by Brenda Stephens
The room was almost as dark as the hallway, save for about three candles that were burning in silver candlesticks, one on each side of the bed and another on a wooden dresser by the door. It was difficult to discern the corners of the room, but since the room was small – smaller than expected for such a big house, it was easy enough to navigate around the disheveled wooden bed.
A girl was sprawled out on the bed, sweating and clawing at her neck, when I entered. She kept pulling at her nightgown, as if too hot with the windows closed, the pink ribbon at the neck untied. Her developing breasts kept peeking out with every tug she made on the thin, white cotton fabric. When the nightgown slid down her arm, baring a small shoulder, the girl’s mother rushed to cover up her daughter’s soft pink skin.
I walked from the door, passed the foot of the bed, to a round wooden table with silver trim as I watched the girl jerk a bit, side-to-side, continually moving her feet forward and backward, digging her heels into the mattress. Two maids stood on either side of the girl, one fanning her with a long wooden-handled clamshell paper fan while the other used a cold compress on the girl’s feverish forehead. I set my bag on the table and glanced over at the girl’s father. He hadn’t moved from the door since escorting me into the room, seemingly too scared to get closer and thus cherished his distance from the bed, though it was only about five feet.
The girl’s panting noises brought my attention back to her. When she breathed deeply, her air intake stuttered, like a shiver in cold rain. Though the room was dim, I could clearly see two fang marks on the left side of the girl’s neck. A fresh bite was like any other wound, open, seeping, bloody. But the bite mark on this girl’s neck had already begun to heal, the skin growing back together, red around the outside but puckered in the center. Her three days of transformation were almost up. The girl was in the last phase, yet her parents counted on me to save her from the curse. There was nothing I could do but end her suffering.
“Hold her down,” I told the mother and two maids. “I’m going to give her an injection.”
Each maid pinned an arm. The mother gently put her square hands on her daughter’s chest and stomach and pushed down. The girl wriggled, kicking her legs, and the three women struggled to restrain her. The mother motioned for the father to help and he frantically scurried off the wall to pin his daughter’s legs. The pressure of four adults restricted the girl’s movements greatly, though she still tried to break free. When I pulled out a clear liquid vial from my bag and swirled it around slowly, her gaze fell upon me. Her attention was transfixed, and she stopped writhing. She watched my every move with wide eyes. I inserted the needle of a syringe into the vial and pulled the plunger all the way back. Her mouth gaped open, mesmerized by the clear liquid that seemed to dance in the candlelight. I slipped the vial back in my bag, squeezed the plunger gently, and forced some of the liquid out and down the needle. I approached the girl slowly.
“This won’t be easy. Hold her tight.”
I crossed the room with my right hand outstretched, fingertips holding the syringe, waving it continuously left and right in front of the girl. She followed the syringe with bated breath. When just inches away, I held the syringe in front of her nose. The girl’s head lowered, her eyes zeroing in on the silver needle with clear, glistening residue. As the syringe moved to the left, her head turned, and I quickly placed my palm on her cheek, pushing her face into the white satin pillow on which her head rested. With her eyes deflected, the fight in her returned, and she began to push and pull her body more viciously than before.
“Hold her!” I yelled as I rounded my hand under the girl’s chin, grabbing her neck and digging my pinky into the jugular on the opposite side.
A deep, ruffled growl escaped the girl, her lips pulling taut like a rabid animal. She pressed hard against my thumb that was clamped on her chin. I pushed the tip of my thumb into the flesh of her cheek, feeling the rigid teeth inside her mouth, and twisted my pinky in and up to pin the jugular like a pinched nerve, draining her strength. She was forced into submission.
I inserted the needle directly into the center of the right hole on the girl’s neck and firmly pressed the plunger until every last drop of the clear solution was injected.
“Let her go and stand back. Be ready for anything!”
The girl’s body convulsed, and her jaw clenched. Her mouth drew taut as strained grunts, like the undead pulling itself from fresh graveyard soil, crept through her curled upper lip. Her hands shook uncontrollably, the fingernails growing to long points. She grabbed the left side of her neck with both hands and jabbed the points of her nails into her own flesh. The bite mark seared, like steak on too hot a grill, and burned red hot. The girl’s shoulder blades contracted, and she thrashed herself on the soft mattress. A Tragem symbol of vampire ownership appeared across the bite mark that was now healed. The girl’s grunts turned to a low, gurgling growl as her blue eyes turned red and her canines grew to long sharp tapers. She sat half-way up, face snarling, right arm shaking. Her face was no longer that of the kind girl that laid in bed when I first arrived, but of a disfigured creature spawned by the devil at death’s door, with jagged teeth, sunken eyes, tightly pulled thin skin, and prominent pointed cheek bones.
“Oh my…” a maid said, stepping back when she saw the girl’s face.
“Don’t move!” I said with steel in my voice. I was waiting for the girl to pounce. She had transformed into a fiend – a creature of prey, and fiends attacked indiscriminately without provocation, making them unpredictable. The only thing I knew for certain was that the girl would attack anything that moved out of hunger and lust for blood.
“Sara,” the mother began but paused, her eyes trembling. “Darling?”
The girl quickly drew her feet under and heaved herself forward, pointed fingernails outstretched straight for her mother’s throat, jaw opening to sink her fangs into the woman’s soft flesh. I instantly grabbed the girl’s foot – mere centimeters from her prey, pulled her back, and slammed her into the oak headboard. My hand landed at her throat and I squeezed her jugular like a vice-grip. The girl’s limbs twitched as I incapacitated her. A tear rolled down her pointy, disfigured cheek.
“What’s going on? I thought you were going to cure her!” the girl’s father said.
“She was too far gone. I’m sorry.”
“David, please!” the girl’s mother interrupted. “You just had to deny the symptoms. ‘She’ll be OK,’ you said. Now look.”
“I’m sorry for your loss, but… I have to ask you this here and now. Do you wish to keep your daughter alive – as a vampire?”
“What?!” the mother said.
I looked at the father. He retracted a few steps and lowered his eyes to the gray carpet, refusing to meet my gaze.
What will the Holstadtlers decide – and what will happen to Sara? Be sure to join us again for Chapter 2, coming July 9th, 2022.