Black Blood - Alecx Harris
What was he thinking when he found Hazel’s diary? Who was she to him? How did he feel about her? How did his psychological state change?
“What do you mean she’s a vampire?”
Specialist Miller eyed me, then repeated, “I mean exactly what I said. Hazel Dawson is a vampire. Get yourself together, Harris.”
I could only stare at him. He scrolled through his cell phone and continued, “We’ve secured her residence. You’re assigned to the search team. And there’ll be a meeting in room 1318 in half an hour. I’ll send you an email with all the information.”
When I didn’t respond, he glanced at me. “On second thought, you don’t need it, right? You guys are childhood friends or something.”
He muttered to himself, entirely disregarding my feelings. Even as he sped past me, I stood still in the middle of the hallway.
First, Jeremy. Then, Kaydence. And now, even Hazel. How much more of my world were vampires going to destroy?
“I see that you’ve heard?” I looked up to see Kaydence walking this way. Her gray eyes used to be filled with an artist’s sense of wonder. Now all I saw in them was death.
I narrowed my eyes. “You already knew, didn’t you?”
She shrugged in return. “I’ve had my suspicions for a while. Only confirmed them a few days ago.”
Hazel told me to confront Kaydence if I wanted to know why I’d never see her again, which meant she knew that Kaydence was suspicious of her. I wracked my brain and suddenly recalled the day I brought Hazel to the café. Was she jittery that day not because of Grant, but because of Kaydence?
The night before that day, a phone call woke me up at two in the morning. I finally pieced the whole story together. As Kaydence stopped in front of me, I asked, “Is that why you told me to bring her to that café?”
She quirked an eyebrow, then smiled. “You just realized?” She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a photograph, holding it in front of me. In the photo, I sat at the café, smiling at an empty chair in front of me. Food for two was set on the table. Seeing this, the fact that Hazel was a vampire now began to sink in.
But my heart still refused to believe it until I saw her in person.
I looked Kaydence in the eye. “You seem so distant. Aren’t you worried or anything? She’s your best friend.”
“She’s a vampire!” Kaydence hastily clarified. “A vampire, Alecx.”
I sighed. Our mutual hatred for those creatures was the biggest thing we had in common. But this time, the subject at hand was Hazel. Before I could respond, she said, “You should head to that meeting soon.” Without another word, she brushed past me.
That night, I stood guard during my shift. I leaned against the tree on the front lawn, staring up at Hazel’s house. I’d been here countless times, but tonight, the house seemed extra sombre. I thought back on the past few days with Hazel. To me, she acted like the same girl I grew up with. To think that she could hide such a big secret from me so effectively!
Suddenly, the Elitist stationed inside the house burst out the front door, yelling, “She’s here! She’s inside!”
While the others rushed in, I stayed where I was. Mr. Carrington had this house specially renovated. No one would be able to break down the door in time. Instead, the window of Hazel’s room faced the driveway, so I fixed my gaze upward. If my predictions were correct, she should attempt to escape from her window.
I spun out my axe and waited. Once she dropped down from there, I’d stop her. My grip tightened, and I told myself over and over again that I could do it.
Soon, the window rolled open, revealing a darkened figure. With enhanced vision, I could swear on my life that it was Hazel. The resolve that I spent hours building instantly collapsed. She didn’t seem to spot me under the tree, and no one else saw the window open. For some reason, I couldn’t find my voice.
Just then, she gingerly hopped onto the roof. She stood up straight as if screaming “I’m here!” and began leaping from house to house down the street. The archers immediately followed in the cars. The agiler ones resorted to chasing her on foot. I… what was I supposed to do again?
“Harris!” Specialist Miller yelled, furious. “Follow them!”
I began sprinting. Right, my role was the comforting, surprised childhood friend in case she attacked. During the cat-and-mouse chase, she led us all the way to the city park, and we lost sight of her near the pond.
Our team returned to the HQ at the same time as Mr. Carrington. His flight back got delayed, and he nearly went insane pacing around the airport. The moment he saw me, he asked, “Is it true?”
I nodded solemnly. “I saw her. Definitely no longer human.”
It was the first time I admitted it out loud.
Mr. Carrington closed his eyes and pinched his nose bridge. For once, he looked like he was about to cry. He murmured to himself, “I’m so sorry.”
For the next couple of days, we avoided that conversation. I texted Jaxson the news, and I was sure he wanted to teleport here to see for himself. I carried out my regular duties and simply ducked my head whenever I saw the team responsible for Hazel’s case. Until one time, someone stopped me.
“Specialist Miller,” I greeted. He nodded back, then gave me a plastic evidence bag containing a pink leather notebook.
“This appears to be her diary,” he said. I instantly knew that he meant Hazel. “We thought it’d be most appropriate for you to read it. All other evidence was sent to Chief Carrington.”
