So, for our first installment of Fiction Friday, I have the honor of reintroducing one of my favorite up and coming authors to you. Samantha Boyette has been on the TalkCast in conjunction with The Last Man Anthology, and I have also reviewed her new novel, Guardian of Morning. Being a somewhat sarcastic tweeter, a few weeks back I dubbed the end of a particularly pensive week with the ubiquitous holiday name of “Vampire Friday” (insert whatever inappropriate sucking analogy of your choice here). When I arrived back to my techno-strewn hovel, I was confronted with an email from the lovely Samantha with a story attached in honor of my new holiday. Thus I am now honored to present to you, The New World by Samantha Boyette.
I was seven when a flu vaccine gone wrong wiped out most of the earth’s population. My brother Joey was nine. It’s said that after this sort of devastating event three types of people survive. The strong, the lucky, and the stupid. My brother and I like to think we are the second type, though we have been the third type as well. We never want to be the first.
The strong; I’ve met many men and women in the last two years who I normally would have put into the category. Now it’s reserved for the blood suckers. Who would have guessed that the stories that filled our lives for five hundred years could have some truth? As the humans died off from the vaccine, vampires became the majority.
My brother and I survived for two years on kindness from strangers and dumb luck. In many ways we have the vampires to thank for that. They gave the surviving humans something to band together against. Some people went to the vampires, thinking they would be turned. Maybe some of them were, but I think most were food.
I’m not sure what we did different that day. We’d always kept a low profile before, staying off the vampires’ radar, but that day we stumbled right onto it. Long ago we got over the myth that we would be safe from them during the day; vampires moved about as they pleased.
I crouched beside Joey behind a bush, hoping we might have lost them. The day was cool and windy. A fine mist of rain blended with the sweat on my neck, and my brother was warm beside me. We breathed in quiet, shallow breaths.
Nearby a branch snapped. A vampire could move silently when it wanted, but they enjoyed chasing their prey. We ran. An ageless man was following us, running leisurely. He laughed as we ran up the hillside.
He wasn’t the only vampire out there, but he was the one torturing us like a cat with a mouse. We reached the top of the rise and tumbled down the other side with no chance of finding our footing. We made it to the bottom quickly in a tumble of noise.
I landed stunned, but Joey was on his feet and dragging me to mine. We ran to a thicket and crawled inside. From there, were watched as the vampire stood at the crest of the hill, surveying the land for any sign of movement.
Not for the first time, I was thankful vampires were not as super human as they’d made us all believe. They didn’t have super hearing, or the ability to smell us from two hundred feet away. They could run fast, but not much faster than us. Their advantage was that they didn’t tire. Unless a vampire was right on you, you hid. Running was the last ditch effort of the hopeless.
He disappeared from the rise, and I let out a low breath. We weren’t out of the woods yet, though. We could still hear them talking to one another, joking and laughing as if they didn’t have a care in the world. They were all around us now, checking for any sign of us. I felt good about the bushes we hid in, they were thick, and we were deep in the center. Of any place in this crummy little bit of forest, Joey had found the one place we might survive.
A woman came into view, dark skin and hair, moving silently so we knew she was still looking for us. She walked closer and closer to our bushes and we were back to holding our breath for fear of discovery. She stopped halfway past the bush. I don’t know if one of us moved and the brush rustled, or if the smell of two dirty, frightened boys was just too strong, but she stopped.
As she bent down, we froze. She wasn’t hunting, but moving with the eerie grace they all had. She peered at us through the bush and her dark eyes widened.
“You’re children,” she spoke in a voice like warm honey that had my body itching to be close to her. My brother tugged on my arm, pulling me towards the other side of the bush.
“No, wait. I’ll lead them away from you,” she said. Joey stopped and looked at her with the same confusion I was feeling.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because you’re only boys,” she answered. “I haven’t seen a child out here in over a year. You must find others.”
“Uh, okay.” Joey looked at me. I shrugged; I had no idea what the crazy vampire was talking about.
“So young,” she said wistfully. She reached toward me, but I pulled back and her hand caressed only air. “Pray with me.” She bent her head in prayer. With her hands clasped together and face down, she looked human. Not knowing what else to do, Joey and I clasped our hands together and prayed with her.
“Maddie,” a gruff male voice called out from behind her. “What do you got there?”
“Nothing,” Maddie rose to her feet.
“I’ll see about nothing.” He looked past the bush and then down at it. When he crouched, Joey and I ran from the back of the bush. Straight into the arms of the man who had been tormenting us for nearly an hour. His pale face widened in a smile as he wrapped his hands around our skinny arms in a vice grip.
“She found lunch,” he said.
The other man came around and took Joey. Now the tormenter clapped both hands around my arms, and I could barely move. The other man looked in disappointment at Maddie.
“You shouldn’t cover for humans,” he said.
