Craig DiLouie has found an unique angle on the vampire and zombie subgenres.
Child vampires don’t suck blood. They rely on parents to feed them. The parents have already gone through the trauma of losing their children. When the children return from the dead as vampires, the parents must feed them or lose them again. With every child in the world resurrected as a vampire, there’s not enough blood in human bodies to satisfy all the children. Parents have to start making increasingly unpleasant choices.
Suffer the Childrenwas nominated for a Bran Stoker and received praise from many fellow horror writers.
For an engaging and satisfying wizard versus zombie scene, check out the excerpt below from his first venture into historical fantasy, The Alchemists.
Note: The Alchemists is available for a limited time in digital format for mobile device platforms from Tapas Media. The paperback version came out in December 2015. The audio version will be available in May.
R.C. Bray narrates the audio version of both books.
1529. Spain wars with France over Italy, Turkish armies march against Christendom, and two alchemists resume an ancient duel to prove which is superior, science or magic.
Myrddin is a powerful wizard served by a beautiful young woman who is the greatest fighter of the age. Prospero is a brilliant scientist apprenticed by a painfully shy young man who can build anything, from hot air balloons to steam-powered battle tanks.
At Vienna, they will have to put aside their differences to survive the greatest threat of all: the unbeatable Ottoman Army and all the magic and monsters of Asia, unleashed to conquer Europe.
A long moan of pain sounded from the nearby woods. It ended in a guttural growl.
The wizard and the boy looked at each other. Taddeo shivered; it was a horrible sound.
“Some strange animal?” he asked.
Myrddin pointed. “Oh, dear. Look there.”
Men staggered out of the trees, their flesh pale and slack, their limbs stiff and twitching. They sniffed the breeze, taking little bites out of the air, and fixed their glittering black eyes on the magician and the scientist. After the first few, dozens more stumbled moaning out of the woods.
“Mago, what did you do?”
“Me? I didn’t do anything.”
“You think science did this?”
Taddeo recognized the men he’d killed back at the running fight for control of The Prometheus, led by the old knight, who limped along with a giant ragged hole in his chest. He even saw the boy he’d stabbed and thrown off the wagon, lurching and swaying with his broken spine. Many others had come as well. All the war dead of Navarre, it seemed, had returned to life, including rotting, bloated, grimacing monstrosities that been dead a long time. Their incredible stench made him gag. Leo ran cowering behind Myrddin.
Taddeo gulped. “God did this. He’s punishing me for killing those men.”
Myrddin shook his head. “Sonny, if God did this to every man who had to kill someone in self-defense, there’d be no room on earth for the living. No, this is magic. Powerful magic. The magic of Arabia. These men have become ghouls.”
“So what do ghouls actually do?”
“The same as when they were alive. They’re going to try to kill and eat us.”
Taddeo raised his matchlock gun and fired a shot. One of the creatures toppled over, its chest shattered. Moments later, it slowly rose to its feet.
“Try aiming for the head,” the Magus suggested.
“Are you sure?” cried a panicked Taddeo as he reloaded the gun.
“No. It’s just a hunch.”
He pressed the trigger and ignited the powder with a loud bang. The ghoul’s snarling face exploded in bloody fragments, and the corpse dropped to the ground. This time, it didn’t rise.
The wizard clapped. “Ha! I was right. Go get ’em.”
“We’re surrounded. There must be a hundred of them. And I only have nine shots left.”
They were doomed.
“You could try to fight your way out, but they will follow you to the ends of the earth.”
“Another feeling?” asked Taddeo as he reloaded again.
“No, I know that for sure.”
“Maybe they’re after you, not me. Did you ever think of that?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Myrddin said with a snort. “Why would someone want to kill me?”
Taddeo fired and dropped another ghoul.
Myrddin patted his shoulder. “Good shot. Keep it up.”
“Why don’t you do something?”
The Magus stiffened and placed his hand over his heart. “I swore an oath—”
“Come on! They’re already dead! They’re dead men possessed by magic!”
“Oh. Well. All right then. Bear with me. I haven’t done this in a while.”
