“Sophie!” I said, but even my voice had changed; it was deep and sounded as if I were gargling on a throat full of gravel.
Covering her face with her hands, she sobbed uncontrollably and turned away from me.
“Sophie,” I tried again, “You don’t have to be scared – it’s just me, Sean.”
“Get away from me!” she shrieked, kicking out with her feet that were entangled in the bedding.
“Sophie, let me explain,” my voice boomed. But how could I ever begin to explain? How could I possibly even begin to tell her that I was a vampire bat and came from a world that existed beneath hers?
“I love you!” I said.
Peering back at me over the top of the sheet, I could see the fear, revulsion, and hatred for me in her eyes. “Get away from me!” she screamed, kicking out with her feet again. “You freak – you animal! Get out!”
“I love -” I begged.
Jumping from the bed, where only moments before we had been making love, I went to the windows. Throwing them open, I climbed onto the ledge. I looked at her, two perfect blue eyes staring back at me, and to see such fear in them broke my heart.
“I’m so sorry,” I growled.
Leaping from the window, I spread my wings and shot into the night sky. I didn’t look back, not once. It would have hurt too much to do so.
The night was cloudless and cold, but the strong wind did nothing to dry the…
…tears that ran down my face. Sitting bolt upright, I brushed them away with the back of my hand. Cursing myself for falling asleep, I peered into the darkness and my heart almost stopped. Propped in that chair just feet away from me was a dead little boy.
He sat upright, his tiny frame dressed in blue and white striped pyjamas. He was no older than seven with white-blonde hair that fell across his pale brow. His eyes were closed and he strangely looked at peace, as if asleep. Perhaps he wasn’t dead? Maybe he was just sleeping, some sick trick played on me by this killer. Leaping from the armchair, I went to the boy. Taking hold of his shoulder in my hand, I gently tried to shake him awake. The boy fell forward into my arms and I could feel his cold body against me. Then, there came two noises in quick succession: One was the sound of something rolling across the floor beside me. Glancing down, I could see that a marble had fallen from the little boy’s dead hand and was now rolling away across the wooden floor. The second noise was the sound of crying – but it wasn’t the child in my arms who made it. I’d heard that sound before. Glancing around, I could see the front door slowly closing on its rusty hinges.
Realising that it was the wolf making its escape, I swooped the little boy up into my arms, gently laid him on the sofa, and raced towards the door. I yanked it open and just caught sight of a silver, bushy tail disappearing into the darkness set amongst the trees. Tearing my coat free, I ran across the front garden and down the overgrown path towards the woods. The full moon was sinking low in the sky, and it looked mouldy-yellow, like cheese that had started to go bad.
Even before I’d reached the tree line, with my coat laying somewhere behind me, my claws were working like pistons beside me, my wings pointed upwards so as not to slow me down, like two giant sails. Racing into the darkness, I paused and listened. I heard the sound of running ahead of me, so I tore off in that direction. With my legs just a blur below me, I ran as hard and as fast as I could after the wolf. He wasn’t going to get away from me. I couldn’t let him get away.
Zipping between the trees, I caught sight of something large and silver ahead of me. It howled, the sound of it making the branches in the tree shake. Lowering my head, I propelled myself forward, gaining on the werewolf with every heartbeat. I could see it was huge, like a bear, but sleeker-looking. Its white fur glistened in the shafts of moonlight, which cut through the treetops as I darted towards it.
Ahead was a fallen tree lying across my path. Diving towards it, I used it in the same way a gymnast would use a springboard, hurling myself through the air at the wolf, which was now only feet away. With claws out and fangs bared, I rocketed towards the retreating wolf. It looked back over its shoulder, and upon seeing me, spun round. Standing on its back legs, it swiped at me with one of its mighty paws. My chest exploded with pain as the wolf clawed at me. I spun backwards through the air under the force of the blow. Instinctively, I opened my wings to try and slow my fall, but my reactions weren’t quick enough and I crashed into the trunk of a tree. It shook as if being yanked from the earth by its roots, and I fell to the ground beneath a shower of falling leaves and branches from above. I cried out as a bolt of pain twisted through my back like a corkscrew. Scrambling to my feet, I shook myself off and tried to get my bearings. Which way had the wolf fled? I turned around on the spot but couldn’t hear or see anything; it was as if the wolf had disappeared.
There was a warm sensation across my chest, and I looked down to see an ugly gash. It was open and bleeding, and looked as if it had been made with a giant can opener. Blood ran from it, over my stomach and into my navel where it started to congeal.
