Chapter seven – part 2
Charmaine’s death shook up the whole village. They weren’t used to crimes of this scale. Those things happened only in the big towns, like Bridgeport. Not here. Not in their safe little village, where they raised crops, drove around on their tractors and let their children horse around freely.
Until it did happen.
On the surface, people tried their hardest to pretend it had nothing to do with them. That Charmaine’s passing was a one-time only occurrence. A tragic occurrence, but an isolated event. People still happily did grocery shopping at the supermarket. People still visited the local library. School started again, and families still attended town events.
But if you paid attention, you could see a difference.
People no longer let their children out of their sights.
Including my parents. At first, they tried to forbid me from going on my morning jogs. No longer letting me off their property until it was time for school, and expecting me to be back well before nightfall. I understood the reason behind it, but after two whole weeks of obeying them and staying inside, I’d finally gotten fed up. Murder or no murder, I needed my freedom.
‘No! It’s just not safe, Chase. You can’t be out there all by yourself, not when they haven’t caught the murderer yet.’
Dad, who had finally gotten up earlier than me for a change, was blocking my path to the doorway. His arms were crossed and there was a stern look on his face. I sighed in annoyance. It was too early for this, and I was already late. If I didn’t hurry, that woman would already be gone by the time I arrived at the square.
‘It’s 6 in the morning. People are just starting to wake up, and the mailman is already doing his rounds. Geez, dad, if something is going to happen, it will happen at night, don’t you get that? It’s safe now!’
‘We can’t know that for sure. What if the culprit is waiting for another teenager to come by all alone? You could be the second victim, and that’s not going to happen.’
‘You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s been weeks! That creep probably doesn’t even live here! It’s fine!’
‘No! I’m not letting you leave, Chase, and that’s final!’
If it was possible for a human being to growl, then I did. I felt the anger build up inside me, rising up from the depths of my stomach. Dad stared me down, just as angry. I couldn’t stand the fact that I was still smaller than him, even with my muscular build. There had to be a way to get past him.
And then I came up with an idea. Quickly, before giving me time to doubt myself, I brought my fingers up to my mouth and produced a sharp, almost ear-piercing whistle. The effect was instant. Some rumbling could be heard from the ceiling, after which my two dogs, Jake and Dasha, came running down the staircase. They stormed right past dad while brushing the back of his legs, startling him and making him look backwards for just a second.
It was all the time that I needed. In a fluent motion, I joined my dogs and sped past my father, heading right for the door. Within moments, I was outside.
‘CHASE! GET BACK HERE!’
‘See you at breakfast!’ I yelled back, jumping off the porch. Jake and Dasha let out elated barks. They stayed right next to my feet as I dashed towards the main gate. My heart was pounding. For some reason, disobeying dad always gave me an incredible rush. Including this time. With a smile on my face, I picked up speed. Before too long I was out of my parent’s property, and on the middle of the road to town. My course: Appaloosa Square.
Maybe she’d still be there.
She wasn’t there.
With a sigh of disappointment, I sat down on the nearest bench. My dogs sat down beside my feet, looking up at me expectantly. I ignored them. What a letdown. Now that lecture that dad was going to give me when I got home would be for nothing. I could already imagine the speech. It would start at the breakfast table, and last all damn morning. I was not looking forward to that.
Maybe I should just skip breakfast altogether? No, that would only make my punishment worse. In fact, making them worry about me past-breakfast would likely result in a few weeks of being grounded. I did NOT like not leaving the house. After a while, the walls would start to creep up on me, to the point of it almost being claustrophobic. I did not matter how big the room was.
Jogging further without a purpose was impossible. As much as I hated it… it was time to go back home.
At that very second, my phone rang. For a second, I thought that it would be my father. Then I saw the name on the screen, and I brought the device to my ear.
‘Why, good morning, sunshine!’ The electronic voice of Jamie blasted through the phone’s speaker, much louder than was needed. ‘I have something that be-loooongs to you!’
‘You what now?’
