July, 2015 – Sydney, Australia
A light bobbed in my peripheral vision. I angled my head towards it, hearing the scraping of chains against concrete as I moved.
"Good," I heard someone say. "We thought that the drugs would never wear off."
My mouth felt too dry to reply. I winced at the loud screeching of a metal door grinding against the concrete.
"Come on," the person said. "You have a trial to get to."
I stood up cautiously and the person walked forwards. “Chains are a good look for you,” the person said. The voice was feminine, and so were the hands that brushed against my skin as a key was inserted into the lock of the metal collar around my neck.
Chained up like a dog, I thought spitefully. After the woman unlocked the cuffs around my wrists, I rubbed my throat.
"Come on, and watch your step," she warned. A small light began moving out of the cell and, after a moment of hesitation, I followed it.
We walked up two sets of stairs and then started down a corridor. Some people stood in the shadows of their doorways, watching me with disgust.
"Don't dawdle," the girl ordered when I paused in front of a man. He had white fleshy scars on his face, contrasting against his skin colour. I turned away and continued following the girl down the corridor.
The girl blew out the candle from the lantern when we reached a more brightly lit corridor. She then pressed a button on the wall which glowed with a faint yellow light. A whirring noise came from behind two large metal doors, revealing the interior of an elevator when they opened. Light flowed out and the girl stepped in. I followed.
"Jessica," I muttered, recognising her in the light of the elevator.
Strawberry blonde hair framed her face and bangs hung over her hazel eyes.
"What happened?" I managed to ask past the questions that swirled around inside my head. The last thing I remembered was standing in an alleyway. Everything after that was darkness.
"We found out what you are," Jessica answered bluntly. I didn't have the chance to ask another question because the elevator doors opened and Jessica walked out, not waiting for me.
Jessica led the way to a large wooden door with intricate carvings of a forest and animals. She wrapped her hand around the handle and pushed the door open, walking into a meeting room.
A long table sat in the middle of the room with chairs placed around it. Only five people sat at those chairs, leaving many empty seats. At the head of the table sat a man and, on either side of him, four others. Other people leaned against the wall and some sat on the carpeted floor.
"Take a seat," the man ordered me, most likely the leader. His name was on the tip of my tongue. Mark? Mat? No, Marcus.
Marcus gestured towards the seat in front of me. Reluctantly, I pulled out the chair and sat.
"I'm sure Jessica told you about your circumstance," Marcus said to me. He leaned forward slightly, watching me with steady green eyes.
“Very vaguely," I replied, matching his gaze. “She said something about finding out what I am but, I have to admit, I wasn’t listening.”
Marcus narrowed his eyes, "And what are you?"
“I doubt I would be sitting here if you didn’t already know,” I retorted. “So, Marcus, what am I?”
Without hesitating, Marcus answered, “A vampire.”
Vampire; It was strange how one word seemed to be capable of defining everything I was – everything I am.
"Do you deny it?" Marcus asked.
"Am I supposed to? You are going to kill me either way."
Marcus smiled but it held no humour “Tell me, Dawn Smith – if that is even your real name – how old are you? How important to the council of vampires are you?"
"Twenty-one,” I answered with a blank face. “I’m still a child to the council, I’m expendable. That is why they sent me to spy on your little hunters.”
Marcus gave me a look that told me he didn’t believe me. Even so, he didn’t push the subject. “If you’re so expendable, why are you one of their guards?”
"It's a long story," I warned, trying to escape having to tell the story that would uncover the lies I had said over the months.
Marcus's smile returned. "I have time, and you have more.”
I lowered my head, scowling at the wooden table. “Let’s hope this doesn’t take too long then,” I said, trying to hide the defeat I felt. I clenched my jaw and looked up, glaring down the length of the table.
When the whole room was silent, I began recounting my story.
ELEVEN MONTHS AGO
A small piece of glossy white cardboard was on my desk when I walked into my bedroom. The window was wide open, letting in a strong breeze that made my blinds hit against the window. I picked up the cardboard and scanned over the writing.
Meet me in the diner @ nine. - Henry
I suppressed a groan and walked into the kitchen then tore the cardboard apart, before turning away and taking my coat off the back of a chair.
I walked outside of my house, following the road to the diner. The time on my watch read 9:00 and by the time I found Henry's car parked in parking lot it read 9:02.
"Two minutes late," I finished. "I know."
Henry started the car when I shut the passenger door. "I've got a job for you," he said, pulling out of the parking space.
