The Dark and Shadowy Places

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The Enemy Rule

Kalisa looked at her watch. Eight fifty-five, it read. “Shit!” she whispered, annoyed with herself. She should’ve known it was late, the sun was setting after all. She had five minutes to get back, before curfew, and before the guards would be out and doing bad things to anyone who wasn’t indoors by nine.

She ran, her heavy soled shoes smacking loudly on the stone paved streets. She dodged a steam powdered vehicle that looked more like a caterpillar than anything anyone should be riding in. Its many legs pistoned up and down, steam issuing from the joints. It moved quickly; whoever it was was also rushing to get home lest they get thrown in prison for disobeying the laws.

Kalisa reached her door, and thrust her key in the lock, twisting it so hard, she heard a devastating crack, as the metal shaft broke off in her hand. She jigged the handle. The door was still locked, and now a piece of the key was jammed in the lock. “Dammit!” she said, as loudly as she dared. From the faint glow of a street lamp that barely illuminated the front of her house, she peered at her watch again. Nine-oh-one. She was late, and she wasn’t inside. She was stuck.

She heard a whistle pierce the growing silence of the night. She move to her neighbours and banged on their door. Their curtains were drawn, and no one answered. “It’s Kalisa!” she said, just above a whisper. “I’m locked out. Let me in! The guards are coming!”

Silence. Not even a curtain twitched.

She kicked the door angrily. The whistle sounded again, this time much closer.

She started to run, and then stopped. “Why should I run? I tried to get in my house, but I couldn’t. I would have been inside for the curfew.” She went back and sat down on the steps in front of her house, and waited. She didn’t have to wait long.

A guard appeared from around the corner. Barely visible in their dark eggplant uniform, a hood pulled up over the head they seemed more like moving shadows. Kalisa wasn’t trying to hide so the guard spotted her instantly and shouted as he ran towards her. “What are you doing outside. It’s past curfew.” As he got closer, Kalisa could make out his blue eyes and sharp thin nose exposed from the hood.

“I know,” she said, holding up the broken key as explanation. “I couldn’t get in.”

“You know the rules,” the man said, his face expressionless.

She stood. She knew you got in trouble if you were out past curfew, but she didn’t know why.

There was a noise in the growing darkness and the man jumped, swinging a large blade tipped pole towards the sound. “Hurry, they’re coming!” he said, fear evident in his voice.

“They? But ….you’re already here?” Kalisa said, confused.

“We’re not the problem.” The royally appointed man said.

A loud hiss came from the end of the street, to their right. The patrolman grabbed Kalisa’s arm. “Come on! We have to run!”

Kalisa tried to look behind her, into the darkness where the hiss was coming from. She followed his instructions and ran, just as a figure stepped into the glow from the street lamp.

It wore all black, and looked normal, except its eyes flashed, reflecting the light and glowing like a wild animal.

“Hurry!” the man picked up pace. “Don’t worry, the others should get it.”

“Others? What is it? What’s happening?”

The man glanced over his shoulder at Kalisa. “You don’t know about the vampires?” He looked shocked.

“Vampires?” Kalisa risked another look behind her. The human-like thing was following them, moving strangely, as if barely touching the ground. Its eyes flashed.

Her legs were burning but she willed herself to keep going. In the distance gunshots sounded. Kalisa wished they were closer. They ran past a drunken man, slouched in a doorway. Kalisa leapt over him and kept going. Moments later screams filled the air and Kalisa shuddered and forced herself not to look back.

“In here,” the man shouted over dying screams, pulling her through a metal doorway. He slammed a heavy metal bar down across the door with a heavy comforting thud, and turned to turn up a small gas lamp on a table.

“We’ll be safe in here. Metals don’t agree with them. It repels them for some reason,” the man pushed back the hood of his cloak and sat down wearily on a rickety wooden chair. Kalisa warily lowered herself into the other on the opposite end of a small table.

“So I always thought that you were the enemy, that the Emperor imposed the curfew so he could punish and tax those of us that disobeyed. Throw us in prison in order to get money from the public for our release.” Kalisa said, aware that she was glaring at the man opposite, who seemed a lot younger than she first thought. Probably in his mid-thirties, like herself.

The man laughed, not bothering to soften it.

“We’re not the enemy.” He pointed to windows covered with heavy black curtains. “They are.”

“But I thought vampires were just legend?”

“They were. But someone made a mistake.”

“Someone? You mean they’re man made?”

The man nodded. “In a way. It was a virus, a mutation. And someone at the hospital didn’t catch it. It started with one person. A little girl who got sick. But their bite can turn you into one, if you don’t die, and it spreads like wildfire. But we could use as much help as we can. Otherwise the enemy will take us over, and rule the entire Empire in a matter of months, if we don’t hunt them.”

Kalisa stared at her saviour. A vampire hunter? She shrugged. It beat being a nanny. “Sign me up,” she said with a nervous smile.

He smiled back and offered his hand. “Welcome to the club.”

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