“Ultimately, no one can escape nature’s wrath. A vampire is destined to be a killer as soon as he is born.”
~ Henrietta King
I finished another novel at 4 AM. Not needing sleep was every reader’s dream. I couldn’t have read five books within twenty-four hours if I got too exhausted halfway. I decided that five was enough for one day and got out of bed.
I rolled my shoulders, causing my bones to crack. This was how you knew you were in good shape.
The last time I took a night stroll wasn’t the best time of my life, but I think I’d be okay this time around. After all, what worse could I possibly see?
I noted the changes that occurred since the last time I went out at night. An office building that was usually pitch dark at this hour was luminous from the first floor to the eighth.
There was only a week left in March, and only two weeks left of my humanity.
I didn’t get too far until the smell of blood invaded my nostrils. My neck snapped to the walking street that was a mile away. It wasn’t the smell of human blood. The scent was unfamiliar, and there was a high possibility that it could be animal blood.
I decided to be the moronic protagonist of a horror movie and go check it out. I checked myself on my phone camera and mentally sighed in relief when I showed up in it. My eyes were still a warm shade of hazel. I needed to reassure myself because the last time I caught a whiff of blood, my eyes swirled blood red.
I hoped that the night would cover me as I picked up my pace. I quickly located the source of the scent in an alleyway between two stores. I was right; a Siberian Husky laid, whimpering, amongst garbage and on the wet ground with a bleeding leg.
Instantly, I dashed over. I squatted down and inspected his physical form. Rainwater and mud mixed with his black and white fur. Blood had already diffused into the ground. I wanted to check the collar for a possible phone number or address, but I accidentally grazed the leg wound. The Husky howled and whined loudly in pain.
“I’m so sorry!” I whisper-shouted. I was at a loss. He didn’t have a collar. What should I do? Did the police handle such things?
“What did you do?” I stood up and turned around to a girl’s voice. I was shocked to see a pair of angry blue orbs engulfed in smokey eyeshadow.
Before I could respond, she sped past me on her high heels and kneeled down next to the dog, not minding the wet ground on her dress.
She pulled out a dry towel and applied pressure to the wound. The Husky snarled at the girl since it was in great distress. I gasped when he bit her arm. She didn’t even flinch and focused on stopping the bleeding. Her arm sustained no injury as the Husky continued to growl.
The injury stopped bleeding soon after. The girl grabbed a bottle of water from her bag and began to clean the gash while inspecting it. I watched in awe as she applied gauze and finally, a bandage to the cleaned wound. She had everything she needed in her purse.
The girl’s shoulders rose and fell in relief. As soon as she stood back up, she turned to me, enraged. “What did you do to him?! How could you beat a puppy?!”
I mentally sighed. You can’t just assume the first person here is the culprit. Coming out tonight was a mistake, after all.
I explained to her that I arrived before she did when the puppy cried but didn’t know how to treat it. She gradually calmed down and lowered her arms from her hips.
My night vision allowed me to observe her entire appearance. Her hair was pure black on the right side and snow white on the left; it reached her waist. Smokey eyeshadow clouded her pale blue eyes, and her lips were a shade of maroon. She wore a choker and a beaded necklace connected it to her black dress. Small tattoos littered her fingers, and her high heels clicked as she approached me.
“You better not be lying to me...” she trailed off and quirked a thin eyebrow.
“Hazel,” I mumbled.
“Hazel,” she reaffirmed. “I’m Ashlynne. You better not be lying to me. That poor baby looked like he was hit by a car. I’m taking him to the vet. You’re coming with me in case you’re the culprit.”
That was how I ended up at a nearby pet’s clinic at 5 AM in the morning. I didn’t struggle since I wasn’t responsible. Besides, I wanted to see the Husky in better shape. He had multiple gashes on his back, too.
I stuffed my hands into my hoodie’s pockets and slid down on the uncomfortable metal bench. Ashlynne crossed her legs beside me and frequently switched from leg to leg. The clacking sound of her heels each time began to annoy me.
Finally, she put both of her feet on the ground and peered at me. “What were you doing outside so early in the morning?”
“I could ask the same of you.”
“Well, I asked first.”
“And I asked second, so I get to answer second.”
