The Shoal Isle

   "So,   you're him, huh?" said the newcomer. I did not know his name. "Well, old man, why don't you leave us for a bit, so I can educate the newbie." It was not a question.

Geoff glared in his direction for a moment, before nodding and exiting the room. I suddenly realized that I hadn't heard the stranger enter; apparently my mind was more in shock than I realized.

"No, Josiah, you didn't hear me because I didn't want you to." How did he know what I was thinking? "Easy. Vampires can read minds. Well, not all minds, and not normally each others'...but I'm getting ahead of myself." He smiled at me reassuringly. "First, I suppose introductions are in order. My name is Drew, Drew Cameron. You, of course, are Josiah Langston." I liked this boy already; he looked to be about my age, and I didn't get the feeling of hidden malice that I received from Geoff. "Of course you don't. I don't hate all vampires like he does. And I might look like I'm seventeen, but I guarantee you I have seen many more years of life than you." Jeez, I wish he'd quit doing that.

Sitting down in a chair placed next to the bed, he continued. "I'm sorry, Josiah. It is kinda rude for me to do that, I guess. And I know this is hard for you; you've just crossed and there's a flood of information you're receiving, and more to come." He leaned down to whisper in my ear. "Can you keep a secret?" I nodded. "Everyone here thinks I'm about ninety-four years old." I nearly gasped. "That's not really true, I'm actually much older, probably one of the oldest vampires in the city. The 'official' oldest is a guy named Tim. But there are really two of us that are actually older than him; the other is even more of a secret than I am. He's almost a legend...the only name we have for him is Comicality." What the hell kind of name is that? "But anyway, that is neither here nor there."

I almost felt like he was bullshitting me. He smiled at me, again reading my thoughts. "Um...well, what do you want with me?"

"I'm not lying to you, Josiah. You're the only other vampire I've been allowed contact with here; I guess after this long, you need to tell SOMEBODY! Hehehe!" He reached down to grasp my hand with his own. "Anyway, as for why I'm here...I guess I'm supposed to be your vampire 'teacher'. I'm here to make your transition easier for you."

"Um, ok. Thanks, I guess." I managed to push out. "What, uh where do we start?"

He grinned, showing his teeth. He was kinda cute. "Thanks, yourself. Sorry! I just said I wouldn't do that. You get kinda used to it...anyway. The beginning...

"OK, let's start physically. You were bitten almost four weeks ago, Josiah." Four weeks! "The changeover usually takes about this long before your body and mind become accustomed enough to allow you to wake. Normally you'd be feeling immense hunger pains right now, but since we can't really allow you to feed yet, you were placed on a plasma IV. So you should be OK for a month or so." Wait. Plasma IV? "Yes, that's right. We really do drink blood. Human blood, to be exact. Forget what you may have seen in movies. Animal blood can keep you alive for a short time if you have nothing else to use, but in order to sustain us for long periods of time, we need fluids closer to our own biological makeup. Only the blood of a living human will truly work; you could drink from someone who was already dead, given that they had not been deceased too long, or drink from like, a blood clinic or something, but again you really need to get it from someone live for it to be OK. I'm getting ahead of myself again, but I guess I can say a bit more on this subject. Try not to drink from someone with a disease or someone who is under the influence of any substances - beer, drugs, whatever. If your donor is drunk, you'll be drunk as long as his blood is in your system; the same for someone who's sick. It usually lasts about a month or so, if you fill the tank up, so to speak. You see, Josiah, our bodies are essentially dead. We no longer produce our own blood, so we need to drink from the living to sustain us. Our bodies will use their resources until it's gone, and then we need to feed again. 'Human' food is no longer digestible, and will just pass right through you, if you don't puke it up first. Drugs and alcohol will still have an effect on you, and work nearly the same as they do for humans. With me so far?"

I nodded. "Wait, how will I know if someone is...if they have good blood?"

"Heh, well as long as you're with us, you won't have to worry. The Hunters supply us; they don't want their chosen in anything but top condition. You'll be able to accustom yourself to the 'smell' of it. It's not really a smell, but that's the closest word that can be used to describe it. Once you've been exposed to the good stuff enough, you'll be able to tell the bad on your own. Generally you shouldn't need to worry about it; like I said, they'll supply us. It's very rare that you'll need to hunt on your own. Anyway, I think that's enough on that subject."

