He stood gazing out into the pitch-black November morning, trying to quash the urge rising rapidly inside him. It was Friday. Seventeen weeks had passed since his partial transformation at the hands of the dark angel. As the weeks had passed, he found himself eagerly awaiting Fridays. For seventeen weeks though there had been no sign of the angel. He hadn’t caught so much as a glimpse of her. As he stood drinking his coffee, he wondered where she was hiding and when their paths would next cross.
The shrill wail from his young son brought him hurriedly back to the present.
“The cat scratched me!” sobbed the little boy, eyes brimming with tears.
“Well, if you’d leave her tail alone,” he began then stopped dead in his tracks.
There were three long red scores on the back of his son’s small hand. Drops of blood were oozing through the damaged skin.
“Go and show Mum,” he instructed as calmly as he could. “She’ll clean it up.”
As the first tears escaped down the child’s cheeks, he turned and ran from the kitchen screaming, “Mummy!”
Heart pounding, a cold sweat beading on his forehead, he let out along sigh. Inside, he was on fire, fighting back the urge to run after the child. Even from where he stood, he could smell and almost taste the fresh blood.
“Only a few more hours,” he thought. “The flask’ll be there. I’ll be fine.”
As time had passed, the effects of his limited blood rations were wearing off quicker and quicker.
A movement beside the table caught his attention. It was the family cat. In a flash, he grabbed her. Without a second thought, he bit deep into her shoulder and began to drink.
“What are you doing to that poor cat?” scolded his wife as she entered the kitchen with their still sobbing son on her hip. “Put her outside.”
Keeping his back to his family, he opened the door and set the stunned cat free. She shot off into the darkness with an indignant hiss.
Discretely wiping his mouth clean, he muttered, “I’m off. I’ll see you after work.”
“Bye bye, Daddy,” called the little boy as he watched him march out into the hallway towards the front door.
Once in the car, he leaned over the icy cold steering wheel and groaned. That had been close! That had scared him as much as the family’s cat. Her fresh tangy blood had tasted divine. But, he’d bitten the family pet without a thought……. the thought of that made his blood run cold.
Subconsciously, his hand went to his trouser pocket, seeking the velvet bag containing the crystals and the feather. He needed to talk to the dark angel. He needed her reassurance and some answers. He needed them now!
Hoping that no one was watching him, he drove down the hill then turned into the narrow unlit single-track road, coming to a halt beside the gates of the cemetery. Without bothering to take the key out of the ignition, he abandoned the car and slipped into the graveyard. In the dark, he managed to find a small white pebble then carefully placed it on the bench as agreed. As he climbed back into his car, he prayed that she would see the sign and be waiting for him when he returned later.
From her vantage point on the church roof, the dark angel watched him place the pebble on the wooden bench. Something about the scene troubled her. Something felt out of balance. Her fledgling had appeared distressed.
Swiftly, she swooped down from her perch in an attempt to follow him. Deciding to break her own code of ethics, she sought to catch up with him to listen into his thoughts. If he reached the dual carriageway before she caught up with him though she wouldn’t be able to keep pace with the car. Luck was on her side and he was stuck in a queue waiting to join the fast-moving traffic on the main road. Keeping to the shadows high above the line of cars, the dark angel filtered through the melee of thoughts until she tuned into his.
Instantly, she recoiled and flew back to her preferred spot on the church roof. She needed to think.
“Rabbia Sanguigna,” she whispered as she watched the first streaks of daylight emerge. “But how to calm it?”
With no time to waste, she left her perch to return home to seek a solution.
On the drive home, he cranked up the volume on the car’s stereo, hoping futilely that some loud music would drown out the day he had just endured. The few mouthfuls of the cat’s blood had calmed him somewhat by the time he had arrived at work. Riddled with guilt at attacking the family pet, he had kept himself to himself all morning. He’d gone through the motions of meeting his work commitments while his brain tried to work out what had caused that morning’s incident. At lunchtime, he’d phoned home to check all was well and discretely asked if the cat had come back. His heart sank when his wife said that she’d returned scared and with a nasty wound on her shoulder. She commented that she thought perhaps the cat had got into a fight with the ginger tom cat from across the street. Muttering something about it “being natural for cats to fight,” he’d made his excuses and cut the call short. The rest of the afternoon had dragged on endlessly.
