Authors: Sophia Sharp
Laura found Gray peeking out from behind a tree. When he saw her looking at him, he moved forward cautiously. “It’s alright,” she told him, kneeling down. “Nobody’s going to hurt you anymore.”
As if he understood the words entirely, Gray gal oped over to Laura. Laura smiled with relief as she saw him run. She had been right – he wasn’t hurt.
As he got closer, Laura reached out to pet his back. But when she touched his fur… a stream of emotions entered her mind.
Emotions, and not her own.
It was a faded emotion, and felt more like… the memory of one.
That was fresher, and more powerful. It lasted only a second, though.
That was the one that pulsed the strongest. It was a concern for something that felt uncannily familiar.
Laura stumbled back, breaking away from Gray. As soon as she broke contact, the stream stopped. And her mind was her own again.
She looked at Gray in disbelief. He stared right back at her. “Was that you?” she whispered. “Did you do that?”
Gray tilted his head to one side, and looked plainly at her. Laura shook her head. No, of course not. That was ridiculous. But stil …
“Come here,” she told him. He walked closer.
“Do you want to show me something?”
Gray craned his neck as he got close. Laura reached out again, tentatively this time – and again, the emotions came. She gasped as she realized they were more than that. They were connected to images, fuzzy and skewed and difficult to make out, but they were there.
She saw herself from behind, running through the forest. The perspective was low, close to the ground. And the images were centered right on her. It was like nothing else real y existed.
The emotions were tied to the images. She was seeing herself, through… Gray’s thoughts. No. His
She watched as the distance between her and Gray slowly increased. She saw her shape getting smal er and smal er up ahead, until it was lost completely in the trees.
She watched through Gray’s perspective as he tried to pick up speed, tried to run faster to catch up.
. He was running faster, moving as quickly as his legs would take him, but it was not enough. Stil , he was not giving up.
louder than anything stood out above al .
Suddenly, there was pain at the side of his head. Something hit him. His vision blurred, and large red dots flickered over the images. She felt Gray stop, turn around.
. He was wary, looking each way to see what had happened. She felt him growl, felt his hackles rise in anticipation.
Something much stronger hit him from the side, and he blacked out. Laura cried out. As he lost consciousness, it felt like barbs the size of fists had been planted in her skin were being ripped out al at once. The connection wavered, and was lost.
She stumbled back again, pul ing her hand away from Gray. The blackout, the darkness… it was too much. The connection that should have been gently eased out of had been mercilessly terminated. She looked at Gray. He stood there for a moment, regarding her calmly, then walked closer to her. When he was nearby, he put his head down as if for her to place her hand on it.
“There’s more?” she asked. Gray didn’t move. Laura reached forward once more, a little more sure of herself this time…
She was being carried over somebody’s back.
. They moved smoothly, like silk flowing majestical y though the wind. She tried looking around. She knew there were four…
there, but getting a grasp on them with her eyesight, actual y
them, was… slippery. Like trying to handle an eel in water.
Her sense of direction was strong. Intuitively, she knew which way she was being carried, where they were going. It was the same direction she had been running before, when she had been fol owing…
herself. But they were going much faster than she could have on the ground. They were going to catch up, and…
Another blow came to the head, and again she blacked out.
Laura fought the sensation that sought to overcome her. Fought against that feeling of having her skin burst open. Fought to keep the connection with Gray. She fought… and won.
She felt herself coming to. She was sprawled out on the ground. Her mind wavered for a second, coming to grips with where she was and what was going on. Then it al snapped together.
. She got up and ran, to where she could hide herself.
She found a spot behind a bush, and jumped in. Then, cautiously, she started to look out, look around. To get a better feel for her surroundings. There were no signs of anyone. She looked around, and her eyes came to rest on a smal clearing. Right in the middle of it, there was something… something she couldn’t see. But it felt familiar, in some way. Try as she did, her eyes just couldn’t focus on it.
She moved forward cautiously. Al her senses were alert, aware of what might happen should she be caught off guard again. And that…
… in the middle of the clearing didn’t move. She took another step forward with her front foot. Her eyes glazed over it, but it was stil in some way familiar to her. Although… something was off. She sniffed the air, trying to get a better sense of what that was. It was as if… a part of the shape in the clearing had been taken away. Like something was missing.
Quickly, she ran behind the trunk of a large tree.
As the movement came closer and soon
stopped, she heard noises. She couldn’t make them out, couldn’t understand them, but they were familiar. She looked out from the side of the tree… and saw
, kneeling beside… that mysterious shape.
She stepped out from the tree, started to move towards herself, but… something held her back. The person she saw was paying much more attention to the thing in the middle of the field. She stopped, standing stil . The person wasn’t paying her any attention.
