Blood Legends: Undead Episode Three
Blood legends and myths be damned
Forty-eight hours. That was the deal offered by the hawkers if I wanted to keep Scarla breathing. She now had a ransom on her head – a blood-ransom.
Myths and legends always seem to accompany major change. In a new world where blood ruled, it was blood that had become our most valuable commodity. Scarla’s life had just become dependent upon a few drops of rare blood. Blood represented power to its possessor, and I was uncertain I could produce the payoff.
Avila lifted her head from the cradle of her arm and yawned beside me in the pickup cabin. I glanced at her before looking back to the road that stretched ahead in an endless brutal strip as we sped toward the city. It was brutal for the bloodshed it had silently witnessed and for that which dwelled at its end. We were headed back into vampire territory.
“Are you okay?” My voice was as rigid as the stupidity of the question, but I knew she was good at disguising her fear. My little tough nugget wasn’t always as brawny as she made out. Still, her courage in the face of the epidemic was admirable.
She snorted and gazed out the passenger window. Fields of rotted vegetation and wild grasslands swayed beneath the morning sun, blurring the passing landscape.
“Of course.” She looked back at me. “Is it really true, dad?”
“Is what true?”
“What the hawkers said about AB positive blood type. You’ve never mentioned it before. Can it transcend a vampire’s supernatural powers?”
The sun’s sharp heat already bit at my brow despite the early hour. When I lowered the truck window, the foul odor of spoiled crops instantly assaulted my senses. I flinched and tried not to gag.
“I wish I had the answers, Avila.”
“Well, you of all people should know.”
I flinched again, and this time, it wasn’t because of the rotting crops. My eyes never left the road when I answered.
“It doesn’t matter what I know or don’t know. All that matters is that the hawkers believe it enough to keep Scarla hostage until I deliver it to them.” I wiped my brow with the back of hand. My jaw clenched. “And that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
Or die trying.
She was silent for a few beats, her fingers toying with one of the wooden stakes swaddled in a bag that lay on the bench seat between us. She sighed.
“Maybe Michal has the answers. Last night when you spoke to him, I heard him tell you he has one vial there at the lab. Surely, he’s discovered something new by now? After all, you guys put in some grueling hours before … the end.”
She was referring to the intense blood research program I had participated in when there was still hope the epidemic could be controlled. Of course, we’d failed. But when delirium had struck near the end, so too did the mysterious tales begin to circulate about a blood type that could provide the supernatural with even more extraordinary powers. Alas, by that time, most of the city had fallen and with it, the remaining blood banks ransacked and gutted.
No one really knew where the legend surrounding the rare blood type had originated. Some say the collapse of humanity was an ironic twist of fate handed down by unseen higher forces. That our most vital lifeforce would prove to be our undoing. Those same folks foretold a future time of reckoning in the form of a blood legend. Whether there was truth to those mystifying predictions did not concern me. I wanted no part in this new world. Once I got Scarla back, I planned on taking my girls and getting further off grid. Blood legends and myths be damned.
I glanced at Avila, catching her eyes tapering as the wind blew fast into the truck cabin. She pushed strands of dark hair from her face.
“If Michal has a vial of this rare blood, why would he give it up so readily for us?”
It was a valid question and one that had already crossed my mind. I’d managed to contact Michal after the hawkers had left the evening before. He had been pleased to hear from me, posing little protest when I filled him in on our current predicament and what I needed to get Scarla back. We’d left the cottage at first light with the promise of the blood we needed awaiting us in an underground city laboratory.
I pushed away the unease rippling through me and shrugged. Even as I spoke my next words, I wasn’t sure I believed them.
“Why wouldn’t he, Avila? Heck, he’s been a part of our lives for over twenty years. I trust him.”
She gave a half laugh.
“The concept of trust disintegrated when the city fell and vampires overtook the world.” She turned away, speaking toward the black tarmac that stretched before us. “You were the one that taught me that.”
Indeed, I was. It was something I’d drummed into both Scarla and Avila. Keeping the guards up and the barriers firmly erected was as important to withstanding the new world as the basic needs for survival. As it was, we were fortunate to have enough supplies stockpiled at the cottage to last several months if rationed carefully. And as far as trusting Michal, Avila could be right, but I had no choice but to pursue the blood and this was my only option.
I was about to voice as much when Avila gasped and jerked next to me, lifting her arm to gesture toward a lone figure appearing on the hazy black horizon.
“Up ahead, dad. Look!”
My skin flushed as I squinted beneath dark sunglasses. My mind whirled with possible scenarios. You don’t often spot lone figures walking along the deserted highways. You don’t stop to ask questions either. Yet, as we neared the solitary person hiking in the middle of the road, my thoughts were lost when she spun around to face us, the sun catching the length of her wild golden tresses while her long black dress flowed with her movements.
My foot automatically eased off the accelerator and my breath quickened with my knotting belly. The air in the pickup thickened with decaying pungent offerings as we slowed. When the woman raised a palm to wave us down, I noticed the rucksack slung over one shoulder and the wooden stake she gripped by her side. The sound of Avila’s voice was the next thing I heard over the rumbling truck motor.
“What are you doing? Don’t stop for her, dad. Keep moving.” Her eyes were like frantic storm clouds when I tore my gaze from the woman to meet her stare. She shook her head wildly. “It’s got to be a trick.”
I took a shallow breath and scanned the area, the pickup now only inching forward as I clutched the steering wheel. The roadside was a tangle of high weeds and twisted bramble that suffocated farm fences and boarded rising fields of sloping grasses. Anyone could be hiding in those shrubs. Anyone. Still, I felt compelled to press my foot on the brake as we drew closer.
“Is your door locked?” My voice was taut as I double checked my own door and wound up my window until only a few inches remained open.
Avila checked her door and gasped loudly. “Have you lost your mind?”
Perhaps I had lost my mind. Either that or it was fast deteriorating beneath the precarious nature of the unfolding events, but something compelled me to stop for this woman and I had no idea why. I didn’t look at Avila as I began to veer alongside the woman, maintaining a crawl in the pickup.
“Keep vigilant.” I reached for the machete that was propped next to me.
“Ha! A lot of good that’s gonna be if we’re ambushed with weapons. What if they have guns? You have lost all your marbles.”
She fell silent when the woman smiled from between chafed lips and fell into step on my side of the pickup. Her blonde hair fell stringy over slim shoulders clad in a faded denim jacket worn over a red singlet. Grimy fingers adjusted a pair of dark sunglasses poised on a petite nose.
“Thanks for stopping.” Her voice was as light as the breeze drifting off the unkempt, sleepy pastures. The cawing sounds of crows circling over the fields clung overhead like an ominous warning as I stopped the truck. She looked beyond me to Avila. “My name is Sun. I’m heading back to the city. Can I ride with you?”
My jaw tightened and I dropped my eyes to the stake she clasped. A slight chill prickled my spine when I saw the dried blood that stained the end of the wooden stave.
“What’s your business back in the city, Sun?”
She pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head and took a sharp breath. Eyes the color of gold peered at me from sunken sockets before she lowered her chin and swallowed hard.
“I’m going back for my daughter. I left her behind.”
Avila scoffed next to me.
“Bullshit! If that’s true, she’s probably dead. Are you on a suicide mission or something?”
Sun’s eyes instantly flew to Avila, and her lips quivered. She shook her head.
“Please. I have to know what happened to her.”
Avila and I exchanged glances. Her lips pursed as she frowned at me. I gave a slight nod and ignored her look of disbelief as I turned back to Sun.
Sun 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. Catch up on previous episodes here.
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