Posted on October 11, 2008 by Flames
We have an early look at horror author Derek Gunn’s new Vampire Apocalypse novel Descent into Chaos. This is the sequel to A World Torn Asunder.
Here on Flames Rising today we have the Prologue of the new book.
Vampire Apocalypse: Descent into Chaos
Two Years Ago: Boston
It was still early evening but the relentless advance of the dark was already heralding its dominion as the sun began to slip slowly below the horizon. In places, patches of light still flared valiantly—though, ineluctably, they too began to give ground with each passing moment. Harris grinned wryly as he thought how fitting their predicament was as he and his fellow survivors defended themselves against the oncoming hoard in their last remaining stronghold. He rated their chances no better than the light that, even now, was relinquishing its last tenuous grip on the cityscape.
Harris watched the shadows advance across the torn buildings that had once comprised the upper east side of Boston and sighed. Broken rocks and piping lay everywhere, spilling from ruined buildings like entrails from a gutted corpse. Sharp angles and jagged peaks reached forlornly towards the sky as if in final, silent defiance of the destruction that had laid waste to everything else around them. They, like Harris and his group, were all that remained in the path of the oncoming, destructive tide. Harris looked out over the ruined remains of the once proud city and despaired.
He and his companions had held out against all odds in the face of a far superior enemy. They had fought a losing battle over the last few months, delaying the thralls’ advance while they bought time for others to flee, though where they might flee to he did not know. They had lost ground continuously. Though in fairness they had extracted a heavy toll for each of their own losses and had frustrated the thralls for some time now. The leaders of the thralls were not usually military men, as those who had risen quickly in the Vampires’ army tended to be those who had abandoned their fellow humans early on in the war, rather than fight. They were not men or women of honor.
As such, their main strategy tended to be to throw as many soldiers as they could at any obstacle, regardless of the costs. Harris and his colleagues had frustrated them continuously by striking hard and fast and then disappearing before the thralls could organize their defense, let alone a counter-attack. They had made the thralls pay a heavy price for every mile they retreated. But retreat they had, and they had left many of their number along the way in silent testament to the inevitable final conclusion.
Strangely, the thralls had not called on their vampire masters for aid. Harris had never actually seen a vampire. He had heard about them, of course. But the first part of the war had passed him by. It had all happened so quickly. At first the stories of whole populations of towns disappearing were ridiculed by most of the press that had still somehow managed to operate in an increasingly insular world. The energy crisis had changed life so radically that most communities existed in isolation. There was no power to spare for running servers so the Internet had closed down long ago. He had heard rumors that some servers still existed, a last defiant bastion of man’s ingenuity and knowledge in a world that no longer cared and could no longer support such excessive use of a dwindling resource. No one could waste power on computers anymore so most news traveled by word of mouth.
When the vampires had come from the darkness they had moved quickly. They took over whole communities while the world still continued on, blissfully unaware that a rotting cancer was already steadily eating away at their heart. By the time the world woke up to the threat, the vampires had already gathered a sizeable army of men and women who they rewarded with strength and agility far beyond any normal human. Thralls were difficult to kill and many a platoon had been decimated as they had advanced past the thralls they had killed only to find that the enemy they thought dead suddenly rose after they had passed by and had attacked them from the rear. Despite this, though, the humans began to drive the vampire spawn back, but the cost had been so high. The desperation of the time brought out the best in people and, as it had been during world wars many years before, men and women formed ranks, helped each other and fought back. The remnants of the government had even begun to conscript men and women and, for a short time, they seemed to be winning.
Despite the vampires’ awesome power they still had to sleep during the day and could not travel too far from areas they considered safe. A number of them had been caught and slaughtered when the humans had made particularly deep incursions against the thrall defense, and ever since these safe areas tended to be far behind the front lines. The thralls had done the majority of the fighting though and this worked well for the humans. Unfortunately, there just had not been enough time or resources to fully take advantage of this. Men and women had flocked to help in the fighting but with no training and little equipment, they were merely cannon fodder who had been given a weapon and sent to the front. There was no coherent response against the vampire advance either as many of the communications devices, satellites and wireless technologies had been left to rot during the years of the energy crisis. Without the power to keep the communications equipment running, these marvels of modern technology were just so much junk. Every battle that was fought tended to take place in isolation and, while they did have some victories, they were unable to take advantage on a national scale so the overall gain was lost in the general confusion. And then the vampires had poisoned the water supplies with their serum and everything had gone to hell.
Harris had been staying with his father and had been conscripted late in the war so had only arrived after the serum’s effects had become known. Already the front had collapsed and Harris had found himself caught up with a decimated and demoralized retreating army. In fact, it had only been when one man, Ricardo Juarez, had managed to organize what remained of them into something resembling a fighting unit that they had managed to turn the tide and begin to fight back.
Juarez was dead now, killed by an unfortunate ricochet during a raid, but his spirit remained in the men and women who still fought in his name. They had retreated for hundreds of miles, slowing the thralls while those unable to fight pressed ahead in the hope of making the coast and taking a ship to somewhere where the vampires had not yet spread their vicious rule. In the last few months it had become obvious that the thralls feared the vampires as much as the rebels did. They would have been defeated long ago had the vampires been called to join the fighting but so far, the thralls had resisted. Most likely because they were afraid of what their masters would do if they admitted failure against such a paltry force. As long as they were advancing, no matter how slowly, the thralls seemed to be keeping the vampires out of it.
