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Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Seventy Seven Shades Of Red Part 4 Darkness

Seventy Seven Shades Of Red

Part 4

Darkness

By
Alexander Gordon Jahans

Darkness. All around him. He couldn't see, couldn't hear, couldn't feel, couldn't smell. He tried to move and was aware of dim sensation but little happened.

He lay in the dark for a long time, drifting in and out of consciousness.

Then the pain came. faintly at first then building an agonising intensity. He couldn't move from it, couldn't hide from it so he thought rhymes to himself and tried to ignore it.

He had died twice and suffered in the sun for what felt like an eternity. He was confident he'd be okay and didn't care if he was. Except this was worse pain. There was no context for it. No reason.

He wondered if this was hell? Was this punishment for his crimes? Eternal pain? No fire and brimstone? No devils with red hot pokers? Just void and pain? Sure felt like hell.

Every time he felt like a significant amount of time had passed he'd try to move. Gradually there was a sense of more sensation, of moving more and then of hard limits. His imagination was building up a mental picture, though it seemed to make no sense.

The pain was worse, somehow it had doubled. How the fuck had it doubled?

And then, yes, yes. Yes! He felt. Not dimly in his bones this time, he really fucking felt. In his finger tips, in his toes, he could feel his hearts beating. He was alive!

Fuck. He was alive. Couldn't he fucking get anything right?

He felt with his hands. Old coarse bloody wood. It was cramped, barely wider than his shoulders and shallow enough that his hands couldn't reach out at 90 degrees from his elbows.

Then somehow he was aware that he was lying down and... Was that-? Was that breath he could hear? breath and something else? Something so persistent his brain filtered it out like static? Screaming? Screaming. Someone was screaming. Who the fuck was screaming? Why?

Then something. He could see something but it was so close and so dark. He tried to lift his head and swore as he bashed it.

The screaming stopped.

Oh.

It was him. His screams. The pain was so familiar and all pervading now he'd almost forgotten it.

Then he smelt. Sweat and testosterone and little bits of faecal matter. And blood. Old fatty blood pumping through thick cholesterol laden veins.

He forced himself to stop screaming, to stop breath and listen...

He could hear the man muttering over and over. "Oh, Father, Oh Lord, protect me. Oh father, Oh Lord, I do not want to die."

He forced himself to push past the muttering and focus on the blood, on the heartbeat...

Bah-poom. Bah-poom. Bah-poom.

The fucker was alive.

The fucker was a living breathing blood sack and right now that was all that mattered.

There wasn't room to manoeuvre but he didn't care. He bashed and kicked as best he could, breaking through first one wooden panel and then the other.

Bah-poom. Bah-poom. Bah-poom.

He burst from the coffin, following the smell and the sound.

Bah-poom. Bah-poom. Bah-poom.

He leapt upon his prey and clamped enlarged incisor's about the man's throat.

Bah-poom. Bah-poom. Bah-poom.

His tongue and teeth tore at flesh as his prey struggled vainly against him. The blood made him feel ecstatic and he hungered for more. Fingers like claws tore open the man's skin like a pain of cheap tights. His lips descended down the man's torso as he fed. After all what organ of a man's body is most synonymous with blood?

Shade 4

By the time Robert Marwood was finished with his prey even the marrow in the bones was gone.

He heard clapping and looked up from the last scraps of flesh.

It was Artemis, the old vampire who had objected to his being turned in the first place. There was an electric lamp by her feet so he could see that she was dressed in spurred Doc Martins, tights, a pencil skirt to just below the knees, a black cardigan and a long black cloak. Her fingernails were each an inch long and as white as the pearls on her necklace. She wore a wicked and devious smile on her face.

Robert stood up warily and grabbed a thigh bone that had been snapped in half, leaving a dangerous looking ragged edge.

Artemis stopped clapping and put her hands on her hips. "I didn't think you had it in you, boy."

Robert stared at her and was suddenly aware that he was naked. He covered himself with his hand and said "I just wanted the pain to stop."

Artemis laughed and patted him on the back. "It was a complement. Come on, lets get you a shower."

Robert followed her warily. 

*

After a long hot shower Robert went to his indicated guest quarters. There was a four poster bed, a large storage trunk, several bookshelves and a wardrobe with a mirror but no plug sockets, just candles. He got dressed in a three piece suit then headed after Artemis.

It was a sumptuous Victorian mansion filled with grandfather clocks ornate mantle pieces and beautiful men and women who had been dressed then frozen into position, radiant smiles fixed upon their faces.

