Tag Archive | reading

The Covenant Series: The Word For Today is Share

Here’s what happened in the previous post:

I talked about how I’ll donate part of my royalties to Covenant Series #1 to RebuildJoplin.org and I announced I’ve left Mystic Press publisher. So, now that I’m a free agent, for the moment, I thought I’d share part of my still in-progress novel (believe me, I am wanting to get this sucker written).

This is from part 2, “Renati.” Our Vampire friends are being hunted in Joplin, Missouri by the Werewolves who traveled from the fictional town of Covenant, Arkansas to hunt them on the full moon.

DISCLAIMER: This is a rough first draft. Parts are bound to change. But I’ve been yapping about this novel for weeks and I thought I’d share more than chapter one of part one, just to give people an idea of what it’s about.

 

Chapter Three

Race to Sunlight

            That’s not supposed to happen.

It’s amazing how stupid someone can get at the worst possible time, like when Werewolves break down the front door and are coming right for you. I had nowhere to go but out the back door.

I ran out the door, Mirabelle and Clemence behind me, and saw a corps of Werewolves on each side of the house, ready to fall in line behind us. My brain was a void, but whatever was what just knew what to do said to run to the woods. I imagined myself a cheetah and tried my best to fly on the ground. I heard the Werewolves’ guttural pants, a massive engine intent on us.

“Eliza, honey.”

I heard that voice in my head. I did an ankle breaking stop and looked for her. I saw her at the woods’ edge, lounging on the ground, fully transformed. My mother.

The Werewolves had formed a horseshoe circle around me, Clemence, and Mirabelle, who clung to me, the only one who knew these beings in any form. But my attention was on my mother. I knew her word was the only thing between us and death.

Her nose rose and twitched. She smelled our fear and swallowed it in. I watched her, looking helpless. I heard her, whimpering and asking for my help. I read her, and knew she was laughing at me in her mind. I knew, before I could do anything, I had to ask myself one fundamental question that would tell me what to do next.

If she weren’t my mother, if she were a woman I’d met on any ordinary day, would I like her, much less love her?

            I heard crying in my mind. I was a little girl who’d had a nightmare, and she came into my bedroom. She held me as I cried and told her about my dream, a dream where I was running from someone who wanted to hurt me, and I couldn’t run fast enough. I was so afraid and I searched for her, for my dad, and found no one. I couldn’t hear her thoughts that night, but they came to me at the moment. She’d sighed. She’d sighed like rolling her eyes. And I knew, without a doubt, the answer. I stepped toward her. Clemence and Mirabelle clung to me, and I seized Clemence’s hand and Mirabelle’s shirt front as we walked right up to my mother.

“I cried for you, Mama,” I said in almost a whisper. “You should have protected me, even if I wasn’t what you thought was a perfect daughter. I was terrified that night when they hunted me. I’d been blindsided but I thought you would save me, and then you handed me over to Derek. You handed me over, like I was nothing to you. You could have stopped it all, but you didn’t. You hurt me beyond anything that could be called hurt, but you might as well stop with the games. I was loyal to you when I heard Timmy’s thoughts saying he wanted a blowjob from you during my sixth birthday party, and yet I was humiliated for that loyalty. Well, you don’t have to be concerned with it, ever again. You might as well drop the ‘I’m so hurt’ act, but I don’t care if you’re hurt or not.”

I took in a breath and let it out. It really struck me, at that moment. Saying it out loud made it real.

“You always talked about family being so important, and yet you handed over your only daughter to be ripped apart by these disgusting things, these freaks.”

I heard menacing growls and Mirabelle squeezed my arm, but I knew they would stay back until my mother ordered them not to.

“I would call them dogs,” I heard anger in the Werewolves’ rumbling growls, “but I have a dog now and he’s a million times better than any of these pathetic Werewolves.”

I stood in front of my mother, close enough to feel her scorching breath on my face as I bent down to look in her eyes.

“And one more thing,” I leaned in close enough for only her to hear me. “I’ve had time to think about you and I’ve realized a few things, one of them being I really don’t like you. If you hadn’t given birth to me, I wouldn’t have wasted two seconds of my life on you.”

