pointed at George with his outstretched arm. "I want you all to welcome Brother Nelson back to the world. Amen to Caesar!"
The crowd erupted with "hallelujahs" and "
." George managed a miserable smile as the entire congregation stood while still applauding, their various faces looking at him with tenderness. When it was finally over everyone sat down and the pastor continued.
"So, now that brings me back to today’s sermon. You see brothers and
we live a rich and wonderful life in this nation. We have been given a second chance by our lord and true savior. He brought our mighty Empire up from the ashes of that pitiful, unclean thing it was before. He brought us out from the clutches of the pharaoh’s of democracy that held its people as slaves.
"Only, unlike the Pharaoh of Egypt, these evil men and women enslaved us to our sins! Nay, they encouraged us to sin beyond our own worldly desires. And like brave Moses, the Second Son came and parted the waters of secularism and brought us through to the other side. He stood up before the corruption and said, 'Let my people go.'" The pastor's hand pounded into the pulpit.
A silence spread over the congregation as an air of united confidence pulsed from everyone else in the room.
"And that, ladies and gentlemen, is our revival.
The greatest revival of all.
By the blaze of rifles our lord gave us eternal life with him!"
With that, the crowd roared as George watched in amazement.
As the nurse helped George back into his bed he smiled at her and thanked her for taking him and he had meant it. Though his gratitude wasn't likely what she thought it was for. When she was gone, he exhaled all the pressure he'd been holding back for the past several hours. It occurred to him to wonder what else had changed since the accident. He later regretted ever wondering at all.
It became time for George to start physical therapy and he took to it dreadfully at first. But over time the old movements and muscle tone came back to him with great effort. Each day he pushed himself harder compelled by a need to learn as much as he could. All the while he had kept the question of where his brother Bill was and why he hadn't visited. George knew it wasn't likely to be a pleasant discovery when he did find out, but he needed to know. The
staff of the hospital were
no help either as the records prior to the incorporation of the Empire had been destroyed and the staff then newly appointed.
As the weeks went by, George was soon walking on his own two feet again. Every Sunday he went to church and learned everything he could about Caesar and his religion. He learned in time that it was mandatory for every able body to go to church the first and third Sunday of every month. He learned that many people fled when the Empire had taken control. He learned that those who openly disbelieved in Caesar's religion or spoke against the Empire were put to death.
There was also a part he couldn't understand about that. When people spoke of how these "Penitents" were put to death they spoke of a city called Necropolis. They talked about demons.
Demons drunk on the blood of the sinful.
When George heard these words his mind tried to fit a reasonable explanation to the puzzle. All he could think
was maybe they were speaking figuratively. He knew from news reports there really was a city called Necropolis. He also knew that prisoners were transported there weekly. He knew that to be sent there was a death sentence of some kind. But how, he couldn't be sure. It was almost as strange as what he'd uncovered about Joseph before his accident.
Most days George woke up feeling rather lonely. And the world he'd awakened to was no comfort. Everything seemed tainted. Everyone he spoke with, everything he saw on TV. But when he was discharged from the hospital he saw just how much things had changed.
What he'd seen on TV didn't begin to do it justice.
Nothing as it Seems
Now surrounded by darkness, Hank touched his mouth where he'd seen the fangs in the vision. Only after drinking the blood of a human vampire had they appeared before. Would he become a killer of human vampires or a human vampire himself? Or was it all just a hallucination? After all, he was dead, wasn't he? The Emperor had hit the kill switch.
All this crazy dreaming about the future.
Did he even have a future?
He was aware that he could no longer move. That everything around him seemed to have been swallowed by darkness.
The vampire, the vision, even his own body.
All that was left were
thoughts. Toby's face filled his mind's eye. Would the Emperor send that murderer after his boy? Was there any hope now? If he’d had a voice to use, Hank would have been screaming from the torture of helplessness. In his idle state he pictured the vampire ripping apart his son limb from limb. Or was this a vision too?
