The final bell caused a true frenzy at the end of the day, that ring caused pandemonium as people raced towards the door excitedly. It’s because they had places to go, people to see. As for me, not so much. So I didn’t find myself rushing for the exit, hurriedly making my way to the next big thing.
Instead, I took this time to leisurely walk the halls. Enjoyed the silence, basked at the moment. It’s not often I get to walk these halls without getting stared at or whispered at.
Today more so, I found myself in no rush to get home. I’d told Aunt Amelia that I was going to the library, and I didn’t want to face the heat of my lies. Even if it was a little white one. But I couldn’t walk these halls forever, even though I found the echoing of my shoes comforting, so I made my way out the large front doors to the outside.
I came to a complete stop, holding my breath and counting the seconds. It’s Beckett and Ember, they stood a good small distance away. They didn’t seem to see me or hear me, they were oblivious to my presence.
I didn’t stop dead because I saw them, I stopped because I heard the whisper of what they said. My name.
“You were supposed to keep an eye on Astra!” Ember hissed under her breath, her shoulders pinched with stress. Keep an eye on me? For what?
“I told you, I tried. Then that stupid bell happened and I lost her in the crowd.” Beckett said, his voice is softer than I imagined, but his words brought a chill deep into my spine. They were watching me, maybe all day. Why? I didn’t feel safe, and paranoia creeped into my chest.
“You trained for this, moron. And on day one you fail? What would Alatar say?” I didn’t know who Alatar was, but apparently, his approval meant a lot to Beckett; he let out an aggravated groan and ran fingers through his hair
I wanted to eavesdrop, and know all about their conversation. But I knew I couldn’t, I knew I wasn’t supposed to be here. So I turned away and forced my legs to tiptoe back into the building, picking up my pace to a light jog once I was inside.
I passed the main lobby to find a large amount of the staff huddled in the office, I only slowed my pace slightly to see them all staring astounded looking at the news. A reporter had a grim look on his face, and the headline read ‘missing girls body found, dead’. I shivered, she’d been missing for about a week now, I’d heard my Aunt Amelia talking about it with my Uncle. The reporter stood at the edge of the woods that surround our town, that poor girl. I shake my head and press on, wanting moreso to just get on my way.
I didn’t see them following me, the siblings, and I didn’t believe they knew of my overhearing. Let’s keep it that way. I knew that I would avoid those two oddities from here on out, though. It’s the only sane thing to do, avoid the wackjobs that talk about training and stalking.
I took the back door out of the school, cutting through the soccer fields to get to the side street that leads to my apartment duplex. Today was wildly strange, what had gotten into everyone today? From my aunt being unnerved, to a poor girl being murdered, to the two new kids that admitted to staring and stalking. Was it something in the water? A full moon maybe?
I pondered that as I walked, keeping my head down and shoulders hunched as I made my way past gas stations and bookstores. A few cars sped past with kids from school in them, blaring music, and getting their weekend started early.
Despite being lost in thought, my brain swirling with confusion, I was able to hear footsteps behind me. I flinched, spinning around looking for the source of the noise. There wasn’t one, at least none that I could find. I really must be losing it.
I kept walking, giving a small nod to the store owner who’s entering his store. He didn’t nod back, but his eyes widened at the sight of my eyes. I’m used to that.
With a sudden blunt force, I felt myself flying, the wind knocked out from my lungs and I gasped. Something had hit me from the left side of me, and I took flight into the alley to my right. When I hit the ground I let out another gasp, this time from pain.
What the hell?
I layed on my side for a moment, my skin burned from probable scrapes, trying to catch my breath. I heard footsteps, slow and careful, and I pulled myself up into a sitting position abruptly. Whoever it is I do not want to be caught off guard again.
He walked slowly towards me, his mouth grinned wide and showed me all his teeth. From here, on the ground, I could observe that they were inhumanely sharp. All of them, sharp like sharks’ teeth.
“When they told me about you, they said you were tough.” He said, letting out a low chuckle. My skin crawled and I found myself backward crawling away from him. The man was tall, with a lean build, and slight blood splatters on his clothing; at least I hoped it’s not blood.
It dawned on me suddenly, I’m in danger. Real danger. For the second time today though, I noticed someone was talking about me like they knew all about me.
“Get away!” I yelled, finally finding my voice. To my surprise, he stopped. The smile never left his face.
“She speaks, ” is all he said back. There was silence between us while I contemplated my options.
I could attack him, punch him in the jaw or kick him in the groin. But I rejected that quickly. If he was strong enough to throw me, I doubt my small punches would harm him.
I could run, get away as fast as I could. But I rejected that idea also, I’m no athlete and I probably won’t get far.
Trying to stall, I slowly stood onto shaking legs. They burned from scrapes, somehow my fall had cut through my pants. The man didn’t move, he watched me carefully.
“Who are you?” I asked, trying to stall him longer. His eyes gleamed with mischievousness, and I gulped. This man was looking at me like I am his meal. Truthfully his teeth looked as though they could tear through my flesh with little effort.
