Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Short fiction: On An Empty Shore VIII FINAL

Only Forward

I was stupid to think that things would last. I was a fool to imagine that I would remain the unofficial lord of the city. It had to change, and change it did. They arrived during the late afternoon so I wasn’t around to see the convoy of trucks pull in. I was so sound asleep in my lair I didn’t hear a thing but I knew things were different the moment I got up.

It wasn’t easy to pin what the difference was until I heard a diesel engine and saw the sweep of headlights as the vehicle swung down Buitengracht Street. At first I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was an old Land Rover Defender and it had been heavily reinforced with bars over the windows and big-ass bull bars on the front. The thing was dented and dusty but there was no mistaking the power in its engines.

I got goosies just listening to the growl as it powered past.

At first I was excited. I mean, people! Strangers from upcountry! We were saved. Estelle was really happy. They were packing their things, getting the children ready when I arrived.

“They’re coming to fetch us,” she said. Her eyes were bright with tears.

That’s when it struck me. I’d be on my own again.

“Where are you going?” I asked her and tried to sound casual.

“They have a new city they’ve made, on the banks of the Orange River. There are no zombies there and they can defend it easily.”

Oh my god. That was more than a thousand kilometres away.

“Why there? Why can’t they build closer to home?” I asked.

I don’t think she picked up on my disappointment because she didn’t stop smiling. “It’s a new beginning. There’s water and the place is clean. The children will be able to play because there is a fence.”

I knew then I wouldn’t go with. I didn’t belong there. It wasn’t just the fact that the men who’d come wore military-style uniforms and carried the biggest guns I’d ever seen. I could smell it. These weren’t just survivors. These men were hard. I could see it in their eyes. They’d not ask questions about me. They wouldn't listen to explanations. They’d shoot me.

Part of me wanted to argue with Estelle but I couldn’t. I knew they’d be safer though I worried about the strangers’ motives. They were making a big deal about asking after the women and children. Why would they want the women and children?

I thought about crazy Gerrit Smuts in the Castle. He’d not wanted to open the gates, or so Estelle told me, but when he saw the strangers had bigger guns, he let them right in. I heard then they shot him. Just like that. They went in then one of the guys pulled out his pistol and shot Gerrit right between the eyes.

Then I thought about the lions, how the big males sometimes banded up and went into another male’s territory. They would fight and occasionally the rogue males drove off the older male, killed all his cubs then mated with the females.

Estelle, Betty and the kids didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. Or maybe they forgot about me. I hung back when the truck came to fetch them and I think Estelle was so busy trying to round up the last of the little ones she completely forgot I was still there.

The dude driving the truck was a big, dark-skinned man who spoke with a French accent. His companion was as large, but spoke with an American accent and I didn’t like the size of his rifle, so I stayed in the shadows. They noticed a lot of stuff around them, their gazes roaming about so I didn’t want to take the chance that they’d spot me.

A younger couple I recognised from Mouille Point was in the back of the truck already. They were talking and laughing, and helped pull the others’ stuff into the vehicle.

I stood like a statue, hardly daring to believe this happened. Even when the big black guy slammed the tailgate up it didn’t feel real. Then, in an angry roar of fumes, the truck lurched down the road and the last I saw of my warmbloods was their pale faces peering out at the world they were leaving behind.

And now?

Not everyone left with the convoy that went north. There were people, wild ones who never spoke to the others, who decided to take their chances with the zombies. The gangs moved in and I didn’t stop them. I became a shadow again, slipping between other shadows.

I killed a warmblood three months after my people left. He asked for it because he was walking around at night. I stalked him so that he knew he was being hunted. I chased him so that he thought he’d get away. And then I killed him. I ripped his throat out and I drank my fill.


That’s what vampires were supposed to do. I didn’t feel like pretending to be anything but that anymore. My game had been nice while it lasted, but it had only served to remind me that it was in my nature to hunt, stalk and kill. It didn’t help to dull that horrible ache in my chest, but if I let it take over, I didn’t have to think about why the ache was there.

Sometimes I climbed Lion’s Head when it was full moon. Warmbloods often used to do that in the old days. I guess someone had to continue with the ritual. The moon rose big and orange over the Hottentot’s Holland mountains, like a big eye. To me it was as bright as day. Even warmbloods could see well in this light. How many more times would I climb this mountain to watch the moon rise over a dead city? Would I stand sentinel for five years more? A hundred? Would the warmbloods return?

I didn’t have an answer to these questions but I’d keep climbing that mountain to watch the moon rise. I knew that much.

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  1. Loved this ending, wholly appropriate to the entire flow of the story. Thanks so much Nerine, for sharing this tale.

  2. I've loved this story. Awesome stuff indeed.