Excerpt: Still seeing subject X as wan and lackluster, Heinemann yet again increased the electrical current. The beast screamed and managed to snap one of his restraints. In response, a guard opened up. For ten seconds, machine gun bullets struck the lycanthrope moving him about as if he was a rag doll. They were coated in silver and therefore deadly to him. In his final moments he reverted to human form and became little more than a bullet riddled boy. “Why?” he asked Glass before he died, but didn’t receive an answer. What was there to say?
Subject X slipped into a coma. There was lycanthrope blood everywhere including on Heinemann and Glass. There was blood on the guards. It was all Glass could do not to throw up. He couldn’t help shaking and was surprised that Heinemann looked so very still. One of the guards tried to speak but the words would not come. Glass washed his face in a basin of water and tried calming himself with brandy from a bottle that was kept on a top shelf but it didn’t help.
The guard who had fired was dismissed from his post but the damage had already been done. Heinemann was devastated. His only hope of any useful outcome was now to somehow revive the vampire. When he was able to speak, he arranged for her to be fed intravenously with various human blood types in order to stimulate her mind and bring her back to him.
“If we knew her name,” Glass ventured. “If we called her by name it might help.”
“Kara,” said Heinemann with a faint smile. “She told me her name the night we captured her.”
“Yet you have insisted on calling her subject X.”
“Ya. For professional reasons. It does not pay to become too attached to one of your subjects. Do you understand?”
“Ya, Herr Doktor.”
A week later subject X did revive. She snapped her bonds and, before her guards could respond, she snapped their necks. She then proceeded to hunt down Glass and Heinemann. She caught up with them in a small library near the lab. They tried to lock her out but she was too strong. The bolt across the door shattered. Glass used his crucifix but she didn’t seem at all concerned by it. He wondered if it was because he was losing his belief in a just and merciful God or whether it had something to do with the blood transfusion. She threw Heinemann hard against a bookcase breaking his spine. An old encyclopedia fell on his head further injuring him.
“Why?” screamed subject X at Glass who was cowering in a corner. She shook him until he answered.
“He did it for science!” cried Glass, at last, pointing a nervous finger at Heinemann.
“The money. God help me, I didn’t want to be poor ever again! I didn’t want to starve ever again!”
“Rest assured, little man, you won’t.”
Subject X opened her mouth to reveal her fangs. Her breath was fetid but he expected that. Her teeth glinted at him. They sank into his neck, and a warmth he didn’t know he had begun to leave him. He was dying and rather quickly. She was beautiful in her own way. Quite stunning. The slightly darker-than-his-own skin of her cheek touching his cheek as she fed was somewhat erotic. Her breasts moving against his chest was provocative but it meant nothing. How could it mean something when he was fading away? And he was a fool. Just as well, he thought as the last ebb of life left him.
REVIEW BY LYN McCONCHIE: I’ve always liked Rod’s work so I was happy to hear that he had a second short story collection appearing in America. (Previous work was 20th Century Dart.) This is a solid little collection of 20 stories. In my opinion, a couple of the tales are a little weak but overall there’s a good feel to the work as you read. The stories flow from one to the other, and the themes are consistent, with a unifying character to hold them together well.
Rod tends to write horror, but his tales are usually more than mere spatter, his work often looks at themes and trends in society. His story “Five O’Clock” I found deeply touching, it’s a story about family and what they can mean, and how bereft of desperately needed support you can be when they are gone.
“The Big Aunty Curse” is a wicked little tale about the evils of reality television and I snickered through most of it. Who hasn’t thought that just once it would be pleasant to see those smarmy presenters on similar shows get their comeuppance? Well, in this story one does 0 a nice piece of wish-fulfillment.
A longer story, “The Trials and Tribulations of Kara” is a tale of revenge – of a sort. And of a mad scientist, a Gypsy woman with troubles of her own, and a very interesting plane flight – with optional entertainment. The outcome strongly reminds me of the saying about “allowing sleeping dogs to lie,” and in this case Victor – descendant of the scientist – and his assistants should have listened.
“Killing the Jocks” is a clever tale about Peter. It says that you may be able to take a boy out of Nerdland but it’s far more difficult to take Nerdland out of the boy. I chuckled over the last couple of sentences, there’s a fine razor-edge of irony there that shows the author is capable of seeing both sides of his theme.
(This story may be something of a forerunner to Rod’s newest work – DISCO EVIL, DEAD MAN’S STAND – a full-length book, not a collection, which I’ve been privileged to read in first draft recently, and which I thought a maturing of his writing abilities. The theme, both of this story and of Disco Evil, is likely to be controversial in some quarters, but I found them strong and readable works.)
All in all, this is a good collection. Night to Dawn Books have done a nice job on the cover art too. The volume is staying in my own library to be reread somewhere down the track, and I can’t say fairer than that.