Chapter 1: Acceptance
A blast of school bells sounded and the corridors began to fill with hundreds of students, making their way home. Merging into the crowds, I walked myself to my locker, and leaned my forehead against the cool, rusty metal. Inevitably, sigh escaped...
I ought to have been excited for the weekend ahead, yet my mind just could not rest. Outside, I saw my cousin’s Land Rover pull up, with windows blackened as usual and I took a deep breath. Then, I headed reluctantly out into the car park.
I groaned, barely audible over the engine, as I took my seat and swallowed my developing nervousness. Our journey was uneventful as usual, simply merging into town traffic and then winding along back roads. Parks and brick walls gave way to dumpsters and concrete. Ten minutes later, we arrived on the site of an old factory in disrepair. Its rusty support bearings creaked in the wind, as they emerged from the many crumbling bricks littered across the ground. Stepping out of the car, my cousin took the lead and walked us to an elevator, hidden amongst the few brick walls still standing. Thirteen floors beneath the surface it took, to get to our place - an underground coven. This place is unknown to all humans, a hidden world. The doors swung back, revealing our secret civilization. We walked out, onto a black marble floor, and several guards drew themselves to attention; their eyes set - rimmed with blood. Their young skin showed ancient shadows of people centuries old.
‘Scarlet, come… Mother is already annoyed at you.’
‘Why?’ I asked, joining a queue for an underground train.
‘Can’t you guess? You’re past sixteen and yet have shown no signs of change.’
’Othello! I’m half human. What if I never change and I may just be human?’ I said, eyeing my hands and then my black school shoes.
A high pitch rattle sounded as a train drew to a stop. Othello sighed.
‘Well, if you do not change then we will have to seek council’s special permission, to allow you to stay within our society.’
‘I hope so, Othello. I have no friends or family outside - Aunt and Uncle have ensured me of that.’
‘Well, I guess we could do with a house keeper,’ Othello said, smiling. Then, he narrowed his blood-rimmed eyes.
‘Anyway we have a family council meeting tonight,’ he said, as he stepped off into a dim black corridor and reached a rock face. At his neck, a chain hung with a crest key that inserted into the rock service, and dispelled the rock face apart.
Stepping through, I found myself in a large central hall. A dozen people sat reclining in ancient chairs, scattered around on a grey marble floor. Deep midnight-shaded curtains closed the room in, pulled apart in places for doors.
‘Othello, my boy!’ a young woman exclaimed, opening her arms to greet him. She bore the same blood-stained eyes.
‘What time do you call this, Scarlet? You had my boy waiting around, while the council was gathering.’
It’s the same time as every day, Aunt,’ I said, tucking back a loose strand of hair.
‘I don’t know what to make of you, Scarlet. You’re the epitome of darkness, it shines through your hair and eyes; and your skin is like moonlight, but that’s about it. You are a disgrace to us, a family that spans over centuries. Now we are forced to face our first non-changeling, a disgrace! We have one of the strongest blood lines, as the Moon family - which even some members of the council would be jealous of!’
‘Aunt, please be understanding, I’m sure I will change... Maybe I’m just a late bloomer?’ I brought myself to her feet. “I’ll have some more medicine… Or how about mixing blood into my food? Perhaps that’s what I need to bring about change?” I suggested.
‘No. I should have foreseen this as soon as I learnt my sister had fallen for a human. She was weak, and she paid with her life for her disgrace. And you, my dear, will follow her footsteps. You are an embarrassment, a tarnish to the Moon family. If only your uncle was more firm on me. He was against raising you - saying I should have put you into an orphanage at birth. Look at the disgrace our family must now bear!’ She stood suddenly, glaring at me.
’Well, I wish I was given up for adoption! Then maybe I’d know what it’s like, to have friends and family, who aren’t embarrassed to be with me!’ I screamed back and stormed off, furious. I ran up the spiral staircase hidden behind one of the doors and escaped to my bedroom; a little, round, whitewashed space. A single bed cramped up most of the space and various chests and drawers huddled against the walls. I plunged into the bed, and the tears shed like a monsoon
What will I do, if the council doesn’t let me stay in the coven? I may not be a true vampire, but I am half! I don’t know how to make friend with humans, for dark’s sake, I don’t even associate myself with them.
