Oh, and remember my talk about this being a semi-horror story? Well, there's some graphic imagery in this chapter. Finally. You have been warned.
An entire week had passed since the event that rocked everyone's minds and made Kelly and Brendan have their own episodes. They were all back at school, and still nothing had happened. Many people had forgotten anyone had even died.
Brendan hadn't though, but he was starting to think that maybe, just maybe, it had all been coincidence. Deep down, he could not let himself believe that, but there was always the chance.
At lunch, he caught sight of Kelly's blue leather jacket ducking around the corner where it should have been going through the nearby doors instead. Brendan hurried to catch up with her, which was easy enough for him to do.
Kelly heard someone approaching and turned just in time to see Brendan get right up to where she was standing.
"Where are you heading, K?" he asked.
"I've done all the reading I can do on this stuff," she replied, holding up Christopher's book, it's blue almost matching her coat, but darker. "I'm going to put my theory to the test."
"Right now?" inquired Brendan, surprised at the sudden decision.
"I haven't seen Christopher all week, and I can't really try this without just doing it. Better now than just keep waiting. I won't have much more time, anyways."
That morning, the first real snowfall of the year had begun, and covered the ground with a light dusting. By the time the pair were standing outside avoiding lunch, the ivory dusting had accumulated almost an inch. Students were already crossing their fingers and praying to gods they didn't comprehend yet, or believe in for school to be cancelled early.
"I'll be damned if I'm going to hike out to Stonehenge in a foot of snow."
"Mind if I tag along?"
Kelly was surprised by the question. She had been expecting to do this all on her own, almost hoping for it. What she had planned was going to take deep concentration, and she feared any observers might prove to be too distracting. Not to mention how someone might react to what she had to do out there.
"What? Why?" She had to know.
"Well, let's see. You're a friend, and I seem to recall you taking exception to being left in the exact same place a week ago when there was a vampire or who knows what running around. You know, the usual."
Kelly clutched her new book to her chest. Brendan had just given her the best reason he could give her. How could she turn him down?
"I guess, but I don't want you to be shocked by what you might see out there," she tried to nudge him towards staying behind. Her efforts were half-hearted at best.
"Yeah, unless you start dancing naked in the woods, I doubt you can shock me too much." His effortless smile broke through to her, and Kelly could once again see why Rachel kept coming back to the guy. "Besides, whatever was out there, still is. I'd feel a lot better watching your back."
Kelly sighed and spun around. She waved her hand in the air to urge Brendan into following her. "You know the way by now."
The duo took some care to make sure no one noticed them, or if they were noticed, it was by people who just didn't care. Some of the elementary students were out in the playground, but none of them paid their older counterparts any heed. A few teachers glanced out their windows, but how often did they see students just wandering around? Nothing out of the ordinary there.
As they entered the forest, they both noticed there was a lot less cover now. Trees had been stripped bare to their bony branches of all their leaves. Bushes had passed into hibernation and whithered away as well.
The pair looked back and could see the school as clear as if they were right beside it. Their coloured clothing must make them stand out all the more against the stark white and greys of the wintery woods.
Once they realised just how exposed they were, Brendan and Kelly lit a fire under their feet. Their pace quickened into the forest until they crested the hill that blocked their Stonehenge from view. The snow and sleet of recent days made the hill all the more treacherous as they slid down the incline like a pair of skiers.
"How long is this going to take?" Brendan inquired while Kelly dropped her bookbag beside the nearest stone
"As long as it takes," she replied without really paying Brendan any attention. She was crouched down beside her bag and paging through the book she had clutched so close to her.
"Great, Michaelangelo. I'll just stand here and hope you're done before the next period."
Kelly just ignored Brendan, and went about her work. She set her book down on one of the flatter stones, the one Darien liked to sit on when they were all out there, and held it open with a smaller rock. The light breeze still licked at the pages and made them flutter like the leaves around them.
The girl was quick to gather up several branches and pile them up in the center of the stony fingers. She soon had a small fire going, and Brendan sniffed at the sweet smell of wood smoke filling the air. The smoke was just a slender wisp trailing up into the sky, and the fire small, so he hoped it would go unnoticed. The last thing they needed was the fire department intruding.
Brendan could feel himself growing impatient as Kelly laid out a blanket on the snow and sat down upon it, crossing her legs. It looked like she was meditating, or about to have a very silent picnic. He was getting antsy as time dragged on, and resisted looking at his watch to see just how long he'd been freezing his ass off out there.
His fingers drummed a steady beat on his arm as time dragged on. After who knows how long, the smoke shifted and drifted deeper into the woods, and was soon lost amongst the trees. Brendan had thought it was strange but not impossible until he noticed the wind had died down. In the silence, he could hear quiet mutterings from his companion.
