The Vampire's Photographby Kevin Emerson
Oliver’s life is no different from those of most middle school kids—except he sleeps in a coffin and drinks blood for breakfast
Oliver Nocturne lives a pretty normal life—he deals with bullies, has an obnoxious older brother, and generally feels misunderstood. But being a vampire presents another host of problems, especially when he/b>… See more details below
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Oliver’s life is no different from those of most middle school kids—except he sleeps in a coffin and drinks blood for breakfast
Oliver Nocturne lives a pretty normal life—he deals with bullies, has an obnoxious older brother, and generally feels misunderstood. But being a vampire presents another host of problems, especially when he feels—he knows—he’s not quite like everyone else.
When Emalie, a human girl with a troubled past, takes a picture of him, Oliver ignores the rules that forbid him from interacting with humans and agrees to show her the darkest secrets of the Seattle underworld. But their quest will uncover more than vampire mythology—they will learn the terrible truth about Oliver’s past and his purpose. And for Emalie, this knowledge could come at a fatal price.
Though he experiences typical middle school troubles-being bullied, fighting with his older brother Bane, thinking his parents don't understand him, and feeling like a misfit-Oliver is a vampire. Like others his age, he still consumes only animal blood, but Bane, who has recently bonded with his otherworldly demon to become an adult vampire, now enjoys human blood. Despite the ironclad prohibition against associating with mortals, Oliver is attracted to the daylight world and fascinated by Emalie, a human girl who has been exploring the ruins above his family's crypt home. He soon learns that she suspects the existence of vampires and intends to write an exposé-something the highly secretive undead want to avoid. Oliver agrees to help her, even guiding Emalie and her cousin into the hidden subsurface city to consult Dead Désirée, the weird keeper of secrets and powers that even vampires fear. He soon realizes that there is something mysterious about his background, and that danger threatens not only his human friends, but also himself. This volume devotes considerable space to background exposition about the vampire meta-world. While the pacing is slow in spots, the details help to fully realize the idea of parallel human and undead worlds, and the cliff-hanger ending promises more excitement.-Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL
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The Vampire's Photograph
Oliver Nocturne, Book One
By Kevin Emerson
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2008 Kevin Emerson
All rights reserved.
The Intruder in the Mirror
OLIVER NOCTURNE HAD BEEN having trouble sleeping, which was why he first heard the intruder. He had been lying awake as usual one November dawn, tossing and turning, when a floorboard had creaked somewhere upstairs. Going to investigate had seemed much more interesting than lying in bed with the worries that plagued him. Now, it was December, and the intruder was back for the third time. Oliver had expected someone else in his family to have noticed this morning visitor by now, but so far, he was the only one who knew.
Oliver had been having trouble sleeping for as long as he could remember. It had always been particularly bad around his birthday and Christmas, both of which were coming right up, but this year it was worse than ever. He was lying awake well into each day and waking up exhausted each evening.
Oliver was bothered most by one thought in particular:
There's something wrong with me.
The problem was, Oliver didn't know what that something was. He just knew that he never quite fit in with those around him, neither at home or at school. Oliver kept this feeling to himself, mainly because he was embarrassed. Vampires weren't supposed to have these kinds of problems. And if his older brother, Bane, ever found out, there would be no end to the torment.
The one thing that Oliver did know about his problem was that it seemed to be about his future. Oliver was thirteen in human years, which meant that it wouldn't be too long now before he received his demon. But that happened to every young vampire, and his classmates talked about it like it was the greatest thing. What kind of vampire wouldn't want to get his demon? To finally be able to do the things adult vampires did, like Occupy animals and go out to the Friday Socials?
So there had to be something else about the future that was keeping him up day after day. Sometimes, he almost felt like he knew what it was ... yet he could never quite put his finger on it. He would chase his thoughts around, one, then the next, always feeling like some truth was just beyond his reach.
This morning, though, his awful insomnia had brought something interesting: The intruder was back. Oliver could hear the footsteps echoing from upstairs. He quietly slipped out of his coffin and down to the stone floor. The underground crypt was silent, lit only by a faint crimson glow. Oliver's parents, Phlox and Sebastian, were asleep together in a wide coffin beside his. Bane's coffin was over by the wall, also shut tight. Oliver had heard his parents go to bed hours ago and heard Bane sneaking in after that.