I saw her eyes widen. The fury in her eyes, and in the other Werewolves’ minds, didn’t notice when I’d freed my hand from Clemence’s grasp. What I was about to do was suicide, and I was no less afraid of the consequences, but no one would dare say the last thing I did in my life was back down, so I slowly raised my hand to my mother’s snout. And I tweaked her nose.

She let out a piercing yelp, which stunned everyone.

I grabbed Clemence and Mirabelle’s hands. I pulled them into the woods just as it dawned on the Werewolves that I’d just disrespected the Alpha’s wife in the worst way imaginable.

“What the hell did you do?” Clemence said.

I ran, blindly, looking for a place to hide, so I had no answer for Clemence. It had seemed like such a great idea to assert myself. But I realized if I just got my new family, my real family, killed, I would have to turn myself over to the Werewolves because being torn apart was the least I deserved.

I heard the scream in my head before I heard it in my ears. I turned to see Clemence’s feet off the ground, her neck in a Werewolf’s claws. I felt a hand grab my wrist, but it wasn’t Mirabelle. She’d moved away from me. She stumbled away, staring at Clemence, tears soaking her face. I looked around me and saw no one. Then I heard Derek’s voice.

He clamped Clemence’s neck, but looked at me.

“You can come back to us, Eliza. Your father wanted you to know that. He can accept what you are, because you are his daughter, his only child. All you have to do is stand back while we hunt.”

I felt something in my hand. A wooden handle. I couldn’t look down because I was transfixed by Clemence’s terrified eyes looking not at me, or at the Werewolf with the massive, long claws just inches from her face. She was looking at Mirabelle.

In the split second before I raised the hatchet, I thought of how pathetic it was that these Werewolves’ sense of decency were below the bottom of the barrel that they would think I would betray my friends. That I would be like them, knowing what they had done to me.

Derek took my silence for what it was, and he raised his arm to swipe Clemence.

I didn’t need to look down. However it had happened, I knew I had a weapon in my hand, and I meant to use it. Derek’s arm was raised, his eyes, and bared teeth, were focused on Clemence. Just as he jerked to swipe, I sank the hatchet into his arm.

He let out a thunderous roar, but he dropped her. Mirabelle was there to pick her up while I kept the hatchet ready for another strike. He held his injured arm. He looked at me and growled like he was gurgling my blood.

Clemence staggered in shock, but Mirabelle and I were able to pull her away. I saw a bridge ahead, and led the way to it. We nearly floated as we ran for our lives, seeing nothing but the bridge to who knows where, but away from here was good enough for a start.

We were close enough for me to let myself breathe. I could see the rails on each side. I could see the bridge was narrow, but plenty wide enough for three Vampire girls. We were close, we were close, we were close, we were close, we were there, we were…

“STOP!”

The three of us stopped like we’d hit a wall and looked around. I saw nothing but the slightest whisper of a glittery black gown shimmering in the moonlight as it disappeared behind a tree.

I started across the bridge, and then I saw.

The bridge was only there maybe six feet in. The rest had fallen into the dried creek bed below. We would have fallen from the bridge that was no longer there and plummeted probably twenty feet. Maybe the Werewolves would have had to lick our splattered blood off the concrete hard creek bed.

“Wow,” Clemence said.

That pretty much summed it up.

Hear me.

            It was an urgent command, from Aingeal. I saw Clemence and Mirabelle startle, so I knew they heard her, too.

Follow Raoul. He knows what to do.

            I turned where I stood, but I couldn’t see her.

Where are you?

No, she answered, the question is where is Raoul?

            Clemence fidgeted and sighed.

Okay, I heard her say telepathically. Then where is Raoul?

Run away from the moon. Run west.

            The moon was behind us. I felt safe in these woods. I knew Charlie and Gracie ran here because they intuited these woods’ safety, too. Being here was like being in another existence, some other there out there.

Raoul’s low, raspy voice echoed in my brain.

Be here. Now.

            Not needing any more boost up my bum than that, I ran west, fast as I could fly. I heard Clemence and Mirabelle behind me, Clemence encouraging Mirabelle to run faster. I stopped and reached back for Mirabelle’s free hand, and we took off like a speeding train toward Joplin.

