I’m writing a series of short stories called “Immortal Blood.” Here is the first of the series:
Immortal Blood: My Wanderings In The South
Like most boys my ripe age of 24, I joined with my state of North Carolina when Sumter was attacked and went off to fight the war of Northern Aggression. I was trained quickly and marched the treacherous route from Fort Anderson all the way north to Dare County to Fort Huger on Roanoke Island. Our mission was very simple. We must guard the fort and aid the Confederate Naval forces while trying to break through the Northern blockade.
I was placed under the command of one Colonel H. M. Shaw. He was a hard-nosed brute, but he taught our unit what it meant to be a soldier. He would polish us up nice when Brigadier General Wise would come around and show us off. I arrived at Fort Huger in June of 1861. I quickly learned my duties and fell into a routine. By the time fall came around, I was homesick. I missed my family. By the time Christmas came around, I was almost mad with disillusionment. Don’t let anyone fool you. Despite being the south, the fort could get quite cold in the winter. Not cold enough to freeze mind you, but cold enough to make you miss your mama’s quilts.
1862 dawned with reinforcements. The new blood lifted morale, not to mention the food that arrived. I was longing for my mama’s biscuits, but the bread that the new troops brought was certainly fine enough.
Early morning on the 7th of February, a general alarm was raised. The infamous General Burnside had landed troops on the southwestern side of the island. They had launched from Fort Monroe. Evidently, our position stuck in Burnside’s craw and he wanted to own us. We donned out battle position bracing for what might come at any time. Around four the next morning I awoke with a start. I heard a whistling over my head and the air behind me exploded. I was thrown to the ground, but quickly rose and grabbed my rifle. As I appeared over the wall, I could see the North’s gunboats and the soldiers as they assaulted the hill. I fired my rifle, but with little confidence. There had to be at least 5,000 of them and I knew there were only 2,500 of us. As I reloaded my rifle, another explosion hit at the right of me. I felt a burning pain in my chest and I fell to my knees. I looked down and saw a seven inch piece of a cannon protruding from my torso. I fell on my back. I was going to die.
I looked up to the ceiling and it was if I was just drifting away. The fort became smaller, as if I was looking at through a tube. I was ready to give up hope and accepted that I was going to die. Suddenly, a figure appeared in my sight. I saw his head disappear as if he was leaning on my torso. I felt a pain, dimly at first, but it grew stronger. I began to drift back to the fort. All of a sudden the pain grew intense. I was back in the fort, although I heard nothing of the battle raging around me. All I saw was him, standing before me with the piece of cannon shrapnel between his teeth and my blood running down his chin. He spit the metal out of his mouth and looked at me with madness in his eyes. He opened his mouth and his eye teeth were as long as my smallest finger. He leaped at me, wrenching my neck around and sinking his fangs into my neck. His teeth felt cold and my body began to grow cold. “Please,” I managed to mutter weakly, “Don’t take my life.” The beast removed it’s teeth from my neck. “Do you want to live, my child?” he asked me.
“Yes, please,” I said. “Let me live.”
Immediately I felt lifted from the ground. The air was cold and I felt even colder. I was conscious enough to look down and see below me the battle as it raged. Then, I passed out.
When I came to, I was lying in a bed. I looked over and saw my attacker. I began to leap up, but my pain pushed me back down. “Relax, my child,” the man said.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“My name is Marcosus.”
“Where am I?” I asked.
“You are in my underground home. You are safe from the war.”
The war. It seemed like I had been sleeping for days. “How long have I been asleep?”
“A few hours.”
“You were hit with cannon shrapnel and I saved you and brought you here.”
“I know,” I said. “I mean. what happened in the battle?”
Marcosus looked at me like a loving father. “It seems that your side was almost overrun by the attackers. Your General made a decision befitting his name. He surrendered.”
“No,” I muttered. “We lost?”
“It could be looked at as a victory. It appears that a hundred or so of your countrymen died. I believe General Wise wanted to save the rest. He ordered your commander to surrender. He did surrender reluctantly.”
I remembered again the fangs. “Who are you?” I said.
“I’ve already told you. My name is Marcosus.”
“I know that. I mean…” I gulped. “What are you?”
Marcosus laughed. “Some say I am a man. Others say I am evil. I am, by all accounts, a creature of the night.”
I must have looked confused. “I am, what mortals call, a vampire.”
Now it was my turn to laugh, but I could not because of my wounds. “That’s ridiculous. There’s no such thing.”
“On the contrary,” Marcosus retorted, “We very much exist.”
“So if you’re a vampire, what were you doing out there?” I asked.
“I live here, beneath the fort.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Why not?” he replied.
“I mean, it seems a stupid thing to do, or even be. You live in a place where there are battles.”
“When I arrived here, there were no battles. At least, not yet.”
“Nonsense,” I said, “You look barely thirty years old. There’s been talk of this war for at least that long.”
“I am not thirty years old. I am 121 years old,” Marcosus said.