He crossed the room and started up a stone spiral staircase, leaving the crypt, which was the lowest level of his family's underground home. His bare feet padded lightly on the stones, the slight ruffling of his pajamas the only other sound. The magmalight lanterns on the walls, teardrop-shaped crystal globes sitting in ornate lead sconces, had been drained for the day, so the staircase was pitch-black, but that was no problem for keen vampire eyes.
Oliver reached the main floor, and peered into the dark kitchen. The titanium appliances hummed softly, but otherwise, all was still.
Another footstep sounded above.
Oliver continued up. The stairs ended on the next landing. In front of him was a sleek steel door. He put his ear to it and heard more creaking steps from the other side. Technically, he wasn't allowed up here.... But Oliver pressed a red button, and the door slid silently open.
There was a narrow space, and then the back of a broken, rusted refrigerator. It was leaning at an angle against the wall, wires and coils hanging from it, like a great beast that had been clawed open. Oliver squeezed around the side of it—
And saw the human girl.
She was standing in the center of a large room. This was the ground floor of the abandoned house that sat atop Oliver's home. The walls that had once separated the rooms of the house had been torn away, leaving a long, vacant space cluttered with rubble and junk. The whole place was supposed to look run-down and unsafe. Phlox had taken great care to make it feel not only neglected, but forbidding—homeless people could sleep here, but why would they want to? A gang of kids could hang out here, but wasn't there maybe a cooler place to go?
Beams of gloomy Seattle morning light angled in through two broken windows on either side of the front door. Dark burgundy wallpaper sagged from the walls, revealing pocked plaster and blooms of mold. A giant hole gaped just in front of the door. It wasn't a real hole but a design trick Phlox had perfected. The girl hadn't used the door, though. She always came in through the window, using a set of thick plaid oven mitts to navigate the toothlike shards of broken glass.
She stood now, mitts under her arm, silently surveying the room's contents. There was much to look at: In addition to the peeling wallpaper and bottomless hole, there was an ancient bathtub in the corner, full of putrid water and reeking of rot. A slow, steady drip plinked into it from the sagging ceiling, where a broken chandelier hung cockeyed. In the other corner was an overturned dresser, its filthy clothes strewn into the brown puddles on the floor.
On the wall above the dresser hung a dingy painting in a tarnished, cracked frame. It was a portrait of a wiry, dour old man in a tweed suit, with very little hair, and if one looked closely, even less skin. These details were mostly obscured by mold. His piercing eyes however, which seemed to glow with an unnatural amber light, remained bright; another one of Phlox's special touches. The picture was of Oliver's departed great-uncle, Renfeld.
And yet, of all these unsettling things, each time the girl came, she spent the most time looking at the one thing that, as Sebastian had once explained to Oliver, no human could resist—the tall mirror leaning against the far wall, directly opposite Oliver's perch behind the refrigerator. Dad had said that humans could never resist a mirror. They were drawn to them like moths to a flame. The girl gazed into it now, having no idea that Oliver was watching her, because he had no reflection. Even if he'd had one, it would have been hard to see. The glass was covered with a thick film of grime, except for one circular area. The girl had cleaned this spot on her first visit. She reached up now and wiped the circle again with her cuff.
She was slightly shorter than him, wearing jeans, the same green puffy vest and maroon knit hat that she always wore, and, today, a turtleneck sweater with bright rainbow stripes that contrasted defiantly with the drab world around her. She stood with her hands on her hips, turning this way and that, every now and then reaching up and flicking at her thick braid of brown hair. She made a silly face in the mirror, baring her soft, rounded human teeth and holding up her stubby human fingers as if they were claws. She almost laughed, but then sighed and slumped her shoulders.
As Oliver watched her, he felt a wave of guilt. He should have told his parents about the girl after her first visit. He had planned to, but now she'd visited more than once and Oliver would end up getting in trouble, too. Phlox and Sebastian would want to know why he hadn't told them immediately, and what would his answer be? That he'd been curious about what she was up to and wanted to figure out why she kept coming here? What kind of a vampire would have a thought like that?