I heard them blazing behind us, coming closer, running faster than I’d ever seen Werewolves able to run. I had no time to wonder what they’d been smoking to put those jets in their heels, because, almost as soon as I heard them coming, I was knocked off my feet.

I bounced off the ground, and tumbled like I was in a clothes dryer. I heard voices in my head, murmurs, a voice, male, not Donal, almost in a battle with Aingeal…

“Hear my command…”

“Goddess, protect them…”

“Grant them the strength…”

“Give them the speed…”

“To ravage…”

“To escape…”

“To destroy…”

I kept rolling. I heard Clemence and Mirabelle struggling against the other Werewolves a few feet away. I landed on my side and was violently twisted onto my back. I looked up into my father’s eyes. He bared his razor teeth at me in a smile that savored, devoured, my fear. He hovered above me, patiently waiting, wanting to drain all my will to escape. He wanted total surrender from his prey, to not only take their life, but their hope. I saw him ravage many defense attorneys as a prosecutor, and many political rivals when he went to Little Rock. And now he was doing it to me. Nothing less than complete domination was good enough for him. He could play with his meal all night. Usually, no one stopped him. Good thing he’d forgotten one thing: his past conquests didn’t have his blood in their veins. I’d learned about connections between people since I came out as a Vampire, and I knew I would always be connected to my parents because we shared what kept us alive, our blood. My parents didn’t like that connection, and neither did I, but that wouldn’t change the reality that would be the death of them.

“Your wife has the funniest little peep when you tweak her nose, you disgusting snotrag.”

His wide smile faltered. Clemence and Mirabelle stopped struggling. I could almost feel their gaping, wide eyed, stunned silence. I knew what I was doing. I was doing what I had to do.

“It must really be a blow to your ego for a Vampire to talk back to you, but this Vamp is your daughter, you pathetic piece of…”

He rared back, stuck out his chest, threw his arms back, and let out a roar that made the Universe stop. I was about to die. My whole body rigored in fear. And that’s when Raoul’s silver tipped spear ripped into his shoulder.

I reacted quickly to push him off of me. I got to my feet and wrenched the spear out of his shoulder. He wasn’t dead, his chest rose and fell in a rhythmic unconscious sleep. As the silver worked its way through his veins, keeping him in a comatose paralysis, I wielded the spear against the other Werewolves. They eyed the silver tip, but held Clemence and Mirabelle tight around their upper arms, dragging them along as they backed away from the spear.

The Werewolf holding onto Mirabelle tripped over their entwined feet, sending them both to the ground. Mirabelle untangled herself from the Werewolf’s hold and began beating him, taunting him with every punch and slap.

“I…fricking…hate…Werewolves…go…back…to…your…dog…house…and…leave…

us…alone.”

Mirabelle swung like a woman possessed, with strength that seemed to come from some Divine well. We couldn’t help it. We just sort of stood there and watched.

I saw the Werewolf clutching Clemence was distracted, his big, furry head aimed at Mirabelle, his eyes as wide as the rest of ours. He didn’t see me coming until it was too late to stop the spear from whacking him across the head. The hit hurt him and he let go of Clemence. She grabbed the spear from me, turned, and, like channeling some ninja, forced the silver tip into his side. He collapsed, helpless against the paralysis. With a feeble snarl, he drifted into unconsciousness.

Mirabelle had straddled the stunned, humiliated Werewolf, and she was still swinging away at his arms, his head, his back as he shielded himself in the fetal position. Clemence put her hand on Mirabelle’s shoulder. Mirabelle turned at the waist and slapped Clemence’s hand away. Her eyes focused and she recognized her girlfriend with an apology. Clemence’s eyes sparkled. She looked ready to put a hot, wet, lickery one on Mirabelle, but, instead, she gently offered the spear. Mirabelle took it and ran her hand over the wood before raising it, tip down, over her head and thrusting it into the Werewolf’s arm. She stood from the still hairy mass and looked pleased with herself.

“What just happened?” Clemence asked me, like I would know. “What’s that on the spear?”

It was silver, I knew. I thought it would be funny if silver really did do something to Werewolves, when all the Werewolves I knew laughed at the movies where silver was used to beat the big bad…

Eliza

Lysander’s telepathic voice filled my brain only a second before he grabbed me around the waist and pulled me away. His hand slid down my arm as we ran until his hand found mine. I looked back to see Clemence and Mirabelle, hand-in-hand, close behind.