Now, though, there was nowhere else to go. The families they had bought time for with their blood had left on the ships. For better or worse, they had sailed off in the hope of finding somewhere they could live free. The ships could still be caught, though, so this final group had stayed behind to ensure them the time they needed to get far enough away from land so the vampires could not reach them. The men and women with Harris were all without family; either they had lost children or spouses in the conflict and were still filled with enough hate that they wanted to exact their own retribution or they just had no wish to start again. Whatever the reason, these men and women had stayed and now they awaited their inevitable fate together. Harris could have left with the others but he felt that he was needed. After Juarez was killed there was a moment when everything was about to fall apart, but two men and one woman, including himself, had come forward and encouraged the others to continue. Two of the others were dead now and one had gone with their family on the ship. Harris felt a responsibility for those he had led to this point so he had remained.
The serum had broken all resistance and cities everywhere were falling under the oppression of the advancing thralls and their vampire masters. The story was the same all over the world. They still received some reports on the long distance frequencies of small communities who still held out, but these communities were growing fewer each day. The time of man had come and gone and now a new predator was confirming their dominance.
Harris and his remaining group numbered only fifty but they had chosen their stronghold well and had prepared even better. Harris was not a military man but he had enough people on the team to advise him. His strength was in his ability to inspire and lead and he concentrated on that. The surrounding buildings had all been mined with explosives and other surprises that had tied up the thralls for the last three days. The thralls had lost hundreds of soldiers as they tried repeatedly to remove the humans from their positions. In their preparations Harris and his colleagues had blown out the surrounding buildings, making it almost impossible for the thralls to bring their tanks into play. The thralls shelled the area continuously but were forced to do so from long range and Harris and the others were spread out so well that the shelling had been largely ineffective so far. They also ensured that the thrall spotters who tried to give accurate coordinates to the artillery paid a heavy toll each time they came within range.
It was a stalemate at the moment. This morning they had seen the main force retreat back out of range and Harris could see that the troops had been ordered to make camp. The thralls still surrounded Harris and his group, but through the day they made no attempt to attack. Now that the darkness was beginning to fall Harris could see that the thralls were getting ready. Not for an assault, though. He could see the thralls begin to move into positions that afforded them the best view of the rebel’s stronghold. Obviously they were preparing for a show and Harris shivered as he realized what this meant.
The thralls had either lost too many men or they had run out of time. Either way it made little difference; the vampires were obviously on their way. Harris looked around him and he could see the fear that clouded each face, but he could also see a quiet determination, a knowledge that no matter what happened, they had won a victory. They had managed to gain their friends enough time to make it out of the country and, hopefully, to a place of safety. If they had to die then he was glad that it would count for something.
The vampires came with the darkness. It was hard to tell how many there were as the shadows seemed to stretch towards them and wrap them in their embrace, but it couldn’t have been too many, Harris thought. They would hardly consider fifty humans worth their attention, but it was a testament to Harris and the others that they had been called at all. He wondered idly what their involvement would cost the thrall leaders, but found he didn’t really give a damn. Hopefully the bastards would suffer before their masters tore them apart.
A cold breeze blew through the ruined building, whistling slightly as it passed through the gaping holes of the shattered windows and torn brick that the shelling had caused. Harris shivered again. The dark had always fascinated him before. He had loved the feeling of standing in the open, staring up at the sky and counting the myriad stars. The night had always been a place of solitude and beauty for him. Now, the darkness was something to fear. Something that hid an evil that threatened to devour them all, something that had come to embody death and not wonder. He wiped the sweat from his hands against his knees and then checked the magazine yet again. It was still as full as it had been the countless other times he had checked. He wished they would do something. The waiting was driving him mad.
When they came the attack was both an anti-climax and an awesome spectacle. The first Harris knew of the attack was the sound of machine guns chattering in a room to his left. The sound was strangely muted, as if the air itself was reluctant to carry the echo. He heard a brief burst of fire and then a second joined in. Soon there were a number of weapons firing, and then they seemed to stop in mid burst and the first scream filled the night. It was a terrible sound, full of terror and pain, and then it was joined by a second and then a third.
Silence descended over the building as the last of the screams died away. Harris snapped his head from side to side as he watched each doorway and bare window for any movement. There were three others in the room with him and he could see each of them shaking with fear. This wasn’t the noble death they had sought. This was a slaughter.
Just then Harris saw something move and he whipped his weapon towards the door, opening fire before the weapon had tracked to the door. The vampire was already on the other side of the room and Harris wrenched his aim toward the far corner where one of his colleagues was already slipping to the ground with their throat torn out. They were so fast; Harris managed the brief thought before he saw a second body ripped apart in front of him without a shot being fired. There was a strange odor in the air. It was sickly sweet and old at the same time. It smelt wrong somehow, as if something was decayed but was not quite dead.
There were only two of them left now and, unconsciously, the two men drew closer together as they scanned the room. The vampire seemed able to meld into the darkness so completely that it seemed to disappear. It could merely have walked in and torn them apart. Their bullets were useless against it anyway. It was obviously playing with them, relishing their fear.
Suddenly the man beside Harris shuddered and Harris watched in terror as the man’s head simply fell to the ground with a dull thud. He realized with a sudden thought before he felt the impact that he still hadn’t actually seen a vampire. And then the darkness washed over him and all was quiet.
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Get your copy of Vampire Apocalypse: Descent into Chaos at Amazon.com