Jake frowned at his phone, surprised to be receiving a call from Vincent. Vincent was off on holiday, doing some form of trek to see wildlife by night. Being a vampire the night part was compulsory, of course.
Vincent had been insistent that he would be getting away from it all and that his phone would be off the entire time. So why on earth was he phoning?
Jake picked up his phone and answered it.
“Hi Vincent. What’s up?”
The reply was breathless.
“Jake? You’ve got to help me! I don’t want to do it! I can’t let him die, but I can’t do that!”
Jake’s mild worry immediately descended into deep concern.
“Slow down, Vincent. What’s wrong? You can’t let who die?”
“Bob. My guide. He was showing me some tracks. When he crouched down a snake bit him on the back of the thigh. He recognised it. Jake, it’s poisonous. That’s why I must. If I don’t do it he’s going to die. But I can’t do it!”
Jakes brain burst into action. The first thing that sprang to mind were the many potions he’d created which would be perfect antidotes, but he wasn’t with Vincent so they were no good. His mind turned to more practical matters.
“Vincent, calm down. Listen to me, you need to tie a tourniquet above the wound to stop the poison spreading to the rest of his body. It won’t solve the problem but it will buy him some time.”
“Yes! Bob told me to do that and I’ve done it already. He told me we’re too far from anyone to get help. He told me… he told me I have to suck the poison out. I can’t do that, Jake. I just can’t do it.”
“Vincent, you don’t need to worry. You’re a vampire. There’s no way that any snake venom is going to harm you. You’re perfectly safe to suck it out.”
“You don’t understand. He tried to get it out by cutting the area he was bitten with his knife. It wasn’t enough. He can still feel the poison, feel the burn of it spreading.”
“Well, then you need to do as he says.”
“Jake, I can’t! He cut where the snake bit. He’s bleeding. There’s blood there.”
“Oh… oh shit!”
Jake fell silent. Vampires got a bad rap from humans, even though almost everyone thought they were mythical. In reality many vampires were perfectly reasonable people.
Actually most were until there was blood involved, but then they were like sharks smelling blood in the water. Everything became instinct. Vampires mostly went a long way out of their way to avoid ever being in those situations.
Vincent was a step beyond that. He had immense self-control and always managed to keep those desires in check. But this… actually having to suck the blood in, along with the snake venom, and to taste it on his tongue… could even Vincent’s control hold under that provocation? And what would it do to Vincent if it didn’t?
“Vincent, I don’t know what to say. If you don’t do as he asks he’s going to die.”
“If I do as he asks he might die anyway, and not from the snakebite. I don’t know if I can control myself, Jake. I don’t know what to do.”
“Vincent, you have to do what you think is right. He doesn’t know what he’s asking of you, he doesn’t understand what it could cost you, or what it could cost him. If you’re in any doubt, if you think there’s any chance you’ll lose control, then don’t do it. There is another alternative.”
“There is? What?”
“The tourniquet won’t work in the long term because you have to tighten it so much absolutely no blood was flowing. That would cause him to lose the leg. I doubt most humans would have the strength to do that anyway…”
“But I do.”
Vincent’s voice was flat now, emotionless.
“Yes. Easily. He’ll survive, though he’ll lose the leg. If you’ve any doubts about your self-control it’s probably the only way he will survive.”
“Thank you Jake. I know it was a lot to hit you with. You’ve made me realise what I have to do. I’ll call you back later.”
The line went dead. Jake stood there, still holding his phone, realising he had absolutely no idea which option his friend was going to choose. No, that wasn’t quite true. He was certain Vincent wouldn’t leave the man to die. The question was whether he’d risk trying to save the man completely or take the safe path, tighten the tourniquet and cost the man his leg.
* * *
The next hour was torturous for Jake. He was desperate to call Vincent, to text him, but he didn’t dare. Partly because he was worried his friend wouldn’t reply, or wouldn’t be able to reply because he’d lost control. Partly because he was worried Vincent might reply, and then Jake would know what choice was made. So he sat there, staring at the phone with all kinds of possible outcomes running through his head.
When the phone rang he actually jumped off the chair slightly. He saw Vincent was calling, grabbed it and answered it as quickly as possible.
“Vincent? What happened? Are you okay? Is your guide okay?”
Vincent’s voice was weary, distant.
“He is fine!” he said. “The paramedics just took him away. They shoved him full of anti-venom, but Bob is confident there’s none left in his system anyway. He says he’d be dead by now if there was.”
“And… does he still have…”
Jake trailed off.
“Yes, he still has both legs. I did it. I got rid of the venom.”
“You… You sucked out the venom! Were you okay with the…”
“Yes. I’ll admit it was difficult, but I managed to avoid losing control. The feel of the blood on my tongue… the taste of it… Jake, it was really difficult but I managed it.”
“That’s amazing! How did you do it?”
Jake, I’ll tell you how, but if you ever tell anyone else what I say to you now… or if you snigger… I swear I will kill you in a most painful way.”
Jake was shocked by that. This wasn’t like the Vincent he knew. What could be so bad?
“Okay. I promise. I won’t tell anyone, I won’t snigger. How did you do it?”
“Simple. I did what he asked. I sucked. I just didn’t swallow!”
Jake just managed to stick the phone on silent before collapsing to the floor, choking with laughter. He’d keep the first part of his promise, he’d never tell their friends or mention it again to Vincent, but hearing the strait-laced vampire come out of with that line was too much for anyone to hear without collapsing in hysterics.