Abigail climbed up the stairs of the caravan holding two swords awkwardly in front of her, both blades pointing down at her feet.
Jenna came out of the shadows of the farthest corner. “What happened?”
“We’re going to put on our show in two hours. I got two swords. What do you need to do this? I asked for a table and a cloth. What else do we need?”
“We need blood. I need something that can pretend to be blood, for when you pretend to kill me. Otherwise, it won’t be real, they won’t be fooled. Someone can’t be stabbed by a sword and not have blood!”
Abigail laughed in spite of the fear and nervousness that was worming around inside her stomach. “What are we going to use?”
“Simple!” Jenna smiled and went to a cupboard, opening a small box full of red and black berries. “They gave me these a while ago, but like I said I haven’t eaten much, always save some, just in case. Mashing these up will look like blood. But we have to perform it far enough away for the illusion to look real.”
Abigail nodded. “Okay.”
“What do you plan to do after you make me dead?” Jenna asked, curious.
“You’ll be a distraction. Then I’ll use the swords to kill the gypsies. And Gideon.”
Jenna’s eyes widened. “But isn’t he family?”
“Yes and no. He has my family name, but I don’t even know who he is related to. I don’t know him, and I don’t want to know him.”
Then Jenna focused on the other thing Abigail had said. “Wait a minute, you’re going to actually kill the gypsies?”
Abigail nodded, her mouth set in a grim line. “Of course. How else did you think we were going to escape?”
“I, I don’t know but I never thought about killing people.”
“Don’t worry, they won’t be left dead.”
“You mean-?” Jenna took a step back, looking frightened.
“Do you know how to even use a sword?”
but it can’t be all that difficult. You just stick it in a person…” She
shrugged. “Let’s get to work.”
sun was high overhead when they emerged from the caravan. Abigail came out
first, followed by Jenna who was shaking like a leaf, and folded in on herself,
her arms wrapped tightly around her almost non-existent waist.
There was a table put up out on the short, dried grass, a greenish blanket thrown in a heap on top.
People were milling around anxiously and when they saw Abigail, they stopped and stared. Gideon had been sitting on the steps of the caravan with the fire eater painted on the side and rose when she arrived. His eyes glinted with a horrible light. “Are you ready? And is our little vict-, sacrifice, ready as well?” Gideon’s eyes slid over Jenna. “This is for the greater good, my dear. Look at you. You look miserable. This’ll put you out of your misery.”
Jenna’s eyes grew wide with fear and she shrunk back, bumping into Abigail.
“Don’t overdo it!” Abigail hissed at her. She turned to Gideon.
He clapped his hands like an excited child. The movement in its grotesque mockery of innocence made her shudder.
“Please don’t keep us waiting any longer, my dear.”
She suppressed another shudder and turned to Jenna. “Are you ready?” she whispered in a hushed voice.
Abigail turned to her audience and flashed what she hoped was a confident smile.
“Please climb onto the table, Miss…” Abigail realized she didn’t know Jenna’s last name.
Jenna moved and started to awkwardly climb on top of it. Abigail moved to help her so that attention wasn’t drawn to Jenna’s closed fists, the ones that held the crushed berries, her lifeblood. Once Jenna was lying flat on the table, Abigail drew the blanket over her. Her hands were trembling. She hoped she could pull of what Jenna had told her to do.
And then she held one of the swords in her hand, and leaned the other against the table, next to Jenna’s hand that was lying flat on the table, the other one was curled over her chest, holding the berries.
began to move forward, to crowd around.
She held up a hand. “Please stand back!” she said in a theatrical, circus master voice.
The audience looked unsure, and looked to Gideon for assurance.
He nodded, “listen to her.”
Abigail held the sword up, and then realized she needed to be taller, she couldn’t lift it high enough. “A step stool-“
A moment later one appeared. A short man, hunched over and hobbling put it down on the ground a few feet away from the table and then jumped back again to the safety of the line of the others.
