Requiem for Blood Copyright ÂŠ 2013 Alexandra Hope This excerpt was made available by the author for sampling purposes only. This excerpt may not be claimed by anyone other than the copyright holder, Alexandra Hope. If you have discovered this content written under any other name, it has been stolen. Thank you for your support of the author's work. http://harlequin-ink.com
One “Do you believe in immortality?” The woman's words were muffled as they fought through the thick cloud of teetering consciousness, “I can give it to you right now.” Olivia's eyes focused on her and she took in her shape; a tall, slender woman, her features masked by a red tint. She pressed her palm against the wooden pier beneath her body, her ears listening intently to the dull roar of the waves underneath them. Olivia struggled to push herself up, sighing heavily as she forced her body upward but quickly came crashing back down. She could feel several of her ribs torn down and broken within her, but she had to get up. Something was calling to her from the other end of the pier and she knew that with all her strength she had to save it. “I need you to listen to me.” Her voice was faint and served as a dull reminder that she was still with Olivia. She knelt down and pulled Olivia's blood soaked body onto her legs, allowing her to see clearly what was behind them. From the small pier hovering just above a lake that she lay on, she saw that they were encased in a forest where trees wrapped around them and hid them from the rest of the world. Through a red tint, she saw the outline of a man and followed his arms to a younger man whose shirt he had balled up in his fist. From the stillness of his body, one would assume the boy was dead, but Olivia could feel it, the soft pattering against the cage of his chest. He was alive but unconscious in the man's grasp. The young woman's hand rubbed against Olivia's back, “I can give you the immortality you need to save him.” Her voice again but a whisper to Olivia. She looked up at her, whose features were still covered in a hazy fog of crimson and opened her mouth to speak, but blood poured out faster than any words could escape. Death was upon her, and she wondered what the mysterious woman could do for her. “Do you want it or not?” she asked urgently as her words danced along the line of impatience. Olivia nodded through the bouts of blood pouring out of her mouth and seeping between the cracks of the pier. The girl leaned in closely and pulled Olivia's toffee colored hair back that extended just past her shoulders in waves. She exposed Olivia's pale white neck; her skin frailly stretched over her bones and bared massive fangs. Olivia didn't contemplate her own fate so much as she contemplated the fate of the boy who was still helplessly suspended in the air by a frightening shape of a man. Olivia turned to the woman who held her mortality in her hand and was looking down at her with an incomprehensible expression. “What are you doing? Help me!” Olivia shouted, warm liquid suspended on the rims of her eyes. “Hmm?” Her voice was now defiant and sadistic, “Why? So you can help him? He's already dead.” Olivia looked up and saw the boy in the same position. Nothing had looked any different from the last time her eyes were upon him, but then she decided to quiet herself and listen in on his heartbeat. She knew that no matter how faint it was, she could pick up on it's sound. She wanted to hear it, but nothing came from him, nothing but an unnerving sound of drops against the wooden boards. An alarming crackle broke out between the clouds and a medley of soft drops fell against the wood, clear water mixed in with red as it washed the blood away. As the rain fell down harder, she lifted her head and saw in the man's hand an oddly shaped red organ, spurting blood. He had already let go of the boy's bloody shirt and he fell to the ground with a hard thud. A sound escaped her throat and screamed out in agony as she watched the boy fall, though she was not entirely aware of it. It yelled out with tearful sorrow knowing it had been unable to do anything for him. She rose to her feet but not by her own volition and could feel the fingernails digging deep within the flesh of her neck and the warmth of the blood as it seeped out of the wounds. She looked up at the young woman who had taken her free hand to Olivia's head then removed her fingers from her neck
and put it up to her head as well, pressing deeply against her skull. “Never forget, you asked for this. This immortality,” she said as tore her arms in opposite directions to a snapping sound and broke Olivia's neck. Olivia fell to her knees and then to her head, landing in the rain mixed blood that was draining through the cracks. The rain steadily fell on her and the wind whistled in her ears, but she could hear or feel none of it in her death. The kids whistled in Olivia's ears and poured water onto her face as she lay on the table. Their snickering had pulled Olivia back to consciousness and she pressed her fingers against her face and felt the cool liquid falling down her cheek. She peeled her eyelids back and saw Sam, her eyes lit ablaze with curiosity as they bore deep into Olivia. She wasn't fazed by the childlike antics of her peers; she was only focused on Olivia who had awakened from her slumber in tears. Olivia lifted her head and it fell into her hand, throbbing in pain and coursing down her neck. She knew it was just a dream but she couldn't shake the feeling that some of her dream had slipped into reality. “Olivia?” an authoritative voice called from the head of the make shift classroom. The room was lit by the feverish glow of candles, their tips burning yellow and illuminating portions of their faces. Everyone was seated at the table in the living room with their attention toward their teacher. “Yes,” she called. Her voice was hoarse. “Do you need to rest or feed?” Olivia shook her head. “No, I don't.” “Then I need you to stay alert in my class,” he reminded her. “Yes, of course.” She nodded and turned to the notebook under her palm that had the title Human Anatomy scrawled across it in black marker. Sam pushed a cup of powder with a cloying scent of artificial strawberries closer to Olivia, followed by a cup of water. She looked from the materials at her side to the items in the middle of the table. Carefully excavated skeletons of both wild and domestic carnivorous animals sat between her and the peers across from her. “What are we doing?” she asked, leaning toward Sam. “Making impressions.” Olivia's eyes flickered from Sam's to the skeletons and then to the images projected on the living room wall. She had forgotten that today had been the day they were to make stone replicas of animal teeth and shook her head at her forgetfulness. Sam's father, Dr. Wilkinson, pointed to the images as they slid across the wall like a PowerPoint slide. Each image gave a detailed explanation of what to do to make the substance. “Now break off in pairs, one person go to the station to mix the mold and the other prep the teeth.” “Do you wanna mix? I'll prep the teeth,” Sam suggested. Olivia nodded and broke away from the group of students with two cups in hand. In the kitchen sat a table, a working refrigerator and cabinets stuffed with ceramic plates and food items which was an amazing thing for a family who didn't eat normal food. It was a required thing in the colony, to give off the impression that they ate human food if they were ever to be searched. She stood at the granite counter top while other students shuffled behind her and formed a single file line as they waited for her to finish mixing. “Any day now Olivia,” a random voice called out from behind. “Don't fall asleep again, please!” another chimed in. Olivia reserved their ignorant comments for the deepest and darkest hole in her head, exiling their words to the never space she had made just for them. As they continued to jest, she continued to stir, now oblivious to the sounds that were coming from behind her. She was caught off guard when she turned around and saw the snickering boys had parted to the side leaving a five foot nine boy with raven curls abound and green eyes, towering over her. There was an uncontrollable amount of glee beaming from his eyes as he smiled and as infectious as it was, it took over. She smiled back at him then pulled her lips back down as sounds of mockery came from beside them as if someone had shut off her internal mute button. The boy shot the two a warning glare then turned back to Olivia, playfully
