In The City Of The Living, I Am The Dead
A Short Story By: Andrew Pritchard

.I.

"Family," my Uncle Gus would tell me and Charlie when we were younger, "Is the most important and exclusive group anyone needs belong to. In family, people find solace, companionship and happiness that cannot be rivalled by any other affiliation, group or movement. Blood, my young friends, is thicker than water, and you two should always remember that."

I was born to quite interesting and intellectual parents; my father was John Flatley, the famous novelist and screenwriter, and my mother was Eleanor Flatley, a professor of English Literature at University of Wales, Swansea. We lived in a farmhouse in the Welsh countryside, in between Swansea and Bridgend. When his wife died, my uncle Gus, whose real name is Gavin, and his son Charlie moved to our countryside estate from their city flat in Chester. I was quite envious of Charlie because he was a much better athlete than I. We both played rugby; Charlie played in the centres, at fullback or flyhalf, and I played flank. Charlie was always the star athlete because he was comfortable anywhere in the back field, he was a utility back and I had only mastered the ability to play flank.

Although I envied Charlie because of his athleticism, I never envied the comments other boys would make about him. His hair was cut almost in a bob, and he always wore a set of square diamond earrings which had belonged to his mother. Because of his effeminate appearance and dress, the other boys would call him a fairy, a poof or a faggot. At nine years old, those are some of the harshest comments another boy can bully you with.

Though Uncle Gus' views on family were shared by him, Charlie and I; they weren't by my parents. One evening, after drinking a bottle of gin to cope with writer's block, my father came in from the seclusion of his study in the guest house to find my mother in bed with her research student, Alan. Fortunately for us, Uncle Gus had taken Charlie and I to our away rugby game in Llanelli when my father exploded in a jealous rage.

When we returned from our big win, I ran into the house to gloat to my father before Charlie and Gus had gotten out of the car. I stood rooted in sheer horror and disgust. There was so much blood. Charlie ran into me from behind but I didn't budge. I dropped my rugby boots on the floor and they broke the silence with a loud smack! as the metal studs on the bottom of my boot collided with the hardwood flooring. Charlie gasped behind me and the brown paper bag that held a collection of comics Uncle Gus bought for Charlie and I also fell to the floor. My father was headless. A blast from a shotgun shell had blown his head clean off and the remains were splattered on the flowery wallpaper, the stucco ceiling and our oak dining room table.

Gus took us outside and told us to stay there. I said nothing and waited for him to re-enter the house through the front door before I ran to the side entrance. I just couldn't bear the agony of not knowing if my mother was still alive. I raced back into the house with Charlie a few paces behind, calling after me to stop running and wait with him. Once inside, I hurried up the stairs into my parent's bedroom. Alan, my mother's lover, lay slumped in the corner beside the bed, his chest riddled with buckshot and his dick now attached to his forehead by a nail. My mother was on the bed, her throat chopped open by a butcher's knife, giving her the appearance of a Pez dispenser. The butcher's knife lay beside her on the pillow, and her genitals had been mutilated with a paring knife that remained stuck in her thigh. All I can remember besides these jarring images is the different shades of blood that painted the room. Dried, dark brown at spots on the bed sheets, bright fuschia and maroon pools circling below my mother's lover's slack body and an orangey, pasty mixture that I must assume was blood mixing with other bodily fluids. Uncle Gus grabbed both me and Charlie in an attempt to shield our eyes from the brutality, but it was too late, my sleep would be forever interrupted with nightmares of what I had witnessed that day.

At the time, I was only nine years old, and my mind was much too volatile to comprehend what had happened. I went for weeks without saying a single word and spent days locked in my room, reading the comics Uncle Gus and father used to bring home for me. Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Deathstroke, Spawn, Deadpool. I wanted to be a hero, like them. I wanted to ensure that this justice would prevail. My father had shown my mother his own brand of justice, and I would show the world mine. There is no place in this world for frivolity and faithlessness, but there is also no place for the murder of the defenceless.

_____

.II.

Four years after the death of my parents, I had taken up three different martial arts: karate, tae kwon do and judo, which I studied at different dojos in Swansea. I played rugby with Charlie to maintain fitness, but mixed martial arts were my main focus.

Charlie and I were both only thirteen, but two top rugby clubs had shown interest in us. Leicester Tigers were after Charlie, and they asked him out to a training camp for youth rugby players. The Newcastle Falcons were after me, but I had no interest in being a professional rugby player. I wanted to be a caped crusader mostly, if not some kind of defender; maybe a policeman or even a soldier like Sergeant Rock. Regardless of what I became when I grew up, I just wanted to fucking kill something.