At first Robert had assumed men and women were just particularly lifelike statues given that some had been painted gold or bronze and many were caked with dust but as he reached out to catch himself from tripping down a particularly steep set of stairs he found to his shock that the statues were still very much alive, being warm to the touch with a clear pulse.

The worst part was the eyes. The statues all had very sincere enigmatic smiles, even the ones who had been bent over and had holes drilled through them so work tops could be secured to their backs. That was horrifying and barbaric yet offered the comforting thought thatb they might not have suffered. Their eyes got to Robert the most because so many of them had been frozen in place with wide attentive gazes. His eyes watered in sympathy, especially when he saw that some statues had dust caked upon the top halves of their eyes.

The dust and statues clouded his sense of smell but there was something faint: Ancient, powerful. He followed it.

*

Robert came to a set of ancient dark wood doors and pushed them open only to be instantly hit with an overwhelmingly intoxicating scent. He ran through the doors, following his nose. His stomach was rumbling, he could feel the bloodlust taking him.

Young. Virgin. Blonde. Thin. Fit.

Bah-poom. Bah-poom. Bah-poom.

He closed his eyes and let his body guide him.

He leapt into the air, finger nails growing an inch into sharp claws as he fell upon her,

She was giggling as he fell upon her and his razor sharp claws tore into the tendons of her hands and feet making it impossible for her to fight back or run away as he stuck his long white teeth into her pale quivering flesh.

Then he sat back, coughing. "What the fuck are you!?"

His prey giggled then froze.

Artemis said. "Her name is Cassie and she is yours if you want her but I think we need to talk."

Robert came to his senses and looked about himself. He was straddling a young white woman who was wearing not much. Her hands and feet lay at odd angles to her body and her throat had been torn out yet she had a beautific smile on her face. He recoiled and got to his feet.

They were in a large dining hall that looked like it could feed 5000 people.

Artemis was tapping her foot impatiently as she waited for him.

"Will she be alright?" asked Robert. "Should we get her medical attention?"

"Oh she'll be fine." said Artemis testily as she led him through a break in the tables. "She'll heal while we're gone and be right as rain by the time you turn her on again."

Robert thought for a second, piecing things together. "So she's a toy? Like Lisa? Like your statues?"

"Not exactly, but good reasoning." said Artemis as she pulled a large old fashioned key from her pocket. "She was made by the same person who made the others."

"Made?" said Robert. "But these are people?"

Artemis nodded. "I think it will be easier if I show you..."

They came to the end of the large dining hall and Artemis turned the old fashioned key in an old lock. An old wooden door creaked open to reveal stainless steal and burnished chrome.

Robert froze on the threshold, staring. It looked so incongruous. A 21st century high class kitchen in a Victorian mansion. Electric induction hobs, multiple microwaves, several large fan ovens, a few dishwashers, several electric timers and even LCD screens so the kitchen staff could look up recipes and check on the diners in the hall.

"Well come in then." said Artemis irritably. "I give you permission, if that's what you're worried about?"

Robert blinked and followed Artemis into the kitchen. He could see now that there were several large chest freezers, walk in fridges, slushie machines, smoothie machines and even the odd liquid nitrogen dispenser. "Wow! You own this?"

Artemis nodded. Then she led him over to a strange part of the kitchen. There were two severe looking doors either side of a computer.

She turned to him and said "Robert, we are monsters. You realise that right? We have both eaten people alive."

Robert stared at her. "Yeah... And? What's your point?"

Artemis booted up the computer and started working away on it as she explained. "We like to think we're special. that we have free will and agency. That is sort of true. Most of the time thinking creatures do have a certain measure of choice and independent thought but to someone with the right skills, tools or abilities that limited ability to think clearly and independently can be modified to suit one's interest and once you have you can exploit that."

The door to Artemis's right started flashing and buzzing then it clicked open.

Artemis stood up from the controls and looked at Robert.

Robert approached the door cautiously and pushed it open.

A slim blonde woman in a pink skirt, a crop top and flip flops stood in the room.

Artemis handed him a remote control.

He approached the frozen woman nervously. It was Lisa, He aimed the remote at her and pushed the on button.

The frozen Lisa opened her eyes and stared at Robert for a moment then her expression softened. "Hi. I'm Lisa."

"I know..." said Robert, distinctly weirded out. He looked to Artemis for advice.

"This is how Cassie was made, how your Lisa was made, how they're all made." said Artemis.

Robert looked back to Lisa with a gaze that suggested he expected her to lunge for his throat at any moment. "You're a toy?" said Robert nervously. "A mass produced toy?"

