PrologueMature

Julia struggles with the guilt and grief of her sister's death as she teams up with Kai to search for a missing Elijah. But when troubles arise at home she's forced to let him continue on his own so she can help Sarah find out who, or what, is after her. As new threats emerge, she begins questioning her own leadership skills and must make a grave decision regarding her own life. Etc., etc.

Prologue

The pitter-patter of my bare feet on the kitchen tiles sounds tremendous in the otherwise silent house. I swing the fridge door open, settling for a bottle of water when I find that all the tea is gone. Drifting over to the countertop, I crack open the bottle as my mind wanders elsewhere.

"Hey, wait a second," Luke said to me whenever I bumped into him in the hallway at his house. My heart raced and I felt a bit scared as I slowed to a stop. "I--I don't really remember everything that happened back when...when you know what happened, but I remember you being there and I just wanted to say I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

"Why--why are you apologizing to me?" I asked, being gifted with a burst of bravery. 

"Because I mean it," he said. His blue eyes glazed over a bit and he looked past me down the hallway, not particularly directed at anything. "I didn't mean to do everything that I did, but it happened. And I'm sorry. It's my fault that--that Logan's dead, it's my fault that Julia got hurt, it's my fault if you got hurt; it's all my fault. I--I don't know why I'm telling you this, but I guess I just wanted somebody to know how much I regret it."

Tears started to stream down his eyes at this point and I just stood there, shocked and not knowing what to do or say. 

"Everything was such a blur for me for a long time, but now I'm back to normal and I realize what I've done. It's hit me that Logan's never coming back. My memories of what I did are starting to return and I just...I can't believe I did those things."

The look on his face when he said that is still imprinted in my mind, though this happened over a week ago. The pain in his face, in his eyes as he spoke to me that day was overwhelming. I never thought I would find myself feeling sorry for him, but I did. I still do. I didn't think I would ever trust him again, and I still don't really, but . . the way he looked in that moment . . . I believe that he meant it. I believe that he does regret what he did. But there's no way I'll be able to convince Julia of that. 

"I'm so sorry," he said to me.

I only went to his house for Julia in the first place, but after I had that conversation with him while she talked to Rachel, I realize that I've never even bothered to get to know him. And I want to. I never gave him a chance before; I already had my idea about who he was and I didn't want him to change that. In my mind he was just a jock on the high school football team, and I wanted him to stay that way so I wouldn't end up actually caring for him. I don't want to care for him. After what happened, after what he did, I didn't think I would ever talk to him again, let alone begin to forgive him. But when the only thing he did after seeing me was apologize over and over and over again, especially when it serves him no benefit to have me on his side, it makes me think that maybe we should stop blaming him for Logan's death. After all, didn't Logan herself make some not-so-good decisions when she first turned? It affects everyone differently. Maybe he isn't so bad after all.

My eyes stray onto the window in front of me, though I can only see my reflection in it because of the darkness emanating from outside. I stare at myself for a long time as I sip my water, though I'm not sure why. I guess I'm just giving myself time to think. 

My brain starts changing from thoughts of Luke to wondering what it is everyone else is doing right now. I'm sure Julia's doing something useful. Probably coming up with some great plan for her pack, or helping someone, or just something. Maybe watching some of those home videos of Logan with her mom. 

Parker's probably keeping busy with his job and with helping Rachel. Julia apparently figured out what was going with Rachel with the help of some dude at her work. I can't remember his name. Matthew? Mark? Michael? I don't remember. Something with an m. What I do know is that he was willing to help Rachel with whatever is going on with her, as long as he had someone else's help. Julia said she'd been too busy, and I remember her asking us if one of us would do it. Neither Parker or myself are the biggest fans of Rachel, but he has a car and I don't, so he is the one stuck with accompanying her to that dude's house several times a week. So he has things to do. He's made himself useful. I don't even have a car.

