“If there’s someone there, you’d better show yourself. Unless you want me to cleave off your head,” I shouted. I heard a cough and saw a tall, well-built man slip from the shadows. He wasn’t bad looking, but his dark hair was styled with cement-like gel and his eyes were far too blue to be natural.
“Apologies. I wasn’t sure if you were friend or foe.” He nodded at me.
He was a vampire, probably a little younger than me.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“My dear, you are the one trespassing on my territory. It should be me asking questions of you.” He gave me a sly smile, as if he was trying to get away with something. Like he’d farted and was waiting for me to smell it.
“If this was truly your territory you’d have attacked me, not slunk in the shadows like a sniveling child.” I pulled my axe back so I held it by the handle and it rested on my shoulder.
He put his hands up; he was unarmed and laughed beneath his breath. “I now understand the Elders rule.”
He was referring to the old, no female vampires rule – misogynistic t scumbags. It was then that I got a good whiff of blood, live human blood.
“Have you got people here?”
“Why yes, we’ve collected a few to take to the Highlands. Would you like to join me for a drink?”
And he’d been openly feeding off them, great!
“No, I’ll give that a miss. Where are they?”
“In the store room, back there. They’re uninfected,” he said with a sweeping invitation with his arm. “I must say, I’ve never seen a female vampire so beautiful.”
Good grief, did he think this was some sort of date? That we would sit back and watch Dawn of the Dead whilst munching on scared survivors? What an asshat!
I narrowed my eyes and walked to the door he was pointing to. He smiled and gestured for me to open it. I did. Now I was fully aware that this could have been a trap, but even if a hundred vampires descended on me, I still had an axe to Red Queen their asses back to Wonderland.
“May I introduce myself?” he said behind me.
“No.” I stepped through the door and was hit with the smell of both old and fresh blood. I took in the large warehouse back quickly: boxes were piled high with electronics, gadgets and God only knows what other useless items, but there were also people crouching by them. They were blindfolded and roped together with a thick unforgiving plastic vine. Some were still bleeding from where he had fed off them. Some were whispering prayers in ragged voices. Some slowly pulled at their bindings, more like they were an itch than a problem. But all cowered when they heard his voice. There was a collective shiver that even caught me in its terrible wake. Whoever this vampire was, he was truly living up to monster status now.
“Here,” he said as he lifted the plastic rope and pulled the nearest person toward us, “have a drink.”
I looked at the young boy bound and blindfolded before me; he had blood all down his Simpson’s t-shirt and he’d pissed himself, probably days ago now. This was what the Highlands were going to be like, just with slightly less feeling and more order.
“My name is Ludwig. What’s yours, my blonde haired vixen?” He pushed the boy at me and I moved so that I was stood between them.
“What?” Ludwig’s eyes widened. He’d heard of me, the lack of blue hair had been what had put him off the initial recognition. If I’d looked more like my old self he’d have run from me, or attacked me in the shop. I might never have discovered his little person larder.
“Yeah, I was forced into a make under.” I smiled sweetly at him, “Ludwig, you have something on your sleeve.” I swung the axe so hard that it cleaved his arm straight off. Blood sprayed across me, splattering my face and streaking the front of my hair. Unlike human blood, vampire blood is cool, smells metallic and tastes like sea water, kind of like your blood tastes to you. Some vampires get a taste for their own kind; those were usually the ones that the Elders sent me after.
Ludwig’s look of shock was only matched by his girlish scream. He clutched at his leaky stump and shuddered. I lifted the axe again, this time to cleave off his head, but he must have regained a modicum of resolve, as he caught the axe’s blade in mid-swing. I quickly slipped my hands down the handle and, palms up, slammed it vertically so that its blade crushed against his skull. I heard a sickening crack as bone crumbled against the force. He keeled and stumbled back through the shop’s doors. I edged forward and crouched, sweeping my leg out to trip him over. Once he lay sprawled on the floor, I lifted my axe a final time and off rolled his head. It tumbled down the flat screen TV section.
