Whilst waiting for the proof-read of my new novel to be completed, I revisited the Black no Sugar short story collection. I couldn’t help but notice that two of the stories are – and let’s be honest about this – a bit shit. I’ve replaced them with Supercide, a story that has appeared on this site before, and a new story: The Vampire Dairies. I also re-edited the story Exit Strategy because the writing seemed clunky in places. So I guess you could say the collection’s been digitally remastered.
For anyone who bought the old version of the collection and won’t have it, here’s The Vampire Dairies
Councilwoman Pembroke was losing patience and it showed. “What you do not seem to understand is that your sympathy for these creatures is misplaced. They are specifically bred for the purpose. They do not know anything else.”
Patrick attempted to keep his voice from rising in pitch, knowing he would undermine his point should he sound too peevish, but knowing he had a less than negligible chance of winning this age-old argument anyway. “The fact that they are bred for the purpose makes it worse, not better. They suffer regardless. All you are saying is that it is acceptable for creatures to know only suffering.”
“They do not only suffer.”
“With respect, Councilwoman, in which period of their lives do they not suffer? Perhaps you are referring to the brief nighttime hours in which the pumps are disengaged and the creatures have some respite from being slowly drained of their fluid but are still restricted in their cells, unable even to turn around? Or perhaps you refer to the morning feeds in which the pipes lodged deep into their windpipes flood their stomachs with the composite of nutrients designed to bring about the highest yield?”
“You are being churlish. You call suffering what I call existing. We are talking about animals, Patrick.”
“Are we not animals?”
Councilwoman Pembroke’s nostrils flared in disgust. “We most certainly are not. We may share the physical form with these specimens but that is where the similarities end. I do not have time for this. The intensive farms are necessary to feed the population, if they trouble you then you can feel free to patronise any one of the many free-range farms that seem to be springing up everywhere.”
“The free-range farms are an improvement, but barely. The creatures are allowed little space to roam, and only for the minimum period required to meet the extremely limited standard. And besides, within a few years, when the creatures are no longer at maximum productivity, they are terminated.”
The Councilwoman eyed her screen, signifying that the conversation was all but over. She glanced back at him one more time. “I’m sorry Patrick but this is how it is. I appreciate the effort you have put in to produce the material to support your motion but it simply will not fly. Human welfare is not on anybody’s list of priorities at the moment. There is the small matter of the economy to attend to.”
Patrick walked out into the night. He had known his efforts would be fruitless but had known he had to try just one more time. Now he was certain what he had to do. He could attend his next meeting, not with any satisfaction, but at least with the knowledge that all other possibilities have been exhausted.
The location for the next meeting was in far less illustrious surroundings. The offices of the supreme council were imposing, extravagant, a statement of the machinery of power contained therein. The rendezvous he now headed for was to be held far out of town, its exact whereabouts not yet known to him. All he knew was the meeting point. A service station, long disused and dilapidated since his kind took power and the need for fuel was eradicated.
He pondered on how the world had once been ruled by oil. It had defined nations, had started and ended so many wars. But it was not oil that started the last war, the shortest war in history. The war in which his kind had seized control in an instant, their speed and strength more than a match for the weapons stockpiled by humankind.
Patrick was a young vampire, starting his new life just as the creation law was being implemented, the law forbidding the turning of humans. The law had been imposed as a panacea to the problem of overpopulation. Humans had been happy to live cheek by jowl, crammed into their limited land masses. His kind could not tolerate that level of crowding and so, soon after taking control, they had addressed the problem at source. It had not been popular in all quarters and it was not by any means unconditional – by any means being the operative phrase because it was the wealthy and the powerful who were able to find a way around it.
Patrick’s relatively short-lived time as a vampire gave him a different perspective than most, whose views towards humanity had had centuries, perhaps millennia to form and calcify. It also made him, if not a target for ridicule, then at least somebody with a reputation for liberal, naïve thinking. Patrick rarely won a political or sociological debate and he now knew that the brief discussion with the Councilwoman had been his last attempt to do so.
He arrived on the station forecourt and saw the unfamiliar flash of car headlights. He approached the vehicle. A male human was in the front seat, ushering him inside. Patrick, his hands and body unused to the mechanics of the thing, opened the door and climbed into the passenger seat.
The car, like all things human, was a relic from a bygone age, kept alive by an ingenuity borne out of the most desperate necessity. The rumbling journey was slow, unbearably so, and more than once Patrick thought about asking if he could just meet the man’s associates at their destination – in short, get out and fly – but he did not want to offend. This was not out of a desire to be polite but because he knew that there would be enough suspicion on the part of those he was due to be meeting, and presumably from his current chaperone, and he had no intention of making things more complicated than they already were.
