“The words don’t have the same pull they used to,” Darren said.
“They don’t affect you anymore?” I asked. “Is it because you know what they are now?”
“No,” he said, “they still have some pull, but the magic isn’t as strong.”
“Maybe the venefici left already,” Elsie offered.
“That would be a disappointment,” Alvina said as she suddenly appeared beside us. “I want to kill venefici. I want to taste their blood on my tongue. I want the thrill of hearing their screams. Well, shall we go in and see?” She disappeared and reappeared towards the front of the group. She waved for us to take the lead. I wasn’t sure if she was using magic to get around so quickly or if she could just move so fast that it appeared like she was disappearing.
Everyone waited as our group moved to stand in the front next to Alvina. The vampire who was her second in command and the same one that had claimed Grant stood next to her. Grant was by his side.
Tanner and Grace entered the building first. When I stepped in, there was an eerie feeling of familiarity and unfamiliarity at the same time. I had traveled through these halls many times. But then they had been filled with students talking and laughing, hurrying from one class to another. Now it was empty and silent.
“This is weird,” Darren said quietly.
“It really is,” Richard said. He and Monica held hands as they stood beside us. Maria’s shoulder bumped into mine. When I looked at her, it was clear she was feeling the same as the rest of us.
“Where do you think the venefici would be?” Elsie asked.
“Cafeteria maybe,” Monica offered.
“Or maybe the auditorium,” Hunter said.
“Let’s start with the cafeteria,” Grace said. She held my brother’s hand as they led the way. Victoria, Mackenzie and Arthur walked directly behind us. Molly walked close to Arthur’s side. The older adults walked behind them.
“Do you think we’ll ever go to school here?” Mackenzie whispered to Victoria and Arthur, but since they were directly behind me, I heard them. I pretended I didn’t. It felt like it was supposed to be their conversation alone.
“I don’t know,” Victoria said.
“Things will go back to normal someday,” Arthur said hopefully. But even if things did go back to some normalcy, that normalcy would be a lot different from what normal used to be. For one thing, Arthur’s family was dead. My parents were dead. So many people were dead. I wondered how many students and teachers were left. Probably not many. We now knew that other creatures other than humans lived in this world. Would school in the future now incorporate their history as well? Would we be taught about them?
“I hope so,” Mackenzie said.
I paused as we passed my locker. It was strange to be here, to find the halls empty, to be here for something other than school, to pass by my locker and not have Maria and Anna chatting my ear off, asking what we were going to dress up for as Halloween, asking if we had finished our homework assignments, meeting each other for lunch. And Anna’s death and my parents hit hard in that moment. I couldn’t stop the tears that leaked onto my cheeks and then I couldn’t contain my audible sobs. My legs went weak. I crouched low to the ground or I would have collapsed. Maria, Monica and Mackenzie were immediately by my side holding me.
“It’s okay, Lily,” Mackenzie said and having my little sister comfort me when I should have been the one to comfort her set me off more. And now I wasn’t the only one crying. Maria and Monica both started to cry with me.
“Keep moving little humans,” Alvina’s voice rang cold over me. My tears stopped as the terror her presence brought shivered through me.
I quickly wiped the tears off my cheeks and stood up straight. I tugged on Maria’s and Monica’s coat sleeves and they followed suit wiping their tears away. Mackenzie grabbed onto my arm tightly as her eyes darted behind us to Alvina. I patted her hand and followed Tanner and Grace as they made their way to the cafeteria.
The words ‘RU in?’ were spray painted on the closed doors to the cafeteria. Tanner and Grace opened the doors and led the way in. There were bean bags and cushions spread all along the cafeteria floor. The tables and chairs that were normally in the cafeteria were nowhere to be seen. Sunlight streamed in through the cafeteria windows at the back of the room. Candles were set up all along the floor, but they were unlit. The wax had partially melted on all of the candles so they had been lit at some point. There were no signs of venefici or humans. It was empty.
“They aren’t here,” Alvina said in a voice that was disappointed and also dangerous. With as much effort as it had taken to get her involved in the first place, I was surprised by how much she now wanted to kill venefici.
“The scent of humans still lingers,” Alex said.
“Maybe they moved to the auditorium,” Monica offered, but none of us really thought that was the case. The school was too silent, too empty.
“Lead the way,” Alvina said in a tone that was now bored.
We made our way through the school to the auditorium. The doors to the auditorium were free and clear of the spray painted words unlike the words on the cafeteria doors. We went inside anyway. The auditorium was dark, but there was nothing unusual inside and no sign of venefici or humans.
“What do we do now?” Mason asked.
“Is it possible they somehow knew we were coming and left?” Darren asked.
“Maybe,” Jin said. “Let’s look out back. Maybe there are some clues as to where they went.”
We led them through the school to the back. It was bright outside after being in the darker school. There were footprints in the snow. A lot of footprints. They lead through the school’s yard towards the woods that were beyond the fenced in school yard.
“We follow them,” Alvina said. This time she and her vampires took the lead. My group slowly retreated to the back again.
We reached the back fence when the sky flashed green again. The vampires didn’t seem too concerned with this other than Gunnor and Jin, but the werewolves and the rest of us paused as we looked up at the sky. Whenever the sky flashed green, something bad happened.
Two of the vampires in Alvina’s brood began to convulse. Now the other vampires took note. The two vampires were not near each other. One was near the right side of the group and the other towards the left front of the group. They fell to the ground almost at the same time and reminded me of Halloween night when all of this first began. The vampires that fell, went still and quiet. The rest of the vampires stared at them not knowing what was happening, but my group started to slowly back away as one. Liam gave a signal to the werewolves and they tensed ready to spring into action.
The two vampires that had fallen suddenly sprang up. Their pupils were green. Their irises were still red. Green surrounded by red. They groaned low and moved in a flash to the nearest humans. Both managed to grab and bite a human. The werewolves began to converge on the two vampire zombies, but the other vampires were faster. The vampires reached the two vampire zombies and ripped their heads off and then did the same to the humans that had just been bitten.
Mackenzie squealed and buried her head against my arm.
“Well,” Alvina said in a dangerous, low voice. “The venefici have just directly moved against the vampires. If we weren’t in it before, we are now.”