Blood Legends: Undead Episode Two
Dying dreams on broken wings cannot fly.
A thick cloud of dust billowed above the road behind me as I slammed my foot against the accelerator of the pickup. Any other day, I would have taken extreme care to disguise the sound of the engine, much less leave an obvious path of smut leading toward the cottage. But today wasn’t any other day. Today Scarla had vanished without a trace.
Hawkers. It had to be. But how they managed to slip past me to grab Scarla undetected in a matter of minutes was beyond my comprehension. And all without so much as a sound from her to alarm me.
Since when did those lowlife pilferers possess such stealthy tactics?
My thoughts harrowed over the severe truth. Since vermin infected our streets and claimed most of the population.
Anarchy and destruction have a way of bringing out the best and the worst in humanity. Eventually, you cultivate the ability to ignore the suffering when desperation becomes second nature to every surviving human. But ignorance isn’t an option when you’re targeted by the wicked.
My knuckles whitened as I gripped the steering wheel and the tires slid over the rough terrain, just missing one of the dense and twisted tree trunks that fringed the road. I was covered in sweat and a thin layer of grime from searching the grassed hinterlands near the beach for signs of her. My face stung with the moisture that clung to the scratches I knew marked my face, but I barely felt it. It was all I could do to keep it together as I raced back to the cottage to get what I needed before starting back out to look for her.
Damn it! How could I be so foolish? How?
I let loose a barrage of four-letter words, fighting to keep control of what little resolve remained. I should have known better than to yield to Scarla’s desire to escape the confines of the cottage. Dying dreams on broken wings cannot fly. There is no room left in this world for the dreamers. They were poached the moment the virus murdered most of humanity.
Avila was already out front and standing at the foot of the cottage porch stairs when the truck skidded around the final bend to emerge into the clearing. Her aqua eyes narrowed toward me while her usually chiseled features scrunched beneath the thick tawny hair framing her face. As I yanked the parking brake lever and moved to get out of the truck, her olive complexion paled as she rushed closer and pulled on the truck door to face me.
“Dad?” Her gaze drifted beyond me to the empty truck cabin. My breath felt like steel when she looked back at me. “Wha … where’s Scarla?”
Her voice quavered but I could barely look at her. I shook my head fast before climbing out of the truck and pushing past her. I marched toward the cottage, bounding up the few stairs leading to the front door as she raced after me.
“Dad, stop!” She grabbed my arm, sinking her nails into my flesh as I reached the threshold. It was difficult to tame my racing mind when I turned to face her. Even more difficult to form the words I knew I had to say. Her brows dipped over a pinched expression. She clutched onto me. “What happened? Where is she?”
“I don’t know, she vanished.”
Her jaw gaped as I tore my arm from her and walked into the cottage. It was a modest dwelling with timber floors and burnt orange curtains that Scarla thought gave the place a cheerful vibe. I’d never agreed with that notion. I hated those curtains.
But curtains were the last thing on my mind as I stomped through the cluttered space that passed for the sitting area, heading for the room at the end of the short hall that stocked our supplies. The small room was filled with stockpiles of canned and dried foods, loads of water, kerosene, and piles of spare bedding among other things. It was here that I’d kept the few weapons I had managed to salvage before deserting the city.
Admittedly, there wasn’t a whole lot, and none of it would be of any use in the face of a vampire. Humans, on the other hand, could bleed when facing the blunt end of the few rusty hunting knives I’d collected. There was also a small-bladed axe, a cleaver and my prized possession, a machete that I used frequently to cut and gather firewood. I’d heard machetes were particularly useful for cutting limbs in addition to wood. Somehow, I got the feeling I might soon discover how to dismember a hawker or two. It was limbs and blood that I craved right now.
The blades were discreetly stacked on the shelf in the corner behind rows of water bricks, cans of fuel and oil, and dozens of bottles of bleach and candles. I began pulling them out as Avila burst into the room, stopping just short of me. I ignored her glare as her arms outstretched to take the knives as I pried them from the shelf.
