Blood and Fire, Page 2Willow Rose
"They were having a party," Briana said, continuing the story. "The kids. They were all from the high school. The entire class had met to have a bonfire and party, celebrating one of their classmates' birthdays when it happened. They were just being young and stupid, like most kids that age."
"But…what happened?" I asked.
I received a look from my mom to stand back. I knew what the look meant. This was a conversation for the adults, but I ignored her. This was way too important for me just to stand back. Not only was it important, it was terrifying.
"They think the wolf is back," Briana said. "A kid was killed last night, and the others fled the scene. They found his body between the trees this morning. He didn't make it."
Camille's eyes met those of Claire's. I noticed the fire in both of them. I wondered if they would have gotten into a fight if they had been alone.
"But I thought they shot the wolf," Jayden said.
"That's what they said," Briana said. "But maybe they didn't kill it, or maybe there are more. Wolves move in packs, remember?"
"Wolves, huh?" my mom said and lifted her nose in the sky.
"Let's not jump to any conclusions," Amy's dad, Jim said. He and Carol had stayed a little behind them, observing like they always did. They liked to stay out of trouble. I envied Amy that her parents didn't search for trouble like my mother did; they didn't make a big deal out of ridiculous small things.
"No one knows what this beast is since no one has seen it properly," he added.
"I don't like it," Briana said and looked in the direction of the park behind their neighborhood. The tall trees seemed to be looking back at them. "What if it comes here?"
"Nonsense," Claire said. "Wolves are scared of humans. They would never move into a residential neighborhood."
"How do we even know it is a wolf?" Jazmine said and looked up at my mother.
Don't, Jazmine. Don't you dare say anything!
She received an elbow from Jayden and pulled back. They had all sworn to help protect me, and I trusted them to do so. If it was my brother, Adrian, who was killing those people in the park at night, as we suspected it was, none of us could ever say anything. He had to be caught in the act. If he found out that I knew, he wouldn't hesitate to kill me as well. I had no doubt that he would.
It was all over the news in Jayden's house that evening, and they left the TV on even when they ate dinner. Jayden could sense his parents’ growing worry about the killings, and they had told him to stay inside at night and, especially to stay far away from the park.
Jayden hated all this. He missed meeting with Robyn in the park by the lake after school, so terribly. Heck, he missed the time when they could be together freely and not sneak around. Now, they couldn't even see each other. Was it ever going to change?
"I know she did something to that girl," his mother said to his dad across the dinner table. They were sitting at each end as usual. His mother was pointing her fork at his dad, who was still in uniform since he had the night shift and had only come home to eat dinner. Jayden's mother stuck her fork back into the rib eye, then cut out another piece and ate it. Steak blood dripped onto the plate from her chin. She liked her steaks rare.
"Come on," Jayden's dad said. "Camille?"
"Yes, Camille. She did something; I just know she did. She made that girl, Melanie Peterson, disappear."
"And just why do you think she would do that?" Ben asked.
Jayden pretended to be watching the news, but instead, he was listening intently to their conversation.
"To cover up for what her son did," Jayden's mother said, lowering her voice, but not doing a very good job.
Ben shook his head and ate a piece of his steak, licking off the blood from his lips.
"I hardly think Camille is capable of…"
"Oh, yes, she is. You better believe she is."
Ben sighed and ate some more steak. "You keep saying that, but do you really think…?"
Claire lowered her voice to almost a whisper, but Jayden could still hear every word.
"She keeps thinking it is our Logan who has…I see it in her eyes, Ben. But I am on to her. She is trying to make us take the blame for all those killings that she perfectly well knows her own son is behind. Just because she can't possibly think that her own son would…do such a thing. Meanwhile, he just kills and kills."
"We don't know it’s him, either."
"I am certain it’s him. Have you seen him lately? He's the spitting image of her. Those eyes…it's like they…like they…" Claire shuddered and didn't finish her sentence.
Jayden finished his plate and got up. He kissed his mom on the cheek, then took his plate into the kitchen. His brother Logan was staring at the TV screen, his eyes following it very closely. Right now, they were interviewing another of the kids that had been at the party, and he was telling the reporter how he heard the screams and saw the blood and how the beast was running after all of them. He sounded like he was making it all up as he went along. Jayden could smell his brother as he walked past him, and he wondered if he ever showered anymore. And why didn't he go to the salon? His hair was growing like crazy and reached all the way to the lower part of his back now. His nails were long and dirty, and he was just so…disgusting. Everything about him was so unruly, so wild, and so gross.
No one on the street had heard that the house had been sold. Not even my mom, who always kept herself informed of the latest developments in her neighborhood (yes, she believed it was her neighborhood). The old man who lived in number three had passed away less than a year ago and everybody knew that the son, who lived down south, had inherited it, but we also knew he probably wouldn't be living in it himself since he lived in a beach house in Florida with the ocean as his backyard and was, by the way, a millionaire. So, it was expected to be sold at some point, but the inhabitants in Shadow Hills hadn't even seen a for sale sign or seen it listed anywhere. We didn't know till someone suddenly appeared, driving up on his motorcycle one Sunday at noon. The sound of the bike was what caused us all to rush to our windows since Sundays were usually the quiet days and the only one owning a bike on the street was Ben Smith, and his didn't sound nearly as loud as this one did.