snatching her cup of alginate and walking to the table. She followed him and found him sitting in her seat and with as little strength as she had, she tried to push him out of the chair but he was planted firmly in it. “Excuse me Mr. Anderson, where have you been for the last half hour of my class?” Dr. Wilkinson questioned, slightly annoyed. Noah squirmed in the chair, trying to force down his amusement, “Oh, I...was with my mom. You can,” he said, stifling the laughter as Olivia's bony fingers tried to lift him up from underneath his armpits. “You can ask her.” “I will. Now find your own seat.” Noah looked down the table and saw an empty chair beside Sam. She stared at him, firmly prepared to turn down his request until he stuck his bottom lip out and clasped his hands together. Olivia didn't take note of the non verbal transaction going on before her until Noah pulled her into the newly vacant chair between him and Sam. She looked at Sam who shrugged her shoulders and put her elbows to the table in boredom. Olivia turned back to Noah somewhat annoyed but she didn't show it. She didn't mind sitting next to him and at this particular moment, she had hoped he would've walked in sooner so she could have shared with him what was weighing so heavily on her mind. Her contemplative expression took Noah by surprise as he turned to her. Her eyes were fixated on his shirt which was nothing in particular, just a slim fitting white t-shirt with a design of a bleeding heart embroidered with red sequins. She was suddenly withdrawn from the present as her eyes focused on the shirt and the sounds of her classmates began to fade away. She could faintly hear Noah's voice and felt the unmistakable warmth radiating from his palms as his hand clasped over hers. His hand, so warm, felt like it was cloaked in the heat of the sun's rays against her cold skin and in her eyes, speckles of orange and yellow danced around her. She basked in its incredible warmth and looked down at her usually white arm now a warm tan. She watched as the colors on her arms shifted and pools of red created ripples on her forearm. The blood underneath her skin flowed through her like a stream of liquid fire, making her wince as the pain slowly began to register with her. Bubbles had formed over the ripples of bloody skin and tears began to well in her eyes as flames spread out over her arms. “Olivia...” Noah's sing-song voice drifted into her subconscious, awakening her. She took her eyes off of his shirt and looked into his. “Hm?” She put her hand up to her head and shook it fiercely. “I must have drifted off again.” “Drifted off? Your eyes were still open but you were completely unfazed. It was really weird.” “How long....was I like that?” “Only a minute,” Sam answered. “I see.” Noah leaned in and whispered, “Have you been having those dreams again?” She nodded her head as she turned to the task in front of her, filling the trays with the alginate and grabbing the skull of a fox. She put it to the skull and made the impressions of it's upper row and then the bottom. “But I was not dreaming this time.” She rose from her seat but stopped as Sam took the trays from her and motioned to the kitchen sink. She sat back down after murmuring a 'thanks' and turned inward to Noah, her lips pulled in and hesitant to tell. Taking note of her expression, he sat up straight but looked at her with a casual and relaxed expression. “How did I die this time?” Olivia looked away. “I do not want to say.” He leaned in closer to her. “Come on, it's my death. I—” “For goodness sake! Noah, Olivia, come to the front!” Dr. Wilkinson shouted over the student chatter. Olivia was the first to rise, walking to the front of the table with Noah following closely behind. Dr. Wilkinson met the two with his arms folded over his chest, a caricature of an intimidating
man. As the others in the colony, his body was cold from the lack of exposure to the sun and his skin pale for the same reason. His ginger mane fell past his shoulders and his scruffy beard, wild and untamed, rivaled even the worst of unkempt beards. Not an ounce of fat hung from his arms as he unfolded them and pointed to the students working diligently at the table. “Everyone's talking, but at least they're talking about the work.” he said, stressing each word in a staccato manner. He tugged at his beard with apparent annoyance on his face as Noah opened his mouth. “But we were working—” he began but was cut short by their teacher. “Save it Noah, I deal with your nonsense on a daily basis but Olivia,” he turned to her, “I don't understand what's up with you lately. You're both so close to seventeen but lately I can't distinguish you from Allison and she's barely twelve!” He looked over to Allison, the youngest of the children in the colony. She studied alongside the other students in the mixed age home-schooled classes and was extremely bright, often tutoring the older kids in human anatomy and other subjects relevant to them. “I'm sorry,” Olivia offered her best apology. “I have been a little distracted.” He leaned in closer to her and rested his palm on her shoulder. “I know you have a lot of responsibilities within this colony but I need you to focus. The day is drawing near and everyone must be ready.” She nodded at him. He stepped back and announced to the class, “Olivia and Noah are going to demonstrate the shortcomings of the human body against a,” he made air quotes, “predator attack while your stones are curing.” Noah looked to Olivia who looked from the animal skulls to Dr. Wilkinson, “Should I demonstrate with the skulls?” “If you wish,” he replied then sat on the couch next to the table. “Well,” she began, pulling her tan cardigan off and exposing her black camisole and frail, white arms. “Human blood is pumped through our body, through veins…because of the...circulatory system,” she stumbled over her words. Her classmates eyed each other, wondering how she had become so verbally uncoordinated. “Why don't you just show us on Noah where a predator's attack would be most effective,” Dr. Wilkinson suggested. He then pulled a cup of warm liquid to his lips. Some students turned to their teacher for a brief moment, the scent of the blood arousing them but not nearly as much as Olivia whose stomach cried out for it. Noah coughed over the sounds of her stomach until it rested and she continued. She began speaking. “A bite from a vampire to the neck is the one we see in movies most often. But why the neck?” she asked, surveying the class. “Because of the carotid artery. A major artery. Major artery equals massive blood.” She turned to Noah and stood on her tippy toes to reach his immeasurable height and led her mouth to the base of his neck, feigning a bite. She then pulled back and turned to the students and continued. “Attacking a human where the most blood flows is a great way to get blood fast, and the neck is no doubt the easiest entry point because you can come from behind, the side or directly from ahead. Other points, however, like the wrist make it harder to surprise a human,” she put air quotes around the word. “The veins in the wrist are notably smaller, equaling less blood and more time wasted. It is also important to note human canines are not capable of puncturing the skin without over exerted force, but animals like foxes and wolves can do it easily...their canines are a prime example of vampire fangs. That's what we're striving for in this colony,” she said without rest. In the front, Allison raised her hand. “Yes Allison?” “Can you demonstrate with the skulls?” Olivia picked up the wolf skull and brought it to Noah's neck and modeled a bite then did the same to various parts of his body until Allison was satisfied. Dr. Wilkinson broke the silence with several claps which sparked a roar of claps and praise from their classmates.