Taddeo watched him crouch for battle. The old man was just limbering up but already out of breath. His joints creaked. “Oh, God, thought Taddeo. Look at him. We’re definitely doomed.”
The Magus ran into the midst of the ghouls, surprisingly nimble and light on his feet. He touched their foreheads with the tip of his staff as they reached out for him with chomping jaws. And each one he touched, died. Died and stayed dead.
“Wow,” thought Taddeo. “The old coot can really move when he wants.”
One of the ghouls staggered howling toward him; Taddeo put it down with a shot through the skull and reloaded. The creatures swarmed the Magus, who laid them out in piles at his feet. But their numbers began to tell.
The last score of the noxious things put their hands on him.
“Oh, dear,” Myrddin said as they bit into his flesh.
The ghouls tore him apart and devoured everything in big bites—flesh and blood, organs and bones, hair and clothes. Nothing was wasted. And when they were done, nothing was left.
The wizard hadn’t made a sound as he died.
“Mago!” Taddeo cried in horror.
He couldn’t believe it was true. Myrddin Wyllt, the ageless spellbinder, was no more. So much for being immortal.
Their stomachs bulging with wizard flesh, the ghouls turned as one to fix those black eyes, bright with evil intelligence and shiny with raw hunger, on Taddeo. He counted eighteen of them. Eighteen ghouls he’d have to shoot down with seven balls.
As the ghouls lumbered closer, they gripped their stomachs. The light in their eyes faded. Their moaning grew louder, needier, more pitiful. They began to belch up Myrddin’s remains onto the ground.
Everything came up — flesh and blood, organs and bones, hair and clothes—into steaming piles in the tall grass. It was a nauseating sight.
Then, one by one, they wilted and collapsed with a sigh and died.
Nothing stirred. Myrddin was gone.
“Goodbye, mago,” Taddeo said.
He was about to say he would miss him, but he had to think about that. The man was positively frustrating, his way of thinking diametrically opposed to Taddeo’s.
He decided he’d miss the old man after all.
And he would continue his quest to save Marie.
Without the steam wagon, unfortunately, as he had no idea how to get it out of Myrddin’s old burlap bag. No matter. Like these ghouls, he’d follow his quarry to the ends of the earth. No matter what it took, no matter how difficult the test, he would find Marie and rescue her.
This was his journey, and he’d have to face it alone.
“I’m sorry this happened to you, Mago. I’ll take good care of her.” He thought for a moment. “You know, there was one important thing you taught me, and that’s—”
The piles of vomit began to flow toward each other. Whatever magic the wizard had conjured before his death was still happening. Taddeo crouched and waited.
Blood sought blood. Bones joined to bones. Clothing stitched to clothing. Hair fixed to flesh which wrapped the organs which sucked in the blood, and clothing covered it all.
The creature lurched into an upright position, taking the form of a tall man.
“Mago!” Taddeo shouted.
At last, the old wizard stretched and bent to pick up his staff. “Good, you’re still here. Are there any more ghouls? Ah, well. I suppose that’s for the best. Now stand back.” He shook his cloak, spraying bits of bits of rotting flesh.
“I’m glad you’re alive. I was sure you were dead.”
Myrddin picked up the sack and threw it over his shoulder. “You were? I’m pretty sure I told you I’m virtually immortal.”
“You had me worried just the same.”
“As for me, I’m intrigued.”
“Why is that?”
“The presence of these ghouls means there’s a powerful magician in these parts, and he’s trying to kill us.”
Taddeo liked the sound of that. Myrddin referring to them as an us, that is.
Suffer the Children presents a terrifying tale of apocalyptic fiction, as readers are introduced to Herod’s Syndrome, a devastating illness that suddenly and swiftly kills all young children across the globe. Soon, they return from the grave…and ask for blood. And with blood, they stop being dead. They continue to remain the children they once were…but only for a short time, as they need more blood to live. The average human body holds ten pints of blood, so the inevitable question for parents everywhere becomes: How far would you go to bring your child back? As the blood supply wanes, parents struggle and compete to keep their children alive. In the end, the only source left will be each other.
