Planet of Vampires: A Novella

The first four chapters of a sci-fi horror tale

R D Francis
16 min readJul 7, 2020

On July 24, 1701, French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded Fort de Pontchartrain de Detroit in New France, a geographical area on the former North American continent that bordered what was once Eastern Canada in the north to the former American southern state of Louisiana along the Gulf of Mexico. Between the years of 1710 and 1716 he was the governor of the Louisiana territory and he formerly commanded Fort de Buade, later known as the Michigan city of St. Ignace, in 1694. The city was named after St. Ignatius of Loyola, the patron saint of spiritual retreats and of soldiers who fought as warriors of right.

— From the Osirian Archives

Forgive me for bastardizing the wisdom of Archilochus: The ant-eater knows many things, but the ant knows one big thing “That ‘big thing,’ the swarm, is a unified ‘brain’ that constructs entomological monuments without blueprints; the whole colony functions as a single organism. In order for the Earth to survive, man must function as a unified organism, that is to say, ‘as one big thing.’

— Dr. Vladmir Coleman, from one of his many lectures stored in the Osirian Archives


FROM the ashes of dead stars, the planet Earth drifts among the Devil’s stardust. . . .

“Throughout history, man has proven itself as a biomechanical engine;” speaks an authoritative voice as an explosive flash of light breaks the Earth’s cloud cover, somewhere near the Middle Eastern-Russian boarders, “a bloody bone machine infused with a perpetual desire to gratify its hungers;”

Inside a darkened university lecture hall, a room filled with 20-year-old students, including Brent Coleman and Susan Helms, along with their friends, the African-American David Griggs and Latino Marsha Ivins, listens to the lecture, “a bloodstained narcissism festering a cultural defiance of God’s mortality curse.”

A robust, 50-something Dr. Vladmir Coleman stands at a lectern. A PowerPoint presentation changes from an image of Leonardo De Vinci’s 1490 work The Last Supper, into Peter Paul Ruben’s 1636 work Saturn Devouring His Sons. “Thus, in our quest for survival, man cultivated his own flesh and organs into life reconstituting and youth-preserving elixirs. In times of famine, man betrayed his own futures to stave off death by trading and cooking his own children.” As an image of a Gothic artwork depiction of an army pillaging a village appears, he continues, “As for the unfortunates who expired in the midst of famine, the consumption of those from the same community guided their souls into the still living descendants who consumed the fallen flesh.” Then a split-screen image of two Vlad Tepes illustrations: one of an Ambras Castle 1560 oil portrait, the other a 1499 woodcut print as Tepes dines on a grassy hill surrounded by stake-impaled bodies. “In times of war, the victors cannibalized the organs of their human spoils; in the belief the consumption endowed the conqueror with characteristics of the vanquished.”

Brent conceals his contempt to the others, but he’s visibly uncomfortable regarding the use of the Tepes images displayed behind his father.

“As our society overdevelops,” continues Dr. Coleman over a photographic montage of New York City through the ages, “it cannibalizes Gaia, a creature who is more than an earth goddess of ancient Greece from who the gods were said to have descended.” A photograph of Earth from space displays behind Dr. Coleman. “Gaia is our Earth, a living host organism suffering from a human infestation; a giant astronomical creature teeming with life agonized under our foolish hands.” Then the final title card to the lecture appears:

Chemical Transfers of Gaian Memories through Cannibalism

Suggested Holiday Break Readings: The collective works of Robert Thompson, James V. McConnell, and James Lovelock

The auditorium lights illuminate. The students stir, rub their eyes and stretch. As Susan collects her school materials, she catches an uncomfortable, admiring stare from Dr. Coleman at the podium, who half-pays to his attentions of his teaching assistant as she collects materials.

“I feel you, Sue,” says Marsha. “Your future father-in-law may be brilliant, but his lectures make me feel like I just attended a funeral.”

“Hmm,” says David with a taking of Marsha’s hand. “Delicious Marsha-morsels.”

“Help,” cries Marsha to David’s neck nibbles. “Save me from Count Blacula.”

“I’m starving too,” pecks Sue on Brent’s cheek.”

“Yeah, but first we need to go down and see dad,” says Brent to the motion of his father’s hand.

As the quartet approaches, Dr. Coleman holds up an envelope.