Since my parent's deaths, an insatiable hunger for violence had grown inside me. I would hang out at parks and schoolyards, looking for kids to pick a fight with. I wouldn't say a word; I'd just look at them calmly as they belittled me, made fun of my haircut, the clothes I was wearing, the football club I supported, then without a word I'd attack. A spinning roundhouse kick to the face was good for a broken nose. A hard stomp on the hand as they hit the ground would ensure their hand was broken. And if they weren't taking a bad enough beating already, I'd give them a kick in the ribs for good measure. After that, I would run home for dinner as if nothing had happened. The fighting brought me a sense of relief; it gave me a sense of power and control over my life that I couldn't find elsewhere. I'd feel like a normal kid again, at least for a while.

Because we had moved, Charlie and I had changed teams from the Bridgend Rugby Football Club to Llanelli United Rugby Football Club. This probably was not the most intelligent move on Uncle Gus' part because those two clubs held the biggest rivalry in all of Wales. Nonetheless, I was eager to test my might against my former club mates and four games into our first season with Llanelli United; we were due to play Bridgend.

It must have been April, because it was still very cold and it was raining, not snowing. Fifteen minutes into the match, my knees were coated with what looked like vomit; bright green grass stains, clumpy mud, and a wee bit of blood. I'd been tackling hard and forcing turnovers at the rucks, it was clear to everyone playing that I was easily the best flanker either team had fielded that day. My efforts working to our advantage in opposition territory; we had turned over the ball at one ruck and Charlie came onto the ball with amazing pace, dancing around the opposition defence 'like a fairy' (my opposite number, Joey Bowe had shouted out early in the match to dampen our spirits).

A bad pass from our scrum half had caused a spilled ball near the fifty-metre mark, and it was none other than Joey Bowe that recovered the fumble. I waited for him to see me, standing my ground firmly, trying to predict which side he would deke to. His feet quivered to the right slightly, and I knew he was stutter-stepping to make a hard cut back to the left. I dropped my shoulder and smashed into him, wrapping my arms around his legs so they were immobilized and then I jumped into the air, throwing all my weight into the hit and coming down on him so hard the ground felt like it had quaked when we landed.

I got up immediately and posted myself at the side of the ruck, ready to defend against the next onslaught of attack from Bridgend's forward pack. "Oy! Flatley, what's the idea crazy son of a whore?!" Joey Bowe yelled at me when the ball had been spun wide to the backline.

I was mid-run a few metres in front of him, and had heard him quite clearly, though I still turned to face him and asked, "What was that?"

"Y'bloody turncoat, son of a whore! Your father was a goddamn looney! Fucking convenient, considering how cheaply you tackle mate, innit? And how about that poof cousin of yours? That faggot dances like a fairy but cries like a girl when we tackle!" he yelled at me in a bratty tone as we started walking towards each other.

"Royce! NO!" I heard Charlie yell out, but he was too far away to stop me.

I grabbed Joey by his sopping wet rugby jersey and head butted him in the face. His nose started to bleed and he held a hand to his face to cover it. I grabbed his arm and pushed his hand away as I punched him twice, one landing hard on the mouth and the other square in his eye before he fell to the ground.

"Get 'im off me! Get this bastard off me!" he wailed to his teammates. A few of them had run over to get in on the action. Charlie grabbed me by the shoulder and threw me to the ground, but I was relentless. On the ground, I kicked at his face with my football boots; the plastic cleats cutting his face open in several places. Charlie and my other football mates grabbed me under the arms and stood me up, trying to carry me off. I broke free of their grasp though, and dropkicked Joey in the face while he was bent over on his knees. Everything seemed to play out slowly, the screaming coaches, the rugby teams now fighting with each other, the referee blowing his whistle harsh and loud, players and pulling their teammates off other players. I paid them all no attention, and I watched with a devilish grin as Joey Bowe fell to the ground yet again; unconscious.

_____

Joey Bowe was in a coma for a fortnight after that: the final boot in the face had fractured his orbital and part of his skull. His nose had also been broken in three places and his face required a total of twelve stitches to close three wounds I had made while raking his face with the bottom of my boot.

Uncle Gus had gone to the local police station and convinced the officers to lock me up for the night as punishment. "This is where you go when you do bad things like that, Royce." He told me sternly, his fat cheeks flush with anger and his snow white beard still filthy from the mud he had rolled around in while trying to restrain me.

"You're not my fucking father Gus, FUCK YOU; you don't know a thing about me!" I screamed at him from inside the cell, pushing my head through the wrought iron bars.

