"Mel, wake up! We need to get going!"
"What's wrong?" I shook the grogginess as I shot out of bed.
"They're coming. We're going to be attacked. Don't panic, just get dressed, quickly."
I grabbed clothes at random and ran into the bathroom. My heart was pounding like a crazed drummer. What's going on? Why are they attacking now? It must be somewhere near dawn! I thought, stripping off my tank top and baggy sweats I had worn to bed, exchanging them for a pair of jeans and a black tee shirt.
"How do you know? Are they in the town?!" I asked, slipping into my sneakers and lacing them up as I spoke.
"Mel, we have lookouts, They're on the borders, trying to get in. The only thing holding them back is Adam hasn't arrived yet."
"What's he got to do with it?"
"They need to be invited in here. Adam has been, somehow, and he will bring them, when he gets here... I'm assuming we don't have long."
"Who would invite him in? He's one of them isn't he?"
"That was my question. Then I figured it out. It was you."
"What?! I did no such thing! I-"
"Mel, listen, we don't have time to argue. Did you and Adam ever talk about always being there for one another? Where one goes the other will follow? Something of that sort?"
"Well yeah, but-"
"That's how. That promise is carried on. They can all get in with Adam's help. Don't you dare blame yourself. You made those promises before you knew anything about them."
I nodded, "Are we going or what?"
"Let's go. Clara is waiting for us. It's gonna be a long night."
"As you all know," Clara began, standing at the head of the table, about one hundred of us were crowded into the room, "We will soon be under siege of those creatures from Hell. I want you all to remember what you hold dear to you. Fight for that which you love. It may be a fight to the death. If we can hold out until dawn we might prevail. We need every one of you, if we hope to stand a chance."
There was a murmur, like a buzzing swarm of bees, among the crowd, as Clara paused. It grew louder, until everyone seemed to be shouting, trying to be heard over one another. Everyone's scents were melding together, I caught whiffs of cologne, inexpensive perfumes, sweat, and of course, the ever present scent of the forest. I began to get dizzy, with all the different sounds and scents exploding around me; like he had promised, Max saved me.
"Everyone, please be quiet! Clara has asked you all to remain calm." He stepped to the front of the room, to join Clara, "We've fought battles with these demons before. We've prevailed. In this situation, we have a good advantage, as well. They're coming into our territory. The place we know better than they possibly could. Our only struggle might fall in keeping them out of the town."
"What are we gonna do with those kids?" One person asked, obviously talking about Frankie, Heather, and Keith.
"We- that is, Clara, Gina, and I- made a plan, after they infiltrated our defenses last time. The children will be hidden in one of the underground storage areas. They are well enough hidden that the enemy will not think to look there. They will not smell their living bodies, and the children will be as safe as anywhere else."
I grew more restless with his every word. This was real, I was going to go with them this time to fight. I might come face to face with my brother. The weeks of training were going to be tested in the most real of ways. There would be no retries or backing down. This was pass or fail, do or die. This was life or death.
When Max finally rejoined me, the crowd of people began to speak in hushed tones together once more. I looked up at him and chewed my lower lip for a moment, "Max... What if-"
"Don't worry, Mel. We'll be okay. We'll keep the promises we made and both make it out of this just fine."
"No, that's not what I was going to say... Adam got in here because he and I had a bond-where one went, the other can always follow, right?"
"Yes, but what-" the realization of what I was trying to say crossed his face, "What if one of our own... Oh, my God... Mel, come with me. We're going to talk to Clara." He took my hand and walked to where Clara was still standing, waiting patiently for everyone to calm down enough to listen to her.
"What's wrong, Max?" She asked, startled, when he had touched her shoulder.
"Mel just came up with an idea. It sounds crazy, but I bet she's right. I think you should hear her out."
"Of course. What is it, Amelia?"
"Well... The other night, Max and I were talking about the night Adam got in here, About how he breached the defenses... We came up with a theory that is as strong as any."
Clara nodded, to show I had her full attention.
"Adam got in here because of me- because we had a bond... Wherever one of us went, the other could always follow. Well... What if one of our own is turned into one of them. Then they could come back and, not only get into our village, but they could get into individual homes. They could attack people when their guard is down."
Clara's eyes widened, "Oh my word, you're right! That could be the answer... But what to do?"
"Well, We could have everyone know that once they leave our membership-through quitting or death- they are no longer welcome here. Make them sign a contract... It might work." Max said, thinking quickly.
Clara nodded slowly, "Do you think you and Amelia could keep an eye on things here? I'll run back to my office and make some contracts. When I come back, everyone will sign them."
Max and I nodded in unison. No sooner had Clara acknowledged our agreement, than she was gone.