The Power of Blood
The gun shot echoed in my head moments after the real thing. It wasn't right; they weren't supposed to use guns, that was cheating.
"No!" I screamed, running towards the fallen body of my little sister.
I reached her within seconds. The ground was gritty and muddy, but I didn't notice as I threw myself down beside Jenny, screaming her name over and over again. My tears blurred my vision as I desperately tried to turn her body over and see if she was alive.
I ignored the scream from my friend. I cradled my sister, tears streaming down my face. She couldn't be dead; I was her older sister, I was supposed to protect her. She couldn't be dead. But there was too much blood, and I couldn't find a pulse...
"Hanna! Come on!"
"No, no, no," I muttered, frantically trying to convince myself that Jenny was alive.
And then I was being dragged away. Strong arms gripped my shoulders, forcing me backwards. I screamed in fury at Jay, but he wouldn’t listen.
"We can't leave her!" I cried, fighting back.
"Cut it out, Hanna! They'll be coming back any moment, we've got to move. Oliver, help me with her!"
"Stop it! Get off me!" I screamed at him, still struggling. But he wouldn't let me go.
"Jay- oh my god!" my sister's best friend, Zoe, cried. "They're coming back!
"Let me go!" I elbowed him hard and felt his sharp intake of breath. His grip on me slackened and I pushed hard at him, at last getting away.
I ran, wasting no time, towards Jenny. She still wasn't moving. Her blonde hair was matted with blood and mud, and her body looked so fragile and little.
And then the second gun shot went off. It was loud, deafening. Fury rose in my throat. They were cheating. Vampires weren't supposed to use guns. Why should they even need them? They had fangs, for god's sake. And they were the fastest of all creatures. So why the hell were they using weapons? We were the humans, we were supposed to use weapons, not them.
I whirled round, trying to see them in the dim light. There were four figures standing not far off. They were disgusting, warped figures.
"Come on!" Oliver held his hand out to me, grabbing me with the other, and ran.
He was stronger and bigger than Jay and I had no chance of getting away.
"Jay, I got Hanna. Get Zoe to the house. Now!"
We ran as fast as we could. I could hardly see a thing, I was crying too much. But at long last I made out the grim shape of the house. The house that was charmed against supernatural presence. The house I'd grown up in. The house that the five founder families had shared, until the attack last year.
We reached the door first. Oliver pounded on the oak panels with his fists. Jay's sister, Fi, opened it cautiously.
We pushed our way past her.
"What the hell's happened?" She exclaimed, "Where's Jay?" She looked around frantically.
"Getting Zoe, hopefully," Oliver growled. "They got Jenny."
"What?" Fi’s eyes widened. "The pendants are broken?"
"No, they've got guns.. They shot at us."
"Jay's here," I said, looking out the door. I was still crying.
Jay and Zoe entered the house, both breathing hard. The younger girl was crying, too.
"Where's Cam?" Zoe asked, looking for her elder brother.
Fi paled. "He- he went out after you. We were worried when you- you were gone for ages! He thought the pendants hadn't worked or you'd been compelled or something and-"
"What so he went out? On his own? Thinking the charms weren't working? The guy is crazy. Well, they've probably got him. We didn't see him." Jay wiped his brow with his sleeve.
Zoe burst into a fresh lot of tears.
"So what do we do?" I whispered. "We've got to get Jenny’s body."
"No, we haven't!" Jay snapped at me. "It's too dangerous. They know we're protected. They'll kill us all and then get our town."
"They've already got it!" I yelled back. "They can control everyone through fear. They've won."
"No, not until all the founders' families and relatives are dead. They can't hurt anyone until we're dead and they have our blood. Until then we've still got a chance!"
"To do what?" I screamed at him. "Take back our town? Like we're gonna be able to save it. We haven't even got any adults!"
