The Changing

Avery is a Slayer. The best there is. It's all she knows, all she cares about; eradicating vampires that her family have been battling for generations. She lives in the Halved World- a place where dreams and the dead have as much power as the the substantial and the living.
But when a new danger threatens the foundation of who she is, and the battle is one raged inside herself, can Avery hold onto her humanity? Or will she be forced to make a sacrifice...the ultimate sacrifice...

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1. Waking

   Vivid, throbbing images seared and pulsed beneath my tightly-closed eyelids.

  I twisted, the duvet scratchy and stifling against my cold, slick skin.

  The movement caused another stab of pain to twist through my stomach and gullet; it felt as though red-hot hooks were slowly scraping away the lining of my innards.

  The pain ripped at me. I clawed at the covers, my spine arching and twisting, my limbs flailing wildly. A tiny, panting gasp escaped my clenched teeth, tearing at my throat; a film of pain glazed my eyes till all I could see were my pale knuckles pressing through my skin as I tore at my pillow. Waves of agony coursed through my body, great shuddering waves, till finally, suddenly, it stopped.

  I crumpled like a rag doll, my limbs suddenly as substantial as feathers. My body slipped off the bed onto the polished floorboards and I lay, panting, gasping, feeling the air whoosh through my lungs and the sweat chill my skin, watching the ceiling sway above me. I kept wincing, waiting for the inevitable return of the pain, but it didn't come.

  I felt tiny, vulnerable, a pale bundle of stick-thin limbs tangled on my bedroom floor. And terrified. Absolutely terrified.

  I knew what was happening to me, of course; I'd lived with a family of Slayers for too long to ignore the symptoms any more. I was Changing. Still in the early stages yet, but progressing rapidly. Soon I wouldn't even have-

 Oh God! Oh God! No, no, wait- just wait- I scrabbled for the buttons of my blouse, fingers pressing against my neck. I couldn't find it! I couldn't find my pulse!

  Then I relaxed, hand still clamped around my neck, index finger pushing against my jugular. There it was- a pulse, a steady thump...thump...thump... But way too slow. Way, way too slow.

  With a chill I diagnosed my own case automatically, as I had so many times before with other people. Four days since bite, severe and frequent cramps, pulse barely reaching five or six beats a minute...

  The conclusion jumped out at me, unwanted but irresistible.

...Changing is progressing rapidly, subject will be powerful once fully Changed, almost certainly a Higher Ordained. Subject most likely has natural affinity for vampirism and accompanying tendencies...

...subject must be immediately terminated.

  I shuddered.

  A natural infinity for Vampirism? It wasn't possible. My mother's family were all Slayers, always had been, and my dad's... I slumped. A complete mystery. Yes, it was possible.

   It would explain my heightened senses, my acute diagnostic skills, my often unexplainable leaps of intuition on a Hunt.

  It meant that as soon as the Change was complete, in a matter of days if I had read the symptoms correctly, I would rise to become a Higher Ordained; a terrible danger to everyone around me, and sooner or later the subject of my own Hunt.  I would become one of them, the very beings I had dedicated my life to eradicating. I would be a monster. A killer. Unless...

  Was it too late? I had to try. I had to. My eyesight seemed unnaturally sensitive and sharp in the normally gloomy light of my bedroom, another tell-tale sign I tried to push out of my mind.

   Under the bed- yes, under the bed. I pulled out my knife, small so as to fit in the curve of my wrist and palm but with a wickedly sharp, ruthless blade. My hands shook wildly, whether from the aftermath of my attack or some freak symptom of the Change or pure terror... I didn't know and I didn't want to know.

  As I laid the blade against the soft inside of my wrist I marvelled at the paleness of my  skin, the translucency of my flesh; I could see the spiderweb traces of veins visible just below the surface.

  There was no blood in those veins, not a drop. I knew that without even the slightest slash of the knife. That was the worst thing of all; I knew this illness, this Changing, completely, utterly, every inch of it, I knew it like my own child. 

  And I knew that it was to late to reverse the process. I knew there was nothing I could do. I was totally aware of my own helplessness.

  The knife slipped out of my fingers and clattered to the floor.

  Get a grip on yourself girl, I told myself. You're only making matters worse by panicking. Think practically; what are you going to do about this? The answer came to me after a moment, and I knew with a certainty it was the only reasonable, plausible option left to me. I also knew, with a cynical realism, that it was by far the most dangerous.

   I had to find the witches. I had persuade them to give me their Changeling brew; without letting on that I was going through the Changing. If they found out- if they discovered my secret- they would kill me. And it would not be an easy death. To deceive the infamously shrewd and suspicious witches would take a great deal of cunning, a great deal of skill, and a great deal of lying.

   Thankfully, lying is something I am very good at.

   I dressed quickly; a tight black jumper, skinny black trousers, a hooded grey cape and pale brown lace-up canvas shoes. My hair is scooped up underneath a knitted black cap and I put fingerless grey woollen gloves over my hands- I like to keep my fingers free, and the cold isn't going to bother me for much longer.

   My rucksack holds a change of clothes, two days' rations, a book of maps, a sleeping bag, a compass and a witch amulet. I fasten my Slayer's crest to the neck of my jumper.

   As I look around the room it strikes me that I've never really thought of it as home; that I've never thought of anywhere as home, really. It certainly doesn't look homely; bare wooden boards, blank white walls, a wardrobe and a bed. The only place that actually sparks any emotional response from me is the window. I've always preferred windows to their rooms, and I've never seen it as a flaw.

 

Goodbye, room. Nice knowing you.

 

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