“You got ‘em!” says Brent.

“Thank you so much, Dr. Coleman,” handshakes David.

“I can’t thank you enough, Dad.”

“You’ve had a spectacular sophomore year, Brent. I can’t think of four students more deserving.”

As the quartet walks across the campus, other students express the joy of their last class and semester break.

“Be packed and ready to board the crazy train, Dave,” says Brent. “I’ll swing by Sue’s and meet you at Marsha’s.”

“Liberty Island, here we come,” David kisses Marsha’s cheek.


A “4th of July 2060” banner flaps in the breeze on Liberty Island Park in New York City. A glistening Lady Liberty casts a shadow across American and Corporation Flags. Picnickers celebrate. A group of kids tosses a football. Sound technicians ready equipment on an empty stage set in front of a grouping of empty bleachers. News crews set up cameras in front of the stage.

In the head of Lady Liberty, Brent Coleman and Sue Helms, David Griggs and Marsha Ivins, along with six tourists, gaze at the 360 degree panorama of the New York Harbor, Ellis Island, and the shores of New York and New Jersey. . . .

“You gotta be quick, Tiger,” Sue playfully dashes with a football across the grasses of Liberty Island Park — with a taunt of Brent in hot pursuit. “Grrr! You gotta catch me, before you can kiss — oh!” stumbles Sue onto the grass.

Coleman straddles her and gazes into her eyes.

“And yet no greater,
but more eminent,
Love by the springs is grown,
As in the firmament
Stars by the sun are not enlarged,
but shown.
Gentle love-deeds,
as blossoms on a bough
From love’s awakened root
do bud out now.”

“Ugh. Of all the guys in philosophy,” reasons Sue. “I get stuck with the weirdo who quotes John Donne poems when he tackles his girlfriend playing touch football. Just kiss me already, your dork.”

“Hey, Marsha, check out the love birds,” kneels David on a picnic blanket.

“Hey, you two. Think you can pull your lips apart for about five minutes and eat something?” Marsha calls out.

“Umph. O-tay. Umm. Okay, Mar,” Sue barely gets out under a wave of kisses from Brent.

“You can’t live on kisses, can you Mr. Griggs. Duck lips,” puckers Marsha to receive a kiss from David.

“I’m beginning to think Isaac Newton was right about his prediction of 2060,” reasons Marsha from her lounging position on David’s lap across the picnic blanket. “Corporatocracy didn’t stop that bombing in Turkmenistan.”

“Marsha, Corporatocracy isn’t a sign the world is coming to an end,” counters Brent. “And we’re not going to wipe out border skirmishes between religious factions overnight.”

“Think of it as a rebirth, baby,” says David. “Africa’s finally a united nation. They said that could never happen.”

“David’s right,” agrees Brent. “And the Pacific Rim countries have nearly eradicated all of their territorial disputes.”

“I just fear the few making the decisions for the many — ,” says Sue.

“But it’s for the common good,” counters Brent. “We could live in a world free from war, poverty, and sickness.”

“So, that’s the solution?” says Marsha. “We wipe the slate clean at the risk of relinquishing choice?”

“I’d rather see people struggle, and be free,” says Sue.

“Everyone enjoying the same amenities as the bureauticians is freedom,” David says to Sue. “Needs and wants. Those are the true shackles.”

“You really think a world economic and political system controlled by corporations is a solution?” Sue replies.

“All I know is that Nationalism doesn’t work. It’s never worked,” counters Brent. “It’s been a perpetual cycle of governmental animosity, greed and prejudice.”

Later that evening, Brent Coleman and Sue Helms, David Griggs and Marsha Ivins gaze upward at Lady Liberty aglow under a fireworks display. Then an explosion blows out the Lady’s Chest. They take off running amid the throngs to escape a hail of shrapnel. Lady Liberty’s right arm snaps off — and her torch shatters on the ground.


BRENT Coleman shocks awake inside his module on Mars Liberty Base. He stares at a wall photo opposite the foot of his bed of the Lazarus II crew comprised of himself and a now 36-year-old Sue Helms, along with David Griggs and Marsha Ivins, and the 30-somethings Kimberly Quan and Mary Yergorov. Each is adorned in Ophion Dynamics Military Dress blues. They clutch their hands overhead in victory.