_____

The night in the cell went by quickly because I had snuck in three Batman comics and a paperback edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula. So Gus and the rozzes (police) couldn't confiscate them, I had tucked them between the band of my briefs and the waist of my rugby shorts. I read each of the comics four times over, as well as the first half of Dracula and although each story was interesting in its own way, I sat transfixed by an image at the end of a Batman comic for what seemed like an eternity.

The comic was about the Batman chasing down Joker and trying to find this cop that is always after him, Harvey Bullock. The Joker kidnapped Bullock and was threatening to blow up Gotham City if Batman didn't come and take Bullock's place as hostage. In the end, Batman saves the day by stealthily rescuing Harvey Bullock and telling him to call for backup while he fights with Joker. The climax is when Batman trips Joker on the roof of this tall building and Joker begins to fall towards the city streets below. What I was so captivated by was the last two images; one of Batman diving after Joker, followed by one of Batman leaving Joker to hang upside down, his legs tied to a flagpole and the police surrounding him.

_____

When the morning came, Uncle Gus had the cell unlocked and entered with a brown paper bag that carried with it the scent of baked goods. I groggily rubbed sleep from my eyes and sat up on the slab of concrete that had been my bed. A comic book stuck to my face because I had piled them on top of one another for use as a pillow, and I had to gently tug on the cover of the comic so that it would come off my face.

"Y'alright?" Uncle Gus asked as he looked down at me with big, sad eyes.

I nodded. "I'm sorry Uncle Gus, I acted out. It wasn't right to hit Joey, I'm sorry. But I told you what he said about my parents and Charlie." That's right Uncle Gus eat it all up. It'll never happen again, I swear.

Gus moved closer towards me and bent over so we were face to face. "You have to realize, Royce. Violence is not the answer to anything; it just creates more problems and hurts people. You're lucky there won't be any legal repercussions, 'cause if you do this sort of thing when you're older you could end up in jail. I'm going to have to ask you to write a letter of apology to Joey though, so that I know you've learned your lesson." Yeah right, Dear Joey... you speak one more fucking word to me and vengeance will be swift motherfucker. I'll make sure you sleep for longer than two weeks next time.
I was hungry and wanted whatever Gus had brought for me in the bag, so I began to cry to win his sympathies. "Uncle Gus... sob, sob ... I'll never do anything like that again, I promise. I've learned my lesson... sob, sob."

The stout old man grabbed me by the shoulders and stood me up to embrace me. He let go, and stood back with his hands on my tiny shoulders and from the brown paper bag, he withdrew two raspberry scones (my favourite) and a Tunnock's Snowball (a Scottish sweet, comprised of marshmallow enrobed in chocolate with coconut shavings). He cut the scones in half, and dug his hand deeper inside the bag for packets of butter and marmalade then spread a generous helping of each onto the four halves of raspberry scone.

"So, you brought some reading material in here, eh lad?" he said as he moved towards where I had been sleeping.

Gus grabbed the comic I had been reading – the one about The Joker, Batman and Harvey Bullock – and started flipping through its pages before I grabbed it from his hands, and turned to the final pages that held my favourite images. "Why's he save him? Why's Batman save Joker?" I asked.

"Well, Royce, I imagine he saves Joker because Batman always does the right thing. It wouldn't be right to let the Joker fall to his death, because that's not justice. Justice is getting the bad guys but letting the law take care of them."

Confused, I stuffed two halves of the scone into my mouth and started chewing on them.

"Eat this up and we'll get out of here. But no more bad behaviour young lad, understood?"

With two halves of butter and marmalade topped scone in my mouth I mumbled, "yeeeffff" back at him.

_____

.III.

When he was only sixteen, Charlie had been handed a contract offer from the Neath-Swansea Ospreys for £150,000; making him the youngest player of professional rugby in Welsh history. After his contract expired, the year we both turned nineteen, the Ospreys signed him on for another four years with a salary of £750,000 a year because they didn't want to lose him to their English rivals the London Wasps, who had offered £100,000 less than the Ospreys.

With his newfound wealth, Charlie was quite generous. He bought a place for him and I to share in London, and when he had Sunday nights off from rugby he would journey from Swansea to London to spend some time with his dear old cousin.

Charlie loved the rugby life, the money, the cars, the fame, the glory, the pride, and the only thing that was missing from it for him was the women. He wasn't interested and never had been. The insults other lads tossed at him in his youth turned out to be true... Charlie was a homosexual. He didn't make his sexuality known though, he was proud who he was but kept to himself. His teammates at the Ospreys knew he was gay, but they never bothered him about it, or so he told me.

