By Blood and Chocolate
Author Rae
Genre Dystopic Future Sci-fi/Fantasy
Rating Teen
Content Novel

"We should wait until morning."

Colt grunted, but said nothing. I could only assume that meant he agreed on some level, and yet we kept walking.

The moonlight shone brightly, hitting the various cracks and crevices on the sidewalk we stalked along, warily eying every house, every darkened space between them. Despite our pace, we were fairly silent, excepting Codi as he huffed slightly, his lanky form awkwardly floundering through the night as he tried to keep up.

I quickened my steps to close the gap between me and the older man ahead. "This is a stupid idea," I insisted lowly. "Jack is just taking unnecessary risks with this plan." With all of his plans, I added in my head.

"Jack's been out here a lot longer than you, Tobi," he reminded me, pushing his salt-and-pepper hair out of his face to let his gray-blue eyes pierce mine sternly. "If his instincts say move, we move."

I sighed, but fell back in line, resting my hand on my left hip holster. If Jack and Colt hadn't kept me alive for so long, I might have argued further; maybe even brought up the fact that his time in the open had possibly left him less a few screws.

But they had-- despite my being a scrawny nothing of a girl when we'd met--and that was the point, so I just kept walking silently until the safe house came into sight.

Codi let out a barely audible whine, and I couldn't help but smirk; the poor kid was still getting used to the move, the raw nerves. He'd gotten comfortable in this place: a simple 3-bedroom house in what had been a middle-income suburban area before The Rising. There were still some non-perishables around, some luxuries like soap and booze; even a couple Jane Austen books that I skimmed through in the daylight.

But we couldn't stay—it was too difficult to fortify, and the place was too close to the roads to keep away from Jackals. So we were packing up and traveling by dark.

Colt stopped short before the house, and I halted a moment after, only to have the stupid teen bump into me from behind. I elbowed him harshly, but never took my eyes off of the scene before me. It only took a minute to see what Colt did.

The front door was open. Just an inch, but it was enough to display the tiny glow that was coming from deeper inside the house. The tiny crack between the frame and the door gave away our entire position: one of the reasons we always shut entries and exits. And Jack knew that.

Colt nudged me, pulling me away from any potential thoughts of what could have happened, and nodded toward the back, placing his hand on his gun. I nodded and took a step toward the alley, but my blank expression flinched a bit when he gestured for Codi to follow me. He was lucky it was dark, or I would have groaned like hell at having to bring the kid with me.

I waved my hand impatiently and began to lithely step through the alley between the buildings to sneak around the back, hoping there was enough light for the awkward nineteen year-old to follow my movements. I tried to be more sympathetic to Codi-- I was a Rabbit once myself, hiding underground in a crappy village, brainwashed in rituals and morals, and completely inexperienced in all but a single pre-chosen profession-- but it was hard to have him holding me back; especially at night, when the chances of dying rose exponentially and the shaggy brunette was still easily spooked and could barely shoot a gun.

We finally slipped through the gate and I carefully twisted the knob to the back door. I took one last look over my shoulder, holding my Live Gun up for him to see (Live Bullets are smarter to bring to an unknown fight, since Jackals don't need silver to die and Zomps take a moment to react to a gun fight). He nodded, and I opened the door.

It was quiet, and dark besides the moonlight casting shadows around us. I walked slowly through the hallway, glancing at the shut doors and the darkened spaces to make certain nothing was amiss.

We were steps from the living room, where a faint glow still emanated, when a soft but very audible thunk came from behind me. I whirled, gun cocked and aimed, only to see Codi regaining his composure as he tightly grasped the table he'd bumped. I looked at him incredulously, but he only blushed, glancing away from something to my left.

I turned and found easily enough what had startled him: a mirror, still hung at eye level, caught enough light to cast about reflections of the room. I gazed for a moment at the scarred and mangled profile it projected before I looked away: the numerous jagged scars that dug deep and ugly into the otherwise flawless skin, the hardness and yet simultaneous pain that seemed permanently etched into the expression. I took a moment, brushing back the gritty strands of hair that escaped my braid and refocused on the next move.

I held up my hand to the teenager behind me, silently counting to sync our entrance. On three, we both slipped through the entrance, guns aimed at the seemingly empty room.

It took a moment before I realized the room, silent and sedentary, wasn't actually empty. A tiny figure stood in the center, an unnoticeable draft causing the thin fabric of her nightshirt to sway against her shins.

Colt entered through the front, and the three of us stared in surprise at the human girl that lay before us, motionless, staring at nothing as if she had always been there, as much a decoration for the house as the bookshelves or ratty recliner.

Codi opened his mouth to speak, when suddenly what seemed to be a flood of bodies exploded from the kitchen. We found ourselves set upon by a hoard of Vomps, and it took all of three milliseconds for me to realize we were in trouble.

The first bullet came from Colt and slid straight into one undead bastard's skull. Being lead and not silver, it didn't kill him, but unlike their smarter predecessors, Zombie Vampires take to blood indiscriminately like sharks to chum. If one of their kind goes down with an injury, a slew of them will jump the poor sucker as if he were as tasty as a breather, reducing him to the gooey mush they were known to become in true death.

Also like sharks, unfortunately, the freaks realize after a couple of bites that what they're eating isn't what they want, and will come back at you strong, so you better have your Dead Gun (loaded with silver bullets) handy for the fight.

Normally in a shootout, if you can down a good handful of undead crazies, the rest will decide you're not worth it and go for an easier meal. However this group was still coming, and even worse were still probably twenty-strong.