"Now, what is all that noise about?" my mom asked and walked to the window and looked out.
"I think someone is moving into number three," I said.
"Why...I don't even see a moving truck," my mother said. "That can't be. Who moves without a moving truck?"
The man swung his backpack over his shoulder, looked around the street, then up at the sun that was peeking out between the clouds, a rare sight where we lived. His eyes settled on the park behind the cul-de-sac for a few seconds, then he walked up the driveway and let himself in.
I felt how my mother was about to burst with curiosity and, finally, she broke down.
"Maybe we should go and bid him hello," she said.
She grabbed her emergency gift basket from the cabinet, corrected the cellophane, and sighed when she looked at me.
"Could you at least run a brush through that mane of yours?" she asked.
I found my brush without complaining and made a ponytail. I didn't want to risk my mother telling me to stay in the house. I too was curious.
We walked down the street, my mother holding the basket between her hands. We walked up the driveway just as the man came out the door. He smiled. He was a tall man, with skinny legs and arms, yet a well-rounded stomach underneath the leather jacket. On top of his bald head, he had tied a bandana.
"Well, hello there," he said.
"Hello," my mother chirped. "Welcome to the neighborhood."
She handed him the basket, wearing a proud smile, and he chuckled like he found her amusing.
"Wow. Don't think I’ve ever received such a warm welcome anywhere before."
My mom stuck out her hand. "I'm Camille Jones. We live in number fifteen down the street. We didn't know
this house had changed owners. We didn't even know it was listed."
The man shook his head. "It wasn't. I didn't buy it. I’m just renting it for a while."
My mother's mouth became tight. "Oh. So, you're not staying here long then?"
"I don't know how long I’ll be here," he said. "You see, I’m here for my work."
"Ah, and what kind of work might that be?" she asked, almost singing. My mom always knew how to sound nice when she wanted information from people.
The man cleared his throat and pretended not to hear the question. He looked at me, then at my mom, his glare piercing through us. "If you'll excuse me. I need to get my babies."
"Your…babies?" my mom asked and let the man walk past us. "You…have babies?"
"I sure do," he said and reached into the side bag of the motorcycle. He pulled out a tank of some sort, then approached her, holding it into the light. The sight made both me and my mother recoil in disgust.
"Ha-ha. I get that a lot," he said and knocked on the glass. The two big tarantulas moved slowly inside of it.
"So…these two are…your babies?" my mom said, not hiding how appalled she was very successfully.
He nodded. "Yes. I don't have any children, so I like to call them that. I bring them everywhere I go. Very sensitive creatures, these."
He looked up. His eyes met mine. His glare made me feel very uncomfortable. "Did you know that they can actually sense if there are vampires nearby?"
Both my mother and I stopped breathing simultaneously.
"Excuse me, what?" my mom asked, taking another step back. "What do you mean…vampires?"
He laughed, his eyes scrutinizing her. "It's just an old myth from back when people were hysterical about vampires, you know back in the eighteen-hundreds. They used to blame all kinds of bad stuff on vampires. Like the plague. People back then in Eastern Europe believed vampires brought the plague. Silly, right?"
"I'd say," my mother said, her voice cracking slightly.
"They'd say that spiders, especially tarantulas, would flee a graveyard if there were vampires. So, if you see a flock of spiders flee a place, then you know there are vampires. You better stay away then, ha-ha. An old superstition says it's not just vampires they can detect, but all supernatural beings, witches too." He looked at me like he believed I was one. I felt like his eyes saw straight through me.
"You want to try and hold one?"
I shook my head. I was terrified of spiders, especially the big, hairy ones like he had.
"They won't bite," he said, still cheerful.
"But surely you’ve had them de-fanged and removed the venom, right?" my mother asked, pulling me away from the tank.
He laughed. "That is not possible, ma'am. If we took out the fangs, they would just regrow new ones. The only way to de-venom a tarantula would be to remove its glands, but without them, the animal wouldn't be able to feed. It would die."
"Oh," my mother said. "We…we should probably leave." She pulled my shoulder. "I think I forgot something on the stove. It was really nice to meet you, Mr. …?"
"You can call me Aran."
My mother nodded, holding onto her hat in the wind that had just picked up.
"Good-day Mr. …Aran."
Jazmine rushed across the cul-de-sac, glancing quickly at Robyn's house and spotting her inside the window, looking down at her. Jayden joined her a second later, and they signaled Robyn to make sure she was all right like they usually did before going to Amy's house. Robyn answered with a thumb up, even though they could see the longing in her eyes to be with them. But right now, it was all about her being safe, and she couldn't risk sneaking out and getting caught. Amy's parents had left for a business trip once again, and she had texted them to come over.
She reached out for Jayden's hand, but he pulled his away, then glanced toward Robyn's window.
"She can't see us anymore," Jazmine said, a little tired of his need to protect Robyn from the fact that they were dating. What did he have to lose anyway? She had to know by now, didn't she?
