Chapter 4 - More or Less Human?

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Max could feel the light coming just before dawn on the second night. No one told him that was what he was sensing, but no one needed to, he just knew. Whatever it was about the change from night to day, it had to be metaphysical because there was no other way Max could think he would feel it.

The only analogy he could come up with was sitting by the sea as the tide came in: each wave slowly creeping over him; first over his toes, taking away the heat of the sun, then his feet and so on. With every beat of his heart he could feel the tide of dawn washing in further, only each time it touched every part of his body that little bit more, leeching away the energy there.

He didn't want to just give in this time. If this struggle was about his will then he intended to use it as much as he could. The vampire infection told him to prepare to sleep, so he would not.

He was sitting with his back against the wall, refusing to let the drowsiness take him, when pain ripped through his upper jaw. It felt as if knives were stabbing into his gums and even as he pushed his hand over his mouth he tasted blood on his tongue.

"Max, what is the matter?" Yulia asked from her usual position at one of the lab benches.

The pain was excruciating, but it only lasted a couple of seconds. Max was left breathing hard through his nose and wondering what the hell had happened. It was such a shock to his system that his mind neither caught up with the question from Yulia nor the obvious explanation for quite a while.

Only as the sharp agony dissolved into a dull ache did his brain start to consider anything else. It was then, with shaking fingers, that he carefully touched his gums. Opening his mouth, he slowly ran the tip of his index finger around the source of the pain and then down over the long, dangerous fang that extended from his gum on the left side. With his tongue he traced the matching one on the other.

It sent a shot of pure fear through him like an icy knife, filling his head with cold. He just sat there.

"Max?" Yulia prompted again.

He looked up at the doctor and slowly took his hand away from his mouth.

"Fangs," he said simply and curled his top lip back so Yulia could see.

For a moment Yulia just stood there, clearly unsure what to say; they both knew that this was yet another loss in the battle he was fighting. The vampire infection caused physiological changes, Yulia had explained it all to him, and fangs was probably the most obvious. The normal canines grew up into the jaw and gained the ability to slide down to provide a weapon. Exactly how, Yulia couldn't explain, because the physics of it shouldn't have worked, but then nothing about vampires was sensible.

Max realised his jaw had been aching for several hours; he'd just put it down to the tension of the whole situation.

Yulia rubbed the bridge of her nose and then gave his a small sad smile.

"We must test your bite," she said in a very practical tone, "it is unlikely you are contagious yet, but we should be sure."

Max said nothing, far too afraid that if he let himself react he would simply lose it.

When Yulia returned with a dental impression tray filled with something, he let his chains be shortened and dutifully bit down when asked to. He'd played a vampire once, his breakout role actually, and they'd done something similar so they could fit him with fangs. That he actually had his own now almost sent him into hysterical laughter. He managed to keep it together, but only just.

He was glad of the lethargy when it hit him again. Yulia needed him to stay awake, so he did his best, but it made his brain all fuzzy. It was a small mercy at least.

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