I jerked awake and frantically looked around at my surroundings. I let out a slow breath as it all came back to me. I had a nightmare from the day my parents died and I was left alone at age eleven. Now I was no longer that scared child, but instead, I have grown into an independent sixteen-year-old girl. I was traveling late last night and stumbled across an old barn I decided to rest in.
I was laying on an old stack of hay and could see light seeping in through cracks in the roof. I got up and stretched my limbs then looked over to the journal laying next to my dad’s old bag I found all those years ago. I still don’t understand what it says or even what language it is but I decided to keep it.
Something about the journal calls to me. It’s hard to explain but I feel like I should know more about the book. I want to learn the language the book is written in and maybe then I will understand why I feel drawn to the journal.
There is still the mystery of where the miracle wind that saved my life came from. Five years later I still don’t have an explanation. It was a calm day with no wind and there were no windows in the room.
Maybe I will find an explanation someday but for now, I need to start moving and look for more supplies. I grabbed my ebony-colored backpack and tucked the book under my arm. I looked down and saw my dad’s dog tag necklace still dangling around my neck.
I let out a sigh and jumped off the platform in the barn I was sleeping on.
As I hit the floor of the barn I thought I heard a scuffle from somewhere behind me. I drew my daggers from its holsters on my hip. I quickly turned in the direction I thought I heard the noise coming from. I found what looked like an old horse stable made out of rotted wood.
I slowly crept forward and pushed open the door to the stall. At first glance, the stall appeared to be empty. With my daggers held in front of me, I slowly entered the horse stall and made sure to check all four corners.
I was turning to leave but stopped in my tracks when I heard a small yelp. I spun back around and raised my sword when I saw where the sound was coming from. In the back of the stall stood a rusted feeding trough. It wasn’t very big but I could have sworn that was where the noise was coming from. I slowly and carefully walked up to the trough, bracing for an attack.
As I approached the horse trough and peeked inside I noticed a small body lying face down with tiny hands covering the back of the child’s neck. I let out a breath I was unaware I was holding in but I did not relax completely. If there was a child here there guardians could not be far away.
The child looked up at me and let out another yelp. I lowered my sword and held up my hands. If this child’s guardians were not far away I did not want them to find me with a sword held to this little girl.
She had knotted blond hair extending down to her shoulders and deep emerald green eyes. Her skin was pale and she had a small scar running across her chin. The girl looked to be no more than five or six years old. She was wearing a faded light pink dress with thin straps on her shoulders and black tights under it. Her tights had three big holes in them, two on her knees and one on her inner thigh.
She was carrying a rather large backpack for a child her age. The girl looked up at me with tears in her eyes.
“W-who are y- you!?” The little girl said with a shaky voice.
What do I do now? Should I help her? She could be a trap set by other scavengers to take the little supplies I have. Or worse she could be a trap set by vampires to bring new humans to their kingdoms. I have never been to a vampire kingdom and I don’t know what it’s like but I do know it’s not good. The vampires use humans as blood slaves which means you have to give your blood to them whenever they ask. You also become their personal servant and I want no part in any of that.
Still, I can’t just leave a child alone out in the middle of nowhere.
“My name is Arabella, but most people call me Ella. What’s your name?”
“I’m M- Maya,” The child said sheepishly. “I lost my g-group last night. I found this b-barn and thought I could spend the night h-here u-until they came back. I- I didn’t k-know someone was h-here.”
I didn’t know what to think. She seemed to be telling the truth. That is a complex lie for a small child to come up with. Even if I did believe her, what do I do now? I don’t know where her group went and they have a head start. They could be anywhere.
I suppose I can’t leave her so I let out a sigh and said, “Well I guess we should start looking for them.”
Maya’s face lit up and the tears almost immediately disappeared. She almost looked like a completely different child.
“You really mean it!?” Maya said with a smile going from ear to ear. “You’ll help me!?”
“I just said that, didn’t I?” I said turning to leave the horse stall. “Come on, we should start looking as soon as possible.”
The little girl grabbed her big purple backpack and skipped after me. I was startled when she took my hand in hers. She looked up at me with her big green eyes and smiled. She led me into the woods and we began the search for her group.
We were a few yards away from the barn when I began asking questions. If I was going to help this child I needed more information.
“So Maya, how many people are in your group?”
“Six including me,” The child answered in a bubbly tone. “There’s our group leader, his name is Andrew. Then there is our second in command, his name is Logan. There are Sarah and Michael, they are brother and sister. Then lastly there is me and my twin brother. His name is Zachary.”
“You have a twin brother huh?” I always wondered what it was like to have siblings. I was born an only child and never had that kind of bond with anyone.
“Mmhm, he is two minutes older than me. He always treats me like a child though!” She said with an eye roll witch I found ironic considering they were both six years old.
