When a centuries-old vampire enacts a vendetta against a beautiful woman who has scorned him, he finds himself unprepared when the beauty becomes the beast. Metamorph by Stephen M. DeBock. Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, other fine eBook vendors and Gypsy Shadow Publishing at:
What happens when Beauty becomes the Beast . . . ?
A vampire who has slaked his taste for terror through centuries of history’s darkest eras puts a hold on his covert attacks on America in order to pursue a secret vendetta against a beautiful bi-racial woman who has scorned him.
But the woman has a secret of her own. She is a metamorph, a hybrid shape-shifter with the healing powers of the vampire, the heightened senses and strengths of the werewolf, and the needs that accompany both. Needs that conflict with her strong moral code; needs which compel her to conceal her extra-human identity from the mortal man she has grown to love.
Metamorph combines known history with speculative fiction, a strong female protagonist, and the pitting of a creature of unmitigated evil against a pair of unsuspecting lovers in a complex cat-and-mouse pursuit.
Word Count: 96100
Pages to Print: 313 /292 in Print
Price: $5.99 / PRINT $15.99
Friday, January 23, 2009
Suri Clarke shivered in the darkness as she carried her shopping bag from the mall to her car. Bitter cold as it was, and with lots of parking spaces since the Christmas exchanges had tapered off, she still parked as far away from the entrance as she could. Her Weight Watchers leader had stressed walking is good exercise, and you should get as much walking in as you can every day. Keep moving, she’d said. Suri even wore a pedometer to keep track of her steps.
And the regimen was working. She had lost ten pounds in twelve weeks, and the increasing amount of give in her clothes was a real motivator. Larry had already commented on how good she looked; as for the kids, well . . . even if she grew another head they probably wouldn’t notice.
One Friday evening a month, Suri drove in to Hyattsville from Olney to shop. Not that there weren’t a plethora of shops mushrooming there, but as a Silver Spring native and a former nurse at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, she enjoyed revisiting her old haunts—though, truth to tell, they were barely recognizable anymore. What were once Washington, D.C. suburbs were now cities in their own right. Larry had been smart, she reminded herself, to relocate the family while the Montgomery County landscape was as yet unsullied by condos and cookie cutter communities.
The shopping center is showing its age, she thought, as the headlights from the few remaining hard-core shoppers carved through the darkness, leaving the lot virtually deserted. She knew where her own car was, at the end of this row, empty now except for the oversized van blocking her view of it.
She stopped. Oh shit, she thought, pardon my French. Alone, dark parking lot, strange vehicle . . . no way, José, you’re going to do that.
Suri walked back to the mall. From behind the glass double doors, she could see lights being extinguished, but the entry hall remained lit. When she arrived, she saw a middle-aged man inside, approaching with a key. With her free hand, she waved, and he opened the door.
“Help you?” he asked. The man wore dark blue slacks and a lighter blue long-sleeved shirt, creases ironed in police style. A utility belt supported a pouch of some kind, probably a first aid kit, and a flashlight.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” Suri said, “but I wonder if I might ask you to walk me to my car?”
“No problem at all,” he replied and stepped out into the cold.
“Shouldn’t you get your coat? It’s freezing out here,” she said, the cloud of her breath punctuating her point.
“Real men don’t feel the cold,” he joked. “Besides, the jacket’s in my office, and that’s way inside the mall. This won’t take long. Where’s your car?”
She pointed. “On the other side of that white van. It wasn’t there when I parked.”
They began walking. “That’s one of those Sprinters,” the security cop observed. “So tall you can stand up inside it.” He took his flashlight from his belt as they approached, and when they arrived, he shone his light into the passenger’s side window, opposite Suri’s own car in the space beside it. “Looks empty,” he said. “Can’t see farther back, there’s a curtain behind the driver’s seat, and no windows on the side. Back door doesn’t have glass in it either.” He tried the doors and found them locked. Next he turned his light onto Suri’s sedan. “It looks like a commercial van, lots of them around these days. Probably parked here for the night.”
“Does that happen?” Suri asked as she pressed the remote twice. With a blink of the parking lights, her doors unlocked.
“Sometimes you’ll see an empty car parked here. Like when two folks happen to meet inside the mall and decide to go out for a drink together.”
She nodded. “Okay, then.” Turning toward the guard, she thanked him and told him to get back inside where it’s warm.
“Happy to help,” he said as he walked hurriedly back toward the building.
Nice guy, she thought as she opened the rear door and dumped her packages on the seat. Probably retired police or military, picking up some extra bucks . . .
Something clicked behind her, as if a door were being unlocked.
Suri spun around as she saw the side door slide open. A black-clad man leaped out and pushed her against her car, one hand pressed hard against her mouth. A second man followed him and yanked her pocketbook from her shoulder. Then a third man stepped casually from the van. This one carried a pistol.
“Not a word,” the gunman said, his voice deep and gravelly. “Or you die here and now.”
“Oh God, no,” she whispered, and he pressed the pistol to her forehead.
