Hunter or Hunted?


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1. Emily

“Vampire.” The Hunter hissed, baring pathetically human teeth at me.

 

“Hunter.” I said back with a sigh. When would these guys learn? I mean really, it was just getting embarrassing – for them.

 

“You will die.” He hissed back, circling to my left slightly.

 

I leant back against the alley wall. I really hated to find myself in such a cliché moment. Yes, I was a bloodsucking creature of the night, and alright yes, I had chased my dinner down into a grungy alleyway, so shoot me. A girl’s gotta eat. And besides, the guy – alive, I might add – was being a total douche. He could stand to lose a pint of blood. He would probably even wake up tomorrow thinking he got mugged or something and was too drunk to remember it. God knows, I had a bit of a buzz going off his blood. Yes, God. Not that I was really a believer, but that was a personal preference.

 

The Hunter lunged at me and I stepped to the side, rubbing my back into the gritty feel of the brickwork behind me. He slammed into the wall and growled as I winced in mock sympathy. I tsked at him. “You’re a newbie, aren’t you?” I shook my head. “You know, Gabriel should really teach you guys some better moves before he sends you out on one of these silly little patrols.”

 

The Hunter lunged again, getting more enraged.

 

“Oh, I know.” I said, taking a few more casual steps out of range. “You have to ‘prove’ yourself before you can get into the big leagues. Right, because that makes sense and all. Tell me, how many people does Gabby have out on his ‘patrols’?”

 

He took a running start, swinging his arm out with a sharpened stake clutched in his fist. From where I was standing, I had a very good view of his hideously bad form as he went sailing by me and out of the mouth of the ally. I counted to three as he got himself back in place to attack me again. Didn’t he know that if I had wanted him dead, he would be a puddle next to douche canoe over there?

 

“You and all your filth will die for what you did to my sister!” He growled, coming in close and taking a swing at me. By this point I had had enough and I didn’t move. I hated the revenge types, at least the holier-than-thou types could have some sense snapped into them after a few losing battles with one of my kind, but the revenge acts were so blinded by hate that they would keep going until the world was bathed in blood.

 

I grabbed the hand holding the stake and twisted. His face went white and he dropped the stake before I manoeuvred him to his knees in front of me. “First of all. Whoever killed your sister, it wasn’t me. Secondly? If it was a vampire you should leave well the hell enough alone. You are going to get yourself killed and what good will that do you?” I twisted a little harder on his wrist until the bones threatened to snap under the pressure. “Lastly, tell Gabby that if I catch another one of his lackeys threatening vampires in this area, I will come chat with him personally.” I released him and he fell on his backside, staring at me with an admirable mixture of hatred and fear.

 

“Do you know him?” The Hunter spat at my feet. “Do you know the one that killed my sister?”

 

I sighed, again. This one was thick as a box of bricks. “Message, Gabby, go.”

 

“You do, don’t you? You tell Christian that I’m coming for him.” He scrambled to his feet and fled.

 

I stood rooted to the spot. I hadn’t heard that name in years. Not in relation to him. It couldn’t; actually be him, could it? It was impossible, he had… I shook it off and wrapped my arms around my waist. It was a coincidence. There were heaps of people named Christian, it didn’t mean anything, but the tingle running down my spine wouldn’t let the matter go.

 

 

 

“Emily. Nice night.” The Gatekeeper nodded as he let me through.

 

I nodded back. This place always gave me the creeps, but it was a job and my tiny one-bedroom flat didn’t pay for itself. Walking up the driveway to the massive gothic mansion I fought the urge to turn and run. It always hit me, walking up that drive, like I wasn’t meant to be there, like I was an intruder in a monster’s den and if I didn’t leave I would be eaten alive. Shaking off the feeling – barely – I walked through the heavy wooden double doors and through the reception to the changing rooms in the back. Even to some vampires my choice of jobs seemed strange. I was a nurse and I spent most of my nights working with all sorts of people. The gothic mansion had been turned into a hospital, and while it screamed of something more sinister to me, everyone I treated didn’t feel like it was anything other than a fancy-looking medical institution. It was probably for the best. If everyone felt the same way I did, I would be out of a job. This was the only place I could reliably get work only at night within a hundred-kilometre radius of my apartment.

 

Jenny, one of the other nurses, gave me a tired smile and started changing back into her regular clothes. “I wouldn’t go near the new wards.” She warned. “There are some new and mentally disturbed patients down that way. I didn’t see them but I could hear the screaming.” She gave a weak shiver and went about her business, lapsing into a zombie-like state.