Bane would have more of a field day with this than with Oliver's insomnia. Also, it was likely that Oliver's parents would decide that this trespassing needed to be stopped in a more permanent way, and then Oliver would have nothing to distract him from his sleeplessness. Besides, this girl was harmless, wasn't she? All she ever did was come here, look around for a while, then leave—
Only now she did something different. She reached into her vest and pulled out a large black object that hung from her neck on a faded leather strap. It took Oliver a moment to recognize that it was a camera. He'd learned about it in school, a device that a human used to capture an image. Vampires never used cameras. They painted oil portraits or drew charcoal sketches. In fact, Oliver's parents had told him to avoid ever having his picture taken, but he wasn't sure why. It couldn't hurt him, like sunlight or a stake, at least as far as he knew.
The girl held the camera to her eye, slowly twisting the lens to focus, then pressed a button. There was a click. She wound a small lever and looked through it again.
Oliver watched her turn slowly around, the camera clicking. Why would she be taking pictures of this place? Oliver's family had lived here on Twilight Lane since he was very young. It was one of the streets in town where almost every house looked abandoned and run-down on the surface, yet had a vampire home beneath it. These houses were never condemned or torn down, because Sebastian's employer, the Half-Light Consortium, had vampires working undercover in important human jobs for the city. Whenever someone in the human public called for tearing down the decrepit houses on Twilight Lane, some permit or legal document would get fouled up somewhere and set the process off by years. It was in ways like this that the vampires had built a society right under the humans' noses. Sebastian said it hadn't been that hard, because humans were very good at not noticing things they didn't really want to know about. Also, people in Seattle were notoriously not nosy about their neighbors. That, along with the gloom, was one of the main reasons why so many vampires lived here.
But this girl seemed pretty curious. Maybe she just liked cold, abandoned places. That would be weird for a human, but interesting.
As she continued snapping photos, Oliver slipped out from behind the refrigerator and stepped to the wall. Putting both hands against the damp plaster, he took a deep, meditative breath.... A trace of whispers brushed across his mind, speaking in ancient vampire tongues. He felt a lightening in his feet and proceeded to scale the wall like a spider.
He'd only recently begun learning how to work with the forces. Climbing walls was one of the early skills: a prelude to levitation. Vampires could do these things because they could sense forces from other worlds. From their very first years in school, vampires were taught that this world was only one of many, most of which weren't so frustratingly physical and mortal. Each world had its own set of dimensions and rules: some very similar to Earth, some very different. The forces of nearby worlds mingled through one another, and while a human could never sense them, vampires could. As Oliver's teachers always put it, this was one of the many advantages that the undead had over the living.
When Oliver reached the top of the wall, he paused, concentrated further, then slid up onto the ceiling. He crawled slowly forward, around the frayed rope that held the broken chandelier, until he was right above the girl. Now he could hear her breathing. It was a strange sound, so frail. Like it could stop at any time. Also, from this close, he could vividly smell her.
Humans barely had any idea that they had a scent but, to a sensitive vampire nose, it acted as an all-in-one guide to their attitudes, hopes, and fears. In past visits, Oliver had sensed that this girl was frustrated, and beneath that, sad. Tonight, though, she was focused on what she was doing. She loved taking pictures. But she was nervous, too. This place scared her. Oliver could feel her pulse racing.
The girl took a step, and now she was just a little ahead of him. As she aimed the camera at the broken refrigerator, Oliver concentrated hard and let go with his hands, hanging down from his knees. His head ended up just a few inches behind the girl's shoulder. He wanted to see the room as she was seeing it, albeit upside down. Then he noticed her teardrop-shaped silver earring and reached for it. He didn't think about what he was doing; it was second nature to vampires to collect artifacts and trinkets that interested them. He began gently pulling the earring free from her earlobe—
"Ahh!" she cried out, and flinched. Oliver flashed back up to the ceiling. The girl's hand zipped through the space he'd just occupied, flicking at her own ear, and knocking off the earring. It fell into a moldy crack in the floor. She spun around, scanning the room warily.