. She took a step forward, pawed at the ground. Stil nothing.
The person glanced up, saw her.
She started to run forward, but the person just turned their attention back to what they were looking at before. To that slippery shape in the middle of the field. She stopped again.
She stood stil for a second, waiting… and nothing happened. Slowly, she turned back.
. She hung her head, and walked back behind the tree. She lay down, her mind empty except for…
She heard movement. Cautiously, tempering her excitement, she peeked out from behind the tree. She saw familiar footsteps.
was walking towards her!
washed over her. She raced forward, and Laura’s hands reached out to pet her back, and…
The emotions stopped, and the memories
ceased. Laura came back to her own mind. She looked at Gray in shock. Was it he that was doing this, or was
the one doing it…?
And then everything clicked together. Her vampire transformation. The ability that she would be gifted that hasn’t shown itself yet. Feeding, earlier today, for the first time. Gray’s instant affinity towards her. What Alexander said about the
and animals, and the way Gray saw them represented in his own mind.
was her ability. Or at least, the start of its emergence.
She reached out again to touch his head. She felt the connection between them being made, felt the link between her and him waver and then snap into being. This time, though, she wanted to see if there was more that she could do.
Thoughts and images didn’t come, because she
didn’t cal them. Instead, she spoke in her mind.
you understand me?
An image came to her mind, tinged with unspoken emotion. It was an answer. And there was only one meaning she could give it.
Laura stepped cautiously out from the edge of the trees. It was dark, when her vision was most sharp, but she stil wanted to be absolutely sure there was nobody there before making her move.
They had stayed hidden at the outer edge of the woods when they had come up to Nakusp a few hours ago. Alexander had insisted they avoid notice as much as possible, and Laura agreed. An injured man, a teenage girl, and a bear cub would cause quite a commotion almost anywhere.
Nakusp was a smal town, and an old wooden sign by the main entrance road tal ied its population at 1,800. From what Laura saw, she thought it might have as wel been half that many. Old, dilapidated buildings stood near the town’s center, and to Laura’s sharp eyes, many of them looked to be abandoned. At night, lights shone from less than a quarter of al the windows, only increasing the feeling of a ghost-town. A large river flowed along the western bank, and its rushing waters could be heard now over the relative silence of the night. Not much else about the town stood out: it just seemed smal , and nearly empty.
They were lucky in that sense, then. When they first arrived, Laura left Alexander and went to scope out the surroundings of the vil age. She was looking for a place they could find shelter while avoiding notice. It didn’t take long for her to identify an old, abandoned farm that stood by itself a few hundred meters away from the main core of Nakusp. Its windows were broken in and its doors had long fal en inward, and by the look of the overgrown grass and vegetation out front, nobody had tended it in years. Which meant it was the perfect place for them. The trouble, unfortunately, had to do with Alexander. As the day progressed, Laura noticed that he started leaning more and more heavily against her side. And while he denied that he was feeling worse, he looked visibly much weaker than before. She couldn’t say that the color had been taken out of his cheeks – because his skin had been so milky pale in the first place – but when she looked at him, she noticed an effect much like that. It was like his liveliness was slowly being drained out of him. And by the time night fel , his face had grown tired and gaunt, and his skin was hot to the touch. At least he could stil stand.
Behind her, Alexander mumbled something
indistinctive. He spoke loudly, but his words now slurred so badly Laura couldn’t make them out.
“What?” Laura looked back with concern. His eyes were closed, and he was sweating. The wound eyes were closed, and he was sweating. The wound in his shoulder had already stained through his shirt, and Laura wondered whether putting his shirt back on had been the right move. She was afraid the fabric would get somehow infused with the wound, and prevent its healing. What little healing was going on, that is.
He didn’t respond. He was clutching the top of his bad arm with one hand, and his jaw was clenched in pain. Laura came up to him quickly, and put a hand on his forearm.
“It’s alright,” she told him. “We’re here. I found a place where we can stay. We’l spend the night, and tomorrow I’l find the healing woman. She’l get you the herbs you need, I know it.”
Alexander mumbled something in response, but it was even harder to make out than before. And his forearm was blistering hot. He needed water, needed to be relieved of the fever. Vampires were not supposed to be so hot.
Alexander tried speaking again, but al his words mashed together in an incoherent string. Laura frowned worriedly. His speech had been slurring al day, but never before could she not understand it when he was making an effort to talk. Maybe they had less time than she thought. She prayed that was not the case.
“Gray,” she whispered, looking to the bear. His eyes shone in the night, and he looked at her intently. After she discovered how she could communicate with him earlier in the day, she had taken to using that ability to its ful advantage. “Gray, come here.”