"Hang on, another question." I giggled at his look; he appeared to dislike being interrupted. "Sorry...but who are these 'Hunters' you're talking about? And 'us' mean you're a...vampire too?"

He gave me that cute grin again. "Yeah, I'm one too. The Hunters...I think I'll let Geoff explain that to you. Don't worry about it for now." I frowned at his evasion, but I let it slide. "Anyway. As I was saying, physical changes. Your body is much more powerful than that of a human, Josiah. All of your senses are increased. Sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch - everything. Your reflexes are better, you can move faster, you're stronger than any human in the history of their existence. In fact, after training, you'll be able to make Bruce Lee at his finest, look geriatric." This time we both grinned. "Actually, before we move on, I wanna show you something. Look at the wallpaper over there." He pointed at the far wall.

"Um, ok. What about it?" This didn't make a lot of sense.

"Wait, first, let's get a little more light in here, that will make it easier." I frowned, remembering being blinded before. Apparently Drew was still reading me. "Don't worry, your eyes should have adjusted by now. It won't be bad at all." He reached over my head to flick the switch, and the room brightened. I hadn't even noticed the light was still off; I had been getting used to it. He was right, though, as the light seemed normal enough. "Oh yeah. We have excellent night vision, as you probably noticed. The reason it nearly burned out your eyeballs before was that your body was still adjusting, and you were probably magnifying. Before you ask, magnifying is what I was about to show you. Look at the wall again. Concentrate on the designs of the wallpaper. Just focus, and you'll be able to see it soon enough."

I stared hard at the wall, but I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to do. Was this like those 3-D puzzles where you have to unfocus your eyes to see the hidden picture? "Just concentrate, Josiah." I continued staring, following the intricate design that repeated around the room. Just when I was about to give up, something seemed to...shift. Suddenly it was like I was looking through a pair of binoculars; it was like my nosed was pressed up against the wall. It happened again, and this time I noticed the wallpaper was actually a series of fractals - the design was repeated within the original design. I tried to make it happen consciously this time, and it shifted again, to yet another set of fractals! I tried again, and this time was rewarded with a piercing pain in the front of my skull.

"Don't push it too far yet, Josiah. It takes time. Soon enough, with a bit of practice, you'll be able to...slide...around with it, use it to look at things both near and far, even both at once, without even thinking about it."

"Also, listen to my voice. Actually listen to it, how loud I'm speaking to you. Not just how loud you're...understanding me to sound, but how loud I'm really speaking. Kinda like, how many decibels is my voice right now? Hehe." I did as he said, and realized that he was basically whispering, yet I could hear him perfectly. He was right - my senses were magnified immensely. "If Geoff were here right now, he wouldn't be able to hear me unless he was standing right next to me. Of course, humans will still speak at their normal tone, which is going to sound loud to you; again, like with your sight, it will take time but your mind will learn to automatically adjust."

"Ok, what else? Um...ahh yes. Physical characteristics. A bittersweet quality, in my opinion. You will never age, Josiah, nor will you gain or lose weight. Your hair won't grow, you won't have to worry about shaving, etcetera. Actually, that's only partially correct. Your hair will want to remain as long as it is now. It will not grow past that point; however if you cut it, it will quickly return to this length. Same with shaving and anything else. Sounds pretty good, right? The reason I say it's bittersweet is that you're stuck how you are. If there's anything you wished to change about your body, it's too late now. And after a few centuries it can get kind of old. Hair dye is about the only thing you can do to change anything." He smiled again. "But I guess it really isn't that bad. Another feature of this is that we regenerate; any wounds you receive will heal back to perfect condition. Depending on their severity, they may take longer to heal. Severed limbs take a very long time; trust me, I know."

We both laughed. "Ok, sounds great. So what are the drawbacks? Sunlight, garlic, crosses, and all that?"

He laughed again. "Forget what you've seen in the movies. Some of the legends are true, though. Vampires are severely allergic to silver; garlic sends us into anaphylactic shock. And sunlight will cause us to blow up like a bunch of fireworks. Actually, any UV light will burn us, but if you sit outside when the sun comes up, well...BOOM!" That sucks. No more sunlight. No sitting outside with my friends all night, watching the sun set as we built a bonfire and then rise again as it burnt itself out. "Oh yeah, that's another one. Your life, your old life that is, is gone. Josiah Langston is dead, for as much as the human world is concerned. You can't go back, ever. It will raise too many questions for us, and will only cause pain to everyone involved again."