My rage had grown in these five years as well. After the incident with Joey Bowe, I had been blacklisted from the dojo's I practiced my martial arts at. I was on my own, and had discovered new ways to hurt, to defend, and to protect. I now brawled outside pubs, at football matches with rival fans, and the cold, dank cell Uncle Gus forced me into in my youth was close to becoming my home since I had two aggravated assault charges to my name, and a third meant a minimum three year sentence at one of Her Majesty's reformatories. I didn't have any charges against me, so I could still become a policeman or a soldier if I wanted, but I discovered my sure-fire path to heroism one night when I was out with Charlie.

_____

Charlie took me to a club called Purple Squirrel which is near the intersection of Union Street and Great Guilford Street. When we got there, some brash techno shite like Armin van Burren or Tiesto – I'm unsure – was playing, there were a lot of sketchheads (junkies) dancing around to the music as if they didn't have a clue where they were. Charlie's mate, Alex, was about 6'3" and weighed roughly 160 lbs. soaking wet. Alex was a fucking weasel. He had one of those emo rock haircuts: combed over one eye so he wouldn't be able to see if a bloke took a swing at the right side of his head, and his hair was dyed jet black with a purple streak at the back of it. His teeth were also something to behold, they were stained yellow from smoking and he had a few flecks of some green herb (parsley or basil most likely) stuck in them at three different spots. He was acting so erratic I had to suspect he was under the influence of cocaine or ecstasy.

"You lads wanna party?" he asked, tapping his nose with his index finger; the universal language for 'I'm a cocaine –addicted fucking moron, you must be too since you're talking to me'.

I shot him a dirty look and then Charlie said, "Naw, we want to meet some fucking vampires, boyo," Vampires? Surely there couldn't be vampires in London...

"Oy!" Alex yells at us before motioning us to come a bit closer. "You watch what you say 'round 'ere about the fucking vamps, son. Wouldn't want you and your 'partner' to get hurt now would we?"
I grabbed the skinny weasel by the shirt. I knew what he was getting at. "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" I said through clenched teeth with the hope that my stare would put the fear of God in him.

Charlie grabbed my forearms and tried to pry my hands off Alex. "Calm down mate, he meant nothing by it. Are there really vamps here though? Or were you just putting me on?"

With Charlie's cajoling I let go of Alex; he readjusted the cheap tie he was wearing and smoothed his shirt a bit before he continued. "Alrigh' then lads, I'll take you down, but not a fucking word to the authorities or anyone, righ'?"
I rolled my eyes at Charlie, there was no way there were vampires in the basement of a common London pub, and they couldn't be hanging out somewhere titled 'Purple Squirrel'.

"Righ' then. Down we go eh, and be on your guard, you won't want to mess about with these lads then, they're big vicious fuckers."

_____

The basement was dark with the exception of flashing strobe lights. A Nine Inch Nails cover of Joy Division's 'Dead Souls' grew louder and louder as we descended the winding concrete steps. What I saw as the dance floor came into plain view may be horrifying to some, but it still remains one of the most exciting things I had ever seen. The basement was quite large, but only held about sixty or seventy people, dressed entirely in black; there didn't seem to be any defining characteristics of dress besides black. One bloke was seated on a leather couch with three exquisitely beautiful women; one woman was lying down on the opposite end of the couch, blowing him; he had his hand placed between one's legs as he fingered her and his other hand was rubbing the breasts of the third woman. There was a fountain spurting what I guessed to be fake blood, but I soon found out I was quite wrong.

A skinhead with red eyes, dressed in a leather vest with a t-shirt that read 'GOD IS DEAD' made his way over to us. "The fuck are you two?" he asked Charlie and I.

"Oy, oy, these are my mates, Charlie and Royce, easy, easy Kirill," Alex persuaded.

"MmmmmmMMMMmmmmMMMmmmmmm... this one smells goooooodddd," he said as he raised his hand and stroked my face. I stared sternly at him, and with a disregard for Alex's caution, I batted his hand away lightly.

The music changed to Marylin Manson's 'Antichrist Superstar' and the whole club turned to look at the scene I had caused. Kirill grabbed my throat so tight I thought he had crushed my larynx. He moved too fast to be human; within a second he'd ran (with me hoisted three feet off the ground) and slammed my body against the concrete wall at the back of the club. "You'd do well, human, to mind your fucking manners down here... before you become my next meal."

My head was pounding from hitting the wall but still I stared hard into his red eyes. "Ggg, gggett... off me you... fuck –" I gasped to draw air and had little success finding any, "fucking albino ass... aaa... asshole." I said, feeling like I was going to pass out from lack of oxygen any second.

"KIRILL!" One of the other's barked. "Do as he says, let him go!"

Kirill stared for a moment at the man and hissed at him. The man's eyes were an icy pale blue, and he barked again, "NOW!"

