Amiens, France, 1918
“YOU don’t have to die. There is another choice.”
Denis Langlois forced his eyes open through the pain of the bullet wounds riddling his legs. The sun had long since set, though the heat of the August night had not in any way dissipated. “What choice?” His voice cracked on the words, pain and lack of water making it hard to speak.
It must have been a trick of the moonlight, because Denis swore he saw fangs when the man smiled. “You become one of us,” the man answered softly. “A different kind of existence, true, but a better choice than death.”
So the fangs were not a trick of the light. He had heard all the old stories of vampires, but in this modern age, he had discounted them as old wives’ tales pulled out to scare disobedient children into compliance. Perhaps he had been hasty to dismiss them so easily.
Denis hesitated, but he was only nineteen. He was not ready to die. “Will it hurt?”
“Less than those holes in your body. You needn’t fear. We look out for our own. If you choose to be turned, I’ll make sure you’re safe.”
“What’s your name?”
Denis took another breath with difficulty. He did not have long to make his choice. “I don’t want to die.”
The vampire swooped down on him, his lips closing over the muddied skin of Denis’s neck, his fangs piercing deep. It hurt, but nothing like the bullets had, just as Luc had promised. Denis felt the world going black and had a moment’s panic that the vampire had lied to him. Then blood filled his mouth, sweet and strong and so very delicious. He swallowed once, then again, feeling the pain begin to fade, first from his neck and then from his abdomen and finally from his legs. Far too soon, Luc pulled his arm from Denis’s mouth.
“I wasn’t done,” Denis complained, looking around the wretched battlefield at the dead and dying men, some of whom seemed locked in embraces much as he had just been.
“My blood will turn you,” Luc said. “It won’t sustain you. For that, you must feed on mortal blood. Come. You can survive a few hours without feeding. We must get you inside and somewhere safe. Dawn is not far off.”
“The others….” Denis gestured to the tableau behind him.
“I am not the only vampire in Amiens,” Luc explained. “We offer the dying a choice. If they choose death, we offer to speed it along. If they choose to become a vampire, we help them over that threshold as well.”
Denis nodded and followed Luc back along the road to Amiens. He felt weak, like he had not eaten recently, but not helpless like he had on the battlefield. He noticed other things as he walked. Though the moon had started to set, he had no problem seeing the outlines of the trees and the bumps in the road, almost as if it were daylight.
The thought of daylight sent a shiver down his spine, instincts he could not explain shying away from the mere remembrance of the burning rays. His days and nights would be reversed now. He wondered what else would be changed.