That’s what we always thought, but we were only half correct.
Normal vampire blood wouldn’t do it. Type 2 and 3 vampires still create rabids when they try to produce offspring.
We needed something stronger, something more powerful, to overcome the Rabidism virus. But you know that now, don’t you? You realized the missing link.”
Before I could reply, he turned and stepped to the counter behind him, picking up something with a clink. When he turned back, a vial glinted from his fingers as he held it up, full of something that shone a dark red under the lights.
“Your blood,” he murmured. “The blood of a Master vampire, combined with the experimental vaccinations we gave to Zeke Crosse before he left, all those months ago. It hasn’t been tested yet, not on a human, anyway. But you already injected that Jackal fellow, and he’s on his way to a full recovery now. So, based on that, and the research I was able to perform…” He paused, staring at the vial, his voice going faint with awe, with hope. “This…is our cure. We finally have a cure.”
Eden celebrated that night. Somehow, though the mayor and the doctor had wished to keep it quiet for now, word of the cure had leaked out of the hospital and spread like wildfire through the masses. Despite near-starvation circumstances, cases of alcohol were mysteriously unearthed from somewhere, and hunting parties had managed to return with several deer that afternoon, so the mood of the camp was jubilant. Bonfires were lit throughout the camp, and humans milled around and laughed and talked, uncaring of the few vampires who walked among them now.
I hung back from the crowds, leery of the huge fires but also not wanting to be around that many humans drunk on alcohol and giddiness. Their excited voices trickled to me as I moved through shadows, hearing snippets of conversation, about the cure, and Eden, and going home.
I couldn’t join their celebration. We had a cure. The one thing both humans and vampires had searched for, sought after, desperately needed, for six decades. Dr. Richardson had told me that, if the cure worked as he expected, any human injected with the vaccine should be rendered immune to Rabidism. It wouldn’t “cure” the rabids and turn them human again; the rabids were already dead, and death was the one thing you couldn’t cure. But it would nullify the disease and make it so the rabid couldn’t pass Rabidism on to living creatures. If you could get close enough to inject it with the cure, anyway. And a vampire who was given the vaccine would no longer be a carrier of Rabidism and would, in theory, be able to create offspring again. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a start.
I should’ve been happy.
But the cost was high. For me, anyway. The humans didn’t know. They would never understand the sacrifice that had been made so that they could live—so that we all could live.
I wished he could be here now, to see it.
Wandering the perimeter of the camp, I spotted the person I was looking for near the edge of the light and made my way toward him. Zeke also hung back from the crowds, talking to a pair of humans in the shadows. As I got closer, I recognized them, or one of them, anyway. Silent Jake, tall, dark and leaning on a crutch, shook Zeke’s hand before hobbling away with a dark-haired woman, her arm wrapped protectively around his waist. Zeke smiled faintly as I approached, his gaze distant as he watched them limp away.
“Hey, you,” I said softly, touching his elbow.
“Allie.” His voice was low, relieved, as he turned. Without hesitation, he stepped forward and kissed me, one hand pressed to the small of my back, the other against my cheek.
I closed my eyes and relaxed into him, letting myself feel safe, that we had won, if only for a moment.
“Dr. Richardson told me you were awake,” he said as we pulled back, his blue eyes intense as he gazed down at me.
“Are you all right?”
I nodded. “What about you?” I asked, running a hand across his chest, the place he’d been run through, twice. He seemed fine now. No wounds, no scars or even bloodstains.
For the first time, I was relieved that Zeke was a vampire.
Had he been human, he would definitely have been killed.
Zeke smiled grimly. “I’m all right. Took four bags of blood before I felt normal again, and I gave Dr. Thomas the shock of his life when he came to examine me. Mayor Hendricks didn’t mind, because we’d just saved his town but…I think it’s safe to say that everyone knows I’m a vampire now.”
I stroked his cheek, my voice sympathetic. “Are you okay with that?”
“It’s getting better.” He leaned into my touch. “The people here don’t trust me anymore, but I don’t blame them. They knew me as a human, but now that I’m a vampire, they don’t know what to think. I guess I’ll have to prove myself to them, to everyone, just like you did with us.”
“You plan to stay, then.”
He nodded. “Until Eden is back on its feet, at least. After that…” He shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t know if they’ll let me stay here, if they’ll let us stay here. I guess we’ll have to play it by ear, then.”
We turned. A woman stood behind him, not old but quite weathered, looking battered by hardship and life. Her light brown hair was pulled behind her, and her left hand was wrapped in bandages. Zeke broke away from me, his eyes going wide as he faced her.
“Mrs. Brooks! I didn’t know you were here. They said you had gotten off the island, but…” He paused, raking a hand through his hair, his voice thick with guilt. “I’m so sorry about your husband. And…and Matthew. I should have been there—”
She raised her hand. “Is it true what they say?” she almost whispered, though her voice was matter-of-fact. Zeke winced, shoulders hunching, as the woman continued. “That…that you’re a vampire now. Is that true?”
He bowed his head. “Yes, ma’am.”
She trembled, looking like she would flee if she could, but didn’t back away. “You’ve killed people,” she prodded, like she desperately hoped Zeke would disagree, prove her wrong.
“To…to feed yourself.”
Her face went pale, the last of her courage seeming to disappear. “Monster,” she whispered, and I had to bite my lip to keep myself from pushing forward and snarling in her face.
You want a monster? I thought furiously . I’ll show you a monster.
You’re looking at the wrong person. But Zeke didn’t say anything, only stood there with his head bowed, accepting the accusation. The woman didn’t turn and flee, either, staring at Zeke as if trying to see the demon in him.