How ya doin? I've been really good about keeping to my writing schedule, so I'm going to post an extra chapter this month... on Christmas morning.
Sunday, a friend asked me how I can publish this online. More to the point, he asked me how I can resist the urge to tinker with each chapter endlessly and actually put it out there, knowing I'd probably read it again in a year and see stuff I wanted to change. The answer: "you force yourself."
I finally got more committed to finishing this and getting it before an audience than I was to trying to make it perfect. I've promised myself that if I can not only finish this, but ten more novels before I'm 70, I can go back and do another edit on it as my 70th birthday present to myself.
BTW, if you question the assertion about sunlight in this chapter, check the Wikipedia article on vampires. It will back me up... sorta.
And last, check out Someday Hero. It's got me hooked.
Hell on Five Dollars a Day
A Novel By Greg Bulmash
Â© MMVIII - Greg Bulmash - All Rights Reserved
Alain and his unit often hid themselves in branches of trees as they slept during the days, camouflaged from the ground by the dark foliage and their dark duffels. Alain could hear a symphony of zippers as his squadmates awoke.
They had no official unit designation. Officially, they didn't exist. Officially, they were dead. Officially, Uncle Sam had regretted to inform their parents and they'd all been given military funerals with honors.
Having their parents told they were dead had rankled all of them but Reese. It turned out his "Army or prison" moment had come after he broke both his father's arms. He claimed it was self defense, but the prosecution brought a doctor to the stand who testified that the nature of the breaks were consistent with taking a baseball bat to someone's arms while they were passed out.
The four of them unsecured their duffels and dropped to the ground, quickly folding them and stowing them on their packs. Alain took their bearings with a sextant and compass while Sampson broke out four bottles of blood.
Vinnie sipped at his gingerly. "If I gotta drink deer blood one more night, I'm gonna eat a civilian," he complained.
They'd all been fed bottled blood, "borrowed" from a Red Cross blood drive, and that was the best the Army was willing to do for them. The DI for their vampire training spelled it out: "You can eat all the nip, kraut, and wop soldiers you want once you complete your training and get shipped out. But you will NOT feed on Americans, and you will NOT feed on civilians."
Granger fed on Americans the night he rose, 2 soldiers to be precise, and was officially "decommissioned." He was staked, beheaded, wrapped in silver wire, and then cremated. They all had to watch... every step. When you wake up to find out you're a vampire, then watch a practical demonstration of how the Army can still kill you if need be, that kind of thing stays with you.
Now they were in the Ardennes forest, near where it covered part of France's border with Germany, heading toward a remote base. They were about 15 miles away and it was late summer, giving them around 10 hours of usable night. If they double-timed it, they could hit the base and be safely away before dawn.
It wasn't that they had to be holed up at sunrise. That was a recent misconception, a lesser-known myth from German folklore that got a big shot in the arm from a German named F.W. Murnau. His film Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror showed the demon-like vampire fearing the sun and it entered popular culture as a characteristic of vampires.
Alain and the rest of his unit knew that it wasn't. Sunlight didn't kill them, though it rendered them near powerless. They could not heal wounds as easily, their heightened senses dimmed to human levels, the sunlight caused mild discomfort in their eyes and on any exposed skin, and they got no benefit from drinking blood during the day. Daytime drinking neither satiated their hunger nor gave them the euphoric sense of power and well-being that nighttime drinking provided. Sleeping during the day merely allowed them to awake at the height of their powers, refreshed and ready to go. It wasn't a necessity, just a convenience.
If an operation ran into daytime, their packs would get heavy. Getting up into the trees and "duffeling up" would become difficult, if not impossible. If they encountered enemy soldiers, they'd have little or no advantage in speed or strength. And while they still couldn't be killed with bullets, they could be knocked out of commission, leaving them more vulnerable to a true killing blow.
As a vampire, he didn't need a magnifying scope, which suited Vinnie just fine. The Army's version of a sniper rifle, a refitted Springfield M1903, was crap. The sights fogged up regularly and they blocked the magazine, so you had to load one cartridge at a time. The plain old Springfield did the job as he tracked Reese, Sampson, and Alain, watching them prepare the base for attack.
