The Hunter Series - Penelope

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Chapter 15

Dad brought me to Nan's for the evening. The family thought it would be best to stay here for a while as it was easier to put up protection spells on the detached house. It was out of the way with only a handful of other detached houses on the same road. If anyone were to pass through the protection barrier it would alert us on where they came through. There was no chance a passer-by would enter as a protection filter shielded the house, it didn’t make the house invisible but unnoticeable.

As I was laying in a bed, in one of the spare bedrooms, trying to fall asleep; I tried to keep in mind that it was safe to close my eyes and get some rest. My mind, however, staying in overdrive repeated the moment I saw Eleanor over and over again…

During the night I was extremely restless. Every so often I would toss and turn, only staying comfortable for a few minutes and having to move to a new position…

Poppy…” a voice whispered to me.

My eyes flew open and looked around the dark bedroom. My heart was beating a little faster even though I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. There were goosebumps raised on my arm. I slowly laid back down and tried to think of happy thoughts to encourage myself to fall back to sleep. It was my mind playing tricks.

Poppy…” The voice whispered to me, again.

This time I shot up from bed and turned the light on. I know I wasn’t imagining it. I grabbed a penknife from the bedside table, checked under my bed and in the wardrobe. There was no one here but my gut was telling me otherwise.

Come outside, Poppy…” The voice continued. It scared me.

Who would want me to come outside at this time in the morning? Crazy people who want to kill me - that’s who! I glanced at my watch. It read: 03:29AM.

“Who are you? What do you want?” I said. I wasn’t even sure if they could hear me…

Come outside…” The voice called to me.

“No… I don’t want to get murdered.”

Poppy, it’s me…

I didn’t want to believe I knew the voice. I was pretty sure this was all some sick joke to get me to go outside. I turned my light out and let my eyes adjust to the dark. I looked out the window. There was no one in the back garden, not that I could see.

Downstairs, I put some shoes on and went over to the back door. This probably wasn’t the best idea and I would mostly likely get murdered if I leave the house. But I opened the door anyway.

Nothing happened. There was no sound, not even a slight breeze. It was eerie. I stepped outside.

Nothing bad happened to me while I stood in the garden either. No one came out and tried to attack me or kill me.

“What do you want from me?” I asked.

Come closer…

“No. I came out here like you wanted. You can face me.”

At the end of the garden, there was movement behind the shed. A figure came out slowly holding his hands up. He came a little closer but still in the dark shadows where it was hard to see his face. He was tall and muscular. When he smiled I caught the glimpse of two shining canines. He was a vampire.

“Who are you?”

“Poppy, it’s me.” He said. His voice deeper, older. There was a part of me that recognised the voice… and the realisation hit me.

“Come into the light…”

The vampire inched closer. The moment I saw him, I sucked in a huge breath and closed my eyes. Even though he was older I instantly recognised him. It must be a dream and I needed someone to pinch me awake. Reopening my eyes, he was still standing there, letting me process.

My little brother wasn’t so little any more. Jeremy was taller than me and grown up to around sixteen years old before being turned into a vampire. He still had the same shade of dark blonde hair, massive blue eyes and that charming smile. I knew him but at the same time he was a stranger. There were a thousand questions running through my mind and I wanted to ask them all… but he only thing that would come out of my mouth…

“I don’t understand.”

“I know it’s a lot to digest.” he began to say.

“Are you serious? We buried you! Our family is still grieving for you and now you just turn up here after all these years - and a vampire? What the hell happened?” I yelled, unable to control the burst of anger within me.

“Poppy, calm down. Let me explain.”

I sighed and bit my tongue. “Go on then.”

“What do you remember on the day I died?” He asked.

The events of that horrible day were burned into my memories. How could I ever forget?

It was a Saturday. The weekend had finally arrived after a long week at school. My brother and I were looking forward to going to the park not far from our house. For the last few months, the play area had been fenced off by construction workers and finally - it was ready and we could play.

But today wasn’t a good day to go. While Jeremy and I were playing with his train set in the living room - we suddenly heard mum and dad arguing. We looked at each other with a concerned look because we had never heard them shout at each other before. And it made us worried.

“You can’t just leave for New York! You’ve not even discussed this with me! You have a family! We all depend on you!” Mum yelled. “I don’t care that it’s part of your job! Your boss said they would give at least a couple of days notice!”

Jeremy grabbed my hand as we sneaked towards the kitchen to eavesdrop. Dad had to go away for work - again. This time they were sending him to New York. He went away to work in lots of different countries and always brought us a souvenir back. But mum was always so sad when he was gone and he was gone for weeks.

“Why don’t you and the kids just come with me?” He yelled back.

“How can we do that? You know how difficult it has been for Jeremy to settle into his Year 3 class. And Penelope is happy at secondary! Only last week she picked her choices for Year 10 and 11. She’s at an important part of her life with GCSE’s coming.”

It was awful hearing my parents argue. They kept shouting at each other for a little while longer. When I heard mum burst into tears I came into the kitchen, Jeremy still holding my hand.

“Mum, is everything okay?” I asked.

“Can you guys go to your bedroom for a bit?” Dad answered.

I grabbed the box of tissues on the side and gave them to mum. Jeremy went over to hug her and I gave her a hug too.

“I’m alright. Your dad and I just need to discuss things.”

“We want to go to the park.” Jeremy said.

“It’ll have to be tomorrow…” Mum said, then looked at me. “Unless, you can take your brother?”

I nodded. “Yeah, I’ll take him.”