I smelled the blood before I heard the death rattle in my head.

“Don’t look,” Lysander said out loud, so, of course, I looked…

…And wished I hadn’t….

 

(Blog Edit: Big Plot Point Here and I Can’t Give Everything Away)

 

In what seemed like forever in a second, we were spotlighted by Range Line Road. Supper time traffic clogged the street, neon restaurant lights buzzed beneath the throngs of people looking to shop at what stores weren’t leveled by the tornado, and the people there to get a look at the carnage for themselves. Despite the damage, it was typical for the time being, so it was ridiculous for us to be there. After it was over, I ran it through my head a few times.

Hello, my name’s Eliza Beck. I was born into a Werewolf family, my dad’s the Alpha who’s also an Arkansas State Senator, but I’m actually a Vampire, who the Werewolves hate, so they hunt us every full moon. I was wondering, um, golly, could you possibly give us a place to hide till sunrise?

Sure, it sounds unbelieveable, but what seems logical isn’t always the reality, so we ran with every speck of energy we had onto Rangeline, daring the Werewolves to follow us. We passed Red Lobster, and then I heard Raoul’s voice.

            Here. Across the street.

            Raoul stood in the Office Max parking lot. He pointed north and began running on his side of the road, occasionally causing a car to squeal to a stop to get a look at the massive bulk zooming down the sidewalk. We ran on our side of the road. I chanced a glance back and saw no one following us. But before I could feel secure enough to slow down, I heard growling in my head.

They were coming.

We headed north on Range Line, part of the flurry, until we reached the tornado’s path running west to east. It was still, otherworldly, a tangible vision of life and death decided by the snap of the fingers. We passed through it quickly and were soon on the other side of it, back into the dazzle at Northpark Mall. I heard them come closer. They’d come, fully transformed, under the lights, in front of who knows how many people.

They weren’t hiding, though their ability to mask their true nature gave them power in society over the Vampires. Did they want to kill us so much they were willing to reveal themselves?

A police car cut us off at the KODE-TV station. It’s siren lights blinded me in red and blue. We stopped, hoping their bullets had silver to paralyze the Werewolves, and waited for the officers to slowly get out of the car. The officer on the passenger’s side hoisted his belt up as he sauntered to us.

“Do you have ID?”

ID? Did he not see the Werewolves chasing us?

I looked across the street for Raoul. He was gone and I couldn’t hear his thoughts. I turned back to the officer, who had looked across the street, then back at me, suspicious.

I stammered. The officer hiked up his belt and shifted his feet.

“We’ve had calls of a bunch of kids trying to loot the stores that were damaged by the tornado.”

“It wasn’t us,” I said, and instantly regretted how forceful my voice sounded.

Werewolves were chasing us and this guy was talking about looking a store?

“Honestly, Officer,” I took a breath to steady my voice and sound submissive. “We didn’t loot any stores. We’re actually being chased.”

“By what?” He sounded ready to act, though he looked behind us and creased his brows like he thought I might be lying.

I turned. And there they were. They’d stopped maybe ten feet away and were glaring us down. I turned back to the Officer and pointed at them. I turned at the waist and jabbed my finger at them as I faced the officer.

He looked at them and shrugged.

“Are you saying you were running like a bat outta hell from a bunch of mutts?”

Mutts?

“Mutts?”

The other officer joined him and they had a laugh.

“Don’t tell me you thought some ankle biters would hurt you.”

I looked at Lysander, Clemence, and Mirabelle. They were as stunned as I was.

“You can’t be serious,” Mirabelle said, still feeling brave after kicking Werewolf tail. “Ankle biters? They could bite you head off.”

The officers collapsed in hysterical laugher.

The driver gasped for air, then said, “I know a Chihuahua can yap at you, but it’s gotta jump pretty high to bite your head off.”

I looked at the Werewolves. They bared their teeth and laughed at us.

“I guess that toy poodle could do some damage,” the passenger’s side officer pointed to a Werewolf I recognized as Sheriff Jack Swartz, Derek’s father.

I couldn’t believe it.