She nodded her thanks and moved the step to the far side of the table, and climbed it. She towered over Jenna. She caught her eye. Jenna winked at her and smiled.
Abigail took a deep breath and looked out over the expectant group. They stood, leaning forward slightly, waiting.
And then she started. Words tumbled from her mouth, made up out of thin air. She threw in a couple words she hoped sounded sinister, mystical and occult. Like moon, and death, and the stars above, she rambled on about beating hearts stopping forever and about life and death being forever intertwined. She winced, and wondered if she was over doing it. She glanced at Gideon. He was hanging on her every word, leaning forward, hands clasped in front of him and a mischievous gleam in his eye.
She risked going on a little bit longer, and when she saw, out of the corner of her eye, people becoming restless, she shouted the last word and catching Jenna’s eye briefly, she plunged the sword downwards towards her chest, stopping as the tip of the sword touched the table next to Jenna’s left arm.
Jenna let out a blood curdling scream and the berry-blood blossomed a dark black-red through the sheet. And then Jenna lay still, trying to surreptitiously clean her hand of the stain of the berries.
“It is done!” Abigail shouted. For a moment longer Jenna lay still, holding her breath.
“I command you to walk!” Abigail said loudly.
Slowly, Jenna swung her legs off the table, and eased herself off it, stumbling. She tried to let her face go slack, and moaned loudly, shuffling her feet.
She lurched sideways suddenly towards a woman that was standing at the end of the first row of people. The woman screamed and ran away.
Jenna moaned again, glancing over her shoulder. Abigail had moved around the table and held the sword up above her head. She ran, screaming, toward the nearest gypsy to her – a plump woman with thick curly hair and dark eyes rimmed with kohl. At the last moment she shifted the sword from overhead, to holding it in front of her, and she plunged it straight through the woman. It was harder than she thought – the blade sliced through and then stopped for a moment, before continuing on its path. The woman tried to let out a surprised scream but instead only blood came up and out her mouth, running down her chin.
Abigail fought sickness that thrust its way up her throat and held it at bay. With less difficulty she yanked the sword from the woman who felt down heavily at her feet.
She looked at the blade covered in blood and she smiled, even though she realized it was very inappropriate. “I’m not scared,” she thought. “I’m not afraid.” She laughed and then remembered what she had to do. She needed help, she was alone and needed others to help her.
She spoke the words as quickly as she could, the words coming off her lips quicker than she could even think of them. The woman eyes had lost their spark almost instantly as she fell, with blood still moving its way across her vast stomach. But as Abigail spoke the final word, her eyes moved again in their sockets, slowly, but without the same spark.
“Get up!” Abigail screamed so loudly that her throat hurt.
Ponderously the woman climbed to her feet. Abigail grabbed a large, flabby arm and helped to pull her up. “Go to your old friends, spread the disease.” Abigail wasn’t sure if it really was a disease, what she had done, but the woman gave a slight nod and moved to her neighbour next to her. The man took one look at her and all colour left his face. His face crumpled and his mouth quavered. He tried to scream but instead all that came out was strange, strangled whimpers. The woman laughed at him, but it came out shattered and broken. She spat at the man, saliva made mostly of blood.
Abigail watched in horror as the man froze suddenly, and she thought he would topple over. And then she noticed a change in him. A subtle change, from life to death. He moved slowly, like all the life had been drained from his muscles.
“Is he undead?” she asked out loud. She realized there was no one around to answer her. A few feet away Jenna plunged the second sword into a man twice her size. He screamed at her, his eyes huge and wide, before falling limply to the ground. Abigail ran to Jenna’s side and grabbed her by the arm. “Jenna, stop! You don’t need to do this. You shouldn’t get involved.”
Jenna turned to face her, her face spattered with bright red blood. “It’s too late for that,” she said, as a tear rolled down her cheek, mingling with the blood and turning her tears red.
The man lay crumpled at their feet, and Abigail moved to stand over him, mumbling the words before they became too hard to speak around the growing lump in her throat.
