Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a new guest short story by Bruce Woods, the author of Royal Blood.

This story can also be found on the author's Facebook page.

(You can find the previous story here.)

About Royal Blood:

Historical and fictional characters come together and change the future of Africa forever. Renowned actress Lady Ellen Terry, detective Sherlock Holmes, financier Cecil Rhodes, hunter/naturalist Frederick Courtney Selous, King Lobengula, and a mysterious, undead adventuress named Paulette Monot become chess pieces in the Great Game, which takes the form of Africa's First Matabele War.

Without Sparkles by Bruce Woods

“Blood stinks. Even fresh it has a hard, metallic odor, and when slobbered upon my clothing, it dries with a stench that would impress a dead fish.

“Believe me, I know the public conception of the mythical (to you, maybe, at least so far) creatures you call ‘vampires.’ We’re all porcelain skin, so smooth as to be almost without pores. Flesh too chilly to provide a home for microbes. Antiseptic. Immune to time. Beautiful, magical. Balms to those who, for all that they might deny it, spend their lives in search of death.

“Nope.

“Take me for example. Oh, I know I’m nice to look at. I’ve had ample evidence from both men and women that they find me appealing. Trust me, though, I’m no ethereal ice goddess.

“Consider my making, though I certainly do not want to dwell on it. I came to consciousness alone and mid transformation. Lying on the floor, I was privileged to experience my full cleansing. I’ve heard people in preparation for a colonoscopy say they’ve never felt so emptied. It is to laugh. In those moments my body purged itself of urine and feces, and all the food and liquid still in my stomach, all to be replaced with a terrible hunger. The reek of my own lost mortality splattered me, hair thick with it, pubes dreadlocked. Half clothed, bathed in shit and piss and vomit, confused and without a mentor, I must have been a pretty picture for the unfortunate who investigated the disturbance and discovered me.

“Lacking whatever finesse I might have later discovered, I thrust my filthy arm down his throat to cut off any screaming, and drank my fill. Oh, and just so you know, it’s dreadfully difficult to kill a human being. Whether attacked with fangs or knives, or even a gun, they seldom die politely as they seem to do in movies. It takes effort, and time, includes a certain amount of noise, and none of it is pretty.

“Yep. The stuff that dreams are made of.

“Suffice to say that the man whose blood had actually turned me found me in that state and, with a kindness unknown to most and certainly more than human, cleaned me, disposed of my leavings, and helped me on the road I now travel. I have probably cursed him in my time, but then my curses have fallen wide and with little discrimination.

“I’ve noted before that sunlight is seldom fatal to my kind, and that I’m no more susceptible to its rays than the palest of Scandinavians. There have been times, however, when caught in daytime and insufficiently dressed, I’ve been forced to burrow under the fragile quilt of a duff of leaves to protect myself. That shelter, of course, was shared by worms and whatever beetles toiled in the forest-mulch darkness. When the sun set I had no way to miraculously make myself clean, and, other than brushing away the worst of the clinging litter, was forced to make my way, sticks and crawling things in my hair, my remnant soiled, in search of the blood that would sustain me.

“Of course, at least once I gave way to despair (not uncommon among the undead, because eternity can be so terribly long). As many of my kind do, I attempted to starve myself, sitting huddled around my hunger’s ache like a salted slug. When devoid of nourishment, the body, mortal or no, begins to consume itself in a desperate attempt to carry on. Imagine a rotting corpse, with all the stench of decomposition, breath a reek of old blood, and flesh draped in the smells of its own slow spoilage.

“When the feeding urge finally overwhelmed me (and who or what is strong enough to ultimately resist that?) it must have been a monster indeed that appeared in the doorway of the nearest dwelling.”

There might have been a trace of sadness mixed with my resignation as I finished to my unfortunate companion. I stood, the terrible architecture of bone answering again to the ancient curse driving it erect; as irresistible as a glacier, that motion perhaps more awful even than the discourse that had gone before.

“And after hearing all that, you’re still ready to go come home with me?” I asked. His answering smile was none the wiser.

“All right, asshole.” I said, unsure whether I was talking to him or myself.

“Come on.”

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