20th Century Vampire (A Dark Season Prequel) is due out this week, on Tuesday April 17th, so here’s a preview for the book. Hope you like it! Edit: It’s out now, click here!
August 1917, just outside the village of Passchendaele in Belgium.
The mud explodes in my hands, engulfing me with a bright white flash that knocks me several feet into the air. I land with a thud and it takes me a moment to realise that I have landed on top of another dead body. I roll off and splat down into the mud. It’s dark all around now, but the night sky is lit up regularly by flashes from artillery fire, and each time I see dark shapes strewn around the ground. I know what those shapes are: the bodies of my fellow soldiers.
With the sound of gunfire and screaming all around, I struggle to my feet. I feel dizzy, and my head is ringing. I look down at my hands. The explosion tore off most of my fingers: the bones are gone, and the flesh of each finger hangs like a ragged strip. Strangely, the sight of blood and bone – even my own – does not disgust me at all. I just stare at the injury, and for some reason I smile. There’s no pain, no shock, no horror. Just wry amusement at the way my body has been damaged.
Nearby, there’s another huge explosion, loud and bright.
I look up and see a bank of fog swirling towards me. Must be a fire somewhere. And then, out of the fog, there emerges a staggering, limping human shape. Clearly injured, perhaps even worse than me, the shape is heading straight towards me. Although it occurs to me that I should try to defend myself, I just stand and wait. There’s nothing that this person can do to me that would hurt now. This war is over for me, whether I live or die.
As the limping figure gets closer, I see that its injuries are truly horrific. This man – if it can be said to be a man any more – is burnt to a crisp from head to toe. Two white eyes stare out at me, with an inhuman look of detached shock. We just look at each other, a moment of connection. I don’t know if he understands what has happened to him, and if he knows that he’s going to die. It’s as if he’s looking at me and hoping for an answer, hoping that I’ll step towards him and make everything okay.
Slowly, he raises his hands up to his face, and looks at his own burnt skin. He opens his mouth, as if he’s about to say something, but nothing comes out. Then he drops to his knees, and finally he falls face-first into the mud.
And then he’s still.
And it starts to rain.
“God bless,” I say, but I can barely hear my own voice because now the rain is really pounding down, louder than all the explosions and gunfire. The muddy ground quickly becomes a swamp, little puddles forming, and the burnt man’s body just stays where it fell. The strange thing is, I’ve seen hundreds of men die during this war. Maybe thousands. But there’s something about this man, about the way he died, that strikes me as somehow different. What that difference might be, I cannot quite say. But it feels almost as if this man was different to all the others.
I become aware of a whining, whistling sound approaching me. I look up into the rain and I see something dark falling from the sky. A bomb. There’s no time to run. I just watch it fall. It’s going to land almost on top of me. I watch and wait. Even as the rain hits my eye, I don’t blink. I just wait.
As the bomb hits the ground and explodes, I close my eyes. A wall of white heat hits me.
20th Century Vampire will be released on April 17th at Amazon.