As promised, here’s my first entry in the Build Creative Writing Ideas 1,000 Prompts, 1,000 Dollars Writing Contest.
The Reluctant Vampire
“If we read the text carefully, we see that Decimus is building a compelling case for the Athenians to avoid open battle. While not the most aggressive strategy, it had its merits. It might have worked, too, if not for external circumstances. Who can tell me what happened?” Nathaniel lifted his gaze from his creased lecture notes.
His students sat at tables that had been requisitioned from the biology lab years ago and still carried a faint whiff of formaldehyde. A few students were typing at a speed that far outpaced Nathaniel’s lecture. Facebook, no doubt. Others doodled in the margins of notebooks, heads pillowed on their arms. Headphone cords dangled from several pairs of ears. The boy in the third row bopped his head in time to the beat, his mussed hair capturing the sunlight pouring through the window. Nathaniel took an involuntary step backward. The nutritional concoction the vampires had developed fifty years ago included a compound that protected against the enzyme-zapping properties of sunlight, but old habits were hard to break.
“Does anyone recall from the readings I gave you what happened in Athens in 430 BCE?” Nathaniel repeated, pushing the bridge of his spectacles as they slid down his nose.
One of the girls in the front row snapped her gum as she raised her hand, cocking her head to one side. Her dark ponytail fell over one shoulder.
“Yes, Miss Gonzales?”
“Um, Professor Harris? How much of this will be on the test?”
Nathaniel adjusted the knot of his olive tie. “Everything.”
This drew reactions. Cell phones clattered to the floor, texts unsent. Pencil lead snapped against notebook paper. Earbuds were shoved down the front of shirts. Several laptop lids opened while another closed. Nathaniel wanted to laugh but here he was Nathan Harris and Nathan Harris did not laugh.
His notes blurred before his eyes but he didn’t need them. He’d composed several first-hand accounts of the plague himself, often writing under the name Decimus.
“Plague. Plague strikes Athens, already crowded by refugees from the country. One-third of the population killed by disease. People die alone in the streets, their bodies dragged to funeral pyres that never cease burning.” Nathaniel felt memory stir in his blood. Was it his imagination or did the charred scent of funeral pyres suddenly permeate the stale air? Nathaniel frowned, puzzled by the seductive pulse in his voice.
“The plague is devastating. Social order breaks down. People turn their backs on the gods. There is chaos, civil unrest. And all that blood… Thick, brackish blood oozing from wounds, just waiting for someone to come along and lick it up.”
It was the blood that had drawn the vampires to Athens that year, even though they normally avoided human disease. The confusion in Athens made it easier for Nathaniel and his ilk to blend in and feast on what truly nourished them: chaos.
The students were looking at him in a way they had never looked at Nathan Harris. Their eyes were wide and tension stiffened their shoulders.
“Sound familiar, little ones?” he purred, using his true voice for the first time in generations. “Do you think your charming metropolis of Cold Foot Harbor, Maine is any different than beleaguered Athens? I have seen it all before. Economic collapse as the factories shut down. A frayed social net ready to snap. The little voice inside saying that this mediocre education won’t get you farther than your own front door. You are trapped. Chaos and unrest lurk beneath the surface. All it needs is a little blood to push it over the edge.”
Nathaniel coughed, the words catching in his throat, and realized he was as shocked as his students. His hands gripped the edge of the lectern, his knuckles white. His temperature had risen and sweat beaded his brow. He hadn’t come this close to revealing his true self since the vampires established their underground cities and turned their backs on humans centuries ago. There were only a few outliers like him who assumed dull identities and came to the surface, unable to shake the cold routine of living.
Nathaniel drew a breath, gasped, and swallowed hard against the lump in his throat. He looked into their eyes, which was a mistake. Arrogance coursed through him when their gazes darted away, to the floor or the ceiling, trying not to draw attention to themselves. He breathed deeply again, which might have helped, were it not for the breeze whispering from the vent. The HVAC hummed as the air wafted along the aisles, carrying the delicious scent of warm blood.
Nathaniel’s nostrils flared and he shuddered. The lectern cracked, the sound a shotgun blast. The students jumped, too afraid to flee. Nathaniel screwed his eyes shut. For an instant he was back in Athens, licking blood from an old man, Bastion grinning across the body at him. A woman shrieked, the cry ringing in his ears. His eyes snapped open, not knowing whether the woman cried in his vision or if the sound came from the classroom.
“Class dismissed,” he whispered. The students bolted as if he had released them from a spell. In a moment they were gone, a fluttering piece of notebook paper the only evidence that they had ever been there.
Nathaniel remained in the classroom until shadows lengthened over the floor. Only after the bloodlust had gone did he trust himself to leave. As he walked through the woods to the clearing that marked the entrance to Loscillium, he started shaking. He sat on a log, holding his head in his hands. If he had slipped and cornered one of the students, perhaps the lovely Miss Gonzales with her slender neck, it would have taken more than a classroom of twenty-year-olds to keep him from draining her. And for that, the Guardians of Loscillium would certainly find a way to kill him.
Word Count: 985