Freedom’s Blood – Part 1 of 5

FreedomsBloodby Steven H. Wilson

I thought it might be nice, me being a fiction writer, and this being Hallowe’en, to actually share a story on the site. This, by the way, was podcast a long time back. But I’m betting a lot of my readers aren’t necessarily listeners. So here ya go…

I knew it was a bad idea all along. Well, all right, I should have known. I’ve been kicking myself for weeks now, because I should have known. I’ve successfully avoided this kind of situation for over 250 years.

Any idiot knows that a person contemplating suicide is, by definition, not in the best frame of mind; but I really believed the kid when he said he wanted to die. He was going to get what he wanted out of the deal, and I was going to get what I needed. Isn’t that what makes a fair contract?

Perhaps I should back up a bit and give you the particulars. To understand the quandary I got into, and how I got into it, you first have to understand what I am.

I am a vampire. That’s right – vampire. Blood-sucking. Undead. Turn into a bat and everything. Perhaps you expect a disclaimer about how I actually can walk in sunlight (can’t touch the stuff) or how I’m not actually supernatural but just maladjusted and blood-loving. Nope. Drink it. Gotta have it. Live forever as long as I do – well, if I stay away from wooden stakes and get back to my coffin by curfew. I am not myth. The blonde kid on TV that makes vampires disappear in a cloud of ash? She’s your myth. Never met the human who was my equal. Rarely have I seen one of my kind get staked. Certainly not while they were awake and could do something to prevent it!

Most of what you’ve heard is true. Garlic affects me the way tear gas does you. A stake through the heart will kill me. Won’t do you any good either. Crucifixes? Uh uh. Yes, they’ve tended to scare our kind over the centuries, because those who wear them have tended to try to kill us over the centuries. I’m too intelligent a beast to say that all those who worship at the sign of the cross are murderous bigots, but I can see why less intelligent beasts could draw that conclusion. There’s just so much evidence.

Holy water? Look, be realistic. My body chemistry is different from yours. Some things that hurt me don’t hurt you and vice versa. Superstition doesn’t enter into it. It’s all about science. Your dog doesn’t get sick from eating chocolate because Hershey was a cat person, he gets sick because the stimulant it contains cannot be quickly processed by his digestive system, and builds up to a toxic level in his blood. Your system processes theobromine, the stimulant, quickly, and so you do not get sick from eating chocolate. Your immunity and his vulnerability exist no matter what religious ceremonies are performed over the chocolate.

So why would a little glass of water that was muttered over by a sexually frustrated cleric give me gas? If water doesn’t hurt me, the ritual won’t change the fact. And water doesn’t hurt me. In fact, I can walk on it – or under it – with no troubles. I suspect that, at some point during the Spanish Inquisition days, one of their bright boys took it upon himself to put some corrosive agent or other into holy water, and happened to fling it in the face of a vampire who (surprise!) felt pain.

Oh, and if my ability to walk on water causes you to feel the need to worship me, I have no objection; but a shrine in your home would have little meaning for me. If you’re so moved, send ten per cent of your pre-tax earnings to me care of this publisher, and I will transfer to you, faithfully each night, intangible religious benefits. I further promise you that, should I ever meet any being approaching omnipotence, I will put in a good word for you with Him. Or Her. Or It.

Fair deal? No pressure. Think about it. I have lots of time.

Now that you’re clear on what a vampire is, you’ll of course want to know how I became one. It was the usual way: I was bitten by another vampire and I tasted his blood – my blood in his veins, to be precise. It happened like this…

Oh, before I go further, I would like to make it clear that this is my story, and will not now devolve into a history of the person – creature – who sired me.

The creature who made me a vampire is not interesting, continental or a good model for a hair gel commercial. In fact, he was an accountant with bad breath. And yes, halitosis is offensive, even to vampires. Especially to us, as what is more distasteful than one who plies a trade but does not keep his tools of that trade well maintained? Even an unwilling victim deserves some consideration, don’t you think? Would you want to be bitten by fangs caked with traces of many blood types – some horribly diseased! – which had little bits of venous tissue lodged between them? I should say you would not!

An odious creature. I burned him three days later because it was cold. Oh, vampires

don’t get cold you say? And you may be right. But I’ll never tell.

I was born in the town of Harper’s Ferry, the colony of Maryland, in 1743. At sixteen, I had been apprenticed to a smith for three years. Interesting work, smithing. Its best aspect for a young man is that he gets to play with fire a lot. Its worst is that he tends to burn himself in rather embarrassing places. I had not chosen it. My father had. He wanted me to have a trade. I, on the other hand, wanted me to have a large manor house, a sizeable fortune, and a baker’s dozen buxom serving girls. The prospect of taking over for old man Weber when he became too infirm to lift his hammer did not seem likely to carry me to that manor house. Nor did the frequent beatings I received – the result of my habit of reading whenever my master was not looking.