“Look,” the driver said. “We can’t prove you were the ones looting the stores, so we can’t arrest you. On the other hand, thanks for the laugh.”

As they walked back to the car, or, I should say, stumbled with laughter, they agreed the guys will love this one.

Good for the guys.

The officers stopped at their respective car doors.

“Wait,” the driver said. “What about those dogs? Should we call Animal Control?”

Everyone stopped breathing, even the Werewolves.

Finally the passenger checked his watch and shook his head.

“Shift’s almost over, but it you wanna call ‘em.”

The driver shook his head. With a wave to us, they got in the car and backed out of the parking lot.

“Your move,” Jack Swartz said to us.

Tired of Vampire Fiction? Or Tired of Vampire Fiction with No Point?

I just took a little look-see around Twitter, looking for accounts to follow and network, and I noticed a bit of a trend. It appears readers are tired of Vampire/Werewolf fiction. As an author chewing my fingernails, eagerly awaiting my own release date for Covenant, there’s a tiny part of me that says, “uh-oh.” But there’s a much larger part of me that understands.

It’s pretty typical for there to be an oversaturated market when something, or someone, turns out to be a gravy train of financial success.  Andy Warhol pointed out this very thing in his Marilyn Monroe paintings. Once Miss Monroe became a household name, Hollywood churned out the lookalikes on an assembly line. Mass production, a.k.a. cashing in on a trend, makes us all wary after so long.

But let’s look at the Vampire genre before we roll our eyes at yet another book release. Is it the Vampire genre that’s wearing people out, or is it the same type of Vampire story that’s so offensive? What if the Vampire wasn’t immortal, didn’t wear frilly clothes, didn’t avoid sunlight because she/he would turn into a roasted marshmallow? What if the Vampire was a mortal, a metaphor for something else?

Yes, there is an ulterior motive to my question, because my series, from my perception as the author, isn’t about Vampires and Werewolves and Witches and Slayers and Humans. It’s about bullying, something very real and very current. The Werewolf only transforms at the full moon, and does so in secrecy, so no one else is aware of their Werewolf nature. Just as a bully only bullies those they know won’t fight back and, to those who could stop them, they’re “just a nice boy/girl who would never hurt anyone.”

But let’s not make this all about my work (Covenant, Book One of the Covenant Series, to be published by Mystic Press Spring 2012). The horror genre, or, at least, what usually is most successful creatively and, yes, financially, is metaphor. Watch “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (TV series) sometime. Every episode was a metaphor for some life experience, whether it be about the swim team who turned into fish after getting performance-enhancing drugs in their sauna (steroids), a girl who turns invisible because she’s been ignored (loneliness of being left out), or when your boyfriend gets him some and turns into a bad Vampire (a guy turning out to really be a bad guy who was only being nice to get in a girl’s pants), it’s not what they say, but the statement, that’s the driving plot line. And that, in my opinion, is a big reason why the show was so popular and continues to have such a loyal following.

Yes, there’s some sucky horror out there by people cashing in on the genre’s success. But, to readers, I ask is it the genre you’re tired of, or not-so-great storytelling? To writers, I ask are you cashing in or are you making a bigger point through metaphor?

The sooner we can all sort out the difference, the better writers, and more entertained readers, we’ll all be.

 

What It’s All About: “Covenant” Chapter One

Since this site is about The Covenant Series, I thought I’d share chapter one of the book one, which is titled Covenant. It will be published by Mystic Press in Spring 2012.

Chapter One

The Hunt

            Night. The time when the silence is quicksand heavy, when a million eyes stare, unseen. In short, it’s creepy. It’s a time that always frightened me, maybe because I always knew it was forbidden, and so it was mine. I’ve always been different, odd, an outcast. I didn’t wear it proudly. I’d try to shake it off, but it stuck to me, even when, on the outside, I was exactly what was acceptable. No matter what I’d wear, who I’d hang out with, who I’d date, no matter what music I listened to or who I said was my celebrity crush, people knew. And they shut me out of the inner societal norm sanctum because they knew. I wasn’t even my parents’ favorite, and I’m an only child. I resisted the night, even when it called to me, welcomed me. I wanted so much to be accepted, no questions asked and no impossible expectations, but not if it meant joining the night, being one of them…

A Vampire…

But then I was hunted.

