Authors: K. P. Ambroziak
© 2016 K.
by K. P. Ambroziak
characters appearing in this work are fictitious.
resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely accidental.
of this book may be reproduced, stored in
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design by The Cover Collection
THE JOURNAL OF VINCENT DU MAURIER
by K. P. Ambroziak
Up on the Esja, just north of the capital city that used to be known as
Reykjavik, a hiker found this journal. He had passed the rock wasteland of
and the plain of fresh
snow, and had reached the grassy peak of
Hábunga. As he
crouched along the water that cuts through the mountain to wash the sweat from
his brow, he saw it. Lodged in a crevice on the stream’s bank was a small
leather-bound notebook wrapped in plastic. He picked up the treasure, threw it
in his backpack, and started his trek down. With the exception of its last few
missing pages, the following chronicle is the contents of that book translated
in its entirety. The ink and paper have been authenticated, and we believe this
journal is an original document from the period of the Red Death.
268 P.C.E. (Post Common Era)
— Today seems a more
fitting day than most to begin this record. With every last drop of blood
spoiled by this plague, I am soon to be a relic. I know my invitation to Hades
no longer stands, for all those gods are dead and gone, but if I am banished to
the halls of oblivion, I want to be remembered. These pages then will bear the
account of my survival, my proof of existence.
I have gorged for thousands of years but
today starvation nags at the very pit of my core. The temptation sitting mere
feet from my chamber piques my voracious appetite. Stephen and Veronica were as
surprised as I to discover fresh blood and I knew they found it difficult to
resist the smell. Oh, the smell! That enticing blend of sour metal and sweet
tonic—intoxicating nectar! We had not smelled blood that fresh since … I
cannot remember when … ah, perhaps in the nunnery! I knew if they were clean, I
would have to rush them back. All I could think about was bringing fresh blood
to Byron, watching him devour it with the elegance I had taught him all those
years ago. No longer the gluttonous sort, he would slowly suck the ichor to let
his palate delight in all its subtleties. If I could get these donors back to
my beloved, I could revive him and stave off his entropy. With three of them,
we would all enjoy a much-needed repast even if it were a modest one. This was
the reprieve I had hoped for.
“We must make sure they are not infected,” I
Only my companions could hear me since I kept
my voice too low for human ears. I pierced the inside of Stephen’s wrist to
gain his attention; he was in a daze, mesmerized by the smell. Veronica
salivated but had closed her mouth at least; her fangs dropped the moment she
smelled fresh blood. The three humans began to fidget. We had been so quiet
they must have wondered what happened to us, for they certainly saw the front
door open when we rushed in. They probably hoped they had not elicited the
attention of the few stragglers wandering outside. One of the men had his hand
on the girl’s mouth and I assumed she had a hard time keeping calm since she
shook beneath his grasp—she smelled extra sweet.
I almost felt compassion for them. They were
rather helpless in their predicament with us in their midst and the bloodless
stalking the perimeter. They were most likely terrified of being alive, and I
thought it strange they had not yet killed themselves. Perhaps human nature
made them as resilient as us. We were desperately trying to wait out the
plague, hoping for it to vanish as suddenly as it had arrived. Something must
have rallied their hope too. It had been so long since I was human, I could not
remember how it felt.
There we were in the dark with the bloodless
on our heels and humans in our grasp. What was the right move? Speak first or
attack unnoticed? I really only had a moment to decide, for they started toward
an exit on the other side of the room.
“Wait,” I said softly. “Please do not leave.”
They froze, probably wondering how I could see them in the dark. “I can hear
“We’re scared,” Veronica said, following my
The sound of a female voice eased their fear,
for one of the men came forward and shined a flashlight in our direction. He
had a pistol in his hand. “We don’t want any trouble,” he said.
They could see us now and we made on the
light blinded us.
“Neither do we,” I said, trying to sound
nonchalant while faking a squint.
“Are any of you bit?” He asked.
“None of us have been bitten,” I said. “Are
any of you?” I hoped beyond hope he would answer in the negative.