“Very good work Olivia,” he congratulated her then turned to Noah, “Strive to be as good as Olivia in the future, Noah.” He smirked and shrugged it off as he mouthed the word 'great' mockingly. His voice than became audible, but just a whisper directed to her, “I'll see you in history.” He walked out of the house as the students were closing their notebooks and getting out of their chairs. “As always, I hope you guys learned something. I'll see you tomorrow,” said Dr. Wilkinson, dismissing the class. Outside, the night air blew past Olivia and kicked up dark leaves on the verge of turning. She shivered and wrapped her arms around herself. A figure came up from behind and tapped her shoulder with two fingers, stopping in her tracks. Olivia turned around and met eyes with Sam who tipped her head to the child beside her. “Yes Allison?” “Do you believe in immortality?” Olivia's eyes widened as the question registered in her mind. She closed her eyes for a moment then turned to continue walking with Allison and Sam at her side. “If there is immortality to be had, the Matriarch will find it.” “But do you believe in it? Do you believe there is a blood so powerful it will awaken the dead and reanimate the body and soul?” Olivia swallowed hard and Sam looked down at Allison with wide eyes as her usually vacant expression shifted to a slightly nervous one. “I believe...” her voice wavered as the words stumbled out of her mouth, “immortality does exist and those who want it bad enough will get what they asked for.” “Do you want it?” asked Allison, as she scribbled notes across a pad in a studious manner. They stopped just outside their history class housed in a five bedroom mini mansion, the face covered in bricks. White columns and wooden rails lined the porch and wrapped around it, leading to the steps on the side. They walked onto the porch and passed three large windows before stopping at the door. Olivia let out a breath as she pushed the door open and answered. “Not as much as I need it.” Allison nodded at her cryptic words, pushing her frames further atop her nose and pushing her dark coils from her caramel face. A chandelier illuminated the entrance which was an endless space of white against the cherry wood and black iron staircase. The stairs wrapped around in a spiral before them with welcoming oddities at the base of it and mirrors lining the walls. An assortment of small knives were encased in a glass frame and hung on the wall just above a walnut table. Allison and Sam went further into the house and walked passed a room hidden behind double doors made of glass and wood. Through the doors, leather chairs were set up on a Persian rug and light flickered in the fireplace where more knives sat just above the mantle. Olivia walked behind the two girls, down the hall and through the kitchen, her hands sliding across the marble covered island as she headed into another room. The sound of their peers welcomed them as they finally entered the living room. It was another vast space of characterless white but in comparison to Dr. Wilkinson's, it actually resembled a classroom as personal desks were set up facing a wide desk at the end of the living room. Sam and Allison filled the empty desk in the middle of the room while Olivia sat at the desk next to Noah. He leaned over to her and brushed his shoulder against her prompting her to turn and meet eyes with his grinning face. “So, you gonna tell me about this dream?” “To be honest, I don't remember it...” “OK, now I know you're lying. Just tell me 'cause I can see how much it's bothering you.” “Can you now?” She put her elbow to the desk and placing her chin in her palm, she turned away. He took his hand to her face, cupping her cheek and turning it back to him. “Yes, of course I can. Now come on and tell me.” “Well, I tried to save you...” her voice shook, “but he ripped your heart out. There was nothing I could do.” “Who?” he whispered and leaned in closer, awaiting her response.