The tethered humans were now desperately pulling at their bonds. I guess the big bad that had just killed their torturer was probably not someone they wanted to stick around and have tea with – better the devil you know.
I moved carefully toward the nearest boy. I gently took his blindfold from him and he blinked a few times and recoiled at my presence.
“It’s okay,” I said, hands out, palms up, “I’m here to help you. I won’t hurt you.”
The boy edged further away from me, pulling on all their ropes. He particularly dragged all of the survivors onto the floor. I suddenly had an image of me leading them like a chain of dogs through the streets. If Satan had been on a leash, he’d have died. If I couldn’t do that to a dog, I’d be damned if I was going to be responsible for leading an all-you-can-eat zombie buffet conga line.
“Look, I know you have no reason to trust me, but…”
“You’re one of them,” said the boy, looking past me to Ludwig’s twitching corpse. He must have been old; it can sometimes take a while for the magic to leave older vampires.
“We’re not all the same you know.” I stepped to his side and took a blindfold off a nearby woman, “Wait a minute, them?”
The woman gave me a quizzical look, “There’s another one. He had red hair and a posh accent; like from Downton Abbey.”
Okay, now time was of the essence. I pulled out my pink handled knife and sliced the rope between all the humans. I removed all their blindfolds and counted them: twelve.
“Right, here are your choices. You can say here and wait for Red, whoever he is, to come back and drink you dry, or you can follow me and I can get you the hell out of zombie central.”
“Zombies?” they all said together.
“You haven’t noticed the slathering zombie masses?” I asked.
“No,” said an older man, who had managed to pick up a plank of wood and hide it behind his back while I wasn’t looking.
“How long have you been in here?”
The man chose then to swing the plank at me, which I caught and crumbled in my grip. The small crowd gasped and I think they were just about to all fall onto me, when the bell at the door of the shop chimed.
“Oh no, it’s him. He came back for us.” A young girl of no more than thirteen cowered near me. I turned to her.
“I won’t let him hurt you. I told you, we’re not all the same.”
She bit her bottom lip and squeezed out a fat tear that rolled down her ruddy cheek.
“My name is Britannia. I know this is all a bit…” I struggled for the right word, “…weird, but I’ll get you some place safe. You just have to trust me.”
“So, let me get this straight.” The boy whose blindfold I’d took off first edged toward me. “You’re a friendly blood sucking demon, and there are zombies outside. But you’ll protect us? At what price, you gonna feed off and kill us one by one like your friend there?” He motioned at Ludwig’s now still body. I kicked the vampire’s corpse out of the door and into the main shop, out of the eye-line of the humans.
I didn’t have time for this. I needed to get a new radio, some food and get back to the zoo. I needed to tell Tate I was alive and for Josh and Jack to know I was on my way to them. I hadn’t even bothered to ask these humans’ names and here I was trying to protect them, while they challenged my ethical code. I was just about to give the boy what for, when a rumbling groan echoed through the store. I peered out to see a group of zombies shuffling toward Ludwig’s body. Once there, they began to rip him apart like an overcooked turkey. There were stuffing- and cranberry sauce-like substances cascading out of the yawning cracks they were making with their bare hands. I gagged and quickly closed the door.
“I am Britannia. I am your protector. I will fend off the hungry hordes of undead hands that reach toward you. I am your steadfast defender. I will stand between you and the zombie masses as they try to taste your flesh. I am strong, unyielding, and dedicated to your survival. All I ask from you… is your blood.”
A 500 year bloody game of vengeance will need to be put on hold if vampires are to survive the zombie uprising. Bitter enemies, Britannia and Nicholas must work together to save un-infected humans, delivering them to a stronghold in Scotland.
Unable to drink the zombie blood, vampires need humans to stay alive. But will they tell the survivors who they are, and what they want from them? Will Britannia be able to hold back her vengeance? Is survivor Josh the reincarnation of Britannia’s murdered true love? And can she bring herself to deliver him to the safe hold?
Survival instincts run deep, but bad blood can run deeper.
Thank you for featuring Bad Timing. Nicx