"We are still alive! And the vampires, they're not as powerful as they could be yet, they need all the founder blood to take control if this town. And they haven't got all of it yet!" Jay threw the words at me. "We can't give up. Only when they've drank all of us to the point of death do we even think about giving up! We will fight them!"
"And get shot!" I screamed back, not even seeing the fist flying towards me in my rage.
"Hanna?" I heard Fi knocking on the door of the room I used to share with my sister.
She opened the door and came in. "Jay didn't mean to hit you."
"You expect me to believe you? Of course you'd say that! Ha! Wait 'til he hits you."
Fi sighed. "He wouldn't hit his own sister." She paused. "Look, he's just worried. We all are. It's only a matter of time until we lose the town for good."
"We've already lost it. Why can't anyone else see this? We have no chance. Okay, so they can't touch anyone who lives here until we're dead, but there's no chance we're gonna survive for long!"
The next morning I awoke with a massive headache. The room was spinning slightly and going in and out of focus as I blinked sleepily.
I got out of bed and wrapped my purple dressing gown around me, the whole time avoiding looking at Jenny’s side of the room. I opened the bedroom door and stepped out onto the grungey corridor. I couldn't hear any sound from downstairs; it looked like I was the first one up. Good, for once I'd actually get a warm shower. I made my way to the bathroom and ran the shower. I looked at my reflection in the old mirror: a pale blonde girl who looked younger than her seventeen years.
Fifteen minutes later, I walked back to my room. It was amazing how much better a shower could make me feel. I shut the door behind me, still not looking at the left side of the room, and hurriedly made my bed. I walked over to the window and drew the curtains, and immediately wished I hadn't. For moments I simply stood transfixed by the sight.
The most hideous creature stared at me, menacingly. Its grey skin hung loose, like rags, off a skeletal face. Its eyes were unfathomable depths of blackness, hollow and creepy. Its grey skin was mottled with dark specks of black and red. The ghastly creature peeled back its wizened lips, revealing rows and rows of sharp, rotting teeth. It was pressed up against the window, its bony hands flat against the glass. And next to the creature was another, and another. Behind, more stood like an army. An army of deathly soldiers. All of them, the walking dead, stared at me, parting and shutting their lips in unison. And then I screamed. Very loudly.
I heard movement in the house and grabbed my penknife from my desk, holding it out in from of me threateningly. About ten seconds layer my door flung open. I screamed and lunged towards the door with the knife. And narrowly avoided stabbing Fi.
"Effing hell, Hanna! You trying to kill me?" She looked past me. Her face went blank as she saw the vampires at my window and then she screamed.
"Jay! Oliver! Zoe!" Fi cried, clutching me in fear. I dropped the knife and kicked it away.
At the window, the vampires moved their heads from side to side, as if enjoying the drama.
"Jay! Oh my god! Get here now!"
Jay and Zoe arrived and then Oliver. The three of them froze as they saw the disgusting creatures at my window.
"Check the other rooms," Oliver instructed. "And make sure that windows and doors are locked."
"Shouldn't the charm stop them getting in?" Fi said.
"It should. But we're not taking any chances," Oliver said, taking charge as usual.
Zoe ran out of the room. We heard her feet on the stairs. Fi and Jay followed her.
"You okay, Hanna? You look a bit pale," Oliver said.
"Well, I've just come face to face with a freaking vampire. What do you expect?" I paused. "Sorry, I don't mean to snap. It's just all a lot."
"They're at the back door," Zoe called out. "Eurgh! They're disgusting!"
"We need to check all the rooms," Oliver repeated.
In every room we went to, they were there. They were everywhere. Pressed against every wall, every window. If it wasn't for the charm placed on the house, they'd be in. It was a siege, they were going to wait us out. Our blood was all that stopped them taking over the town of Jagton. The founders' blood acted as a charm on every resident, protecting them from the vampires. As soon as we were dead, the charm would be broken and everyone would die. And the vampires were determined that we wouldn't live much longer.