She glanced over her shoulder to see the man that had been changed by the large woman and she realized with growing horror, that it wasn’t a disease, it was a virus. And viruses spread.
There was pandemonium, and people were screaming and running everywhere. People tried to flee to the safety of their caravans, but there was too many people and too little space.
Abigail turned to the man that had been changed without her help. He had gone straight from living, without actually dying, to being dead, to being a shambling, thoughtless shell. She grabbed his shoulder. The man seemed frail, but she could tell he was strong. Whatever frailty he had in life had left him in death.
“Go,” she whispered in his ear. “Go to your friends, change them, so they can be your friends again in this life. This new life.”
The man gave her a toothy smile and turned more swiftly than she would have thought possible and grabbed a small child that ran screaming through the forest of legs. He spat in the boy’s eye. The scream the boy had been uttering died instantly, and the fresh, pink face paled to a dull sickly grey.
In a handful of minutes, the living had become dead.
She saw a woman shambling towards Jenna who had her swords raised across her body, ready to slash and cut and stab. “Stay away from her!” Abigail screamed. The woman froze as if she had been shot and stopped mid step. And then she turned and moved away, seemingly aimlessly, to another part of the courtyard, to join her new fellow undead.
Abigail realized she had only actually, physically killed one person. She wasn’t sure if she was relieved by that or not. She hadn’t realized it could spread to the living without them dying first.
And then she saw a darkness within darkness move.
Gideon stepped from the shadows made by two perpendicular caravans.
He ran towards her, quicker than her army ever could. But there was more of them and only one of him.
“Grab him!” she yelled, raising her own sword, angling it across her like a protective barrier, like Jenna had. Jenna had made her way to her side, somehow. “But don’t hurt him.”
A man that was almost a giant, standing over six feet tall and three times as wide as her grabbed Gideon by one arm. A woman that barely came to Gideon’s hip appeared at his other side and kicked him sharply in the shin. He screamed and stumbled, and then a third, the fat woman with the blood drying on the layers of rags she wore, held him by his right arm.
He screamed again but this time in frustration. The little boy, the one that had been screaming in fright a few minutes before ran behind Gideon, grabbed the end of his long black coat, and pulled, yanking him backwards, to stand upright, at an uncomfortable angle, his head arched backwards slightly.
“What do you mean to do with me?” Gideon growled.
Abigail laughed and had the urge to poke him in the stomach, just lightly, as if the sword she was holding wasn’t real and was instead just a toy, or a stick. For a brief moment she realized she wished it was. She resisted. Don’t want to taunt your prey. The thought came to her suddenly, a memory. It was something her father had said to her once, but she couldn’t remember the context. It’s an odd thing to say to someone, she thought, but instead laughed out loud.
“What do I mean to do to you?” she laughed again, almost childlike. “Funny you should ask that, because I was just going to ask the same of you. What do you want from me?”
Gideon tried to pull an arm free from the grip of the fat woman and she gripped tighter and hissed at him like a feral animal.
Abigail clucked her tongue at the woman, a warning, and the woman stopped, but didn’t release her hold on Gideon’s arm.
Gideon laughed, this time it was loud and abrasive, a condescending sound. “Isn’t it obvious? I want your secret!”
Abigail stared at him, stunned. Why would anyone want what she had? “Why?”
Gideon looked at her like she was crazy, making himself look crazy in the process. “Why? Why?” he repeated in between laughter. “Because of the power, that’s why. Imagine what you could do with it!” he tried to move an arm, but both were still held fast by the…what was it that woman had called them? The Forsaken. So he thrust his head in the general direction of the large group of people milling about, wandering like ants to and fro. “Look what you have done with it!”
Abigail looked and was horrified by what she saw. She watched in disgust as one woman walked repeatedly into the side of a caravan painted with a man holding a large hoop with a tiger jumping through it.
She raised her sword, pointing it at Gideon’s chest and saw out of the corner of her eye that Jenna mirrored her.