They are so emotionally draining; human girls screaming at the mere sight of a spider or crying like a possessed person, all for the sake of a boy band! Why? What would they do if they met a real vampire, not one of their story book creations..? Faint, maybe? No, probably “fall in love,” no doubt. These humans are most confusing, yet I am half-human. So how can I find them so illogical?
I wiped the tears away, and closed the necessary steps to reach a pile of letters, cluttered upon a chest. At first I found my rejection letter; to the college of vampires within our coven. The only criteria their students must meet are that they change before their sixteenth birthday, at latest. Well, that was six months ago and far too late for a born vampire of my heritage. Normally they change by the time they reach six or seven years old, like Othello and my other cousins.
The next letter was one from the council, over their concern about my human nature. It expressed that the council cannot allow mortals to live amongst vampires. But, since I am half vampire the council would look at my special case on the next full moon. I shivered, as this was now tonight. Not knowing what else to do, I opened a chest and took out a black, laced, corset dress. I assumed my case would be a formal one.
Several knocks ricocheted off my door, before it slammed open, sending tremors through my room.
‘Little Scarlet,’ I heard, as I spun around. My eldest cousin Dudley, gave me a grin, and opened his arms to me.
‘Not now, Dudley! I don’t have time for your pranks. Why is it, that out of us I am so much more mature, yet a century younger?’ I questioned, playfully. He looked me carefully, and I saw him pick up on my nervousness.
‘Worried, yes?’ he raised an eyebrow inquisitively. I nodded.
‘Scarlet, relax… you’re part of the Moon family, the name alone will protect you,’ he said, placing a comforting arm around me.
‘Perhaps, but for what good? I will be always inferior to everyone; I will be always be a laughing stock.’
‘Not on my responsibility! Anyway, I rather fancy having my own receptionist, and just think! If I get a little hungry, I will not have to venture out too far.’ He winked at me.
‘Dudley… Leave off,’ I said, throwing his arms away from me. ‘Has the council come yet?’ I inquired, pinning up the last remaining strands of my hair.
‘Yes, they sent me to get you Scarlet.’
I took a deep breath and tried to un-tense my shoulder muscles. Closing my eyes I prayed deeply, that I would have the strength and courage to face those who cared little for me.
‘Alright… Lead the way Dudley,’ I prompted, gesturing to the door. He gave me a nod and I followed him down the staircase. We slipped through the central hall and out through another door, into a narrow corridor. It was lined with ancient portraits of the Moon family. Every member was displayed on those walls, except one. Me. Portraits were put up once you changed, from mortal to immortal. I passed the portraits of Othello and Dudley, both displayed at their changing time of six. I paused for a second and a twinge, of disbelief.
‘Don’t stand idle Scarlet. And try not to give off so many emotions; they illuminate your human side.’
‘I’m not, Dudley.’
‘You’re not? A pounding heart, shallow breathing and moist eyes, Scarlet, are not signs of a calm mind.’ He stopped, facing me and eyeing me meaningfully.
‘Is it that obvious?’ I asked guiltily, rubbing my neck and staring into his eyes.
‘I’m a vampire; a predator of humans - evolution has given me exceptional hearing, amongst other things to hunt your kind down,’ he said backing me into a wall, placing his hands on either side of my head. ‘Our senses get stronger as we age, so the council members will probably be able to pick up on this, from where they’ll be seated. So, if I were you, I would start bringing out what characteristics you inherited from your mother - and soon, cousin.’
I swallowed and hardened myself. My eyes narrowed.
‘Right then, move.’ I pushed Dudley away, hard. He slammed into the opposite wall.