“Thank you. Be careful and don’t be gone for too long.”

The day was cloudy with the sun making an appearance now and again. Jeremy was super excited and was bouncing along the pavement until we saw the park in our view.

“Can I run to the park now?” He asked.

“Go on then.” I said with a faint smile.

Jeremy ran and pushed open the yellow gate. He rushed straight over to the new swings. The park was incredibly busy and all the swings were currently taken until a young girl jumped off and Jeremy quickly got the swing before anyone else.

“Can you push me?” He called to me and I remember pushing him till my arms ached.

We stayed there for hours, not realising the time passing us by so quickly. The sun was starting to set with orange and red hues across the sky. The parents had taken their children home hours ago with just a handful of older teenagers left. They were in a small crowd over by the swings.

The sound of a car hummed down the road and stopped in front of the park. It was our parents and dad stepped out the family car. It was silver and usually lived in the garage behind our back garden. It was only used for long trips as we had more room in the back to stretch and play games. There was a sudden dread in my stomach and realised we were going to be in so much trouble for not coming home sooner.

“Jeremy!” Dad yelled. “Penelope!” He was mad.

He came through the park gate and stormed over to us. Jeremy gave me a sad look, he knew we were in trouble too and it was time to go home. As dad got closer Jeremy must have had a change of heart about going home quietly because he jumped off the climbing frame and sprinted towards the slide and hid underneath.

“You were supposed to come home hours ago!” He said once he reached the bottom of the climbing frame. “We’ve been so worried, anything could have happened.”

“You don’t care about us! You’re just going to leave us again and not see you for ages.”

“That’s not fair, Penelope. You know how much I care about you and Jeremy. Sometimes life is difficult and we all have to do things we don’t want to do.” He sighed, pushing his glasses higher on the bridge of his nose. He seemed more sad than angry. “Look, if you go get Jeremy - I’ll take you both for ice cream.”

Once I jumped down from the climbing frame, I made my way over to the slide Jeremy hid underneath.

“Jeremy?” When he didn’t answer, I quickened my steps to check underneath but he had disappeared.

“Jeremy!” This time I said it louder, scanning the area to see a sign of where he might be hiding. I could feel myself begin to panic, he’s not the type of kid to just run off and not come back. He just likes to play games and tease you. He always listened to me because I was his big sister and he looked up to me.

“Dad, he’s not over there.”

We both searched the park and splitting up to cover more ground quickly. Jeremy wasn’t over by the see-saw, under or around the climbing frame. He wasn’t in the sandpit or over by the zip wire. I even asked the group of teenagers by the swings if they had seen a boy wearing a dinosaur top but they hadn’t seen him.

The wind around me began to pick up, the leaves circling and drifting my attention to the gate leading to the woods. Would he have left the park? It wasn’t like him to leave without me but since he wasn’t anywhere else in the park - I had to check it out.

The gate squeaked as I left the park. The ground was covered with crunchy leaves and broken twigs. Beyond the bridge was our favourite place whenever we came here. It had a beautiful blue lake where the little ducks and big swans would swim. Jeremy loved to see the swans stretch and shake their white feathers. We would usually bring a loaf of bread and he loved to feed the ducks. The ducks certainly loved it and always wanted more food.

The sudden rush of wind passed me and the goose bumps raised on my arms. The leaves swirling again and directing me down a different path until I saw a body laying in the leaves. I froze for a numbing second before screaming.

“OH MY GOD, JEREMY!” I ran over to him and dropped to my knees. There was blood all round his neck coming from two round holes. It looked like a bite but I wasn’t sure. I tried to shake his shoulders to wake him but but he wasn’t responding. There was no pulse when I checked his wrist and there was no breath coming from his mouth. I only knew what to do from the recent lesson in school about emergencies. They showed us how to find a pulse.

“SOMEBODY HE…” I began to scream but a hand clamped over my mouth. Keeping a tight grip, pulling me to my feet and throwing me against the closest tree. The sudden pain in my back caused me to cry out and the tears began to build. The man wasn’t very tall, very lean but he was so strong as he held me against the tree with just one hand. He scared me when he came close, staring at me with yellow eyes.

“You’re not going to remember what happened here…” His voice low and gentle.

As he spoke, his words willed me to believe, like a magician could hypnotise the audience, but I could still remember and would never forget the yellow eyes.

“You will not remember me. You saw an animal attack the boy and drag him into the woods… Do you understand?”

“I understand.” I whispered.

I understand you killed my brother but I will never forget!

When the man went over to pick Jeremy up, I bolted as quickly as I could, running towards the bridge, screaming for help. My dad, close by, heard my cries and quickly rushed to my aid. He witnessed a man growling in my direction with yellow eyes and razor sharp canines. He held Jeremy in his arms.

The man disappeared into the woods before anyone could stop him, taking my dead brother with him. This memory stayed with me, it provoked a darkness within me and need for answers. I only ever shared this memory with my parents and one other. Eleanor Bretherick.

“You weren’t dead?” My chest tightened. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry! When I felt your pulse and there wasn’t one - I thought you were dead!”

“Poppy, you were right. The vampire who attacked me did kill me. You couldn’t have done anything different.” He said, pulling me into his arms as uncontrollable tears spilled down my face. My stomach ached as my breathing became heavy, unable to say anything as I sobbed into him.

“Something happened to me when that vampire took me away. Someone brought me back to the living. I was human.”

“What?” I managed to say, looking up at him. “Who?”

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