The night was still.
So still you could hear the quietest rustling of leaves gently blowing in the air. The sky was dark, but cloudless. A crescent moon sat nestled in a dark velvet backdrop.
Somewhere in the distance a dog howled—or was it a wolf? Didn’t matter. The residents of St. Mary’s Cemetery were way beyond worrying about the cries of a lonely wolf. A sea of headstones filled the rolling hills, from gate to gate.
A gust of wind blew a handful of leaves down off an old oak that protected the graves in the back east corner. The leaves rolled over headstones, large and small. Some tombstones were bursting out of the ground, announcing the life and death of their deceased loved ones, while others lay against the grass modestly memorializing the buried ones beneath them.
A mouse scurried across a flat headstone, ignoring the words that told the world that here lay a beloved wife and mother. A leaf blew past the mouse, and they went their separate ways.
The leaf continued to roll, twist and float through St. Mary’s, landing on the black boot of a tall man, stepping into the moonlight. The man peered over his shoulder, where the rest of his team was following his act of jumping over the cemetery gate and breaking into the cemetery way past visiting hours.
“He could be anywhere,” a woman hissed at the tall man.
He shushed her but otherwise ignored her as he continued looking for the grave he was told to find. He indicated to the team all around him to split up and start looking. They all knew well what they were after.
But St. Mary’s was a huge cemetery—they would be looking for a while. Only one person knew exactly where he was buried, and she watched in the shadows, not daring to tip her hand.
“Well, well.” Another man with dark skin, clean shaven and impeccably dressed, led a group of half a dozen of his own followers. They had entered through the front gate. They didn’t need to sneak around. “A little brazen, don’t you think, Ivan?”
The tall man in the dark boots, stood up straight. He had been hoping to go undetected, but this would complicate things. Ivan’s team, sensing the impending threat, slowly made their way closer to their leader.
The dark leader of the other group stood on one hip. He wore a long coat and it blew in the breeze, copying the leaves of the oak trees lining the cemetery. He had the look of a man who didn’t get his hands dirty. He was confident. He knew his team would be the ones to act, if it came to it.
Ivan didn’t respond right away. There wasn’t much he could say. They knew why he was here. It was why they were here too.
After a moment or two of silently sizing each other up, the dark man said, “You are out of your territory, Ivan. Leave now, and take your band of Prudens with you.” He spat the word Prudens out of his mouth like it was poison, burning his lips and tongue.
Ivan held his hands in the air to show he wasn’t here for a fight, although he would fight if he had to. “You know I can’t do that, Marcus.”
The woman who had earlier complained about how hard it would be to find the grave took a defensive stance and hissed. All around Ivan, his team prepared for the fight they knew was inevitable. They had come for one thing and couldn’t leave without him. The future of their tribe was at stake.
The handsome man with the dark skin named Marcus looked at the back of his hand, as if this whole encounter bored him. “You’re pretty foolish, you know. To put that much faith in the Prophecy.”
He knew he shouldn’t be goaded, but Ivan took the bait. “As if you stroll the cemetery every night looking for your next meal.”
Marcus smiled, but there was no warmth. It was a cold, heartless grin. “But you see, this is Bellinz territory, so I can stroll here as much as I’d like.”
Ivan breathed in deep, although his lungs needed no air, and squinted his eyes in anger at Marcus’s claim. His voice came out as an inhuman growl. “He’s not yours just because he was buried here.”
Still sounding calm and bored, Marcus replied, “Nor is he yours. This is your last warning. Leave now.”
Ivan crouched into a fighting stance, but the change in his body language was enough of a signal for his female companion. She charged at the woman standing in front of her, extending her fangs and claws as she ran. The Bellinz woman was caught off guard, but she was able to defend herself from teeth sinking into the flesh of her neck. She was not able, however, to stop the claws from gouging her forearms from elbow to wrist.
The fresh scent of blood triggered the others into action.
Both Ivan’s Prudens tribe and Marcus’s Bellinz tribe ran at one another, claws extended. Neither could back down now. They would kill if they had to, as hard as it might be. Neither side could leave without him.
A Prudens man with long brown hair sailing behind him grabbed a Bellinz woman and tore her neck open with his teeth. He spit the foul taste of the rival tribe onto the ground. The woman flinched slightly, but even with her neck wide open she fought back, jumping on the Prudens man with her claws extended. He landed on his back, she on top of him on all fours, claws piercing through his shoulders and pinning him down. She smiled maliciously, her fangs extended. She licked her fangs slowly, as if to relish this moment before the final bite.
Her hesitation was her doom. The Prudens man rolled over as she gloated, knocking her grip loose. She fell backward and all he could reach was her foot, so he grabbed it and twisted it, ripping it clean off from the stump of her leg. Blood swirled around his feet, mixing with the blood of the makeshift battlefield all around him.