Ashlynne huffed and turned away. A while later, she grumbled, “I couldn’t sleep, and I was getting some fresh air nearby, then I heard the doggy howling in pain. I’m a vet, so I ran over as fast as I could.”
“I couldn’t sleep, either. Same story. I heard the Husky when I passed by,” I said after. I had no intention of being friends with Ashlynne. She was too hot-blooded and accusatory. I didn’t exactly get the perfect first impression.
Though I couldn’t help but glimpse at her every now and then. She dressed so oddly. She brushed her different-colored bangs with her fingers. I turned my head back forward.
All of a sudden, the four other people in the clinic lobby froze in the middle of their actions. Folders dropped out of a nurse’s rigid hands and slammed loudly on the floor. I sat up straight. Then, I met Ashlynne’s analyzing eyes.
“You’re a vampire,” she stated. Her eyes were a shade of lilac instead of pale blue. I groaned and fell back into my seat. Yet another vampire. I just kept running into them everywhere.
Just then, the environment around us began moving again. The nurse confusedly picked up her folders and kept walking to wherever she was headed. I didn’t know if Ashlynne’s ability had a limit or she just resumed time.
“I know.” She frowned and lowered her voice. “You don’t smell like a vampire, but you’re too suspicious to be human.”
I threw on my hood and slid down in my seat just to match her description and look sketchy. She rolled her eyes, then quickly scanned the whole room. Every person that she glanced at stopped all movements, again.
I liked her ability. If I wanted to get out of somewhere without sticking out like a sore thumb, I’d do this and bam! I’d slip out before anyone knew it. Awkward social interaction? Bye!
“Well, I don’t know you. I can’t just ramble information,” I stated before Ashlynne could open her mouth. I had no means of fighting her off, but at least I could appear as I did.
“I understand,” Ashlynne said, to my surprise. Most people would get upset when I spoke my mind.
I shook my head lightly. I’d spent so much time with Zach that I thought all vampires were as aggressive as him. It was perfectly fine that Ashlynne was a rare, considerate species.
“But, since I showed you mine, could you at least tell me your power?” asked Ashlynne. This time, I could tell she was coming from an angle of pure curiosity, which reminded me of myself.
“Mine hasn’t developed yet,” I said, hesitantly since I didn’t even know if I was using the right words. At her puzzled expression, I decided to elaborate, “I’m a hybrid.”
Ashlynne threw her head back in awe. “Wow, what a rarity.”
As she did, the environment around us continued moving. I was deathly curious about how Ashlynne’s ability worked, but I was too mortified to ask, especially after I had just been so rude. I gulped all of my questions down.
“I can make up to thirty individuals lose their sense of time as long as they’re within my vision, each freeze lasts for ten seconds. I can decide if I only want it to affect vampires, humans, or both. If I used it too much at once, I could die on the spot.”
I turned to her, a little embarrassed. “How’d you know I wanted to ask that?”
She giggled. “I would want to know if I were in your shoes, too.”
A smile made its way on my face, and I admitted that we were similar in that aspect.
“I’m sorry for pointing fingers at you,” Ashlynne said.
“I’m sorry for being rude earlier,” I returned.
We openly chatted with each other after that. We avoided conversing about our backgrounds or families and focused on personal interests. She lived among humans. I guess there were more of these “meatless” vampires than I imagined.
Alaska was the Husky’s new name because Ashlynne liked the ring to it. She patted him before leaving him to proper care. The sun peeked out over the horizon in the 6:30 AM sky. It wasn’t like either of us needed sleep, so I walked with her.
She was significantly taller than me on her heels. Her appearance still baffled me. Surely, she’d want as less attention drawn to herself as possible, but her outfit, hair, and makeup stood out a lot. I counted five turned heads as we went down the block.
Ashlynne didn’t seem bothered by the judging gazes at all. She never let silence hang for too long, and we soon arrived in a rather wealthy neighborhood.
“They’re a good house. They accepted my unlovable self during my worst time.” She didn’t seem to have anything to hide, granted that she was so open to me when we’ve only just met.
“What are you talking about? You’re lovable.” I decided that I liked Ashlynne. I was too hasty to judge. She had a short fuse, and she was hot-blooded despite her species, but she was kind and unconfined, almost loyal.
Ashlynne tugged at her pale blue eye and made a silly face. “My dumb little brother doesn’t think so.”
