How Gumbee Fantasy Writers’ characters interact with their worlds. Number 6: Sandra Giles

It’s no secret that Jared struggles to find his way in the ‘normal’ world, and he similarly has issues with the supernatural side of things. He spends four novels battling with himself, uncertain as he is about his emotions and his lust for causing pain. It’s an exhausting time, I can tell you. To start with he is totally clueless about his true nature. The warning signs are all there, but his mind is too logical to jump to the fact he is a vampire. So for years before we even meet him he is incapable of fitting in with society, and it makes him something of a jerk.He loathes everyone and everything, blaming them for his confusion and lashing out at the one person who cares for him; his mother. It’s when he discovers his true nature that he becomes more likeable, though it’s marginally. Love him or hate him, it’s hard not to admire him on some level.

No matter what life throws at him, he’s able to remain as decent a vampire as they come, all the while clinging onto a rather strange sense of humour that crops up throughout. I don’t know if this goes very far in explaining how he interacts with his world. I guess it shows he is torn between both sides. He kills, acts and feeds like a vampire, but he also feels human emotions that are lost to others of his kind. He is the brink between worlds, which is partly why he is later chosen to be a kind of go-between for humans and vampires. But more on that another time. I think the best way of demonstrating his character and how he gets on in his world is with an excerpt, as I’m not really sure how best to explain it. This piece has been taken from Proving Negatives, as it’s the novel where Jared finally comes to terms with himself and shows how much he struggles to reach that point. This particular portion shows him in the grounds of a female prison as he attempts to get answers from his incarcerated cousin. At this point he is questioning her humanity, and wondering whether he is actually the only vampire in the family. It shows the switch between his vampire side and his human side, as well as demonstrating how he acts, which is in a fairly predatory fashion.

I was sidetracked by the appearance of Lucy, who had come searching for the source of the commotion. She was in the minority, which seemed strange for a place as dull as this. Either she has exceptionally good hearing, or the other women figured this had something to do with the beaten woman and didn’t want to get involved. Because I wasn’t entirely sure, I stopped to inhale her scent once more. Maybe not all vampires have as strong a scent as others. It was worth double-checking.

 “Where’s your partner in crime?” Lucy asked as I tried to figure out a way of getting closer to her. “Given you the slip?”

“No, she’s around here somewhere. We’re not inseparable.”

 “You’re a funny one, you know that?”

 “I have noticed, yeah.” I realised she was being entirely too serious for my liking, so hastily continued. “I was brought up to be cautious. It makes me act a bit slower. I tend to analyse every situation.” That hopefully explained why I had taken my time over shaking her hand earlier.

 “Well you need that kind of caution in a place like this.” She shuddered visibly. “I hate it here. Everyone’s so fierce and on the defence. Most people are here for actual crimes, you know. They’re not all like me, an innocent accused of murder. It gives me space though, which I’m grateful of. I stopped denying my charges the moment I realised it was the only thing standing between me and a face like mincemeat.”

 “You strike me as someone who can take care of herself,” I said slowly, stepping forward in a way that could’ve been interpreted as a test of wills. She stood her ground, and I stepped even closer. I hoped she wouldn’t read too much into it. I didn’t fancy getting too cosy with this stranger.

 “I can, but in the real world.” She didn’t sound convinced, and I remembered that her husband had beaten her. “This place is completely different. It messes with your head, you know?”

 “No, I don’t. Thankfully any time I’ve spent in prison has been very brief. I didn’t get too used to it, thank god.” I stepped even closer so that we were almost touching. She was fairly short, so to actually scent her I’d have to crouch down. I couldn’t think of a subtle way of doing that.

 “What were you in prison for?” she asked curiously, her pulse speeding up in a taunting fashion. I stared at it for a while, and answered without looking at her face.

“Same as you. Murder.”

“Oh? I take it you were released without charge. Either that or you’ve aged well. I mean, a life sentence would put you into your thirties, at least. Unless you were very young.”