He stopped to let me reflect on this for a little bit. I could never see my family or friends again? My dad lost my mother a couple years ago, and now he lost me? How would he be able to handle it? He couldn't. And my friends...I could feel my anger starting to swell up again. Ever since that incident at school, I kept a tight rein on it, and it hadn't been able to take over again. Lately, though, it seemed like it was trying to break free more and more, like it had a life of its own. I know I have problems to cope with there, but it was something I just didn't want to deal with. Besides, I didn't ask for this! I didn't want to become a vampire! Nobody gave me a choice or offered this to me, it was forced on me! Why the fuck did this have to happen! I realized my anger was building again. Stamping it back down, I looked back at Drew.

"OK...That's going to be hard, but I guess that's how it is. So what else?"

"Shit, they pick me to be a teacher..." He let out a small giggle. "I'm forgetting tons of stuff, I know it. Well, don't worry; what you don't figure out on your own, you can just ask me about, and I'll do what I can. I guess I'll move on to the mental changes, now."

"Mental changes? Like what, I'll have an IQ of 400 now or something?" I laughed.

"Hehe, not exactly." Drew replied. "Although that would be cool. Yeah, you'll have increased intelligence. It's kinda hard to explain how that works. It's only limited to limits your mind sets for itself; if you think you can be smarter, you will. We all set our own boundaries. That's about as well as I can explain it. Anyway, what I was going to say, is that you kinda gain...mental powers. They manifest themselves both mentally and physically, but they're all caused by your mind. One of them we all possess is the ability to read human minds." Realization hit me - that's how I knew Geoff's name. "Yeah, that's right. You probably picked that up without realizing it. Again, with practice, you'll be able to use that quite effectively. Also, due to your increased mental ability, your mind is not normally penetrable by other vampires. However, we all get abilities that are somewhat particular to us. For example, I'm able to read your mind. You won't be able to read mine, unless that's one of your 'gifts', so to speak. The street name for these abilities is 'extras' - kinda like, extra powers, y'know? Mine is that I'm a reader - I can read vampire's minds as well as humans. It's a very rare ability among us; over the course of my lifetime, I've met less than ten. And I've met a LOT more than ten vampires, let me tell you. Another ability, the rarest 'common' ability, you could say, is referred to as 'mimic' - that extra allows a vampire to pick up extras from other vampires just by coming in contact with them. In a way, as I said, this is the rarest ability a vampire will have. There are some vampires who have had 'unique' extras - no one else has had them according to our records; in fact these are probably new abilities that are surfacing in the latest generations of vampires, so we'll probably be seeing more of them. 'Mimics' are so rare as to almost be unique. I've only met TWO of those; one of them just recently. Actually that vampire was both a 'reader' and a 'mimic' and even had a unique ability: a kind of 'psychic blast' he could unleash." Drew paused for a moment. "That's another thing exceptional about this vampire. Most extras are 'internal' - they basically affect only us, our own minds or bodies. His was one of very few that could be said to be 'external'."

"But anyway, I'm getting way off topic. Back on the subject of mimics and extras...After we've become proficient in our own abilities, we can share our extras with others. However, a mimic can learn someone else's extra without being taught. They can also pick up physical abilities. I've seen a mimic basically become a black belt in seven different martial arts, just by fighting one group of opponents. He learned their entire fighting styles just by being hit with them a few times. Surprised the shit out of the guys he was fighting, heh. I'm rambling again; sorry, I tend to do that sometimes. Anyway some other extras can be physical things such as extra speed, even more than a vampire normally has; telepathy, the ability to read others' emotions and feel them yourself...well, there's an almost infinite number of possibilities for them. Basically, your mind creates them from your background - the experiences of your life help determine your emotional persona, and that persona creates your extras. In time your extras will manifest themselves; that used to be the only way to find out what they were. However there are a few vampires with the extra of being able to divine others' natures, and thus they can figure out what a new vampire's extra will be."

"Wow, that's awesome. I'll be like a superhero or something, huh?" I said gleefully. "Watch out for the amazing SuperJosiah, haha!" It was lame, I know, but who cares?

Drew laughed with me. "Something like that. We'll have you tested later."

"Say Drew, what happened to this super-special vampire you were talking about? Is he around here somewhere?" I asked.

