Chapter One, Part 2

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PAIN RIPPED THROUGH ME as I lay frozen on the ground. The world around me wavered. The edges of my vision dimmed and darkness fell upon me. Emptiness filled my soul, infinite and absolute. A hollow chasm was all that remained in the essence of my being. And yet—a terrifying consciousness that defied the body and denied death endured...

Sometime later in the endless void a vague awareness emerged. Imprisoned in my skin of stone a fire circulated deep inside me, radiating outward to every nerve ending. Internal organs ruptured under the assault; capillaries collapsed. Frigid numbness replaced the blistering heat in my veins causing me to tremble violently. In the distance, I thought I heard a high-pitched scream. As the world faded in and out, I wondered whether it was my cry or another's. Were these the nightmares of the condemned? Had Satan, himself, taken notice and found a special place for me in hell?...

An electric bolt shot through my ribcage, arching my back, lifting me off the cold, hard earth. The heart that had rested motionless in my chest started to beat steady and strong. Blood began to flow through my arteries. The slow trickling stream became a violent rush as the floodgates opened, allowing the vampire poison to entwine its evil power in my lifeless form...

Gasping, my lungs filled with a great breath. My eyes flew open, and I stared into the abyss. It was cold, mind-numbingly cold. My lips were parched, and my throat scorched. A thick coat of perspiration slicked my skin as a maddening thirst began to rage within me, demanding remedy. Hunger like nothing I had ever known before seized my stomach. The relentless, inexorable agony pulled me down into the blackness...

I rolled onto my side, shaking my head back and forth in the dirt. My insides twisted in knots, and I pulled up my knees as cramps tore through me. Curling into a ball, I squeezed my arms over my gut as my stomach began to spasm again. A rush of putrid vomit spewed from my mouth and pooled under my chin.

The vile stench of urine, vomit, and rotting flesh surrounded me, making me retch until I had nothing left to give. These foul odors co-mingled with the oddly familiar scent of wet earth and spoiled vegetables. Pulling the fragments of information together, I realized I was underground in the root cellar, below the house

A pale shaft of light pierced the darkness like the blade of a great white sword. For how long it had been there, I could not say. I could have been staring at it for minutes, hours, or even days. It was only now that I became aware my eyes had fixed upon it. Scanning my surroundings, I tried to make sense of the shadows around me, but images overlapped in a dull blur, offering no answers.

Mustering my strength, I tried to rise into a sitting position, but my body was too weak. The physical exertion brought on a torturous pounding inside my skull, triggering the thirst, blinding me with need...

The light was there again. It was dim. Was it dawn? Sunset?

Something shifted in the darkness to my left, cutting through the delirium. Was I alone? Could the others be with me?

"Who's there?" I murmured.

"Mother," James' weak voice replied.

Using the pain to help me focus, I tried to shake off the dizziness. "James," I whispered.

"I'm here," he replied, saying nothing more.

After a long silence, brokenhearted and overcome with despair, the light faded...

The thirst was all-consuming and flashed like fire through my veins. A relentless hunger claimed me. How was I to satisfy this brutal craving? My gums began to pound in rhythm with my heartbeat. I cupped a hand over my mouth and gasped as two long teeth slipped over my lower lip, the needle-like tips pricking my hand. Tears stained my cheeks, and I lowered my head at the horror of what I'd become.

An ear-piercing scream shook me out of my thoughts. Margaret was somewhere close by, shrieking and writhing in pain. Never could I have imagined hearing such an agonizing sound come from one of my children would make me happy. She was here with me. We were together. I allowed myself a small glimmer of hope...

Waking again, I squinted in concentration, focusing on the sounds around me, listening for signs of life. I watched the beam of light grow in intensity and dim in the passing of time. My body went into convulsions as waves of pain ebbed and flowed like the tide. My wish for survival became a plea for death. The battle between the fire in my veins and the numbing cold was relentless. I wanted it over. My body was starving. There was no peace, only pain. If the others were here with me, I hated the thought of them suffering as I did.

"Mama," Emily whispered, rousing me. "Help...me."

Understanding penetrated the haze, and I knew I had to get to her. She would die without my help. I forced my protesting limbs to move in the direction of her voice. I found her rigid body and laid my hand down on her small, frail chest. Her heart beat so faintly.

"I'm thirsty, Mama," she cried.

Erdo had turned my baby into a vampire, and she was dying for blood. I realized what I needed to do. Closing my eyes, I allowed my fangs to slip into place. Raising my wrist to my mouth, I bit into my flesh deep enough to let the blood flow. A sweet fragrance bloomed in the air, hitting me like a fist, driving me crazy with bloodlust. A wild beast roared to life inside me and battled for release.

Emily's sobbing broke the trance

I brushed back the hair from her face and gave my blood to my daughter. It was the only thing I could do to help her. Holding my wrist over her mouth, she drank. What little strength I had left began to drain from me, but I did not pull away. If it meant she would live, I would give her my last ounce of blood.

I began to fall back into obscurity. I no longer wanted to continue this life of the damned and the pain that it brought. All that mattered was saving my daughter.

"Mama," Emily murmured in the darkness, "Margaret and James..."

Wavering on the edge of consciousness her words compelled me into action. On my hands and knees, I searched for the two in the darkness. I found Margaret first. I sat beside her and lifted her upper body onto my lap. She moaned ever so quietly as her head rolled to the side. She was unconscious and at death's door. Opening her mouth, I let my blood drip onto her tongue. She laid there motionless, and I feared I was too late. My blood continued to flow until it ran over her lips and down the sides of her face. Finally, she coughed, spraying half of it on me, and swallowed. I made certain she had consumed several mouthfuls before I eased her aside.

On the verge of blacking out, I inched my way through the cellar seeking James. I crawled through the rough dirt on arms and legs that threatened to buckle. Unable to find him I collapsed in utter frustration and wept. Sorrow weighed me like a mighty anchor, but I couldn't let Erdo claim my son. Pushing myself to the limits of my endurance, I rose onto my hands and knees again.

"James, James, where are you?" I called.

On my right, I heard movement. James whispered, "Mother..."

Struggling toward the sound, I found him. Kneeling next to him, I said, "I'm here, son." Holding my wrist over his mouth, I offered my blood. Moments before oblivion stole him from me, he accepted my offering...

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