Consciousness was an overrated concept. Or at least that was how Whitfield Creed saw it. He would have been happier with oblivion at this moment in time; the quiet emptiness that came with it. Yet it was eternity that now weighed down upon him. He had had the idea of eternal life thrust upon him, but the realist in him could not help but be sceptical.
Immortality was nothing more than a myth, right?
A shopping trolley full of stolen goods took up the centre of the road, so Whitfield applied the brakes and swerved the van around the obstacle. It was not the first object he had had to navigate and he was sure it would not be the last.
The creatures he now shared his existence with had formed the contempt he felt for his eternal predicament. These self-proclaimed immortals held themselves in high regard and cared very little for your average member of the public. So much so that they had used the fragile economic state of the city, that Whitfield now drove them through, to cause the local population to riot. Using their anger fuelled looting as a smoke screen for their own deeds.
Two of them sat in the front seats next to him, but they had both earned his trust, to an extent. They’d proven that they were not all bad, both helping him when he needed saving. And yet both had shown they were capable of inflicting extreme acts of violence on others. Were they both trustworthy, or was it just a matter of time before they turned their malice his way?
Even in their seated positions Whitfield could feel Kadiya towering over him. Her broad shoulders limited his manoeuvrability in the small front cabin of the van. Whitfield had become accustomed to her looming over him, be it physically or making sure that he was doing things correctly. He glanced in her direction.
‘Keep your eyes on the road.’ She barked at him in Portuguese.
The use of his native tongue sounded strange after being surrounded by Anglophones. English was the language used in this city that he had been calling home for a few years now, so that was how he replied to her.
‘You’re the boss.’
He returned his eyes to what lay ahead, but he could see in his peripheral that she was busy studying the burnt skin on her left forearm. A fire bomb had caused the injury and she was lucky that it was just her arm that had caught alight. Others had not been so fortunate. If she was suffering, there was no sign of it across her stern features. She had a section of skin missing from the left side of her scalp, her left eye was swollen, and she had an entry wound in her left shoulder blade, but they may as well have not existed.
Next to Kadiya in the window seat Shannon was also licking her wounds. A blow to her right elbow from an axe had practically taken her forearm off. She still held it in place as if the wound was going to repair itself somehow. Whitfield had seen the injury and there was no way that the limb could be rescued. Yet as he glimpsed sideways he could swear that her fingers were moving.
The ideas that ran through his head were not impossible, merely improbable. He had watched Shannon slit a man’s throat and drink from the open vein. If he was to believe the stories being thrown at him blood had healing powers to these beings. They did not like to be referred to as vampires. Preferring not to label themselves. One of the few idioms of their kind he agreed with.
Whether they labelled themselves or not, the truth was that these creatures had eternal life, and they drank the blood of others. He had stood and watched more than one of them partake in the red stuff, which, whether they liked it or not, made them vampires. Even if they did not call themselves such.
But the drinking of blood healing a severed limb was a little farfetched even for Whitfield.
He took his mind off the two women by concentrating on the roads ahead. The streets were empty, but the carnage of the rioting that had spilled out onto them remained. Debris lay strewn across many of the roads and the van felt like it was hitting every single piece. The jolts and bumps helped him to get two sets of angry eyes bearing down on him, but he just ignored them. There was no way around the rubble so he ploughed on through.
Yet as he turned onto the next street the rioting may as well as not been happening. The mayhem of the previous few days had managed to avoid this thoroughfare altogether.
But one more street over and they drove towards a car that was ablaze, its flaming shell partially blocking the road. Whitfield slowed down and drove up onto the curb to get past the wreck. His off-road driving got him more dirty looks, and some choice words from Shannon under her breath, but he was not listening.
The word police was written along the side of the vehicle in flames. Memories of the heavily outnumbered officers from the night before came flooding back. It appeared that this law enforcement vehicle had been just as unsuccessful at keeping the peace as they had. Two riot shields and a riot helmet lay just the other side of the car.
They turned another corner and his foot hovered over the accelerator. Twenty or so looters were pulling electrical equipment out of a smashed shop window. They all wore hoods and had pieces of material tied around their faces. Whitfield felt a chill run up his spine at the sight of them, waiting for them to see the van and come running towards it. But as the vehicle crept closer, and a few of the looters looked their way, he realised that these people were not the creatures he and his two companions had been fighting all evening. They were just a group of people out to rob an electrical goods shop.
Regardless of everyone’s motives chaos had been the law on the street this night.
From the steering column, an alarm started beeping, followed by a red flashing light that told him one of the doors was open. Unfortunately, the screen on the dashboard did not tell him whether it was the double doors at the back, the sliding side door, or either of the doors in the front cabin.
Something moved in Whitfield’s passenger wing mirror and before he could react, or even comment on it, the window shattered inwards. Shannon took the brunt of the glass shower and instinctively ducked away from the shards into Kadiya’s shoulder. An arm reached through the broken window and grabbed a hold of Shannon’s shirt. Her strength still not with her Shannon was pulled towards the opening.
Kadiya quickly wrapped her own muscular arm around Shannon’s slight physique and dragged her back into the cabin. Kadiya’s efforts helped to pull their attacker into sight and an image that Whitfield was becoming accustomed to came into view.
The young assailant’s mouth, like so many of their attackers over the previous few nights, had been forced closed. And like each horror show Whitfield had had to witness this one was just as unique. A number of metal climbing clips had been forced up through the skin under his chin and then looped down over his bottom teeth, shattering most of the front row to the gums. He pulled on Shannon’s clothing again and the tug of war swung back in his favour.
Whitfield felt helpless as he watched the tussle happen to his left. He looked forward and swerved to avoid a central reservation, clipping it with the back wheel. The vehicle swung back and forth before Whitfield managed to regain control.
The short loss of steering gave him an idea and he looked ahead to see if there was anything that could help them. As what he was looking for came speeding towards them something bashed against the metal wall behind him, knocking him forward in his chair. He turned to look behind him and saw a lump in centre of the chair’s back cushion. It disappeared and was swiftly followed by another thump.
The point of a pickaxe pierced through the wall just to the left of his chair.
Whitfield Creed is living a waking nightmare.
Unlike his dreams this nightmare has no end, and he has an eternity to live it.
His world, the beings that inhabit it, and the death that surrounds him, are pushing him to the edge of his sanity.
A pitched battle is in full swing and these creatures of the night are sparing none from its carnage.
Whitfield must try and find a safe place to stay out of the way as a civil war rages amongst these immortals.
Caught between warring factions his only hope is to flee the bloodshed.
As Whitfield tries to hold onto his humanity a new level of senses begins to stir within him.
Can he find answers to all the questions his new-found immortality has raised?
Or will the society he has stumbled across tear each other apart, and him with it?
Purged in Flame is the second novel by accomplished author Mark Simmons.