"Look, there must be a way around this. There's always an answer," Oliver started optimistically. "We've just got to think - thinking is the key. So let's start with what we all know."
The five us were sitting in the living room. As far as I could see, we were in a hopeless situation. We couldn't get out without being eaten.
"We're all related to the founders," Zoe said. "So we have all got founder blood."
"Exactly," Oliver said, smiling at Zoe, "and the founders' blood is linked to the town somehow."
"It protects the town's residents from supernatural stuff, like the charm on this house does," Fi said.
"And when no humans with the founder blood of this town are alive, Jagton won't be protected," I finished.
"Exactly, so we're the key. The vampires can't take over until they've got all the founder blood, which gives them access. But we've got the original founders' pendants, which protect us from the supernatural," Oliver said, showing us his pendant that he kept in a chain around his neck.
"They don't protect against guns," I said, feeling the familiar, chunky weight of my own pendant. " The vamps must know we've got the pendants or they'd be trying to fang us, not shoot us straight away." I thought of my sister's death, and my eyes quickly filled with tears. "We lose so much blood that way-"
"Do the pendants stop working when we're killed?" Zoe interrupted.
"We don't know," Fi said flatly.
"So they might not have Jenny's blood?" I asked hopefully.
Founders' blood was powerful stuff. If she still had it, maybe there was a chance we could find a witch to bring her back to life. We did know a few witches who didn't live far away. One had updated the charm on this house about fifty years ago.
"They probably do have it, Hanna," Fi said softly. "They'll probably have humans they've caught who will take the pendants off the bodies and then the vampires will be free to get the blood. After all, they got loads of the founders' blood last year; and look how powerful they've become because of it. And they're more intelligent too."
"If they're intelligent, can't we reason with them? Make some sort of deal?" Jay suggested.
"They're monsters. Blood-sucking beasts who have no humanity. They murdered my sister. They probably can't even talk. And anyway, supposing we could somehow communicate without being eaten," I shuddered as I spoke, "What sort of deal could we possibly make? We don't have anything to offer them."
"Money?" Jay shrugged.
"They live for millions of years," Oliver said. "They'll have loads of money, I expect. They're not gonna leave us alone for the sake of a few hundred thousand pounds."
"Ourselves, then?" Jay said sulking.
"Are you mad?"
"No. We offer our own blood on the condition that they leave out town."
"They'll just move into another town," Zoe said.
"And you trust them?" I questioned Jay. "What reason would we even have to believe that they'll keep their part? After all, we'll all be dead, there'll be no one to stop them from taking Jagton. And they're monsters. Savage accidents of nature. We won't even be able to talk to them."
"Well, do you have any better ideas? Because as far as I can see, we're gonna starve in here, so we should at least try to talk to them!"
"Yeah, and be murdered and lose the town. At least if we starve to death we'll be in the house and it will protect our bodies so they won't get our blood."
"Great," Fi said, "so we spend the rest of our days in agony, starving in this prison!"
"We would be saving the town," Oliver said carefully, "but there must be another way."
"Well, let us know when you've come up with your brilliant plan. After all, we won't be going anywhere!" Jay shouted as he left the room.
A few minutes later we heard his footsteps above us and then the unmistakable sound of his door slamming.
"Well, there's nothing that we can do. We're doomed," Fi said, sighing dramatically.
None of us said anything. Like Jay, Fi wasn't someone you could easily argue with, and win. Both siblings were strong minded and forceful in their own way. And they were both very tall and muscular, in a different way from Oliver. But Fi was the more intimidating one, for me at least. Her blue and red hair extensions added something dangerous and fiery to her appearance.
Later that day, Zoe and I were sat in my room, thinking. Trying to find a solution to the impossible situation. How many vampires were out there? If we could be certain that all of them were around our house, how hard would it be to get the people of the town to come and kill them if we made some sort of distraction? I voiced my thoughts to Zoe.
