This story is by Gg Cikowski and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Bile… It was all he could taste, all he could smell. Alistair raised his head feebly from the ground where he lay. His arms shook as he tried to lift his body away from the mess he had made. His neck throbbed and he shakily brought up his hand to it. He flinched at the wet feeling and recoiled when he realized it was his own blood.
Through strands of long, blond hair, Alistair looked at his surroundings in confusion. He was alone, in a room he did not recognize, the remnants of some sort of ritual around him. Belatedly, he realized what it was, what it meant. In the far recesses of his mind, he remembered how to prepare the ritual even though he’d had no previous knowledge of how to do it.
Fragments of memories assaulted him then, like vestiges of a bad dream. His last coherent memory was of going to see Clarissa, his secret lover. He remembered seeing the alabaster skin of her back, the veil of her pale, golden hair as she bent over something in her bed and the tanned hands that squeezed her arms. He had been furious then, finding her in bed with another man. The truth had frozen him in place, though, when she turned around and hissed at him through her animalistic teeth, mouth smeared with blood. Then came the feel of being suffocated by alabaster hands as she held him aloft so he wouldn’t escape or make a sound, followed by the terror when he realized what she was, one of the impure, a vampyr. The flash of teeth as she held him down and from there, the memories became muddied, like gazing at the bottom of a lake.
How long had it been? How long had he been a bound to her desires, his will stripped from him? He recalled flashes of him serving her, of others just like him, emaciated men with empty eyes whose sole purpose was to obey and protect her. They were her playthings; they lived or died at her whims. Disgust turned his mouth into a grimace as memories returned. How he’d hunted other humans for her, brought her more playthings for her amusement. He was sickened at the ease he had fallen into her grasp when he had first seen her in his father’s hall, a trophy to claim from the man that he despised.
‘Escape!’ The word burst in his head like a lightning bolt in a dark night. His body reacted to the need to flee before he had even realized what he wanted to do. But why did he have his own will back? Why now? He decided to stop wasting time in fruitless ruminations. He would not look at this gift horse in the mouth, even if it might end up being a Trojan horse.
Alistair moved through the chalet, a shadow among other shadows. It was mid morning and he knew Clarissa would not be around at this time. She would be indisposed, especially after last night’s ceremony. She would be weak after expending her energy turning someone- him? Had her ritual awakened him? He remembered the old folks’ tales. It takes three bites to make a vampire. One bite to become a mindless servant, two to become a dhampir and the last, a full vampire.
Alistair knew there were others, not just the vampire, who would try to stop him. He closed his thoughts and reigned in his panic. He didn’t want to exude those emotions and give himself away before he had even started his escape.
A vision of green brought peace to his scattered thoughts. He needed to get to the forest. The forest would welcome him, protect him. He was, after all, the son of one of its children, even if he was a half-breed.
His mind urged him to move faster, to put as much distance as he could from this cursed place, but his body would not cooperate. He felt as feeble as a newly born calf. The lack of blood and proper sustenance impaired his senses: his vision doubled; his world offcentered.
Mother will know. His mother would know how to remove this fiendish link between him and the vampire. For the first time since he was a child, Alistair could remember his mother’s face without distaste. Instead of feeling embarrassed by her, it was he who was ashamed of his own actions. His mother had lain with his father for protection: Alastair had tried to disgrace him for revenge. For the first offense Alistair had been a victim, for the second, he had just gotten his comeuppance. Fool! He had planned on debasing his father by sleeping with his much younger bride. Instead, he got tangled in something far more dangerous than cuckolding a lord.
As he entered the forest, he was surrounded with the smells of the earth and enveloped in its embrace. A feeble smile cracked his lips. He was going home.
His relief was short lived,though as he heard the sounds of pursuit. Her wolves were coming after him. He heard their fast breathing, the excitement of finding their prey. Even if they could find him by smelling his fear and despair he swore he would not let himself be taken back to Clarissa.
A weapon, he would give anything for a weapon. Alistair mourned his missing sword like one mourns the loss of a limb. He didn’t give himself time to feel fear. He needed to survive. He ripped a sturdy branch from a nearby tree, the enhanced powers given to him finally useful. He brandished his makeshift weapon with the accuracy of second nature.
A grey blur flew past him and he clobbered it. More wolves jumped at him while others stood by, teeth bared on a snarl. Behind the wolves he could see the other vampire servants, their hollow gazes giving him the strength to fight to never go back. Man and beast formed a circle around him and a cold sweat gripped him as he found himself completely surrounded. He knew he either escaped or died trying to. Whatever had given him the reprieve by liberating him from her thrall, he was not about to waste the opportunity.
At five and twenty, he was a grown man who had fought and survived through two battles. He had seen death but in the face of his own demise and in the place of his childhood, he called for the one who loved him still.
An anguished cry bellowed from deep within his soul. “Mother, save me!”
His cry of despair seemed to inflame the beasts. They attacked him, sharp claws and snapping jaws tearing both his tunic and taking bits of flesh from him. Alistair fought frantically, though he realized he would not be able to fight much longer. His body was failing him. His vision blurred and he could barely hear anything through the roaring of his ears. Which is why the lightning caught him by surprise. He had not heard the sound of the rolling thunder or the fury of the thunderstorm until it had been upon them.
But this was not a typical storm. For one, it had no rain. A hot, scorching wind blew over them, just as a bolt of lightning struck beside them. It ignited the underbrush and Alistair used the fire to light his branch. With it, he created a barrier between him and his pursuers.
That fire had saved him. He never believed in the magic, had never wanted to believe, not after he had realized what he and his mother were to the townsfolk: the witch and her bastard son. It was then when he had distanced himself from the forest, his mother, and her world. But the forest and his mother had never forgotten him.
The storm kept aiding in his escape. The dry storm had morphed into rain. Big, fat drops of rain stirred the ground, it’s pounding beat masking his footsteps, the smell of the perturbed earth masking his scent. His ragged breathing sounded in his ears as he continued his wild flight away from his captors. In the distance, he could see her shack, a dark blotch in the middle of a clearing. Standing in the doorway, illuminated by the fire within, he could see a slim figure waiting.
“My dearest child, you are back.” He heard as he fell into her embrace.
Years passed, and yet he never forgot that moment. Not the moment of his mistake but the moment when he was saved. The moment that had led him on the path to avenge himself and break away from the vampire’s thrall. What pushed him to become a Vampire Hunter.
Now, centuries later, another fire threatened to consume him. He gazed at the flames that surrounded him and felt no fear, for fire was not only destruction but also rebirth.