As he watched the smoke, Brendan soon heard something rustling in the distance. He tried to focus, but all even he could make out was shifting branches in the distance, across the Black River.
Kelly ceased her murmuring and also watched as something exited the forest and came closer, following the trail of smoke. A pair of long ears was the first thing they noticed, but as it came closer and escaped the scattering of debris on the forest floor, the small brown rabbit came into view.
When it reached the river, it sniffed at the water that had yet to freeze, then back at the smoke which Brendan could only assume was leading it on. After it took a few moments of consideration, it found a rock sticking out of the rushing water to jump over to. It jumped from one rock to the next, with far more steady feet and surety than Brendan had done himself several months ago when chasing a bully.
The bunny at last made it across the river and hopped with speed straight towards Kelly. It sat on the blanket and looked up at her with beady, dark eyes. Its nose and whiskers twitched as it sniffed the girl. Kelly's hand reached out with great caution, not wanting to spook the creature. It sniffed at her fingers and let her scratch its head between the ears. The bunny seemed most appreciative of the gesture.
Brendan took a step closer, moving into the circle, and watched with interest. "Ok, you summoned a rabbit out of the woods, How does this help..."
The boy's words were cut short with the sharp crack of the rabbit's neck being snapped. It had happened so fast, that Brendan at first mistook the noise for a branch cracking in the forest. But when he looked down upon the rabbit, it's lifeless form now bent at an awkward angle in Kelly's hands, he knew what had happened.
Words tried to force themselves out of his mouth, but all he could manage were half-formed syllables and utterances that would not qualify as any sort of language. "Keh...wha...y...ffffff..."
All Kelly did as she held the dead rabbit in her hands was mutter over and over, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry..."
She could feel the tears forcing their way into her eyes, and she did her best to hold them back. She knew there was no other way.
Brendan at last managed to relearn the English language behind her and shouted out, "What the hell was that!"
Kelly wiped at her nose, "It had to be done. The magic, it needs blood. Blood for blood, life for life. I...I only pray this is enough for what I want to do."
"Or what?" Brendan cried out. "Am I next?"
Kelly's head whipped around to face Brendan, and the tears ran down her face. "How could you say that? I know I could never hurt you!"
Brendan wanted to point out how until 20 seconds ago, he knoew she couldn't hurt a harmless bunny rabbit either, but knew this wasn't the time.
All he could manage was, "I know. I...just...you... I'm a little surprised is all?"
Kelly turned back to her victim, staring at the fuzzy, dead thing sitting in front of her crossed legs. It's tiny nose laid just upon her jeans, twitching no more.
"This is why I didn't want you here, you wouldn't understand."
"Damn right," muttered Brendan. Whether Kelly heard it or not, he could not tell.
"I've tried a few things over the last week, read up in Christopher's book, and any healing requires an appropriate sacrifice of blood. I didn't want to do this, but I knew just cutting my hand would not be enough to bring Alyson back."
She scooped up the body with far more gentleness and care than she had shown before, and brought it closer to one of the stones. From out of nowhere, she produced a knife, and slit the rabbit upon from head to toe.
Brendan thought he was going to be sick, but he could tell it was even worse for Kelly.
The girl stuck her hands against the body, smearing her hands with its crimson lifeblood. Kelly turned her head away, not even wanting to look at what she was doing. She blindly sought out her cut, and pressed her hands up against it, coming short of sticking her hands into the carcass.
When Kelly pulled her hands back, Brendan could see they were stained a dark red, almost black in the poor light of the overcast, snowy day. They dripped blood down to the forest floor, and Brendan could see bits of fur and dirt stuck to her hands, using the blood like glue.
Brendan could hear the girl's breathing quicken, and feared she was about to hyperventilate and pass out. Instead, she pushed past the sight of her own hands and pressed each one upon the stone in front of her. The chill she had been expecting was almost non-existant, and instead she felt the same warmth within the stone she had felt before. The warmth was muted though, like it had turned itself down once no one was using them.
Words began to form in Kelly's mouth, but they were slow, halting, like she was having trouble even speaking. "Brigid, goddess of the flames, and goddess of healing, I come to you for a great boon. I do so selflessly and without regret." Her eyes glanced down at the rabbit at her feet, the remaining blood colouring the snow around it a rich, scarlet shade.
"I bring you this sacrifice, a life for a life. Take this creature as payment, and bring my friend back to us. Breathe life and warmth, fire and blood, back into Alyson once more."
As those words were being spoken, Brendan could feel a tingling sensation, like someone running their fingers up his spine. He wasn't sure if he was just creeped out by watching an actual blood sacrifice and letting it happen, or if there were forces beyond his sight and comprehension gathering around him, all at the behest of a young girl with bloodstained hands.