She thought for a few minutes before replying, "It would have to be one massive distraction. Like one of us sacrificing ourselves, and it wouldn't last that long. The beasts would probably suspect something. And there'd be more murders and, no, I'm not even sure it would work."
"But we could ask them if there are any more vamps actually in town or if we've got them all," I said. "The more info we have, the better."
"Yeah," she agreed. "That we should do."
"Can we use your phone? Mine has no credit."
"Yeah, I'll go and get it."
I waited for her return, and then we had to wait for the ancient thing to turn on.
"And we're calling the police, right?" Zoe said.
"Yeah," I replied. "After all, they need to know if they're not gonna be protected much longer."
Zoe dialed the number and clicked 'connect', and put it in loudspeaker.
And brilliant, no signal.
"The land-line?" Zoe suggested.
I nodded. "Good idea, if we can get it to work."
We walked downstairs, averting our eyes from the windows. The telephone itself was one of those really old-fashioned ones that you see in museums. It was also incredibly hard to use, which was why we avoided using it as much as possible.
I picked up the ear part and listened cautiously. Nothing. Did you even get dialing tones in these phones? Zoe picked up the part you speak into and held it out hesitantly. The chord looked very fragile and ready to break.
"Erm, shall we ask Oliver?"
I nodded and shouted for our friend.
He came down the kitchen stairs and joined us in a remarkably quick time. He raised his eyebrows at us in amusement. "You choose now to try to learn how to use it?"
"We need to contact the police," I said as firmly as I could.
"Hanna - you are a genius! Why on earth didn't I think of it?" He took the parts of the ancient thing from Zoe and me and proceeded to use it expertly.
He listened into the part I'd previously had as he turned the ring with numbers, then he frowned and tried again. And again. Then he thumped the base unit.
"It's not working," he said slowly.
"You sure you're using it right?" Zoe said.
I shrugged and Zoe and I exchanged a look. Oliver got out his mobile and looked at the touch screen.
"What?" he exclaimed. "No signal? But there's always signal here. Always. Hang on, can you get signal?"
Zoe shook her head.
"I've no credit, but I haven't looked."
"You know what I think?" Oliver said. "I think they've done something to the networks."
Well, it turned out something had happened, as neither Jay, Fi or I could get a signal at all.
"They've cut us off from the outside world," Fi cried hysterically. "We're gonna die! Oh my god!"
"Check the laptops," Oliver advised.
Jay jumped up to fetch the laptop from the living room and Zoe went and got her newish Netbook from her room. They returned and turned the computers on.
"Open a web browser," Oliver said, looking over Jay's shoulder.
I, looking over Zoe's shoulder, watched her open Internet Explorer. The familiar home page of her bookmarks opened.
"Try to load Google," Fi suggested.
Zoe typed in the URL and pressed enter. The progress bar flashed blue a couple of times then went to a white page that was clearly not Google. The words 'You do not have access to this page, sorry for any inconvenience' appeared in a dripping red font. Zoe let out a short, high pitched scream.
"Bloody hell, they're intelligent!" Fi raised her eye brows.
"What the-" Jay exclaimed, looking at his laptop screen.
He frowned and then cried out, throwing the laptop off the kitchen counter. It hit the tiled floor and the screen went white. It then proceeded to fizz and crackle and sparks flew from it.
"Jay!" Fi and I both cried at him.
"Zoe!" he cried, leaning over to her side of the counter.
I watched, astonished, as he pushed at the Netbook, sending it clattering to the floor.
"Don't touch it!"
"Jay! Have you gone mad!"
"What the hell?"
Jay looked at us and held up his hands. They were covered in vicious, raw burn marks. His skin was blistering in places.
"Oh my god!"
"The vampires," Jay said, struggling to remain calm. "They're even more intelligent than we thought. They got that thing to burn me. They've got us isolated and now they're gonna kill us."
"How is that even possible?" Fi said. "They've never even touched that laptop."
"Jay," I said, running to the sink and running the cool water.
