"Stop moving!" the hunt master hissed, pulling my hair for emphasis. "Or I'll change my mind and put you in the drugged group!"
Immediately I forced myself to sit still as he finished weaving brightly colored ribbons, glow sticks and miniature tinkling bells into my dark hair.
"That's better," he said, reaching for a hypodermic needle.
I tried not to make a sound as he injected something into my shoulder.
"Remember," he said, wiping the injection sight with alcohol, "if you survive until dawn you will be granted your freedom and sent to live in the free zone. If you get caught, you belong to the vampire who catches you and they can keep you or kill you on sight, it's up to them."
"Yes sir," I replied, knowing all of this already.
Looking around at the other prey being prepared I couldn't help but wonder if any of us were going to live to see the dawn.
The hunt was an annual celebration vampires had in every city they controlled across North America. Prey were chosen from the 'free citizens' of each city randomly, no one knew who it would be.
I had been sitting in my kitchen preparing dinner with my mom when they came for me. Six of them, all human traitors, armed and ready kill anyone who resisted.
Before I could even say goodbye I w as cuffed, a bag forced over my head, and dragged to a van already full of other prey.
The word my mom screamed was my name, "Liberty!"
That had been three days ago. I didn't even know if my mother was still alive. The last thing I heard was her screaming my name as I was being forced out the door.
"Pay attention," the prey master said, interrupting my thoughts with a slap. "You will have an hour's head start before the masters begin the hunt, so I suggest you listen to me if you plan to survive."
"Yes sir," I breathed, nodding at the truth of this.
I knew he wasn't trying to save my life, far from it. It was his job to make the hunt entertaining and challenging for the master vampires who controlled us all.
Some of the prey were drugged almost to the point of stupor to make the beginning of the hunt fun and bloody, those of us who weren't drugged were the real show.
"Hey," the hunt master yelled, slapping me again, "do you want to get caught or worse, die? Am I wasting my time with you?"
"No," I said, feeling blood trickle from the corner of my mouth.
Frozen in fear, I watched as the hunt masters eyes zeroed in on me.
While it wasn't necessarily allowed for him to feed from one of the prey, he was a vampire, and blood was blood.
Grabbing a towel he threw it at me, turning his back.
"Clean yourself up," he hissed, his shoulders shaking with the effort it took to control his desire to rip into my throat.
Quickly I did as I was told, my hands trembling with fear. My inattention had led to this, to him striking me and making me bleed.
If I allowed such a laps of focus in the arena I would be caught and killed outright or worse yet made into a masters pet or blood slave.
"I'm done," I said, the left side of my face already beginning to swell.
Turning back to me, the hunt master took up my chart and ran his clawed fingernail down the list.
"There will be a final meal brought in for you all in an hour," he said, looking at his watch. "I suggest you eat as much as you can, I doubt you'll have a chance once the hunt starts. Then you should rest, the hunt starts at sunset."