Looking around him, the Bellinz woman no longer a threat, he wondered where Ivan was. The moonlight shone on Ivan like a spotlight, and the Prudens man with the long hair saw his leader locked in a fight he was losing. Two Bellinz warriors flanked him. One clawed at his arms, the other reaching for his neck. Ivan was fast and strong, but he was being doubled up on. The Prudens man walked over to the Bellinz man attacking Ivan’s arm and grabbed him from behind. He threw him toward the trees, crashing into a headstone and forcing a large fissure down its middle.
It was the help Ivan needed to block a bite to the neck. The Bellinz warrior bit hard into his arm, shredding the flesh. Ivan gritted his teeth but still managed to growl an order to the man with the long hair. “Find him.”
It was all the instruction he needed. With a snarl, he looked back over his shoulder, not a clue which direction to go. Instinct took over and he bolted off toward a dark corner of St. Mary’s cemetery.
A Bellinz warrior saw the Prudens man taking off, and he knew he couldn’t let him find the boy first. The Bellinz warrior ran as fast as he could, gaining on the Prudens. When he caught up to him, he pounced on the Prudens’s back, both of them rolling with the momentum.
In the dark shadows, a girl was watching and she knew the hour had come. She had to resurrect the boy and get him out of here before either of these Tribes laid claim. No one here knew the Prophecy better than she—and she wasn’t about to lose everything she’d worked toward.
Running over to the small headstone that read “Shane Walker,” she began to dig at the earth as quietly as she could, displacing the grass and dirt. She worked quickly and quietly, glancing over her shoulder every now and then to make sure no one was coming. She had to get to him first. Everything depended on that.
She knew she was close when a hand burst forth from the loose dirt. He was alive again. She grabbed his hand and pulled with her superhuman strength, removing dirt as she unearthed him.
And he was just as she remembered him. Sandy blonde hair, greenish-brown eyes so similar to hers, an almost-olive complexion. He blinked the dirt from his eyes, taking in his surroundings. Confusion distorted his face. But when he saw her, he stilled.
“Julianna?” His voice was barely more than a whisper. He couldn’t believe his newly resurrected eyes.
He saw the panic reflected on her face as she threw a finger to her lips to silence him. She gestured for him to follow her, and she ran toward the back gate of the cemetery.
Covered in dirt, he tried to stand but his legs gave way. They felt like cooked spaghetti beneath him. As he crumpled back to his grave, Julianna ran back to him, tossing him over her shoulder as if he weighed nothing.
She glanced around once more to make sure she had gone undetected and then bolted, with Shane flopped over her shoulder. As they bounded over the gate in one swift jump, Shane saw the carnage of the battle in St. Mary’s below him. It looked like humans, but they didn’t fight with weapons. They were ripping into each other with their hands.
“What’s going on, Julianna? Where are you taking me?” Shane asked, pushing up on Julianna’s back, her long curly blonde hair cascading all around him and bouncing as they ran.
“Shhhh,” was all the answer she would give as she ran further and further into the Santa Monica mountains.
When the graveyard from where he’d been taken was no longer visible in the distance and they were covered by the thickness of trees and tall grass, Shane pushed off Julianna’s back, landing on the ground with a thud. She turned to him to grab him again but he scrambled back.
“No.” He held up a hand to her and she stared in wonder and terror. She knew they would follow. “I want answers, Julianna. How are you alive? Where are you taking me? What’s going on?”
Julianna took a step closer, her face softening. The moonlight slipped between the branches of the tree above them dancing across her beautiful face. She was just as he’d last seen her. But how could she be right before him?
“There is only so much I can explain to you right now. You need to feed or you will die. This time forever,” Julianna explained.
“Feed?” Shane asked quizzically.
Julianna nodded. “I am not alive. I am reborn. These past five years I’ve been living as a vampire. And, Shane, you are a vampire too.”
Shane wanted to laugh in her face, but suddenly, as if her words were a trigger, he could feel the burn in his throat and he suddenly intensely craved a drink of blood. Before his eyes he saw red and there was a pounding in his ears. He grabbed at his head and shouted, “What’s happening to me?”
Gently, Julianna pulled him close to her. “You need to feed.”
She was so close and so real. He touched her face. He had missed her so. “Mom and Dad need to see you, Jules. They need to know you’re okay.”
“My sweet little brother, I’m not okay. To them I am dead. And you are too. You can’t see our parents ever again.” Julianna’s face was soft, sad.
“Were those people in the cemetery vampires too?” Shane asked, suddenly piecing some of the loose ends together in his mind.
“They are.” Julianna nodded, helping Shane to his feet, to encourage him onward.
In his mind’s eye he saw limbs being ripped off, flesh torn from bone, blood everywhere. “What were they fighting over?”
Julianna hesitated only for a moment. He needed to feed. She had wanted to get him to a city before any of this conversation. But it was too late now.
“You, Shane. This is all about you.”