“And I have a seventy-year-old neighbour who checks on me every afternoon. Either she’ll find out I’m missing and call the cops, or I will come back to a thousand and one casserole dishes on my doorstep.”
Henry didn't reply and a silence began to develop. I broke it by saying, "You promised that I wouldn't have to do another job for the council."
Henry sighed. "I tried Dawn," he said, sounding worn out. "I really did try, but you are the only one who can succeed in this sort of job."
I looked away from the window. "What sort of job?"
"A sort of job that many other vampires have failed in. They want you to get close to the vampire hunters." Henry ran a hand through his ruffled blonde hair and looked away from the road to look at me. "And the council threatened to use your organs to decorate the meeting room if you refused."
I scoffed. “Glad to know that decorations will finally be added into that empty room.” Henry didn’t reply but I noticed the hint of a smile.
It didn’t take me long to reach my decision. "I'll do the job," I said. "It's not like I have much of a choice anyway."
"That's what I like to hear," Henry smiled grimly. "You will be going to a school called Roseford Academy. It is a small school where, we have noticed, five young vampire hunters attend. You will be staying in a motel within walking distance from the school, also known to be where the vampire hunters are staying."
“So I’m spying on a few vampire hunters… why am I the only one able to do this? Why not a more experienced person?"
"The vampire hunters aren’t from a random small hunter community like the others; they come from the largest vampire hunting community there is. This job also involves having a lot of contact with the hunters and as soon as they find out about the vampires that try to spy on them, we never hear from them again," Henry said with a grimace.
“So I’m going to die no matter what?" I asked, turning back to the window. “Either my head decorates the meeting room
"You have a better chance at surviving this than the council," Henry replied.
I didn’t say anything, watching other cars drive towards their own destinations. Several minutes later, I turned around and talked to Henry again. "You believe that by putting a vampire who doesn't need to live on human blood will stop most suspicion?"
Henry nodded, yes, before returning his attention back to the road. "Also because you can stomach human food, control whether you heal or not and look young enough to be in school," Henry replied, fully summarising my abilities in one sentence.
It’s not that simple, I wanted to tell him. Instead I asked, "And what if that’s not enough?"
"It will be," Henry answered. I watched the lights from the road pass over his eyes. "I swear Dawn; I'm not going to let you die so easily."
We arrived in the town called Roseford a little after midnight. As Henry drove in I finally understood the saying ‘the town is asleep’ because Roseford looked very much asleep. Not a single light inside a house was on and there weren’t many streetlights until we reached the middle of the town. Henry parked in the small parking lot at the motel.
He handed me a backpack and I slung the strap over my shoulder when I climbed out of the car.
"Rent will be paid by us so don't worry about it," Henry told me. "Only worry about your task. The sooner you get it done, the sooner you can come back home."
"Understood," I replied.
I turned around towards the motel. Henry stopped me from walking away when he called out, "And Dawn?"
I faced him, "Yeah?"
He threw a gun at me and I caught it. "Stay safe."
I nodded and tucked the gun safely into the backpack that Henry had given me. I didn't look back as I crossed the parking lot.
The only light on in the motel block was in what I could only expect to be the manager’s office. I headed towards there, surprised to see a man sleep at the front desk. "Hello?" I asked.
The man behind the desk snorted himself awake and began speaking with his eyes barely open. "Welcome to Roseford Motel, how may I help you?"
"My name is Dawn," I said. The man blinked at me. "I'm signing in under Fred Orwell." I used Henry's alias.
Once a human was turned into a vampire they were given a new name in place of their human name to protect the young vampire. Most went back to using their real names after a few generations had passed but others, like me, kept their aliases. Mostly it was for safety and anonymity.
The man spun around in his chair, ran his hand over the keys and picked out a set.”
“Room twenty-two," he said. "Have a nice night... or morning. Whatever."
I headed out of the office, walking up the concrete staircase. As I walked up, I cast a glance around. The motel was in a ‘u’ shape with two floors of rooms and the manager’s office.
I walked down the hallway, casting a look over the metal railing, before turning back to the doors. Numbers were painted in black on the wood. 25, 24, 23—
I stopped in front of a door with the number twenty-two painted onto it and inserted the key into the door, twisting until I heard the click of the lock unlocking.
"Home sweet home," I muttered when I stepped off the concrete and onto light brown carpet. I closed the door behind me and searched through the room.
There was a short corridor which led to the kitchen and lounge room. I headed down another short hallway, finding the bathroom and bedroom behind two more white painted doors. I dropped the backpack onto the bed, neatly made, and then retraced my steps into the kitchen.