 

“Thanks for the warning.” I told her retreating figure, not at all sure she heard me. Of course as soon as she was gone that was the first place I went. My curious nature was what had gotten me Turned in the first place.

 

I heard the screaming long before I saw the temporary blue curtain screens cutting off the hallway. The new wards were going to be set up in the recent extensions to the mansion, and I hadn’t thought anything of it until now. It all seemed fairly ordinary, but the closer I got to the partitions, the more I saw that seemed… strange. There was a chink in the wall, and indentation that ran all the way along the floor and up the other side of the corridor. When I looked closely at the ceiling could see a thick metallic line. It was a door, and it looked like it was designed to hold off a nuclear attack. Glancing around the corridor, I slipped through the curtain and immediately wished I hadn’t. The smell of blood hit me like a Mack truck and I recoiled. Hand-prints and drag marks were all over the walls. It looked like a scene out of a horror movie and if I hadn’t smelt the very real, very human blood, I would have thought it was some ridiculous set-up for Halloween.

 

Taking a few small, shallow breaths and willing myself not to look directly at the blood, I kept going. Several centuries of living off of blood and cleaning up muck and gore still hadn’t prepared me for a sight like this. The further I went, the worse it got. The screaming grew louder and there was something about it that just kept drawing me closer. Something familiar, something soul-shattering. Eventually I reached a set of doors. They were flung open and at odd angles that made it look like they had been blown open by force. Movement caught my eye from deeper in the room and I froze, catching sight of two people, one of whom I had never thought to see again.

 

Christian turned around, a clip board clasped in one hand, a pen in another and his clothes covered by a blood-flecked lab coat. “Emily?” He said, spotting me in the bright lights of the hallway.

 

I turned and started to run, a strange buzzing noise in between my ears blocking out all other sounds. My heart was thundering in my chest and I thought the world was about to explode, reality to come crashing down around me.

 

A heavy weight rammed into me from behind and I went down, an awful smell of blood and death invading my senses. On contact with the creature – for I was very sure it wasn’t human – a part of me that had long since been kept hidden stretched, yawned and let out a deafening howl. It was all inside my head but it was the most real thing in my world at that moment. It didn’t matter that the creature was rolling me over and looming over my prone form. It’s sharp, surreally long fangs dripping with blood didn’t matter because all there was, was the howling. That primal scream that I knew, I knew was a part of me that I had forgotten. All at once I was deathly afraid and more alive than I had ever been in life or in vampirism.

 

The creature was ripped away from me and I could focus more on what was happening around me. I could feel welts in my arms that were oozing thick, dark blood and throbbing with pain. I could feel hunger that I hadn’t felt since those first few dark moments after I had been Turned. Smells, sights, sounds came to me, sharper than they had ever been and I could almost feel the warmth of humans, just down the corridor. I could go to them. I could drain them dry, take what was left of their fleeting mortal lives. It would be easy, they would even enjoy it – if I let them.

 

“No.” Christian said firmly, seeing the direction my gaze had turned. His hand clamped down on my arm.

 

I snarled at him, trying to rip myself away. I felt some give in his grip, but it wasn’t enough for me to make my escape.

 

Emily.” He said, almost desperately. “Stop. Just stop. Take a few deep breaths, with me, okay?” He glanced up into the corner of the room and turned us, blocking us from the sight of the camera. He leaned in close. “You have to fight it.” He whispered. “It can be done, look at me.”

 

His words were hard to focus on, not with so much blood around me, but it was Christian and that was enough. It had always been enough. And then he had gone and turned feral, leaving me behind to deal with all the inquiries and examiners and the grief of knowing he would be put down like an animal… I frowned. But he was still here. The howling in my head receded and I let out a slow breath, wincing a little as the cuts on my arm started to knit back together.

 

He let out his own breath and relaxed. Another glance at the camera and he steered me out of the hallway, back through the partition and out of the mansion. We didn’t stop until we reached a small, sleek sports car. He gestured for me to get inside and I only hesitated for a few seconds before complying. He slid into the driver’s seat and took off, heading not for the front gates as I expected, but for a small, winding path down the back of the mansion. The road wound deeper and deeper into thick forest until finally we came across a small cabin. He stopped and slipped out of the car, heading inside the building.

 

The cabin was cosy, and obviously fitted for a vampire. The windows had a tinge of blue to them that indicated they filtered out UV rays and the entire building was dimly lit, which was much nicer on the eyes than the bright, sterile white of the hospital. I cleared my throat and tried to think of something to say. My head still felt a little fuzzy and I was sure that it wouldn’t take much to break whatever control Christian had managed to work for me.