“They’re only boys, Chris,” Maddie argued.
“They’re food,” the tormentor said. He licked my face, his tongue cold and wet against my skin. I cringed away.
“We’re running out of food,” Maddie said. She glared at the tormentor. “We cannot live without humans.”
“You know we have a plan.” the tormentor shrugged.
“Enough,” Chris growled. “Let’s go.”
Joey and I were flung over their shoulder and carried off. It was uncomfortable, and I was terrified, but I was also a small boy, and I fell asleep.
I awoke as my body hit concrete. The jarring impact rattled me to my feet in an instant. I looked around like a trapped animal. Beside me, Joey did the same.
“Little shit pissed on me,” the tormentor shouted. He pulled off his shirt and threw it into the corner. He took one big step towards me and smacked me across the side of the head. The impact sent me stumbling back to the wall.
“Hey!” Joey jumped at him. “Don’t you dare hit him.” Joey was kicking and punching the man with no real effect. The tormentor laughed and put his big hand on Joey’s face. A quick shove sent Joey stumbling back a couple steps.
“Fuck off,” the tormentor said. Joey ran forward and kicked the man’s crotch. The vampire doubled over in pain. I don’t think Joey really expected it to work, because he backed up again real fast. Not fast enough.
The tormentor lashed out and had Joey by the arm. He pulled him in and latched onto his arm with his teeth. Joey screamed in pain. I’d never heard him sound that way before, and I was frozen in terror.
“That’s enough,” Chris called. “Drop him. That isn’t how we do things around here.”
The tormentor let Joey go. Joey back-peddled to me with tears streaming down his face. I put my small arm around his shoulders, trying to comfort him. The tormentor stalked out of the room.
“I’ll send someone in to clean that up,” Chris said. The door closed behind him.
“You okay, Joey?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he answered through grit teeth. “It hurts bad though.” He had his hand pressed to the wound. Joey started to laugh.
“Joey?” I thought maybe he’d lost it.
“You pissed on him.” Joey laughed louder. “You had an accident on some crazy vampire’s shoulder.” I grinned, then I was laughing along with him. It really wasn’t funny, but we’d learned to take a laugh when we found one.
We stopped abruptly at the sound of the door opening again. Maddie stepped inside. She gave us an apologetic smile and handed us clean clothes.
“How are you feeling?”
“Like crap,” Joey said. He held up his arm to illustrate his point.
“I’m sorry, most of us aren’t like that,” Maddie answered. She was laying out a first aid kit on a small rolling table.
“Oh, most of you don’t like to suck blood?” Joey asked with false innocence.
“Let me see your arm.” Maddie smiled. Joey pulled back. “It needs to be disinfected, your hands are filthy. Come on, I promise I won’t bite,” Maddie explained.
“Go on Joey,” I said smiling. “She won’t bite.”
“You’re a funny kid, Nico.” Joey scowled, but went to Maddie.
I watched as Maddie first cleaned the wound with a towel and water, and then poured disinfectant over it. She secured a bandage around it. Joey sat stone still during the entire process. I could see him biting his lip and knew it hurt.
“I need to take blood samples from both of you,” Maddie said. She pulled out a syringe and two vials.
“Why?” Joey asked suspiciously.
“We need to know you’re healthy before moving you in with the other humans,” Maddie explained. She held up the syringe and raised an eyebrow at Joey. When he nodded, she took her sample. Then it was my turn.
“You two will stay in here over night,” Maddie said. “If your blood is clean, we’ll move you into a group cell tomorrow morning.”
“I thought you didn’t want us to be trapped in here,” Joey said. Maddie looked down at her lap.
“I don’t,” she said softly. “I’ll figure out how to get you out of here, but for right now things must proceed as normal.”
“Just like any other vampire,” Joey spat out the words. “All lies.”
“I’ll get you out,” Maddie said with more force. “I promise.”
I put a hand on Joey’s shoulder, stopping him from saying anything else. I believed Maddie.
We were moved the next morning. The cell was cramped with barely enough bunk beds to go around. We were told by the others that it was a temporary situation if you agreed to the vampire’s plan. Those who were willing were allowed into a much nicer area and given free range of the vampire’s compound. In exchange, their blood was pumped once every thirty days.
We could see these people from our cell, they walked around like sickly, pampered pets. They were cleaner than anyone I’d seen in over a year, with new clothes and books to read. When it was warm outside, you could see the small metal device implanted in the crook of their elbow in order to make taking the blood quick and easy.
After a week in the cell, being a pampered pet started to look awfully tempting to me. In the cell we were fed once a day, and shared a toilet with about twenty people. Apparently when they took you out for your blood, you were washed. That was the real kicker, they were still going to take our blood.
“Eat it.” Joey pushed his sandwich toward me. “I’m not too hungry.”
