I turn to look at the vampire holding the pole, he twists it tightly making the loop close around my neck. I choke. I’m trying to remain calm, I’m afraid that my choking and gagging might be seen as a reaction to the silver and not just to being choked.
He studies me critically, then releases the loop enough that I am able to breathe again. He lightly lifts the pole upward to remove it from me completely. I breathe a sigh of relief, I did it, I think.
“Human” he said, not really to me, just out loud.
“Come on,” he opened the door and leads me down the long hallway. I listen for Alex but hear nothing aside from my own footsteps. I am taken to a small office where I am fingerprinted again and my status is changed to human.
“Here,” the vampire that performed the test steps up with a human uniform “go in there and put this on.”
I quickly step into a small dressing room-like stall and change into my new uniform.
“Follow me,” a new vampire says, her voice is shrill and void of any emotion.
She is walking so quickly that I have to jog to keep up with her. She leads me back through the courtyard and toward the security gate.
“Go through there. Sit on the bench outside, a van will come pick you up and bring you home.”
She’s walking away quickly before I can respond.
I sit on the bench for five minutes, then ten, then fifteen. I’m starting to get nervous. Where is Alex? I hear voices, then I see him, now wearing gray also, being pushed through the gate.
“Wait here for the van, filthy mutt.”
Alex looks up at me and my eyes burn with tears. They cut his hair. I can see the small bloody wound on his neck where they implanted his collar. The van pulls up and we both get in silently.
Vampires know the pride we take in our hair, they cut it to shame him, to degrade him. He looks broken and small. The handsome man that entered the courtyard with me, reemerged as a scared boy.
A sob escapes my throat before I even realize it’s coming. His eyes shoot to mine. I lunge myself at him, pulling him into my arms across the seat between us. I pull his head into my neck and cradle him there. I don’t know him, but I know that he would have been my Alpha. I can feel it. I need to comfort him, to honor him. He allows me to hold him for a moment, I hear him sniff quietly.
I run my fingers through his hair, an intimate gesture of love and respect. Normally this would be inappropriate for strangers but I can feel his need for this comfort. He brings his arm around my shoulders, drawing me closer to him. He whispers in my ear so quietly I almost don’t hear it “I’m proud of you, I knew you would pass.”
My whole body stiffens. He knew? I jerk back and look at him with wide eyes. He gives me a small half smile, grabbing my arm, he pulls me forward again, “tell James I’ll be stopping by tonight,” he says before turning and opening the door.
Confused, I look around and realize the van is stopped in front of the security kiosk on my street.
“Get out,” the driver snaps at me.
“Oh s-sorry,” I scramble out of the car and carefully close the door.
I burst through the door, glad to be home, the events of the night behind me. My uncle stops in the middle of the room, it’s apparent that he’s been pacing, his shoulders sag with relief when he sees my uniform.
“You did it,” he breathes out in disbelief.
My aunt jumps up and down excitedly, “You did it!”
“Alex knows about me,” I ask but it comes out like a statement.
“Y-Yes, he does,” my aunt says.
“Can you guys answer some of my questions now, please? I have to know what is going on.”
“Sit down” he gestures to the kitchen “we still need to be careful about this but I can tell you a few things.”
“Thank you,” I quickly sit, excited to finally get some information.
“We can’t tell you who else has falsified records and trained like you but I will tell you that you are the fifteenth. Before you fourteen Alphas have been trained to pass the test. Orin Killion is the alpha running the resistance. He is being watched very carefully by the guards. He has been for years. That is why his son wasn’t selected. That is why they keep their distance from everyone. They don’t want anyone involved in this to be listed as a ‘known associate’ in the event that they are ever investigated. We have to keep all the pieces of this separate, in case someone is caught, the rest of the group is safe to continue. ”
“That makes sense, but why was I selected?”
“Because of me,” my aunt cuts in, “I told them that if I was going to continue the high risk of changing the files, you needed to be one of the trainees.”
I chuckle dryly, “I knew it wasn’t based on anything to do with me.”
She smiles sadly, “Don’t feel guilty, it’s not like you took a spot from someone, we wanted this for you. Your parents wanted this for you.”
“They knew about this?”
“Yes, I changed the file after your third birthday. They knew.”
“When you need to know that, we’ll tell you. It’s too dangerous to tell you any more.”
I sigh, clearly the sharing portion of the evening is over. I stand and walk toward the stairs “Alex is coming over tonight.”
My uncle nods but says nothing. I had a few answers but even more new questions. Who were the other trainees? What’s next? I wonder if I am even a part of the bigger picture or if I just got lucky because of my aunt. I am the only woman and the only non-alpha to be a part of this. I want to help, I want to join the resistance, to make a difference for my people.