As he drove towards the village, he began to wonder if it was actually safe for him to return home…..
As had become his usual Friday routine, he parked the car at the local convenience store and walked up the hill to the graveyard. He’d slipped easily into the routine of visiting the cemetery then visiting the shop to buy a small treat for the kids before driving up the hill and home.
An icy wind was blowing and he shrugged himself deeper into his warm jacket, still chilled to the core by the morning’s events. Stuffing his hands deep into his pockets, he trudged up the steep hill, praying that the dark angel had got his message and was waiting for him.
With her wings drawn round her to ward off the cold, the angel stood deep in the shadows beside the tree where she had placed the flask of fresh blood. Her acute senses detected his presence long before he climbed the worn steps and entered the dark graveyard. She could hear his heart pounding; she could feel the confusion raging inside him. Her heart went out to him. There was no denying that this setback was going to be a challenge for him.
“Good evening, son of Perran,” she greeted softly as he reached into the hollow in the tree trunk to retrieve the flask.
“Jeez, you scared me,” he gasped almost dropping the pewter flask.
“You summoned me, so surely you expected me to be here,” commented the angel calmly.
“Yeah, I did,” he acknowledged wearily.
“Drink then we’ll talk,” she commanded.
Hungrily, he drained the flask of every drop within seconds. The blood as usual was still warm but this week tasted thicker and meatier than usual. Almost instantly he felt the craving diminish.
“Needed that,” he said as he screwed the lid back on.
“I noticed,” commented the dark angel taking the empty flask from him. “Now, do you want to tell me about what happened this morning?”
Sensing that she already knew exactly what had happened, he bowed his head and confessed quietly, “I almost bit my son. He had a scratch. It was bleeding, I came too close to biting him for comfort. I bit the cat instead. Drank some of her blood.”
“I know,” said the angel, her tone soothing and filled with understanding. “The cat survived though. How did she taste?”
“Are you seriously asking me how the cat tasted?” he snapped, anger surging through him. “I almost bit my own son!”
“Did the cat’s blood satisfy you, son of Perran? Yes or no?”
“Kind of,” he admitted. “It tasted tangy. Not sweet. Not sour. It was only a few mouthfuls.”
“And you didn’t drain her dry?”
“No,” he replied. “My wife interrupted me.”
“You managed to show some restraint then. Would you have killed the cat if she hadn’t interrupted you?”
Silently, he nodded.
Almost tenderly, she reached out and touched his arm.
“Blood rage,” translated the angel calmly. “Not uncommon in fledglings. It’s dangerous though. Unpredictable.”
“Great,” he muttered sourly. “So, now what do I do? What does it mean?”
“Two things, son of Perran,” she said staring deep into his soul. “You need blood more regularly than planned.”
“I’d worked that bit out.”
“And, secondly, you have developed a desire to hunt. You’re craving fresh, living blood.”
“Human blood?” he asked, dreading the answer.
He sighed and ran his cold fingers through his hair. “Ok, how do we sort this mess out? I thought partial transformation meant I didn’t need to kill things?”
“And you don’t. You just need to feed from a living being. It’s part of the condition.”
“And how exactly am I going to do that?”
“Calm down, son of Perran,” she cautioned firmly. “The blood you just drank was stronger. It should quench your thirst for a few days. I need time to work out a compromise here.”
“Time?” he spat angrily. “And while you work it out, am I meant to bite the cat every morning to stop me hurting my kids or my wife?”
“If you feel you must.”
“Christ, this is not happening,” he muttered, turning his back on her as a cold wave of fear rose up inside him.
“Meet me here on Sunday morning. Early. Just as the sun rises,” she commanded. “I’ll work out the solution by then.”
“Are you sure you will?”
“Quietly confident,” replied the angel. “But, as a precaution, I’ll bring another flask of blood for you.”
“Fine,” he sighed, realising that it was the only option open to him.
“Till Sunday, son of Perran.”