"Come on," he said and rushed ahead of her. He walked up the driveway, up to the old hand-carved door and knocked. Amy opened it right away.
"What took you so long?"
"We came as fast as we could," Jazmine said.
"Come on in," she said and stepped aside, then peeked outside to make sure no one saw them.
Jazmine thought she was being silly. It wasn't like there was anything strange about a couple of teenagers hanging out on a Sunday night.
"So. How is she?" Jayden asked, hands in his pockets.
Amy shook her head. "Not too good. We have a few hours before she changes again. Let's go say hi."
They walked toward the basement and started to walk down the stairs. "She makes a lot of noise at night," Amy said. "Luckily, my parents sleep upstairs and don't hear that well. But I hear her. She growls and hammers on the door at night. I feel awful for keeping her there. I bring her food every morning and talk to her when I can without my parents noticing, but she doesn't seem well. She's not sick…but…I don't know."
"She’s probably craving blood," Jazmine said.
"I’ve tried that," Amy said. "I went to the Asian store downtown and bought some pig blood that I served her in a glass, but she didn't drink it. I don't know what else to do."
"Maybe it's just the change that is bothering her," Jazmine said and looked to Jayden to see if he agreed, but he seemed distant. He had been like that a lot lately, and he didn't want to tell her why. She had a terrifying nagging feeling that she already knew.
"What do you think, Jayden?" Amy asked as they approached the big iron door leading to Amy's parents’ nuclear shelter.
"What's that?" he asked.
"Why she isn't drinking the blood?" Jazmine snapped. "Could you please try and be present?"
"I'm sorry," he said. "I was just thinking about something."
Jazmine exhaled, annoyed. She knew what he was thinking about, or rather who. He was constantly moping around thinking about her. It was getting annoying.
Amy sighed. "All right."
She unlocked the door, and then pulled it open. Jazmine almost stopped breathing when she saw Melanie's face appear behind it.
It's getting worse," Melanie said when they entered the shelter, bringing a rack of lamb that Amy had prepared along with roasted potatoes. Melanie took one look at the lamb, her eyes growing wider, and then threw herself at it, gnawing it to the bone.
"Have some potatoes and beans as well," Amy said.
Melanie didn't seem to listen. She indulged herself completely in gnawing the leg of lamb, growling and groaning as she devoured the entire thing, then finished by gnawing the bone.
"So, how are you surviving down here?" Jazmine asked. "You doing okay?"
She sighed, satisfied, licking the bone. "Now, I am," she said. "Boy, was I hungry. Other than that, I’m okay, I think. It gets boring, though. And I feel so restless. I miss the fresh air so desperately. And running, oh, how I dream of running."
Jayden looked at her, his head tilted. "Did you used to run a lot? Before this…happened?"
She shrugged. "Not really. You don't need to run much to be good at Taekwondo. But sometimes I would run, you know for the cardio. I never liked it much, though. But boy what I wouldn't give to be able to run again."
Jayden sniffed the air and then sniffed at Melanie. Jazmine thought he was being rude and pulled him away.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"I just thought I…well, that smell…she smells," he said.
"Of course, she smells," she said. "You would too if you were locked up in a place like this twenty-four-seven."
He nodded and backed up. "Of course."
"I keep having blackouts," she said. "It starts around midnight when the pain arrives and then when I wake up, I look at the clock, and it's usually morning. I don't know what I’m doing all that time. But I
have destroyed a lot of stuff."
They looked at the pillows on the bed that were ripped apart, and shelves with canned food that were tipped over. Then they stared at the door where there were marks from claws, but also deep dents in the very massive iron.
"I think I might have been trying to get through," she said. "I feel a bump on my forehead."
Jazmine stared at the dents in the door and wondered how she could have made such massive impact on the iron door, using just her forehead.
"I fear that I am getting stronger," she said, touching her teeth, scratching them. "And my teeth are itching."
Amy brought out a jug with a red substance in it. She poured some of its contents into a glass and handed it to Melanie. "I think you should drink this. You know, to try and keep your urges down."
Melanie grabbed the glass and looked at the blood. "Are you sure about that? It looks…kind of…" she sniffed it, then grimaced. "I don't think this is good for me."
Amy swallowed. "I think it is very important that you drink it, so you won't start to crave…you know our blood. Who knows if you'll start turning during the daytime too or how it works. Or if you might want to drink blood suddenly and attack one of us."
Melanie exhaled, then nodded. "I’m sure you're right." She took in a deep breath, then held her nose. "Here goes nothing."
She lifted the glass and downed the blood. As soon as she was done and the glass was empty, she gagged and threw up on the floor.
That was odd."
They were walking back through the cul-de-sac. Jazmine looked at Jayden. Jayden wasn't really listening to what she said.
"What was odd?"
"That thing back there with Melanie," she explained. "When she threw up. Hello? Where are you lately, Jayden?"
Jazmine grabbed his hand in hers. Her fingers were freezing. He glanced up at Robyn's window. It was dark. She was probably sleeping.