Chapter 55: The Temptation of Amber
There was darkness, followed by blinding white flashes of pain. A piercing and shrill electronic sounding whine slowly lowered in pitch and intensity until it became more of a dull hum. That hum then clarified further into individual voices.
She opened her eyes.
For a moment, she was very confused. Despite having opened her eyes, pretty much all she saw was darkness. Her eyes slowly adjusted, her senses slowly sharpened, and her vision slowly cleared. She began to see blurry shapes in that darkness, and eventually those shapes became definite objects. Finally she realized that her head was drooping into her chest, and she was staring down past her knees to the underside of a table.
She blinked past the headache, and let her head loll to the side so she could get a better look. Her heart pounded in her chest.
Seated across the table from her were two vampires.
Fully awake, she jerked her arms and legs into action. Unfortunately, unknown to her, those very limbs had been tied down to the chair, so despite all her strain she didn’t budge an inch. She unwittingly let out a gasp as she stared down at her arm as though it had betrayed her. A thick, sturdy rope had been tied around it, anchoring it to the chair arm. And not just the one arm. Ropes were wrapped around her other arm, her legs, and even her chest, bolting her in place.
For some reason, it struck her as odd that the chair was wooden. It looked like something that came out of an antique mall. It was made all the more surreal by the room they were in. The walls and floors were entirely stone, and stalactites hung from the ceiling. Despite the two modern-looking doors set into two different walls that she could make out from her current position, she felt like she had fallen asleep and woken up in a fantasy novel.
“Ah, you’re awake.”
She turned her horrified expression in the direction of the voice. It had been one of the vampires that had spoken to her, the male, but they were both watching her. They smiled their shark-like grins at her, as if they were old friends who couldn’t wait to eat her again. Her hand gripped tightly to the arm of the chair.
“What the hell am I doing here?” she asked. As she did, she noticed that Jay was to her right, and he seemed to be going through a similar waking process as she had just gone through. She looked around, but realized that none of the others were in the room.
“Where are the others?” she demanded.
The female vampire waved her hand dismissively. “Dead, of course,” she replied, lazily. Amber’s blood froze.
“Liar!” Jay declared, somewhat drunkenly.
Amber could only stare, particularly at the male vampire. There was something… eerily familiar about him, but she couldn’t place it. Her hand gripped tighter on the chair arm.
The vampire laughed heartily. “Why would I need to lie?” she asked. “It’s not like it matters to us. Well, I guess it matters a little. Waste of good food, really.”
“Why are we alive?” Amber interjected.
“Now that is the important bit,” the female replied. She rose and came around the table to their side. She leaned against the table, and then bent down to bring her face somewhat close to Jay’s. She ran a long, skinny finger along his cheek, smiling. “What we want,” she said, breathily, “is you.”
Jay swallowed hard, conflicting emotions plaguing his insides. “Uh… wha… what?”
“It’s simple,” the male chimed in. “All living things need food to survive. We need food. Our food comes from you. Humans. And so we need you alive.”
“Sure, we could get it from smaller animals,” the female said, waving away the idea like it was a bad smell, “but, let’s be honest here: that’s disgusting. Humans… humans are so much more… delicious…”
“You’re disgusting,” Amber practically spat.
“We’re survivors,” said the male.
“We’ve survived much longer than your kind,” the female agreed. “And we will continue to survive long after your kind, if necessary.”
“No you won’t,” growled Jay. “’Cuz I’m gonna get free, and then I’m gonna drag you out into the sunlight and watch you as you burn.”
This threat seemed to do nothing more than amuse the vampires. They turned to look at each other and chuckled softly.
Amber knew something was wrong. She wasn’t sure how she knew. There was just something nagging at the back of her brain, telling her that something was not right. A thought came unbidden, and she hated herself for even thinking it. But she couldn’t help it, just then, feeling that way. She actually wished that Eli was there.
Eli would know what it was that was wrong. He would say something clever, or annoying, or meaningful. Something. Whatever it was, it would get the vampires out of the room and he would turn to her and explain the thing that was wrong. Then they would escape and deal with it.
The kid may have been annoying, but he at least did have his uses. But right now, he was gone, possibly dead, and she was going to have to think on her toes.
“Why not just do it, then?” she demanded, drawing back the vampire’s attention. “Why not just drink our blood and get it done with?”
The female vampire smiled wickedly. “And there it is,” she cooed. “The real question.”
“Because they don’t need to,” suggested Jay. “Or think they don’t. They think they’re better than us.”
The male vampire’s smile widened impossibly further. “We don’t need to,” he said, in that voice that was so eerily familiar to Amber, “and we are better than you.”
“But you’re right, you do have uses beyond food,” the female added. “Honestly, we are not even that hungry right now. The end of the human world has been such a… delicious… time to feed. You’re so easy to find, and always in such nice little groups for us.”
She fell silent, letting her words sink in. Jay got it just a second after Amber did. She did her best to keep her face an emotionless mask, but Jay wasn’t so controlled. His eyes went just wide enough for just long enough to be obvious.
“Yes, that’s it,” the female said, leaning in to him and tracing her fingernail across his cheek again. “That’s what I needed to know.”