" Well, we don't really know what happened to him. Justin had...problems. That was his name," Drew answered. He sounded so sad. "Unfortunately he...disappeared. But don't worry about that, Josiah. Right now you still need time to adjust to everything. I know there's a lot that I'm not remembering to tell you, that's why I have a better idea." He leaned down close to me again. "You can't tell anyone about this; nobody else here knows I have this ability. I trusted you with my 'age' secret; this is infinitely more important. You can not tell ANYONE about this. Don't even think about it, in case there's another reader around here that I don't know about. OK?"

I nodded. I'm sure he could tell my sincerity from my thoughts; he seemed to truly want to help me, I didn't want to break his trust.

"Good. As well as reading other vampire's thoughts, I can transmit my own thoughts to them. I can't do it to humans. Their minds aren't strong enough, and the normally die; only a few lived, and they went quite mad. It also requires physical contact, so I can't just do it to whoever I want, whenever I want. And I never do it without consent. If you wish, I can use this to help you - I can transfer some of my knowledge to you; you won't remember it all right away, but it will aid you in your adjustment as a vampire. Like I said, it's up to you. I promise not to fuck around with your mind while I do it, too." He grinned at me.

I nodded again; I hope he was joking about being able to fuck up my brain, but this was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

"OK. Let's get to it." He pressed the fingertips of his right hand against the side of my head; with the other hand, he grasped mine and held it firmly. His hands were smooth and soft; I was starting to develop a crush on this boy. Boy...haha, this 'boy' was probably a hundred times older than me. Wow, what a live forever.

My rambling thoughts were cut short as images suddenly flashed through my mind. Things I could not comprehend, thoughts that didn't belong to me, visions of times long past and situations that didn't happen to me. They went by far too quickly for me to dwell on any for long enough to understand them. I tried to just let them run through, and they only increased in speed. After a few seconds that seemed like hours, it was over. I let out a breath that I didn't even realize I was holding, and collapsed upon the bed.

Drew sagged visibly in his chair; it must have been draining on him, too. "Heh, what a rush, huh? Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot to mention. When I just did that, some of your own past experiences slip through, kinda like a trade. I'm sorry, I should have told you that. Don't worry, though; I'll probably forget about it by the time I walk out the door, hehe. And I won't tell anyone about the park." He winked at me as my face reddened. God, that had been embarrassing!

Drew glanced at his watch. "Damn, it's three already? Shit! I have to get going. Fuckin' computer maintenance...anyway I'll be back to check up on you, dude. Hang tight. Geoff should be back pretty soon, he'll give you more information about the Hunters and what we do here, OK?" He shook my hand and suddenly bent down to kiss me on the lips! "Hehehe...well, you were wishing you could do that, and it's only fair since I didn't tell you the whole thing about my extra. Besides, you're pretty cute yourself!" He winked at me again and ducked out the door before I could say anything.

Drew hurried back to his 'office'; at least that's how he referred to it. He would rather get back to his computer lab without running into Geoff. He hated having to lie to Josiah, but was necessary. He had just reached the door to the lab when a voiced called out from behind him.

"Drew, wait up." Damnit, he was so close!

"Yeah, Geoff, what is it? I have work to do." He turned to face the old man.

"Did everything go OK? He didn't resist your Transmission, did he?" Drew shook his head. "Good. The Implant went successfully?"

Drew nodded. "It probably wasn't even necessary. You know how much I hate messing with people's minds. Besides, the kid has enough anger in him already to fuel a thousand fires."

"That may be," Geoff replied. "but I am taking no chances with this one. Finally the Hunters will have a true weapon at their disposal!" The old man's eyes seemed to glow with a feverish light. "Finally, we'll be able to rid ourselves of their kind once and for all!"

"Hey old man, don't forget that I'm one of 'their kind' too!" Drew growled. "Do you honestly think I really enjoy watching my brethren be murdered? Sure, I hate what they do as much as the next person, but we don't normally really have a choice!"

"Do I detect rebellion in your voice, Drew?" Geoff smiled evilly. "How do you think our superiors would like what you just said? And don't you forget, I still have this." He reached into his pocket and removed a device that looked very similar to a cellphone. "All I need to do is push this button. The higher-ups will believe any story I tell them. And don't even THINK that they'll believe you and I had this conversation. You know as well as I do that they'll believe a human's word over a vampire's any day."

Drew scowled. He had not killed a human in years for any reason other than self-defense, but at this moment he would have loved nothing more than to be able to drink from this one. He wouldn't kill the old fool, either; no, he'd inject Geoff with the toxins that would make him a vampire, too. It would be the worst torture possible for this human; make him into the thing he hated most. He couldn't, of course; one signal from the remote Geoff held in his hand, and Drew Cameron would exist no more.

