“A masterful fusion of post-apocalyptic fiction, dark fantasy, and subtle social commentary, this is, simply put, the best self-published vampire story I have read in my 20 years of reviewing. And it’s just the beginning of a series that has the potential to change the landscape of genre fiction.” -Paul Goat Allen, Blue Ink Reviews
The frigid air scraped my lungs raw. I pumped my legs faster, praying for a second wind. Stopping wasn’t an option. Their breath beat at my back, and if they caught me, I’d be dead.
I turned the corner, running down an alley. Footsteps echoed behind me. Faster. I wrenched two trashcans back into their path. A male cursed and grunted. Metal scraped against concrete. I focused on the mouth of the alley and prayed for a miracle.
A black sedan screeched to a stop in front of me. I didn’t hesitate. My legs ached with the exertion, but I just managed to launch myself onto the hood. On the other side, the landing lurched every joint in my body.
Keep running. Find the light. Red means life.
Behind me, deep voices argued. I continued down the street, cursing the heels the Castor had forced me to wear for the Prime’s birthday celebration. I couldn’t spare the precious moments to rid myself of the torture devices.
Finally, a speck of red appeared in the distance. All thoughts of sore feet and desperation evaporated. The beckoning light glowed from the porch of a squat, run-down house that looked more like a prewar crack den than a haven for the lost.
I kicked up my pace and pushed through the pain. Salvation drew closer.
My pursuers’ harsh breathing echoed off the burnt out shells of buildings and trash- strewn streets. A weathered poster bearing my own face mocked me from the brick walls of an old induction center. In red ink along the bottom, the Troika’s slogan, the hated words I’d repeated so often on radio broadcasts and in speeches to grim-faced prisoners: “Blood will make you free.”
Not a soul lurked in the shadows. Most humans now slaved in work camps or blood camps. Rebels sought refuge in the burnt-out cities, but if any were watching me from the darkened windows, their survival instincts precluded them from interfering in Troika business. After all, my pursuers wore the telltale black uniforms of the secret police. The lightning symbol on their breasts had become a graphic promise of pain.
Not far now. If I could just–
Pain exploded on my scalp. My head whipped back with the force of the fist jerking back on the ponytail. My feet snapped out from under me. He used my hair to keep me from hitting the ground. The agony made me wish I’d hit concrete instead.
It was Sergei, one of the Prime’s personal guards, who’d caught me. The one who always watched me while caressing his precious riding crop. “Got you, bitch.” His eyes burned like hot coals. Fangs flashed as he panted for breath. “Now we can add evading arrest to your list of crimes.”
His partner doubled over, trying to catch his breath. I didn’t know his name, but he had the wild eyes of a male who enjoyed his job too much. He glanced up at the glowing red light on the front of the house, now only twenty feet away. “She almost made it.”
“Almost doesn’t count,” Sergei said, tugging my hair harder. He leaned in at my grimace. “You like that?” he whispered. “There’s more coming.” I gritted my teeth and waited for my opportunity. “Call headquarters and have them send a rover to retrieve her.”
With the partner distracted, I slapped his fist to my scalp, holding it in place and easing the pressure. I scraped my heel down his shin and stabbed the tip into his foot. With a yelp, he released me. I grabbed the crop from his slack hold and jerked it against his windpipe.
It happened so fast his friend didn’t see it. He spoke into his radio, his back to me, “Repeat: Meridian Six has been subdued–”
I grabbed the blade from my garter and made his last words dissolve into a wet gurgle. As he fell, I grabbed his gun from his hand and turned it on Sergei.
“You won’t be allowed to live.” His words the confidence of a man determined to deliver the deathblow. “You’d already be dead if Director Castor didn’t want the pleasure for himself.”
I put the gun to his head. Pulled the trigger. His body jerked. Wetness splashed my face. I dropped his body and hauled ass toward the steps.
It happened as if in slow motion. I ran toward the door, my hand rose to pound. The roar and vibration of the Troika’s arriving craft shook the building. The panel in front of me flew open. A female in red robes opened her mouth in shock, reaching for me. The blast ripped through the night. Fire exploded in my left shoulder. I fell in slow motion, the world a blur of pain–fell across the threshold and into the acolyte’s arms. Blood filled my vision.
Red means life.
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Excerpt From: “Meridian Six.” Copyright Jaye Wells 2013. All rights reserved.