She saw fear in his eyes like clouds moving swiftly across the sun. It was there, and then it was gone. She felt a small thrill at that. That she could make such a man, an adult, afraid of her, and wondered briefly if she could have ever made her father afraid of her, instead of just annoyed or angry at her.
“Abigail!” a voice called. It was unfamiliar, and the only other voice that could have spoken was Jenna, and she was beside her. She turned and saw a girl with wild curly hair sticking up all over the place, striding quickly towards her, alongside a man wearing navy and carrying a rifle. She faltered and the sword lost its mark on Gideon’s chest and dropped slightly.
Abigail saw her shambling minions start to slowly shuffle and lurch their way towards the two newcomers. The man with the rifle aimed his gun and fired at the closest one, a woman. The woman jerked and fell down with the force of the bullet, but a moment later clambered to her feet once more.
She saw the girl in trousers begin to run toward her giving the undead a wide berth and fearful glances. The soldier next to her, her protective barrier, shot at more and stabbed others with the bayonet spike on the muzzle, pushing them back. Some ended up skewering themselves on the bayonet for a moment, but continued their relentless onslaught, their feet moving despite being impaled. They showed no signs of pain.
“No,” Abigail said to Jenna who lifted her sword towards the young woman who had arrived. “Leave her be.”
Jenna moved her weapon back to her original position, at Gideon.
“Abigail, whatever you are doing, stop!” The woman said reaching her. And then Abigail saw the look on her face when she saw Gideon.
“You!” the woman shouted.
Gideon tugged at his human bonds. “You!” He looked around. “Where’s your friend?”
“Wait, you know each other?” Abigail asked as she watched the girl’s face crumble for a minute, and then she composed herself and looked at Gideon right in the face. “He’s gone.”
Gideon’s eyebrow rose and a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “Oh?”
“Yes,” the woman said curtly. “But I’ve gained another one.”
Gideon’s eyes moved to the soldier who was slowly making his way towards them, methodically keeping back the horde.
She shook her head. “Not him. A friend of yours.”
Gideon’s gaze flicked to hers.
This time the girl smiled. “Trevan.”
“The devil!” Gideon thrashed against the arms holding him, and they didn’t move, holding him fast.
“Who are you?” Abigail asked. “How do you know me?”
“Long story. I’m Anise, and I’m like you.”
“You’re-, you mean you can raise the dead too?”
Anise looked at her, horrified, and her already pale face paled further. “You mean-, that’s your-“
“My secret? Yes.”
to the undead still making their way to her. “So these are because of you?”
Abigail nodded. She smiled and then it faded quickly. She wasn’t sure if she should be proud of that achievement or not.
“Maybe you should tell them to stop coming at them!” Jenna said. “It seems like these people are here to help us.”
Anise nodded. “You can do that? You can control them?”
Abigail nodded in return. She pointed to Anise and the soldier. “Do not harm them!”
Instantly those that had been trying to get to Anise and Edwin stopped, as if a switch had been turned off inside them. They then moved away, as if an invisible barrier prevented them from reaching them. If one got within a few feet of them, they suddenly stopped, turned around and headed in a different direction.
Abigail saw Anise breathe a sigh of relief.
“You’re welcome,” she said. “So you’re like me? You’re a secret carrier?”
“Yes, but it’s not import-“
“You’re very important!” Gideon said. “Money is very important. Some would say it’s the lifeblood of the world.”
to Gideon and then back at Anise. “Money? I’m confused.”
“Don’t you see?” Gideon shouted gleefully. Abigail didn’t. “She has the power of alchemy!”
“Alchemy? You mean, you can turn rocks into gold?” Her eyes widened. This girl could come in handy.
“No, not rocks, but other metals. Like lead, iron, tin. Cheap metal.”
She noticed Gideon was staring at her, with a hungry look on his face. “You two, out of all of them, you two are the most important.”
“All of them? What do you mean?” Abigail was becoming more confused. She realized her sword had fallen to her side, she wasn’t focusing. She raised it again.