I watched his retreating figure grow small. He was capable of being considerate, after all.
I spent hours flipping through the thick notebook. Only a few pages were still blank. The first couple of entries were from her thirteenth birthday.
’I’m officially a teenager starting today! Alecx finally can’t make fun of me anymore!
I grinned at the memory. Hazel used to hate the fact that I was always an inch taller than her. I took advantage of that and constantly put my arm on her head. She was convinced that she’d hit her growth spurt in her teen years and eventually put her arm on my head.
‘I read online that keeping a diary helps someone regulate their thoughts and feelings. I thought I should start one to keep myself sane.’
Yikes, she still had pretty dark thoughts years after her parents passed away. The more I flipped the pages, the guiltier I felt. I was invading her most personal space. And to find clues on her whereabouts so we could capture her, no less.
As I flipped to the fifth entry, which was two months after she turned thirteen, my eyes read the first few lines three times.
‘I’ve been thinking about this for a long time now, but I think I really like Alecx. Like the way Sandy likes Justin. It’s the weirdest thing ever! I’ve known Alecx forever. But today, when I saw him, I suddenly wanted to hold his hand.’
I slapped the diary shut, then covered my face with my hands. Even the tips of my ears burned. I had no idea Hazel felt this way when we were kids. I really, really shouldn’t be reading this.
Eventually, I cleared my throat. I had to keep reading; it was my job. I flipped open the notebook again.
‘This has never happened before. I guess this is called a crush. Should I tell him?’
Evidently, she never did. As I made it halfway through the diary, what shocked me was that her feelings never seemed to fade. Right up until the February 14th entry, bits and pieces about me littered everywhere.
‘Alecx got a new haircut today. Honestly, I don’t like it. But he seems to like it, so I won’t say anything, hehe.’
‘Kaydence almost got me to confess today! She just doesn’t understand that our friendship would be ruined if he rejected me!’
‘Me, Alecx, Jaxson, and Kaydence went to an amusement park today. We spent half the time just lining up, but it was a lot of fun. We took a ton of pictures, but AHHHH my dry blonde head would never look good in a picture!’
‘Honestly, how does someone make doing math homework so hot?!’
‘Alecx is leaving tomorrow. I won’t see him every day anymore. I already miss him.’
‘Today’s Valentine’s day. I sent Alecx a chocolate box emoji. He hasn’t replied yet, but it’s cute, right? He wouldn’t think I’m weird, right?’
That was about a month before her eighteenth birthday. She only had two more entries after that.
On the March 15th entry, she summed up the events of her birthday party. Everything was normal until the last section: ‘I met someone today. I found him alone in the park, and we started talking.’
I knew that Hazel wasn’t one to socialize, especially with a stranger in a park. I scanned the section about their meeting, then my eyes stopped on one lone line.
‘His eyes were mesmerizing.’
What the heck? I checked the final entry, and it only talked about her recent food cravings. Nothing related to the new person she met. She also never wrote his name. The only clue I got from this entire diary was this guy she met. Who was he?
Knowing that he had the other clues, I knocked on the door of Mr. Carrington’s office.
He took off his reading glasses as I entered. When I told him about the last two entries in the diary, his eyes widened. The corners of his lips drew down, and his brows knitted tightly together. “It’s Dracul.”
“Zach, rather,” he said, then directed my attention to a plastic bag on his desk. “I just received this. I was confused about it until you showed up with the missing piece from her diary.”
Concealed inside a plastic evidence bag, a wrinkled, faded sheet of paper had a sentence sprawled gracefully on it. “Secrets are meant to be kept; I hope you keep mine.”
All color drained from my face, and I instantly recalled, from the photograph of a piece of evidence years ago, the note that Dracul left on the body of an impersonator. I couldn’t remember the exact form of cursive, but I do remember it being surprisingly elegant.
“I can’t believe she fell for the ‘handsome vampire’ trope,” Mr. Carrington murmured, running his hand through his hair. “I kept her too sheltered. I should’ve seriously talked about vampirism with her sooner. I should’ve warned her from a young age.”
I hastily flipped open the diary to the last entry, which was April 6th. “Then, these ‘food cravings’ are actually her tastebuds transforming in response to her change?”
Mr. Carrington nodded grimly. It all made sense now. Even among Pureblood vampires, Dracul’s eyes were quite unique. The glowing red rings around his pupils enchanted anyone who dared stare into them for even a second. That was probably why Hazel found them “mesmerizing.”
There was only one sound conclusion: Dracul turned Hazel. The worst part was, it seemed that she consented to it.
As I stood outside the conference room, I could think only about all of my regrets. If I weren’t so dense and stupid, and if I regularly checked up on her, could I have prevented her from meeting Dracul? I couldn’t know exactly what happened between them, but I couldn’t help hypothesizing. If she never met Dracul, she wouldn’t be a vampire now, then Kaydence wouldn’t have hunted her down, and she wouldn’t be thrown in captivity.
