#SampleSunday – Vampires in the Desert – excerpt from Blood Wars

Nathaniel looked at me sharply. “You’re not a failure, Sarah. Okay, so you struggle with what we are; with what you are. That’s only natural. You don’t think that everyone of us hasn’t gone through something similar? That we haven’t tried to fight this? Despite what you think, none of us wanted to become killers.”
“Even Cam?” I said, sarcastically.
“Cam is….well, Cam is a complex person. I know his methods are harsh; cruel even. But underneath it all, he’s just as tortured as the rest of us. He just chooses to let it out through aggression. It’s the only way he knows how. He watched his whole family get slaughtered by vampires, when he was just seventeen. His mum and dad, two younger sisters, all wiped out. They tracked him you see, they knew he was a sensor and they tracked him back to where he lived. He didn’t even know what he was. He’d never come across a single vampire until that night. Him and his friends had sneaked into a club, managed to bluff their way past the doorman who thought they were legal age. A gang of vampires in the club spotted him. He didn’t know why he felt so sick, why they made him feel the way he did. He left and they followed him. They did unspeakable things to his family and he saw it all. He had to watch as they tortured and abused his sisters, they were only nine and eleven. And he couldn’t do a thing to stop them. Well, eventually his survival instinct kicked in and he managed to overpower the one who was holding him.”
“What did he do then?” I asked, wide-eyed and picturing scenes of a young Cam transforming into some all-powerful vampire slayer and hacking them to death with an array of kitchen knives and garden forks.
“He ran,” said Nathaniel, grimly. “He ran and he didn’t look back.”
I couldn’t imagine Cam running away from anything. He was one of those guys who looked like he always ran head-first into the melee with a Bowie knife gripped between his teeth and camouflage stripes painted across his face.
“Not long after, he joined up to the army. Pretty much as soon as he could. Built a career fighting over in the Middle East, honing his skills, making sure he became the best fighter he could. SAS training served him well and he began to feel a sense of order in his life once more, but it wasn’t to last.”
“Why? What happened?”
“An incident just outside of Kandahar. Cam was based over in Camp Bastion and his unit regularly patrolled the area around the city. He got to know some of the locals, you know, some of the kids would hang around, see what they could get from the soldiers and the soldiers would sometimes give the kids a few treats, just sweets and stuff, and the kids would give them info. Sometimes it wasn’t anything, just hearsay, stories, just to get something, but sometimes, just sometimes, they would have valuable information to sell. Well, anyway, one day, one of the more trusted kids tells Cam about a great warlord who lives just outside the city. He calls him a Shaytan which is Arabic for devil or demon. First of all, Cam thinks he’s just struck gold on a senior Taliban guy, but then the kid tells him terrible stories about how the Shaytan is rumoured to drink the blood of his victims and when Cam tries to probe for more info, the kid clams up, refuses to tell him anything else no matter what Cam offers him.”
“The Shaytan was a vampire!” I stared wide-eyed at Nathaniel.
“Yes, as were his people. There Cam is, thousands of miles away from a past he thought he had escaped from, only to find a vampire den just outside of Kandahar. And a prolific den at that. Heavily fortified, heavily armed. Not your average vampire den that’s for sure.”
“So what did he do?”
“He wanted the kid to take him there, show him where this Shaytan lived but the kid was too scared. But, what he did do, was introduce Cam to someone who knew the place, someone who had been held there and had managed to escape. Turns out this guy was a sensor too, although he was very old when Cam met him, his body bore the scars of his time with the vampires. Apparently the Shaytan had never met a sensor before, and had been fascinated by this guy, convinced if he drank his blood, the it would make him all-powerful. Of course, it didn’t and the Shaytan soon got bored and gave the sensor to his people as a pet. One day, after a particularly gruesome feeding session, the vampires didn’t chain him back up, believing that he would be dead by the next sunset. Thankfully, he didn’t die and he somehow managed to escape during the day when all the vampires were asleep. He gave Cam a detailed layout of the den, which was a mass of underground tunnels guarded by human insurgents during the day. Once Cam had everything he needed to know, he went to the den during daylight, killed all the human guards and set explosives at every tunnel entrance. As night fell, he detonated every bomb and blew the place sky high. Fireballs wiped out every vampire in those tunnels and anyone who somehow managed to escape was cut down by Cam.”