* * *
Simon was nearly to the top of the tower now, climbing the outside wall at a speed most vampires wouldn't have been able to see clearly. When he reached the windows to the top of the tower, he shattered the nearest glass frame, dove inside, and ran for the main restaurant. When he arrived it was just like he'd seen it. Hank lay on two restaurant tables put together as a makeshift
a thick white bandage darkened from the inside out with blood had been wrapped around his head covering his eyes and ears.
emergency equipment sat beside him filling another table's surface.
stood over Hank's body, his fist to his mouth waiting for Simon.
and Simon took up opposite sides of Hank's lifeless body and laid their hands over his chest. A soft whining filled the air. A sort of figure eight of energy blasted from them, into Hank's body, and back out to the two vampires in an ongoing cycle.
Hank's body began to convulse with the energy of it as a yellow glow brightened underneath Simon and
hands. The whining was now a deafening high-pitched roar.
It was taking everything
and Simon had to hold still enough to continue the transfer of energy. Hank's body began to shake violently like a rag doll though he was still unconscious.
Just as quickly as the energy came it was gone. Along with it the whining stopped and Hank's body lay still, a deep unending silence suffocating the room.
Hank's body lurched forward. Blood shot from his mouth and he began to cough.
and Simon locked eyes with hope. The next instant, Hank jumped from the tables barely landing on his feet stumbling forward in a half run, screaming, his arms grasping before him aimlessly.
grabbed his arms before he could manage to hurt himself.
Simon went to speak and before he even opened his mouth
explained to him in his mind.
His eyes and ears are not yet healed. Thanks to the devices
removed from his body, he may never see or hear again.
had managed to secure Hank's body while
came around with a long syringe. When he administered the liquid from inside it, Hank's body went limp with unconsciousness again.
* * *
Jack woke with the sudden realization that he hadn't meant to fall asleep. He rose from the floor, regarding the stiffening body lying in the bed before him. He took a long moment to listen to his surroundings. He had to find
, the man Hank Evans had stupidly entrusted to watch over his son. Jack slipped out of the room into the hallway. The television was still on downstairs. He made his way toward the stairway at the end of the hall. At an almost human pace he gently crept down the steps to the lower floor.
Blue and purple light reflected in flashes against the wood-stained wall along the side of the stairway. Jack took the last step onto the floor and peeked around the corner where the furniture stood facing the large screen television covering the wall. An elderly man with a few long strands of silver hair sticking up from the top of his mostly bald head lay in yellow-striped pajamas snoring loudly, the same purple and blue hues flashing across him. Jack hadn't seen an older man with them. He stood staring at the man for a long time before he finally went back to the stairway and dashed up the stairs back to the room the boy had been in.
The boy lay just as dead, but Jack noticed something for the first time. Around the room were posters and things that would be in a young boy's room. He took a longer look at the boy. He looked wrong. Not just dead, but wrong. The hair color was the same, he was the right age, but something about his face wasn't right. Jack leaned forward and pulled the boy's eyes open. The green eyes stared forward with no life.
The world spun for a moment. The boy's eyes were Brown. Jack sensed a sudden panting behind him. He turned in time to find the old man from downstairs charging toward him, screaming,
flying from his lips.
"My boy, you killed my b—"
In a flash of movement Jack crushed the man's windpipe. He fell to his knees grasping his throat, his eyeballs seeming to expand in their sockets. Jack stepped back as the body slumped forward then was still.
Within an hour the place was in shambles and Jack finally found the backpack hidden deep in the boy's closet. Inside it Jack could hear the tiny hum of machinery coming from the tracker.
He would have to tell the Emperor. Or would he? He didn't need satellite gadgets to find the boy. He could do it the old-fashioned way. Jack opened the window and jumped swiftly out into the open air, landing on the ground between the houses with a soft tap from the bottom of his shoes. He took in the scent of the air. It was hunting time. Eyes black with renewed bloodlust, he dashed forward at an almost invisible pace.
* * *
Toby woke to the bright gleam of sunlight reflecting on metal as Dustin turned the truck off the exit from the highway. Several tall neon signs stood above the road with various words flashing across them. He'd had another nightmare, had been having them ever since they'd left
. He reached in his pocket for his father's letter and remembered he'd put it in his backpack.
