by Sylvia Nica, Age 12, USA
Artwork by Katie King
A cold wind whistled through the treetops as I slipped into the gym. Looking around to see if anybody had spotted me, I quietly shut the door and tiptoed past the bleachers. Opening the lock with a tiny click, I removed a pair of boxing gloves and a red punching bag from the sports closet, ready to do some clubbing.
“What are you doing?”
I spun around, nearly dropping the gloves. “What are you doing?” I stammered.
The speaker was a teenager, standing opposite me across the gym. Giving a crooked smile, two sharp fangs poked out from above his lip. “I asked you first.”
I nearly dropped the gloves a second time as I registered his appearance. “What? No way,” I exclaimed. “You’re a—”
The guy slithered across the floor and clamped a gloved hand over my mouth. “Let’s not herald it with trumpets and drums, shall we?” he said silkily.
Feeling a sudden spasm of terror, I nodded.
He let go of me, walking back to stand underneath the basketball hoops. “Now, I asked you a question. Answer it,” he demanded.
I swallowed thickly and squeezed the punching bag. “I—I just heard from this girl that you vampires, you know, meet here for some sort of club. I kind of misheard and thought she said clubbing, like wrestling, and I kind of like wrestling,” I mumbled.
The vampire smiled slowly, revealing his fangs once more. “Come with me,” he commanded, and I shuffled behind him, wondering what I’d got myself into.
Making his way back to the storage cabinet, he pressed the temperature regulations several times, as if typing in a code.
“So,” I said, breaking the silence. “I thought you vampires were all pale and moody.”
The teenager laughed. “We spend more time in the sun than you think.” Then his face grew somber like a wall of granite, and he was quiet.
After a few more minutes of waiting, the cabinet gave a small whir and morphed into a door.
“Come on,” said the guy, ignoring my look of awe.
Taking a small step, I walked across the threshold, feeling as if I was walking straight to my grave.
The door banged shut behind me as I followed the vampire, the silence punctuated by the thrum of a bass guitar, or maybe even some pop music. The sound seemed to be coming from the floor above.
My guide shrugged apologetically. “It’s the Winter Solstice—a powerful day for us. Lots of parties,” he explained.
A red-haired girl suddenly blocked our path. “New recruit, Eddie?” she asked.
“Yes. Don’t call me Eddie,” the vampire snarled, grabbing my arm.
The redhead winked in my direction. “Don’t let Eddie get to you. He’s such a grump.” She flitted away. I felt relieved that there was at least one friendly person in this place.
Eddie led me into a silver room. Closing the door, he guided me to a chair and motioned for me to sit. It was a few minutes before I realized we weren’t alone.
“So this is your recruit?” A second teenager appeared from the shadows.
Eddie clenched his fists, and I could feel hate radiating off him in sickening waves. “Seems that you couldn’t find anyone better, wolf,” he remarked, and the other boy scowled.
“Watch it, vampy,” he snarled. “I could tear you to shreds in an instant.”
The redhead from earlier reappeared as if by magic, walking through the doorway as if she owned the place. “Boys, boys,” she chided, wagging her finger. “This is supposed to be a diplomatic mission.”
Both teenagers meekly apologized, and I felt my respect for the girl grow.
She turned to the Eddie. “Are you ready?” she asked, and he nodded. Putting his face uncomfortably close to mine, the vampire held out a silver bullet.
“What I’m about to give you is an instrument of unfathomable power. This gives you the ability to turn into a vamperwolf. I assume you know what that is?” he asked, and I nodded.
“Good.” He began to pace around the room. “We have combed through thousands of strong, spirited individuals, searching for someone who could give us an edge on the war against the Goblins. I assume you know about that, too.”
I nodded again. “It’s been all over the news.”
“So, will you help us, Jamie?” the redhead interrupted.
I shivered as I realized she knew my name and nodded for the third time. “Yeah,” I said. There was no one waiting for me at home, no one who really loved me or even knew me that well. In short, there was nothing to keep me from swallowing that bullet.
The three teenagers studied my face. Then Eddie frowned. “One last thing,” he said, “To prove your strength, you must compete in a—a wrestling tournament.”
I nearly laughed at the ridiculousness of it. To become a vamperwolf, I had to win a wrestling tournament. “Okay,” I said, managing to keep a straight face. “So, when do I begin?”
The redhead smiled. “Now. And, by the way, no gloves allowed.”
Without warning, she lunged in a roundhouse kick, which didn’t seem like legal wrestling, but I blocked it with a punch.
“So this is the tournament?” I asked, gritting my teeth.
“Yep,” she said with a wink, and she sent another punch my way.
I dug my heels into the floor, trying to keep my balance. Subconsciously, I realized that throngs of vampires were now watching the match, the walls having melted back into the gymnasium.
I tried a couple more kicks and aimed for her shoulder, but the redhead skipped away, inhumanly agile. Realizing I couldn’t win this match by strength alone, I drew back and watched her stance, noticing how she favoured her left leg.
“Getting tired already?” she asked.
I smiled savagely. “Not a chance.” Then, drawing my fist back, I forced all my power into a single punch, ploughing into her vulnerable leg and knocking her off her feet. She landed outside the ring, laying oddly still.
“One, two, three!”
The crowd cheered.
I watched the vampire, a little part of me feeling guilty and hoping she was all right.
“Seven, eight, nine, ten! Knockout!”
With the ding of the bell, the crowd exploded, and then grew quiet as Eddie walked forward.
“Your reward,” he said quietly, and he seemed slightly surprised that the match had been over so quickly. Then, with a touch lighter than a feather, the vampire handed me the little round bullet. He nodded, and then, tipping back my head, I swallowed the silver metal, feeling megawatts of energy pulse through me as it touched my lips. My appearance shifted. Suddenly, I wasn’t Jamie anymore—I was a vamperwolf.
The crowd watched me, not even stirring when the redhead got to her feet.
“Perfect,” Eddie purred, as, with a blast of light, I completed my transformation. There was silence. Then, with a whoop, a stream of werewolves and vampires suddenly rushed to me, congratulating me and admiring my new violet eyes. They complimented me over and over, patting me on the shoulders and back until my muscles were sore. I could tell a new hope had spread—a hope that the Goblins would finally be destroyed.
I smiled, allowing myself to bask in the adoration of the crowd, and then blinked my violet eyes. Finally, I was accepted, and no one could stop me. Finally, I was a vamperwolf.
Sylvia is an aspiring writer from Ohio. She enjoys math, music, and reading, and hopes to one day make writing her career.