Described by readers as ‘a gripping read’, ‘modern and funny’ and ‘dark and seductive’ Darkly Dreaming by Chloe Hammond is a literary exploration into a sinister world where vampires lurk in our shadows.
It is dark by the time we get back to the hotel. The night porter pouffs, but otherwise ignores us, so we scuttle guiltily past, aware that the days of being able to charm middle-aged foreign men with our drunken antics seem to be over. Before I go to our room, I pop in to check on Melanie and Liz one last time. I guiltily notice that in my rush to get downstairs to apologise to the freaky people outside earlier, I hadn’t locked their door. Their lights are off so there is only the light from the hallway behind me to illuminate the room as I walk towards Lizzie. I quickly scan the room to see if anything has been moved while we were out, looking for evidence that either of them has been up and about. The curtains have been drawn, but not properly, so I can see the window is still open a crack. Liz’s covers are off her again, and she is lying on her back. At first I take this as a good sign, but there is something slack about her face that causes my heart to tug and stomach to freeze, even before my conscious mind has absorbed the information that she is dead.
I know most people would scream now, but I don’t scream when I’m really scared; I freeze. My hand covers my mouth and my eyes feel like they are popping out of my head. My other arm wraps around my waist, holding myself together. Layla is standing behind me in the doorway. Seeing me freeze, she kicks the door closed and flicks the light on.
‘What?’ she hisses. She has the same instinct to secrecy as me, until we’ve assessed a crisis and decided on our action, we go quiet. As the fluorescent light hums and flickers and finally snaps on, Melanie, face twisted beyond all recognition, rises shrieking from her bed and flies at Layla, latching onto her and burying her face into Layla’s neck. For an instant I think that she’s been terrified by whatever has happened to Lizzie, but Layla is screaming and gurgling and stumbling around trying to push her off. I realise she is tearing at the side of Layla’s throat with her teeth.
For an agonising moment I am transfixed in horror and terror until, in slow motion, I power myself across the room as my friend falls to her knees. I seem to grow as I move, as the decision for fight not flight fills me. I grab Melanie’s hair at the scruff of the neck and wrap it around my wrist, with my other hand I grip her face under the chin and rip it away from Layla’s neck. She slides her chin, slippery with Layla’s blood, lower in my grip and sinks her teeth into the pad of flesh at the base of my thumb, as I spin her up and away from Layla.
I smash the side of her face into the wall and then smear it across, over to the window, pulling my hand away from her mouth and throwing my weight into her back so I am behind her and pushing as she reaches the window frame. The window flies further open under our weight and her top half tips out. I almost topple with her, but I pull back in time. Without even thinking, I jerk back and down, snatch up her feet and flip her up and out of the window, turning my back quickly so I won’t have to watch her fall.
Bent double and panting, my eyes lock with Layla’s where she lies on the floor. Wordlessly I stand, close the window, and help her up. Slipping my arm under her shoulder, I support her out of the room, pulling the door closed behind me.
‘What the fuck do we do now?’ I gasp as I drag her into our room. She is staggering, barely able to walk. I am speaking to myself; I don’t expect an answer. All I can think is: I’ve just killed someone. I’ve just killed someone, round and round in my head. The vision of Melanie’s feet flipping out through the window is all I can think about. I know Layla is injured and I need to get her help, but I seem stuck and disconnected, like I am watching myself play a role in a drama from a thousand miles away. Picking up the phone is beyond me.
‘Nothing. You do nothing,’ says a voice from behind me.
As interested in our heroines’ emotional changes as their physical transformations, the story leads you through their infection, transformation, and difficult adaption to their strange new life. We experience their hopes and compromises, heartbreaks and rage as deeply as they do. A modern gothic, these vampires aren't the undead, they have been infected by a virus and undergone as physical changes as radical as a butterfly does during metamorphosis. These vampires are as beguiling, cruel and fatal as cats, and just as irresistible. Non-Kindle users can find Darkly Dreaming here. Find out more on Facebook or Chloe Hammond's Website.