Janeen Ippolito is an idea-charged teacher, reader, writer, book reviewer, and the Fearless Leader (president) of Uncommon Universes Press. She writes speculative fiction laced with everyday humor and cultural tension. Her co-written illustrated novella, Blood Mercy: Thicker Than Water, releases on October 29th. In her nonexistent spare time she reads, cooks, and sword-fights. Go to janeenippolito.com for world-building resources and off-the-wall insights from this sleep-deprived author.
What would you do if the one you loved was turned into a monster?
Melrose Durante brings order. As founder of the Houses of the Dead, he tirelessly opposes the vampires, and provides refuge for the Blood Kind, those like himself who fight against the blood curse that leads to vampirism. His medical breakthroughs have brought many back from the vampire path. After thousands of years, the Blood Kind finally has the upper hand.
Until a vampire attacks Melrose’s family, then begs for asylum. To his friends she’s Lucy, a disturbed young woman prone to incoherent rants, warning of an imminent attack by vampire leader, Conan. But to Melrose she’s something more.
His lost wife, Jane.
One thing is clear – time is running out. In five days Conan will attack Quebec City, killing or enslaving all in his way. If Melrose cannot unlock his wife’s tormented mind, even his immortal wisdom may not be enough to save Quebec City, the Blood Kind, and the Houses of the Dead.
Girard awoke in darkness. For a moment, the pitch black consumed his thoughts, leaving only the sound of his heart beating like a moth trapped in a jar.
Breathe in, breathe out. Panic wouldn’t help him escape.
His fingers slid on the ground around him. Pockmarked cement beneath his fingers and behind him a rough metal wall. Some sort of cell? A cold, wispy echo of air above him proved there was enough room to sit up, so he did, his legs trembling. Beads of sweat trickled down his back beneath his traditional vestments of black trousers, black shirt, and round white collar.
“There’s a chair behind you, priest.”
The man jumped, his arms flailing out. One of them connected with a hard surface. Pain shot through his palm. More careful inspection revealed a metal folding chair with a cushion on the seat. He eased himself up into the chair. If he was going to die soon, he might as well be comfortable.
“Better, yeah?” The voice was feminine, with a trace of a gravelly drawl. “I wish I could say this would be a short visit, but that’d be lying. But I get that you have a whole flock to oversee, so I promise it won’t be more than a few hours.”
The priest gulped. “A few hours? What do you—what do you mean? What am I doing here?”
A soft chuckle from across the expanse. Or from right in front of him. It was too dark to tell. “Think back, Father. What’s the last moment you remember?”
“I don’t see what that has to do with—”
“Just. Think.” A sigh. “Please.”
Something in the plaintive undertone pushed his mind into action. “I had just received a call. A shut-in, new to our congregation, wanted to make a confession and couldn’t come to the sanctuary. I was on my way to meet her…”
“And so you have.” Now he could feel the woman in front of him, her warm breath blowing across his face in another, heavier sigh. “I’m Lucy. Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been five years since my last confession.”
He blinked, but his mouth automatically formed an answer as his hands made the sign of the cross. “Go on, my child.”
“I’ve killed fifty. Seventeen men, twenty women, and three children.” Her voice caught.“The children were the hardest.”
“Wait!” The woman’s words sank into his mind, then rose to the surface once more, swirling in eddies of confusion. “What you’re saying is impossible. You’re a murderer—and to kill that many people—why confess—?”
A pause. “It’s complicated.”
While part of the priest recoiled in shock, another part numbly did the math. Leftover accountant skills from the time before his call to ministry. “Seventeen men, twenty—twenty women, three children—that doesn’t add up to fifty people.”
“They weren’t all people.”
“What were the other ten?” He braced his arms against the sides of the chair, not quite wanting to hear the answer.
“Vampires.” Eerily calm. Matter-of-fact. “Human, but badly twisted. Separated from everyday life.”
His heart froze for a moment. Then a laugh burst from his throat. “You can’t be serious. Vampires are creatures from mythology and fiction. Urban legends. Metaphors for the decay of life and the isolation of sin.”
“Yes, you did preach a homily on that a few Sundays ago. It was one of the reasons I chose you. You weren’t afraid.”
“Afraid of what?”
“To speak about the unspeakable and treat it seriously. To engage the monsters around mankind, even in normal humans. I appreciate that.” There was warm breath on his face once more. He feared that if he reached out, he might touch the mad woman. “I can speak about it too, but for me it isn’t a leap of faith.”
“Because I’m a monster. I’m a vampire.” She inhaled. The tip of her shoe tapped on the floor. “And I’m about to do something very bad. Even for me.”