Anise screamed and Abigail’s sword wavered again at the sound. “What?” But then she saw it herself, and she jumped backward, sword still pointed at Gideon. The man, thin as a rake, but tough and wiry, the one holding Gideon’s right arm suddenly fell to the ground. He lay unmoving.
“What’s going on?” Anise asked, frightened.
Jenna kicked the man gently with the toe of her shoe. He didn’t move. His skin was still a deathly grey, the life had not returned to it.
“Is he dead?” It was Anise again.
“It looks like it,” Jenna replied, giving the man a stronger shove with her foot.
“But…how?” Abigail asked, confused. Abigail could see the small feet of the young boy that had been holding Gideon’s coat, holding him at a strange angle. They were splayed out on the ground. The boy had fallen and was lying on his back. And then Gideon lunged sideways, free from one of his manacles.
The soldier raised his rifle and pointed it at him, but the large woman dug in her feet and held on with a death-grip.
Gideon screamed and spun back to the woman; arm cocked and swung a punch. It connected with her face in a sickening crunch as her nose broke. But no blood came – it had frozen in her veins at death.
Jenna gasped. “Look!”
Abigail looked to where she was pointing. All the gypsy’s that had been infected by the few that had actually been physically been killed, had fallen down and weren’t moving. There was only a small handful that was still milling about aimlessly. The ground was strewn with bodies.
“They’ve died?” Anise asked, confused.
Abigail shook her head. “That can’t be. They were already dead!”
“No they weren’t. They weren’t actually killed. They were alive and then they were…infected by the real ones. The ones we actually killed. Like her,” she pointed at the large woman who was still holding tightly to Gideon. “You killed her, see?” she pointed to the large bloom of blood on the woman’s clothes.
Don’t remind me, thought Abigail sourly.
“And that man over there,” Jenna pointed to the fire eater with his fur loincloth. His torches seemed to have fallen out. “I got him, right through the gut, that’s why he’s still up and about.”
Gideon laughed, a high-pitched slightly crazed sound. “So it seems there’s a downside to your abilities!”
“It’s just temporary,” Anise said in awe. “They become mindless things that you can control, but only for a short time. And then they actually die.”
Abigail shook her head. “I can still control them. The ones that are truly dead. Watch,” she turned to the fat woman. “Break one of his fingers.”
“No!” Shouted Gideon, followed quickly by Anise.
But it was too late, the woman grabbed Gideon’s left hand and yanked his small finger savagely. There was a small but loud pop and Gideon screamed like a banshee.
“Stop! Please!” he cried.
Anise put her hand on Abigail’s sword arm. “Don’t do this. Don’t become like him!”
“Why not? I am like him! I’m family!” she said viciously.
“No, you’re not. I mean, you are,” Anise said.
Abigail looked at her, suddenly suspicious. “You know about me? How?”
“The Consortium. They gave me your photo, and your name. And I know it’s the same as Gideon’s.”
“Why are you here?”
“To stop Gideon from getting what he came he for. Your secret.”
“Well, as you can see, I have that under control,” Abigail said, petulantly. She cursed herself. I sound like a child! I’m not a child, not anymore! I’ve killed someone. And then she distracted herself again. Does that make me a grown up now?
“Anise!” A gruff voice called from the far side of the camp.
“Trevan!” Gideon shouted as he tried to wrench free from the woman again.
Behind Trevan Anise could see Eleanor. She looked again, farther behind but didn’t see anyone else. “Where’s Silas?”
Trevan had reached Anise’s side, and Eleanor followed like a pale ghost.
“He’s stayed behind. There was an issue.”
Abigail felt the situation slipping from her hands once more. “Who are all these people?”
“They’re other Secret Carriers.”
“Others? How many are there?” Abigail saw movement out of the corner of her eye, and watched as Gideon swiftly removed a gun from somewhere within his long black coat. A flash of brilliant blue-white light blinded Abigail, as Gideon fired his energy gun at his captors arm. The electricity caused the muscles of her arm to spasm and the grip on his arm loosened. He jerked himself free.