I fell to the floor and landed on my elbow. I rolled around on the cold concrete in pain, I must have chipped a bone from the landing but my throat was much worse. It burned when I inhaled deep breaths; I opened my mouth as wide as possible and sucked in as much air as I could.

The man who had saved me walked over and helped me to my feet, dusted me off and said, "Sorry about that, Royce. Kirill does not know his own strength sometimes,"

Kirill stared at the man and I thought for a minute they were going to brawl, but then he backed off and walked to the fountain with a few of the club's other patrons swarming around him to ask questions about what had happened.

The man that saved me from Kirill seemed to be in charge of the club, or so his dress indicated. He was wearing a double-breasted black suit by Armani or Versace (something expensive and Italian) with a grey cotton button up shirt and a red silk tie. His hair was short and greying, his chin was strong and masculine with a small scar beneath his lip, an even bigger scar on the right side of his face ran from his high cheekbone down to his jaw line, and his pale blue eyes seemed to pierce right through my soul. "How do you... how do you know my name?" I asked him, still winded from Kirill's choke slam.

"Ahhh, Royce. You didn't think vampires were real did you? Is that why you tested Kirill's patience?" he asked with a smile. I squinted in the flashing light to see if he had fangs but there were none.

"No, I think it's a crock of shit, really. Neat parlour trick your friend has though."

"Royce," Charlie interjected as he raised his eyebrows at me.

"How come you don't have fangs then, eh? If you're a real vampire where the fuck are your fangs?"

The man turned on his heel as if he were going to walk away from me and then spun back around and flashed his teeth at me, hissing. "Here" he said as two razor-sharp canines extended themselves.
"Jesus-fucking-Christ!" I shouted, completely shocked.

"No, Royce. Jesus and God have nothing to do with me." He said with a malevolent smile.

"Who are you then?"

"I am Nikolai, the father of the First Bloods."
"And First Bloods is what? A gang?"

"No, not a gang. Gangs are for lost youth who turn to crime. Don't be foolish Royce. You know your duty here."
"My duty?" What in the hell was he talking about? My duty? He was acting like he knew me.

Nikolai laughed at my question. "Come Royce, Jonny may come as well. I want to show you my office."
Charlie and I looked at each other and I could see in his eyes that he was just as clueless as I was. In the time it took us to look at each other, Nikolai had disappeared. "Is that him over there?" Charlie pointed to the far side of the club where there was a black door marked with a red smeared 'N' on it. Nikolai was standing beside it, smiling at us.

"How'd he... nevermind, I say we go, I wanna find out what he's talking about."

"Don't fuck with him, Royce."

"I haven't yet, have I?"

"I just have a bad feeling." Charlie said as he and I began to walk towards Nikolai's office.

.IV.

Inside Nikolai's office it was bright in comparison to the club. He had three five leather chairs, and a big office chair behind a darkly stained wooden desk on which a remote lies for the plasma screen TV placed above the door. There is also a liquor cabinet filled with scotch, gin and vodka, which Nikolai walked to in order to pour us two drinks.

"Are either of you scotch drinkers?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Double Glenfiddich, one ice cube is my drink of choice." I said firmly, not daring to break my stare for fear of him thinking I was a weak man.

"And for you, Charlie?" he asked with the same wry smile he'd been flashing at us all night. The smile seemed to suggest he knew a lot more about us than we did about him, and by the way things had gone so far, he most definitely did.

"Nothing, I'm fine... how do you know our names? Have we met somewhere before? Where ummm... Where did Alex go?" Charlie spoke so fast I could barely understand, let alone Nikolai, who I had assumed was Russian because of his name, though he spoke English well and didn't seem to have an accent at all.

"Alex ran back upstairs when Royce had his little tiff with Kirill, Kirill frightens him... does he frighten you?"

"No. He doesn't." I responded.

"He's ummm... he's a bit... off, I guess." Charlie said in a nervous tone.

"He is my son, though he doesn't act like it." Nikolai said as he finished pouring the scotches for himself and I. "I will answer your questions in due time, but first, a toast... to Royce!" and with that he handed me my scotch and we clinked our glasses together. I took a swig from the glass, held it in my mouth for a few seconds and swallowed before placing my glass down on my leg with my hand wrapped loosely around it.

"Why's the toast to me?" I asked.

"Today, Royce, is a day of celebration for me. I have been waiting for you."

"All due respect mate, I find it a bit odd that you know my name and we're having a toast in honour of my arrival. You seem to know my cousin's as well," I raised my glass to my lips again and took a sip.

He too, took a sip from his glass after this and as an afterthought, added, "Are either of you familiar with Nysariah?"