“I have no idea. His features were covered in this eerie red fog and the woman...” “What woman?” “She told me that she could give me the immortality to save you but it was too late,” she said as she shook her head. The chatter of the students had quieted as the last word slipped out of her mouth. A figure emerged from the hall, draped entirely in black save for a white lab coat. Her dark brown hair was pulled back in a neat bun and her light brown eyes scanned the room as she pulled the door close. Her intimidating presence could not be matched as she rendered the normally boisterous students to a taciturn group of well mannered children. She placed a book to her desk and only then did they notice a large HDTV on top of it. She turned off the light, leaving everyone enveloped in darkness save for the moonlight pouring through the patio door from behind her. Clearing her throat, she spoke up as she clicked the TV on and put a disc in the player. “Pay close attention to this film because it showcases the rich and accurate history of Vampirism.” The ambiance of the room had made it all too hard for Olivia to resist the urge to fall into a slumber. As her eyelids began to waver, Noah leaned over to nudge her back to consciousness with little success. She nodded to him a few times before yet again drifting off, her head resting on top of her folded arms on the desk. While the students watched on, engrossed by the film, Noah studied Olivia's motions as she cringed and murmured in her sleep. He tried to pull back the waves that cascaded down her face but she swatted his hand and turned away, her hair once again shading her face. Allison slowly rolled her head to the side to peek behind her where Olivia lay quietly. Noah looked back at the young girl whose eyes were gazing fixedly at Olivia, her lips pulled in as she shifted uncomfortably. Sam was the second to turn back, swallowing hard as she eyed the two. Following Sam's shift backwards, rows of students looked back and from the front of the room their teacher lifted her head as the scent wafted from the back of the “classroom”. The scent finally crept into Noah's nose as their teacher headed in his direction. He looked down to see blood pouring out of a wound that Olivia made from digging her nails into her flesh as she clenched her fist. By the time everything had registered in his mind, it was too late to hide it. The teacher stood before the two with a reserved expression, looking from Noah to Olivia. She turned around to the students who were stealing glances at the sight behind them, “Go home students. Class has been cut short.” She looked back down at Noah, “Except you.” As the students rose from their seats and exited the home, her glaring expression softened just a bit. “I'm sorry Matriarch. I should have noticed this.” He lowered his head and looked at Olivia who slowly began to stir. Olivia turned her head to Noah just as he was apologizing and then she noticed the emptiness of the room. She turned to see her mother looking at her bloody hand. “I'm sorry Mother, I didn't… I don't understand—” A slender figure emerged from behind Mar, her stealthy appearance only surprising Noah. They looked at the woman, her blue eyes turning into crescents and lines creased around her thin pink lips as she waved her hand at them. She pushed some loose strands of her black hair away from her face with a single skeletal finger as she looked down at Olivia. “Oh, sorry. Private meeting going on?” she asked, backing up. “No, Natalie. I had to dismiss my class for a little emergency and I needed your son to stay behind.” “I see. He was probably happy to stay behind considering how much trouble he's in.” Natalie shot him a glance and he grinned it away. “You can't be mad at me forever Mom.” “Actually, yes I can. I'll have a lifetime to be mad at you for skipping half your class and lying to your teacher.” Mar and Olivia both looked at Noah who shrugged it off. “Dr. Wilkinson is so dry. I honestly can't
learn anything in his class.” Olivia's stomach growled and took the attention away from Noah. They all turned to her and Noah offered a sympathetic expression as Mar walked away and moments later returned with a freshly procured blood bag, “Drink.” “I am alright,” she insisted. “Your stomach is telling you something, you should listen to it.” Natalie nodded at Mar's words, but Olivia shook her head and spoke once more, “I am OK, really. I fed not too long ago but I guess my stomach has yet to get the memo.” “Fair enough. The sun will not peak for some hours, but I'm going to ground now. You must get plenty of rest before tomorrow as well.” “Oh yeah, tomorrow is your birthday isn't it Olivia?” Natalie asked, her eyes lit up. Olivia half nodded. “Are you excited?” she continued, “You get to hunt for blood all by yourself!” “I guess the reality will set in tomorrow.” “Well I can tell you there's no greater feeling than tasting blood straight from the vein. The hunt is a close second.” Noah tried hard to contain his repulsed expression as his mother went on in detail about hunting humans for their blood. The thought of it all made Noah sick but he tried to hide it when his mother spoke in such high esteem about it. He could see Olivia nodding along, probably only half listening to his mother's words. He knew she had her own reservations of the colony's ways but as the daughter of the Matriarch she kept them to herself and followed orders as she was told. Olivia's former animated character had slipped away from her as she became an android of sorts within the colony, never denying an order. He asked himself how he could save her humanity but nothing concrete ever came to mind. “Let's go Noah,” Natalie called back to him, snapping him out of his thoughts. “Can I stay with Olivia?” Natalie looked at him with disbelief written across her face. “Are you serious? After the stunt you pulled in your class—” “If it's not too much trouble to allow Noah to stay, I would appreciate it.” Natalie debated for a minute and decided it was too hard to say no to Olivia, especially in her current state and finally gave in. “Just make sure you're home before the sun rises.” “Sure, sure. Thanks Mom!” He leaned in and kissed her cold, sunken in cheek. Mar had made her way to bed and Natalie left, leaving Noah and Olivia alone in the living room. Automatic shutters went across the windows to keep from letting any light in during the day, except in Olivia's room where manual ones needed to be pulled down. Noah jumped up from his seat, “Let's go to your room!” He followed her upstairs and down a hallway to her room. Clothes were strewn about the enormous room and wads of paper filled the trashcan while larger papers covered her bed. Noah hopped over the piles of clothes and mess to get to the window. “Is it me or has your room gotten messier since the last time I was here?” “It is messier,” she replied, unashamed to hide it. “It's probably worse than my room.” “It probably is. I'm not going to argue that.” “Well come over here,” he said as he held out his hand. Kicking her clothes out of the way, she cleared a pathway to the window and reached for his hand. He pulled her to him and then turned her to the window. “What did you dream about in class?” “Death. I keep dreaming about death. Like it's all around me and trying to tell me something.” She put her hand to her head and pushed her bangs out of her face. “Maybe it's the blood getting to you?” he suggested. He pulled out something from his pocket, a
small item wrapped in plastic and handed it to Olivia. “Whats that?” “Something better than blood,” he whispered. “You are the one who has been sneaking human food into the colony,” she said, taken aback by his indirect confession. He covered her mouth and the indulgent scent of something unfamiliar drifted into her nose. “Let's not alert the media Olivia.” She shook her head away and spoke softly, “They know. My mother and yours. They know. I heard them talk about someone who brought human food in—” “Newsflash friend, we are humans. This vampire stuff is nonsense and besides, blood tastes horrible and even the sight makes me cringe.” “I understand this lifestyle isn't ideal, but—” “But nothing Olivia. We made a promise to leave this behind. The plan hasn't fallen to pieces because of what happened, please don't tell me you're gonna abandon it,” he pleaded. Her eyes lowered as she searched herself for the words to appease her pleading friend, “Nothing is certain Noah, but OK, I will try to leave this place behind.” “Even if that means leaving me behind?” Her eyes widened as she looked up at him, “What?” “Tomorrow is your chance to leave, so just go. Don't come back.” Her eyes fell again and she spoke softly in a voice faintly mimicking amusement. “If I do that, it will make it impossible for you to get out. You do know that, right?” He rested his hand on her shoulder and looked into her eyes. “Consider this me thinking more about the beginning of the rest of your life than my own.” They rested their tired bodies but remained awake as they fell into the loveseat between the two large windows in her room. Noah kicked his feet up on the arm and Olivia sat against his black skinny pants as she contemplated his words. Hours passed by and the moon set giving way for the sun to rise, its rays hitting the window but barely illuminating the room. She sat up and walked back to the window, followed by Noah who looked on, amazed. “Is this window film I spot? Pretty cool!” he exclaimed. “I can't believe the Matriarch allowed it...” She put a finger to her own mouth and the realization caught up with him. “She doesn't even know” He looked at her, shocked. “So sneaky.” “I like to look at the sun,” she pressed her hands to the window, “and this blocks the rays. So it is a win-win and my little secret.” “Oh, and you don't want me to tell?” he grinned widely at her as he stroked his chin. She gave a light, almost non-existent blow to his stomach as he laughed and nodded at her, “Your secrets safe with me.” “Thank you. I wonder what the sun feels like.” “Amazing....I bet,” he stretched his arms out and yawned, “Probably like the best thing on Earth.” “Yes, it probably is.”