"Emalie!" A boy's voice, a worried whisper-shout, came from outside. She had never brought anyone else along before. "Are you all right?"
"Yes," Emalie replied. She sounded scared, but also embarrassed.
"Nothing!" Emalie kept looking around the room. "Stupid spiders," she muttered.
And then her body froze, her breath catching in her throat, and she began to turn her head upward.
Oliver flattened himself against the ceiling. He reached out through the forces and began to fade out of sight. Those who were true masters of spectralization could disappear completely. They literally pushed their matter into a parallel world, becoming invisible for a short while, but Oliver had just started learning this skill, so the best he could do was make himself into a sort of foggy shadow. Hopefully in this gloom, that would be enough.
Emalie's eyes reached the ceiling. She looked right at him ...
Then she shook her head and looked away. She felt at her ear. "Shoot." She peered at the floor in search of her earring.
Oliver relaxed and reappeared above her. There was no chance she'd find that earring. He could barely see it.
The boy called again from outside. "We're going to be late!"
"Dean! Hold on—" Emalie said.
Oliver heard Dean huff.
Emalie gave up looking for the earring, then pulled another large contraption from her vest and affixed it to the top of the camera: a flash. She peered into the eyepiece, twisted the lens, then depressed a button. The flash exploded, filling the room with blinding light. Oliver winced, feeling as if his eyes had been stretched too wide. He blinked over and over, brilliant green obscuring his view. The girl aimed the camera at the dresser. She focused. This time Oliver squinted, but the flash seared his vision anyway.
Despite the green blobs in his eyes, he hung down behind her again and watched, fascinated, as she documented the whole room. It was lucky that she was using such an old camera. Because she had to look through an eyepiece, the view that she'd see would be bounced off a tiny mirror, and so even if she aimed the camera right at him, Oliver would be invisible to her. Still, he didn't plan on letting that happen—
Then, Emalie took a step back, and Oliver almost didn't move in time. He shot back up to the ceiling and scrambled out of her way. He just avoided her, but his foot caught the rope holding the chandelier. There was a shrill clinking of glass—
Emalie whirled around, camera still to her eye, aiming right at him before he could react.
The flash exploded with light.
"Tsss!" Oliver threw an arm across his eyes. He tried to keep his concentration, to hang on to the forces, but he was losing his hold. His feet began to slip off the ceiling, and he hurled himself blindly away. He arced across the room, slammed into the far wall, and fell straight into the bathtub with a tremendous splash.
Oliver hit the bottom hard and stayed there, panicked, as the water sloshed about. Once it calmed, he could see Emalie frozen in place, her eyes darting from the tub to the ceiling and around the room.
"I ... is someone there?" she asked the empty room, her voice trembling.
Stay still, Oliver thought to himself. Since he didn't need to breathe, he could stay in this tub all day, though it was unpleasantly cold. He watched from the safety of the dark, murky water as Emalie backed slowly toward the window, tucking her camera into her vest.
"Emalie!" he heard Dean call again. She slipped on her oven mitts and, when her back bumped into the wall, she turned and scrambled out, carelessly knocking shards of glass this way and that. "Ow!" she cried as the knee of her jeans ripped.
Oliver slowly slipped out of the tub and moved across the room, leaving sopping footprints on the floor. He stopped at the edge of the gray daylight. Even on a gloomy, misting morning such as this, the light made him squint.
Emalie was retreating down the overgrown path though the spiderweb-laced yard. Dean stood in the narrow gap in the high hedge that surrounded the property. He was tall, with two backpacks hanging off his lanky frame like he was a coat rack. Even from this distance, Oliver could smell the worry that Dean was feeling. Emalie reached him, and Dean handed over one of the bags. He immediately disappeared up the street, but Emalie glanced warily back toward the house.
Oliver leaned into the shadows. When he looked again, she was gone. He stepped to the side of the window, where he could see the busy intersection at the end of Twilight Lane. Emalie and Dean had reached the corner.
"What happened in there?" Oliver heard Dean ask.
Excerpted from The Vampire's Photograph by Kevin Emerson. Copyright © 2008 Kevin Emerson. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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