Suddenly, it hit me. Ashlynne’s eyes were the exact same shade as his. Is there by any chance that your brother is this cocky little brat named Zachary?
“Well, I’m here.” She stopped in front of a large three-story house. She bid me goodbye while she opened the gates, and I waved back. I didn’t get to ask.
On my way back home, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Ashlynne lived among humans; they didn’t have a good relationship; she had a brother; he had a sister.
I recalled that I imagined Zach’s sister to be a mainstream girl who fit right in, like Hailee, but Ashlynne lived entirely at her own pace and dressed as she pleased. I was impressed by how free she was despite the fact that she needed to be extremely cautious every moment of her life just to survive.
If so, then Ashlynne forgave humanity once again when the hunters killed her father. I couldn’t decide whether that was stupidity or divine forgiveness.
I didn’t think I could forgive anyone who caused me that much pain.
I cuddled into my bed sheets and read, ignoring my stomach growling in hunger. By noon, I finally decided that it was time to get out of bed. There wasn’t much left in the fridge, and Arthur was busy with work. He called me a couple of hours ago saying he had a crucial battle today. I worried for his safety.
I found a packet of instant chicken noodle soup. I read the instructions twice before turning on the stove.
I spent the entirety of Wednesday on the internet. Time always passed so slowly during weekdays, yet hours went by in a heartbeat when there was no school. It was Thursday afternoon. No changes had occurred yesterday except for a new phone number in my contacts list: Ashlynne.
I frowned at the sight of my messy blonde hair. My middle hairline wasn’t even straight. It made the pattern of a zigzag weirdly across my scalp. With my fingertips, I brushed strands left and right to try to fix it.
I grumbled about the countless split-ends I had as my dry hair slipped through my fingers. A section on the right side simply refused to be patted down.
I yelped in fright when I spot something black in my hair, and I thought it was a spider, but then the shade of black augmented.
I watched with eyes wide in horror. The roots of my hair were pitch black, and the color was slowly dying further. Within half a minute, nearly a third of my hair turned to a shiny black. My hair hadn’t ever before been this bright, full, or wavy.
It’s happening. Immediately, I thought up of excuses to tell people. I picked up my phone and texted Kaydence.
‘I’m at the salon. This good ol’ hair deserves some change and moisturizing.′
I made an effort to seem like my usual self. When I lifted my eyes back to the mirror, about half of my hair had become sapphire black. I grew ghastly pale.
My eyes stung, and I blinked rapidly. The text tone made me refocus my attention on my phone. Kaydence replied.
‘I took your recommendation and went with onyx.’
‘OML I can’t wait to see!’
I twirled the ends of my hair that I used to complain about. I wrapped a strand around my finger until the black ink coursed through the very last hair. I examined my new look.
My changed hair framed my face immaculately. It flawlessly brought out my eyes, which seemed brighter than before. The edges of my features sharpened slightly. I looked like I had a permanent filter hovering over my visage. I was radiant, but my reflection lost its usual warmth.
I had never been so physically attractive, but a strong sense of disgust filled my being. I didn’t want to look at my poisoned self. This physical attractiveness was just what a predator needed to lure in its unknowing prey. This was meant to be a deception. This was intended to kill. This transformation marked my first checkpoint toward becoming a vampire.
I whirled around and hurried downstairs. The pot bubbled impatiently, but I wasn’t too late to get the noodles. I ate in bitterness with silence encompassing the house. I attempted to convince myself that I should accept things as how they were since I had no power to change anything.
At least not yet.
On Friday afternoon, I met up with Kaydence at a local community centre to skate. In the middle of the atrium, she let out a short, high-pitched shriek as soon as she saw me. I felt the second-hand embarrassment right away.
“I love it!” Kaydence exclaimed.
I smiled. “Thanks.”
“We have to take pictures!”
About fifty selfies later, she looped her arm through mine, and we caught up while walking to the rink. Kaydence had been learning a lot from Henrietta and Arthur. After a brief examination yesterday, it was deemed that Kaydence could graduate from her training the same day as Alecx. She was very lacking in the combat department, but the battlefield needed her gift as soon as possible.
