by Erin Harvey, Age 15, USA
Artwork by Journey Meyerhoff
My hand quivered as I stared into the red liquid in the glass. It sloshed against the sides, leaving bloody streaks in its wake. I pressed my back against the door and took a steadying breath. I was overreacting. The vampires seated behind the closed door wouldn’t harm me—not without permission, of course. With the supply of human slaves running low due to the war against the werewolves, I had cost Darren Sheppard more than I was worth. The others wouldn’t drink from me without his consent.
Swallowing back my nerves, I opened the door and stepped into the dining hall. The room fell silent. I cast my eyes to the maroon carpet. I didn’t deserve this humiliation; I deserved to be one of them, a member of their vampire guild and an asset to the war.
I stopped at the head of the table and set the glass in front of Darren. Swirling the blood, he looked up at me. His fangs were extended and tinted red. “Do you have any idea how long ago I asked for this, Eiranne?”
My green eyes darted up to meet his. I shook my head. “No, sir.”
“It took you half an hour to pour this glass,” he said, lifting it off the table. “It shouldn’t have taken more than five minutes. Do you not understand that I’m being generous? If I was like other vampires, I would’ve drained you dry. Instead, I allowed you to bring me blood from another source. Your incompetence is beginning to make me regret that decision. Don’t disappoint me again.”
“I’m sorry, sir.” I gritted my teeth and bowed my head.
One of the other vampires at the table sneered. “I don’t see why you wasted your money on a human if you don’t plan on drinking from her, Darren,” he said. “Why not just toss her to the wolves?”
“The wolves are utilizing humans,” snapped a female vampire. She tossed her brunette braid over her shoulder. “That’s why they’re winning the war.”
My lips pursed. The werewolves wanted humans on their side? Despite my nights spent eavesdropping on Darren’s war council, I had never heard that before. Was it a recent development?
Darren’s silver eyes narrowed as he caught my gaze. He pointed to the open doorway. “Go find my sister and send her down here. Afterward, you may retire to your room for the evening.”
Nodding, I scurried out of the dining hall. Tension leaked out of my muscles as I shut the door. I turned to the staircase in the center of the foyer and padded up the steps. As I slid my fingers up the railing, a wet squelch caught my attention. I looked down in disgust at the narrow river of blood on the golden fixture. I had just cleaned it the other day.
At the top of the staircase, I crossed the hall leading to Alison’s bedroom. Light radiated from beneath her door. It illuminated the walls and left a yellow patch on the hardwood floor.
I rapped my knuckles against the door. “Alison? Can I come in?”
Darren’s younger sister opened the door and smiled. Her fangs were hidden just beneath her gums. “Where’ve you been all night? Were you hanging around my brother’s club, hoping to get an invitation?”
I ignored the heat flaring within my cheeks. “It’s not just a club. It’s the vampire war council that you’re supposed to be a part of.”
“I attend most of the meetings,” said Alison, stepping out of the doorway and ushering me into her green bedroom. “I just wish Darren wouldn’t have them so often.”
Sinking onto the edge of her mattress, I tossed her afghan across my lap. I shook my head. “The vampires will lose the war without the meetings.”
“We’re going to lose anyway. The wolves are much stronger.”
“If you would change me into a vampire, I could help,” I offered. “I know what I’m doing.”
She sighed. “It doesn’t work like that, Eiranne. I don’t have the authority to change a human, especially not a slave. The only vampire I know who could do that for you is Darren.”
I smoothed down my auburn hair and tried to overlook the disappointment gathering in the pit of my stomach. It was useless to get my hopes up whenever I mentioned the subject to Alison. The answer would never change. I would never become a vampire, not as long as Darren was my only hope.
“He’s really not that bad, you know,” said Alison. She sat in the padded stool in front of her vanity. Picking up the comb on her countertop, she ran the teeth through her blonde curls. “Once our parents were killed in the war, Darren had to take over as head of the war council. He let the others pressure him into buying a slave, even though the thought of owning a human always sickened him before. He was only seventeen when it happened. He didn’t know any better. That’s why he’s so cold to you. If he wasn’t, he’d wind up giving into what the others say and hurting you.”
I opened my mouth to argue but soon rethought my decision. It wouldn’t make a difference. If Darren couldn’t understand the point of changing me, why would Alison? They were oblivious to the assistance I could give to the war effort. Unbeknownst to Darren, I eavesdropped on every meeting he held to gather information. The headboard of my bed was littered with sketches of battle plans and tactics, and I collected old newspaper scraps out of the garbage to scour for developments in the war. I knew how to help, if they would only let me in.
I rose to my feet. “Darren wanted you in the dining hall.”
