A New Novel in the Making
I'm working on a new novel. Here's the 21st chapter of it. Let me know what you think about it. You find a Facebook comment form below the text. I post each new chapter when it is completed. The first chapter is here: Chapter One
Immediately inside the entrance, there is a steep and narrow staircase made of concrete. A naked light bulb above the door is the only lighting. It doesn't reach beyond the first dozen steps. The end of the stairway is hidden in darkness.
Aaron starts the descent without any hesitation, but Caroline is careful with her steps and Reuben walks right behind her. When Aaron is about to disappear into the shadows, he stops and turns to the others. They have only reached halfway to his position on the stairs.
"Don't worry, Caroline. It's only a few more steps from here, and I can see quite well in the dark. So can Reuben."
Caroline glances at Reuben, whose face shows no expression.
"Reuben knows this place, too," Aaron assures her.
"I never go here."
"Why should you, when you have such a delightful lodging?" Aaron teases him.
They get to the end of the stairs, where Caroline can see little more than the silhouettes of her companions, and the big steel door they face.
"What is this place? A bomb shelter?"
"Well, definitely a kind of shelter," Aaron replies. "A hiding place for those who shun the light."
"I still think this is a bad idea," Reuben protest with a low voice.
Aaron ignores him, grabbing the door handle and pulling it forcefully. There is a shrill scraping noise from the door as it opens. It makes Caroline gasp.
Behind the door is a cellar hall, not much bigger than a train wagon and with almost the same elongated shape. The ceiling is low and arched. The only light comes from candles on the small tables spread over the area. There are no more than ten persons sitting by the tables, most of them by themselves. They are little more than shadows in the dim light. All of them look up at the three as they enter.
"It's a bar," Caroline concludes after looking around for a moment.
"Sort of," Aaron replies. "But nothing is served."
"Nothing at all?"
"Well, you know our diet. Not much chance of getting it served in any establishment, not even this one."
"So, are they all your kind?"
Aaron grins, his white teeth shining even in the weak candle light.
"Not mine, no! They're ugly. But yes, they are vampires." He notices Reuben's disapproving expression and repeats with elaborate pronunciation: "Vampires."
Reuben frowns, while Aaron shows Caroline to an empty table and holds the chair for her to sit down. It's made of wood, as is the table, and neither shows any sign of advanced carpentry. Aaron sits down beside her and Reuben does the same on her other side.
Caroline glances here and there, intimidated by the way all the others stare at her. Not much of their features are visible in the dim light. All colors are reduced to tones of gray.
"A sorry breed, indeed," Aaron continues. "Look at them! Frightened low-lives hiding in the dark, rotting away. Scum of the earth."
Caroline signals to him to quiet down. He doesn't care.
"They know what they are. Do you see anyone getting angry? No, they simply agree."
No protest is heard from the silence around them, and no one appears to be aggravated. Their faces are blank and soon they turn their eyes away from the three newcomers.
"Is every vampire so unhappy?" Caroline wonders, keeping her voice down.
"Either that or really miserable," Aaron replies, followed by a chuckle. "We get to live forever, if we make it - but it's not much of a life."
"And how about you, Aaron? The way you laugh and joke all the time, you can't be as unhappy as the others."
"Of course I am," he says with the same smile. "There's no light at the end of our tunnel - none that our eyes can bear."
Caroline spots a woman at a table behind Aaron. She seems to be around 30 years old. She has a coat, but it is draped over the chair next to hers. Neither the colors nor much of the design of her dress is visible in the flickering light from the candle on her table, but her silhouette shows a protruding belly.
"Reuben, look!" Caroline whispers in his ear. "The woman over there, she's pregnant. Didn't you say that vampires are sterile?"
Reuben glances shortly at the woman, who is leaning her head to the side as if trying to rest it on her shoulder.
"She was like that when she became a vampire."
"She was? So, what happens to the child?"
"Nothing. It remains the same. None of them will age."
"She'll remain pregnant forever?"
Aaron butts in, not bothering at all to keep his voice down.
"She probably wanted for both the child and herself to live forever, but she didn't realize that it would be like this."
"And the vampires who made her, why didn't they warn her?"
Aaron shrugs his shoulders.
"Maybe they did, and she didn't believe them. Or maybe they didn't, because they needed to feed."
"Vampires have little to be proud of. But then again - who does? Don't worry. You won't become one, unless two of us bite you simultaneously."
Aaron glances at Reuben, with a hopeful glare in his eyes. Reuben shakes his head.
"In your dreams."
Aaron pats Caroline's hand, which is resting on the table.