The first thing I checked was the fridge, which was empty except for six thimble sized milk containers and an empty plastic jug. I filled the jug up by the tap and placed it back in the fridge.
A small round table was positioned between the kitchen and the lounge room. The television was outdated, a big electronic box resting on an old television cabinet.
The lights flickered as I started heading back to the bedroom. I heard a crackling of energy before the light above me burst.
"Just great," I muttered and took the keys from the bedroom, walking out of my room. I shut the door behind me and started heading towards the stairs, nearly bumping into someone just leaving their room.
“Sorry,” I apologised, taking a quick step back from the boy I walked into.
"Not a problem," he answered. "Did your water stop working too?"
"Light bulb burst," I answered. "Is this a normal thing to happen?"
"At least once a week," he replied. I looked up at him, catching his light green eyes with mine. He had curly black hair which was a little damp, probably from the shower he didn't get to have. He wore a black fitted t-shirt and flannel pyjama pants.
"Come on," he said. "I'll show you where the janitor’s room is."
We walked one room passed the manager’s office, with the man snoring louder than before, and the boy knocked loudly on the door.
“Just because I am old does not mean I am deaf!” a man exclaimed from the other side of the door.
"Sorry Tom," the boy said and grinned sheepishly at me. Tom the janitor walked out, clutching a broom like a walking stick. He had a large grey moustache and matching bushy eyebrows. His hair was hidden by a blue cap.
"What is it now Nick? Did your face break the mirror again?"
Nick grinned at the old man. "Not this time. My shower won’t work out and my friend here lost a light."
“Ah jeez, what are you doing having a shower at this time of the morning anyway?”
Tom shook his head without waiting for a reply and disappeared from the doorway for a moment, coming back with a small toolbox and a box of light bulbs.
As we walked up the stairs, Tom said to Nick, "With the frequency that this happens, I feel like you’re only doing this as an excuse to have my wonderful company."
The boy rolled his eyes. I unlocked my door for Tom who immediately set to work, finding and unscrewing the broken bulb before putting in a new one.
"Are you new here?" Nick asked, despite the answer being obvious.
"I'm staying here for school," I replied, using the story I had created on the way here. "My uncle works nearby and wanted me closer to him, so now I am living here."
"Are you going to Roseford Academy?" Nick asked.
“Where else?” I replied. Nick shrugged and gave me a sideways smile.
"All done," Tom called out, climbing off the chair that he used as a ladder. Nick waved goodbye to me and left with Tom, heading to his room down the hall.
I waved back and shut the door before I walked into my bedroom, picking up the bag and emptying it out. There was a folder, a school uniform and other school supplies, some money, and a paper bag with a bagel.
I ate the bagel while going through the folder, reading through it. I wasn’t very surprised when a picture of Nick appeared in the file, along with four other teenagers.
A few hours later, after going through the file enough to have every word etched into my brain, the alarm went off. I checked the time, which was six in the morning, then stood up and stretched. I grabbed my school clothes and took a quick shower.
Afterwards, I placed my phone and keys in the front pocket of my bag before slipping the strap over a shoulder and walking out the door, locking it behind me. When I turned around, I saw Nick leaning against the railing.
“Hey!” he exclaimed, grinning at me. Turning to face four other people with him he said, “I told you she wasn’t made up.”
There were two girls who wore a navy blue blazer on top of a white shirt and black tie with a grey skirt and white socks that reached just below the knees – the Roseford Academy female uniform. The uniform for the boys was similar except instead of the skirt they wore grey slacks and socks hidden beneath their pants. Nick wore worn converse sneakers instead of the polished black shoes that the two other boys wore. The school’s emblem of a Rose was stitched into the left side of the blazer and small rose vines bordered it.
I recognised all of them from the photos. Easy, I thought.
All eyes turned towards me. I felt uncomfortable but tried not to show it. "Hey,” I said to Nick and his four companions.
A girl with dark red hair was the next to speak. "Hey, are you new?"
“Is it that obvious?” I asked sheepishly, earning a smile from everybody besides one boy with ash-brown hair and glasses.
“We don’t see many new faces around here,” a boy with strawberry blonde hair answered. There was a girl who looked almost identical to him. I suspected that they were twins.
"Why not just wait until next year?" the boy with glasses asked.
"My uncle didn't want me to repeat the year. I'm already a year behind."
"You're eighteen?" The blonde haired girl asked.
I shrugged nonchalantly, noticing the boy with glasses staring intently at me. I met his stare and copied it.
Either not noticing or just not caring, the girl with red hair asked, "Would you like to walk to school with us?"
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