‘Oh, don’t be shy, sweetheart. Or did you leave your garments here on purpose, so you’d have to come back and see me again? You did, didn’t you? Chase, you sly dog!’
‘What are you babbling on about now?’ I said, ignoring his teasing tone of voice.
‘Your pyjama shirt, dude,’ Jamie spoke. His voice had returned to normal. ‘Mum found it under my desk. It doesn’t fit Bobby and Luke, and Tristan doesn’t wear that type of shirt. So it’s gotta be yours.’
Ah, right. Last week’s slumber party. Or at least, that’s what we had told our parents. In reality it had been more of a drinking-games-and-adult-conversations kind of happening. I remembered wrestling with Tristan over some leftover snacks, after which his elbow had collided with my nose. Some blood had trickled down on the shirt, after which I had changed, leaving the stained shirt… somewhere. I hadn’t even noticed it was missing. But now that Jamie mentioned it…
‘Right. Thanks, man. Stop by the beach later so I can pick it up, okay? I’m almost done with my jog here.’
‘No way! It’s your shirt. Come pick it up yourself, man.’
‘And the beach is between your house and mine. Sort of. Your mug can use some sunlight anyway, Jamie. I’ll see you there.’
Some grumbling on the other side of the line, followed by a brief: ‘Fine. See you in twenty.’ I smiled. At least I had an excuse to keep going now. What was the phrase for this again? Delay of execution? Well, that. I’d take any extra time I could get.
I hadn’t lied. Appaloosa Plains beach was in between my house and Jamie’s. At least, on the road in between our houses. If you left the road and walked south a little ways, you would soon find yourself facing the Appaloosa Plains river, with rolling hills on the horizon.
There was nothing but forest on the other side of the water. Our village was a remote one. The nearest town, Hidden Springs, was at least two hours away by car. And Hidden Springs was not exactly a bustling metropolis, either.
I had often wondered why my adoptive parents had left me in a backwater place like this, cut off from the rest of the world. Now that I had read the letters, a different thought occurred to me.
A place like this, cut off from the rest of the world… maybe that had been the point.
I arrived at the beach a few minutes after 6:30. It was still early, and the sandy shore seemed completely deserted. It had gotten cloudy. The sun was still low, and a sudden strong wind chased grey clouds all across the sky. Weather here changed fast. Within the hour, it would probably start raining.
‘Hey, Jamie! You here yet?!’
I called out to my friend. There was no answer. But it was only a five-minute walk from Jamie’s house to the beach. Somehow, I was convinced that he was here.
‘Come on, dude! We have an hour left before school. I still gotta take a shower, man.’
No reply. Was Jamie really not here, then? My gut feeling was rarely wrong.
But then where the hell was he?
That’s when I noticed. It was eerily quiet. Not even the cries of seagulls sounded, or the chirping of other birds in the trees. The only sound came from my shoes, crunching the sand underneath. Other than that, it was dead silent.
Something wasn’t right.
Instinctively, I tensed my muscles. Something was wrong. I could feel it with every fiber of my being. This place… was dangerous. I had to leave. Fast.
But then I saw a blonde head poke out from behind one of the beach parasols and that thought instantly went out the window. That was Jamie, no doubt about it. No one else would be lounging underneath a parasol at 6:30 am. It had to be him. I took a step forward.
‘Jamie, what are you-‘
A low, threatening growl stopped me dead in my tracks. At the same time, my dogs positioned themselves right in front of me. Their fangs were bared, and Dasha’s ears were pressed flat against her neck. Another growl, almost feral, echoed across the beach. It took me a few seconds to realize that it came from my dogs. They had never acted like this before. It made a cold chill run down my spine. A feeling of dread spread all across my stomach and suddenly, I started fearing for Jamie’s life.