He walked closer to her, and she reached out to place a hand on his back. Instantly, she felt the connection between them being formed; felt their minds becoming linked as one. As soon as it snapped into place – it was a sort of two-way communication stream, she thought – she formed an image of the barn in her mind as best she could. And she let him see that image. In response, she felt
. But there was also
Laura thought for a moment, then realized he needed the direction. She laid out its coordinates in relation to them as best she could, and the feeling of
radiated back strongly. Then
, as if he was asking, “what do you want me to do with it?”
Laura formed an image of what the inside of the barn might look like, but made it… unsteady. As if to ask if that was what it was real y like. After a moment, she felt
shoot back from the link as Gray understood what she asked him to do. He turned and raced away. “Be careful,” Laura whispered.
She needed to know whether the barn was real y empty, so she had to send Gray to do it. No matter her speed in getting there, Gray would be better at escaping notice if anybody were inside. Had she gone and found a person there, it would make for a less than ideal situation.
She turned back to Alexander. He looked as bad as ever. But, at least, he was stil standing. She hoped he could hold on until morning, when she would find the herbs that might yet save his life.
A few minutes later, Laura saw Gray running back. When he came up to her, she placed a hand on his head, opening the link again. Instantly, she got an image of the inside of the barn. It was fuzzy, as if Gray didn’t quite know what details to focus on, but there wasn’t anybody there. Old haystacks stood by the wal s, and dirt covered the floor. There wasn’t much light, but Gray’s night vision wasn’t bad, and he had made out enough for her to know it was safe.
“Good job,” she told him out loud. “Now, I need you to stay here. Stay and watch.” In her mind, she formed an image of the spot they were in right now, just at the edge of the trees. Along with it, she sent a feeling of
, as wel as a vantage point of the barn. Again, she felt
come back, but it was tinged with the hint of…
“Come on, now,” Laura said, scrubbing his head playful y, “you’re doing us a big service keeping watch.” She felt
come back, along with a sense of
She let go, and Gray went and settled by the trunk of a nearby tree. He stared directly at the barn, and his ears stood erect. He was definitely alert. Laura moved closer to Alexander, and hefted his good arm over her shoulder. He leaned on her heavily. “Gray checked out the barn,” she told him,
“and he told me it was empty.” She didn’t know if Alexander could even hear her, now, but she felt that maybe, just by speaking to him, she could give him a little bit more strength. To keep him focused and conscious. “We’l spend the night there.”
She stepped forward, leading Alexander. He opened his eyes groggily, and they wandered around before closing again. “We’ve been travel ing hard,”
she told him. “A good night’s rest wil help you recover your strength.” She hoped that it was true. They crossed the distance to the barn slowly, with Alexander dragging his feet. When they came to the front door, Laura pushed against it with her shoulder. It didn’t budge. She stepped back a little and pushed it again, this time with more force. Too much, it turned out, as the entire rotting doorway broke and col apsed down. Laura cringed as the wooden panels fel on her back. They were light, and she barely felt them, but losing the door meant it was now easier for a passerby to notice them inside the barn.
The inner room was just as Gray had shown her. Haystacks lay haphazardly nears the side wal s, and the ground was filthy with dirt. For a second, Laura had an image of the old mil flash in her mind, where Logan had taken her once, but she forced it down ruthlessly. She had to focus on Alexander’s health, now.
She noticed a spot by the far wal that looked the least grimy. She led Alexander there, and let him down gently. He slumped against the back wal , and his head fel forward weakly. Laura knelt beside him.
“We made it,” she told him. “We’re in Nakusp. You got me here, just as you promised. We’l be able to look through the archive, soon.”
Alexander looked up, and smiled weakly in return. His eyes fluttered open for a second. “…
Madison…” he said, “…where is Madison?”
Laura cringed at the name, but quickly covered it up with a smile. “She’s coming,” she told him. “She was delayed, but she wil come.”
“Good.” He smiled. “I can wait.” His eyes drifted closed, and his head fel back. Laura waited a few moments as his breathing stabilized. His breaths became the deep breaths of sleep.
Laura stood up, and looked at him. He had been such a specimen to behold when they first met, the absolute paragon of the male form, and was now so weakened. It was painful to see him so. And the weakened. It was painful to see him so. And the fever must be taking him much worse than she thought if he was asking for Madison.
Laura needed to find the antidote. She
to, as much as she’s ever needed to anything in her life. Alexander had taken care of her when she needed it, in the face of desertion and uncertainty, and now he was the one who was so vulnerable and needed help. She was determined to give it to him.
“I won’t let you die on me,” she promised him softly.