Elijah--I bet he's been busy too. He and Julia are no longer together, but they still hang out a lot and it's obvious they still care for each other.  He stuck around afterward even though they weren't together anymore, so I'm guessing he and his brothers came to some kind of agreement. I assume that he's probably doing something with Milton, working, or some other equally useful thing right now. It seems that I'm the only one with nothing to do. Everyone else has people depending on them, everyone else is useful. It seems that being alone with my thoughts is all I've had to do lately. I'm not helpful like everyone else. I don't have a family that needs me, I don't have a pack that needs me, I don't even have a job. 

Sometimes I wish my parents were home more.

I'm spinning the lid back on to my bottle when I hear a loud squeaking sound coming from behind me. It sounds like a door is opening from the laundry room. That door only leads outside and I know for a fact that my parents said they wouldn't be back until Monday. Today is Friday.

My head darts around and I spot the door opening since the two rooms are connected to each other. My heart stops as I see the two shaded figures coming in. I drop my water and my feet race across the cold white tiles without even thinking about it. I squat down near the wall next to the staircase, peering around the corner so I can see into the kitchen. 

Oh god, oh god, oh god. 

I watch as the dark figures walk straight into my kitchen, trying to see if I know them. I get a good look at their faces and find that they're both men. I've never met either of them before in my life. The taller of the two turns his back to me and I get a quick glimpse of his hands, immediately doing a double-take. Long and sharp, curved claws stick out from his fingertips. They don't look like Julia's claws; like werewolf claws. Theses are different somehow. Longer. Sharper. More deadly.

My breathing sounds incredibly loud and fast, but I can't stop it. I can only hope that they won't hear me. 

The shorter man has his face turned toward me, so I can see that he looks mostly normal. Mostly. His nose is a little wide, and his jaw seems like it's uneven, but that's nothing compared to his eyes. The entire eyes itself is shaped like a cat's; it has a sort of almond shape to it. The pupil is skinny and long, also reminding me of a cat's. They're glowing a deep, burnt orange color and I feel like I can't take my eyes off of them. 

Over the sound of my pounding heart, I manage to hear whispering coming from their mouths and struggle to decipher the words.

"And she's hear?" the one facing me says. 

"Yes," the other responds. "She's in the house somewhere. We have to find her." His voice is gravelly and low, as if he's an older man. Somehow I manage to remove my shaking hands from the wall, and I slowly begin to rise to my feet. After hearing what they said, I prepare myself to try to sneak upstairs as quietly as possible. With my heart feeling like it's ready to explode, I start to turn my knees toward the staircase, while keeping myself out of view. 

The floorboards creak.

My head darts toward the men in the kitchen, the man who was turned away twisting his head toward me at the same time. Two sets of orange eyes pierce into mine and I freeze. The taller man's face begins to morph into something dark and unrecognizable. His eyes seem to sink into his skull, and his teeth begin to sharpen. Not just the fangs like the werewolves were: all of them. They're short and sharp. It isn't until his mouth opens up and lets out a loud, shrill noise that I unfreeze myself. The noise that comes out of his mouth sounds like what I imagine a pterodactyl sounding like if it's screech was high-pitched. These men--creatures--sound and look nothing like Julia or Lucas.

I race up the stairs as fast as I can, hearing footsteps mere paces behind me. My arms pump wildly, but there's only so many steps my short legs can go up at a time. The only thing I can envision is them grabbing my foot and yanking me down, before tearing into me and killing me. The image pushes my legs faster.

As close as they sound behind me, I expect them to reach out and grab me at any second, but I reach the tops of the stairs and fly into my room before they do. I slam and lock the door, backpedaling away as I hear their claws scratching against it. 

The door starts shaking like they're beating their fists against it. 

"Sarah!" the gruff voice yells. "Sarah! We know you're in there!" He sounds so angry, like--like he wants to kill me. I stare at the door for a moment, shaking, before searching for my cell phone. I find it on my night stand and start to dial the police's number, but then think twice on that. These men aren't human, but the police are. They can't help. If I call them and they show up, they'll get killed. 

So who am I supposed to call? 

I clear the number and crawl into my closet while dialing the next. My trembling body manages to get the doors closed before I back myself into the corner. It's all I can do to try to drown out the sounds of the scratching, growling, and yelling coming from outside my bedroom. I squeeze my eyes shut and bring my knees to my chest, feeling salty tears run down my face as I pray that she picks up. 