He looked at me and came over. When he put his hands under the running water, they sizzled painfully and I cringed. Jay looked straight ahead.
Oliver looked around and then walked over to the microwave and turned it on with nothing inside.
"Has everyone else gone mad or something?" I said.
And then the microwave blew up. And when I say 'blew up' I mean it blew up. The whole thing exploded. Sparks flew everywhere and for a few seconds flames filled the space as the thing combusted.
"What the hell?"
"Oh my god!"
"They're controlling the electricity or something," Oliver said. "I've no idea how, but they are trying to drive us out of the only safe place we have."He looked at each of us individually. "Don't use anything that uses electricity, nothing electric. They're controlling it."
At the back door, the vampires swayed in unison.
"Turn everything off," Oliver said.
I nodded, left Jay at the sink, dried my hands and reached for the toaster plug.
"Be careful," Oliver warned.
Hesitantly, I turned the plug off and pulled the chord, thinking it was going to bite me. Luckily, it didn't.
"The fridge?" Zoe asked.
"Anything that uses power," Oliver answered.
"This is a death trap!" Fi said, throwing her arms up in the air, tossing her brightly-coloured hair extensions over her shoulder.
And then the glass in the back door shattered with a deadly crack. We all screamed and looked in fear towards the back door.
A vampire was holding a gun aimed at us. They were cheating again.
"Move!" Oliver roared, pushing Fi and Zoe into the hallway.
He looked back at Jay and I, the furthest into the kitchen and the furthest from the safety of the other rooms.
Carefully, we moved around the counter, staying together, watching the vampire holding the gun. Watching the vampire pull the trigger at almost point-blank range.
Jay crushed me to the floor in the half second before the shot. Glass shattered somewhere behind us as we crawled along the floor, laced with deadly shards and splattered with blood. Jay was breathing deeply, and so was I.
The vampires were screaming at us. I’d never heard them make a sound before, but it was so loud. Screams of fury and joy as they pointed more guns and revolvers through the door way. They were pressed against the open gap, the charm was the only thing holding them back; some were desperately trying to get to the spilled red liquid on the floor. Our blood.
“Come on!” Fi cried, grabbing Jay and I and pulling us into the hallway.
Oliver and Zoe had gone from the hallway. Where, I didn’t know. The front door smashed as bullets flew through it. We kept low to the floor as we moved, the three of us sticking together. We would be a wide target for the vampires and their guns.
A huge crash upstairs made me jump and I froze, trying to listen over the vampire’s song. I could hear screaming. Human screaming. Or at least I thought it was.
“Hanna! Don’t stop!” Jay grabbed at me, pulling me along.
We were in the living room now, the huge windows were broken, filled by the grotesque beings. Their rotten stench filled the room like gas.
“No windows,” I screamed at Fi. “No windows!” Another gun fired but I didn’t really notice. “We’ve got to go where there’s no windows!”
“The loft,” Jay said, catching on. Blood dripped off his nose and a red trail was forming down his shirt.
“We’ll never get there without passing windows,” Fi shouted over the background noise.
“We can’t stay here!” I yelled back. And then I ran.
I tried to grab hold of both of my friends, but my hands were slippery with blood and I lost the grip. I just hoped they were behind me. I dashed into the hallway. The glass-littered floor cut my feet savagely through the soles of my slippers. I screamed as a vampire pulled the trigger on his gun. Miraculously, the bullet missed me. I kept going. Through the kitchen, past the back door and up the stairs. I risked a look back. Fi was behind me. I turned back, hoping Jay was behind her, and kept going.
My breath was ragged in my throat as I gasped for air. My muscles were screaming at me as numerous bullets flew my way. The glass chandelier, one of the ancient artifacts, shattered over my head, decorating my hair.
And then the wall to my left fell in. Bricks and plaster hit the floor, breaking the beams, shattering the structure and disappearing into the room below. The wooden boards splintered and the whole of the corridor moved. I screamed in terror as I stopped myself falling into the crevice.
