Hunter

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29. How to Notice Change


After Kenny's death, nobody was allowed to patrol without an adult.

Cedric, who was, of course, legally an adult, pleaded with Mom to allow him to go out on his own to hunt the vampires - he was revenge-driven, I think, by the loss of his friend. I didn't blame him. Two years after Dad's death, I still dreamt obsessively of stabbing Cedric's dagger into Elijah's heart. I wanted him dead. I wanted it more than anything.

But, of course, I wasn't allowed out on my own any more than Cedric was. The leaders of our little safehouse - that is, the middle-aged adults - grouped anybody younger than twenty-five with the children. At seventeen, I was technically still an actual child, but Cedric, twenty, begged on nearly a nightly basis to go out on a solo hunting mission. At one point, I even offered to go with him, but of course, that only made them more certain that it was too dangerous for any of us to go out there.

In the year since our patrol had been ambushed by vampires, since Kenny died, I grew more and more restless. I was only allowed to go out on patrols on the nights where things seldom happened - the days leading up to the full moon, where the werewolves plotted out where they'd go to search for their mates, where the vampires had no opportunity to create new vampires, where the magic-wielders were weaker without their beloved half-moon. My patrol nights were almost as boring as being holed up in the safehouse.

I dreaded patrol duty even more as summer shifted into autumn. The air grew colder, both inside the safehouse and outside. The insulation in here was a joke.

Burrowing deeper into the thick blanket draped over my shoulders, I let out a long, frustrated sigh. Anya, sitting against the wall on my left, frowned over the book she was reading. It was one of mine - one of the few things Mom had managed to take from the apartment when she fled with Thomas during the Takeover. It was my copy of Twilight - one of my favorite books back when I thought supernatural beings were little more than a fictional story.

"What is this?" Anya said, jabbing a finger into the book. "How does she not realize that he is a vampire?"

"In my experience, humans are often blind to the truth," I muttered, especially bad-tempered that evening. "Especially if the truth seems nearly impossible."

"Yes," Anya agreed. "But look." She skimmed over a few pages. "Here, Bella learns the truth, and she does not even seem to care." She glanced up at me through bloodshot eyes. None of us had slept well in... well, in years. "How long did it take you to believe the truth? Not this quickly, surely."

"My dad was murdered in front of me by a man who turned into a wolf," I said nonchalantly, all but examining my nails as I spoke. "So, I think my eyes were opened fairly quickly."

Anya swiftly glanced at me, her expression oozing with apology. "I am sorry, Reese. I did not mean - "

"It's all right," I spoke quietly, wanting to burry my head into the blanket and scream until the images flashing across my mind disappeared for good. I'd never been able to remember that day with certain clarity - just a lot of blood, a wolf, a corpse, and a man.

A door opened on my right. I looked up, watching as Mom walked in. Across the room from me, quietly playing a game of Risk with Thomas, Cedric's gaze flew up, immediately distracted. Muttering an apology to Thomas, my older brother leapt to his feet and crossed to room to Mom. She held up a hand before he even began to speak.

"Not tonight, Cedric," she said. "You know the rules."

"No patrols on the full moon, I know," he still sounded eager. "But what if I went out alone? The werewolves are unlikely to bother me if I'm alone. And I'll bring the - "

"I said no!" Mom narrowed her eyes. "Nobody else is going out tonight. What makes you think we'd make an exception?" Her expression softened for a moment. "I'm sorry, Cedric. I hate being cooped up in here as much as you do. We'll go out in a few nights together, okay?"

"Can I come, too?" Thomas piped up.

"You're still two years too young to even leave the safehouse, Tommy," Mom looked guilty. I didn't blame her. I was feeling restless and claustrophobic in the safehouse while still being able to leave for patrols a few nights a month. Thomas hasn't been outside since the Takeover. He's been stuck in this hellhole, day after day, for two years.

Honestly, I wondered how long it would be until one of us broke and did something stupid.

