The tower that was Bishop's home was quite a good deal more ominous at night than it had been during the day. It was cold. Wind howled throughout the hedges and bent the boughs of trees. Their leafless branches danced like skeleton fingers clutching at empty air. Moonlight shown through dark, ash-colored clouds from high above. But this wasn't what creeped-out Chris most. No, it was the gravestones that lined the path up to the main gate. She had never cared much for graveyards.
Chris had seen these same stones during the light of day and had not been bothered by them. During the night, it was a different story. An old childhood fear long gone rose once more to the surface. Her imagination dredged up the quintessential creaking of coffin lids as they opened. Echoing around her were moans of the dead as they struggled against their confines and clawed their way through earth and mud to reach the surface, reaching out for her.
"Stop it!" Chris chastised herself. She had no time for this horror film imagery racing in her thoughts. Chris quickly made her way up the path to the metal gate. Once she closed it behind her she felt safer, as though this small barrier would offer her some protection from the zombies of her imagination. With a deep breath she turned and made her way up to the main door. She was about to reach up and use the heavy brass knocker when the door opened of its own accord.
Chris had expected a door as large as this to groan on it hinges, but it was as quiet as a grave as it swung open. Chris peered inside the door the same way most people do when they feel they're about to intrude into a place they may not be welcome.
"Hello?" She said. Her voice echoing down the long hallway. Candlelight was the only illumination of the interior. "Is there anyone home?" There was no answer. Slowly, Chris stepped inside. The large door swung itself shut once she was through. Chris panicked. She worried she might be trapped inside now. Chris reached out and discovered the door was not locked and opened quite easily. With a breath of relief, Chris let the door swing closed again. Then she turned and started down the hallway.
"Hello?" She called once more. Was no one at home? Maybe it would be wiser to leave and come back in the morning. Chris thought this over for a time. However, the door in the hallway flew open and Bishop stepped out.
He wore a white button down shirt, sweater vest and a pair of round rim glasses. He carried a small vial of yellow liquid. He held the vial up close to his face for a moment and shook it for a few seconds. Then looked at it again. He turned and started to go down the long hallway. Suddenly he paused and stood rock still as if he were a statue. Slowly Bishop turned around and faced Chris. "Ms. Sparrow," Bishop said in surprise. He reached into a pocket of the vest and pulled out a small pocket watch and flipped its lid open. "Earlier than I expected. But you're here all the same."
He snapped the watch lid closed and slipped it back into the vest pocket. Bishop turned and moved down the hallway once more. Chris ran to catch up with him. "I'm sorry to barge in like this," she said, "You're going to think I'm crazy, but Well its like this," Chris sighted in exasperation, "God this is hard to explain."
"You've had a unusual day," Bishop said back at her, "You've observed things and creatures you've never seen before."
"Yes!" Chris said excitedly, "Yes, that's right!" She felt relieved in a way. Perhaps there would be some simple explanation to everything after all.
"I was afraid of that." Bishop said. Whatever hope Chris had that there would be an easy way out of all this crumbled when she heard Bishop say those words. However, she followed Bishop back into the vast library.
Bishop moved over to the massive stone computer. He sat in a chair before it and began to punch in a series of commands through the keyboard. A small slot on top of the monitor slid open. Bishop picked up the vial and pulled free its rubber cap, then poured the yellow liquid into the slot. The slot slid closed once more and Bishop looked at the display screen. A moment later the computer began to make a harsh whining, groaning noise. Smoke began bellowing from around the tubing and wires.
Bishop looked over at Chris, "Would you believe me if I told you this is one of the most sophisticated computers on Earth?" he asked.
"What's wrong with it?" Chris asked as she came over next to Bishop.
Bishop fanned the smoke away from him, "It's having problems analyzing the chemical I just put in," he answered, "Personally I think it just has severe emotional issues." Bishop hammered his fist on top of the computer mainframe, "Come on, just work will you!" he snapped. Suddenly the computer stopped whining and made a pleasant humming sound. The smoke cleared away. "That's better." Bishop said. He looked at the screen's readout and frowned. It was obvious to Chris he did not like what he was seeing.
"What is it?" Chris asked. Bishop looked at her for a moment. Then he motioned for her to take a seat next to his. Chris sat down as Bishop turned off the monitor.
"Ms. Sparrow, have you ever heard stories about vampires, wizards? Those sort of things?" he asked.
Chris nodded her head, "I've read quite a lot of fantasy books over the years," she said. "And could you call me Chris?" she asked, "'Ms. Sparrow' makes me feel like my mother is around here someplace."
"As you wish, Chris," Bishop said. "As you've no doubt noticed today, those creatures are real, not just the workings of someone's imagination."
"That's what scaring me," Chris said feeling very frightened indeed, "None of this makes any sense. Since last night I feel as if the world has been turned upside down and I'm in a bad dream or something."
"This is no dream, Chris. Everything you've seen today is real," Bishop said. "All the creatures you've seen are real. They have always been here. You've just never been able to perceive them until today."