And I had no choice.

My eighteenth year was coming, no stopping it, and I was afraid. It was like a storm gathering over me, telling me to be ready…ready to conform or ready to run. But how can one conform when one cannot change? Come first full moon, it would be obvious to everyone.

I was not a Werewolf.

Fairy tales become fact people sell their souls for while memory becomes history that no one cares about, but my memories created me from the ashes of that day. The crowd assembled in my Grandmama Inga’s front yard. She was an Elder, though she’d never hunted. She was just as respected as Sheriff Jack Swartz, who stood on the front porch, waiting to begin. The Slayers stood to the side, their arms crossed, their crossbows hanging low over their backs. They looked straight ahead, but I somehow knew they were looking at me as I huddled behind Grandmama Inga’s sheer window curtain.

Tim Tyler, a.k.a. Timmy the Twerp, though I never told anyone else I called him that, stood beside Sheriff Swartz. Timmy the Twerp was only a few years older than me, but the Werewolves almost genuflected when they saw him. My dad sometimes called him “the Door,” as in the doorway for Werewolves to take over Human society because he did some charity stuff and acted all squeak when he walks around people. When other Werewolves did something good, they said it was because Timmy inspired them. When Timmy screwed up, they said it was still something great, or it was someone else’s fault. My mom used to tell me she wished I could hear how I sounded sometimes. Yeah, well, I wished they could hear themselves getting all pretzled up over Timmy the Twerp.

Timmy’s great-great-great-great grandfather, Johnston Tyler, helped establish Covenant after the Civil War. When I was little, I would spend hours looking through Grandmama Inga’s scrapbooks. A photo of Johnston Tyler standing next to my ancestors who came to Arkansas from Kansas during the Civil War was on the first page. The local men had taken off to hide in Missouri because they didn’t want to fight for the Confederacy, so their women and children were alone and vulnerable to the Jayhawkers, my ancestors, who were hungry.

Grandmama Inga hated the Slayers. She remembered when they hunted Werewolves, but my dad struck a deal with them over a common enemy, the Vampires. Grandmama Inga always said Slayers could never be trusted, even when it came to Vampires, because a Slayer had killed our ancestors. I never had the guts to remind her that our ancestors had ripped the Slayer’s family to pieces, and that’s what made this girl go after them. My dad was the Alpha, but he was afraid of his sweet little mama whose face looked like one of those dried apple dolls, so I always kept my mouth shut. Besides, she was an Elder, thereby immune from snark.

Werewolves gathered out front. They slapped shoulders, their smiles spread wide, as they talked about their kids being out of school for the summer. Sheriff Swartz consulted with Timmy the Twerp, who kept this serene look on his face, like those girls who’d followed Charles Manson had during their murder trial.

A car passed. Human children pressed their hands on the back passenger’s side window as they looked out, their eyes wide as they took in the scene. Sheriff Swartz waved at them, a smile wide on his pillowy face. The children’s faces beamed as they waved back before tapping the lady riding in front’s shoulder. After he watched the car disappear, the sheriff turned to the crowd.

“Everybody here?”

The older Werewolves in front nodded while the younger in the back roared in excitement. I saw the sheriff’s son, Derek, in his deputy uniform. He looked hungry, eager.

“Why don’t you go join them, Eliza,” Grandmama Inga said.

I looked back at her, the last time I’d see her. She rocked in her rocking chair, knitting a blanket for the baby, my second cousin. She raised her eyes from her knitting for only a second, but it was a maternal prodding, the mother saying go play, honey, it’s for your own good. I stood from the love seat, and went to the back door (no sense in stepping out the front door and stealing the sheriff’s thunder, that would make me a very bad girl). As I opened the back door, I heard Grandmama Inga’s voice.

“Goodbye, Eliza.”

I stopped. It sounded so final. I laughed. She shouldn’t be so cryptic, I thought, she’s not that old. With a laugh and a head shake, I walked out the door and rounded the house to join the crowd.

Derek winked when he saw me. He liked to wink, but, somehow, it didn’t seem fake with him. It was more like a mischievous boy with a secret. I liked him. I trusted him. When I was little, I would always stare at the mole under his left eye. The fact that he liked to wink only drew my rude attention to it even more. I remember congratulating myself the first time I had an entire conversation with him and didn’t stare at that mole once.