"Just remember, Caroline - if you change your mind, I'll be happy to do you the honor."
"Well," Caroline says, "you're not making it sound that very tempting."
Caroline peeks at the gloomy characters crouching by the other tables. Even at the few tables with more than one person, there seems to be no conversation at all. They all sit in silence, barely looking at one another.
"It's more like a waiting room than a bar," she concludes. "Are they waiting for something?"
"Nothing but their own tragic fate," Aaron replies. "And it's not too far away. I don't know how well you see them in this light, but they're all quite skinny."
"So are you. Both of you."
"I'm lean, not skinny," Aaron protests. "Most of these guys are just skin and bones. Except for that pregnant woman, of course. So far, she seems to feed enough for the two of them. I wonder how. Probably she can use people's trust. Who doesn't want to help someone in that condition? But the others," he says and makes a sweeping movement with his hand, "they're in pretty bad shape."
Caroline turns her attention to him.
"Are you?" she wonders.
"Me? What do you think? You've seen my pantry. I have an unlimited supply of fresh beverages. And it's not likely to run dry. New bottles are delivered almost daily."
"Bottles - is that what they are to you?"
"Pretty much," Aaron replies and laughs at Caroline's reaction. Then he gets more somber. "Of course I know why they come. Not only vampires have a dreadful life. I see their pain. I smell it. But what I do to them doesn't change it one bit, neither for the better nor the worse. We're just ships that pass in the night. Then darkness again..."
Caroline opens her mouth to respond, when there is a shrill noise that she immediately recognizes. She turns her head towards the steel door.
A group of kids enter. They are five, seemingly in the ages around ten.
"Poor kids, have they ever got lost!" Caroline says with half a gasp. "We must warn them. Look, how the vampires stare at them. Are they going to drink their blood?"
Aaron and Reuben also look at the kids, with grim expressions in their faces.
"Look again," Aaron answers her shortly.
Caroline does. The kids are quite pale, as far as can be seen in the dim light. They are not dressed like ordinary kids, but in clothing of differing styles, most of them mere rags, as if all of them had gotten their clothes in second hand stores.
"They're vampires, too?"
Aaron nods, not taking his eyes off the kids. He seems anxious, even frightened. The group of kids goes from table to table, examining those sitting at them. The kids are silent, and so is everyone else. Nobody objects when being examined, even when poked or pushed quite rudely.
"What are they doing?" Caroline wonders with increasing concern.
Aaron replies with a whisper.
"They look for their makers."
"The ones who turned them into vampires."
"Why? What for?"
One of the kids looks right at them, and Aaron closes his mouth. Caroline stiffens, holding her breath. Only when Reuben puts his hand on hers does she relax a bit. Reuben is quiet, his mouth closed and his eyes fixed on the boy looking at them.
The group of kids approaches their table and gathers around it. One boy, who looks like he is about twelve years old, seems to be the leader of the group. He is slightly taller than the others and his posture is as straight as a flagpole. The other kids pause as he grabs Aaron's head and turns it to inspect it. Aaron allows it, doing nothing. He avoids looking the boy in the eyes.
After a moment, Aaron is released. The boy looks at Reuben, but doesn't approach him. Reuben looks right back at him, with a blank expression. Caroline glances from one to the other.
When some of the kids behind their leader start to move towards Reuben, the leader blocks their way by spreading out his arms. He points them to the next table. They comply. The leader remains behind Aaron, scrutinizing Reuben. Then he follows the others.
There is a noise from another table. The kids grab a woman, who seems to be middle-aged, and pull her up from her seat. She is terrified, her eyes and mouth wide open, but she doesn't resist in the least. The leader of the kids picks up something from his pocket and holds it up close enough to a candle for its shape to be clearly visible. It is a wooden stick, almost a foot long, sharpened at one end. He hands it over to one of the boys, who looks like no more than ten years old.
Reuben is suddenly on his feet, without making any sound.
"Come, Caroline! We leave."
He grabs her hand and hurries towards the open steel door. Aaron is quick to follow. Caroline continues to stare at the kids as she stumbles along, pulled by Reuben.
The little boy grabs the wooden stick with both hands, staring at it as if hypnotized. The woman, still silent and completely passive, is held hard by the other kids.
"Vengeance!" the leader of the kids shouts with a sharp voice, almost a scream.
The woman closes her eyes as the little boy thrusts the stick right into her chest. She gapes but makes no sound. The other kids release her, and she falls to the floor. They surround her in a circle.
Next, Caroline is pulled up the stairs, losing view of the cellar hall.
All the chapters posted so far: