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by Matt Chapman
Description: 17 year old Ian Stonard's life is turned upside down when his father is mysteriously murdered. Isolated and bitter, Ian distances himself from family and friends as he comes to grip with his loss. Driven by a need for answers, Ian enlists the aid of his gal-pal, Rachel Blake, and together the young pair set out to learn the truth behind his father's death. Their quest soon leads them to an underground lab built deep beneath the pharmaceutical conglomerate, Recoma, where they uncover a shocking secret so hideous it could alter the course of human evolution, and send mankind down a dark, undead path. In a race against time, Ian and Rachel struggle to stop Recoma from unleashing the DNA-altering virus upon an unsuspecting world.
eBook Publisher: Charles River Press, 2009 Charles River Press
eBookwise Release Date: December 2009
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [308 KB]
Reading time: 196-275 min.
Preface * * * *
He wasn't going to make it.
The darkness of the forest blurred by with such ferocity he nearly lost his footing as he skidded to a halt next to the grime-ridden creek. The air chilled his bones, and his fogged breath escaped from between his ashen lips as he gasped for air. His lungs felt as though they were on fire. There was nothing to do now but run. It meant his life.
Ian snapped his head to the side at a rustling of bushes, still some distance away. He leapt over the creek and landed on the other side, catching himself on the ground with his hands, his blood dripping onto the frost-covered dirt. He looked down at his shirt and saw that his bleeding laceration had worsened.
Without hesitation, Ian was back on his feet, continuing his mad dash to freedom. He stampeded through branches, mud, tree stumps, and rocks, maintaining his focus on escaping. He should have known that the forest was a trick. How could he have missed that?
Ambiguity, Ian thought. Erika had been right; he should have listened to her. Perhaps it would have prevented all that had taken place, but he could not dwell on that now. All that mattered was that it had occurred, and he needed to fix it.
The trees thinned out and the moonlight brightened as Ian approached the forest's edge. His heart was dying for a break, but there was no time. His head was pounding, and his ears were ringing with the sound of the blood pumping through his arteries. Was it worth it to go on? Would death not be a better option?
Ian burst through the last of the trees and emerged onto the rolling field of snow-covered grass, stretching far into the horizon. The cool breeze continued to rush by him, ripping across his cheekbones, causing them to flush with the little color that he was able to show. Only once did he turn his head and look behind him. Nothing was there. Nobody was following him. He was all alone.
But he had once again been deceived.
The black whip lashed out at him before he had a chance to respond. It struck him in the legs and he was tossed off the ground, the world spinning. He flipped into the air and came crashing down, landing hard on his back. He heard another snap as the whip again lunged out at him, wrapping itself around his neck.
Without knowing what had happened, the giant figure that had released the fury of the whip pulled back with all its strength. Immediately, the whip recoiled back to it, taking Ian along for the ride. For a few moments, Ian couldn't breathe. The whip contracted his throat with such force that he could hear his trachea beginning to pop. In the next instant, the whip let up and Ian fell to the ground, flat on his stomach. Gasping for air, he lifted his head, and his heart sank low into his insides. There they were--the black metal boots with the silver skulls etched into the front of them. Ian hadn't escaped at all.
"You are a curious one, Mr. Stonard," the towering man said with a thick Russian accent. "Did you honestly believe you could outrun me?"
"I did outrun you," Ian whispered breathlessly. The Russian man made low tsking noises as he shook his head.
"No, Mr. Stonard. You outran my machine. Not me. Besides, that really isn't the point now, is it?"
Ian glared at him with venomous eyes.
"You're vampire too, no? We should be friends," said the Russian man.
"It wasn't my choice."
"It's never a choice, child! How could you be saying this?" the Russian asked, a little more severely.
"There are no such things as vampires," Ian hissed through gritted teeth.
The Russian laughed. "What you mean? You and I are both living proof. We are vampires."
"No! You engineered this. You created the virus that caused all of this!" Ian roared.
The Russian took his whip and tucked it back into the side of his bear-fur belt. "Yes, this is true. But a vampire is a vampire. The means to get to that stage doesn't matter. It is only the outcome." The Russian stopped speaking for a moment and looked at the blackness of Ian's eyes. "You should know this."