Veronica’s next move was inspired. “We’re
lost,” she said. “We’ve been overrun and have nowhere else to go.” She topped
off her plea with a flush of emotion, as she mustered up a cry. She took to the
ruse rather naturally.
Stephen looked over at me. Neither of us knew
she was capable of tears. Exasperation, maybe emotional outbursts, but never
actual tears. It was remarkable. Veronica’s face was awash with crystallized
streaks, an effect not lost on the human girl who spoke out from the darkness.
“We don’t have much,” she said. “We’re making
do here until they pass.” She referred to the swarm we had avoided on the
outskirts of town. It had already stormed through, but the three humans did not
know that the streets were mostly empty now.
“How did you get past them?” The second man
spoke this time.
“We were extremely quiet,” Stephen said. “But
for the most part, we’ve been able to avoid the swarms.”
“That is what we call them.” I still tried to
“We don’t have any food left if that’s what
you’re after,” the man with the pistol said.
Your food? You are food.
“Oh no,” I said. “We do not need your food.”
The man’s flashlight flickered and then went
off. I took that opportunity to make my move. I lunged forward with Veronica
and Stephen, and together we pounced on the trio. I took down the man with the
gun, which was of no consequence since he could not see me coming in the dark,
and his pistol dropped to the floor when I pierced his neck. The taste of the
nectar almost made me lose my senses. Stephen grabbed the other man while
Veronica leapt on the girl. I planned on saving those two for Byron and the
“Leave them untapped,” I said before burying
my fangs in the man’s neck a second time.
“Please!” Veronica begged. “Let us taste.”
I had taken the first bite to test it, to
make sure the man told the truth when he said they had not been infected. My
second indulgence was for pleasure. With the man’s blood heavy on my lips and
in my throat, I passed him off to Veronica. Stephen would want her to feed
first. He would always put the needs of his beloved before his own.
The three of us drained the man completely,
sucking him dry to reinvigorate ourselves with his blood. The ichor coursed
through me, renewing my senses and giving me that full body high that made me
feel invincible. The girl had passed out the moment we attacked, and although
it was too dark to see me put my fangs into the neck of his companion, the
other man, held down by Stephen, resigned himself to his fate. He knew he was
done for and blubbered like a child.
“Shush!” Veronica scolded. “You’ll raise a
swarm with that noise.”
“We are not going to hurt you,” I said. “Not
The plan until then had been to get the blood
into our system, but we still had to design a way to get the humans to the
cathedral. I assumed it was as simple as putting them on our backs and carrying
them through the streets and the field, but when I heard the howls outside the
trattoria, I knew our escape would be more difficult. They were drawn to smell
as well as sound, and the dead man’s viscera at our feet were piquing their
curiosity. It would not be long before the few became a swarm.
“They’re here,” Veronica said.
“Oh God! Oh God!” The man cried again.
“Shush!” Stephen reacted instinctively and
covered the man’s mouth, but chipped one of his front teeth, cutting his lip
and knocking him out. When the blood gushed, the scent of sweet nectar hit the
air. “Oops.” Stephen looked at me sheepishly. They were like children these
“Lick it up,” I said. “But keep him alive.”
He shared the morsel with his beloved, and
while they slurped up the blood on the man’s swollen mouth, I drew up a plan.
We could not pass through a swarm in the streets, and the scent of the flesh
would drive them through the walls, but if we could get out another way, the
dead man’s body would distract them long enough for us to flee.
“Wait here,” I said.
I went down a corridor and followed it to a
salon at the back. On the way, I noticed an open storage chamber. Its shelves
had been raided, culled by starving humans; broken jars, smashed bottles, human
waste, dried bones, and empty cans harassed me with their offensive smells.
Humans had a high tolerance for rot, and it seemed as though these three had
lived here for more than a few days. The pile of fresh feces in the corner of
the chamber was a most cringeworthy sight.
When I reached the salon, the windows greeted
me with some fresher air. They had been smashed and resealed multiple times
with the floorboards, but despite the coverings, the air was a relief from the
stench of human excrement. There was a bar along one wall toppled over on its
side with a heap of barstools and ashes piled up against it. The remains of
several charred corpses lay on the floor next to the stools. When I saw the
sealed door, I threw myself up against it, listening to the narrow laneway at
the back. Quiet and empty, we would make it our exit route. I rushed to get the
“Grab them both,” I said.