I was familiar with the Nysariah. "Yes, actually. I am: pure-blooded vampires, right?"

"Yes, but much more, Royce. Nysariah are the most powerful of all vampires. We can see the future, read minds, as well as sense the location of our brothers and sisters. I am Nysariah."

I raised my glass again, finished the scotch and placed the empty glass on Nikolai's desk. I thought for a brief moment and asked, "Alright, so you know our names; Alex probably told you. Your son's got some of the best strength I've come across in all my years of brawling; could be some new kind of steroid... Russians developed Winstrol in the 50's during the Cold War to create a super soldier, so why not up the dose eh? The fang thing was pretty cool and so was you getting to your office door, but that can be explained; maybe you got a twin."

"That is not what you're thinking though, is it Royce? You are thinking if what I am saying is true, you want it. Charlie does not think this I am lying either, he knows exactly what I am."

The slippery Cossack had read my mind, I did want this. Super human strength, the ability to fly, heightened senses; I'd be Superman, but not a boy-scout cunt like Clark Kent. The entire criminal underworld would fear and despise my presence, but I'd be immortal. I'd be a real hero, and I could exact my own vengeance accordingly. "Alright, let's say you are Nysariah. I read somewhere that Nysariah can't blood humans; it goes against the rules of the Covent."

"You are smarter than I gave you credit for. Yes, Nysariah cannot blood humans. Typically, when one of us breaks this rule, it results in death. However, I broke free of the rules of the Covent long ago. I went rogue and started First Bloods, because it was my destiny."

"Your destiny? You believe in all that fate shit?" I asked inquisitively.

"I don't believe in fate, because man was granted the freedom of choice. I do see the future though, and I have seen you a thousand times in my dreams, in these exact circumstances." Nikolai smiled at me again but I remained unfazed. Charlie twiddled his thumbs with his head bowed towards the floor.

"So what am I going to do next then, all powerful one?"

"Do not think for a moment that I am all powerful, Royce. I am not. Do you want to know what I have seen in my dreams?"

"Yes, it would be a great weight off my mind if you did." Nikolai grabbed my glass from his desk along with his own and poured us each another drink. I mumbled 'thank you' before he continued with his dreams.

"I have seen both you and Charlie; we have this exact conversation, word for word. You tell me you want to become one of us, Charlie objects, but you persist and I blood you." I took a swig of my drink and held it in my mouth as long as possible so the fiery scotch burned my mouth. "You and I both know the reason why you want to be eternally damned, and after Hell and I give birth to you, Royce, you kill me."

"You've seen incorrectly then, Nikolai. I wouldn't kill an innocent man who has caused me no harm."

His eyes gleamed with trickery and mischief before he spoke again. "Very well then. Should I begin the process?"

"Yes." I finished my scotch and placed the glass back on Nikolai's desk.

"Royce, what the fuck mate, this guy's looney. You can't be serious!" Charlie burst out.

"Fuck off, you wouldn't understand." I couldn't even look him in the eye because I knew he was speaking some element of truth.

"Don't worry, Charlie. Royce has wanted this for a while, and now he's made his choice." Nikolai cooed, like one lover whispering sweet nothings to the other.

The Nysariah removed his suit jacket, dress shirt and tie, carefully folding and placing them upon his desk. From one of his desk drawers he removed a knife that looked like it was made white gold. The knife bore inscriptions written in a language I didn't recognize, it also had a red jewel embedded in the blade on either side of the knife and the hilt was wrapped in leather that looked as if it had been around for some time.

"Do you know what you are, Royce?" he asked as he handed me the knife.

"What?"

"You are a Sensitive. You were born at the exact same time as a vampire. Because of this, and only because of this, you can become a Convert. If I was to let Charlie drink from me, he would die instantly. You though, are destined for something much larger than being just another half-blood Convert. This too, I have seen in my dreams." Nikolai pointed at the knife. "Slice both my wrists, and make a small incision on my neck, where a human's jugular would be."

"I'm not going to kill you."

"You cannot kill me by drinking from me, I assure you." He said, and again I saw the mischief in his eyes, something bad was going to happen, I was sure of it.

I did as he said, and dug in a bit deeper than I would have liked on his left wrist. I sucked at the blood that began to flow out of his wrist, and licked the remaining blood that had trickled down onto the palm of his hand. The wound closed itself after thirty or forty seconds and Nikolai instructed me to repeat the process on his other wrist and neck.

I felt nauseous, and I felt fever. The fever spread from my throat where traces of Nikolai's blood still remained and the blood felt like fire, like a venom spreading itself rapidly throughout my body, poisoning, killing and decaying all that was alive inside me.