“Go to hell,” spat Jay.
She sat up straight and tossed her head back as she let out another peal of her airy laughter. “Oh, you humans are so predictable. As soon as things start going bad, you just bunch up into such wonderfully tasty little groups. All we need to know is where your group is. And you will tell us.”
“Do your worst,” Jay challenged. “We’ll tell you nothing.”
She grabbed him by the shirt collar and her tongue lashed out, licking him up the side of his face from his chin to his earlobe. She rubbed her forehead gently against his, like a cat, and then whispered into his ear. “Oh, the things I could do to you.”
She stood up and laughed again into the back of her hand. “Oh, silly, silly boy. You seem to think you have a choice in the matter.”
Jay was too stunned to respond, his face locked somewhere between shock and horror.
“You will tell us,” added the male vampire. “Not only will you tell us, but you’ll do so willingly. And we won’t have to hurt you at all.”
The female vampire turned around to face the male, bending over the table seductively. She pouted her lip and lifted her hand up to indicate a pinch. “Oh, can’t we though?” she begged. “Can’t we hurt them just a little? Just enough… for them to like it?”
The male vampire licked his lips and smiled wickedly. “I’ll leave that up to you.”
Amber was getting really sick of all the smiling. The sheer amount of enjoyment they were getting out of what they clearly thought was mental torture was nauseating.
“I hate to break up this little lovefest,” she said, voice dripping with acid, “but no matter what you think you’re going to do to us that’s so convincing, we can’t tell you what we don’t know. We don’t have a group. There was just us and our friends in the car. And you already said that they’re all dead.”
The female turned back around and ran her hand under Amber’s chin, looking at her like a teacher that knows it needs to correct a child, but doesn’t want to break the child’s heart by doing it.
“Oh, it’s cute of you to try and lie,” she whispered softly. “It really, really is. But even if we believed you, it won’t matter. Once you’re one of us, you’ll find yourself surprisingly cooperative.”
The words hit Amber like a brick wall. One of us. One… of US. Her lower jaw dropped into her chest and she found herself struggling to breathe. It couldn’t be. It couldn’t possibly be. They were going to make them… vampires?
“Me… and Jay…” she started to say, still too in shock to form a complete though.
“Oh, no, no, dearie. Not the both of you. Of course not.” She rubbed a hand gently across Amber’s head. “One of you gets to be our loyal lap dog. The other,” she paused as she ran her other hand across Jay’s head, “gets to be dinner. The first dinner, in fact, for our converted friend. The fun part is deciding who gets to be what.”
Amber’s knuckles had gone white she was gripping the arm of the chair so hard now.
Jay suddenly burst into motion, struggling against his restraints, but to absolutely no avail. “No!” he shouted. “No, never! We will never! You can’t force us. I may not know much about vampires, but I know it can’t be like zombies. It can’t be as simple as just biting us and then we’re one of you.”
The female’s eyebrows raised at the word “vampire,” but she said nothing about it. Instead, she shrugged her shoulders casually and said, “You’re right. It’s… slightly more involved than that. You have to feed for the first time to truly become one of us. But once we bite you, you’ll gain the hunger. Then it’s only a matter of letting that hunger foster inside of you, letting it grow and grow until you’re so hungry that you can’t take it anymore. When you can no longer bare it, the only source of food you will be able to find will be your friend. And then, no matter what trace of humanity you think is left inside of you, you will try to eat.”
As she spoke, Jay seemed to deflate. Once she fell silent, he turned and exchanged glances with Amber. She met his gaze silent and stolid. After a moment, she gave a slight nod of her head. He turned away and let out a sigh.
“Bite her,” he muttered weakly. “She can feast on me.”
To his surprise, the vampire woman threw back her head and laughed heartily.
“Oh my goodness,” she said when she had recovered enough. “How very noble. You two… you two are such a great couple. I haven’t had this much fun in ages.” She reached up and wiped a finger along the bottom of her eye, as though she were wiping away a tear.
“Wha-what do you mean?” Jay demanded meekly.
“Silly boy. We’re going to bite both of you, of course.”
Jay’s eyes went wide with shock. “No…” he whispered pathetically.
“Yes, actually,” the female replied. “It’s so much more fun to watch you fight for the privilege.”
She grabbed him by the hair, yanked back his head, and knelt down over him. She stopped just far enough away for him to still be able to see her face. Then she peeled back her lips, revealing the lines of razor sharp teeth. Smiling wickedly, she leaned in closer. Her mouth opened wider and wider, until her teeth were perfectly poised to drive into his neck like needles.
Suddenly, she pulled back, spinning away and stumbling a few steps. Her hands clamped over her mouth as she hissed in pain. To Amber’s shock, Jay was bursting with laughter.
The male vampire rose, slamming his open palms down on the table. “What the hell did you do?” he demanded.
“Holy water, bitches!” Jay declared triumphantly. “I had our priest make some. I’ve been wearing it like cologne for days.”
The female vampire spun back around and backhanded Jay across the forehead. The blow was powerful enough to off balance his chair, sending it bouncing and spinning on one leg after another until it collapsed onto the ground sideways.
