Title: The Vampire's Assistant.
Author: Darren Shan.
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, horror, YA, vampire fiction.
Publication Date: 2000.
Summary: Darren Shan was just an ordinary schoolboy - until his visit to the Cirque Du Freak. Now, as he struggles with his new life as a Vampire's Assistant and becoming the newest member of the Cirque, he tries desperately to resist the one temptation that sickens him - the one thing that can keep him alive. But destiny is calling... and the Wolf Man is waiting.
My rating: 7.5/10.
♥ Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
If he was having trouble getting to sleep at night, he would imagine the sounds of his feet as they made their way home, and that always helped him drift off into a happy dream.
♥ The wound closed and healed. Within a minute there was nothing left apart from a small scar that the man probably wouldn't notice when he awoke.
That's how vampires protect themselves. Unlike in the movies, they don't kill people when they drink, not unless they are starving, or get carried away and go too far. They drink in small doses, a bit here, a bit there. Sometimes they attack people out in the open, as we had just done. Other times, they creep into bedrooms late at night, or into hospital wards, or police cells.
The people they drink from hardly ever know they've been fed on by a vampire. When this man woke, he would remember only a falling red shape. He wouldn't be able to explain why he'd passed out or what had happened to him while he was unconscious. If he found the scar, he'd be more likely to think it was the mark of aliens than a vampire.
Hah. Aliens! Not many people know that vampires started the UFO stories. It was the perfect cover. People all over the world were waking up to find strange scars on their body, and were blaming it on imaginary aliens.
♥ He stared at me for a few seconds, then burst out laughing. "We do not grow fangs, you ass!" he roared.
"But... how do we bite people?" I asked, confused.
"We do not," he told me, still laughing. "We cut them with our nails and suck the blood out. We only use teeth in emergencies."
"So I won't grow fangs?"
"No. Your teeth will be harder than any human's, and you will be able to bite through skin and bone if you wish, but it is messy. Only stupid vampires use their teeth. And stupid vampires tend not to last very long. They get hinted down and killed."
It was what I needed most, but also what I feared most. If I drank a human's blood, there was no going back. I'd be a vampire for life. If I avoided it, I might become a human again. Perhaps the vampire blood in my veins would wear out. Maybe I wouldn't die. Maybe only the vampire in me would die, and then I could return home to my family and friends.
It wasn't much of a hope - Mr Crepsley had said it was impossible to become human again, and I believed him - but it was the only dream I had to cling to.
♥ "No," I said firmly. "I won't put people's lives in danger. I'm too dangerous to have friends any more. Besides, it's not like I can make a true friend."
"Why not?" he asked.
"True friends don't keep secrets from one another. I could never tell a human that I was a vampire. I'd always have to lie and pretend to be someone I'm not. I'd always be afraid he'd find out what I was and hate me."
"It is a problem every vampire shares," Mr Crepsley said.
"But every vampire isn't a child!" I shouted. "What age were you when you were changed? Were you a man?" He nodded. "Friends aren't that important to adults. My dad told me that grown-ups get used to not having loads of friends. They've work and hobbies and other stuff to keep them busy. But my friends were the most important thing in my life, apart from my family. Well, you took my family away when you pumped your stinking blood into me. Now you've ruined the chances of my ever having a proper friend again.
"Thanks a lot," I said angrily. "Thanks for making a monster out of me and wrecking my life."
♥ "What's a good life for a vampire?" I asked. "How do they make it to Paradise?"
"Live cleanly," he said. "Do not kill unless necessary. Do not hurt people. Do not spoil the world."
"Drinking blood isn't evil?" I asked.
"Not unless you kill the person you drink from," Mr Crepsley said. "And even then, sometimes, it can be a good thing."
"Killing someone can be good?" I gasped.
Mr Crepsley nodded seriously. "People have souls, Darren. When they die, those souls go to heaven or Paradise. But it is possible to keep a part of them here. When we drink small amounts of blood, we do not take any of a person's essence. But if we drink lots, we keep part of them alive within us."
"How?" I asked, frowning.
"By draining a person's blood, we absorb some of that person's memories and feelings," he said. "They become part of us and we can see the world the way they saw it, and remember things which might otherwise have been forgotten.
He thought a moment. "One of my dearest friends is called Paris Skyle," he said. "He is very old. Many centuries ago, he was friends with William Shakespeare."
"The William Shakespeare - the guy who wrote the plays?"
Mr Crepsley nodded. "Plays and poems. But not all of Shakespeare's poetry was recorded; some of his most famous verses were lost. When Shakespeare was dying, Paris drank from him - Shakespeare asked him to - and was able to tap into those lost poems and have them written down. The world would have been a poorer place without them."
"But..." I stopped. "Do you only do that with people who ask, and who are doing?"
"Yes," he said. "It would be evil to kill a healthy person. But to drink from friends who are close to death, and keep their memories and experiences alive..." He smiled. "That is very good indeed."
♥ I felt my face reddening, but held my tongue. I knew from experience that it's no use getting mad at grown-ups when they laugh at you; it only makes them laugh even harder."
♥ "Why is he so vicious?" I asked, tossing him a large chunk of raw meat, which he grabbed in mid-air and bit into.
"Because he's a real Wolf Man," Evra said. "He's not just somebody very hairy. He's half-human, half-wolf."
"Isn't it cruel to keep him chained up?" I asked, throwing him another slice of meat.
"If we didn't, he'd tun riot and kill people. The mix of human and wolf blood has driven him mad. He wouldn't just kill when he was hungry; if he was free, he'd murder all the time."
"Isn't there a cure?" I asked, feeling sorry for him.
"There isn't a cure because it isn't a disease," Evra explained. "This isn't something he caught, it's how he was born. This is what he is."
♥ I sat up and rubbed my elbow. "I'm OK," I said.
"You're sure? It ain't broken, is it? I've got herbs that can help, if it is."
"Herbs can't mend broken bones," Sam said. He'd tracked back and was standing beside Evra.
"They sure can't," the stranger agreed, "but they can elevate you to plains of consciousness where worldly concerns like broken bones are nothing but minor blips on the cosmic map." He paused and stroked his beard. "Of course, they burn out your brain cells too..."
♥ What should I do? That was the question which kept me awake long after the sun had risen. What should I do? Abandon my principles and drink human blood? Or stay true to my humanity and... die?
♥ Sam yelped, scrambled to his feet and sprinted for the cover of the trees, never once looking back.
I watched him go, heavy-hearted, certain my ploy had worked. He would never be back. I would see him no more. Our paths had separated and we would never meet again.
If I'd known how wrong I was - if I'd had any idea of the dreadful night which lay ahead - I'd have sped off after him and never returned to that foul circus of blood, that dreadful circus of death.
♥ In the deserted old railway yard, the Wolf Man lay inconscious to my rear. Mr Crepsley sat silently by my side. Beneath me, Sam Grest - who'd been my friend and saved my life - remained perfectly still and slipped further and further into the final sleep of an untimely, horrible death.
♥ When I'd finally sucked him dry, I turned away and howled at the sky like the Wolf Man had. For a long time that's all I could do, howl and scream and cry like the wild animal of the night which I'd become.