He was right there. I had to see. My feet moved forward on their own. One step… Another…
I rounded the corner…
And the scene before my turned my blood into ice. Jamie was lying on the ground, motionless. Towering above him was a creature of nightmares. It had the shape of a human, but I instantly realized that this was something else entirely. Pale, grey skin covered arms and legs of which I could see the bones stick out. The thing had nothing on but a ragged, equally grey set of trousers. Drawn across its arms and chest were strange, black markings that I could not read.
I made these observations in a fraction of a second. The little details quickly vanished to the back of my mind when I came to realize another fact.
That thing was holding Jamie up by his neck.
At the same time that the creature became aware of my presence, it dropped Jamie like you would drop a piece of garbage. His head hit the ground with a heavy thud. My heart skipped a beat when I saw the blood on his mouth and chin. His clothes were covered in red stains. He lay there, unmoving. I was frozen in place as I looked upon the scene. My heart refused to accept what my head had already realized.
My friend was dead.
Slowly, the pale creature lifted its head to look at me. There was a small trail of blood, trickling down the side of his mouth. Large, sharp-looking fangs touched his lips.
The mere sight of those fangs did something to me. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t look away. I could feel a sharp, stinging pain in the back of my head. It was if someone was beating down on it with their fists. Soon, the headache was so intense that the edges of my vision started swimming. I had to get out of here. Fast. With an incredible effort, I tore myself away from the sight of its fangs and looked up-
Right into two glowing eyes, who were staring straight back at me. They were white, but as the creature and I looked at each other, they suddenly changed. The colour went from a milky white to blood-red. At the same time, my headache reached its peak. A white haze crept before my eyes, blocking all vision as I experienced another memory that wasn’t mine.
Rage burnt a way right through my heart and took control of my body. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t think. Waves of pure hatred forced me ahead, making me charge straight at the vampire. Yelling at me to kill. And I responded to that call without thinking twice.
I slammed straight into the vampire, who had not expected that and was flung backwards by the impact. He landed flat on his back.
But I didn’t stop there. Before the vampire had a chance to recover, I jumped right on top of the creature and pinned it to the ground.
Kill it. Kill it.
‘I’m going to kill you, weak human. Did you know that? We’re going to kill every single one of you.’
A red haze blocked out everything but the vampire underneath me. I wanted to hurt it. Bad. My hands were shaking with rage, and at that moment, I truly wanted to tear the creature apart. I made a first and rammed it into his face, one, two, three times-
But the vampire was faster than me. Before I could counter, his clawed fingers had dug themselves into my shirt. I let out a scream as the hard nails ripped open my skin. His other hand had clasped itself around my lower arm, and as I reeled back in pain from the attack, he effortlessly pushed me off of him and into the air. A sharp pain shot up my spine as I landed square on my behind, slamming against a rock. The impact completely incapacitated me, and I fell down.
Within a fraction of a second, the vampire was on top of me. His long, clawed fingers grabbed hold of my hair and pulled my head backwards, exposing my bare throat. I could feel his foul breath inches away from my skin, and realized what was going to happen. He was going to bite me. He was going to sink his teeth into my neck and bleed me dry. I struggled frantically, but to no avail. This was it.
And then the unthinkable happened. I felt an enormous heat behind me. The vampire hesitated, his bared fangs inches away from the vein in my throat. Then, a bright light gathered to my right. It almost looked like fire. The beam passed inches away from my face and rammed square into the grey vampire. The heat was enormous. He screamed in agony as he was flung off of me and high into the air. The grey vampire was launched at least three meters backwards, and landed on the ground in a sprawled mess of arms and legs.
I looked on in wonder. But when the vampire hit the ground, the same feeling of rage as before took hold of me again. I scrambled to get up, but before I could as much as lift my arms from the sandy ground, another sharp jolt of pain shot through the back of my head. This time, there was no doubt about it. Someone had hit me. My vision started swimming, and I fell flat on my back.
‘Emal! Raos nyigull! Grynah, Emal!’
With an inhuman amount of effort, I turned my head. The grey vampire had raised his arms, and seemed to be pleading with someone. I could barely make out a red dress before another bright light filled my vision, blinding me.