I thought he was kidding. “You joke,” I said.
“No, I do not joke. I arrived in Boston in the spring of 1770. I was an officer in the British Navy. I became immortal just before the revolution and I ended up here just after the war of 1812. It was quiet then. The rumblings of war did not begin for some twenty or so years.”
As crazy as it sounds, I was beginning to believe him. “Marcosus doesn’t sound like a very British name.”
“It isn’t. It is the name my mentor gave me when he made me immortal. My original name was John Williams, but I have not been him for some hundred years.”
“What is it like? What’s it like being a vampire?”
“It is, in a way, beautiful, and in other ways, quite tragic. The life of the night promises only one thing, immortality, and then only if you maintain your diet.”
“You were going to kill me, weren’t you?” I asked. He paused.
“I was, child. But I have walked this earth alone for thirty years and I am lonely. When you asked me to spare your life, I saw a longing in your eyes. You want more, don’t you?”
“My first battle and I’m already tired of war,” I said.
“I saved your life, and would love to give you immortality. But for now, you must sleep. We will talk in the morning.”
As I awoke, Marcosus was standing over me. “You spoke in your sleep. You miss your family?”
“Yes,” I said, “But the more I think about it, I have nothing to go back to. As much as I hate this war, it was my way of making a mark on this world.”
“There are other ways, child,” Marcosus said. “Are you ready to die again to live eternal?”
“I am,” I replied.
Marcosus drew a knife from his belt and quickly slit his left wrist. The blood flowed freely. “Open your mouth,” he commanded. I did and he let just a few drops of his blood fall into my mouth. “Drink my immortal blood, child.” His blood was cold, initially invigorating, but suddenly I felt immense pain.
“You are going to die, child, but you will die this time to live forever.”
I saw the tunnel again and Marcosus drifted farther and farther away until he was gone and there was only darkness. I do not know how long I had been gone, but I finally saw light, just a pin prick in the distance and it began to grow larger. Marcosus was again standing before as I began to see him for the first time with vampire eyes. I was suddenly conscious and aware that I had once felt immense pain, but now all was gone. I was shirtless, in the same bed that I had been in for days. I looked at my chest where the scars of war had once been. They were now gone. Immortality had entered me and I was a glorious creature of the night. “Your old name is gone. You are renamed Malakar, child of Marcosus.”
I was anxious to leave the house and Marcosus made the suggestion that we travel south. I immediately realized that travel during the day was impossible. I had suddenly developed a disdain for sunlight. As we walked at night, we often talked about practical things that a vampire needed to know such as what is the best type of blood to survive on. We arrived in Craven County around the beginning of March and decided to settle in the town of New Bern for a short time.
New Bern’s night life was quite active. There were many Confederate fortifications in that area and many soldiers. At first, I was hesitant to kill a human for blood, but Marcosus showed me how to pick out the weak soldiers that would most likely die anyway and prey on them. News was abuzz in New Bern about the battle that had happened north of there, the one I had been wounded in. I posed as a brother of myself and found out that I had been reported Missing In Action and presumed dead. Some of the soldiers were quite nervous. Most of them had not seen any action yet and the rumors of Burnside’s army coming that way were abundant.
We were there only two weeks or so when we were awaken by distant cannon fire. Burnside’s army had arrived. We were not anxious to be in the middle of a battle so we stole two horses and headed further south. We found out later that New Bern fell to the Union Army later that morning.
We rode hard until we reached the town of White Hall where we decided to stay for a few weeks. Marcosus taught me that a child of the night could not stay long in one place, five years at the most, in order to avoid being caught. After a few weeks in White Hall, we decided we liked it so much that we would stay through winter. In the spring, we would embark and go further south, but until then, White Hall was our home.
Marcosus’ family was very wealthy. Ironically, they made their money in the 17th century from tobacco harvested in the colonies. Marcosus believed his family virtually raped the Americans and he despised them for it. Upon his new birth shortly before the revolution, he hired a thief to return to England, steal as much of his family’s money as he could, and return to America, where Marcosus promised the thief a percentage of his take. The thief was quite successful and managed to hire a ship and bring most of Marcosus’ family belongings to Boston. Once he had secured the belongings and the thief demanded his money, Marcosus feasted on his blood. Marcosus sold his family’s belongings for a hefty sum and now traveled freely with no worries of money. Because of this, there were no need for us to find work in White Hall. We slept in the local hotel in the day, stalked the bars at night and feasted whenever we needed to. Often a company of soldiers would stay over the night and we would often find fresh blood among the troops.
As Christmas approached, we were quite satisfied with our lot in this town and likely would have stayed past the upcoming spring, but the life of the night had it’s own set of rules and we must continue on. A week or so before Christmas, rumors of approaching Union troops were rampant. Apparently, the troops were trying to take the north bank of the Neuse River. If the Confederates could hold it, the town would be safe. If they failed, White Hall would most likely fall, too. I remember asking Marcosus, “Should we leave?”