The man did not speak to him on the journey, made longer by its clandestine nature, the need to stay out of sight. The headlights were left off for that reason, which made no odds to Patrick – in fact it afforded him a better view – but of course it meant that his driver was unable to proceed at any kind of pace.
After what felt like years to Patrick they arrived at their destination: the barn of a decrepit smallholding set deep into woodland. Patrick followed the man into the barely upright structure of rotting beams to a candlelit table in the centre. The few remaining humans living beyond the fringes of this new society knew better than to trumpet their location with the heavy footprint of a power supply.
There were four humans, one of them female, sat around the table. They looked tired, weak. They looked like people who had been forced to eke out an existence in the wild under constant fear of discovery and execution.
The meeting lasted several hours, not least because a good deal of time was spent on him proving his credentials, demonstrating that he was not their enemy. He understood their caution but as he pointed out time and time again, if he was not there to help them then he could only have been there to kill them. He struggled to convey that his kind did not play what the humans would call the long game. There would be no attempt at infiltration of their group with a view to garnering more detailed knowledge of their plot, there would only be death. He was surprised that the humans saw this as a threat on his part. Patrick had never been a great diplomat.
Eventually they listened to what he had to say, perhaps not trusting him but realising that he was the only chance they had. He passed to the rebels the information he had accumulated whilst carrying out his research into the dairy farms. It was information that was the only lifeline anybody was going to throw to this half-dead rabble of survivors driven perhaps not even by their cause anymore, a cause that had been all but lost over years of oppression and genocide, but by the simple thirst for revenge.
As the night faded the humans glanced at the thin slats between themselves and the outside and threw him quizzical looks. Patrick knew what they were thinking. If only there had been a way of them knowing what he had planned, he could have saved a great deal of the time he’d spent attempting to prove his sincerity.
The meeting over, he was thanked by the rebels, more warmly by some than others, but no matter, Patrick wasn’t trying to garner gratitude. Patrick was driven by a need to do what he could. He had now done all he could.
He walked outside, the shafts of early morning sunlight breaking the canopy of the woodland and striking his head and body like artillery fire. His walking was impeded as the blows rained upon him but he continued on his brief but heavy quest to a clearing in the trees, bathed in sunlight. He reached the patch of exposed earth and what was left of him erupted into flame.
Patrick did not scream.
Nobody’s under daft illusions about tonight. We all know we’re probably fucked but let’s face it, we’re fucked anyway. Communication, just like everything else for us these days, including living, is almost impossible. We’ve got fuck all in the way of technology or transport so we’ve got to do this the old-fashioned way, the way we’ve got used to doing things. It’s meant to be a coordinated attack, that’s the only way it’s going to make any kind of difference. It relies on all of us making our move at the same time. And it relies on none of us getting caught, no-one in our group and nobody in any of the other groups making a push today. If any of us gets caught then they’ll know what we’ve done and the whole thing will have been for nothing.
I don’t know how many other groups there are, none of us has any way of knowing that, and I don’t know how many of these factory farms there are. All I know is that we can try and do our bit, and do it right.
I don’t want to go inside, none of us does. It’s not because we’re scared for ourselves. We’ve all written our lives off already, this is no kind of existence. What we’re scared of is what we’re going to see when we get in there. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be worse than I could ever imagine. I know we’re going to find people, helpless people – possibly babies, I’ve heard that’s a bit of a delicacy to them – trapped in tiny cages, not people anymore, not to the farmers, just a collection of arteries – veins to be tapped. I know we’re going to see them and want to help them, but we know we can’t help them. We need to get in and get out, we need to leave without them knowing we were ever there.
We’re going under cover of daylight. We’ve got no weapons, they’d be no use anyway. All we’ve got is the syringes. It might not work, Saint Patrick the Martyr might have been fucking with us, or he might just have been wrong, simple as that. But we’ve got to try.
Apparently the farmers rarely check their product for sickness, the logic being that the poor fuckers being milked are kept in, like, sanitised conditions, so they don’t catch anything. But from time to time, just to keep the public happy, they run it through a screening process, make sure it’s got nothing nasty in it.
But what they don’t screen for – or so we’ve been told at least – is all the old shit, all the human diseases that were cured long ago, before the goofy fuckers took charge.
I don’t know how our boys did it, perhaps they know some other sympathetic vampires, whatever, they managed it somehow. They’ve brewed us up a right nasty potion, a sick little cocktail of the strongest, deadliest viruses and infections and, fuck, I don’t know the science, but I know it’s strong shit. I know I’d die if I so much as touched the purple stuff in those tubes.
We don’t know if it’ll work on vampires, but what we’ve got here is, like, the caviar of sickness, and if anything’s going to work then this will.
We might not change the world, we might not change anything, but if enough of us get enough of this shit into their food chain, liquid chain – it’s not like they actually eat, they just drink the red stuff. If we can do that before they know to sterilise the supply then we can fuck them up, and that’s something.