And Brent replays the voice of his father in his head, “. . . as we embark on the second phase of man’s greatest technological achievement:”

Ophion Dynamics executives and military officers sit around twenty circular, eight-seat banquet tables in an ostentatious conference room. Dr. Vladmir Coleman stands behind a podium on stage where a massive screen displays the logos for Ophion Dynamics — the word “Ophion” set inside a circle superimposed over stylized wings — and the Lazarus II mission patch. Six corporate executives sit in a row of eight chairs to the left of the podium, next to a 40-year-old William Bouguereau. The six-man crew of the Lazarus II sits at podium right.

“The colonization of Mars,” continues Dr. Coleman. “I am proud to present the brave crew of the Lazarus II and her intrepid captain, my son, Brent Lance Coleman.”

The Lazarus II crew rises and they clutch hands overhead in victory (as in the photo). Brent takes to the podium. Dr. Coleman sits next to William Bouguereau and the six corporate executives. The room darkens; the Ophion and Lazarus logos dissolve into a PowerPoint graphic as the Planet Mars appears on screen. The image then morphs and zooms onto the surface of Mars and travels across her red landscape.

“In the early days of the twenty-first century,” Brent reads from a Plexiglas teleprompter screen, “man embarked on his first trip to the fourth planet on the Mars 500, a special isolation facility at the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems in Moscow.”

“Now, man has expanded beyond his own world to colonize another,” continues Brent. A new graphic appears on screen. “Welcome to Mars Liberty Base.”

Brent and Sue, David and Marsha, along with Quan and Yergorov, enjoy food and wine with Dr. Coleman and William Bouguereau at their banquet table.

“For you see, Susan, my dear,” speaks Dr. Coleman, “religion is analogous to the infestation of the gypsy moth.”

“Dr. Coleman? A religious analogy between faith and insects?” says Sue.

“Forgive me, Dad. I’m not following, either.”

“And that’s the problem with man, Brent,” counters Bouguereau. “We fail to follow that religion has nothing to do with faith.”

“I’m sure you’re all familiar with the French Astronomer, Ètienne Léopold Trouvelot.”

“Of course, Dr. Coleman. He shaped our view of the heavens,” says David.

“Moreover, he shaped how we’ve seen our own planet, Mr. Griggs.”

The Lazarus II crew looks on with intrigue.

“In the year 1868, Trouvelot discovered native silk spinning caterpillars were succumbing to disease. So, in his desire to create a hardier hybrid, he imported European Gypsy Moth eggs.”

“I’m familiar with the story,” says Quan. “But I’m not seeing your point, sir.”

“Then you know some of those imported moths escaped, Kimberly.”

“And how is that like religion?” asks Yergorov.

“Trouvelot inadvertently created a plague directly resulting from his best of intentions,” says Dr. Coleman.

“So you’re saying religion is like plague,” interjects Marsha.

“Man unleashed religion across the world with the best of intentions,” says Bouguereau.

“Exactly,” says Dr. Coleman. “Look at the enslavement of the dark-skinned peoples of Africa; the slaughter of the red-skinned peoples of the North Americas. Then there’s the plight of the Aborigines of Australia. Each culture decimated because their social order didn’t subscribe to the rules of Christianity imported from Europe.”

“But even with its flaws,” counters Brent, “Christianity’s intent was pure.”

“Yes, Brent. At first,” says Dr. Coleman. It was to spread the word of God, to strengthen man. Then man’s vanity escaped and he defoliated millions of people in the name of religion.”

At the nave inside a Catholic Church, a priest at the altar conducts a Holy Communion Service. A well-dressed congregation populates the pews. They watch a six-year old Brent Coleman beam; he grasps an ornate gold chalice and walks towards the altar.

Then he stops in fear.

The Chalice tips and blood pours from a bottomless cup.

Young Brent stares up, into the eyes of his adult self — adorned as Jesus Christ on the Crucifix above the altar.

Jesus-Brent lifts his head, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

Young Brent now looks across a tattered and war-torn congregation. He drops to his knees at the altar. He stares at the bronze plaque on the podium that displays the Emma Lazarus sonnet, “The New Colossus.”

Brent Coleman shocks awake inside his module on Mars Liberty Base. He composes himself. He rolls over in his bed to the sedative bottle and carafe on the nightstand. He pops a pill. He sits up and stares through the module’s viewport onto the Mars landscape.

