To Fear the Dawn: Chapter 21
“Darling,” Charity called excitedly from the entrance of the home she shared with Reginald. “Come look, my love! Come see what I have borne you!”
Reginald strode quickly into the foyer and gasped with delighted shock. Surrounding Charity in the dim light from the candles stood three young vampires, two of them teenagers, the other a child.
Sons! he thought, clasping his hands together. My wife has delivered three sons!
He could hardly contain his joy as he rushed toward them, but stopped short as the oldest boy cried out in rage!
“Stay away from us, you bastard from hell!” Tank yelled, his fangs flashing in the candlelight. “You think I don’t remember what happened? Well I do! You may call yourself a father to us now, but you’re not! You killed my real father! You’ve turned us into demons like you, and you think it will make us forget… you think it’ll make us feel something for you, but it won’t… it won’t, do you hear me?”
“Fuck you, Tank!” Ripp told his brother with a hiss, shoving him hard, while Buck clung to Charity and watched wide-eyed, disturbed by his brother’s anger.
“Charity, my love… What is this?” Reginald asked her in a confused voice, looking at Tank. “He has been Turned, I can see that, yet why does he still feel such fury?”
“I don’t know, Reginald.” Charity murmured. “Perhaps he was too close to being a man.”
“No, age does not matter in this.” Reginald said. “It must be something else. His anger...”
“It’s because I hate you!” Tank yelled again. “I hate you, I hate being this way, and I hate her for doing it to me!”
Charity gasped as though he had struck her. He hated her for doing this to him? How could he? He was immortal now! Strong, invincible! Did he not feel the power? Did he not realize the gift?
Then, unbidden, Charity suddenly remembered how she had felt upon first awakening as a vampire...
The knowledge she would need to live off the lifeblood of others. Existing like a parasite, drinking blood, killing, prowling the night and never again seeing the sunrise.
It had sickened her!
It still did!
She looked down at the pallid color of her hands and then looked, really looked, at Tank’s anguished face.
Oh no. Oh, God. Look what I did to him. To all of them! What have I become that I would do such a thing? That I would sentence them – innocents! – to such a fate?
Do I even know who I am anymore?
“Come, my sons,” Reginald said softly to the boys, “and I will divulge to you the secrets known only to our kind.”
Buck and Ripp, both unconsciously desperate for a father figure even if they were not aware of it, willingly went with him. Tank, however, sat down on the stone floor and buried his head in his arms, shuddering with sobs. Charity watched him, her heart breaking. How could she have done this to them? As Reginald left the room with the two younger siblings, Charity sat down on the floor beside Tank.
“Get away from me,” he said, his voice breaking.
“Tank, I’m sorry.” Charity said, and when she said it, she at first thought someone else was in the room speaking. Even Tank looked up and glanced around questioningly. Yet it hadn’t been anyone else speaking, Charity realized. She had sounded like herself.
“Yeah, right.” Tank replied, putting his head back down again. “It’s a little late now, isn’t it?”
“I suppose it is,” Charity admitted. “For me as well.”
“Why did you do it?”
Charity sighed. “I don’t know. I felt… compelled… to do it. Not that it’s any excuse.”
“He got to you, didn’t he?” Tank asked, nodding toward the doorway through which Reginald had disappeared with Ripp and Buck. “The one who killed my dad! Charity, don't you get that he did the same thing to you as you did to us?"
“I love him.” Charity said uncomfortably. “Despite what he is and what he has done. His reasons may not make sense to anyone else, but to him, they are valid, and he does what he does out of love.” She looked away from Tank’s penetrating red stare. “I don't expect you to understand.”
“It’s love to chug the blood of a human being?” Tank asked, exasperated. “Love to know you killed someone that could have left a family behind? What about them? What about their love, what about their grief?”
He put his head back down.
Charity looked at his slouched figure and could think of nothing to say. After a moment, she put her own head down on her knees like Tank, knowing he was right, that she wasn’t much different than him, and that they both shared the same blighted future.
It took four attempts with the formula before they got it right.
Even then, Vidcund wasn’t one hundred percent certain it would work, not having actually tried it on a true human-turned-vampire, but in the laboratory tests it had done the job. He, his brothers, and their vast research team, after a lot of explanation and shock, had done it, but it hadn’t been easy, and Vidcund hated to think of all the time it had taken.
First, they’d had to isolate the virus enough to infect their test subjects. Luckily, with so many individuals working on the problem, it took a surprisingly short time before they successfully isolated the genome and infected several rats. Vidcund shuddered when he remembered what utter monstrosities those rats had turned out to be; with their razor teeth and glowing red eyes, but it was all in the name of science.
After that, the real work had begun. Night after night, and day after day… one blurring into the next until Vidcund began to think the only light in the world was of the florescent type, and he had no idea whether the digital clocks were telling him if the hour was a.m. or p.m.
Working, working, working; never stopping. Listening to heavy metal music blaring on portable radios to keep him awake and drinking endless cups of coffee. Testing various antigens over and over; drawing blood from horrifying mutated rats who tried to rip him limb from limb as he handled them, only to watch the poor beasts squeal in agony when the sunlight hit them, and having the horrible, sinking knowledge that this wasn’t it, either.
Then throwing all those syringes and collection tubes into the bin for the incinerator and starting all over again with renewed fervor.
Formula A had not killed off enough of the virus to be remotely effective. Formula B had actually seemed to increase the virus’ replication, which wasn’t what they were looking for at all. Formula C seemed to work at first; the rats took on their regular appearance and stopped wanting to maim their handlers, but they had still all died when exposed to the sunlight.
Then, finally, after what seemed like an eternity of too little sleep, too much coffee, and way too much Metallica, in Vidcund’s opinion, the team developed Formula D.
It seemed to work instantaneously, the rats displaying some slight discomfort, but coming out of it perfectly normal. Well, normal for rats, Vidcund amended to himself. Their temperaments returned to normal, their feeding habits, their sociology, their intellect… all normal.
Check, check, check. Sunlight. No effect. Check.
Looking over the charts and files hanging on the sides of the test animals’ cages, Vidcund remembered one thing they hadn’t tested for yet, and he briefly wondered if the rats would have the capability to reproduce again. He had noticed breeding behavior among the caged specimens, but, even as prolific as rats generally are, and as short as their gestation period is, there had been no young born to any of them during the entire testing period.
Lifting a particularly well-endowed male out of his cage, Vidcund stroked the animal’s soft fur thoughtfully.
I’m almost positive the vampirism itself causes the infertility, even though we didn’t test for it specifically. With the complete absence of spermatozoa in Nervous’ sample and the lack of young from all these rats, it only stands to reason. I imagine fertility will return the same way all other body processes did; almost instantly, if the virus does, indeed, cause it.
“Only one way to find out,” Vidcund said to himself. “Scientific processes be damned.” He opened a cage containing several females and dropped the male rat inside. “Go for it, boy.” he told the rat in an amused tone. “You deserve it after what I’ve put you through.” The rat took no notice of Vidcund, but immediately dived in among the females and got down to business.
“I’ll give you some privacy,” Vidcund said to the rat with a tired chuckle as he turned off the lights and left.
Wearily, he climbed into the cab that was waiting for him and headed home for the first time in what seemed like years. Home, where he could be alone with his thoughts and no longer be able to avoid everything that reminded him of the woman he loved.
To Be Continued. . .