Veronica carried the girl in her arms and
Stephen threw the man over his shoulders.
“We have to move quickly,” I said.
We were still vulnerable to a swarm, despite
our having been strengthened by the blood. Even with the two extra bodies, I
counted on our being able to spring onto the roof where we could better escape.
The darkness would play to our advantage, but I had not decided how to deal
with the scent of the humans. That would be our obstacle.
When we stepped into the laneway, I spotted a
few bloodless wandering past it on our left. I hoped they were making their way
to the front of the trattoria. The howls of a swarm increased, but the mass of
them was far enough on the other side of the building, though I did not count
on it being for long.
“We need to go up,” I said.
I took the man from Stephen’s arms and
insisted he scale the brick. He hoisted himself up halfway, grabbing hold of
the wall, and then propelled his body onto the roof. It was a relief to see him
bound so quickly through the air, the human blood having replenished him. He
leaned over the side of the building and gave us the all clear.
I had not expected bloodless on the roof.
They did not seem evolved enough for tactical matters. Once I had seen several
skirt a fence rather than go over it when the latter would have been the
optimal choice. It was questionable whether they were fully thinking creatures
or mere beasts, but I would never underestimate my adversary, and so I renewed
my effort to get us onto the roof and out of there as discreetly as possible.
“We will toss the girl up first,” I said.
I put the man on the ground, and grabbed hold
of the girl’s legs. Veronica took her by the arms and together we threw her up
to Stephen. Her limbs flailed like a ragdoll, but he caught her at the top and
laid her down on the roof. He gave us the signal to toss up the other. The
howls increased and I hurried to ready the man. Veronica took the arms and I
the legs, but this time we launched the body a little too softly. Stephen made
the catch but not without pulling the man’s shoulder from its socket.
Unfortunately, this woke him from his unconscious state with a scream.
“Cover his mouth,” I said.
Stephen pulled him up onto the roof and did
one better. He knocked him out cold again, though it was too late to salvage
our discreetness. The scream had alerted the swarm to our position, and several
bloodless rounded the corner to get to us. Within moments, new swarms formed at
either end of the laneway.
“Go,” I said to Veronica. She scaled the wall
as easily as Stephen, and when I saw her safely up top, I threw myself onto the
bricks. Several bloodless reached me, tearing at my boots with their bony
fingers, but they could not gain a grip, as I kicked them off my feet. I was
relieved when none of them attempted to scale the wall and climb up after me.
When I looked back down at the rotting faces, smacking their jaws to get at me,
I shuddered at the thought of being pulled down into them. By the sound of the
howls echoing up through the trattoria, some of them had retreated inside and
were newly enthralled by the bit of flesh we left behind. It would not be long
before the rest of them tore down the walls with their stampede, plowing
through one another to get to the human remains lying on the floor.
From the roof, we were able to locate an
escape route near a button store farther down the lane, and we made our way
from the town and into the forest almost as swiftly as we had arrived. The girl
had been unconscious since the trattoria and I held her to my breast to shelter
her from the wind. I wanted to prevent her delicious scent from piquing the
nose of others, though we did not see too many in the forest now.
Our flight through the cool air revived her
and she moved in my arms. I looked down to find her staring up at me. Her neck
was exposed and I saw the blood flooding her veins with its sweetness—I
could feel her skin throbbing, as the hot serum rushed beneath it. My need to
taste her was strong, but I tempered my desire with thoughts of Byron. I could
not wait to bring him the prize I held in my arms; I would be satiated just
watching him guzzle every drop of her blood. “We must hurry,” I said.
When we reached the field, Veronica ran ahead
and readied the passage. She held the hatch open for us and I went down first.
The girl was quiet, though she was fully awake. Stephen followed me, carrying
the man with his arm still dangling from its socket. Veronica was just about to
make her way down the steps when she was caught in the grip of a jowl. The
bloodless had come out of nowhere, skulking silently in the dark.