My stomach heaved and I could feel the fire there too, with each heave I grew closer to fainting. I had been vomiting for what seemed like hours when my body couldn't take any more and I slipped into unconsciousness. My unconscious mind transported me from Nikolai's dreary office to a place that felt foreign, but I knew all too well what and where it was. I stood, completely naked, with cuts and bruises all over my pale body, in front of a man that towered over me. He was covered entirely in white – white leather shoes, white jacket, white slacks, white shirt – and his teeth were rigid and sharp, his tongue was forked and his jet black hair was slicked back, combed closely to his head, which accentuated and drew attention to his widow's peak. He smiled and his fork tongue slithered over his jagged teeth.

"Welcome, Royce. Welcome," was all he said, over and over. I broke our gaze and looked at the sky, it was grey and cloudy, rapid lightning strikes attempted to illuminate the dark shadow cast by the clouds but it was no use. The land was vast and barren, completely dry like a desert, yet a few trees grew weak in the distance, bearing no leaves on their branches.

"Welcome, Royce. Welcome," he repeated, over and over. Finally, I fell to my knees and began to cry.

_____

I was awoken by Charlie throwing icy cold water on my face. I gasped and shot up quickly, panting for breath.

"Are you alright, my new friend?" Nikolai asked as he went to a small fridge near the liquor cabinet and brought me a bottle of chilled Evian.

"What was that place?" I asked Nikolai.

"What do you think it was, Royce?" He asked back, dancing around my question.

"What in the name of fuck just happened? Are you a vampire now then? What place are you talking about? I'm fucking confused." Charlie said as he came closer to me, examining my skin, my hair, my nails.

I said nothing to Nikolai; I knew quite well where I went when I transformed from human to vampire. Jonny told me to smile at him. I did.

"HOLY FUCK MATE, YOUR TEETH!"
I got up and walked to the mirror. My canines were now an inch and a quarter longer; and much sharper than Nikolai's. My mouth resembled a wolves, I could use these teeth to tear any living thing to shreds if I got hold of them. I held my hands up to my face; they seemed more delicate than before, yet stronger, I could feel a crushing power within them. My fingernails, like my teeth, had transformed from well clipped and manicured to the strong, hooked, sharp claws of a predator. My gaze transfixed upon my eyes. The once brilliantly ocean blue iris' had now become a cross between blood red and golden yellow, though they were far from being orange. I had now become the ultimate killing machine.

"Nikolai, thank you." I said and reached to shake his hand. His grip that would have crushed me before seemed weak and lax, and I could see in his eyes that he too, knew this. His queer smile still unnerved me though, even though I could tell that I was now more powerful than him.

"No, Royce. Thank you," he said. "I told you before; you would become what you are and then kill me."

I shook my head. "No, you can read my mind, you know it isn't happening."
"Yes, Royce. That is true; I can read your mind. Unfortunately, converts are not blessed with any of the Nysariah's abilities. You cannot read my mind, so you have no idea what I meant by that."

He may be a confusing bastard, but I wouldn't kill him though, he had done Charlie and I no harm.

"No, I can't... but I must leave now. Thank you, Nikolai."

Charlie and I made for the door and Nikolai made no effort to stop us. I opened the door and walked out into the dark club, the Soulfly anthem, "Boom" was now playing. As we moved through the crowd, to the left, I saw four of the First Bloods surrounding someone. I didn't care to see what was happening though, I just wanted to leave. I heard a scream and saw one of the First Bloods strike someone down with his fists. I took a second to collect my thoughts; I had to be the hero now, or never. I couldn't just leave someone there to die. I had the means to defend myself and those in need, and whoever was the victim of their attack was mine to protect.

I looked to my right, and realized Jonny was gone. Where could he have disappeared to?

"ROYYYYYCCCCCEEEE!" Charlie screamed in the most bloodcurdling high pitched and desperate tone I've ever heard. I couldn't move I was so taken aback by it, chills ran down my spine.

"ROOOYYYCCCCEEE! FUCK OFF, FUCK YOU... YOU BASTARDS! MY NECK! FUCK, MY FUCKING NECK!" he screamed again. I moved faster than light; two of them were pinned to the ground by my shoe on their necks. I punched one so hard his head bounced and split the concrete, but no blood. The sight of blood excited me, and I became more infuriated because there was none coating the floor. My hand moved quickly to strike again, but my eyesight was impeccable, and I noticed the long hooked nails at the tips of my fingers. This was going to be gruesome, but it had to be done to save Charlie.

