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Darkness falls (darkness.., p.12
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       Darkness Falls (Darkness Falls, Book 1), p.12

           Jessica Sorensen
Chapter 11

  “No… no no no.” Bernard’s on the verge of a meltdown, tugging at his hair as he rocks back and forth. “This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening.”

  “Calm down.” I stuff the watch and vials into my pocket. “It’s just like when we’re out on a raid. We just gotta stay on our toes and stay out of their sight.”

  “No it’s not, Kayla!” He screams. “This is totally different. We’re not in the city and it’s dark—no one goes on raids when it’s dark.”

  Except me. “Keep your voice down,” I hiss. “You’re going to lead them right to us.”

  “Kayla.” Maci tugs on my sleeve. “We’re not safe here. We need to move.”

  “I know. I’m working on it.”

  Darkness hasn’t quite touched the land yet so we have a little time. But not much.

  Another shriek ripples the air.

  “Kayla,” Maci says, jerking my arms. “We need to go. Now. If we stay here, we die.”

  “Okay, okay, follow me.” I hike up the sandy hill, heading for a steeple of rocks, moving fast, but not as fast as I could. Bernard stumbles after us, a panicked mess, but Maci seems calm. A little too calm.

  By the time we reach the rocks, there’s hardly anything left of the sky. Bernard and Maci are winded, panting loudly, bodies tired.

  “Guys, try to keep quiet, okay?” I whisper because the only thing between us and them is a circle of large boulders that have cracks between them, giving the vampires plenty of places to squeeze through and take us by surprise.

  Bernard hunches over, pressing his hands to his sides. “Now what do we do?”

  “Now we hide here until morning.” I pull out my knife. “You should find something sharp to protect yourself with, just in case.”

  Bernard drops his hands from his side and stands up straight. “That’s the stupidest plan I’ve ever heard.”

  “Well, if you got a better one,” I say, “then by all means, offer it up. Because that’s the best I can do right now.”

  He doesn’t say anything and I sit down on a rock, watching the sky dwindle away, knowing our chances of not being found are low.

  “You’re really creepy.” Bernard slumps down on the ground by my feet “You know that?”

  I drag the blade of the knife along a rock. “In what way?”

  “You’re just too calm.” Bernard motions at me. “You’re not even scared. It’s weird.”

  Suddenly, I’m aware that maybe my little secret is blatantly obvious. “I’m scared,” I lie. “I just choose not to show it.”

  “That’s bull.” Bernard smirks at me. “You’re not scared at all, even though we’re going to die.”

  “We’re not going to die.” Maci sits down in the dirt next to Bernard and crosses her legs. She’s found a fairly sharp rock, just like I told her to. But deep down I know it’ll be no use. “Kayla’s going to save us.”

  Bernard snorts. “Yeah, sure she is.”

  “She is,” Maci says cheerfully. “Just wait and see.”

  I’m starting to worry about her health. “Why don’t you lie down and get some rest. Bernard and I will keep watch for the night.”

  She grins and obeys. The air grows still as we huddle together, the last sliver of light slipping away and we’re blinded by night. The rocks are our protectors, blocking them from us and us from them.

  But not even the rocks can block out their cries.

  We’re sitting ducks. Little insects and creatures of the night scamper around us, but we stay still, crouching together.

  Maci is sound asleep, her breath slow and rhythmic, but her heartbeat’s still soundless. Then it starts to rain, black raindrops laced with the ash and smoke. I haven’t seen rain in forever, but I’m grateful for it. It’ll make a muddy mess, but it’ll also wash away our scent and make us harder to track.

  Maci lets out a blood-curdling scream. “Kayla!” Maci protects her head with her arms, her breaths fitful as she jumps to her feet. “What’s happening?”

  “It’s just water,” I assure her, tugging her back into the mud. “Everything’s fine. But you need to calm down or they’re going to hear you.”

  She glances up, raindrops drizzling down her face. Bernard curses under his breath. I shield my eyes from the rain and glance from left to right, checking that everything’s safe, when I hear a soft thud.

  Everyone tenses. Breaths falter. All except mine.

  I’m as calm as I always am, ready for anything. My knife snaps out, preparing for battle. Another thump. Another crash.

  “Kayla,” Maci whispers. “They’re coming.”