Lisa nodded a said cheerily. "Well of course. I assume that's why you're here? You're here to take me as your own."

Robert looked back to Artemis.

Artemis shrugged.

Robert looked back to Lisa and said "Sure."

Lisa grinned and ran up to hug him.

Robert resisted for a moment as his inner feminist squirmed then he embraced her and ran a hand through her hair, muttering "I am going to hell."

Artemis said "There is no hell as you well know, you've died enough times."

Robert glared back at Artemis then led Lisa out of the room. "Honey, I need to discuss somethings then I promise we'll do what you want okay?"

Lisa smiled. "Okay."

Robert turned to Artemis. "How did you do that?"

"Logicular Replication." said Artemis before expanding when she saw the blank look on his face. "This is what happens when teleportation technology is so efficient and reliable that it can be used as a 3d printer."

Robert stared at her. "You can print people?"

Artemis nodded. "The door on the left is the input terminal. Get someone to agree to do something and you can print them out as many times as you like."

"Ahhh..." said Robert understanding. "Consent on demand. Just need to make someone agree to do something once and you can have them doing it for the rest of eternity." He glared at her. "Still fucking wrong."

Artemis smirked. "That's why we're the bad guys. The Bam-Kursh generally does the hard work of convincing people and then she mass produces them for sale so she can fund her war fleets taking over the multiverse for the 'greater good'"

"Why did you use finger quotes around 'Greater Good'?" asked Robert.

"I'm a centuries old vampire who's eaten more people than you've ever known and she's an eldritch abomination who sells people to find imperial conquests. I don't tend to trust anyone who tries to use the phrase greater good seriously in that context." said Artemis. "But she pays well."

Robert nodded. "So what about Cassie?"

Artemis chuckled. "Oh I was so overjoyed when she was announced and added to the range."

"Oh?" said Robert raising an eyebrow.

Artemis nodded. "She was branded as the cattle girl. The woman who had consented to be eaten and would heal afterwards."

Robert looked suddenly hopeful.

Artemis laughed. "Yeah, that's how I felt."

Robert's face fell.

"And that." said Artemis cackling..

Robert sighed. "Get to the point."

Artemis sobered up in in an instant and said sombrely. "She's a wereshark."

Robert looked blankly back at her. "Okay, what's that?"

"Take a seat in the dining hall." said Artemis. "This may take a while."

Robert sighed then trudged out of the kitchen with Lisa following behind.

Lisa asked. "Do you think my existence is wrong?"

Robert groaned.

Lisa said. "Only you said the process by which I was created was wrong and well that would make me wrong wouldn't it?"

"No..." said Robert, suddenly aware that he  was doing the two things he sucked most at answering philosophical questions and talking to girls. "You aren't wrong. You're glorious and magnificent and a miracle but the purpose for which the thing that created you was designed is amoral."

"Oh..." said Lisa. "So you still like me then?"

"Of course I still like you." said Robert. "I just don't want to take advantage of you."

"But what if I want you to take advantage of me?" asked Lisa.

"Then I wouldn't be taking advantage of you, would I?" said Robert.

"Ah but I'm a toy who was remade by the Bam-Kursh then created to want to be taken advantage of." said Lisa.

"Then I..." Robert fell silent as he realised they'd walked needlessly far from the kitchen. Then he saw Cassie's body up ahead and pulled out his remote and pressed the on button. Nothing happened so he tried a different remote.

Cassie giggled then sat up and looked about her surroundings.

Robert nodded. "Hey!"

Cassie grinned and got to her feet then ran over to him. "Hey."

"Sorry about earlier..." said Robert awkwardly as he stuffed the remote into his pocket.

"Don't apologise, I exist to be eaten." said Cassie cheerily then she embraced Lisa and stroked her face. "Hey, you've got a Lisa. I used to have one of my own before..." she hugged Lisa and whispered "We are going to have so much fun." in her ear.

Robert sighed and took to a seat at the nearest table.

Cassie led Lisa to take seats to his right and the two started talking quietly to each other,

Robert stared at the table and thought about how thoroughly weird his life had gotten as he tried not to overhear their conversation.

Artemis approached after a while with a bottle of scotch and two glasses. "Ah, you've got her up and about, that's good."

Robert glared at her.

Artemis placed a glass before him and filled it before taking a seat to his left. "What I have to say now may shock you but vampires don't exist."

Robert snorted. "Well of course they don't. It's also impossible to bypass Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle without using Quantum Entanglement that would destroy the original. It is absolutely impossible to turn people's minds on and off. It is also impossible to recover from having your throat torn out in a matter of minutes. And it is completely impossible to come back from the dead, not just once, but twice."