The base backed up against the hill to cut off attacks from that direction. That didn't mean the Germans ignored the hillside, but they gave it less attention than the other camp borders, figuring the bare hillside was too exposed and no one could abseil down fast enough to avoid the periodic searchlight sweeps. No one expected that assailants coming from that direction would drop like stones.
Two large tanks of processed fuel sat near the back fence, which abutted the hillside. These and the processing equipment were the primary targets. Alain and Sampson each stood in the shadows of one, holding large rods of metal that resembled railroad spikes. Reese had slipped into the barracks where the day crew slept. The signal to begin was when the screaming started.
At the first scream, Alain and Sampson drove their spikes into the fuel tanks, like stakes into the hearts of giant metal beasts, and ripped holes in the sides, sending fuel pouring onto the ground. Each dropped his spike and ran for a guard tower on the opposite end of the compound, scaling them in three leaps and taking out the lights. On that signal, with Alain and Sampson safely away, Vinnie fired.
His rifle was loaded with phosphorous incendiary rounds, similar to the the ones used in fighter planes. They couldn't puncture the tanks, particularly not from a distance. But at that distance, even from the high angle, he could easily light the fuel coming out of the tanks, and that flame would ride the streams back up into the tanks... The blooms of flame that rose up along the hillside made Vinnie skitter back from the heat and blink purple spots from his vision.
There was no leaping down the hill now. Vinnie slung his rifle and ran down the back side, careening through the woods. Reese had started a panic, but now that Alain and Sampson had accomplished their primary objectives, eliminating the guards and the fuel, one would help him herd the nervous personnel and soldiers into the base mess while the other tore off pieces of the fuel processing equipment and used them to bust up the rest of it. If Vinnie took too long to get there, he'd have last pick.
Their instructions were clear. Leave no one alive or able to come back. They would each pick a victim, feed quickly, behead the bodies, then burn the mess hall to the ground. Anyone they didn't have the time or hunger to feed on got a bullet. The tactic was tried and true. It worked for them.
As Vinnie leapt the 12-foot gate, the only sound came from the roaring fires. He headed straight for the mess where he found the selection process in progress. Sampson was walking around the twelve prisoners who were still alive, sniffing the air as he passed, while Reese seethed. Vinnie wasn't too happy about it either.
Alain had been promoted to sergeant before they left the States, giving him command of the unit. That meant he decided who got first pick of prisoners. As sergeant, he could have taken it for himself, but he always went last, and he tried to be even-handed with the three of them, making them take turns at going first. Fair as it was, Vinnie and Reese still had issues when Sampson got to go first. They both believed that honor should be for whites only.
It generally didn't matter who went first, though. They all had different tastes in victims. Sampson liked his Germans fat. He said the fat ones ate lots of sausage and it made their blood thicker. He'd sniff around to find the plumpest one who smelled most of pork.
Reese liked older ones who drank. Vinnie made a lot of jokes, but not about this. Reese had a hairtrigger temper and it had only taken a couple of beatdowns after a needling joke to convince Vinnie this topic was off limits.
Alain would let them pick one for him. It wasn't that he was too hoity toity to pick his own, he just couldn't. In the beginning, he'd stare at one, then another, precious time slipping away, until one of his unit would just grab one and throw it at Alain. And while the others would feed with vigor, enjoying the pleas and screams of their victims, Alain would usually knock his unconscious with a blow to the head first.
Reese had picked his, meaning Vinnie went third and had the responsibility of picking Alain's. Vinnie preferred females when possible, pretty-boys in a pinch. For Alain, he picked a one-legged civilian engineer.
As Vinnie walked back with his picks, Sampson opened fire on the remaining prisoners with a German machine gun he'd picked up outside. Once he was assured all of them were either dead or dying, he gave a nod.
Reese flung Sampson's prisoner at him, then grabbed his own. Screams filled the air as Reese, Vinnie, and Sampson bit down on their prisoner's necks. Alain's prisoner shouted at the sight before he was turned to face Alain. "Entschuldigung," Alain said before he clouted the guy on the head, knocking him out.
[To Be Continued December 15th, 2008]
Hell on $5 a Day is a work of fiction, serialized by its author on Brainhandles.com. Excerpts may be used for blog posts or articles about the novel. The length limit on excerpts is 4 paragraphs. Any more extensive usage requires permission.