Thursday, August 29, 2013

What's a little fire to immortal skin?

Excerpt from the vampire novel Beside the Darker Shore, as the immortal human Stephen succumbs to experiments to see why his skin, and not vampires' can withstand sunlight:

“They said there’d be anesthesia.” Stephen pulled his arm from Elena’s grip.   

“Do vampires have anesthesia?” She took his arm again. “You heal.”   

“No.” He looked to the humans standing there; he’d already forgotten their names, but one held a propane torch. “Jesus,” he whispered, and the petite woman in blue touched his arm gently.   

“Elena, the pain was extraordinary. We saw—”   

“Five minutes. We’ll anesthetize him after five minutes. Can you handle that, Salando?”   

Fire. No, he didn’t think he could. He didn’t want to. His mouth was dry and his heart tripped erratically. The room was long and narrow, tiled in russet orange, browns, and blues. He’d had dinner here with Arturo one week ago, and now it had a lab table with test tubes and monitors.   

He had monitors wired to the dots on his chest, his temple. They’d kept him from the mortal scientists in Boston, yet here he was once again succumbing to Elena’s will. Why? Because he had to believe there were options, that he could be made vampire, if David wasn’t going to ease his constant need.  

He stared at her as she took his arm again. “Will you find the gene? The DNA or whatever you need to make or reverse vampires?”  

“That depends on how much you let me do. First I want skin grafts. The torch contains a mix of hydrogen and helium, as well. Like the flamethrowers in Boston. Mimicking the sun, not just fire.”    

He nodded. “You’ll have to strap me down or something.” The silver-haired man flapped gray cloth restraints, and came around the table. Stephen lay down as he put a hand on his shoulder.  

“I can’t guarantee...” Stephen started, but what could he say? I’m an animal with no control? I have power I don’t understand? I’m a ridiculous puppet subject to your will? “With the pain, I don’t know what I might make you do.”  

At that, Elena pulled her attention from the monitor she was adjusting. “Light the torch,” she told the woman.  

The woman hesitated. “I can’t. I told you I couldn’t do this.”  

“You don’t have to. Just light it. I want to see what his fear will do.” She looked hard at Stephen. “You can train it. It’s night; there’ll be no having me run out into the sunlight.”  

“I could have her turn the torch on you,” he said.  

Both mortals stepped back. Had he sent the suggestion already? Was it in their minds? Elena’s hands were suspended midair, halted in whatever she was about to do. “You can tame it. We’ll start slowly. When you feel the pain…” She began unbuttoning his shirt, cool white fingers tracing from chest to stomach.  

“When you feel the pain…” Her words were breathy, her eyes lost a moment following the trail of her fingers over him. “You give off more heat than most, a kind of static,” she said, then she put her face down to his chest, breathing his skin, “and copper.” Her tongue was a knife on his stomach.  

“I lose any ability I might have during bloodletting,” he said. “If you draw blood, I won’t be able to stop you. It’s stronger.”  

Her face came up to his, the fluorescent electricity of her skin, her pinkish eyes. He didn’t want her, but he needed her.  

She snatched the torch from the woman and handed it to the silver-haired man. Then she handed a razor-like tool to him. “After it’s peeled, mesh it. We’re scraping every ten seconds. I want three inches minimum of burn for the samples, and three inches clean.”  

She turned to the woman. “Can you handle securing the samples?” The woman unrolled a strip of mesh beside Stephen’s leg. “I’ll be drawing blood, you understand. To keep him subdued. You need to do this.”  

The man nodded, and Stephen felt a cool tear slip down to his ear. What was David doing? What would he do if he were here? Elena rolled Stephen’s sleeve up and tapped on his vein.  

“Ready?” She brought his arm to her mouth.  

He could make her stop, he told himself, but already the electric touch of her teeth was on his skin. He needed this. He needed this and wanted one person, one person…  

She bit. The torch popped and hissed to flame. For a minute, he felt the mortal man’s hands on his leg, a gentle caress, and then he was torn. The surging ecstasy of the draw made him arch, but the restraints held him, and then came the pain. 

Five-star review of Beside the Darker Shore 


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