I could hear the faint whistle of something flying through the air. Then, an explosion sounded. The vampire’s pleading was abruptly cut short. As I struggled to stay conscious, a terrible scream suddenly echoed across the beach. It didn’t stop. The vampire screamed and howled, in a voice that sounded increasingly surreal. Flames filled my already blurred vision.The heat became unbearable. I finally closed my eyes, shielding them from the flames.
Then… the screaming stopped.
Footsteps were coming towards me. They stopped inches from my body, and I could hear someone crouching down. Slowly, I opened my eyes again. I could faintly make out a dress… the same red dress that had faced off against the vampire before. My vision was getting blurry fast, and I knew that within a few seconds, I would pass out. With my last bit of strength, I lifted my head to look at the person that had saved me.
It was the most beautiful woman that I had ever seen. Her delicate face was framed by silky, orange hair that fell to her shoulders. Large, fiery eyes stared back at me, with feelings of concern clearly shining through. They were glowing… a strange sense of deja vu befell me. I had… seen her before.
When the woman spoke, it was in a voice that I instantly recognized. I had heard it many times, in my dreams. It was hypnotic. The world once again blurred before my eyes, and as I felt her pale hands lightly touching my chest, my consciousness slowly faded away.
‘Is he gone?’
‘He’s unconscious,’ Selene replied to her brother, who appeared from the shadows. He casually strutted up to his sister. The sun had fully risen from behind the hills; annoyed, he shielded his eyes against the glow.
‘That was too close.’
‘I should have watched him more closely,’ Selene spoke softly. ‘Our protection is fading.’
Nikola moved to the other side of the unconscious teenager and sat down, as well.
‘We were careless,’ he replied. ‘The curse is gaining in power. It seems we have less time than we thought.’
‘But how did it find him so fast? He is supposed to be masked.’
Nikola frowned. He looked at Jamie’s body. His frown deepened.
‘The damn shirt. It had his blood on it. That thing must have picked up its scent from outside the village and followed it here, through that kid.’
He fellsilent as Selene traced the outlines of Chase’s wounds with her pale fingers. As soon as she touched them, the wounds stopped bleeding and closed.
Slowly, Selene took Chase into her arms. She shot a single glance at Nikola, and spoke.
‘He must not remember this. If he links the vampires to his mother, he’ll leave the village, and all our efforts to keep him hidden will be for nothing.’
‘I know,’ Nikola answered. He took the boy from Selene’s arms and placed him on the ground before him.
‘Damn it, Chase. How many times must you make me interfere with your head?’
With a single finger, he touched the boy’s head. A bright glow enveloped the two, passing from Nikola’s arm towards Chase. The light seemed to seep into his head, sinking in between the hairs.
The next moment, it was over. The glow disappeared. Nikola slowly pulled his hand back, letting it rest on his knee. The boy named Chase stirred. He would remember nothing. For him, his morning had ended on that bench in the park. There, he had fallen asleep until now. Peacefully, without ever contacting Jamie. Without ever seeing the vampire that linked his life to his mother’s.
He would remember nothing.
Slowly, Nikola and Selene rose back up. With worried expressions on their faces, they looked down on their protégé .
‘How much longer do you think we can protect him?’ Selene muttered. Nikola looked at her with a dark, determined expression on his face.
‘As long as we can. We promised. After that… it’s up to him.’
Selene nodded once. He was right. Their protection of the boy still stood, though it was gradually weakining. Before too long, Chase would be on his own. But until then, they would do all they could to keep him safe. She stood up, straightened her shoulders and followed Nikola, who had already turned around. Together, they walked towards the shoreline.
As they reached the water, Nikola and Selene looked back one more time. Then, the older brother took his sister’s hand. Together, they took another step forward… and vanished from Chase’s world.
The young boy would not remember them, either. He was still sheltered. As his mother wanted him to be.
But it was not going to last. Before too long, their protection would fail, and fate would take over.
All they could do was hope that, when it happened… Chase would be ready.