Ian sat up on his knees, his entire T-shirt now a vibrant red color. He was getting faint. The world was starting to spin again.
"I see my machine did a good job on you, no?" the Russian asked. "Perhaps you didn't outrun it as best you think."
"Where's Rachel?" Ian murmured. He was beginning to get tunnel vision.
"Ah, so this is the heart of the matter, yes? Rachel? Well, she is fine. Tornikai took her back to the manor. She'll make good vampire."
"No!" Ian shouted as loud as he could, but he could hardly hear his own voice now.
"It's okay. You're coming back, too. We have a few things we need talk about before my medicine goes worldwide. I hope you be understanding this. Nothing personal. You were just the unfortunate one to be injected with Hemoceli vamprinon. Destiny is always an odd one, isn't it?" The Russian looked around and sniffed the air. It was almost one in the morning.
Ian wanted desperately to fight back. He wanted to jump high into the air and crush down onto the crazy count, knock into his intimidating body, and attack all parts of the massive beast. He wanted to sink his teeth deep into his neck and tear out every beating artery he could get a hold of; but he couldn't. His hearing was gone. His vision was gone. The entire world seemed to disappear, and then the darkness engulfed him. * * * *
Chapter 1 Hospital Call * * * *
There was nothing to do but lie in bed and think. The sunlight was beginning to pour into the room as the clouds dispersed, but no happiness was found. The emptiness of the room was amplified by the boy's loneliness. He rolled onto his side and stared at the beige wall.
Ian Stonard closed his eyes and inhaled, holding his breath for as long as he could. He released it and stilled, then repeated the process three more times. As much as he had heard this soothed the mind, he really couldn't say it was working that well.
He opened his eyes, sat up, and rubbed his neck--stiff from the position he had slept in. He looked over at the clock. It was ten in the morning. He wished he could have slept forever.
He brought his legs around and over the side of the bed, and touched his feet to the wooden floor. The sudden coolness caused him to cringe before setting them down. He looked ahead of him at the mirror hanging over his small wardrobe; his coffee-colored eyes filled with disappointment and sadness. He ran his hand through his soft brown hair and shook his head. A few strands from his bangs fell over his right eye. He tried to smile, his appealing cheekbones showing even more as he forced his lips into a depressing grin. He closed his eyes and rubbed his face with a hand. No one could possibly know how he was feeling right now.
He rose to his feet and walked over to the closet. He glanced at the poster of Uma Thurman on the wall as 'The Bride' in Kill Bill, then drew his attention back to what he should wear that day. He didn't care, in all honesty. He pulled out a plain gray T-shirt and a pair of jeans, then walked over to his wardrobe and grabbed a fresh pair of boxers and white socks. He noted his tanned complexion in the mirror and turned away in disgust. He didn't deserve to be alive.
After Ian had dressed and completed his morning routine, he made his way downstairs to the kitchen. He could smell the aroma of burnt toast, and sure enough, he saw his aunt Erika throwing out the remaining pieces of what had once been normal bread.
"Oh," Erika muttered as she turned around after hearing Ian's footsteps. "Good morning. Can I get you anything to eat?"
Erika turned and shut the cabinet door with a foot. She washed her hands under the sink and dried them on a dishtowel decorated with roosters. In fact, the entire kitchen's theme made Ian think he was inside a henhouse.
"I'm not hungry," Ian muttered and sat down at the table. He stared out of the window and noticed the hummingbird feeder hadn't been changed for a few days.
"Well, neither am I. I failed at breakfast once this morning. I don't need to do it again." Erika smiled as she brushed her blond hair out of her face. Her blue eyes sparkled, yet there was still some build-up of distress within them. Her red lips were lively, though, and her petite figure gave her the agile ability to move around the kitchen as though she were a teenaged ballerina, not a forty-three-year-old woman.
"Did you sleep well?" Erika asked as she grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down opposite Ian. He was slightly annoyed that she was blocking the view of the window.
"I had nightmares again," he murmured. Erika took a sip of her coffee and brushed off the remaining toast crumbs from her white blouse.