I looked up, Oliver and Zoe were on the other side of the landing. Someone grabbed me and I screamed again, turning around to face my attacker. If the wall had come down, maybe the charm had fallen with it. The vampires could be in.
Fi and Jay pulled me roughly back away from the widening hole in the floor, back towards the window. I screamed at them that we’d get shot at, but they didn’t listen. I looked at the window, there were no vampires there. Probably because they were coming in the ragged holes of the left wall. In places the walls had completely collapsed, taking the floor with it, I could see the kitchen below. The kitchen filled with dozens and dozens of dead creatures. Dead creatures licking up the blood on the floor. Dead creatures coming up the stairs. Dead creatures lunging towards us, their arms outstretched, pure happiness etched on their dead faces.
And then we were on fire and the whole house exploded. Flames were everywhere. It was too hot. Debris flew through the air. Jay, Fi and I clung together as the flames flickered menacingly around us. Figures were everywhere.
Vampires were screaming. Other people, people I’d never seen before, if they were even ‘people’, were around us. Tall, thin, beautiful women throwing their hands up in the air, their eyes flashing wildly, spiraling around us in an intoxicating dance. Men, strong and fast, were racing about, moving as fast as lightening. The witches were here. I was sure it was them. They were exactly what I’d imagined them to be like. And they were angry. Their curse had been broken, broken by their evil enemies.
The three of us, humans, cowered together. Scared and frightened as the battle took place in our crumbling house that could no longer stand up on its own. The house seemed weak. The witches were fighting the vampires in a deadly trance of spells and screams; we couldn’t tell who was winning through the vicious flames, the hazy fog, the dense atmosphere...
By morning, the house was a ruin. A complete mess. Many walls had caved in. Rubble littered every free space of many rooms. Amazingly, the living room had remained untouched by the whole drama. Even the smell of the vampires had gone from that room. But even more amazing that that was the fact that the five of us had survived. How, none of us knew.
I sat in the living room, thinking, just thinking. Tears poured down my face as my mind occupied itself with the most bizarre thoughts. Mainly, I cried for my sister. So much had been happening lately that I hadn’t had time to grieve properly. I still expected to see her everywhere I went. But of course she wasn’t there. I was surprised how well Zoe was doing. Jenny and she had been best friends. And Cam, Zoe’s older brother, was still missing, presumed to be dead. But I knew that she didn’t believe that. She would be constantly waiting for his return, just as I was waiting for Jenny’s.
I looked about the room. Jay and Zoe were sitting together on the sofa, she was reading a fashion magazine, he had his arm around her and was gazing thoughtfully at the fireplace. Fi was on the window seat, painting her toenails as if nothing unusual had ever happened in this household. Oliver was reading, sprawled out on the floor like a gigantic daddy-long-legs.
I sighed deeply. The vampires were gone. So were the witches. The charm was back up on what remained of the house; neither being could enter.
But there was something different, something powerful about the air in the house. And around it. Something strong. Like it was drawing strength from anything and everything. We felt more powerful, less like ordinary humans, more like - well, I didn’t know. We were different, of course we would be after experiencing all of that. But we felt as though we were now prepared, prepared for something much bigger, much more dangerous, that was on the horizons. Something was out there. And that something was coming.
After all, our blood was powerful.
Madeline Dyer lives on a farm in Devon, England, and has a strong love for mythology and folklore; this in particular inspired her to start writing fantasy. She is currently working on a young adult fantasy novel.
What do you think is the attraction of the fantasy genre?
For me, when I'm writing fantasy, I love the freedom and flexibility that this genre has -- practically anything can happen. It's fun creating weird new existences and one of my favourite parts is to research the mythology and beings behind it (and possibly invent my own). One of the main attractions for me when I'm reading this genre is that it allows me to 'escape' from the real world, and it's fun to read as, however realistic the book is, you know deep down that it's not going to happen -- but maybe you wish it could?