I was proud of my best friend for her accomplishments, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but worry. If Kaydence could tell the difference between humans and vampires just by being around them, it’d become fatally dangerous for me to continue hanging out with her.
Kaydence went on the ice first and stayed for a few seconds to gain her balance. I followed carefully. I tended to unintentionally lean backward while I skate, which often resulted in a butt-ice meet-and-greet.
But today, I let go of the wall almost immediately and glided naturally along the smooth surface. I realized how fast I was going, so I turned back to Kaydence. She struggled to balance on her skates. Without thinking, I made a bracket turn, something I’d never even dreamt of doing before, back to her.
“Have you been secretly practicing behind my back?” she accused jokingly.
“Nope. I guess my dormant athletic cells have finally awoken.”
In reality, my balance just probably also improved along with my heightened senses as a vampire.
We found a nearby fast-food restaurant to deal with dinner. Kaydence held up a fry and spoke theatrically, “What would life be without food? A foodless life is not a good life.”
I chuckled. “Probably. You’d be dead, then.”
I ignored the inevitable tinge of sadness in my heart and enjoyed my time with Kaydence to the fullest.
On our way back to my car, a text tone interrupted our conversation. I opened a text from Arthur, saying that we were safe to go back to school this following Monday.
I drove Kaydence to her house. From the large window displaying the grand piano in the living room, I could see her mom teaching a student. Kaydence’s mother was a piano teacher. Ironically, Kaydence had little talent with the piano. Her forte was more along the lines of vocals, clarinet, and violin.
Kaydence’s mom always appeared older than she was. I suppose raising Kaydence as a single mother gave her a lot of stress.
As I was halfway home, my phone beeped again. I glanced at the screen at a red light. Hailee sent me a message.
‘Come by real quick. There’s something urgent.’
I wonder why she didn’t just say that to my head. I baffled at how weird of a thought that was, yet I was so used to it. I made a U-turn and headed to the library a block away from the woods where the base was located.
I still had no way of finding the designated tree. I found the small hill where Zach and I talked and retraced my steps from there. I stood in front of several trees. I patted their sides, not knowing how to buzz the elevator. Just then, the door magically opened in front of me. I glanced around me to make sure I was alone, then stepped in.
When I got to the ground floor, the first thing I heard was two voices yelling over each other. I peeked out of the elevator, then located the sound source from the dining room. Soon, I saw Hailee nearly pulling her hair out in frustration.
Zach paced around. “You let your sentiments get in the way of something so important!”
“I’m sorry!” Hailee choked, stammering.
Before I knew what I was doing, I hurried in between them and stretched out my arms. Hailee was on the verge of tears, but she did everything to hold them back. She didn’t want to appear any moodier than she had been. I locked eyes with Zach, asking him what the big deal was.
“France was kept in that public facility that you infiltrated.” Zach’s first sentence made me lower my arms in shock. I was that close to accomplishing the mission that time?
“Roman and I went to check. France was already transferred elsewhere. None of the researchers or tour guides know where he is now.”
I recalled that Hailee and I postponed our mission that day even though the basement of the facility was highly suspicious. All because she saw a glimpse of her former lover.
“That was the most annoying and the longest mission, and you were this close!”
I frowned at Zach’s words. Hailee was already trying hard not to shed tears. I couldn’t relate to his frustration, but things weren’t moving forward this way.
I stood in front of Hailee and faced Zach. “That’s no reason to yell at her. Yes, she strayed from her mission because of her emotions; she apologized for it, and she had a reason for it. You know that Hailee hasn’t seen him for years, and she took necessary precaution to avoid being perceived by him; otherwise, our cover would’ve been blown. There’s no use to cry over spilled milk. Have you checked the memory of the facility manager? Those people would need to know where things are transported to so they could sign their approval.”
By the way Zach turned his head away without a word, I knew that I hit the right spot. He probably forgot about the manager. He strode away while muttering under his breath.
I exhaled deeply in relief. Zach didn’t know how to be considerate with his approach. A lot of the times, his diction choices ended up being hurtful and accusatory.
Oh, wow. Ashlynne and Zach are really alike.
As soon as I turned around to face Hailee, she fell onto my shoulders and wrapped her arms around them. Since this was a sensitive moment for her, I patted her on the back. She trembled ever so slightly, but she didn’t sob.
“Thank you so much.”