“What about your parents?” I asked Maya and her tone changed from a bubbly little girl to something much darker.
“I never met my father and as for my mother,” She looked like she was fighting back tears. “S-she died last year.”
“I’m sorry,” I said at a loss for words. I knew what it was like to lose the ones you loved but I couldn’t fathom going through that at such a young age.
“I guess it could be worse,” The child said with some of her peppiness returning. “I still have Zachary and the rest of my group.”
“How did you get separated from your group anyway?”
“I was picking some flowers beside our campsite because I wanted to make a flower crown as a gift for Sarah’s fifteenth birthday. I found some pretty yellow flowers and thought they would look beautiful on her. When I was done picking them I thought I heard a scream from somewhere off in the woods. I looked back over to my group but they didn’t seem to hear anything. I started walking off in the direction I thought the scream came from.” She turned and looked at me with a scared look in her eyes. “That’s when I heard the voice.”
That caught my attention more than anything else she said. “What voice?” I asked, looking her in the eyes.
“It was a woman...I think. She sounded scared and I was worried about her. She was calling out for help. She said something along the lines of ‘Vampire!’ and ‘Get back!’. I was looking around trying to find the woman but I couldn’t make out where the voice was coming from.” Her grip tightened on my hand. “The voice stopped and I thought the woman was killed by the vampire she was screaming about. I was ready to make my way back to the group but I couldn’t remember which direction I came from. It was getting dark and I was scared. I knew I needed to find a place to hide for the night or I would be found by class X vampires. Eventually, I found the barn and you know the rest.”
Her story put me on alert. If she was right about hearing a woman screaming about a vampire then that meant there were bloodsuckers somewhere in this forest. The myths claim vampires could not go out in sunlight or they would burst into flames. Unfortunately for us this is mostly untrue. Most vampires can go out in the sunlight but it is extremely unconformable. I say most because the vampires known as class X are different from the others.
Class X vamps are more zombie-like than the others. Class X is the lowest ranking vampires in the vamps community. The top-ranking vampires are the princes and princesses who rule over vampires’ kingdoms. Under them are class A vampires, also known as nobles. They usually work directly for the prince or princess in their kingdom. The third-ranking vampires are called class B, or common vampires. They are just like villagers in a human kingdom.
Princes throughout class B have a fully functioning brain, heart, lungs, and nervous system. They can think, have emotions, and feel pain. However, some vampires don’t want to deal with complex emotions and they can shut them out just like flipping a switch.
When a new vampire is first Turned all of their systems shut down and they go unconscious. Upon awakening, they need a large amount of blood. They take in the blood through their mouths and it makes its way to their heart. The heart then distributed to the rest of the vampire’s system and they become a full-fledged vampire.
This does not happen with class X vamps. Class X still starts out as a human and needs another vampire to turn them. Next, the new vampire’s systems shut down and they go unconscious. Once they wake up they will kill whatever is in their reach for blood. However, once a class X vampire drinks blood for the first time it does not reach their heart and therefore is not distributed to the rest of the vampire’s systems. Instead, the blood is delivered to their brain. Since the rest of their systems are shut down they are always looking for more blood, but no matter how much they drink they will never be able to start up the rest of their systems. No one knows what causes class X vampires to be formed instead of a normal vampire.
Class X vampires are essentially zombie vampires. They are driven by a thirst for blood and are not able to think, have emotions, or feel pain. Class X vampires are the only ones who can’t go out in the sun or they will be burned to a crisp. No one knows exactly why but it is a theory that because blood is not being pumped through their veins they have no way of cooling down their body against the sun’s rays.
“My camp!” Maya called out and took off running towards a group of tents.
I watched her run towards the tents expecting to see other people rush up to her. However, Maya left my field of view and I didn’t see anyone else in the camp.
I was about to turn and leave when I heard a high pitch scream coming from Maya’s camp. I started running back in the direction Maya took off.
There were three large tents set up facing each other. The tent flaps were open and looked like they still had stuff inside. It looks like Mays’s group left in a hurry, I thought to myself.
I scanned the surrounding area looking for Maya and found her looking down a side of a hill next to the camp. She was standing with both her little hands covering her mouth and looked like she wanted to cry. I slowly walked up to her and noticed she was shaking.
“Maya?” I called out to her but she did not respond. I stepped up next to her and followed her gaze down the side of the hill. What I saw next made me take in a steep breath out of surprise.
Lying face down at the base of the hill were two bodies. It looked like a man in about his late thirties and a young girl about the age of fifteen or sixteen. The man looked like he had a long knife in his right hand. They were covered in blood and their necks were ripped open.
“Andrew! Sara!” Maya called out next to me. She fell to her knees and started to sob. All I could think was well, where’s the rest of her group.