Two Olivia slunk through the forest, the leaves crushing beneath her feet as she tiptoed backwards, her breathing light. The branches of trees were a mangled mess of brown with darkened foliage barely hanging on as it rustled in the wind. She looked up and peered through the trees, the moonlight shining between them and glowing her pale skin a milky white while darkened shadows contrasted the color. She caught the sound of footsteps moving in closer and stood up, rattan sticks, in hand and turned to run deeper into the forest. She stopped when she heard the echo of objects fidgeting in someone's hand and wiry string being pulled back. A quiver reverberated through the forest and then she heard the splitting sound of wood cutting through the air, headed towards her. Olivia turned and her rattan stick came down swiftly and collided with the arrow, knocking it away before it could pierce her skin. A second arrow was drawn and came toward Olivia quickly. She didn't have the same reaction time and winced as the serrated arrowhead grazed her arm, cutting through her shirt sleeve. She stumbled back and ignored the blood that oozed from her arm and positioned the sticks in front of her in a defensive stance. She knew she wouldn't have had the energy to fend off the first attack if not for getting a good day's rest due to Noah staying with her to ward off the nightmares. She couldn't dwell on it now though, not while she was in class. She put her right foot over her left slowly then swiftly pointed her feet in that direction, taking slow and silent breaths so that she could listen in for her attacker. She heard another tug of string, the arrow poised so steadily between the attacker's fingers that it seemed like there wasn't even one in the person's hand. The string had been let go and Olivia braced herself for the arrow, but it never came. She whipped her head around as she tried to listen in to the sounds in the forest. There was a scurry of feet across the leaves behind her and when she turned back a girl was running toward her with a blade in her hand instead of a bow. She lifted it above her head with both hands, her height over Olivia giving her an advantage as she let it come down on her. Olivia crossed her sticks and crouched, holding them over her head as she blocked the blade from hitting her face. The wood splintered but they were not cut in half. The girl jumped back, her pink lips pulling up into a satisfied smile as she watched Olivia. Her platinum blond hair was a silvery ash in the moonlight and shaped into a pixie cut with long strands falling into her eyes. The girl wiped the sweat from her forehead and pushed the hair away from her face as she let out heavy breaths, “That can't be all you've got!” It would've been easier for Olivia to concede defeat but Felicity wouldn't allow it and neither would her teacher, Tomas Stevens. Olivia took the half torn into sticks and slammed each one against the bark of a tree, breaking the top half off and unveiling the jagged splinters of wood at their tips. The blade of Felicity's weapon, a dao, glinted in the moonlight as she twisted the embellished hilt in her hand. She pulled it up to her face, two hands gripping the hilt as she pointed it toward Olivia. “Run,” she said, her voice low yet forceful. Olivia took off before she could catch the sadistic smile that had crept on Felicity's face as she watched her disappear into the distance. She ran after Olivia, closing the gap between them without much effort. She was running beside Olivia and had pulled something from her waist with her free hand. The item snaked behind her before she whipped it into the air and lashed it at Olivia, the leather biting into her flesh as it wrapped around her wrist. Olivia was halted in her tracks and wrestled to the ground by Felicity's whip. She dragged her back and kicked her foot into Olivia's side, turning her onto her face and twisting her restrained arm upward, causing her to let out a scream. She stomped her foot onto Olivia's back. “Nothing satisfies like hunting prey,” said Felicity, as she drove her foot deeper into Olivia's back. She undid the whip, releasing Olivia's arm and then finally pulled her foot off of her. Olivia rolled over, red streaming from her lip and cheek where dirt and sticks were affixed to her skin.