"Now," the old man continued, a smirk drawing up the corners of his mouth, "we have been nice enough not to put you in direct contact with them. You technically have no blood on your hands. Feel lucky that it has not been suggested that you would be a proficient weapon on the front lines, too." Drew nodded grudgingly. "Good. I'll assume this matter closed, then. Did you mention anything of our organization's purpose, or his role for us, to him?"

"No. I told him you would explain everything he needed to know when he asked." Drew answered. "Say, when do you want me to take him to be tested?"

"Not yet. I'll let you know when. We still have...other discuss with him before we can allow him out."

"Fine. Are we finished here, then? I have tons of code that needs work."

"Yes. Go ahead." Geoff nodded. "I'm going to go have a chat with our young friend."

The old man stepped away, and Drew breathed a sigh of relief. Geoff's finger had been entirely too close to that button. His fingers unconsciously rubbed the spot just under his heart. He could still feel the slight scar from when that had been inserted; for some reason, it had not healed like it should have. Sighing again, Drew turned and opened the door back to his lab.

I gingerly tried climbed out of the bed. Muscles that had not been used in weeks cried out in agony, and I nearly collapsed. Damn, this was going to be more difficult than I thought. I laid back, trying to regain some strength. After a few minutes, I was able to sit back up. I stretched my legs out, straining my weakened muscles, and worked them, trying to regain a bit of strength. After a few moments, I tried to stand again. This time there was little, if any, pain. Drew must have been right about that regeneration thing.

I took a few steps, and finding no difficulty, moved towards the door. I didn't want to stay here any longer than I had to. Drew seemed nice enough, but this whole place gave off a feeling that was just...wrong. I reached the door, and stopped. There was no doorknob, no handle, nothing to give a way to open it; there weren't even hinges! But the door wasn't like on Star Trek or something, where it would slide open and closed; I had seen the door swing out when Geoff came in. What the hell?!?!

Suddenly, my acute hearing picked up footsteps just outside the door. I barely had time to literally JUMP back into bed - I just jumped six feet from a standing position! Cool! - before the door swung open. How the hell did they do that?

To my dismay, it was not Drew returning, but Geoff. I instantly sensed that feeling of maliciousness from him; and for a brief moment, less than a second, I saw an aura around him, mostly red but with touches of yellow and black. What the fuck was THAT all about?!

"Hello again, young one." Geoff's mouth turned up into a smile, which was not reflected at all in his eyes. "How are you feeling? Better, I hope."

"Yeah. I think I could outrun a horse, now!" I answered, trying to sound giddy.

"Heh, I don't doubt that you could." He smiled falsely again. "However, it is best that you remain in bed still. Your body is probably not quite as acclimated as you think." Somehow I was aware that he knew I had been up just now; must be that mind-reading thing Drew mentioned. "For now, rest is the best thing. But at this moment, you and I have a little more to discuss."

"Um...ok," I answered, not liking the sound of that. "What's up?"

"You've probably heard both Drew and I mention something called the 'Hunters'. I think it's time we told you just what the Hunters are, and why you are here." He sat down in the same chair that Drew had; I swear I heard his bones creaking. "Well...I'll cut right to the truth. The Hunters are a small, secretive group whose sole purpose is to hunt vampires. We hunt them down and destroy them." Suddenly my blood ran cold. Why were they keeping me here? Was I to be tortured? "Don't worry, Josiah. You are in no least for the moment. Basically, I want you to join us. You've already talked to Drew, he has been helping us for about the last thirty years or so. He is among a select few vampires who are also Hunters; they have joined us to help eradicate their brethren."

"But...but why? Why would they do that? And why would you kill them?" My mind was in shock. Not only have I died and have come back as the undead, but now I'm expected to help kill people? What the fuck is all this?

"Relax, Josiah. Calm yourself. First, we Hunt because vampirism is a disease, a disease which we are trying to wipe from the planet. I mean this literally; the reason you became a vampire is that when you were bitten, a large amount of a certain toxin was released into your bloodstream. This, in turn, caused the changes you now see before you." He paused for a moment. "But you see, while one could look upon being a vampire as a gift, it is also a curse. Aside from the fact that you can exist only during daylight hours, you must also drink human blood. And in order to prevent your...donor...from becoming like you, you must kill them. We cannot allow murderers to roam free, do you understand?"