Please answer, please answer, please answer, Julia, please, please, please, hurry.

"Hello?" 

The bedroom door rattles extra loud and I flinch, pausing before I speak.

"Julia?" I whisper. I don't want to speak any louder from fear that they might hear me. 

"Sarah? What's wrong?" Julia asks through the phone. I can hear her breathing heavily on the other end, so I assume I must've interrupted her working out or something else laborious. 

"There's--there's something in the house," I stutter. "I think they're trying to kill me . . . They're outside my bedroom door trying to get in." My voice sounds so hysterical I worry that she might not be able to understand me.

"I'm coming now, Sarah," she says. A small amount of relief enters my body for a split second before fading away again at the sound of the men still calling my name. "Did you call the police? You need to call them right now."

"No, I--I called you first. The police . . . the police can't help." 

I hear a pause and worry that she's hung up the phone. "What do you mean they can't help?" she asks a moment later. My phone beeps in my ear, signaling that it's about to die. Like me.

"Please hurry," I beg. 

"Sarah--" My phone dies, cutting off the rest of what she was going to say. I let if fall to the floor and wrap my arms around my knees, pulling them even closer to my chest than they already were. My entire body shakes so much that a part of me wonders if I'm having some kind of seizure. I stay that way in the corner, underneath my clothes hanging on the rack above my head. My face stays buried in my knees as I'm too afraid to get out and grab my charger so I can call Julia again. 

Please hurry, Julia. 

The growling and scratching continues for what seems like hours, and my face is soaked with tears. I struggle to stay quiet, though an occasional whimper escapes me, hoping that if I don't make any noise they'll assume I jumped out of a window or something and leave. 

The sound of  car engine grows closer, pulling into my driveway before shutting off. Everything goes silent. No scratching, no growling, no yelling, I don't even hear any footsteps. I slowly begin to raise my head when I hear a knocking sound coming from my room. I peer through the door shades at my window, though at first all I see is a reflection of my room. After a moment of hard staring, my eyes adjust to the darkness outside and I see the outline of Julia's face. 

I burst out of the closet and fly over to window. Fumbling, I manage to unlock the window and Julia steps through a moment later from the edge of a tree branch. She's lucky it didn't break.

"Are you okay?" she asks, putting her hands on either side of my head and checking me over. "Where are they? Are they still here?" Her frantic blue eyes search mine.

"I--I think so," I sniffle. I wipe my nose. "Why didn't you come through the door?"

"They were both locked. Look, I'm going to go search the rest of the house. Lock the door behind and don't come out unless I say so, okay?" I succeed in giving her a small nod.

What I don't understand is how she said both the doors were locked. Those men--creatures--came through the back door. It had to be unlocked for them to get in. Right? They didn't break it open; they walked right in.

A few minutes passes by before Julia comes back, claiming that the house is empty. Which is impossible. They were just here. 

"That's--that's not possible," I say. "They were just here. Did you find anything?" 

"Nothing."

"But--but they were here. I know they were here. Look at the door, they scratched all over it." The tears have stopped falling from my eyes by now, though my hands are still trembling. I wipe away the wetness from my face as I follow her to the door. She swings it open and we both take a look at the smooth, white wood. Not a single mark. 

"I swear they were, Julia. I know they were. They were here to kill me."

"Hey, I believe you," she says. She rubs my shoulders. "But whoever they were, they're gone now. There's nothing we can do about it right now."

Julia stays with me for the rest of the night, making me warm tea and calming me down. I go downstairs to see if my water spilled when I dropped it, but I find my water bottle sitting on the countertop. I could've sworn I dropped it, but I guess in the blur of things I ended up sitting it down before I took off. 

Little did I know that this would not be the last time this happened.  My visitors began returning more and more frequently over the next few months, but never in front of anyone but me. They were always gone by the time someone showed up, and they never left anything behind. I stopped calling Julia for help, as well as everyone else before they started thinking I was crazy. My friends may not have known they were there for lack of evidence, but I always knew what I saw. Always. They're very, very real, and one of these days they're going to succeed in whatever it is that they plan to do to me. I just don't know when.

The End

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