"You heard the rumors," Cedric's tone was persistent; obviously, he wasn't done pressing the topic with Mom. "The vampires are stirring. They're abducting more and more people off the streets, turning them into Blood Bags. We need to - "

"They vampires will be under the control of the Alpha soon," Mom's voice was bitter. She got most of the story of what happened to Dad out of Cedric a few days after it happened - since I'd subconsciously blocked out most of the events, asking me had been futile. Even so, my hands balled into fists at the mention of the Alpha.

I will find you, and I will make you regret it. I promise you that.

I shivered under the blanket. Anya raised her eyebrows, then silently offered some of her blanket. I waved her away. I wasn't any colder than usual.

"But it's the local group that concerns me," Cedric began. "The ones that killed Kenny; they're still out there. They're hurting other people. We have to do something about it - "

"And we will," Mom waved him away. "Just not tonight. We can't tonight. It's too dangerous."

With that, she turned on her heel and stalked out of the room, slamming the door behind her. I wasn't even sure what she'd come in here for. Obviously, Cedric had ruined any chance of finding that out.

My brother glared at the door, frustration and anger clear in every aspect with which he moved; his hands fisted, his nostrils flaring, his eyes narrowing. I could almost hear his teeth grinding together as he clenched his jaw shut.

He stayed there for a long minute, still. Then, taking a deep breath, he turned to me.

"Reese, help me take Tommy to bed, would you?"

I blinked. Thomas was fourteen, and perfectly capable of going to bed on his own. The fact that my younger brother's mouth fell open in indignation proved that. It snapped shut when Cedric tossed him a look.

Before I could be graced with the same venomous stare, I murmured a goodnight to Anya and rose to my feet, clutching the blanket around me as I shuffled my feet along the floor, the cold seeping through my socks.

When I ducked into the side room Cedric claimed as his and Thomas' bedroom, he shut the door behind me.

"Right," he said. "What Mom said is complete bullshit, right?"

"I - what?" Bewildered, I stared at Cedric. He never swore, even when he was upset enough to burn the entire world to the ground.

"About the full moon." His tone was matter-of-fact. "How is it more dangerous than any other night? The only creatures out in full swing are the werewolves, and they're only searching for their mates or whatever. If anything, this is the safest night to be out."

I shook my head. "That's not how it - "

He rounded on me. "You were there that night, Reese. You saw what happened. How those vampires ripped into Kenny without a second thought. Don't you want to do the same to them?"

This didn't sound like Cedric. "You're scaring Thomas," I said quietly.

"I'm fine," Thomas insisted, though his face was pale, his eyes wide.

"The city is being slaughtered by supernatural beings who eat us, and you're concerned about scaring Tommy?" Cedric scoffed. "Forget this." With a quiet huff, he spun around and slammed the door shut behind him.

I exchanged a startled look with Thomas. What had happened to our brother? This wasn't the same person who had tried to shield me from the sight of Dad's death. Who had quietly murmured to me that we would be okay during the madness that followed.

I guess, over time, it was bound to happen. He was always eager to go patrolling, even before Kenny died. I remembered the gleam in his eyes as he taught me how to use a stake. But since his friend died, he's turned bitter and vengeful. Killing supernatural beings seems to be all he cares about these days. What about keeping us safe? What about keeping himself safe? Doesn't he care what would happen to the rest of us if he didn't make it back from patrol one night?

These thoughts and concerns floated through my head as I silently left Thomas after he fell asleep, padding across the now-deserted common space to the bedroom I shared with Mom. She wasn't in yet - probably still stewing after her argument with Cedric.

My dreams, as usual were filled with bloodshed and slashing claws. A gleam of silver cut through the darkness, slicing it apart as though it was nothing but fabric. My hand clenched around the hilt of a knife - or was it a dagger? A pair of green eyes cut across my vision. The dagger sank into flesh, cleaving it away from bone. A searing agony spilled across my chest, my heart, my mind...

Then I was being shaken awake, the dreams disappearing as quickly as they came. I blinked in the darkness, gradually making out the shape of Mom's head.

"Mom?" I muttered, half-asleep. "What...?"

"Have you seen Cedric?" Her voice was an urgent whisper.

"Not since he stormed off," I groaned, sitting up. "Why?"

Mom's eyes flashed in the darkness. "He's missing."

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