“No,” he said, “I’m tired of running from this bloody war.” We could hear the battle from the town and it subsided toward evening. A Confederate messenger came and told the town that the troops had held the bank and the Union army had withdrawn and moved on. They were asking for volunteers to help with the dead and wounded. I was going to volunteer until Marcosus reminded me, “Dead men’s blood is rank. Do not taste it. It reeks of death and could destroy your immortality.”
When spring came around, Marcosus said to me, “I have been thinking that Charleston would be a wonderful place to go for awhile. What do you think?”
“I agree,” I said. “If we went on horseback, we could be there in just a few days.” We arrived in late March of 1863 and trouble was already brewing. The rumors were that the Union forces were preparing a bombardment of Fort Sumter. Because of this, we found a nice place on the western part of the city in order to avoid any trouble. A week into April and we were again awaken by cannon fire, but by the evening it had ceased. Marcosus and I went to the other side of the city to hear what had happened. The fort had withstood the bombardment and had even badly damaged a Union ironclad ship. The ship sank the next day. Throughout the year of 1863, we endured the bombardment of Morris Island, the Battle of Grimball’s Landing, the assault of Fort Wagner, and a second and a third attack on Fort Sumter. By spring of 1864, Marcosus finally admitted to me, “I’m so sick of fighting. We are leaving the coast and going to Atlanta.”
Atlanta was brimming with excitement and mayhem. It was easy to hide in the city and to feed off the homeless and the alcoholics. But nothing was as precious and exciting as feeding off of blue blood. We chose a place in the eastern part of the city and settled there. One early evening, I noticed a young lady across the street. She was quite beautiful and it had been a long time since I had enjoyed the company of a lady without wanting to suck the life out of her. I asked her, against the wishes of Marcosus, to join us for the evening. By morning, I was quite thirsty for blood because I had avoided drinking in front of the lady. As we dismissed her, Marcosus turned on me throwing me against the wall. It was the first time he had ever flashed his fangs at me. “Love is for the weak children. Do not fall for it!” He jumped on a nearby bum and feasted on his life. After a brief moment, my lust for blood overcame my fear of Marcosus and I joined him. We made it home just as the sun came up.
Despite Marcosus’ objections, I continued to see the lady whose name was Belle. Within just a few weeks, I had fallen for her. I knew that I had to bring it up with Marcosus, but I wasn’t sure if it was the right time. The city was abuzz because of Sherman and his march starting in Chattanooga. Everyone else was thinking of how to get out of the city. I was trying to figure out how to stay. I had not told Belle of my dark life, but I was convinced she would understand. I could even make her my child. In June, I finally approached Marcosus with the subject.
“Marcosus, I’m in love.” He again showed his fangs.
“I told you, love is for the weak. Don’t fall for it!”
“Well, I’m weak. And I’m love with Belle.”
“You fool!” he screamed. “She is not one of us!”
“But we can make her one of us!”
“We cannot! If you do that, she will be your child, not your lover! If I do it, she will be your sister! The children of the night do not marry!”
“Isn’t there someone else? Another child that can—“
“NO!” he screamed. “The children live in strict secrecy! I know of no others!”
“What about your father?” I asked.
Marcosus lunged at me, “Pharagon is dead!” He sank from his angry demeanor. “Pharagon is dead.”
“Was Pharagon your father?” I asked.
“Yes. He drank the tainted blood of the dead and it destroyed him. As I said in the beginning, we are only immortal as long as we keep our diet.” He looked directly at me. “There are no others, Malakar. None that I know of. Child, we live by a strict code of ethics. And breaking those rules is grounds for other children to destroy you. You must break it off with Belle. She cannot be an immortal and you cannot be with a mortal.”
As hard as I tried, I could not leave Belle. We continued to secretly see each other. The news of Sherman’s advancing army was grave. Atlanta was tense. On July 20th, the Union Army attempted to cross Peach Tree Creek north of Atlanta. Alarms were raised. We were told to leave Atlanta or be prepared to die. I looked to Marcosus for guidance. “We stay. If we leave, we will run straight into the Union army to the west. We must stay and fight if necessary for our lives.”
Union artillery was coming into the city. Confederate troops moved quickly forming a counterattack. I watched from our window as some houses went untouched and other burned to the ground. A young boy, a messenger, approached our home. “Master Malakar, I have urgent news for you.”
“What is it?” I asked. The messenger pulled out a paper and handed it to me. I read it with shock and disbelief.. “What is it?” Marcosus asked.
“It’s Belle,” I said. “She’s dead.” The messenger silently left. “She was killed by a cannon ball that struck her carriage.” I started my immortal life hating this war and I still did. It was time for it to be over. I did not want to wait any longer to leave Atlanta. The South was gone.
The next evening, as we left, we watched for the first time Union troops in the city of Atlanta. For me, it was a death knoll. I knew that the South that I had grew up in would never be the same. But what difference did it make? I was not the same either. I was a vampire, a child of the night.