Alison bit her lip as she followed me to the door. Hesitating, she touched my shoulder. Her fangs poked through her gums. “Don’t get upset, okay? You’re safer here than in that club.”
I shook her off and forced a smile. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be all right.”
* * *
It was nearly midnight when the door to my bedroom burst open. Alison collapsed onto my bed and clutched my hands, crushing them in her grasp. “I know how to help you.”
I looked up from the wrinkled newspaper article sprawled across my lap. “What do you mean?”
Lowering her voice, she leaned closer. “Darren made me sit through a few hours of his meeting. I had almost passed out from boredom when something he said caught my attention. He explained to the others how one of the soldiers had found a werewolf storeroom stocked with weapons. The soldier brought my brother an experiment they had been working on. Darren said it was a bullet with the power to transform a human into a vampire and a werewolf—a vamperwolf, he called it.”
My shoulders straightened. The solution to my issues might not lie in Darren at all. The answer could possibly be found in this bullet. “Does he have it?”
“That’s the problem.” Alison winced. “It’s in his office.”
Disappointment engulfed my chest. No one was allowed into his office. I had wandered in once by accident, and Darren nearly drained me of blood as a result. The room was positioned next to the dining hall; any sound I made would travel through the walls and alert him of an intruder. The punishment if I was caught was unimaginable. But was it worth never knowing what it felt like to be an accepted member of society?
“I’ll be able to cause a distraction,” Alison said. “It won’t last long, though. If my brother suspects anything, he’d throw me out in a heartbeat.”
Casting my doubts aside, I rose to my feet. “I won’t need much longer than that.”
Alison led me into the hallway and into the foyer. She grabbed my wrist. “If Darren catches you—”
I shook my head and pushed her in the direction of the dining hall. “He’s not going to.”
She paused before wrapping her arms around my waist. As she drew back, her eyes widened with worry. “Stay as silent as you can. I’ll see you soon.”
Without another word, she turned away and entered the dining hall. The door shut behind her.
My thoughts were drowned out by the throbbing of my heart. Darren’s office was situated in an alcove on the side of the wall, pressed against the dining hall. Suppressing my fear, I opened the door. The hinges creaked. I flinched, slipping through the crack.
The lamp in his office was on when I entered. Papers stained the surface of his desk, hanging over the edge of the mahogany. A case filled with silver-tipped stakes hung on the wall beside an old family portrait. I gazed up at it. Darren was smiling, illuminating the picture with his joy. I didn’t remember the last time I had seen him smile.
My hip slammed against the corner of his desk. I clamped my hands over my mouth to hold back a shout of pain. Squeezing my eyes shut, I circled behind his desk and ignored the pain. I dropped to my knees. The bullet was likely kept in a secure location. Because there wasn’t a safe in his office, the most logical place was in his desk. I opened the drawer and rummaged through the contents.
A silver box tucked in the back corner caught my eye. I pulled it out and held it up to the lamp. It was held shut with a black clasp, decorated with scratch marks. My fingers fumbled to unlatch the clasp.
My lips parted as I gazed at the box’s contents. A single silver bullet rested on a patch of black velvet, reflecting the gleam of the light bulb. The edge of the bullet was engraved with the image of a bleeding wolf, the symbol of the werewolf army. This was it. This bullet was my key to acceptance. It had to be.
Unscrewing the cap, I squinted into the case. Instead of gunpowder, the bullet was filled with a navy liquid. Its foul scent drifted upward into my nostrils and reminded me of sweat on a hot summer’s afternoon. I gritted my teeth. I knew what I had to do.
I dumped the liquid into my mouth. It slid down my throat like oil before coming to rest in my stomach. Heat blossomed within me, spiraling through my muscles and bones. I shuddered as the sensation exploded in my mouth. My body gave out on me, and I collapsed onto the carpet of Darren’s office.
Vision dancing, I held the box up to my eyes and gazed at my reflection. My eyes shone sparkling silver, quivering like flames. I pushed my upper lip away from my teeth and nearly dropped the box in shock. Instead of human teeth, all of them had been transformed into deadly spikes and elongated fangs—a combination of the mouths of werewolves and vampires.
I was a vamperwolf.
I stumbled to my feet and ran out of Darren’s office. My feet collided against the wood of the hallway. Ramming into the door of the dining hall, I shoved it open.
The vampires of the club were silent as I burst into the room. Darren glowered, rising out of his chair. His lips pressed into a harsh line. “Eiranne, what do you think you’re doing?”
I dropped the empty bullet onto the table. Without a word, I opened my mouth and revealed my teeth to him.
Darren’s jaw went slack. His eyes moved to the other vampires before returning to mine. As his arms folded over his chest, he struggled to hide the hint of a smile on his lips. He nodded to an empty seat. “Sit down. There’s much we need to discuss.”