Something about Ross’s presence grounded Ramona—made her feel a little less like she was flying apart.
She trudged through the snow leaning against him. The scent of his aftershave recalled the kiss they’d shared before he went home last night. She’d fallen into it, blanking out her mind.
Ross might be interested, Ramona reflected, to learn she was considering taking him home after the vigil and screwing him until she forgot her last name. Sex offered hours of blissful forgetting.
Once they started talking, however, Ross expressed an interest in fixing her. The confident tone in his voice let her know he thought he was succeeding. He had no clue. There was no making this better. There was no coming back from this. There was only the hope of forgetting for a little while.
They wandered toward a hill occupied by a crowd of other mourners. The glow of the candles lent the hill a holy atmosphere, making the journey there something of a pilgrimage.
At the top, she found nothing but empty night sky that chilled her even more.
“Wow,” said Ross. “Look at that.”
She saw it. The children’s burial ground. One of them, anyway. The crowd had come here to take in the view of their children being laid to rest. It was several miles away, but she could see the dots of headlights moving across the fields and hear the distant drone of the big digging machines. The burial ground spanned the horizon. She resented how the sheer size of it trivialized her loss. As if it were insignificant.
It struck her that Josh was buried at this site. It was the perfect time and place to say goodbye, but she refused. She’d never let him go.
“Where do you want to go now?” Ross asked her.
Ramona sighed. “I don’t care. Let’s just keep walking.”
“There’s a special place I’d like to take you tomorrow if you’re up for it.”
“No plans. Please.”
“All right, I guess. I’d still like to come over, though.”
“Let’s just be quiet for a while, okay?”
They reached the bottom of the hill and stood under a pathway light, watching people wander about in varying states of shock. She saw them not as mourners but survivors. There were thousands of people here, she realized. Tens of thousands moving in near silence broken by periodic wails of grief. Many of them wore photos pinned to their coats, as if declaring they weren’t people anymore but merely placeholders for their missing children.
A bell tolled, loud and crisp. The sound resonated in her brain. She knew what it meant. The last child in the world is dead, she thought.
She didn’t want to be here.
“Kiss me,” she said.
Ross snorted. “I don’t know if we should do that again.”
“I thought that’s what you wanted.”
“I want to help. I don’t want you to think I’m trying to take advantage.”
Ramona leaned against him. “Kiss me.”
He did. It was a test, and it worked. Her mind blanked out. She wanted more.
“Wow,” Ross said, smiling.
Screams erupted along the top of the hill. At first it was easy to ignore, but the screaming didn’t stop. Instead, it multiplied. Screams of horror mixed with hysterical, joyful crying, all of it tinged with a chilling quality, something like insanity.
“What the hell is going on up there?” Ross wondered. “Listen to them.”
“The bell tolled,” she said bitterly. “The last child is dead.”
The vigil offered her nothing. No peace of mind in any case. Only the certainty that all the world’s children were now dead and there was nothing anybody could do about it, no way to move on from the depths of shock.
“Something else is going on,” he said. “Something weird is happening up there.”
She leaned against him again. He felt warm. This she could believe in.
“Take me home, Ross.”
His eyes widened and his arms loosened. “Like I said, I don’t want to—”
She snuggled against him, nuzzling his throat. “Yes or no, Ross. Say yes.”
“Wow,” he whispered, and she kissed him again, hard.
“Is that a yes?”
“That’s a big yes.”
“Mommy,” Josh said.
Ramona turned and stared at her boy in shock.
“Holy shit,” Ross yelled, lunging backward.
Her voice came out as a tiny whisper. Her lips tingled. Stars sparked in her vision.
Ross shook his head. “It’s him.”
She fell to her knees. “Josh? Is it really you?”
The boy stared straight ahead, his face slack, his clothes splattered with frozen mud. He did not blink. Several other children marched past, trailing puffs of quicklime.
“The children,” Ross said. “Oh, Christ.”
Josh’s eyes flickered for the first time, looking over Ramona’s shoulder to regard Ross with his unblinking stare.
“Why were you kissing that man?”
The shock wore off. Ramona screamed.