And then he was next to Eleanor, and had an arm wrapped tightly around her waist. She screamed in surprise, and then shock.
“No!” Anise screamed. It was Ophelia all over again. Her mind went back to the dusty tent in the desert of Eden. This time it was not a sword, but an energy gun, held against his victim.
Gideon flashed a smile almost as brilliant as the stream of energy from his gun. “How could I have forgotten?” He said with a deprecating laugh. He sneered at Abigail and Anise. “Gold and having an army of the living dead are nothing compared to immortality.” He smiled again.
Anise shivered to see it.
“If I could pinch Miss Murphy’s cheek right now, I would,’’ Gideon said. “But my hands are kind of full at the moment.” One arm was wrapped tightly around her chest, while the other held the energy gun to her head.
“If you hurt a hair-“ Trevan began.
Gideon laughed, and turned his tarnished copper penny eyes at him. “You’ll what, dear man? You’ll whisk us off to some other time? And what good will that do?”
Anise could see Trevan’s jaw working, as he fought to keep himself under control, to keep him from doing something rash. She knew how he felt. She wanted to do the same thing.
“What if I gave you money?” she said. “Enough money so you could go away and leave us and do whatever you need to do. You could buy whatever you wanted.”
Gideon laughed. “Come here, girl, and put your hand in my pocket,” his eyes moved down to the pocket in his long overcoat.
“What?” Anise took a step back, instead of forward, wary, watching.
“You left it at the medical camp, I’m assuming as a gift for me?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking ab-. Colin. Colin must have left it. The idiot!” her anger fueled, she pushed away the fear and went to him, sticking her hand in his deep pocket, and pulling out a large chunk of lead.
“What? I don’t understand. It was gold-“
Gideon smiled. “Now you can see what little good that would do me? Your promises have nothing to give. You can’t bribe me with gold that turns back to lead!”
“But-, but-“ Anise stammered.
“But nothing! Your abilities, just like little Abigail’s here, they’re flawed.”
Anise saw Abigail jerk as if she’d been hit.
“But there’s one that isn’t flawed,” Edwin said, raising his rifle.
As fast as a cobra Gideon swung his energy gun away from Eleanor’s neck and at Edwin, and fired. A long snake of blue-white energy flew toward him. Anise and Trevan jumped out of the way and watched wide-eyed as the energy hit him square in the chest. He stumbled back a few steps, but stayed upright. A wide smile spread like molasses across his face. “See?”
Gideon’s eyes grew wide.
Eleanor played her part seamlessly. She kicked out and back, connecting hard with Gideon’s shin, and bending forward sharply. He screamed, and Eleanor shoved his arm off her and ran.
Anise stood, arms wide, ready to catch her. “You’re safe now,” she said. And then it was five against one.
Gideon was doubled over.
And then there were screams, from everyone but Edwin.
He fired, one shot, and then two. Gideon fell back, a shocked look across his face. “Wha-?”
Anise, Abigail, Trevan, Eleanor and Jenna gathered around him and looked down. Edwin remained behind, with the butt of his gun planted in the ground, like a war memorial statue.
Anise turned to all of them in turn. “Fitting, I think. Don’t you agree?”
There were murmurs of consent all around, but Abigail remained silent. She stared down at his face, only traces of lines marring his smooth skin. She couldn’t tell how old he really was, but the splinters of grey at his temples hinted at it. She said the words quickly, in her mind, and kept her expression flat. She hoped her silence didn’t betray her. The words flew through her brain, more quickly than speaking them aloud. The final word escaped her lips as quietly as an exhale. “Forever.” And then she added, more loudly. “I have a secret of my own.”
Abigail wasn’t sure who said it, but it didn’t matter. She smiled as she saw his golden eyes turn slowly in their sockets toward her, and she saw the ghost of a smile on his lips.
“Family. It’s important, isn’t it?” she said with her own half-smile, before turning away, her sword hanging limply at her side.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Caitlin McCollWrite a Review