"Lights out," I said to the vampire beneath my one shoe as I spread my fingers into a v-shape and jabbed them into his eyes. I withdrew my hand quickly from the depths of his eye sockets and the two eyeballs made a sickening Pop! sound as they came out of his head. I grabbed him by the throat with one hand – the other vampire beneath my foot wriggled loose and started trying to attack me from behind but he was much weaker than I – and with the other hand I dug my claws into the side of his neck and swiped towards myself, his head separated from his shoulders and I grabbed it by the hair.
I held the head, "Get away from him if you don't want to turn out like your friend!" I cautioned. The other vampires – one of them was Kirill – stopped and looked at their friends decapitated head, smiling at me like Nikolai had.

"You can kill a half-blood... because you too, are a half-blood... but do you think you can kill one of us without repercussion from our father and leader?" they questioned.

The fucking greasy bastard set me up. I was too stupid to see what he had planned... forcing me to kill him. I had no real reason to kill him before, but as I looked over and saw Charlie lying on the ground, blood pouring out of his neck and from claw wounds on his chest and arms, I now had plenty reason.

I looked to Nikolai's office and saw him standing there, wearing that same shit-eating grin all these bastards wore. Charlie gasped and moaned on the floor, "Rrr... oooyyccee... I'm... I'm dying man. Re...re...rrreeemmember what un... uncc.. Uncle Gus told us. Get me out of hhherre"

For some reason, I thought back to the day Joey Bowe said those horrible things about my mother. The same rage that filled me then filled me now, but I felt that I could actually control it for once. Maybe it was the fact that I wasn't human anymore, I was unsure, but something was different.

"Ah Royce, I have waited for this day for nineteen long years. For nineteen years I have known that my time here is done, and it has been bliss. Every night I dream of my death and it's so perfect. So finite. There's a conclusion to everything. Without you, Royce... there would be no conclusion for me."

Soulfly was screaming over the speakers, "using people like they are tools/ treating them like they're just fools/ always quiet but I know what you do/ God knows and you will too".

I was still thinking about Joey Bowe, and now the prison. In the prison, Uncle Gus told me, 'It wouldn't be right to let the Joker fall to his death, because that's not justice. Justice is getting the bad guys but letting the law take care of them.' Everything seemed only too easy for me now.

I winked at Kirill. "Hey sweet cheeks, too bad you're not as strong as I am, or maybe you could have killed him, eh?"

He growled and hissed at me, then turned to Nikolai. "Why him?" was all he asked.

"Because Kirill, you are too weak, all of you... too weak. Our ancestors said only the chosen half-blood can kill the Nysariah, because they are the protectors and regulators of vampire and human interaction."

"Looks like daddy doesn't love you anymore, Kirill." I taunted, this was like taking candy from a baby. "If you're a half-blood, can't you kill him too? Why aren't you the chosen one?"

I didn't need to speak another word; Kirill and the other First Bloods lunged at Nikolai in a frenzy. I would have liked to watch the slippery bastard meet his demise but I had to get Charlie to a hospital.

.V.

I grabbed him and ran as fast as I could towards the hospital. Up the staircase, out through the bar (the blood dripping from his throat didn't have the time to hit the floor before we were out the door) and onto the street, up and over fences, up a cobblestone wall and onto the rooftops, my heart pounding and my desire to drink from Charlie growing stronger and stronger. He smelled delicious, like a big plate of bangers and mash or a burger and chips, it was intoxicating.

Still I ran further and further still, never tiring, never having to change pace, and not being able to go any faster. Though it had been only a few minutes, it seemed like I had been running for hours when we reached the hospital.

A teenaged boy stood outside the hospital's emergency drop off, smoking a cigarette. He blew clouds of blue smoke into the warm night air as he looked inquisitively at the stars above. Because I had been running so fast, I startled him when Charlie and I mysteriously appeared with a whoosh! sound to his left.

"Jesus, what happened to 'im?!" the boy asked.

I pulled a 20 pound note from the pocket of my pants and handed it to him. "You take him in there, tell them he's been attacked by an animal, a wolf or something."

" 'Old on jus' a minute there, what the fuck have you done to him?"

"Nothing, the vampires got to him before I could. TAKE HIM IN THERE"

"Vampires, mate, you must be out your fucking mind," I snapped my jaws at the boy twice, to let him see the razor sharp canines, then glared so my eyes burst into gold and red flames and flashed my claws at him, to scare him, to let him know that vampires were real, and that I was real.

"You get him in there now, understood?"
The boy nodded quickly, flabbergasted. "And wh..what do I tell them again?"

"Animal attack. And you make sure to tell them that London's got a new king, and I'm going after the bad guys."

"Why?" the boy asked, still completely terrified.
"Because, kid, in the city of the living, I am the dead."