I focused on training for so long that I stopped talking to her every day. I should’ve taken her insomnia issues more seriously and urged her to see a doctor. I should’ve installed some sort of lock system that prevented her night strolls. I should’ve seen the warning signs and told her about the dangers of vampirism. She would listen if I reasoned with her. How did I not realize that she held feelings for me for so many years? Why did I ever think it was a good idea to hide my identity from her?!
The sound of an opening door snapped me out of my thoughts. I nodded down in greeting to all the hunters that filed out of the room. Mr. Carrington was the last of them, and I took an eager step toward him. “How’d it go? What happened?”
Mr. Carrington began to stride down the hall, gesturing for me to follow. As the elevator doors closed in front of us, he spoke, “Took two hours, but we got it. They’re letting her live. For now.”
“Yes!” I breathed. “What’s the catch?”
He swallowed, then faced me. “I convinced them that she can take down Dracul.”
I stared, waiting for him to laugh, then remembered that he wasn’t one to joke in such a dire situation. “What?”
“I told them that she’s Devyn’s daughter,” Mr. Carrington unveiled. “With that ancestry, combined with a vampire’s powers and some training, she could fight him, I said.”
“But how could… but she…”
“I know, I know.” He pinched his nose bridge. “She’s not a Pureblood or Elite, so everyone else wanted to execute her. I could only think of this in such a short time. But the good news is, she doesn’t have to do anything right away. She only needs to agree to train.”
The words choked in my throat for a moment. “What if… she doesn’t want to agree?”
The air turned still. As we stood, brows furrowed, the elevator descended three more levels. Mr. Carrington eventually raised his head, saying, “We’ll give her some time. But, if necessary, we’ll force her. Anything to keep Hazy alive.”
The elevator doors slid to the side, revealing the dungeon floor of the facility. This floor perpetually reeked of blood and death. I couldn’t imagine Hazy, that quiet little girl, being locked up in such a place.
She was in the fourth cell on the left, lying still on the ground. The only thing I could see was a helpless, unconscious kid whose clothes were torn and ridden in mud. She was ghastly pale, and her hair was still damp from the rain. Beneath her, a small puddle of water gathered on the cold concrete ground.
“She’s been unconscious since they brought her here,” Mr. Carrington explained. “She wouldn’t wake up no matter what.”
My eyes slowly moved to her face. Several water stains seemed to remain on her cheeks. Wait, were those tear stains?
Suddenly, her eyes snapped open. Her orbs stared straight up at the ceiling, unmoving. They were the same warm shade of hazel I’d always remembered.
“You’re awake,” said Mr. Carrington with a smile.
Her eyes seemed to widen. She tilted her head toward us, peering at us past the bars. I had the sudden urge to knock down these spiky bars and drag her out of this cage. Mr. Carrington blocked my arms before I could charge forward and grip the bars. I gritted, “Hazy, tell me, who turned you? Was it Dracul?”
To our surprise, Hazel shook her head. But no matter how I asked, she wouldn’t speak. Her eyes were misty and distant; there was no light in them as she shuffled toward the wall, leaning against it.
My heart rate instantly sped up. Did the vampire blood mess with her brain? I was told that she didn’t resist at all during her capture. Did Dracul do something to her? Was she under his mind control?
She must hate Kaydence for betraying her. A lot of things happened to Kaydence this past month, but still, she led the capture of her best friend in a heartbeat, knowing that Hazel would be exterminated after her blood sample was taken.
Hazel must be confused, no, scared. But she wasn’t alone. Not anymore. Mr. Carrington fought for her life, and I’d be right by her side.
I anxiously blurted everything that was on my mind. Still, Hazel said nothing. She raised her knees, hugging them close to her chest. I knew it; she was still somewhat infatuated with Dracul. She had to be.
Mr. Carrington finally nudged me in the shoulder. “That’s enough, Alecx. I think she needs some time alone. ”
I bit on my bottom lip. “Yeah.” She was in no state to make a rational decision. I let out a shallow breath, then backed away from the cell. “Alright, if time is what you need, we’ll be back later.”As Mr. Carrington and I started toward the exit, she suddenly called out, “Wait.”
I immediately turned back to her. Taking her sweet time, Hazel rose from the ground, adjusted her clothes, and stepped up to the bars. The mellow lights in the hallways illuminated half of her face as she stated, “I’ll do it.”
I couldn’t even describe the relief that coursed through my entire being. My pulse finally slowed to a regular pace, and I beamed at her. That was it. That was all she had to say. From now on, I wouldn’t let a single thing happen to her. I wouldn’t let her die.
I wanted to ensure her happiness, but I failed to see the anguish that she hid behind her stone mask. I was so intent on keeping her alive, I didn’t notice the life slip out of her eyes. In its place was deep, deep despair.