He glared at her.

Artemis smiled. "You're angry, I like it."

"I'm annoyed." said Robert. "Damn annoyed, you'd know if I was angry."

Artemis smirked. "Yes, I think I would."

An awkward moment passed between them as she looked at him with pride and he glared with all the scorn he could muster.

"Vampires don't exist because demons don't exist. Demons don't exist because hell doesn't exist. Hell doesn't exist because there is no god or heaven. There is no god or heaven because the eldritch entities which pre-dated the multiverse would never countenance such threats to their power." said Artemis succinctly.

"Then what are we?" asked Robert.

"Werebats." said Artemis.

"You're shitting me?" said Robert. "Werebats? How?"

"The laws of physics are not immutable." said Artemis. "In any given reasonably large multiverse you are going to find universes where the physics is radically different from our own. The fundamental substrate of the multiverse must thus be able to support any possible variation of physics. You with me so far?"

"Well yeah..." said Robert.

"Beings from outside the multiverse like the Bam-Kursh can thus exploit this property to alter physics as they see fit at a very local level. This is how Lisa can function as if whole even when dissected." said Artemis.

Robert looked to Lisa.

Cassie was using a steak knife to remove Lisa's left hand as Lisa watched with rapt attention and delight.

Robert nodded then looked back to Artemis.

"If the Bam-Kursh can do it then a large enough multiverse beings can evolve with the power to manipulate physics in the same way. "said Artemis. "One of these creatures was the wereshark. It was a parasitic viral organism mutating people's dna and logic to allow for quick spread amongst early man but as neanderthal genes became more and more dispersed the werewolves ceased to be able to infect people. They were hunted down and killed until eventually only one was left, an old bitch."

"And? What happened?" asked Robert.

"No one really knows but there is a legend." said Artemis. "She was old and dying. She had watched every litter of pups she'd ever had die. It was the end of her species so she made a pilgrimage to cradle of life, the home of newly evolved species, the Galapagos Islands. It was a fool's errand in the hope that something there might be so new her dna could bind with it and so secure the survival of the species. Something came to prey upon her and with her last breath she channelled all her strength and power into a desperate bid for her species' survival."

Robert swallowed. "And in one universe it was a bit whist in another it was a shark?"

"Exactly." said Artemis. "That's why we can't feed on Cassie, no matter how much she might want us to. The blood of the last great werewolf runs through her as it does us. The difference is of course that she is part sylph to balance out the murderous hunger of the wolf while we fight it by satisfying it in more controlled ways."

Robert nodded. "So why don't you just find someone you like and put them in the machine?"

"Because the Bam-Kursh would demand payment." said Artemis. "I am not going to bargain with someone who turns weresharks into cattle."

"But if you could then the bloodshed would end as the vampires wouldn't need to prey on the humans." said Robert.

Artemis nodded.

"Then what would be a suitable payment?" asked Robert.

"A vampire." said Artemis. "For her to do with as she wishes."

Robert shuddered and stared at her like a rabbit caught in the headlights.

Artemis frowned then chuckled with realization. "Oh relax, I'm not about to ask anyone to make that sacrifice but that's what Cassie is and that's why we hunt because if we don't, we become monsters. Think of it like a tax to maintain the peace."

Robert frowned. "I killed that man because of the hunger."

Artemis nodded. "We go for the neck so it's quick and painless. You didn't grant him that mercy."

Robert raked his face with his hands and groaned,

"If it makes you feel any better he was a tory who wanted the NHS privatised." said Artemis.

Robert looked sharply at her. "What do you fucking care about the NHS?"

Artemis looked at him like he was an imbecile "I've gotta look out for my food supply haven't I? More immigration, more free education, a better quality free health care system, all these things make for happier healthier cattle who are more likely to create new cattle. I don't want some over weight chain smoker who lives on the dole, give me a smoothie drinking yoga going graduate who volunteers to charities that feed children in Africa. Much tastier."

Robert stared at her then sighed. "Okay, I'm not dead and I've once again ended up with women I don't deserve. What the fuck do I do?"

"Your job." said Artemis. "Kill the tory minister for the department of work and pensions."

"How?" asked Robert. "I'm not a killer."

Artemis glared at him. "Well how do I get to him?"

"Use them." said Artemis, pointing to Lisa and Cassie. "I've got a costume for you to wear."

Robert sighed. "Then can I go home?"

"You can rejoin Stephanie, your other Lisa and Kate, yes." said Artemis.

Robert groaned. "This is a nightmare. This is an absolute nightmare."