"But why?" Chris asked. She sounded on the edge of tears. "How?"
"The same way dogs can hear sounds that the human ear can't," Bishop explained. "Or that a cat can see better in the dark. Humankind cannot see these creatures as they truly are. It all has to do with evolution."
"But why can I see them now?" Chris asked. "How is it possible?"
"There are humans who are gifted to see these beings," Bishop said. "In most cases these are the mentally deranged. Everything they see is passed off as symptoms of a diseased mind."
"Are you saying I'm going insane?" Chris asked.
"No." Bishop said. "You are not going insane. There is a very good reason why you are able to see the world as you do now. When you were attacked last night, you were exposed to a chemical agent that is altering your genetic makeup."
"What?" Chris said. In with the sadness there was now a hint of fear.
"It is really quite simple Chris," Bishop explained. "You are not a human any longer. You are becoming a vampire."
I guess under the circumstances Chris took the news of her condition as well as she could. Discovering the world as you know it was never real. Creatures from myth and legends are walking around everyplace. And you're turning into a vampire as well. All this in one sitting may have been a bit much to take.
It is no wonder she passed out.
Perhaps I should have tried to cushion the blow a bit. But there is no easy way to go about telling someone something like this. I took Chris back up to the bed she slept in the night before and returned to the library. Things are a bit more complex than I led Chris to believe.
I had the computer do a detailed analysis of the NOX drug. It seems to be composed of three chemical agents, one of which is something akin to cocaine. But this drug has been refined. It is a lot more powerful and highly addictive. It is my guess that people who use it once are hooked instantly.
The second agent is a mutated version of hemoglobin, or blood - vampire blood to be specific. This is bonded with the cocaine on a molecular level. But the vampire blood is in such a diminutive quantity, that I find it hard to believe that this is what's causing the users to turn. They would have to be exposed to several million times the amount of vampire DNA present in NOX to begin to show signs of turning.
That is why I believe it is the third substance that is the driving force behind the changes. Somehow it is using vampire blood to alter the user's genetic makeup. But how it is going about this I do not know. I am still unable to even tell what the third substance is. The computer has no record of such a chemical in its database.
So I am left with many questions. Who is supplying NOX on the streets, and why? And just how is it being created and from what?
And now sadly I have a new question. What of Chris Sparrow? Is there any way I can help her? Or is she to suffer the fate of the others exposed to NOX?
Chris did not get out of bed the next morning nor did she get out the next evening. She simply laid curled up into a ball beneath the covers of the old bed. She did not get out of bed on the second day, nor the third. On the fourth day, Bishop came to check on her.
He knocked gently upon the door, "Chris," he called as he opened it. "How are you doing?" he asked. Chris said nothing. She did not move or make any sign that she had heard Bishop. For all Bishop knew she could have been dead. He walked over to the side of the bed and sat down beside where Chris laid buried underneath the covers. "I know this isn't easy for you," Bishop said, putting his hand on the lump of covers over her.
"Just go away." Chris said, her voice muffled by the blankets.
"Chris, you can't stay in this bed for the rest of eternity," Bishop said.
"What are you going to do," Chris asked, "toss me out into the streets? Fuck, can I even go outside during the day? Or would I turn into a roman candle?"
"You are not a full vampire yet," Bishop said, "but I would advise trying to avoid direct sunlight. Your eyes and skin will be very sensitive now."
Chris said nothing to this. Slowly Bishop peeled back the covers. Chris didn't bother to look up at him. "I'm turning into a monster," she said softly with a hint of sadness in her voice.
Bishop shook his head, "You are not becoming a monster," he said. "Vampirism is the result of genetic mutation. All your senses will be enhanced. Your muscular systems shall be strengthened. Plus the aging process is halted altogether."
"What about the blood drinking?" Chris asked.
Bishop hesitated before answering. "I won't lie to you," he said at last. "There are negative effects as well. Blood drinking and sensitivity to sunlight are two of them." Chris closed her eyes and covered herself with her arms.
"But you're not a monster." Bishop said to her. "How you live with this gift is up to you."
"Gift!" Chris snapped. "GIFT!" she yelled. Now she was moving. She sat bolt upright and glared at Bishop. Her eyes were burning a bright red, "This is no gift! It's a goddamn curse!"
"One man's curse, is another's gift," Bishop stated. "There are people who would welcome what has come to you by chance."
"Oh really?" Chris snapped.
"Yes. Because you get to live," Bishop said. "How do you think people who have some fatal illness would feel being given a chance to live and be healthy?"
"Living only by feeding on the blood of others!" Chris snapped. "Do you think they would welcome that?!"
Bishop shook his head in frustration. "Look, this isn't going to be easy at first. But in time you'll adjust to the changes in your life. And I'll be here to help you."
"How can you help me?" Chris asked.
"There's a shower in the bathroom. And clothes in the wardrobe." Bishop said. "Clean yourself and get dressed."
"Why?" Chris asked.
"Because we're going out." Bishop answered.