Three, five-story prism silos set in a triangular cluster serve as the main core of Mars Liberty Base. Spokes run from the silos and each spoke ends with a rectangular dome. A solar panel farm, communication dishes, and a water tower with a pipeline fades into landscape. Three atmosphere scrubber cones surround the base perimeter.

Off in the distance, a biped robot waddles to a conduit and begins to solder a connection. Brent and Yergorov, adorned in spacesuits and helmets, repair a solar panel on the farm.

“Brent,” Quan calls out from her work station inside Mars Liberty Base’s Operations Core. “Susan just received a Priority Red from Commander Bouguereau. I need you and Mary to come in.”

“David, Marsha,” Sue Helms’s voice cracks across the Oxygen Garden aboard the Lazarus II. David cultivates vegetable crops while Marsha repairs a fan motor. “I need you both on the flight deck. Priority Red from Ophion Flight Control.”

On the flight deck of the command module aboard the Lazarus II, Sue, David, and Marsha gather around the communications station. Bouguereau’s images displays on the first monitor. Brent, Mary, and Kimberly’s image appears on the second monitor.

“This is Lazarus,” Sue announces. “Liberty Base is online, Commander Bouguereau.”

Back on Mars Liberty Base, Brent, Mary, and Kimberly cluster around two monitor images of the Lazarus crew and Bouguereau.

“This may be our last communication. There’s been a breakdown at the U.C. Conference in Geneva,” says Bouguereau.

Back on Earth, Bouguereau sits in his office at the Ophion Dynamics complex; he talks towards two monitor images of the Lazarus and Liberty Base crews. “Ophion has a blockade on all ports along the U.S eastern seaboard. Turner Logix is threatening to cut commun — acc — .”

The monitors and com-link aboard the Lazarus crackles and displays white noise.

“Nakataki Logistics just launched a biochemical strike on Stratus Technology territories!” Bouguereau cries out.

The Liberty Base and Lazarus crews stare in shock at the white noise and static on their respective monitors.


A horizontal Eiffel Tower orbits Mars space. The stern of the Lazarus II’s 900-foot needle-like lattice supports a drive section cluster of four cylindrical tanks, two vertical solar panels off her deck and hull, and two horizontal heat radiator panels along her portside and starboard. Capsules, pods, and com arrays protrude off her spine. The fuselage displays logos for Ophion Dynamics. A perpendicular centrifuge rotates at mid-section that supports six anti-gravity crew “spike” modules. The command module on her bow resembles an inverted liberty bell. Between the crew centrifuge and command module are two elongated cylindrical modules on her starboard and portside spine that serve as the ship’s oxygen garden. Attached to her underside spine, just behind the command module, are the shuttle crafts the Colossus and the Rhodes.

“I can’t help thinking we might be better off not seeing what happened to Earth,” says Yergorov on the command module’s flight deck.

“Mary’s right,” agrees Sue. “Our oxygen is self-replenishing, the water recycled, and we have unlimited solar power. I vote for Liberty.”

“Whatever has happened, it’s still home,” reasons Quan.

“We’ve held our orbit for as long as we could,” adds David. “We’re out of time, and hope.”

“I’ve ran the numbers three times. If we don’t take this launch window within the next two days, we wait — .”

“Waiting,” Brent cuts off Marsha, “isn’t going to make a difference. We have to assume the worst has happened. Plot our launch window.”

A dispensed syringe sits on the nightstand next to Brent’s bed inside his crew module on the Lazarus II. Next to the syringe stands a framed photograph of Brent and Sue sharing an embrace in front of the Eiffel Tower — along with a bookmarked copy of the hypothetical-alternate history gale Uchronie, an 1876 novel written by French Philosopher Charles Renouvier.

“Brent,” Sue’s voice cracks over the intercom. “Brent.”

His eyes shock open. He exhales a deep breath and rubs his eyes.

“Commander Coleman?”

“Yeah, Sue. I’m here. What time is it?”

“4 A.M. I’m sending you the latest intel.”

Brent rises from the bed. He safely cuddles a peacefully limp calico cat, Gustave, against his chest. He stars at a yellowish-green orb with one lone, scarred moon on the monitor of his room’s control panel. “Where you able to establish any communications?”