“…We do not hunt out of hate,” the sheriff said to cheers. “We hunt to preserve order, to preserve decency, to preserve our way of life, the way our founders wanted.”

Roaring cheers rattled my core.

“They seduce our women,” the sheriff paused for the disgusted groans to die down. “And they seduce our men. And they want our children!”

Rage filled the air. I looked at the sky. It was sundown. Soon they’d transform. I could already feel the buzz, the energy, the longing oozing from them. If I weren’t a Beck, one of the Founding Families, I would have run then. But I felt like, though I hadn’t transformed and I hadn’t felt the full moon’s pull, I was safe because of my last name, if nothing else.

I thought they’d never turn on me, on family, someone they’d known my whole life. How could the sheriff, my father’s lifelong best friend, shun me when he’d been there to see me take my first steps? How could Derek Swartz think of hurting me when he’d called himself my Big Bro and swore no one would ever mess with me as long as he was around? Why would Grandmama Inga send me out to them if she thought I would be in danger?

I looked at the Slayers, who hadn’t moved from their spot at the crowd’s edge. Their leader, Abasi, hunted Ilimu in Kenya before coming to America. How he got to Arkansas, I don’t know. I was always too afraid to ask. I thought of when my parents invited him to dinner. He made eating cheesecake look scary.

He looked at me. I shuddered.

“You’re not afraid of the Slayers, are you?” Derek’s voice made me jump.

He laughed, and when I looked at him, he eyes flashed golden brown, his pupils slits. There was something else, something fueling his change, something driving him…

…A Want.

With that, the sky deepened. No going back. And Sheriff Swartz, his own crystal blue eyes glowing deep brown, his sharpened teeth showing in a serrated smile, casually descended the porch steps.

“To the woods!”

With cheers trailing off into deep, rumbling growls, they all made their way around Grandmama Inga’s house to the tangled woods out back. I hesitated, hoping they would forget me, but Derek wrapped his firm hand around my arm and pulled me along. I looked back at Grandmama Inga’s house, something told me to take in my touchstone, my tangible image of home.

The Slayers hadn’t moved from their spot. They loaded their crossbows, looking ready to whistle. One of them chanced a quick glance at me. I’d seen her before, getting ready for hunts, at meetings my parents held in our family room. I was curious about her. All I knew about her was she was Cherokee, descended from people who’d migrated to Arkansas before the Trail of Tears forced those who’d remained in Georgia west to Indian Country. She fascinated me, and I wanted to talk to her, but my mother told me to not talk to the Slayers.

“Our relationship is delicate as it is,” she would say with a slight nose wrinkle, like something about it smelled bad.

She’d only chanced a quick glance. I saw something. What was it? Could it be a smile? The slightest wink just short of being a wink?

Derek pulled me around the house, and the Slayers were gone. On we went to the woods as night stole my vision. It was all smell and touch now. And hearing, as in hearing guttural, low sounds whispering in my ear. They growled, they laughed, like the cat letting the mouse run for its life before easily swiping it back. My instincts told me to run, but Grandmama Inga told me to stay with Derek, that he’d protect me.

I heard laughing as we entered the woods. I sensed heat. They’re nearly transformed. I felt a sympathetic pang for the Vampires who would be ripped apart that night. The ground near my feet sparked into a living campfire. I could see them. They were ready, heaving with anticipation. And they were all looking at me.

“Vampire,” one of them whispered.

I looked around for the Vampire, but only saw massive, bulging bodies standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a semicircle. And they were all looking at me.

“The hunt is about to begin,” Sheriff Swartz’s voice boomed within the crowd.

I tried to pull away from Derek. I didn’t want to see this. But he held me tighter. I saw the crowd begin to part in front of me. Slowly, row-by-row from the back forward, they parted. I could see glowing dark brown eyes moving toward me as fully-transformed werewolves segregated. My chest ached with fear.

Finally, Sheriff Swartz emerged from the crowd. He lowered his face. His eyes were bright, insane with anticipation; his jagged teeth oozed thick saliva as he smiled at me. His voice was a growl, so he spoke slowly, letting each word assault me.

“Now is when you run.”