“You’re home,” Justin Enos said, leading me through the great stone towers of Wickham Boarding School. I hesitated once I crossed the threshold, stopping at the main path that led past Seeker dorm and to the many halls and lanes of campus. In the distance, tall streetlamps lit up brick buildings like tiny beacons.
Only four days ago, I was so sure that this world was no longer my own. I had performed the ritual for Vicken, my friend, my confidant, also a vampire. I performed this ritual to turn him human. That also meant it had been four days since my best friend, Tony, was killed in the art tower, and since I believed I too would die.
“I can walk, you know,” I said, though I stumbled and Justin had to grab on to my arm. He gave me a knowing glance. My thighs trembled, the result of lying unconscious in a hospital bed.
“It’s a beautiful night,” I said, leaning into Justin’s arm as we walked. He matched my baby steps, holding a bag of my possessions on his other arm.
Lovers Bay, Massachusetts, was blooming in June, hydrangeas and roses all around us. Coupled with the aromas of the café and the restaurants behind us on Main Street, scents distinct to me in my newly regained humanity filled the air: sauces, perfumes, and fragrant flowers.
After everything that had happened, Wickham Boarding School campus seemed like an imaginary place. It lived somewhere locked in both dream and nightmare.
The night was quiet. The trees swayed lazily in the June air and I watched students meander across the campus, talking quietly to one another. The moon broke through the clouds, and when I looked back down to the earth, far down the path toward Wickham Beach, a figure leapt over the path and into the woods. Blond tendrils of hair flew behind her in the wind.
I grinned at first, imagining a student sneaking off campus to find something decadent to eat or to meet a boyfriend. Then something about the figure’s movements caught my eye. She jumped with the ease of a dancer but with the charge of pursuit as well. She was lean and swift. Too lean … too swift.
Alarmed, I scanned the school grounds.
“What’s wrong?” Justin asked.
“Want to go down to the beach?” I asked, stalling for time.
Justin left my bag with the guard at the dorm and I waited alone, staring down the pathway. If she came back out of the woods, then I would know whether she was an ordinary human. Students passed by me, calling out:
“How are you! Feeling better?”
I kept my gaze forward. “Word got around fast when you went to the hospital,” said Justin, nuzzling my neck.
We walked past the Union and Justin’s dorm. I couldn’t explain it, the knowing that she was strange, that the blonde might not be human. Perhaps I was just being paranoid. Of course I was being paranoid. I was an ex-592-year-old vampire. Oddities and strange creatures had once been an everyday part of my life.
We walked down to Wickham Beach. I took off my shoes, leaving them by the steps, and sat down on the cool sand. Sitting there, leaning against Justin’s warm chest and marveling at the ocean stretching beyond us, I tried to forget about the wisp of blond hair and the unnaturally agile jump.
Justin’s hand wrapped around mine. We watched the bay, and I replayed the memory of the first time I met him. During my first week reborn as a human, he had walked out of the water, glimmering and golden.
I leaned my head on his shoulder, breathed, and listened to the water lap lazily on the beach.
A horrific knowing sent a shiver through me. I shuddered and Justin looked down at me.
“Hey … are you okay?”
Look left…, my mind said.
But Justin felt it too. He looked away from me and his fingers dug into the sand and he rose up onto his knees.
Death is coming, the voice inside my mind said. The voice of the Vampire Queen. The hunter of hundreds.
You know this trouble, the voice slithered.
I looked slowly down the beach.
“Do you see that?” Justin asked.
I did. My heart was a cello string, vibrating as though drawn across with a bow—wavering. Someone was running toward us from very far down the beach. A girl—not a child, but not a grown woman either. A student? Her slight frame swayed as she ran, zigzagging across the sand and then hitting the ground. She pushed herself up from the sand but her arm gave out and she fell again.
“I think it’s…” Justin’s voice trailed away.
She finally got to her feet and started running again. The next time she collapsed to the sand, a few moments later, she cried out. It was a scream that traveled in a long wail down the beach, vibrating her terror into our ears. Goose bumps erupted over my arms.
I knew this kind of cry well.
“She needs help,” Justin said, taking a step toward her.
“Wait,” I demanded in a whisper, grabbing his arm. I narrowed my focus into the darkness.
“Are you crazy? She’s hurt,” Justin said. “What are we waiting for?”
My terror was a heartbeat quickened. A dry mouth. Words stuck to my throat, trapped by fear. I couldn’t remove my eyes.
For there was someone behind her.
This someone threw her hips confidently side to side. A model’s walk. A saunter of death. The woman grabbed the girl by her ponytail. There was a quick yank, animalistic, and brutal.
The wind came through the trees, shivering unnaturally in the summer breeze.
“Justin,” I said. “We have to go. Now.”
“But, Lenah!”, I pulled him to me so we spoke very closely.
“Silence,” I said. “Or we’ll both be dead.”
Justin didn’t reply, but an understanding passed over his eyes.
I had to be calculated, purposeful. I could not let the human inside overwhelm me. I scrambled up the steps and turned into the woods that ran parallel to the beach. My legs ached from the days in the hospital and I grabbed on to the trees every few paces for balance.
“Lenah! We have to call for help!” Justin whispered loudly from behind me. I spun around to face him.
“Didn’t I tell you? You must be silent,” I commanded. “And don’t say my name again.”
I fell to my knees and crept to the edge of the woods where the dirt and beach storm wall met, and stared at the scene unfolding below. I gasped as I recognized the girl.
Kate Pierson, my friend. A member of the Three Piece—the group of girls at Wickham whom I’d unexpectedly grown to love over the last year. Kate was the youngest of all of us, barely sixteen. Innocent, beautiful, and now in grave danger.
This changed the circumstances.
We would have to do something. I immediately ran through our options.
We didn’t have a dagger or sword to pierce the vampire through the heart, so we would have to frighten her with strength, which Justin had.
“Please stop,” Kate cried to her attacker.
We lay stomach down and I clawed my fingers into the sandy grass.
The woman sauntered behind Kate, stepping over the darkened sand as though she were simply out for a night stroll. She wore all black. Thick, blond beautiful hair flowed and waved behind her in the wind.
She smiled, her mouth stained red with blood.
I drew in a long breath. “I know her,” I whispered to Justin.
My home in Hathersage, England, swept into my mind along with a memory of the staircase that led to the attic.
The friendly maid with rosy cheeks.
Now she was whiter than stone and very angry.
Below us, Kate tried to wriggle away from the vampire, but now I could see the extent of her wounds. Justin and I were too late, much too late.
I gulped as the blonde grabbed Kate by the front of her shirt and bit into the nape of her shoulder. Kate cried out a familiar, hollow scream. This was one of finality. Her small mouth opened and she hollered into the night.
“How?” Justin whispered. “How do you know her?”
“I—” A shiver rolled over me. “—I made her.”
Slowly, ever so slowly, Justin turned his eyes back to the beach without speaking.
Congealed blood caked the sand together as Kate kicked away. She bled from her arms and her neck. This was a killing of strength. A vampire death can be one bite and virtually painless, but this was a death like Tony’s: a ruthless killing, done not out of hunger or need but out of power. Out of joy.
Kate brought her fingers to her throat to try to stop the bleeding.
Useless. I had seen this too many times.
“I don’t want to die,” begged Kate. “Please.”
My heart ached but the once powerful Vampire Queen inside me told me that this blond vampire was strong. She was unyielding in her desire for blood.
Justin and I could not run. We could not help. We would die at her hands if we made a sound.
We could do nothing until the horror was over.
There was one last scream from the beach.
And Kate Pierson was no more.
Copyright © 2013 by Rebecca Maizel