He couldn't believe he'd left it in that booth. Even though they hadn't had time to go back and get it, he knew it probably wasn't there to get anymore anyway. It didn't matter
they had put many miles between themselves and Chicago by then. Toby held back the tears, trying to cling to the hope that he would see his father again. Dustin pulled the SUV into a parking spot in front of the truck stop, put it in park, killed the engine and turned to Toby.
Toby wasn't really, but he nodded anyway. He knew they wouldn't have many chances to stop after this for a while.
"Okay then, let's eat."
Inside they found an empty booth and sat across from one another, Dustin sitting back against the wall and stretching his legs across his seat. A tall brunette in blue jeans and a button-up country western shirt came to their table. With smeared bright pink lipstick, she greeted them with a smile. Her name tag said, "Suzie." She pulled a pen and a pad of paper from her apron and glanced at them, one and then the other.
"What can I get you two
As Dustin was ordering his food, the headline on the television hanging high from the wall caught Toby's attention.
Important announcement from Emperor
flashed on the screen. This was followed by a loud emergency tone that interrupted the waitress, causing her to drop her notepad on the table as all eyes turned to the television.
The Emperor's white robe filled most of the screen. His eyes stared forward with an expression of gentleness.
"Loyal citizens of the American Empire.
I address you tonight with dreadful and worrisome news. I've been informed that the city of
has made threats of war against the American people. Imperial authorities are investigating the matter and a mediator is on site at this time and attempting negotiations, but I'm afraid the prognosis is not looking well. But have no
the Empire is prepared to deal with an uprising if there should be one.
"For many years now, the Empire has been building an army in case such a betrayal might occur.
An army more than capable of destroying the vampires of Necropolis.
Because, citizens, this is an army
Docile vampires loyal only to your lord and emperor himself.
I call on you tonight, citizens, to prepare you for the coming of many changes."
The camera zoomed out then to reveal thousands upon thousands of flying creatures floating close to the ground in a sort of square formation before the Emperor, cat-like eyes staring out from their pale faces. Each of their heads
completely shaved and they wore black and green imperial army fatigues with patches of the imperial flag on each of their right arms. Silence weighed heavily on the room as the live feed faded into a pre-recorded sermon from the Emperor.
The silence only lasted a moment after that. Then the room was overflowing with a roar of voices, some near to panic. The waitress turned to look at Dustin and Toby, her eyes vacant and her hand shaking as she reached out for her notepad and nearly missed the table altogether. It seemed to take her a few minutes, but she finally regained control of herself and took Toby's order. Shortly after she left to get their drinks a few dozen nervous looking people of all shapes and sizes began to trickle out the door in groups of three and four, their tires squealing as they pulled away from the truck stop.
Before long the sun was nearly gone from the sky. Imperial police cars and ambulances were flying by, lights flashing and sirens blazing. Suzie the waitress returned with their food, her hands shaking as she handed them their plates.
"Y'all enjoy. I'm
get me a quick smoke in and I'll be back to check on your drinks, okay boys?"
Dustin nodded and Toby tried to reply in mid chew but didn't manage to get a single word out before Suzie was gone. When he finally swallowed, he asked Dustin the question that had been burning a hole in his nerves ever since the Emperor's announcement had been on.
"Do you think Dad knows what's going on?"
"I don't know. I just hope he knows what he's doing one way or another," Dustin said, stroking his beard.
"Well, it's like you said, he made it out of there before, maybe he has an idea how to get out of this." Dustin didn't reply
he only stared at Toby for a moment, his eyes a thousand miles away. Then he nodded and went back to eating his food.
The bell attached to the door jingled then and Toby looked up to see three Imperial Officers walk through the door, talking amongst
. Dustin's body stiffened with recognition slightly. The three men sat down in the booth behind Dustin's seat and Dustin let out a soft sigh.
Suzie passed by and began to take the officers' orders. When she turned to go back, Dustin motioned for her. Smiling, she asked him what she could do for him. Her tone was much
then and her hands were no longer shaking. Dustin asked for the check and the two shared winks as she walked off.
When Dustin was finished paying at the cash register they walked outside and into the dimly lit parking lot. They were almost to the SUV when Dustin stopped abruptly.