“Oh my god,” I whispered, thinking back to when I had sat in the bushes outside my father’s den, watching as the place was devoured by flames and bodies danced on fire around the yard.
“Forty-seven vampires were killed that day. Cam was arrested by the armed forces, and he was to be put on trial for the mass slaughter of forty-seven Afghans.”
“But they were vampires! And even if the military couldn’t know what they were, the Shaytan was a known warlord. Surely Cam couldn’t be put on trial for killing Taliban insurgents?”
“It was an unauthorised mission. A one-man mission that Cam had undertaken with stolen military weapons and explosives. And as far as the military were concerned it was a massacre. They had to make an example of him.”
“What did they do?”
“In the end, nothing. It never went to trial. Cam was released.”
“Wait a minute, I thought you said the army were going to make an example of him? Why would they just let him go?”
Nathaniel smiled wryly. “I guess sometimes it’s not a case of what you know, but who you know. Or in Cam’s case, who knows you. To everyone else, Cam was a loose cannon, a psycho who had flipped one day and slaughtered forty-seven Afghan civilians. But someone; someone high up, knew the truth. Someone who knew what Cam was, because he too was the same.”
“You mean a senior figure in the military was a sensor too?”
“Yes. Cam’s release was arranged on the quiet. Of course, the official line was that he had committed suicide whilst in custody. But the reality was very different. He was secreted out of Afghanistan, given an all-new identity and transported back to England, where he was introduced to me and I persuaded him to put his valuable skills to much better use than stirring up the dust in the Middle East.”
I was quiet for a moment, feeling the sun burning my forehead through the windscreen and for once, not enjoying the sensation of the heat on my skin. I could feel the sticky dampness under my arms and felt a strange longing for the cool shelter of the night sky.
“Okay,” I breathed finally. “So Cam has a story. He’s suffered. I get that. But we’ve all suffered. It doesn’t mean we all need to become psycho’s who get off on torturing vampires. And you condone it,” I added, staring at him accusatory.
“Look, I’m not always saying I’m comfortable with his methods, but there’s no doubt it gets results,” he said firmly.
“At what expense? Your soul?”
Nathaniel looked away for a moment, brushing his fingers over the red-hot dashboard as if wiping away imaginary dust. “Oh I think you’ll find I gave up my soul many years ago.”
I frowned, seeing the shadows pass across his face as he spoke and he licked at his lips as if suddenly his mouth had gone very dry.
“I don’t believe that,” I whispered and flinched instinctively as he turned his dark eyes upon me.
“You know the one thing I find so interesting about you? You are so quick to see the evil in some people and yet so sure there is goodness in others,” he said softly, his face impassive and unmoving. “So quick to condemn some and yet willing to give others the benefit of the doubt. How do you make those judgements? How is that one person gets the thumbs down and the next gets the thumbs up, when you know the same about either, and that is usually practically nothing at all in both cases?”
“I wouldn’t say that is exactly true,” I sniffed. “It’s not like I make snap decisions about people, it’s just that sometimes you just know. You can tell the good from the bad.”
“And you think I’m one of the good guys, Sarah?”
The coldness in his eyes did nothing to cool my burning skin. I swallowed hard and shifted in my seat, hearing the squeak of leather under my thighs.
“Well I don’t think good guys generally have a habit of kidnapping women in broad daylight. Nor do I think they allow the starvation and torture of anyone, vampire or not. But I’ve met my fair share of bad guys, and bad women come to think of it, and something tells me you’re not one of them.”
“You need to have words with that inner bastard radar of yours. Something tells me it’s on the blink.”
“Is this your way of telling me you’re one of the bad guys? Because I’ve got to tell you, whilst I don’t approve of the way you do things, my radar definitely isn’t going crazy right now,” I said, raising an eyebrow.
“You see this is the very problem. You base your opinion on what you think you know when in fact you know very little at all. If you knew, I would be willing to bet that your bastard radar would be resounding halfway to Australia.”
“Know what exactly?” I laughed. “Is this the point where you tell me you were the one who tortured puppies when you were a kid? Is this the point where you tell me you were the school bully who hounded kids for their lunch money?”
“No,” he replied, looking at me so intently that I felt my heart beat harder in my chest. “This is the point where I tell you I murdered my wife.”

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Filed under Blood Wars, Dark Sanctuary, Writing

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