After 2,5 years of hard work, probably something close to seven drafts, a ton of delays and a steep scrivener learning curve later I’m proud to say that I have finally published Bathory’s Secret, the first book in a series I’ve called Affliction and a re-examination of the Vampire genre from a more human perspective.
Below is an actual excerpt from the book, the prologue over which I fought with both my editor and my beta readers. I am quite fond of it as you’ve probably gathered. I hope you enjoy it.
The book is available here.
There are a lot of things that can kill you in life, germs, chemical imbalances, poisons, accidents, people. The things that can kill you, can also kill us, we’re just as vulnerable as everyone else to life’s threats, even though popular belief would have you think we’re invincible, uncatchable and most of all, already dead! It was many centuries before I learned about viruses, and what they can do. The VN73 virus as it has come to be known, only lives inside us, the infected. It can’t survive outside the human body for longer than a few seconds and it’s almost impossible to see under a microscope. Only one person has been able to see it, and he was the one that also gave it its name. I will talk about this man, but now is not the time.
VN73 has been around for millennia and can only take hold of a host if they have certain genetic mutations, the most common being the chromosomes for blue eyes and black hair whether they manifest or not. When it does manage to take hold, our lives and bodies are transformed in a way that serves only to preserve it. I could go as far as to say it is the most powerful virus unrecognised by man and when we become its hosts we are entirely ruled by it.
In the past we didn’t call ourselves infected of course, as infection is a modern concept, but we went by the title of Afflicted. A subject with the appropriate mutations can only be changed when they are bitten by one who is Afflicted, provided that the predator does not completely exsanguinate the victim, in which case they will simply die. If they leave a little over a quarter pint of blood in them however, the virus, which is most prevalent in the mouth, will slowly take hold, and over a number of days begin to overwhelm the victim. Initially a grasping chill sets in, which is much like the symptoms of a simple cold only it gets worse and worse until it permanently settles the body’s core temperature to about thirty five degrees centigrade and leaves it permanently cold to the touch and extremely pale. Then the heart rate slows so much that it is virtually imperceptible which is what has led the public to the erroneous conclusion that people like us are dead. In fact it is as if we are frozen and living by a much slower clock; the belief that we do not age for example is also incorrect, we do, only where a healthy human being will age in forty or fifty years it will take us a hundred times longer to reach the same level of body fatigue, and even then it depends on the individual’s constitution. I’ve seen some who have lived to be six hundred years old and not need any kind of artificial quickening to keep them going and others burn out as early as two hundred. It all depends on your intrinsic make up, and just like anyone else, maintenance and a healthy lifestyle are crucial to a long and prosperous Affliction.
Certain quickening methods do exist, but the really good ones are secret, myths even. This knowledge is held by very few of us, those that have come to be known as the Protovamps. The rest live their mindless and very often reckless existences in the knowledge that their lifespan is multiplied by about ten times that of the average human, and that is enough for most. As with unafflicted people, each deals with their aging any way they can. Also just like ‘normal’ people, there is no particular or universal solidarity amongst our kind. Some acquire wisdom with age, others remain as stupid as the day they were born, and life goes on.
As a result of the slow aging our metabolisms are affected, which is why only fresh blood is concentrated enough to offer the nutrition we need to keep going. Food can and is consumed but does not offer the nourishment or pleasure it once did, though for some of us some habits are hard to break. I knew this Bulgarian many years ago who when he was healthy, used to love the taste of sweet Turkish coffee. After he was Afflicted the taste was so altered for him that he used to drink up to 20 cups in one sitting, just to gain the satisfaction that a singular cup used to offer him.
Another untruth is the fact that we cannot survive in sunlight. The fact is that sunlight is not actually harmful to us in small doses, the only problem is that we cannot abide it. Due to the sensitive nature of our eyes and skin we prefer to only appear in overcast or dark conditions. The Affliction affects our eyes in such a manner as to enhance their capacity for vision, especially in low light conditions and for reasons we have yet to discover, also alters their initial color. Though it remains as is, it acquires a crystalline quality, which I believe is related to the predatory skills our condition imparts.
Further predatory characteristics also develop. Some acquire excellent hearing while others develop the eyesight of a hawk. Some have a sense of smell so powerful they can smell blood two kilometres away and many grow razor sharp claws that sever skin with the ease of a freshly sharpened butcher’s knife. The skills are as varied as the individual and very rarely one can develop all these traits at once. Occasionally some acquire them from others.
Garlic is one of those anecdotal stories that peasant lore has proliferated over the centuries through their ignorance and fear. Just like any other root, herb or vegetable we are completely indifferent to it and it does not make us recoil nor does it keep us away from anyone brandishing it or hanging it to their doors. In fact, some Afflicted sects use it as their emblem in jest.
Crucifixes and mirrors are more of the same superstitious lore. The virus has existed long before the inception of any religion and if that were the case, faith alone would have cured all the ills known to man by now. Mirrors work on us just as they do not any healthy human being.
Silver like light is a whole other story. Perhaps because of its antiseptic qualities and the high concentration of virus in our bodies we have a strong aversion to it, very much akin to an allergy. Like a healthy person, and by healthy I refer to the unafflicted, could develop an allergy to copper or brass, we cannot abide silver. Its effects are felt instantly and painfully. It burns the skin, though it does not smoke like popular culture would have you believe, and saps our energy almost instantly, but the minute its effects are removed the body heals one hundred times faster than that of a healthy person, provided that the damage was not fatal. Our healing is by no means immediate. If our internal organs are damaged enough we die, if our heads are severed we die, if we are exsanguinated we die, if we do not consume blood or any other nourishment for prolonged periods of time we die-in fact the virus requires constant sustenance otherwise it turns on the body and begins to consume it from the inside if left unnourished. We cannot survive underwater, in oxygen depleted conditions or in freezing weather. We are different, we are superior, we are predatory and often base but in no way are we undead or immortal. Simply put, our bodies acquire different properties as these exist in nature and all for the proliferation of VN73.
History is written by the victors, and even though Erzsébet Báthory’s story has been told countless times before by those that survived her, it was never told by anyone who experienced it all first hand and who remembers it all clearly. For those unfamiliar with this formidable woman, she was a Hungarian Countess who lived in the 17th century and who was rumoured to have tortured and killed over six hundred young girls in order to bathe in their blood to maintain her youthful appearance. Her myth has been greatly embellished over the years, untruths were added and crucial facts were taken away which would have helped clarify who this woman really was and why she behaved the way that she did. Simply, the truth lies in the fact that she was Afflicted by VN73.