I glanced in my peripheral vision and took note that Codi was almost completely out of bullets, Live or Dead, and I was pretty sure I was running low myself. Colt was making each one count, but there were more than enough bloodsuckers to use those shots up too. I couldn't figure out why they were still coming, and I had a feeling I wasn't going to live long enough to get an answer.

I heard Codi cry out beside me as he stupidly threw his empty sidearm at the still-approaching monsters. I didn't have time to do any more than scream myself, attempting to draw their attention as I loaded my own last clip of lead and start taking head shots, terrified as the two I did manage to drop did nothing to slow the rest of the group.

I was down to one bullet when a flash of white flew past me and into the fray. Suddenly a dismembered arm hit my leg, dark fluid dripping against my jeans as it bounced to the floor, and I watched as screams of the Lobotomized Undead filled the air.

Within seconds of the screams beginning they ended, and amidst the melting body parts and deadening silence, I stared agape at a beautiful woman as she heaved a breath in disgust at the corpses, then turned to gaze at the three of us curiously. She tilted her head to allow her satin curtain of black hair to slip away from her face, blinking deliberately as she assessed us and drawing attention to her bright violet eyes, framed by eyelashes that could have made her a model in one of those ads of magazines we still find every now and again. Her pale skin shimmered slightly, as if we weren't looking at her but her reflection in clear water. The twenty-something year old could have easily been deemed the societal ideal for women, had it not been for the tightened appearance of her face and too-thin pull of her skin.

Codi slowly moved to take a step toward our possible savior, but I thrust out my hand to stop him. The sudden movement startled her, and her mouth opened, lips curled back to reveal desperately white fangs.

I raised my gun again, noting with some chagrin that Colt had never put his down, but the Bloodsucker didn't pounce. She straightened slightly, as if attempting to go against her instincts and appear non-threatening.

"I need your help," she finally stated, and both Codi and my jaw dropped. We'd heard of real vampires still in existence-- some speculated there were those out there trying to control and cull the infected ones-- but we'd never seen one in our lives.

"Not really inclined to help Bloodsuckers," a deep voice replied with a hint of British lilt, and a whirring sounded from the doorway as Jack stepped into sight, his dark hands holding a detonator and some sort of container likely filled with a highly flammable substance. "So you can just go on your way."

The girl straightened proudly and stared at the old man. "I'm not going anywhere," she told him defiantly, turning her head to nod at the girl—maybe fourteen, now that I could look closer—that still stood motionless behind them throughout the fight. "But she needs to."

No one said anything, though both Colt and Jack's eyebrows twitched in curiosity, so the vampire continued, "I was Awakened three months ago, and have been protecting her as best as I can, but I can't help her anymore."

"Where's your maker?" I asked, glancing around as if another creature was about to sneak up behind us.

She shrugged, hair seductively rippling across her shoulders. "I never met them."

"Why her?" Jack asked, interrupting what he would have deemed my "sympathetic girly crap".

"I found her when I rose," the girl replied. "I was...compelled to her. I want her."

"Ew," Codi remarked, and, though I felt equally disgusted, I shot him a glare.

"Not sexually," the creature qualified, glancing at the catatonic girl. "I want her safe. I feel as though it's my destiny to keep her from them." She glanced down at the gelatinous puddles of body parts on the floor.

"What's wrong with her?" Colt asked.

The vampire glanced sadly at the girl. "She's always been this way. I've never heard her speak or seen her react to anything. They keep finding us and she remains as she is."

"So what do you want us to do?" I asked. The vampire was ten times stronger than all of us put together; what good were we?

"I have abstained from sustenance too long for her," the woman told us, the moonlight emphasizing this by dancing along her gaunt form. "Her blood calls strongly, but I will not eat. She needs to be safe."

"So what? You want us to take her?" Codi asked.

The vampire said nothing, just locked eyes with Colt. Their moment seemed to last for ages, but eventually he looked away, turning to Jack and stating, "We're on the move."

I glanced back and forth between the three, waiting for details of the thoughts that made up the interim between those two statements, but it never came. Instead, the dark-skinned Brit placed the container (what must have been the last of quite a few) against a support beam of the house, and nodded at the vamp as he strode out the door.

"Codi, bullets," Colt instructed, scraping through the sticky carpet and quickly grabbing up any metal. Codi grimaced, but moved forward to help. I had also taken a step forward when the grizzled voice called back to me, "Tobi, grab the girl."

My mind whirled with questions, but the night was still deadly, so I simply walked to the rucksacks nestled behind what had been an entertainment center, heaved two across my shoulder, and took the hand of the wispy teen as the others finished scrounging the shots. I took a moment to be grateful that, despite being unable to speak or make eye-contact, she seemed capable of both walking and following a guiding hand.

I spared one last glance behind me as I followed the others out the door. The vampire had not followed us, remaining patiently amongst the remains of dead Undead, eyes only for the girl who took no notice of her.

We made it to the next block before Codi finally remarked, “How do we know she won’t—“

Jack didn’t bother to let him finish, merely deadening the question by pressing the button on the detonator in his hand; causing the house behind us to burst into flames, windows shattering as the building itself shuddered from the explosion’s kick to its beams.

Codi and I looked behind us another moment, watching the fire and smoke dance upward into the sky, creating a haze around the moonlit night.

We glanced at each other once more, and then turned to follow the others, my hand firmly grasping the newest addition, our quickening pace illustrated as her nightgown flapped loudly against her legs.