"That's normal, sweetie. He's only been gone for a little over a week now. We all miss him terribly," Erika gently replied.
"What do you mean by 'we'?" Ian asked bitterly. "You, me, the Blakes, and a handful of others were the only ones at his funeral. Isn't that enough proof to show no one cared about him?"
"That's not true, honey. A lot of people cared about your father. It's just that--"
"What? It's just that they were too busy to say good-bye?" hissed Ian. The sound of coffee remnants could be heard dripping off of the filter and into the pot.
After a few moments of silence, Erika finished up her coffee and placed her mug into the sink. She rubbed her tired eyes and turned toward Ian, debating on whether or not she should say what she was thinking.
"Ian," she began skeptically, "the hospital called this morning and they want me to pick up your father's belongings. It isn't much, but they said he had some personal items they didn't want to get rid of. I don't have to work today, so I planned on doing it. However, if you would like, you could come along with me."
A hummingbird fluttered by, stuck its long beak into the feeder, but quickly retreated after learning the sugar water was rancid.
"Mhm. I'll go with you," he softly said. Erika nodded.
"Alright, then. We'll leave in ten minutes."
Erika walked out of the kitchen and headed upstairs to make a few final preparations before departing. Ian stood up, not really sure what to do, when the doorbell rang. He turned around and saw Rachel Blake through the screen door.
Rachel was seventeen years old, just a few months younger than Ian. She had lived in the same neighborhood all of her life, and both she and Ian had become immediate friends.
Rachel was one of the most beautiful girls in all of Carroll City, at least by the standards of the junior class at Carroll High School. She had fair, delicate skin and emerald-colored eyes that sparkled with every sentence she spoke. Her brown curly hair was piled high on her head, with some strands falling down over her shoulders and back. She had the shiniest set of white teeth imaginable, and a shape all the girls were jealous of. She kept in form during the fall months by running cross country and in the spring by running track. Not only was she athletic, she was a star student as well. And then, of course, there was the small matter that she had been in love with Ian for as long as she could remember.
Ian reached the door with a few steps, gliding across the foyer in that elegant walk of his. He opened the door and tried to smile, but it was tough, even when his best friend was in front of him.
"Hey," Rachel said and wrapped herself around Ian. He could smell her shampoo. It was the scent of coconuts and honeydew. He returned the hug with one hand and shut the door with the other. When Rachel let him go, she looked into his eyes and frowned.
"You're going to make me cry," she said in her sweet, girlish tone. Her eyelashes were naturally long, and she batted them at him. Whether it was to make Ian laugh or because she was trying to hold back tears, he didn't know.
"I'm fine," Ian lied. He walked into the living room and slumped down on the white-cream sofa. "Just tired."
Rachel made her way over to the couch and sat down next to him, her legs crossed. She was wearing a pair of designer jeans with a butterfly on one leg, and a pink top with small ruffles on the sleeves. She thought about reaching out and rubbing Ian's back, but decided against it.
"Want to talk?" Rachel asked quietly.
"Hospital called," Ian replied, burying his head into one of the pillows so that his words became muffled. "They want us to go pick up Dad's stuff. I'm sure it'll be loads of fun."
"Want me to come with you?"
"Erika won't mind?"
"Whether she does or not, you're coming with us," Ian replied. Rachel smiled. At least he was still the stubborn young man she knew.
"Oh, hello, Rachel," Erika said as she came back downstairs. "I take it you're going to be coming with us to the hospital?"
"Yes, if that's okay with you."
"Well, sweetie, of course it's okay. You know you're family to us," Erika said as she reached for her purse and car keys on the side of the table next to the front door. "Shall we get going?"
Ian rose from the couch and sulked over to the front door. Rachel followed close behind him, giving him his own space. Erika put up the garage door and locked up when everyone was out of the house. She walked over to the driver's side of the silver Oldsmobile and got in. The two teenagers waited in the driveway while she backed out.
"Everything's going to get better. I promise," Rachel said as she nudged Ian in the shoulder. He managed a faint smile.
The teenagers got into the car, and Erika put down the garage door. She pulled out of the driveway and sped down the street, heading toward their destination of Carroll Hospital.