I decided to run away. Somewhere. I wasn’t sure where. Baltimore sounded as though it might have promise. Or Philadelphia. I was somewhat educated – Mother was a preacher’s daughter – and might find work in a printer’s shop, or with a trading company, and eventually go into business. That was the path to wealth!

So I didn’t go home that night. It was an all or nothing decision. If I hesitated – stayed out for while, went a little ways – then turned around and went home late, the whipping would be unendurable. So, to spare my posterior, I spent the evening seeking the best method of transit out of Harper’s Ferry. I’d brought a little money – a few coins. I thought to bribe the driver of some horse cart or coach to take me as far as Frederick or Hagerstown.

After three very cold hours, wandering High Street in the rain, ducking into shadow often, lest my father be looking for me, I saw a coach pull up at the Tavern. Here was my chance. I waited in the shadow of a stone-walled embankment while the driver unloaded the baggage of the only passenger – an over-dressed Englishman. Once the fop was within and annoying the innkeeper, and the driver was checking the tack on his horse, I approached, coins in my hand.

The reception was not a warm one. The driver was not interested in transacting business. Judging by the names he called me, I can only gather he thought I was a beggar, an orphan, who intended to slit his throat when we were beyond the meager lights of the town. I’m sure I looked quite ragged, after hours in the rain. Perhaps he had had bad experiences with young travelers in the past. I don’t know. All I know was that he pulled away, leaving me, sitting in the street, blood trickling from my lip where he’d cuffed me, my proffered coins cast to the cobblestones about me.

Behind me, there was a gentle ahem. I turned. It was the Englishman. He observed that I was bleeding. That, I suppose, should have been a dead giveaway; but I was young and naive to the ways of the Vampir. He expressed regret at my treatment at the hands of the driver, and asked if I needed a place to stay. Naive? Very naive. I agreed.

He bought me rum. Looking back, I’m befuddled by that. At the time, I was befuddled by the rum itself. Now I am befuddled by the purchase of it. Vampires drink blood. That is our sustenance. Any impurity in it is, well, a distraction. If you think liquor might improve the flavor, think of drinking your evening glass of warm milk with sawdust stirred in. It probably wouldn’t hurt you, but you wouldn’t enjoy it.

So why did he buy me rum? I can only conclude that he enjoyed the hunt. Setting the scene. Getting the young victim drunk, and, essentially, seducing him. Possibly even getting him to ask for the pleasure of the bite. In short, the bastard liked to play with his food.

I must have amused him, because he let me live… after a fashion. When he was done with me – the perverse sod had dragged me up the hill and into the cemetery that overlooks much of the town – he leaned me against a tombstone. I was drunk, weak from anemia. My head lolled stupidly on my shoulders, and I wondered why it was so unseasonably cold on a night in April.

“What do you want?” he asked me curiously.

I wasn’t sure what he meant. I wanted to be warmer. I wanted to go to sleep. I wanted very much to vomit and be done with it. But… his question seemed to have a much weightier feel to it than to simply ask me the desires of the moment. So I told him, “I want an estate, a sizeable fortune, and a baker’s dozen buxom serving girls.”

He studied me, my blood still smeared on his lips. “I very much think you might get them,” he said. At the time, I thought he meant he was going to give them to me. It took me a while to realize that what he meant was that he expected me to make myself wealthy. Perhaps that is why he granted me eternal life on this plane. He hoped that I, out of gratitude for the gift, would quarter him in my estate, spend my fortune on him, and toss him whichever of the wenches I wasn’t using on a given evening.

If that was his plan, he did not figure into it my natural impatience. I remained with him three days: long enough to learn that he was a factotum – an accountant, in today’s words. He had been an accountant, at any rate. Now he was a freelance bloodsucker. Normally, I object to the term “parasite” being applied to one of my kind. Parasites depend on their host’s continued life, but offer them no assistance in extending that life. We are predators. We kill. But the creature who sired me was a parasite. He had nothing to offer anyone. Being a vampire had not made him that way. He was naturally that way.

I burned him three days later, in a field, by a nice little stream just outside what is now Towson.

To Be Continued

This story is provided for free, but is, of course, copyrighted. Please do not use it as the source for a film script or anything without my permission. Not that anyone’s ever done that to me. Oh no. They never heard of me. Those were just 14 really bizarre coincidences of plot.

But, if you enjoyed it and would like to be a patron of my art, please consider a donation in any amount. The site actually does cost some money to maintain, and a lot of really cool people have helped me–people like Ethan H. Wilson, who helped me make letters bleed on short notice above. I’d like to be able to buy them cars or something. (And by “cars,” I mean Matchbox®.)

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