“Hawkers?” Her boots squeaked on the timber floor as she swung around to place the weapons on an old coffee table pushed against the shelves.
“I didn’t see them.”
She took the cleaver from me, catching my gaze with solemn eyes.
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to find the bastards and cut off their limbs, that’s what I’m going to do.” I swung my gaze from her and reached for the machete, stiffening when I felt her hand on my arm.
“It’s too late, dad. She’s gone. We can’t get her back.”
My entire body felt as if an explosion was shredding every organ. But my heart fought ceaselessly against the onslaught. As much as I loved my 22-year-old daughter, those were the words I didn’t want to hear.
I dropped my chin and sighed, the machete heavy in my hand as I allowed the blade to swing to my side. The inside of my head throbbed against my temple. It was pain that consumed me as Avila’s hard stare begged for my acknowledgment. The moments stood as still as a tomb on a starless night. They were the same moments that forever sealed our fate like an impenetrable vault. When I looked back at her, it was the pain that thickened my voice.
“I won’t let her go, Avila. I’ve already lost too much.” I shook my head. “I looked away from her for only a moment and they snatched her away. I have to get her back.”
Avila’s jaw twisted. She gnawed on her bottom lip before gesturing toward the lone window in the airless room.
“Okay, but there’s nothing we can do right now; it’s almost nightfall.” I was about to protest when she stopped me with a flash of a palm. “Listen dad, we can’t do this alone. You can’t do it alone. They’ll kill you on sight. We need to contact Michal. We need help.”
Michal was our sole connection to what little life remained in the city. We’d been work colleagues at the Norbury Blood Research Center for more than two decades. He was one of the most gifted hematologists I’d ever met and had chosen to stay in the city to search for a cure for the V-Virus, working with a group of vigilante scientists in an underground laboratory.
Our communication with Michal was sparse and not always reliable, considering that the only means of contact rested solely on old CB radio transmitter. We’d agreed to reach out to one another only when it was necessary. Scarla was more than necessary, but what could he do? He was a few hours’ drive away and I had no idea if he could handle a blade.
I swung my gaze toward the window, noting the diminishing light spreading through a gap in the curtains. Honestly, the way I felt, I could not care less about the threat of the kindred if it meant I could find Scarla and bring her home. But I was aware my thoughts weren’t rational at that moment. There was Avila; I had to protect her too.
Reaching out to Michal couldn’t hurt. Perhaps he could stay with Avila while I got this under control. My fingers clenched the machete handle as I glanced back at her, ready to concede when a loud knock thumped against the cottage door. The sound of my name spoken by an unfamiliar and gnarly voice reverberated through the flimsy walls.
What the hell?
Avila’s eyes widened. I motioned for her to stay put as I gripped the machete and raced to the front of the cottage, edging along the wall of the sitting room to steal a glance through the curtains at the yard. My blood drained to my feet as I caught sight of a group of hawkers spreading across the clearing and leaning against the timber porch frame.
There must have been about fifteen of them wearing ragged leather jackets above grimy jeans and carrying an array of long blades and rusted chains between frayed fingerless gloves. The voice called again; the sound of my name grating against my churning gut. I steeled myself, taking the few steps toward the door before flinging it open.
Stained teeth greeted me with a wry grin that split between wiry ginger whiskers. His tall, solid frame filled my vision as he toyed with a switch blade and cocked his chin to the side. Dark eyes bore into me above pockmarked skin.
“Ah, you’re home! How fortunate that we caught you at the witching hour.”
My eyes flashed dangerously.
“What do you want?”
He laughed, a few of his cronies joining in when he leered their way. He turned back at me.
“You’re asking the wrong question, my friend.” He leaned closer, his breath hot and rancid in my face. “I have what you want. The question you should be asking is how bad do you want it.”
The Hawkers is an urban fantasy set in a post apocalyptic world, and is part of Kim Petersen’s Blood Legends. Episodes set to publish weekly for 12 Weeks.
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