“And once again, I am the winner,” she said, extending a hand to Olivia. She took it and was pulled onto her feet. The trees around them were more spread out where they stood and Olivia could tell they were closer to the entrance to the forest, behind Mr. Stevens' home. They were quiet as they walked out of the forest where Felicity emerged victorious and unscathed. She was met with mostly praise from her peers and she soaked up the cheers, relishing in her own glory. It had only been half their class who met them at the edge of the forest and Olivia knew the others were inside, watching the other fight. Mr. Stevens' class had always been broken up into two types, the hunting and weapons training portion and then the combatives portion. When she slid the patio door open she saw her teacher observing two boys sparring on a black mat before him. It was a two story home where the first floor had been fully transformed into an MMA style sparring ring flanked by a cage and in it, a brown haired boy was struggling as he was pinned to the mat by another. Mr. Stevens declared the winner and Noah stood up with a smile then pulled the boy up. His brown eyes were filled with rage as he thought of throwing a punch at Noah, just to wipe that sickening smile off his face but didn't act on it. “Good try, Randy,” he said, his chest falling up and down. They shook hands and exited the cage where Noah bent his head down toward Allison and wiped his sweaty face on hers playfully. She pulled away, visually disgusted and yelled out in her high pitched childlike voice, “Ah, Noah, stop!” She began laughing as he went in again and rubbed his curls against hers. When he stood up straight he turned to his teacher who looked down at him unimpressed, maybe even a bit annoyed as he took in a long breath and shook his head. “Good work, Noah,” said Mr. Stevens. “I hope you continue to take this seriously considering you will be hunting soon.” “Yeah, very seriously,” he said dismissively. After the class was dismissed, Olivia went home to change. She peeled off her dirt stained and sweat drenched shirt that clung to her skin and tossed it to the floor. The dark red gash on her arm made her skin look like it had grown paler in less than twenty four hours and her skin had sunken in so much that her ribcage was visible, each bone jutting out glaringly. She bit down on her bottom lip as she pulled a broken piece of metal out of the cut on her arm. “What's wrong?” Noah was pulling his shirt over his head when she turned her arm to him without saying anything. His face contorted at the sight of the wound that had begun gushing blood again. “Felicity did that to you?” he asked, dropping his shirt and walking over to her. He shook his head as he gently placed his hand on her arm and pulled it close to examine. His touch, albeit gentle, felt odd on her skin, the warmth unfamiliar. She was used to his touch but now it was foreign as it grew increasingly warm, prompting her to suspect that he had been out in the sun against the Matriarch's wishes. She fidgeted with each prod as his fingers slid across her skin and came close to the wound. He put it back down and said, “Well, there's nothing in it.” “Yes, I've taken care of it.” She walked to her closet and pulled out a towel and swung it across the back of her neck. Noah had stepped out of his shorts and was zipping up the zipper to his skinny jeans when he caught sight of Olivia's back. He threw a long sleeve burgundy shirt on, stuffing his unruly curls through the hole then rushed over to her. A darkened bruise, black with strips of blue, crawled up her back and twisted over her shoulder and he traced his fingers across it gently. She could feel the warmth from his breath and tensed under the pressure as his fingertips traced the outline of the bruise. “She did this too?” he asked, gritting the words through his teeth. She did a slow nod and he pulled his hand away and closed it into a tight fist. “There has to be rules against that! She's gone too far with that one!” “Her attack was within the rules of the system, and therefore, was allowed.”
“You can't tell me you had a good time having the crap beat out of it.” Olivia half turned but remained quiet, her light brown, almost amber eyes fixated on the night sky. Noah had begun his passionate argument but Olivia had already checked out of the conversation, excusing herself to her bathroom. Under the harsh lighting, Olivia took in her scarred and damaged body and the depressions across her skin, namely her abdomen that hadn't much meat. She took off the rest of her clothes and hopped in the shower. The water hit her body in a tiny beads, warm and jagged against her skin, yet oddly comforting as it ran the weariness she felt down the drain. When she emerged from the shower and opened the door, she noticed Noah had left. She pulled a black and gray striped shirt overhead and slipped into a pair of gray jeans, completing the outfit with black and gold sneakers that hadn't been there before. When she had picked them up, a small paper fell from between them, the words Happy Birthday—these better fit scrawled across it. Olivia walked downstairs and was surprised to see her mother at the base of it, propped up against the banister with a book in her hand. The book was bound in brown leather with red writing etched across the cover. When Olivia had come in close enough to see the fading images on the pages, Mar closed the book and a stream of dust puffed from it's collapsed pages. Olivia stepped back, her watery eyes fluttering while Mar placed the book down and then turned back to her. “I hear Felicity had a most triumphant victory against you,” she said, positioning her glasses on her nose. Olivia lowered her head and when she hesitated to speak, her mother continued. “I guess it is to be expected. Are you well enough to hunt tonight?” “I am.” There was a fleeting look of worry on her mother's face and small creases had embedded in her skin as she stepped closer to Olivia. There was something about the flash of worry on her mother's face that had the ability to drain her of all thought because she knew her mother was never uneasy about anything. There were two reasons she was the head of the colony; one, because she established it and two, because she didn't bog herself down with trivial human emotions, allowing her to achieve a near omnipotent status in human terms. So if even the slightest bit of worry manifested on her face, it was cause for concern, at least for Olivia. “Is there something—?” she began. “Nothing is troubling me,” said Mar, anticipating Olivia's question. “Nothing that you should concern yourself with. I just need you to continue to train.” Mar took off her glasses and her usually cold brown eyes were inexplicably warm as she looked down at Olivia. She held a hand out to Olivia who inadvertently recoiled at the sudden display of affection then moved toward her again. She fell deeply into her mother's embrace, holding her tightly as she laid her head on her mother's shoulder. Olivia hadn't given much thought to her mother's actions but she knew one thing to be true, at times she didn't even seem human, not that she felt any more human herself. But despite what she knew to be true, she enjoyed moments like this when her mother felt more like a mom and less like a monster. “You are not going to cry on me, are you?” Olivia pulled back, not a tear in her eye or a quiver of her lip, and looked at her mother, “No, of course not. I'm sorry.” “Don't be sorry, just don't cry Olivia.” She nodded her head. “Yes, of course.” “Now, are you ready to hunt on your own?” asked Mar, changing course. For a brief moment her expression was unsure but she nodded her head with absolute certainty. Taking note of the fleeting hesitation on Olivia's face, her mother squeezed her shoulder encouragingly. She knew that to encourage was also out of her mother's scope of abilities and was surprised at the gesture, unsure if she could be any more amazed. “Whatever your opinions are on a human life, remember that their blood is your source. You need