“You gotta eat,” I argued. He’d been letting me eat most of his food since we were captured. He claimed he wasn’t hungry, but I didn’t believe him.
“I said I’m not hungry. So just eat the damn food, Nico.” I ate the food. It was good, the best I’d eaten in a long time.
“Can we just agree to be pets?” I asked quietly. I didn’t want everyone in the room to know I was considering it.
“Don’t be stupid,” Joey answered. “We aren’t pets.”
“But we could have a real room again,” I said wistfully. “And people taking care of us.”
“Not people.” Joey swatted me on the back of the head. “Vampires. Vampires who pump us for blood, and kill us.”
“But,” I started to argue, but Joey’s glare shut me up.
A week later it was down to fifteen of us in the room; the others had given in and allowed the vampires to implant them for long term production. I’d tried to convince Joey a couple more times that we should do the same. I worried about him every day. He hadn’t had more than a few bites of his meals in almost two full weeks. He seemed okay, but I worried he was sick, or simply starving himself for my benefit.
“This is the new world,” mumbled an older man from the bunk beside us.
“What?” Joey asked.
“The new world.” The man turned to us. “We’re dogs. This is how they’ll keep themselves alive. They let us breed out there you know.” He motioned vaguely toward the high window through which we could watch the pets. “They’re real kind about it too, don’t take blood from the woman who is with child, don’t start draining on a child until they’re seven. Don’t take as much blood from them either. This is the new world.” He turned and continued mumbling to himself.
“We have to get out of here,” Joey said. “I’m nobody’s dog.”
“How’re we supposed to do that?” I asked. Maddie didn’t seem to have a plan. She brought the food everyday, but had not yet said a word to us.
“I don’t know,” Joey answered. “But we will.”
When Maddie brought our food that day, the old man told her he was ready for his implant. She called for back up and two big vampires led him out of the cell. Maddie leaned down to me and whispered.
“When you hear the siren, you run. The door will be open. Upstairs and out the door, head left to the fence. There will be a boat by the break wall.” She spoke so fast I was afraid I’d missed something.
“What did she say?” Joey asked as the door shut behind them. I repeated her words in a hushed tone.
“Do you believe her?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Joey answered. “But I’ll be listening for a siren. Here, eat this.”
I took his food without argument. I’d given up on trying to convince him to eat. I hoped he would be strong enough to escape if we got the opportunity.
We were sleeping when the alarm went off, but not even a dead man could have slept through the head splitting pulse. Joey and I were on our feet in an instant. The others were looking around in bewilderment. We went to the door, ready for the moment of truth.
The handled turned easily under my small hand, and we were out in the hall. The rest of the prisoners flowed out after us, running in all directions. We didn’t have time to stop them. The fresh dawn air was sweet as we ran for the fence with a few of the others. We reached the fence just as the guards were upon us.
Joey climbed the fence with an almost unnatural grace. I did my best while most of the adults didn’t get very far before being pulled down by the guards. I felt a guard wrap his hand around my ankle. I kicked out, but his grip was firm. He tried to pull me down, but my panic made me strong. I clung for my life. Joey disappeared above me. I cried out, afraid he had left me.
“You’re not leaving,” the guard said. “I haven’t tasted child in years.”
Two things happened almost instantaneously. I felt the vampire’s teeth slip into the skin above my ankle and Joey reappeared. Joey let a huge rock drop on the vampire’s head. His teeth tore out of me as he fell. Pain seared up my leg, but I knew he would be on his feet in a second. I scrambled up and over the fence with Joey’s help.
“Come on,” Joey said. We ran for a dock that jutted out into the water. Beyond it was the break wall.
As our feet hit the dock, the vampires were running for us again. We were both running faster than we had in our lives. When we jumped from the end of the dock, we cleared half the distance to the wall. It seemed to only take a few short strokes before my feet were touching rock and we were climbing the break wall.
The boat was there as promised. A small two person boat with a pull-to-start engine. Luck was on our side, and Joey started it on the first pull. When the first vampire stood on the break wall we were already safely on our way.
The day passed in silence as Joey steered us towards the relative safety of the world. I cleaned my leg as best I could and wrapped a bit of my shirt around it. When the boat began to run out of gas, we aimed for shore, pulling the boat far up so it wouldn’t be seen. We began to walk again, same as we always did. We’d escaped the worst this world had to offer and now we would keep on trying to survive.
That was a year ago. Joey and I haven’t aged, we haven’t eaten, and we are stronger than ever. We’re not vampires, we don’t crave blood. We’ve searched out others like us, people who were bitten by a vampire, but not killed and not forced to drink their blood. There are more than I would’ve thought; we’re a colony of near a hundred now. We’re strong without weakness and our number will grow. Humans will not be dogs, and the vampires will not win. This is the new world.