I skidded to a halt, breathing hard. Jamie had a good 45 minute headstart on me, maybe even an hour. The blood link hung in the air in front of me, a single red thread, insubstantial as smoke. The path was erratic, as if Jamie wasn’t quite sure what he was looking for. Had that moment always been inevitable, the moment I woke up to find myself in the sit alone?
Keep moving, keep moving. I worked my legs like pistons, pushing myself to go faster. Time was of the essence. If I reached Jamie in time I could stop him doing something stupid.
Suddenly the weaving path of the thread changed, and it ran ahead, suddenly straight as an arrrow.
“That CANNOT be a good sign.”
The thread ended in a decaying derelict tenement building that had probably been abandoned for years. Even the “keep out” signs seemed half-hearted, and every easily accessible surface was covered in graffiti. The doorway that Jamie entered through had been boarded up. The plywood was lying on the ground in pieces. Yet another bad sign. I slipped inside.
The gloom in the interior was overpowering. In the murky twilight I could make out yellowing water stained wallpaper peeling from the walls. Rubbish covered the floor: fading fast food wrappers. plastic bottles, cans, glass bottles, stubbed out cigarettes. None of the ground floor apartments had doors, but the thread ignored them. Instead it headed upwards.
The smell was my first warning sign. Pungent… familiar but unfamiliar. I looked down the corridor. There were six apartments on this floor, and the thread entered every single one. I peered into the first apartment, bracing myself for what I would see.
The bodies I was prepared for. The… violence of their deaths, I was not. They hadn’t just been drained. They had been savaged to the point they were barely recognizable. I scanned the cramped room, and located what I was looking: a needle, a dirty spoon, an empty plastic bag. Homeless and junkies, and now prey for my drug addicted lover.
I went from room to room. and every scene was the same. Sometimes one body, sometimes several. Some of the corpses weren’t even users, but Jamie had killed them anyway. I climbed up through the building, through floor after floor of carnage. I checked every room, out of some fearful hope that someone had been able to hide, or Jamie had failed to finish the job, or that he had somehow woken from his madness long enough to stop.
The thread led me to the top floor of the building. It was a single penthouse apartment that might have been quite the home in its day. But most of the internal walls were missing now, and crumbling drywall covered the wooden floor. Mattresses were strewn around. A dozen people might have been living here, maybe as many as twenty or more. They were dead now, and their blood was smeared across the bits of wall that remained.
I finally found Jamie sitting against a claw-foot bathtub, staring straight ahead eyes glazed over. A thin line of drool was trailing off his chin. I shuddered.
“Jamie? Jamie, can you hear me?”
Jamie turned to me with those vacant and lifeless eyes. He tried to focus, then failed. And then he laughed.
He laughed and laughed and couldn’t stop. There was no mirth in that laugh, only pain, as if the sheer of absurdity of the world had become simply too overwhelming to do anything different. The sound echoed throughout that doomed and blighted building and its a noise that will haunt me for the rest of my days.
I had manhandled Jamie’s dead weight down all eight flights of stairs and dragged him out on to the street. He had giggled all the way down but was silent now. He wasn’t going anywhere without help, but I hoped he wouldn’t be working against me as I carried him back to the sit. After taking a second to catch my breath, I hoisted him on to my shoulder. I crossed my fingers I would make it across town without running into concerned citizens or the authorities being conscientious about their jobs.
“Trevor?” Jamie whispered drowsily, the first coherent words he’d said since I found him.
“What do vampires do… when they don’t want to be vampires anymore?’
I swallowed. “It’s called a sun quest. First there’s a party with all of the vampire’s friends. And then they stay up to greet the sun.”
“That sounds… peaceful.”
“Jamie, you aren’t thinking of…?”
But he had already fallen asleep. I relaxed. A sleeping boy was easier to deal with. But then something went wrong. I felt a twitch in Jamie’s leg, then it quickly became more than a twitch, it was a full body convulsion. I laid him on the sidewalk. His mouth was foaming.
Vampire overdoses rarely killed. But massive and permanent brain damage was an all too frequent side effect, and the Elders did not take a sympathetic approach to “burn outs”. Jamie needed treatment and he needed it now.
I hammered on the door in the dimly lit alley. The pierced and tattooed Asian women that opened the door did not look happy to see me.
“I’m closed. Come back another day.” She tried to close the door, but I jammed a foot in the way.
“My friend needs a full transfusion. Now!” She peered at Jamie.
“Do you know how many times I’ve heard that? Please Fei Lynn, help my friend who got carried away consuming things he should have stayed well away from!”
“Damn it, I can pay!”
Fei Lynn looked at me with an appraiser’s eye.
“A full transfusion doesn’t come cheap.”
“I’ve got a line to a source of AB negative. Clean.”
She popped an eyebrow.
“Your friend must mean a lot to you.”
“He’s my world. And I don’t know if I have much time.”
Fei Lynn sighed and opened the door. I followed her into the smoky interior of her business. She lit up a cigarette and pointed to the antique dentist’s chair in the middle of the room.
“Sit him down there and strap him in. Tight. These emergency transfusions are never pretty.”
I placed Jamie in the chair and nervously tied him in with thick leather straps attached to the chair. Fei Lynn was rifling around in cupboards, pulling down various pieces of glassware and other paraphernalia. She assembled the equipment into what I could only describe as a cross between an intravenous drip and a Gothic chandelier. She opened up a fridge at the back of the room and pulled out a handful of blood sachets. She emptied the contents of of the satchels into half of the glass bulbs at the of the apparatus. Then she started sticking the fluid lines into Jamie’s arms. I winced as each new syringe was inserted into his arm.
“Your friend is no stranger to needles.”
“It’s a long story.”
Satisfied everything was in place, she started turning the valves on the apparatus. Jamie’s blood started to flow out through some of the fluid lines. Jamie’s eyes flickered open.
“Trevor? Where am I? Trevor?” He suddenly realised he couldn’t move his arms or legs because of the restraints, and panic crossed his face. “Trevor!”
“It’s okay Jamie. I’m here. I’m right here.”
“Oooh, I don’t feel well.” He glanced at the the needles. “Trevor, what’s happening?!?”
I gripped his hand. “You overdosed Jamie. I had to bring you here. To save your life.”
“It’s a transfusion Jamie. We’re taking out the bad blood and putting in the good. But it’s going to hurt” He screamed again. “It’s going to hurt like hell. Just hold my hand okay? I’m not letting go. You hear me? I’m not letting go.”
His body contorted in pain. The intensity of his grip on my hand was enough to bring a grimace to my own face. He wasn’t even screaming now. His mouth was open wide, but the pain had gone beyond Jamie’s ability to vocalize it. My brow was covered in sweat.
“How much longer?” Fei Lynn was staring intently at the glassware and didn’t seem to hear me. Through gritted teeth I tried again. “I said… How… Much… Longer?”
“Just a bit more… a bit more…. now!” The drainage lines suddenly ran clear as the last of the tainted blood was sucked from his body. Jamie gasped, and his entire body seemed to suck itself inward as it reacted to the total absence of blood. Fei Lynn slammed valves open, and the other lines ran red with the life-giving nourishment now ran the other way, back into his system. Jamie had slipped into unconsciousness as the last of his old blood flowed out. but I felt his muscles relaxing as the new blood flowed in.
“Will he be okay now”
“Won’t know for sure until he wakes up. But I think he’ll be okay. I wouldn’t recommend much activity for the next few days. He’s going to feel like a steamroller hit him when he comes round.”
I looked at the sleeping form of the boy I loved. I had come so close to losing him forever. Could I stop it happening again?