it but you do not have to kill to get it. Though sometimes, you have no other option...” she trailed off as she mulled over her own words. Olivia hadn't an opinion of a human life. She was a human, she knew that, but what was the value of her own life? Could it be taken as easily as survival of the fittest suggests? Could she become the predator her mother wanted her to be? A vampire? Without the soul and humanity and love and care? She thought it made sense, since she had lost her humanity a few years ago. Maybe, she thought, hunting a human for their blood wasn't so wrong. “Have you killed before?” she asked, curious. A small smile spread across Mar's face, “Never.” Her mother's watch beeped and she looked down at it. “I have two guests due here in twenty minutes, so if you'll excuse me.” “Of course.” Mar had already walked several feet down the hallway before she turned back to Olivia. “Happy Birthday Olivia.” “Thank you.” When Olivia stepped outside, she expected to be met with more than just the cool night. She expected to see the other students emerging from their half hour break between class and heading to their “science” class but she was alone. Someone had once told her that people on the outside had things called surprise birthday parties where they hid from the unsuspecting person to surprise them later on, but this couldn't be it. She at least knew that. The houses were spread across the vast land and an iron gate surrounded the colony. She heard a short scurry of feet across the dirt and stick laden ground and turned to see what had made the sound. “Allison?” “Oh, hi Olivia!” said Allison, cheerful. She tucked her black coils behind her ear and walked up beside her. “What are you doing out here?” “I have somewhere I need to be,” she replied. “It's your birthday isn't it?” She nodded. “Happy Birthday! How does it feel to be seventeen?” Olivia thought about it then opened her mouth to speak. “Free.” The words were not her own as she turned to her side and saw Noah walking slowly towards her. He wore a cream colored shawl cardigan over his burgundy shirt and didn't look the least bit intimidating in his clothes but there was nothing, not even the gates of the colony of the Matriarch herself that could separate Noah from his love of fashion. Everyone knew the end result in the colony was to become a vampire thus ending their human lives, and even if he had to see it happen to himself, he at least wanted to die looking good. “Nothing like the freedom of being seventeen,” he mused, a wishful expression crossing his face. “Why do you say that?” asked Allison, turning her attention to the boy who was now at Olivia's side. “Oh, no reason...” “Where is everyone?” Olivia asked. “The Matriarch ordered a lock down. We are to remain in our homes until the meeting is over,” he mocked her words. “What meeting?” “Your mom hasn't told you any of this?” he asked. “Well my mom talks a lot, so she's been telling me the whole thing. Basically, some guy from the state and I think a teacher, will be visiting the colony to check us out and stuff. Just making sure we're not doing the weird things that we actually are doing.” “I see.”
Allison kicked a few rocks to the side as the three of them stood quietly for a moment. Noah leaned down and tapped her shoulder, “Head off to the house and give me and Olivia a private, teenagers only moment, okay?” “I would....” she began, “except I don't have a house to go to.” “What happened?” he asked, incredulity ripe in his words. “A husk happened.” “Can you dumb it down and put it into Noah-speak for me?” “Randy's dad and I got into an argument about the size of a husk, the outer shell of a seed.” “And you got kicked out for that?” “Oh, the pride of man,” said the eleven year old girl, stretching high onto the tips of her toes and rolling back onto her heels. Noah rolled his eyes at her. “Look, I know you're brilliant and all and I'm not taking sides, but I can see why they would take offense. Maybe you could tone it down and you wouldn't be kicked out...I mean, they are doing it out of the kindness of their hearts.” “They're doing it because that's the Matriarch's wishes.” She quickly glanced over to Olivia whose eyes weren't fixed on anything in particular and neither was her attention. She had heard their words but wasn't concerned with their conversation until Allison directed a question to her, “Can I stay with you Olivia? If I stay with the Matriarch, I can't be kicked out right?” Olivia contemplated the request and looked from Allison to Noah as she did. Even if Olivia didn't have those kinds of feelings that bound her to other humans, she did at least feel some sympathy for Allison. They were faint but they were there and she was hesitant to allow the little girl to suffer the backlash if she were truly to leave the colony. Noah had already caught on to her inner conflict with his uncanny ability to read the few expressions that her face held, despite how slight they had been. He then spoke up, “Well, I can ask my mom. She'll more than likely say yes.” “It is settled then. You have a place to stay.” “Thank you!” Allison wrapped her thin arms around Olivia's waist, their bones rubbing against each other through their skin before she pulled away. “Thank Olivia like I wasn't the one who offered,” said Noah, feigning hurt feelings. She turned to him and hugged him as well, “Thank you Noah! It's odd, people say you're stupid but you have such great ideas sometimes.” He tightened his lip and suppressed an eye roll. “Yeah, well, don't make trouble for me.” “I won't.” “Now can you give us a private moment?” “Yep!” Allison skipped to his house, her curls bobbing up and down in each stride until she disappeared into it and the door closed behind her. They dawdled several yards away from the house, exchanging words about mundane things until Noah interrupted Olivia with a celebratory hug, his lean but cut arms coming close to crushing her under the pressure. “You're not going to let me say happy birthday, are you?” “I had hoped you wouldn't mention it.” “Well Happy Birthday!” he yelled out defiantly and released her. “I see you got my birthday present.” “I did, thank you.” “I just wanted you to have something stylish.” “They are certainly...” she searched for a word, “interesting. How did you come by these?” “My mom. You know her role in this colony is master procurer. She is le thief extraordinaire and pretty much gets me whatever I want when she goes on her hunts.” “So you disapprove of hunting for blood, but condone thievery?” “When you say it like that,” he said. “Yes.” He smiled at her and it took all of her strength to