With a second glance at the control panel, Brent gazes at the readout:

Date: July 3, 2076
Earth U.S EST: 4:00 AM
Sunrise: 5:30 AM
Sunset: 8:30 PM
LOD: 15h 00m 43s
Solar Noon: 1:00 PM
Solar Altitude: 72.2
Solar Distance: 94.510

“Godspeed, Commander Gustave,” Brent kisses his old friend and gazes into the starfield that scrolls across the viewport of his module. With a click of a button, he accesses the various external angled-images of the Lazarus II’s hull as it approaches the sickly, yellowish green orb that was once home.

“Mojave Air,” Sue speaks into her headset. “This is Lazarus Two requesting trajectory reentry.” On the bridge inside the command module at her Communications Officer’s station, she gazes at the monitor’s display graphics of the North American continent and the locations of eight commercial spaceports. Marsha, the Lazarus’ Navigation Officer, comes up behind and rests her hand on Sue’s shoulder. “Oklahoma Spaceport. This is Lazarus Two. Do you read?” Sue changes the frequency. “Kodiak Launch Complex, requesting re-entry. . . .” She rips off her headset and wipes away tears. “This is hopeless. We should have never come back, Marsha. We could have survived on Liberty.”

“It was are only choice. We’ll find survivors.”

An overhead skylight in the hull of the Lazarus II offers an interior view of the lush, green gardens of the Oxygen Garden Module. Water spills over a stainless steel waterfall. A large three-bladed fan circulates the air; tree leaves sway in the mechanical-breeze.

Brent kneels; he scoops the last spade of soil and pats it down tight. Then he thrusts a vinyl cover from a Lazarus II mission binder into the soil — as a crude makeshift grave marker. Written in Sharpie marker under the mission logo is the name: “Commander Gustave.” Then he rests a photograph at its base of himself and Sue holding their faithful companion, who was named after the French engineer, Gustave Eiffel, the designer of the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty.

Attached to the underside of Lazarus II’s spine, inside the Shuttle Colossus, Warrant Officer Quan and David, the ship’s Executive Officer, sit in their respective co-pilot and pilot seats. They program the flight computers. The yellowish, green orb appears through the flight deck windows.

“That hot mess burnt out two atmospheric probes. Flying blind through that yellow sludge is bad news,” reasons Quan.

“There’s not a flying brick I can’t handle. No worries, Kimmy Q,” Dave says with the tap of his headset. “Marsha. We’re set to download a copy of Lazarus’s memory core, on my mark.”

Back on the flight deck of the Lazarus II’s command module, Sue and Marsha enter computer codes at their stations. “Roger, David,” replies Marsha. “Initiate upload.” A progress bar illuminates on screen. “Data transfer in progress.”

“Hey, you okay, Mary?” says Quan to Flight Engineer Yergorov who enters the bulkhead of Shuttle Colossus.

“What is there to say at this point, Kim?” shrugs Yergorov.

Quan nods in the affirmative.

“Are we good to go, Mary?” says David from his E.O pilot seat.

“Supplies are stocked to capacity and all pods are set. I’m heading topside.” Then the sight of the yellowish orb through the viewport stops Yergorov cold. “300 years.”

“300 years, what?” says Quan.

“2076,” replies David. “It would have been America’s tri-centennial.”

“Isaac Newton was off by sixteen years,” Yergorov smirks. She exits through the bulkhead.

Back on the flight deck inside the Lazarus II’s command module, Sue cries into Marsha’s shoulder.

“Sorry, Captain,” says Sue upon Brent’s entrance.

There’s no need to be sorry. You’re both doing great. Any — .”

“They’re gone,” cuts off Sue.

“What? The I.S.S and the I.M.B. You mean you can’t hail them.”

Sue activates two monitors: one displays the images of a scorched moonscape with destroyed structures; the second shows a debris field where a space station should be. “Brent, what are we going to do?”

Yergorov and David enter the module. “Oh, dear god,” they say in unison.

Quan enters behind them. “The station and the moon base?”

“And no response from any of the North American spaceports,” says Sue.

Book covers and banner design by R.D Francis/all images credit inside each novel

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R D Francis

Screenwriter, novelist, broadcaster, film critic, and music journalist. Visit at