Elsewhere on the school grounds, but not far from them at all, Alyson was finishing up her lunch. She tossed the empty brown paper bag into a nearby trash can. As the paper was out of her hands and forgotten, the redhead felt like she had been punched in the chest. She hadn't felt a pain like that since she had died, and her legs threatened to buckle. The feeling even made last week's attack feel like nothing more than heartburn.
Alyson could feel all eyes beginning to look over at the girl who was starting to pull into a tight ball with every passing second.
She pushed past the pain and stumbled down the three steps from the cafeteria and almost fell out the door instead of walking through. The weight of her body slamming against the heavy metal slab was enough to force it open without much other assistance.
Each step was an agony of sensation. Every inch felt like she was going to fall into a million pieces. The day was overcast, and the sun blocked from sight, but Alyson was in too much pain to notice one way or the other.
Poisons had no effect on her, and she was at a loss for what was happening to her. It was impossible. All pain was supposed to be gone, all suffering in her eternal life, except for the suffering of her heart and soul.
Alyson looked around, trying to see if anyone was there that shouldn't be, someone that could be attacking her. Everyone she saw was a student she recognised, but as she looked every which way, her eyes turned towards the stone circle. In an instant, she knew that was the source of her troubles. How she knew, how she could be so sure, Alyson couldn't say. But it was like something there was drawing her in.
Not one to ignore an invitation, Alyson lurched towards the forest edge. Each step was agony, every inch was an excruciating struggle in perseverence. The pain would not stop her, though. She would reach that circle and tear out the throat of whomever Beadle had left to finish the job.
Alyson did her best to stand tall, dragging each step behind the last. Everyone was too wrapped up in their own worlds to pay her much mind, but if she looked like she was suffering too much, there would be a crowd around her. They'd stop her with annoying questions of whether she was ok or not, and before they knew it she'd be dead at their feet.
She reached the forest and trudged onwards. With each step the pain got worse, but it was already so bad it was hard to even notice, like she was getting closer to flames that were already burning her.
As the girl neared the circle, she noticed in the back of her mind someone rushing up to her from behind, but she paid them no mind until their hands were on her shoulders. Hands she recognised as easily as her own.
"Get me to the circle, Darien," she said, each word an agony of effort to even form.
"Alyson, something is wrong, we need to find..."
"GET ME TO THE STONES, HUMAN!" she shouted, but her voice wasn't even Alyson's anymore, nor was her face. It was the only time his sister's vampire transformation had ever made Darien recoil. The red eyes were nothing but rage personified, and the fangs had never looked more deadly.
Darien fought his urge to run, and put his arm around his sister, and she leaned against him. With Darien to help her, Alyson's journey went quicker, but it was still a struggle.
The twins entered the clearing and saw the last thing they had expected to see. They had thought they would find a group of vampires striking down their enemies from afar, in vengeance for their fallen leader. Never would they have guessed that their two closest friends were at the heart of the circle, and the source of Alyson's suffering.
Alyson pushed her brother away. She no longer needed his help, not with blood and rage fueling her on now. She no longer even felt pain, just the need for vengeance.
"What are you..." the girl began to shout, but no more than five steps away from her brother did the life drain out of Alyson's face and she collapsed to the snow covered ground.
Still, she struggled to her hands and knees, blood-red eyes glaring with hate and destruction at Kelly. She tried to speak again, but something was lodged in her throat.
Her mouth kept moving, trying to speak, but not even gasps could escape. Alyson pounded the ground with a balled up fist, and Brendan could swear he felt the ground shake from the tiny girl's action.
Darien was at a loss. He didn't know what to do. He was about to help his sister when her body convulsed and her mouth opened wide, shooting forth a stream of blood tinged bile. It looked like blood, but far more dark, like it was diseased. The ground around Alyson was covered in red in seconds, and still it kept coming. Every time they thought she was done, another stream of hot blood shot forth.
Alyson soon was just heaving and nothing more came out. Her breathing shook her body, and Darien expected more convulsions and heaving, but they never came. Instead she collapsed to the ground in the pool of her own fluids.
At last, Darien's frozen limbs moved and he came to the side of his sister's motionless body, trying to scoop it up without getting any blood on his clothes, but that was a lost cause before it had even begun.
He held onto Alyson's body, staring down at it for the longest time, until his cold, grey eyes turned towards his friends. If they had seen rage in Alyson's eyes before, they now saw even worse in her brother's. The same temper ran through their blood, and it was all the more terrifying to see it in someone who was not a vampire.
"What have you done to my sister?"