 

He paced in front of a spotless fireplace for a few minutes before he looked at me. “Emily.” He said, staring at me like I shouldn’t exist.

 

“Christian.” I said back, my voice a little hoarse.

 

“I’m sorry.” He started, running his hands through his hair in a way that made the mass of black stick up all over the place. “For everything.”

 

“You – you died.” I said, in a voice that sounded small and broken even to me. It had been years since I had lost him and I had thought I had gotten over the worst of the hurt, but seeing him now was bringing all of it back.

 

“No.” He said. “Well, obviously not, but the whole thing was set up.” He looked up in time to see the hurt on my face and he started towards me, pain glittering in his eyes. “No, not like that. I swear. I wasn’t part of the set-up. I would never have…” He sighed, changing his mind and stopping in his tracks. “That feeling, right now, in the back of your head. The beast, the howling, you’ve felt that before, yes?”

 

I nodded, incapable of speech.

 

“It’s a part of us, Emily. The beast is a part of us and for a long time it ruled vampires. They couldn’t control it. We were the monsters of legend, the demons prowling through the dark and preying on the innocent.” He had that look on his face, the one that had always been able to melt me into a puddle at his feet. “A couple of centuries ago, there was a vampire, the first that managed to take some control. He had been a scientist before his turning and afterwards he started testing himself. He found a way to control the beast, and then eventually to banish it altogether.”

 

“What has that go to do with anything?” I asked, trying to make sense of the entire night.

 

“New vampires are taken in to medical centres, just like that one.” He gestured vaguely in the direction of the hospital. “They are given a cocktail of drugs and hypnotic therapy and it works. It tamps down the beast and allows us to remain human in mind, but it’s starting to wear off. Whatever is happening, the beasts are becoming immune. I went rabid because of a shot I was given, because the scientist that started it all? He wants subjects. I wanted to go back for you, Emily I swear, but I couldn’t risk having the same thing done to you. You were alright. You would have still been alright if you hadn’t… I can teach you. I can teach you how to stop yourself from giving in to the beast. You’re alright now, but you won’t be for long. It will get stronger, more demanding.” He stepped closer to me, reaching out to grab my upper arms. Before I knew what was happening, he had me in a tight embrace.

 

I melted into him. It had been so long… “Wait.” I said, pulling back. “You can’t just… not after everything.”

 

He let me go. “Is there someone else? I swear Emily, I never wanted to leave you, but I couldn’t risk leaving before I knew how to control the beast and Jericho – the scientist – he threatened that if I left to go and see you they would give you the shot too. I couldn’t do that to you. Please Emily, let me help you.”

 

For a long moment I stood there just staring at him. I had lived a long time and in all that time I had never met anyone that made me feel the same way he did. It was more than lust or friendship or even that silly little emotion called love. It was deeper than that. Some instinct urged me towards him and I was helpless to do anything but obey. The howling in my head grew stronger as I watched him. The beast wanted something, but it wasn’t blood, or death or violence. “Do you feel that?” I asked, stepping back into his warmth.

 

His eyes met mine. “I always have.”

 

“Don’t ever leave for my sake again.” I warned him. “You will regret it.”

 

“Never.” He agreed.

 

“Teach me.” I said.

 

 

 

Many months later.

 

“You were right. Jericho was a hunter before he was turned.” Christian said, as he held down the vampire.

 

“Makes sense, sort of.” I replied, flashing my fangs at the terrified guard. He thought we were rabid, and in a way he was right. We had already dispatched with Jericho and his band of lunatics and were gathering up every new vampire we could find.

 

“Relax.” Christian told the guard. “We aren’t going to hurt you, are we honey?” He asked me.

 

“Of course not. You see.” I leant in close. “There’s a part of you that’s been taken away and we want to give it back to you. Learn to anticipate its needs and you don’t have to be any more evil than you want to be – unless you would rather take your odds with a long, painful and rather slow death that is.”

 

Christian smiled. “You’ve been poisoned. You might feel fine now, but tomorrow, next week, next year? You will be out for blood and lots of it. You will starve to death in a sea of blood. Join us and live.”

 

The guard’s eyes lit up a blood red and Christian sighed, snapping his neck. “I hate it when it’s too late.”

 

“We’ll save as many as we can.” I said, staring up at the imposing structure. “That’s all we can do.”

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