America claimed neutrality at the beginning of World War I, but in truth we were against Germany from the start. Consequently, German U-boats targeted our civilian freighters. This was just what happened to the ship on which I was a crewman.
It was a moonless night when they attacked. Our ship sunk quickly, leaving me to the sea.
I don’t know how clung to that floating wreckage; delirious, exhausted. I do know I was saved though. I remember the icy hands of my rescuer, far colder than my own hypothermic body. I recall looking up and seeing him, a dark lions-mane silhouette against the grey North Atlantic sky. Then darkness.
The next I knew, I was staring up at the unchanging sky. I sat up, finding myself on a very small island; a barren piece of rock.
I wasn’t alone. I approached the other from behind, watching that lion’s mane shift in the breeze. His focus was on the book in which he wrote.
I drew nearer, certain that he was unaware of my presence. I intentionally cleared my throat.
“Nasty noise.” He uttered while continuing to write.
“Sir,” I said. “I owe you my life.”
“Life for a life,” he grunted. “Pick up the stake.”
That word ‘steak’ brought ravenous hunger. But there was no steak, only a sharpened piece of driftwood. I picked it up as instructed.
Shutting the book, he turned towards me. “Life for a life,” he said again. “Plunge the stake into my heart.”
I shook my head.
“Do it or perish!”
“No!” I answered with resolution.
“Then you are useless!”
A gust blew his hair back momentarily, revealing eyes of the dead. His open mouth exposed his fangs.
Like lightning, he scaled a nearby rock and then leapt upon me! In terror, I reacted, bracing the stake against the rocky ground as he landed upon me.
Impalement was instantaneous. Cold black blood oozed from the chest-wound, coating me; smelling of rot and decay.
I pushed him off and skittered away, squinting my eyes shut to block out the horror and plugging my ears to block the death-shrieks.
Eventually those shrieks ceased. Only then did I open my eyes to find myself alone.
The slain was nowhere to be found. There was the stake. There was the book, but the body was absent.
I grabbed the book; a journal. The first page identified the original owner; a common immigrant passenger. A few pages in, the writing darkened.
March 21st, 1912
Our ship sunk after striking an iceberg. Almost all perished. I am one of twelve survivors that made it to this land and have stolen this book and pencil from another passenger. He is now dead. His blood made a pleasant meal.
The survivors witnessed my feeding and now know that a vampire is among them. They cower from me in fear. Fear makes them unpredictable. I will need to stay vigilant.
March 22nd, 1912
One of the survivors had a pistol and shot me. Bullets sting, but cannot kill me.
The gunman is now dead, his blood now within me. I must conserve my remaining food supply.
March 25th, 1912
Without choice, I devoured them all. This rock has no source of fresh water. They were dying. If I had not eaten them, they would have gone to waste.
March 29th, 1912
Hunger gnaws. I wonder what will become of me. Can I starve to death? No. I am immortal. Madness tugs. Starvation looms. A rare feeling haunts me: fear.
April 1st, 1912
I beg God for mercy. But the undead is God’s enemy. My pleas go unanswered.
April 2nd, 1912
Like a dog returning to his vomit, I return to my victims’ bodies, but they are only bloodless decaying corpses. With rage, I caste them into the sea and watch the sharks feed. Jealousy engulfs me because the sharks are satisfied while I am left wanting.
April 4th, 1912
This rock is a prison, my land of sorrow. I have tried again and again to swim away, but I never get far. I am weak and the breakers are strong.
April 8th, 1912
Fantasies of suicide consume me. I have sharpened a piece of driftwood, but no matter how hard I try, I cannot drive it into my heart. God has denied the undead such a privilege; a rule that embitters me deeply.
Enticing smells have awakened me. I’m no longer alone. A nearby heart beats loudly.
I prepare to feast, but then refrain as the fact sinks in that this meal would provide only temporary reprieve from my pain. But perhaps, this man can serve a nobler purpose.
The next day
He has begun to stir. I have retreated with my back to him; writing my last entry. Now, he approaches.
He is looking over my shoulder. I can sense him. Nasty noise he makes. He says he owes me? I will tell him to pick up the stake.
July 17th 1940
I have not opened this book since my departure from Sorrow Island (that is what I have come to name that terrible place). Near death when rescued; it was a miracle that a passing ship noticed me.
My rescuers said I was delirious. My only possession was this book, which I refused to relinquish.
Over the years, I’ve tried to convince myself that the events of Sorrow Island didn’t actually occur. Yet, deep down, I know the truth.
So now, as a new war begins, I open the book and provide my own entry.
Ironically, if the vampire had decided to consume me instead of reserve me as his instrument of suicide, then he would have been the one rescued. Such thoughts make me shiver.
But God is just. I am here. He is not. This is my testimony.
Shawn D. Brink was born in Clovis New Mexico, but has lived in eastern Nebraska since he was five. He currently has three published novels and one novelette to his credit as well as numerous shorter works in various publications. To learn more, please visit Shawn at www.shawnbrinkauthor.wordpress.com
Image by Julia Velkova