I nodded, but more so only to appease him than because I agreed with him. We aren't a disease...we can't be! It seems more like a separate race to me. And you can't really count it as murder, we're only feeding. God, I haven't even done it yet, and I say 'we' - and I don't know if I can even go through with it! Sure, what I just thought sounds good in my head, but actually going through with it is a different story.

"Now then...You have a choice, Josiah." Suddenly his voice took on a dangerous note; his eyes lit up in...anticipation was the only feeling I could get from him. "You can help us, or you can be destroyed."

Wow. What a choice. I can't do either! I can't go and murder people! Sure, I'd probably have to kill when feeding, but that's only to keep myself humans hunting animals for food. But this is more like a sport...and the set of teeth that Geoff had earlier was almost like a trophy! Despite how messed up all of this sounds, I think these guys are even MORE fucked up!

"I understand this is not a difficult choice for you, even newly turned as you are." Geoff stood and began heading to the door. "I'll give you some time to think on it. You must have a decision when I return, though, or one will be made for you."

His hand moved toward the door - I still don't know how he opened it! - when suddenly the lights flickered off and the door seemed to explode! It blew into the room, sending the old man flying against the far wall! I couldn't see anything through the smoke and debris, but I heard sounds of fighting coming from outside. Geoff lay unmoving, buried underneath the top half of the door; the rest of it lay in pieces around the room. I jumped off the bed and pressed myself against the wall. What was going on?

"Hey! Hey you, in there!" came a young-sounding voice from outside. "Josiah! Are you in here?" Who was this and how did they know my name?

A dark shape appeared in the doorway. My newly-enhanced sight couldn't make out much; the overhead water sprinklers had turned on, and I was becoming soaked, but there was still a lot of smoke near the door, and the room was pitch black (at least to human eyes).

"Josiah?" said the figure, and stepped into the room. The person that entered was not at all what I expected. Through the door came a boy of about sixteen. He had short brown hair, brown eyes, and a tiny shag of small goatee on his chin. Waving smoke from in front of his face, he spoke. "Are you Josiah?" I nodded. "Come with me, we're getting you out of here."

"Huh? What? What's going on?" I asked. "Who are you? What's going on out there?"

"We don't really have time for questions. Suffice it to say, I'm Bryson, and what's going on out here is a battle. Now come on!" He waved me toward the door.

I looked back toward Geoff's prone form. Well, it's better than hanging around him...

Bryson and I ran out the door into the midst of chaos. There were people everywhere; most were dressed in a dark uniform and I assumed them to be Hunters; the rest were a small group of what appeared to be teenagers. They must have been vampires, however; no human could move that fast. The whole lot of them was doing a good job of keeping the Hunters busy while Bryson helped me; however I realized that any second now, reinforcements might arrive, and that might include some of the other hunter-vampires. Odds might be different, then.

"Everyone, fall back! We've got him...let's get the hell outta here!" Bryson shouted. We began making our way down one of the hallways. Fortunately for us, none of the guards seemed to be armed with anything more than nightsticks or the like. Just as we neared the end of the hallway, another group of Hunters came around the corner opposite corner, led by Drew! We were trapped!

"Shit! Regroup everybody!" Bryson said. The others all pressed together around us. "We need to find a way out of here. Dion, where the fuck is that mutt of yours?"

A cute black boy to my right looked over his shoulder at us, his hazel eyes seeming to glow in the dim light. "Bryson, any other time I'd call you down for that, but I'm starting to wonder that myself!"

What were they talking about? And why had the Hunters stopped attacking? The first group had remained where they were when Drew's group arrived; they seemed to be staying only to prevent us from getting through that way. The other group stood where they were as well, and seemed to be setting up a tripod or stand of some sort. There was a distance of about 100 feet between the original group of Hunters and ourselves; the second group had about half that much space.

"Oh shit," Bryson muttered next to me. "Napoleon better find us before they finish."

Occasionally one or two of our group would make an attack at the Hunters who were preparing the tripod, but kept being pushed back the large number of Hunters. No matter how many they took out, more seemed to keep showing up. I saw Drew signaling, giving orders to some of them, and saw two Hunters running up behind them, carrying something between them. It looked like a gun...oh shit! They were going to mount a cannon or something there and blow us all up at once! And who was Napoleon?

