Sunday Storytime: “Scanlon Ness, I regret to inform you…”

This one is…pretty important to the plot of Book 4. Shit has gotten very, very real for Scanlon.

When I woke up, I was too exhausted to register the surprise.

I was laid out naked on a bare concrete floor, held up at the shoulders and upper back on someone’s arm, and someone was spraying cold water from a shower hose all over my body.

Guess what’s for dinner…

The coldness felt comforting, the concrete floor felt perfectly natural, and it didn’t occur to me to be embarrassed about being seen naked by strangers. The only thing bothering me was that I was weak, dehydrated and very, very hungry.

I opened my eyes, slowly, and saw four people in the room and watching me. There was a woman holding my upper body off the floor, a man using the shower hose, and two more men standing around and waiting for me to do a trick. All youthful, and healthier-looking than the creatures of the night who had nearly killed me. There was no visible light source in the room, but everything was perfectly clear, if largely featureless.

“Jacob, get him the Ophelia,” said the woman.

One of the guys with nothing to do stepped aside and picked up a glass full of something dark. He squatted down and held the glass to my mouth while the one with the shower hose aimed at my legs. I drank up the dark stuff in the glass, and it felt wonderful. It was like soup fresh off the stove, but without the heat. After I emptied the glass, I felt stronger. I sat up while the one fellow continued to hose me down, and the woman let go.

“Ephraim, didn’t you get us some pie?” she asked another of her friends.

“Right!” said the other guy. He darted out of the room and soon came back with a broad plate holding something else, large, firm, solid and similarly dark. He knelt down where Jacob had just been and offered me a fork full of the solid stuff, which I gladly took. I pulled the fork out of his hand just a few mouthfuls in and began feeding myself the pie. It was pleasingly substantial, with the strong-tasting quality of something that had been left to ripen a bit too long but was still too good to waste.

“He’s got a good appetite,” the woman observed. “That’s promising, if nothing else.”

“What is in this pie?” I asked. “It’s good. And for that matter, where are we, and do I know you people?”

“Oh, look, he’s talkative all of a sudden,” said the guy with the shower hose, like I was an infant showing off his first words.

“First things first,” said the woman, “you’re eating an afterbirth.”

I dropped the fork; it bounced off the plate and hit the floor. “WHAT?!” I squawked.

“She means placenta,” said Ephraim, “though we call it pie, because it sounds more fun.”

“What in the Hell is going on?!” I demanded.

“I know it can seem like Hell, but you’re still on Earth,” said the woman. “Eat your pie, Scanny, you need the nourishment.”

“What are you all doing to me?!”

“We’re actually taking care of you much better than those creeps who turned you would have done, though you’re not making it easy at the moment,” said the guy who was still spraying my lower body with cold water.

I jumped out from under the spray and away from my captors; I stood back at the opposite wall, and took a good look at my surroundings. The walls were covered in plain, small gray tiles, neglected though clean. The floor was unadorned concrete and sloped downwards to a drain located where I had just been seated. There was no furniture in the room except a flimsy little white plastic end table, which looked like part of a patio set, that held the glass I had just drained and the plate half-full of afterbirth. There were no windows. There was a dark green steel door on the other side of my captors, but I couldn’t see a light fixture anywhere in the room. There was no light. I could see everything like it was the middle of the day, but there was no light. What did that one guy mean by those creeps who’d turned me?

“Did I give you permission to be a moving target?” the woman said rhetorically. “No. No I did not,” she said, “so you can sit your scrawny, hairy, smelly ass back down here and let Lemuel keep hosing you off, or Jacob and Ephraim will hold you down while I smash your face in.”

She stared at me with this blank, expressionless gaze that was more unnerving than bared fangs, while Jacob and Ephraim gave me a look that said their female friend was the boss of them far more than I was.

“If I cooperate, will you tell me what’s going on?”

“Yes,” she said earnestly, “and if you don’t cooperate, I will punish you.”

I returned to my spot near the drain. Lemuel gave me several fresh passes with the cold water, and the woman picked up the discarded fork and began depositing more chunks of afterbirth into my mouth. I was disturbed that it tasted so good.

“My name’s Andra Brown, and in my mortal life I was a pharmacist,” she said. “The guy on shower duty is Lemuel Porter, formerly an astronomer. Ephraim Baker, who was once a surveyor, is the one who’s brought us the pie. Jacob Sanders here, with the Ophelia, was a fisherman back when he could go out in daylight. We all know who you are, and I’m afraid your career in journalism is over.”

“Why? What happened to me?”

“Scanlon Ness, I regret to inform you,” she intoned, “that you have joined the ranks of the undead. I understand if you were trying to convince yourself it was anything else.”

“Especially considering,” said Jacob with a chuckle, “the positions he took in his career.”

So there was no other way around it; I had been turned into a vampire. I could see in the dark, I preferred the cold, and human blood tasted delicious.

I couldn’t go anywhere; I assumed it was nighttime, or else my captors would all be asleep, but wherever I was, I couldn’t be around people anymore. I was a monster who needed to keep away from society. I slumped further into a passive heap, hoping that the new mother and baby who’d yielded the afterbirth were still alive and unharmed, and allowed Andra to feed me more while she went on with the explanation.

“In case you’re wondering, we did not want you to be turned, but that little gang out there, the ones who surrounded you in the red light district, they’ve had their eyes on you for a while. You were out of it for almost two full days, during which time your internal organs and circulatory system have been turning into something else, and that process creates a lot of unpleasant byproducts, hence the shower. Your body is purging a lot of unhelpful sludge, and now that your intestines have emptied themselves out and begun to dissolve into your abdominal cavity, all that sludge is coming out through your skin, and it doesn’t smell too nice.”

“The worst is over now that you’ve regained consciousness,” Jacob offered, “but there’s still some more transition to come.”

“And the more you get to eat,” Andra continued, “the faster the transition will conclude, which means that when we offer you food, do not turn it down.”

“What happened to the mother and baby, with the placenta?” I asked.

“You make it sound like we hurt them,” said Andra. “No, there was a home birth in Ephraim’s town, and the family gave the fresh afterbirth to him. He saved it for you since yesterday morning. The mom and baby are both just fine.”

“What’s that Ophelia stuff?” I asked.

“That’s what we call Type O blood. Others are Alice, Abigail and Beatrice,” said Andra.

“It’s kind of funny that he doesn’t know this,” said Lemuel.

“Well, we are the kind of vampires that he said didn’t exist,” Andra pointed out. I knew what she meant by that, and I still wasn’t convinced.

“If you mean you’re the non-predatory type, my position was not that you don’t exist,” I said, “just that you’re not as trustworthy as you would have us believe.”

“Time to leave that ‘us’ at your old office, Scanny,” said Lemuel. “You’re not mortal anymore.”