With a swoosh of her wings, she was gone into the darkness.
The dark angel didn’t retreat very far, flying only as far as her mausoleum hidden deep in the woods near the cemetery. As the clouds parted to reveal the full Mourning Moon, she perched on the roof of her home deep in thought. She wasn’t inhuman enough to be oblivious to the runner’s pain and fears. He was a mere hundred and nineteen days old, a baby in vampire terms. Where had her original partial transformation gone so wrong? Seventeen weeks before, she had been so careful and precise with her preparations. From her observations, he too had obeyed her instructions to the letter. There had to be something she was missing – something obvious.
It was almost dawn before the realisation struck her. She already knew they were blood related through her creator but for the Rabbia Sanguigna to be so strong there had to have been another vampire in his bloodline more recently. It had to be someone directly related to him.
With this revelation clearing her thoughts, the dark angel entered the mausoleum to prepare for her Sunday morning rendezvous with her fledgling.
Rain was lashing down on Sunday morning as he left the house just before eight on the pretence of going for a long run. The single-track road was slippery underfoot and, in his hurry, he fell twice, ripping the skin from his knee on the rough road surface. A warm trickle of blood ran down his shin.
Limping slightly, he reached the graveyard then sought shelter beside the tree. Optimistically, he reached into the hollow hoping to find the flask waiting for him. Nothing.
“Good morning, son of Perran,” she whispered in his ear. “Come.”
Obediently, he stepped forward then felt her wings embrace him as the world darkened around him.
When he opened his eyes, he looked round, immediately recognising the angel’s candlelit mausoleum home. As before, a black velvet cloth was spread out on the bench with various objects carefully laid out on it, including the goblet and the dagger.
“I need your permission to determine something,” she began, her voice soft and soothing. “I fear something in your more recent history has corrupted the transformation and triggered the blood rage.”
He stared at her in silence.
“May I read your thoughts, son of Perran?” she asked. “I may need to probe far back into your memories. I feel it only fair to advise you that nothing will be hidden from me.”
Remaining silent, he nodded.
The angel’s presence in his memories felt like wisps of smoke gradually wafting through him. At some points, he knew exactly which memories she was analysing. At others, she was deep inside memories he had gone to great lengths to bury. The sensation wasn’t unpleasant but knowing she was reading his entire life story unsettled him.
“Thank you,” said the angel eventually. “I’m sorry I had to do that to you. There really was no other way. I am uncomfortable scrying souls in that manner. I find it invasive.”
“Did it help?” he asked, feeling emotionally and mentally violated.
“Yes, son of Perran, it did,” replied the angel, still processing the information that she had gleaned from him.
“There is a living vampire in your blood family,” she revealed plainly. “The blood DNA that you share with them is what has led us to where we are.”
“A vampire in my family? My side of the family?”
The angel nodded.
“I’ll keep this simple,” she began. “I cannot guarantee to rid you of the Rabbia Sanguigna. I can however try. This will need to be done in stages though.”
“Just tell me what we need to do here!” he snapped, his patience wearing thin.
Gazing longingly at the fresh wound on his knee, the dark angel replied, “Three things. First, you will drink the blood potion I am about to prepare. Second, you will need to learn to hunt for yourself. I need to take a trip. I fear it might be a long journey.”
“And the third thing?”
“When I return, you will need to drink the blood of your family member.”
He stared at her, his large brown eyes wide but darkened by an intensity she had never seen before, an anger that she never knew he possessed.
“There is no other way,” explained the angel. “Unless you want to live with the blood rage.”
“Fine,” he conceded. “But, I’m not killing anything.”
“If you can demonstrate some restraint then you don’t need to kill anything,” she assured him. “Now, quiet, while I prepare something for you to drink.”
For a few minutes, the angel busied herself preparing the blood draught for her fledgling.
“Pass me the opal and the moonstone from the bag you carry,” she instructed bluntly.
Without a word, he handed her the two crystals then watched as she shaved off a few particles into the same ornate goblet as before. Her hand then reached for a third crystal, a turquoise, and she did the same with it.