  I get to my feet, my boots clunking against the mud as I creep over to a splinter of space between two rocks. At first I’m only blinded by splatters of rain, until I blink. Then I see them. They’re everywhere, dragging their feet through the mud and puddles. I tell myself we’re okay, just as long as they remain on the other side of the rock. But an eye appears on the other side and all hopes of being okay wash away with the sand. The eye trickles blood as it burns a lifeless gaze at me. I duck, telling myself it didn’t see me. But the shriek that stabs through the air tells me it did.

  I have to do something. And fast.

  I grab Maci and tuck her in a cubby in the bottom rock. “Stay here. And, whatever happens, don’t make a sound.”

  She nods and I turn to Bernard. “I need your help.”

  His eyes are wide as he hugs himself and stares blankly at the rain.

  “Bernard.” I snap my fingers in front of his face, but no reaction. I shake him by the shoulders, but it's like he’s slipped into a comatose state. I guess I’m on my own. I move to a narrow gap in the rocks and quietly slip head first inside. I take a deep breath. “You’ve done this before,” I whisper to myself. “You can do it again.”

  With my knife in my hand, I don’t look back as I glide myself into their world. I land in the mud head first, but I’m on my feet without missing a beat. I’ve actually startled them and for a moment, they look lost, like they’re not quite sure what to do with someone who offers themselves up so easily.

  But the blood in their eyes washes the look away and they all swarm for me, the gaping holes in their skin getting filled with mud and rain.

  I run, letting my legs be the weapon and they rise to the challenge, chasing after me. Vampires are fast. The very first time I went out on a raid, I was warned about this, but I didn’t realize how fast until the first time I was chased. But I also realized just how inhumanly fast I was.

  My legs carry me through the mud and puddles, the rain refusing to let up. Every now and then I glance behind my shoulder, making sure they’re still following me. Like the hungry beasts they are, they seek blood. And I’ve got a body full of it.

  Their fangs snap out as we move deeper into the sand hills. I launch myself over a rock, but fall back when I spot a mob of vampires down at the bottom.

  “Dammit.” I swing to my right, only to spot more—they seem to be multiplying. I try my left, but it’s blocked. And they're all moving for me, fangs trembling to eat me alive. One nips at my ankles and I jump, barely missing getting bit. I think of how the two left me, but I guess my luck has finally worn off.

  They pile toward me and I turn in a circle, searching for an escape, but their bodies scatter the land even farther than I can see.

  I have no choice. There’s nowhere to go and I refuse to become infected and turn into one of them. I raise my knife for my chest and shut my eyes. “Goodbye,” I whisper in the wind.

  But my voice is overlapped by a, “No!”

  And then the sound echoes with a hundred more. The sound of a stampede encloses me and I dare a peek. They’re all running away, into the night. I stand motionless, watching them disappear into the blackness, realizing I might be the one and only person the vampires don’t want to touch.

  But why?

  After they all clear, I step down from the rock. Rain still pours from the sky and violently nicks
at my eyes and cheeks. I shield my hand in front of my face as I climb up the hill and slide down into the trench. Mud soaks my jeans and leaks into my boots. Every part of my body feels strange. And maybe that’s why I don’t hear it until it’s too late.

  The rush of water as it rips through the trench, knocking my feet out from under me. I smack my head on a rock and my ears ring as I fight to stay afloat. The water’s cold and mixed with sand and dirt, making it heavy and suffocating as I try to paddle my way to the side. My feet finally find ground and I push myself through the water, slipping and loosing balance again. Water bursts against my legs as the water steals my body. But someone catches my arm.

  “Give me your hand,” Bernard says and I latch onto him. He heaves me out and I crumple to the ground.

  “Where did you come from?” I cough up water. “And where’s Maci?”

  Bernard sinks in the sand, running his hands through his soaked hair. “Maci’s still in her hiding spot. She said something about you drowning if I didn’t come rescue you.” He pauses. “You know she’s getting pretty creepy too.”

  I roll over, pushing myself to my feet. “Well, I’m glad she is, because I’m pretty sure I’d be dead by now.”

  We start up the hill, sliding in the mud.

  “What were you thinking, running out like that?” Bernard finally asks, not being rude like he was earlier, just curious.

  “I was thinking it was better me than you two,” I say simply. “Besides, I’m the experienced one.”

  “Yeah, but it didn’t do any good. The vampires decided to leave on their own.” He gestures around at the empty land. “If you would’ve just waited a little longer.”

  I nod, not bothering to tell him what really happened. And I’m not sure I’ll ever tell anyone. Who knows what people would do if they found out I was the one and only person who can walk with the vampires and remain untouched.

  Because people fear those who are different. And fear can make people do stupid things.

  Chapter 12