“I feel my heart beating,” Peter smiled, pressing his hand against his chest.
“I feel mine beating too,” Kiera smiled back at him.
“I’ve never felt so hungry,” Alice said.
And she wasn’t the only one. Since being pushed back into this world, I had lost my appetite. Other than blood, food had just become a tasteless mush, but now, as I stood on the shore, my stomach ached not for blood, but food.
Knowing that Kiera and Murphy had plenty to discuss with the others, I wondered what more I could bring to the party.
“How about I go and find us something all to eat?” I asked. “I’m sure I’ll be able to find something.”
“I could come with you?” Kiera said, looking over at me.
“No, it’s okay,” I smiled. “You stay. It looks like you’ve got a lot of explaining to do. I’ll be back real soon.”
Kiera stepped away from the others and came towards me. Slowly, she raised her hand and pressed it flat against my chest. “Your heart is beating too,” she smiled up me. Her skin looked radiant, her hair almost glowing in the moonlight.
“It’s beating fast.”
“It always used to around you,” I said, gently placing my hand over her heart. I could feel it gently thumping away.
“Are you all right?” Kiera frowned. “You look like you’ve got something on your mind. I thought you’d be glad to be alive again.”
“I’m worried about Murphy,” I said.
“Murphy?” Kiera asked. “But why? He has his daughter back.”
“That’s what bothers me,” I said, glancing over my shoulder at where Murphy stood with Meren and the others.
“I’m not sure what you mean?” Kiera frowned at me again.
“You said at the end, when we push the world back, we go back to where we came from, right?” I said, looking into her eyes.
“Right,” she said.
“Well, Meren is dead back there, so is Murphy,” I breathed. “We’re all dead back in that world.”
“But the Elders showed me Murphy and Meren...” Kiera started.
“The Elders showed you statues, Kiera,” I said. “They showed you statues.”
“So what are you saying?” Kiera asked, looking suddenly sad and deflated again.
“I’m not sure,” I said thoughtfully. “But we both know statues definitely don’t have freaking heartbeats.”
I turned to walk away, and as I did, I heard Kiera say, “See you later alligator.”
Looking back one last time, I smiled and said, “In a while crocodile.”
I didn’t want to piss all over her happiness – that was the last thing I wanted to do. At first I’d been just as happy as she had been on seeing Murphy reunited with Meren again. But if we did push the world back like we were planning on doing somehow, would Murphy lose Meren all over again? Would I lose Murphy all over again?
What were any of us going back to? We were all dead back there. Kiera said she was the only one who couldn’t go back. She saw that as a punishment, but was it? Perhaps it was her gift for finally making her choice. Perhaps Kiera was the only one who was going to survive this?
I took another smoke from my pocket.
Lighting it, I headed back into the forest that surrounded the lake, in search of food. I hadn’t gone very far, when I saw movement to my left. I snapped my head around, fangs and claws out in an instant. Movement to my right this time. I span around to find a figure hidden by shadows between the tree trunks.
“Who’s there?” I snarled, bearing my fangs.
“Shhh,” the figure said, stepping from the shadows. “It’s me, Kayla.”
“Kayla?” I breathed on seeing her come towards me. “Where’s Sam?”
I didn’t even hear her answer. The back of my head exploded in pain, and my world went black.
Murphy built a fire so we could cook whatever culinary delights Potter managed to find in the forest. Potter had brought back road-kill once, before the world had been pushed, and had tried to kid us all that he had hunted the muntjac down. But Isidor had spotted the tyre tracks imbedded into the dead animal’s bloodied fur.
Potter scowled at him and they didn’t speak for a day or two after that. Luckily, there weren’t too many roads around here, so whatever Potter brought back would have to be fairly fresh.
As Murphy lit the pile of sticks and branches he had collected from the forest, I sat with the others on the shore by the fire. The moon had started to dip in the sky and I guessed that dawn was no more than a couple of hours away.
The Dead Waters continued to lap the shore in red waves, and in the distance I could hear the fountain thundering its way back up into heaven – if such a place existed.
“What’s that noise?” Alice asked, scraping her long blond hair behind her ears with her fingers.