I left Maya to her grief and started walking down the side of the hill dreading what I might find. As I got closer to the two bodies I noticed they were covered in flies and maggots. I continued to pass the corpses, who I guessed were Andrew and Sara, trying to locate the rest of Maya’s group.
I searched the perimeter around the camp and came up with nothing. At least that is some good news for Maya. I thought to myself. If the rest of her group are not here they might still be alive.
I made my way back to where I left Maya and found her sitting with her back against a tree and her head on her knees. She was still crying and I had no idea what to do with her now.
“D- did you find the o-others?” Maya asked me with tears streaming down her cheeks.
“No,” I answered sitting down next to her. “But that could be a good thing. They might still be alive.”
“I-is this my fault?”
“Why would you think this is your fault?” I asked her, confused.
She took a deep breath and said, “I left them. What if I didn’t follow that voice into the woods? Could I have done something?”
“Probably not,” I answered her honestly. When she looked up at me confused I continued. “You’re still a young child. There’s not much you could have done against a class X vampire. If you stayed you might have ended up dead with your group over there.” I said pointing my thumb over my shoulder in the direction of the bodies.
She seemed to think this over for a moment then started crying harder. Maya leaned over to me and wrapped her small arms around my torso. I flinched, startled by the sudden contact. The last time someone hugged me was five years ago when my parents were still alive.
“What am I going to do now Ella!?” The young girl asked while burying her head in my chest. “Andrew and Sara are dead! I don’t know where the others are or if they’re even alive! I don’t even know where to start looking for them!”
I didn’t know what to say to her. I was never exactly the ‘comforting’ type. Instead, I let out a sigh and allowed the small child to snuggle into my chest and I put one hand on top of the girl’s head. I let her stay like that for a few moments until her sobs came to a stop. I pushed her back and looked into her watery green eyes.
“Are you finished?” I asked her in a blank tone. She looked at me blankly and I continued. “Are you going to sit here and cry all-day or do you want to try doing something about your problem?”
“But what can I do?” She asked with tears returning to her eyes.
I let out another sigh. “Look, I want to help you but if you continue crying like this you will be on your own.” She took in a sharp intake of breath and I felt no remorse for what I said. I knew it was harsh but I was not going to sit here all day and wait for the vampires to come back at night.
“Y- you’ll really help me?” She asked in a shaky voice.
“I just said that, didn’t I?” She looked like she wanted to burst into tears again so I continued. “But I will only help you on one condition.”
“Anything!” Maya exclaimed.
“I will only help you if you don’t cry like a baby the whole time. You are six years old, I need you to be on top of your game. If we run into any vampires I need you to do as I say and quickly. You can’t do that if your mind is elsewhere.” I finished blankly.
Maya looked back at me and said, “Deal!”
“Good, now if you have anything you want to take with you I suggest you grab it now. I doubt we will be coming back here.”
The young girl nodded once and raced off into one of the tents. When she ducked behind the dark-blue tent flap I switched my attention to our surroundings. I scanned the area for any signs of wear Maya’s group took off to. My eyes set on something I cursed myself for not noticing earlier.
About fifty feet away from us there were two sets of footprints heading north. One of the sets of footsteps was pretty small and the ones next to them were much larger. Must be Maya’s brother and someone from their group. I thought to myself. I let out a curse when I could not find a third set of footprints. That meant we were missing one person.
Maya slowly came out of the tent with a backpack over one shoulder, a bouquet of pale yellow flowers in one hand and a small dagger in the other. My eyes widened at the sight of her holding a dagger. I knew we lived in a ‘kill-or-be-killed’ world but someone arming a six-year-old seemed excessive.
I watched her walk over to the two dead bodies and lay the flowers on top of them. She then worked her way over to me and let out what seemed to be a forced smile.
“I’m ready.” She said in a voice that was a bit too chipper to seam real.
“Where did you get that?” I said pointing to the mettle dagger in her right hand. It was no bigger than five inches long and had a faded red handle. It didn’t look like it weighed a lot but it was still extremely sharp.
“Logan gave it to me,” She said looking at the dagger. “He gave one to Zackary too. He said ‘never to early to start preparing for your first battle.’”
I stared at her blankly. I was shocked that someone would not only give a child a weapon but also train them to use it. She must have seen my look of disbelief because she added quickly.
“I don’t use it for fighting. Not yet at least, Andrew said Zackary and I had to wait until at least thirteen to fight with them.” She let out a sigh. “I mainly use this to cut up small branches we use as firewood. Everyone in our group pulls their own weight. Even me and Zackary.”
“Well then,” I said at a loss for words. “Are you ready to go?”
She nodded her head and took my hand in hers. I would normally pull away but for some reason, I felt drawn to this young girl and I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I led us in the direction of the footprints and decided not to tell Maya about what I discovered about the missing set of footprints. She would need her energy for the trip ahead of us and I didn’t think it would be smart to bring it up.