“Should we just cut to the chase? We both know what I’m here for, and it’ll be much less of a struggle if you just come with-” I interrupted him by letting out a loud cry. I’d heard enough, and I knew I wasn’t going to comply. I think he knew this too because as I slung my bag off my back and whipped it at him to use as a weapon he knew to dodge. I’d thought that the weight of all my book bags would at least hurt his core enough to give me a fair chance, but he stepped back fluidly so I stumbled over my own force. He did so easily, pushing my bag away from his body and grabbing a hold of me quickly.
He grabbed my throat with a large icy hand, lifting me off the ground a few inches. I grappled at his arm, scratching as hard as I could, fighting to breathe.
The man growled, baring his teeth at me hungrily. My head grew heavy quickly, my vision grew fuzzy, and the pressure in my head felt like I’m a balloon going to pop.
He didn’t let me go, and the tightness around my neck grew tighter. So, this is it.
“You look so tasty, I wonder if you taste as sweet as your chubby little aunt.” Aunt Amelia. Any sense I had left panics, please please tell me he didn’t hurt my aunt. He growled again, opening his mouth so I could see three rows of teeth. He’s not human. I looked into his eyes, searching for a sense of humanity. There was none, in his cold black eyes.
I’m going to die.
But then his head was gone, with a quick slice of a blade. Both of our bodies dropped to the dirty alley ground, mine on top of his. I coughed, air rushes into my lungs making them ache but I’m so grateful for the pain.
“Aunt Amelia..” please, not her.
“Astra? Are you ok?” I looked at boots, black heeled boots that stood on the head of my attacker.
“Ember?” My voice was choked, I could barely form a word. I’m lifted off the ground by her gentle hands, she leaned me against the wall and I just focused on my breathing. In, and out.
My throat still ached, and I could feel the bruises forming. I’m alive. I looked down at my attacker, his headless body...I relieved my stomach next to him.
“Astra you’re in shock,” Ember said, placing a hand on my back. I flinched away from her, backing away and putting space between us. I don’t care that she saved my life, she killed someone.
“Who the hell are you?” I demanded, my fear melting into anger. This thing just tried to eat me, and this girl, this stalker, saved my life. I should be thankful, but I can’t help but be agitated. Ember sighed, tucking her hair behind her ear. Finally, she put the bloody blade away into its sheath and slings it over her back.
“This wasn’t supposed to go this way, you know? Your aunt she was supposed to fill you in on everything-” I cut her off, done with everyone’s vagueness.
“Quit avoiding my questions here! I am terrified! Alright? Stop acting like this is an everyday thing! Unless...unless it is an everyday thing? Oh my God-” I found my brain spiraling.
I’ve never found myself to be one to feel emotions, I’ve always fallen short in that department. But today, at this moment, I find myself afraid. The feelings of shock and fear eat away at me, and I wished I could be numb at this time.
“Breathe-” Ember started but this time it’s her brother that cut her off.
“Enough with the drama, we need to get out of here; before more vamps show up.” Vamp as in vampire? This can’t be happening. I must be dreaming. My eyes found Becketts, he holds no sympathy for anything I’m feeling right now. He looked at me tiredly, like having to save me from being murdered has made him late for dinner.
“My aunt, the…vamp...mentioned my aunt. She’s in danger. I need to get to her.” My voice was tight with anxiety, the siblings just shake their heads at me. At least Ember looked sad while doing so.
“Our assignment was to keep you alive. I’m sorry about your aunt but-” I almost feel bad for getting in Ember’s face, because she seems to care. But I still get in her face, trying to muster up as much gusto as I could.
“I’m going home! You can try and stop me or you can come with me. I don’t care much about your ‘assignment’, whatever that means. But I do care about my family, and you will not stop me from getting to her! Now get out of my way!” Her face fell for a moment, and Beckett rolled his eyes at me.
“The assignment is to keep you alive-”, Ember started but her brother talked over her.
“We’re not babysitters, Em.” I glared at him when our eyes make eye contact. I felt that same electricity return, bringing goose flesh to my skin.
“I’m not asking for babysitting. Now, move.” My voice sounded strong, even though my whole body shook with shock. The buzzing of the electricity felt strong enough to shake the walls. He stepped closer and stared down at me, but I had enough emotion in me right now that I could not contain it and I know will win this stare down. Ember cleared her throat, and stepped between Beckett and me; surely she could feel the vibrations that torment me.
“We can go check on your aunt. But I swear, it’s dangerous for you right now Astra and you are our priority.” Ember talked softly, as if I may break, and I felt my rage melt away. Finally, I looked away from those cold gray eyes and I met the warm blue ones.
“Why am I in danger, Ember? What the hell is happening?” She shook her head and tugged on my arm to get moving.
“Not a safe place to talk, we’ll tell you what we know once it’s safe.” I nodded, agreeing. “Let’s go check on that aunt of yours, ok?”