Handing him the three small stones, the angel explained, “I’ve added more opal to counteract any physical changes, the moonstone to support the intermingling of species and the turquoise for protection. Turquoise heals and promotes inner calm. In combination, they should reduce the effects of the Rabbia Sanguigna. I’ll add a little oak to give you strength.”
“Do you need blood from me?” he asked, an air of resignation to his tone.
“A few drops,” she replied, passing him the dagger. “Prick your thumb for me. I need five drops.”
He flinched as the tip of the dagger pierced the pad of his right thumb but maintained a stoic air of silence. The five drops of blood fell easily into the goblet. Lifting the pewter flask, the angel poured a small amount of blood into the cup then stirred the contents with the tip of the dagger.
In one long mouthful, he drained the goblet.
“And this,” she instructed, passing him the flask.
As before, the blood tasted warm and gamey.
“What is this?” he asked as he handed the empty flask back.
“Deer’s blood,” revealed the angel.
Getting to her feet, she reached for his hand, “Time to teach you how to hunt. Come.”
For over two hours, the angel patiently talked him through how to choose a suitable target; how to stalk his prey; how to catch it and how to drink from it without killing it. The only exceptions to the “no killing” rule were birds. “Too little blood to survive the hunt. Weak hearts,” she explained dismissively, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
He proved to be adept at catching rodents and rabbits but birds remained a challenge. Methodically, the angel coached him through where to bite to avoid being bitten then she suggested that they turn their attention to larger prey- sheep and cows. Initially, he balked at the thought. However, when the angel explained the volume of blood they offered, he could see the attraction.
By late morning, he had more than drunk his fill and was tired of chasing unsuspecting animals.
“Enough,” he said, pausing to catch his breath. “How often will I need to do this?”
“You’ll need to drink at least a flask full twice a week until I return,” advised the angel. “I’ll leave tonight but I can’t guarantee how long I’ll be gone. My senses are telling me that the family member I am seeking is not at home. Reaching them will take time.”
“Will there be any new side effects that I need to watch out for?” he asked, not wanting a repeat of the cat incident.
“Maybe. I’m not sure,” she admitted honestly. “Be vigilant. Stick to the prescribed ration, drink your mugwort tea, keep the crystals close and all should be well until I return.”
“How long will you be gone for?”
“Impossible to say. Three weeks. A little more perhaps,” she guessed. “Keeping the blood warm for the return journey will be the challenge. It needs to stay human body temperature to prevent it spoiling.” She paused then added, “When I’m back, I’ll contact you.”
“And if you don’t come back?”
“Stick to the regime.”
Feeling a little overwhelmed, he nodded.
As the angel prepared to depart, he finally found the courage to ask the question that had been burning inside him all morning.
“Who is it?”
Staring deep into his troubled soul with her green eyes, the dark angel said simply, “Your mother.”
Before he could reply, she spread her wings and soared out of sight.
“She’s in Spain,” he said to the space where the angel had stood seconds beforehand.
Hunting proved to be more enjoyable than he had expected. In an effort to divert attention away from his vampire needs, he’d started to run in the evenings on a more regular basis. He varied his routes, seeking sustenance from the local fields of sheep and cows and from the woodland rabbits and mice. Quickly, he established that mice and voles were not to his taste – too acidic. Rabbit had a similar tangy taste to it that the cat had had. From the options open to him, cows proved to be his preferred blood source.
The thrill of the chase was proving to be addictive and, after almost three weeks, he realised he was hunting almost daily. Was he drinking too much blood? How could he tell if he was? Mentally, he filed the question away, vowing to ask it when the angel finally returned.
On the third Friday night since the full Mourning Moon, he returned from his run just as his wife was chasing the kids upstairs to bed.
“I’ll see to them,” he offered.
As he helped his young son to brush his teeth, the little boy commented, “I want teeth like you, Daddy.”
“How do you mean?” he asked curiously.
“Sharp jaggy teeth,” replied the little boy innocently.
Instantly, he looked up and stared into the mirror above the basin. Sure enough, his canine teeth had begun to stretch into sharp points. – fangs!
Out in the hallway, the family cat sat watching warily.