reciprocate but only a half smile. It was enough for him though. He just wanted to see his best friend smile; that's all it took to give him satisfaction. He lifted his hand to her face and his fingers twirled in her honey brown waves as he continued to speak. “Well, going back to birthdays and turning seventeen, you're going to do it right?” Olivia took her eyes off of Noah and cocked her head to the right, his fingers unfixing themselves from her hair. Her attention was pulled in the direction of her head and she cupped her ear to listen better. Her eyes flickered around then rested on Noah's as she placed her index finger to her lips in an effort to quiet him. He looked down at her, confusion scrawled across his face but soon he could hear what Olivia had heard the whole time, footsteps coming in closer until they were upon them. “Going to do what?” asked the voice. The person slipped between the two of them and pulled Olivia into a warm embrace, ignoring the boy at her backside. She spun Olivia away and held her at arm's length. “Happy Birthday Olivia!” “Thank you Natalie,” she said, nodding politely. “What are you guys up to?” “Other than having a private conversation, I was just telling her how lucky she is to be going out for blood by herself,” he told his mother. “Well, you won't be too far behind. Just a few days until your seventeenth birthday. Are you excited?” “You have no idea,” he replied wryly. “I think I have an idea. Anyway, you need to head inside. The Matriarch has requested a shut in, no members outside except those who are hunting.” “I'm going inside in a minute; just have to say something to Olivia.” Natalie let out a breath and relented. “OK...hurry up, a few words then inside!” She wrapped one arm around her son, kissed his head and continued on in the direction which she was going. Her appearance had been like a tornado, coming in quickly and disappearing with an equal quickness that only Olivia could comprehend. Noah looked at her with a confused expression painted on his face before he just spat the words out. “What was that about? And how did you know she was coming?” Olivia looked at him, her face contorted and her expression bewildered. “How did you not hear that?” “It's the same like in history class,” he said, shaking his head, “everyone could smell your blood except me. I wonder why?” Olivia thought for a moment. “The blood? You haven't been drinking it, have you?” “Not when I've found something even better,” he muttered his confession. “Then that is it. You do not have the heightened senses that everyone else has because you haven't been drinking it. And that explains why you are not skin and bones.” “You are telling me that drinking another human's blood has enhanced your senses to near animalistic?” “Yes, I guess I am,” she replied, ruffling the back of her hair. “That's crazy,” he said, shaking his head. “Call it what you wish, but in this world, is it truly out of the realm of possibility?” **** A short and stocky man held tightly onto his briefcase as he followed Natalie. His dark brown hair was sparsely combed over his head and held on for dear life as the wind threatened to whisk what little he had away. The cheap cologne oozed from his underarms when he held out his doughy hand to her, his companion at his side. A woman, no older than twenty five, walked beside him with her hands stiffly at her side. Her hair was pulled into a tight bun, with only small wisps of hair hanging loosely at her nape and beads of sweat looming there. She cautiously watched the woman who was leading them
to the house, her white skin a ghostly pale contrast to her own brown skin. She wondered how someone could be so pale and tiny. Her thoughts distracted her, for she didn't see they had stopped in front of a large house until she had tripped up the steps. When she gathered her bearings from her fall and looked up, she got her first glance at the woman they were meeting. Her first thought was that she had great skin. Really, she did. And didn't look as old as she was supposed to be. She had heard the woman, Mar Cohen, was this forty something year old millionaire hermit who built a colony closed off to the rest of the world. From there, other stories poured in, like the practice of dark magic and even worse things, but she seemed almost harmless and certainly not much older than thirty five. Mar held her hand out to the young woman, a bright smile on her face. The woman took it and apologized profusely than introduced herself after Mar prompted her. “My na-name is JoAnn Tanner,” the woman stammered. “I'm a school teacher sent by the New Hampshire Department of Education.” “Of course you are. And a beautiful name for such a beautiful young woman.” Natalie chuckled under her breath at Mar's charm. If there was one thing she knew about her friend, it was that she was quite charming when she wanted to be. JoAnn was a blushing and bumbling mess on the inside, thankful the color couldn't reach the surface of her skin. Her partner on the other hand, eyed Mar suspiciously and didn't offer any introduction when she turned to him. “Ah, Mr. Martin. It's always a pleasure to have you in my home. Please come in.” She waved her hand to the door and allowed them to walk in first. Natalie shut the door behind them and they followed Mar to the living room. The student's desk had been removed and replaced with two sofas and a swivel designed chair in one of the nooks of the room. A dark wood coffee table buried it's legs in the plush white carpet, candles, magazines and tiny porcelain tea cups sitting on top of it. JoAnn started toward the swivel chair that had large rose petals across the white fabric, but her elbow was pulled back by Mr. Martin who shook his head. “Surely the chair will not hurt her,” said Mar, taking notice of them still standing. “We're just here to conduct our inspection.” “Yes, of course. Let's inspect.” Mar gave them a brief tour of the house and JoAnn was in awe of it all. It was immaculate, each room of the five bedroom, seven bathroom house was perfectly polished and in awe-inspiring condition, even Olivia's which Mar had Noah go through when she left on her hunt. They walked back downstairs and Mar directed them outside, showing off the land and commenting on the students' work ethics. “All of our students are advanced because of our rigid curriculum,” she said. JoAnn asked for an impromptu interview with one of the children and Mar happily obliged, offering Felicity up. Felicity was dressed in a conservative navy blue dress and nude flats, which was anything but her, and spoke politely as she gushed about living in the colony. “...and yesterday we began reading work by Transcendentalist author Henry David Thoreau.” The teacher smiled at her, “He's my favorite author.” “You have great taste miss,” Felicity beamed. Underneath it all, she couldn't be any more annoyed as she played along, dumping out everything the woman said as soon as it had entered her brain. Mr. Martin had gotten enough information from them and pulled JoAnn up so that they could leave. They stepped outside and JoAnn bid them a pleasant goodbye but before the man walked off the steps after her, he turned to Mar. “I've always been suspicious of you since you bought this land and I know there's something about you that's wrong. Mark my words—I will find out.” She smiled ever so politely. “I do look forward to seeing you again.” He caught up with JoAnn and they began whispering as they walked alongside each other. “That wasn't so bad.” “Wasn't so bad?” he scoffed. “Those people are weird and they're hiding something that I will find
out about.” “Why do you think that?” “Aren't you the least bit concerned as to why they do everything at night and have a closed off community? Like a creepy vampire cult...” “Hm, that wasn't very nice,” said Natalie as she sat on the railing of Mar's porch. They were both listening in to the conversation as the two made their way to the gate. She turned to Mar. “What do you think?” “Kill him.” Natalie shrugged her shoulders and jumped down to the ground. She pulled out a pocket knife and when it clicked open, she heard Mar speak again. “On second thought, kill the girl. Bring Mr. Martin to me.” Natalie ran and caught up with the two, waving her free hand and tucking the knife behind her back. “So glad I caught up with you guys!” she said, smiling. “Do you need something?” asked the man. A whip lashed out behind him and it wrapped around his wrist, blood dripping from the gash created by the newly adorned spikes at the tip. Felicity, even with as little muscle as she had, rendered him to the ground as she threw out another whip. JoAnn opened her mouth to scream but Natalie had already covered it and stabbed the pocket knife into her neck.