I glanced behind Drew and saw another two Hunters coming our way. Jesus, how many of these guys were there? Something odd struck me about the new arrivals; they didn't seem to move right. They were too fluid, too graceful; the way the moved made them seem almost like...weapons. Suddenly it dawned on me that these two were vampires, as well. Shit, things were getting worse by the second. We need to get the fuck out of here!

I noticed a growling sound seeming to come from the wall behind us. I had actually heard it earlier, but it was becoming increasingly louder. NOW what was going to attack us?

"All right! Here he comes!" Bryson shouted. "Plug your ears, Josiah." I looked and saw that the rest of our group had already done so, and I hastily clapped my hands over my own ears. No sooner had I done so than an intense pounding sounded from behind the wall to my left. The wall began to collapse outward and I watched in disbelief as a large dog smashed its way through. The black boy to my right - what was his name? Dion? - was grinning. He winked at me and mouthed, "It's Napoleon."

Everyone else had stopped to stare in amazement as this hound growled ferociously at the approaching Hunters. Drew was the first to regain his senses and ordered his men to continue preparing their weapon. I started to lower my hands and Bryson immediately screamed at me to keep them cover. What was the problem?

My question was answered when the dog began growling. It started out small and began increasing. Soon it sounded like a rockslide. It kept growing louder and louder. Suddenly the dog howled; it could have been likened to a normal howling, only through about thirty megaphones. I swear I saw the walls actually VIBRATE. We all clutched our heads in agony, still trying to block out as much of the sound as possible with our hands. The Hunters were rolling on the ground; to them, it probably was not quite as bad, since they did not have the enhanced hearing of a vampire. I saw that Drew had also covered his ears; of course, he would have read the others' thoughts and knew what would happen.

The two vampires that had shown up to assist their fellow Hunters were a different story, however. They, too, were clutching their heads in pain. Spittle was forming at their mouths, and blood leaked from their ears and noses. Napoleon was STILL howling; he must have been going for about thirty or forty seconds straight, now. The two vampires fell to their knees; their arms dropped to their sides. Their eyes were unfocused, staring at nothing; apparently I was learning this eyesight thing like Drew said. The enemy vampires were now shuddering uncontrollably; their eyes seemed to bulge in their sockets, and after a few seconds more, exploded! Ooze dripped from the now-empty sockets. It was one of the most disgusting things I had ever seen. My ears began to adjust themselves to Napoleon's howl; it was still as intense as before, but now I could discern other sounds. The two vampires were moaning like...the living dead, actually, like the old black and white zombie movies. Their shuddering was becoming more intense, and they were now thrashing about wildly, arms flailing like rag dolls.

Napoleon's howl somehow seemed to change frequency and become an ear-piercing whine. Everyone in our group fell to their knees; even covering our ears, it was incredibly painful. I can only imagine what it felt like for those two vampires. Apparently it was too high for the humans to hear; they were starting to pick themselves up from the ground. The enemy vampires were now strangely still; they kneeled on the floor, hands at their sides, motionless. Were they dead? My question was again answered as their heads simply exploded! Blood, brains, and pieces of flesh now decorated the walls and floors like a picture out of a Freddy Krueger movie. I bent over, holding my stomach, and nearly lost my lunch...well, I would have nearly lost it if had had lunch!

Napoleon's howl quickly died down, and the others began picking themselves up off the floor. Dion was petting Napoleon, telling him how good a boy he was. I guess he HAD been, he probably saved all our lives. Plus, he had given us an escape route - the wall he had broken through led right outside! Before any of us could move, however, I heard Drew shout, "FIRE!" I glanced over in his direction and wished I hadn't done so.

The cannon device was completed, and two of the human Hunters were aiming it in our direction. A third stood behind it, and pulled the trigger. There was a bright flash, blinding me; what sounded like a peal of thunder echoed down the hall. I looked back at our group; everyone seemed present and accounted for. Wait a moment, what was wrong with Dion? His face was scowled in a mixture of anger, fear, and sadness. I followed his gaze down to the ground...and saw Napoleon, a gaping hole in his chest, where the projectile from the cannon had gone straight through. A pool of blood was beginning to form around the dog's body. It was so red, so beautiful, so delicious-looking...Wait a minute, Josiah, what the fuck is wrong with you? That's disgusting! I shook my head to clear these thoughts out, and looked at Bryson.