“The Fountain of Souls,” I told her. It felt odd to be telling her such a thing. It didn’t seem that long ago that I had been here with Potter, Murphy, Isidor, and Luke. It was I who was then learning about this secret place hidden in the forest. “It’s believed that the fountain runs upwards, carrying souls back into heaven.”
“Souls?” Peter asked, crossing his legs as he sat next to his sister.
“The souls of all those the Lycanthrope have murdered,” I continued to explain. “A lot of them would have been children.”
“Why children?” Meren asked. “That’s a bit creepy, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I said.
“So the water is red because of all the blood that has been shed,” Meren said, looking thoughtfully at the waves which crawled up the shore towards her. “The Lycanthrope took lives, but the water is somehow giving it back, right?”
“Right,” I said as she turned to look at me.
I could tell that Meren was a quick thinker and nobody’s fool.
“But we’re all half wolves, aren’t we?”
another girl in the group asked.
“What’s your name?” I asked her.
“Gayle,” she smiled.
“Yes, Gayle, we are all half wolves,” I said. Then, glancing up at Murphy as he dropped another armload of sticks onto the fire, I added, “but we don’t have to be like them. Every one of us here has a choice to make.”
“What’s that?” asked Peter.
“We choose how we wish to lead our lives,” I said, looking at the group before me. “You can make your lives wonderful – make them count. Or you can choose a different path, like those wolves who decided to take the lives of others. That isn’t a life – that’s an existence.
Forever looking over your shoulder, waiting for the Vampyrus to catch up with you.”
“But apart from my dad and his friend, Potter, there are no other Vampyrus here,” Meren said, as if in deep thought. “There are no more Vampyrus to police them. The Lycanthrope are the police here. So, who then will stop the wolves from killing?”
“Us,” I said, looking at the group.
“But there is only a handful of us,” Gayle spoke up. “We can never defeat the wolves.”
“Not on our own we can’t,” I said. “But together we can. Together we can do anything – if we’re determined enough. Maybe that’s why the Elders forbid mixing between the Vampyrus and the Lycanthrope. Perhaps they feared what we would become. If we choose wisely, we can become the best of the Vampyrus and wolves.
Like wolves, we have great sight, we are loyal to our own kind, our jaws have an incredible crushing pressure when we bite...”
“But doesn’t our enemy have these exact same traits too?” A girl sitting near the back of the group spoke up.
“You’re right. They have those skills too – but do they have a set of these?” I half-smiled, releasing my fearsome claws. “Not only can we swipe, slash, and rip, but they are also pretty neat at causing some serious blunt force trauma. You should see the damage my friend Potter can do with his fists when he gets going.” Then, glancing at Meren, I added, “Your father is pretty handy too.”
Meren smiled back at me.
“Unlike the wolves, we can move at incredible speeds,” I said, then flashed amongst them in a fleeting spray of shadows, so as to prove my point.
“I’ve heard that in some parts, that’s called blinking,” Gayle said.
“I like that,” I smiled back at her. “Okay so we can blink but we can also do this!”
With a quick and sudden shake of my shoulders, I released my wings and shot into the air. I hovered above them, those claws at each tip snatching at the air. “We own the skies; the wolves don’t,” I said.
“So we can escape quicker than the wolves,” Alice said.
“No,” I said. “Any army that controls the skies wins the war. We can look down upon them.
We can see where the wolves are. Where they are heading, how big their number is, and we can strike from above before they even know we are there. And with our ability to blink, we can change our formation instantly. The wolves won’t know which way to turn. They won’t know from which way our attack will come.”
“You make it sound like we are going to war,” Peter said, looking up at me hovering above their heads.
“Not war,” I said, dropping slowly out of the sky and settling on the shore again. “An intervention.”
“What’s that?” Alice asked.
“This world has been pushed,” I started to explain. “This world is run by wolves. They have overrun the humans and bent them to their will.
They are matching with human children and are slowly destroying them. If we do nothing, then the humans will no longer exist. In the world I grew up in – the world I came from – that was called genocide.”
“What do we care for the humans?”