I may not be entirely vampire, but I maintain their superior senses and strength, without need of blood. Increasing my pace, I reached the two heavy, shut, wooden doors. They rebounded off the inside walls and nearly fell of their hinges, causing multiple people to jump.
‘Honourable council, you requested my presence,’ I said, as Dudley caught up behind me. He squeezed my shoulder, silently, before sitting with his brothers. I faced the high table, with six, plaster-white, middle-aged council members - male and female. Senior or powerful family members and friends sat on benches in front of the council members. Fifty or more members of the Moon family sat filling the room, there to discuss their most delicate matter: me.
‘Scarlet, please take a seat,’ one of the council members said; a female dressed in a rich red gown. Winkles showed at the side of her eyes, alike her fellow council members.
’I’ll stand, thank you. I do not enjoy being here, having my time wasted. So, do I need to leave? It’s a simple question.” I stated, bluntly. Council members sat up in shock and glanced at each other. I heard a few gasps from my family. My Aunt buried her head in her hands and my Uncle sat amongst the council, frowning.
‘Scarlet, it is not just a simple decision. Your life will be significantly affected by the outcome of what we decide,’ the female in red said, rubbing her forehead.
’I think so, yes. I have not changed into an immortal vampire. I am sixteen and most vampires change in their early childhood, especially those with a strong heritage. So I guess my human side must dominate the immortal side. But am I ‘too’ human to belong to this coven? If not, what happens? I can’t go to college; I have been rejected after all.’ I eyed them all, boldly.
‘Fine, if you wish to be direct, I’ll give you the choice you have.’ My uncle said, staring down at me with narrowed eyes. ’You will be allowed to stay in the coven, but you will be given a position with Dudley, who has agreed to ensure you a position within this community for the duration of your life. You shall not be allowed to associate yourself with humans, and we restrict you to having no personal relationships with other vampires apart from friendships, of course. Your genes are obviously recessive to our more dominate characteristics, that are vital to be passed onto the next generation, but no chances shall be taken.”
‘Oh, I get it. Have no life; live for work. Well I’ve experienced sixteen years of living amongst vampires. Now, I’d rather take my chances in the light!’ I said, angrily. ‘Let’s see what it’s like on the surface. Don’t worry, Uncle; your little secret will be safe with me.’ This time people rose in indignation, amongst the gasps. I spun on my heel and stormed out.
Shouts of my name echoed down the corridors but I watched them fade into the back of my mind. I entered my room and threw open most of my chests, grabbing a handful of clothes from each and stuffing them into a small suitcase. Dudley burst in.
‘Scarlet! What the hell are you thinking? You better crawl back on your hands and knees right now, and beg for forgiveness for that outburst! You know how much pressure our family had to put on the council to agree to such a decision?’
’Oh, yes, I do… but what of me, of my sacrifice? Do you think I want that life - alone, with never even a family of my own? If I agree to the council’s demands, then that’s my life mapped out! No, I shall rather take my chances! Life’s not worth living without some risks.’
‘No, I will not let you go. Scarlet, you won’t survive out there! You have no job qualifications, no knowledge of their money, or mortal people. But here, I will introduce you to my friends, invite you to parties… you can still have a life with us!’ Dudley pleaded.
’No Dudley.” My voice was softer now, but still determined. ‘I’m going to search for my father.’
‘Scarlet, you can’t. He is dead,’ Dudley said shaking me.
‘How can he be dead? He has to be up there, somewhere.’
‘No, he was killed at the will of the council once your mother was caught with him,’
‘See, this coven has ensured me to a miserable life. They are even responsible for my parents’ deaths. I can’t stay here, can’t you see? Here, I’m condemned to no human friends and never rising above my station. It will be better for me to leave this place.’ I said. I leaned on my suitcase and yanked the straining zip closed. I pushed past Dudley, and saw Othello and his other brother, waiting outside my room.
‘Out of my way,’ I commanded, tugging the suitcase behind me.
‘You cannot be serious Scarlet!’ Othello said blocking my path.