“I was released.” Not on purpose, but escaping and being released are pretty similar, right? “I’d never killed a soul at the time.”

“What?” She stepped back, away from me, and I finally tore my eyes away from her pulse. It was jumping madly. I could hear the panicked rhythm of it. It was quite distracting. “At the time? What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means what it means,” I said vaguely, stepping up to her again. I really liked that she was scared, and loved that she was trapped. There was an escape route if she ran off to her right, but I could easily stop that. In fact, in one swift movement I could have her neck severed in two and her blood completely to myself.

“Can you give me some space?” Lucy asked as I hungrily searched her face.

“Sorry,” I said, and meant it. I had every intention of backing up, but then tried to calm myself by taking a deep breath, and suddenly her scent was all I could think of. The blood was calling to me, and I was afraid to move. If I did, it wouldn’t be away from her.

The pulse in her throat was banging furiously against her skin, trying to leave and still remain intact. My eyes kept darting between that and her petrified face. It was all so wonderful, I couldn’t look away. I drank in her fear like I wanted to drink in her blood. It has never been like this before. I’d been far more interested in feeding than anything else. This desire to cause fear was quite worrying, yet I couldn’t be anything other than happy about it.

“Guard!” Lucy yelled desperately. “Someone! Anyone, please!”

That was all I needed to take the plunge. I grabbed her head and yanked it to the side, causing her to shriek in pain. To shut her up I put my mouth to her neck and bled the noise out of her. She was unconscious faster than anyone I’ve fed from before. I had a feeling she’d fainted from fear, and that pleased me. I drew the blood from her throat until her pulse faded. Only then did I pull away, but it wasn’t out of choice. As I pulled away, some of her flesh came with me.

Her life ended and I felt nothing but pleasure.

I struggled against the person who held me, but they were too strong. I was being carried out of the building at a speed much too fast to be human. I feared attack, the monster I’d become rearing its ugly head and finding threats and reasons to kill. As the prison wall was jumped over as easily as if it were the smallest of hurdles, I used the height to unbalance my captor. We both fell as I moved abruptly, and we landed painfully on the ground. At least we were out of the prison grounds.

“You lunatic, what the hell d’you think you’re playing at?” my captor demanded in a voice so familiar that I was brought abruptly to my senses. I got unsteadily to my feet and offered a hand to Emilia, who was looking at me reproachfully and had blood seeping steadily from a wound on her head. She ignored my hand and got slowly to her feet. “Well?” she demanded once back on my level.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t realise it was you,” I said, putting my hand to her head and swiping away the blood. I had a mad urge to lick my fingers clean of it, but instead wiped my hand on my jeans.

“You were really quite frightening, you know that?”

“Sorry. I just lost control, I guess. I didn’t mean to-” Oh shit, what exactly had I done? I turned back towards the prison and was about to run back when Emilia took my hand and pulled me in the opposite direction. “Did I just kill a woman?”

“Possibly,” she said, tugging at my hand hard enough to leave a mark.

“Fuck.”

“You could say that.” She smiled warmly, which I felt was more than I deserved. “It happens. You know that.”

“No, it doesn’t happen. Or it shouldn’t. Not now.”

She didn’t say anything, and I didn’t fill the silence. It wasn’t awkward. I don’t think anything could make being with Emilia uncomfortable. We started the run back home, and I tried my best to ignore the sidelong glances she kept shooting me. It became easier to do so as my mind wandered back to Lucy, and the blood seeping from her throat. And the gaping hole in her neck from where I had torn her flesh out. I realised then that I’d swallowed the meat like a cannibal, and had to swallow convulsively so as not to retch.

I felt sick, physically and mentally. I couldn’t even contemplate feeding again for fear that it would spur another change in me. Yet if I run out of blood, I could become crazed just as easily. The beast was lurking below the surface. I could feel it there, a permanent presence, because it was actually me. It was a lose-lose situation. I’ll just have to make do with the blood I have until I can feed with caution. Just the thought of whose blood ran through my veins made me feel weak.

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