“You will pay for that!” the female vampire growled. Amber could see what looked like burns on the woman’s face. The imagery made her smile inwardly. She tried to keep the expression off her face, but the slightest hint tugged unavoidably at the corner of her lip. Fortunately, the vampires were too focused on Jay to notice.
“Take him!” the male ordered. “Wash him until you get every trace of that blasted stuff off of him!”
The woman knelt down and with surprising ease lifted Jay off the ground. She dragged him along the ground headed for the room’s exit. Jay looked dazed, but as his head bobbed around, his gaze eventually fell on Amber.
“Amber!” he called. “I’ll find you! I’ll get free and I’ll find you!”
The woman vampire pulled him through the door, and it slammed shut with horrible finality. Amber closed her eyes and grimaced, realizing she would likely never see Jay again.
The male came around the table to be on the same side as Amber. She realized now where she recognized him from. She knew now exactly who he was, and he could see it in her face as he drew closer.
“Ah, there she is,” he said. “I was wondering how long it would take.”
It was so obvious now, she was surprised just how long it had taken her. But, to be fair to herself, he did look very different now that he was a vampire from how he did when she had known him. When he had been human.
“How are you not dead?” she asked.
He shrugged flippantly and said, “I became a vampire.”
She growled. “You know what I mean.”
He chuckled softly. “Sorry, yes. I do. It turns out the zombies weren’t trying to eat us so much as… well… herd us. Our kind can control the beasts, you see. Didn’t know that at the time, though, so it was an awful shock when they pushed us around until they had brought us before their leader. We were given the same choice I’ve given you and your friend. And, now,” he spread his arms wide before him, motioning to himself, “here I am. That’s how I know what an effective method this is. First-hand experience. That’s how I know it’ll work on you two.”
“It worked on you ’cuz you’re a pig,” Amber retorted, her voice so full of venom she was practically spitting at him. “You were a pig then, you’re a pig now, and you’ll always be a pig. That’s why it worked on you, because you’re such a… such a…” she fumbled for the word.
“A pig?” he offered.
“Yes!” she stomped her foot matter-of-factly on the floor.
He shrugged as if it did not matter, but his face betrayed a small look of hurt. “I suppose you’re right. I was terrible as a human being. But… I’ve changed. Literally, as you can see. I’m a different person now. It’s… hard to describe. But you’ll understand. Or, you could. Accept the change. Become one of us.”
“Accept?” Amber scoffed. “I thought we weren’t being given a choice.”
“You’ll both be bitten, yes. But I can rig it. I can make sure that you’re the one who succeeds. I can cripple the boy, make it so you can easily beat him. Guarantee your success. Just say the words, I’ll do it.” He grabbed her hands with his own, and gave them a little squeeze. “And then we can be together again. Forever.”
“Forever?” Amber tried to hold on to the anger in her voice, but it was wavering now. As the vampire spoke, he kept leaning in closer and closer by the barest of microscopic degrees every second. By now she could feel his cold, lifeless breath on her skin. By now, she was gripping the chair so tightly, her whole arm was shaking. “You want to spend forever with me now, even though you didn’t want to spend a mortal lifetime with me before?”
The look of hurt and shame in his face grew even more obvious now. “My deepest regret,” he breathed softly, “is that I hurt you. As I said, I was terrible when I was human. But you will understand. You will, I promise. Just… just let me change you.”
He was so close now, she could lean forward and kiss him if she wanted to. Her eyes danced up and down over his face, as if trying to gauge his level of sincerity.
“Michael?” she whimpered, so softly that even at that distance he could barely hear her say the word. He leaned a little closer.
“Yes?” he whispered back, almost just as softly.
A soft noise, almost like a squeak, issued from her throat. She leaned forward, too. They were so close, she could feel the minute hairs of her cheek brushing against his skin. He took this as a good sign, and let his mouth slide slowly down her face toward her neck.
She opened her mouth, and then clamped her teeth down on his throat.
In shock, he jerked backwards, but her bite was too strong. She held him in place, feeling the tough skin of his throat giving way under the pressure.
The chair arm she was gripping and shaking had been loose. She could feel that from the first moment she had woken. This entire time, she had been trying to work it free. And just now, finally, it snapped away from the rest of the chair. In a flash, she spun the broken end around to face the vampire, and jabbed it into his chest.
The skin of his throat finally gave way as he stumbled backwards. With one hand he clutched at his neck, and the other he wrapped around the wooden spike. He stared at her with a look of stunned betrayal. He tried to say something, but it was already too late. He collapsed to the floor, and became motionless.
With her now free hand, Amber wiped blood from her mouth. She spat some more out on the floor. “You always were an asshat,” she said.
There was a pounding at the door, and Amber knew she only had moments to free her other limbs from their confinement. There was a butter knife on the table. She slapped her hand out for it. It took her three tries, but she managed to grab it. Pulling it in, she began working it into the knot of the rope on her left arm. As she did, the door to the room burst open, and zombies began pouring in. She looked up just long enough to say the word, “Shit,” and then got back to work.