’Watch me!” I said pushing past him, climbing down the spiral staircase. I emerged into the hall, radiating with noise. Silence fell the moment I entered.
‘Scarlet! Stop this, this minute. You are entering a path of no return!’ My aunt shouted, nose flaring – blood shot eyes fixed on me.
‘I’m already there Aunt, goodbye,’ I called leaving the hall and exiting from the main entrance. Pulling my suitcase along, I made my way to the station.
‘Scarlet I know you are angry, but think about this! We can still be a family,’ Othello begged, following me.
‘I’m not interested Othello. I’ll see what awaits me alone. I will not have my future foretold by the likes of you. I will leave my future to fate, no one else.’ I reached down for my suitcase as the train screeched to a halt.
‘If you leave like this, and you will never be allowed back. Scarlet, stop for a minute and think of what you are doing!’ Dudley pleaded striding up to me, tailed by a small crowd of younger members of the family.
‘Let me think… staying here, or a life worth living?’ I stepped onto the train, stroked my chin and sat in deep silence as the train travelled back towards the outside world. Dudley sat beside me. ‘Hmm… Yep, okay, I’ve thought about it, and I’m going to take the chance. I don’t need this,’ I said, gesturing at the main entrance of the coven, as we pulled into the station there.
I joined a queue of vampires waiting to venture out onto the surface, some going for the hunt. The very thought sent a line of ice down my spine. As soon as I reached the surface, I would become prey - whether my family name would offer any protection was another matter. Right then, I just needed to leave that place.
A ping sounded from the elevator and the door opened. It filled with vampires and my many cousins’ shouted arguments, but they fell on deaf ears. I was too focused on getting a better life, and learning more about being human. The door opened onto bright daylight, shining through. The light affected everyone, even me. However, the others turned away - fearful of it; whereas it called out to me and invited me into to the wider world. A world full of light. Or so I hoped.
‘Scarlet, please…’ A voice broke my reverie, and I turned amongst the daylight to see my cousins Othello and Dudley standing on the edge of the darkness, whilst others lingered in the background.
‘What?’ I demanded.
‘Come back, sleep over this. Your human emotions, they are taking over you,’ Dudley said using a leather jacket to protect his skin from the rays of light.
‘Why Dudley, do you not like the sun?’
‘Let’s just say my eyes are sensitive to light rays. Scarlet, please come back with me. Don’t worry about the council; my brothers and I can speak to them on your behalf. Please do not go! You are the first female member the Moon family has had in over five hundred years. We truly do not want you to go.’
‘I’m sorry Dudley, but this has to be goodbye. I have to do this; I need to learn about the human side of me. Perhaps I’ll learn to keep my emotions under control too,’ I said thoughtfully.
‘Fine… then please, give me one last hug.’ Dudley opened his arms to me.
I just shook my head, wiping a solitary tear away. ‘I’m sorry, but I know you too well Dudley. You can be a lot stronger than me when you want to be.’ I turned, and took my first steps past the black jeep, for communal use by the coven.
‘Scarlet, wait… if this really is goodbye, then the least I can do is give this to you,’ he said, sliding a package towards me.
‘What is it?’ I asked, picking the parcel up.
‘There is a letter, and some other stuff. I have also enclosed our address Scarlet.’
‘An ad-ress; what’s that?’ I asked.
’Dudley, she is not going to last two minutes in that world, it’s darker than ours!” Othello pleaded desperately, taking a step further towards me.
‘Course I will. How hard can it be?’ I replied, shrugging.
‘Let her go Othello. Scarlet, if you wish to return then write a letter to me, and I shall do what I can. But be warned, you’ll have to grovel to return,’ Dudley cautioned.
‘Return? I’m more human than vampire; I do not belong down there. So I must truly belong up here with my fellow humans,’ I said smiling, and taking a deep breath.
Silence held for a few seconds, as Dudley held Othello still. I nodded them a final goodbye, and gave one last sorrowful smile. Then, I turned and walked towards the road and to the nearest town with my little suitcase wheeling behind me.