“I said no talking. Do you understand what that means?”
She nodded, hardly daring to move, and he withdrew the pistol but moved its muzzle against her chin, pointing up. He nodded toward the van. “Get in.”
Once inside, Suri whispered, “Please, no. Please don’t hurt me. I have two sons at home.”
One of the other men, silent until now, spoke. “She thinks we’re going to rape her. Relax. Not gonna happen.”
The third slid the door closed. The weak dome light showed them all dressed in dark clothing, two in insulated jackets, their leader in a black wool overcoat that reeked of cigarette smoke. All of them looked to be somewhere in their forties. Not kids, then. Professionals.
The leader emptied Suri’s purse onto the floor. The second man, the one who had pinned her to the car, produced a felt tipped pen and a notebook and handed it to her. “Listen to me, and you won’t get hurt,” the man in the overcoat said as he removed the cash and cards from her wallet. “I want you to write the PIN for your ATM card.” She began to scribble, her hand shaking. “And your social security number. And your email address and password.”
Incongruously, she thought: Not only are they stealing my money, they’re stealing my identity, too. My God, why didn’t we subscribe to LifeLock? She finished writing and handed the notebook to the man who’d given it to her.
The leader, still holding her wallet, looked at her driver’s license. “Suri,” he said, leaning forward so his hawk-billed nose nearly touched hers. “You and I are going to get out of the van, and you are going to climb into your trunk. Tell me you intend to comply.” She nodded. “Good. I will be training this pistol on you the whole time. It’s a Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 380, which probably means nothing to you, but in a nutshell, it’s a semiautomatic with a magazine of six rounds, plus the one already in the chamber. If you attempt something I don’t like, I will press the gun into your coat and fire all seven rounds into your body. The fabric of your coat will muffle the sound of the shots. Please understand I mean what I say.”
She nodded again. Her mouth was dry; she’d been breathing through it. Her throat was frigid. She wondered if her legs still even worked. What if she stumbled getting out of the van? Would he shoot her if she fell down?
“Once you are in the trunk,” the leader said, “my friend here will place a wad of cloth inside your mouth to prevent you from calling for help. Then he will run a length of duct tape across it and around your head. After that, we will take a little drive. If you do exactly as I say, no harm will come to you. Now get out of the van and open your trunk.”
Miraculously, Suri’s legs held up. She unlocked the trunk and climbed inside. The second man shoved the gag into her mouth and wrapped it in place with duct tape. Please let me live, she thought, eyes wide and watery, the tears beginning to crystallize in the cold. She blinked furiously. The man told her to turn over. When she complied, he used a cable tie to link her wrists. Then he had her turn over again, onto her back. When he was satisfied, he backed away, leaving room for their leader. The two accomplices stood just behind him, as if they were a pair of male OR nurses observing over their surgeon’s shoulder. The third man smiled and leaned forward, his face nearing her own.
What is this, she thought. Something isn’t right. She had cooperated, done exactly as commanded, and they had promised she would be unharmed. She saw the glint in the man’s eyes, reflecting the dim illumination of the trunk light. He opened his mouth, and she felt a drop of drool on her neck.
Suri’s eyes nearly bugged out of her head as the leader’s mouth opened wider, his lower jaw extending farther than a human jaw could possibly drop. A pair of needle-sharp fangs swung down from his upper palate, like those of a rattlesnake. She began shaking violently, twisting her head from side to side, struggling with the cable tie that bound her wrists. She screamed, but only a trace mewling escaped around the gag and through the tape. The two acolytes bent down and held her firmly as he lowered his mouth to the side of her neck and pierced it with his fangs.
It didn’t hurt as much as she’d thought it would. It occurred to the nurse in her, irrationally in light of her impending death, that there might be a topical anesthetic in the man’s saliva. He withdrew his mouth to allow the fangs to pivot back and his jaw to return to normal. He lowered his lips to the raw punctures in her neck.
Suri knew there was no point in struggling further, and she closed her eyes and folded her fingers together behind her back, as if in prayer. She felt the blood being sucked from her, as if by an aspirator, heard the repeated gulps of the man’s greedy swallowing, experienced the lethargy of her body’s ebbing vitality.
When the leader had drunk his fill, he applied a strip of duct tape over the wounds. The woman was undoubtedly dead, but he was nothing if not careful, and from inside his coat he drew an instrument that looked like an obscenely elongated icepick, inserted it into her nostril, and drove the point into her brain. He withdrew the pick and applied more tape over her nostrils. No coppery scent of blood would reveal the body in the trunk.
“Nice job,” said one of the man’s companions, and the other agreed. He didn’t bother acknowledging them as he stood. His thoughts were of Suri’s family, now bereft of their beloved wife and mother. He smiled. They would find themselves even worse off than she. After all, death is final; suffering lasts forever.
It felt good to be active again, and autonomous for the first time, after almost fifteen years of anonymity. This operation, a minor opening gambit, would conclude tomorrow, and then he would leave for home. Winter break was almost over, and he needed to be back by Sunday night at the latest.