He was staring back at the cannon in shock. He visibly shook himself and shouted at us to get moving. We had scattered slightly when the Hunters had fired, and I was furthest from the new exit except for Bryson himself. The others began heading out; thankfully the cannon apparently couldn't fire very quickly. I looked back over and saw Drew ordering the Hunters as he worked on the cannon. Maybe it was SUPPOSED to fire more than once; it looked like it may have damaged itself. I think this is one time where I'm thankful for faulty technology! Hehehe...

Bryson was shouting at me to move, now. The other Hunters, realizing we were going to way, were running down the hall; they would be here in a few seconds. The group with the cannon seemed to be making excellent headway on repairs; I overheard Drew telling them to begin aiming again so they could take out a few more before we got outside. I ran to hole in the wall, with Bryson right in front of me, and noticed that Dion hadn't moved. "C'mon, man, let's go!" I shouted at him. He looked up at me, and I saw Death in his eyes.

He spun, turning back towards Drew and the Hunters. Letting out a roar, he charged them. "DION, NO!" I heard Bryson scream from behind me. "DION!"

One of the Hunters looked up. He seemed only casually aware of the fact that it would take Dion only a few seconds to close that space. The Hunter reached into his vest pocket, and in one swift, fluid motion, threw something at Dion.

He had no time to react. One moment the Hunters were dead meat; the next and Dion's head was separated from his shoulders! He wasn't even able to make a sound as his body kept running a few more steps before collapsing only a few feet from the Hunters; his head had rolled off to one side and lay against the wall. It almost seemed to be grinning at me. This time I did lose control of my stomach.

Whatever the Hunter had thrown had continued flying down the hall in our direction, spinning faster than even our enhanced eyes could see. With a dull thunk it embedded itself in the wall to my right; it was a flat piece of metal, like a sword blade, but oddly curved. I could make out the fine edge from here, and it looked sharp enough to split a piece of paper without effort. At least they hadn't used those on us before...but then they probably couldn't. At this distance we would have had more than enough time to move out of the way; only his blind rage and his close proximity had made Dion unable to dodge it.

"C'mon, kid, there's nothing we can do." Bryson said, and grabbed my arm, trying to pull me along with him.

Looking back towards Drew's group of Hunters, I shrugged him off. My anger had been building up during this whole escapade, and finally it had reached a breaking point. No, there WAS something we could do...there HAD to be something I could do! I felt something change inside me, and with a wordless growl I began walking towards the group of Hunters manning the cannon. They were having trouble readying it to fire again, and I figured they would be an easy target. The Hunter that had killed Dion looked my way, and began reaching for another of those sword-blade things.

I stopped, staring at him intensely. My hate and anger were almost palpable things. I continued to try to hold them back, but my efforts were growing futile. I had repressed them, held them down, hidden them away, for so long that they were ready to break out at a moment's notice. I had not released any of that pent-up fury in years. Back then I could have let some of it go, a little at a time, and there would be no lasting damage; now, however, it would be unleashed all at once. I was still staring at that same Hunter. I could feel my hatred and anger building up inside me, growing hotter and hotter. At the same time, I swear I saw smoke beginning to rise from the Hunter's clothes. I must not have imagined it though, because he noticed it too. He was sweating, and it looked as though his clothes were growing hot, beginning to smolder. As the fire inside me increased, so did the effects visible on the Hunter.

Finally, I could hold out no longer. I felt something...snap...and let out a scream of fury. The Hunter that had killed Dion burst in a giant fireball! The other Hunters fell back as he staggered blindly, a solid mass of flame. Some of the others were singed and a few had caught fire themselves. A number of them lay still on the floor, apparently killed by the small blast when Dion's killer ignited. He took a few more steps and then collapsed on the ground; soon the fire burnt itself out, and all that was left was a pile of ash. Not even his bones remained.

"HOLY SHIT!" I heard Dylan exclaim behind me. "What the fuck was that? How did you DO that?" Bryson grabbed me. "Come on, we need to get out of here."

We ran through the hole in the wall, into a large courtyard. The rest of the group was waiting for us there. I knew the Hunters would be following soon; even something as impressive as probably wouldn't stop them.

"OK people, split up. We'll meet back at home." Bryson ordered. "Make SURE you are not followed. Kid," he turned to me. GOD I wish he'd stop calling me that! "You're coming with me. Stay close and move quickly, we don't have time to wait."

The others darted off in various directions, and I followed Bryson as we headed toward the outer wall.


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