Then, I heard something – the sound of running. But it wasn’t a wolf; the footfalls didn’t shake the ground like that giant beast had. With my head starting to feel woozy from where I had cracked it against the tree, the world started to seesaw in front of me. Fighting to keep on my feet and to protect myself from whomever or whatever was racing towards me, I reached out and steadied myself against the nearest tree. As my legs started to buckle beneath me, I caught sight of Madison racing towards me. Her blond hair billowed out behind her like a mane, and she moved with the speed and agility that even a Vampyrus would have been proud of. Then I was falling forward. Reaching out with my claws, I took hold of something, but it wasn’t a branch or any other part of the tree. Before the darkness took me, I glanced up and could see that I had grabbed hold of Drake’s leg.12
When I woke, my chest felt like someone had used a cheese grater on it. Opening my eyes, I tried to sit up, but someone gently pushed me back down again and said, “Shhh.”
Blinking, I looked up and could see Madison was kneeling beside the camp bed I was now lying on. I was back in my room, the one with the wardrobe and the spider webs. It was still dark, but I could tell that dawn wasn’t far off. Instead of the room being in impenetrable blackness, it was filled with a gunmetal shade of grey light. Dust motes danced in the shafts of light that came in through the window.
“How did I get back here?” I asked, turning to look at her. Jeez, she’s beautiful, was my first thought as I looked at her. When I first clapped eyes on Madison in the car park outside the railway station, my first thought was that she was more than just merely pretty. But as she now knelt beside me, she looked stunning. The early morning light sparkled off her blond hair and danced in her eyes. Her skin looked as smooth as marble and I had to fight the urge to reach out and run my fingertips across her cheek. Her lips were full and blood-red and I so much wanted to…I looked away.
“Drake and I carried you here,” she said, and her voice was soft, not much more than a whisper. “You got beat up pretty bad.”
Wincing in pain, I tried to get a look at my chest, and I could see three long cuts running horizontally across it. The cuts looked open and raw, and every time I took a breath, a bolt of pain knifed its way through me.
“Keep still,” she said, taking a damp rag from a bowl of water beside her on the floor. Then, very gently, she dabbed the cloth against the cuts on my chest.
I made a hissing noise between my teeth and closed my eyes against the burning sensation which spread out across my chest.
“Don’t be such a baby,” she said softly and I could tell that there was no malice in her voice.
“There’s no need for you to be doing this,” I told her. “I can take care of myself.” And as soon as the words had escaped from me, I knew that I’d probably spoken to harshly.
“Why do you have to be so uptight all the time?” she asked, continuing to clean the cuts.
“I’m not uptight,” I replied, opening my eyes and looking at her. The ends of her hair brushed my stomach as she leant over me, and suddenly, my dream of Sophie haunted me. I could see Sophie crawling up the bed towards me, her hair brushing against my chest.
Reaching out, I took hold of Madison’s hand and said, “Enough already.”
Glancing at me with her bright, yellow eyes, she said, “If I don’t clean it properly, Potter, it could get infected.”
“I’ll chance it,” I said, pulling her hand away.
Madison placed the cloth back into the bowl and I watched as the water turned a cloudy red with my blood. “At least let me put a bandage around it,” she said.
“A bandage?” I said, cocking an eyebrow at her. “Where did you get a bandage from all the way out here?”
“I brought it with me in that rucksack – along with the flashlight,” she half-smiled at me.
Seeing Drake’s smug-looking face in my mind as he had realised that I hadn’t brought a flashlight with me, I said, “So where is that obnoxious -”
“Drake’s okay,” she said, cutting over me. “He has a lot to learn, I know, but he means well.”
I watched as she unravelled a long, white bandage and asked, “How well do you know him?”
“Well enough, I guess,” she said, binding the bandage around one of her hands. “Why do you ask?”
“I’m not sure if I totally trust the freak, that’s all,” I told her.
Then, looking at me with surprise, she said, “You don’t trust Drake? Why ever not?”
“Whatever he thinks, I didn’t take that chair outside last night, and I think you know that too,” I said as she helped me up into a sitting position. “But he was outside. I saw something moving in the woods, so I went to investigate. And who should appear from amongst the trees? Drake!”
Gently pushing me forward with the tips of her fingers so she could wrap the bandage about my chest, Madison said, “He said he was going to the bathroom.”