Chapter Five: Vampires are Real
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“Alice,” said Aunt Betty, her voice quivering in fear. “Alice.  It’s Paul.  He’s…He’s…”

            Alice stood up immediately.  She was still trying to process what she’d just seen, but the sound of her uncle in danger at least gave her some clarity.  The power was out, so Alice had to navigate by the light of the flashlights her cousins held.  Kneeling next to Uncle, Alice saw the problem immediately.  He had an ugly bruise on his neck, which explained the strained breathing.  At least he was breathing at all, if barely.

            “He doesn’t seem to be in immediate danger,” said Alice. “But he still needs help.”

            “I’ll call an ambulance,” said Penny, pulling her phone out.

            At that moment, Alice noticed an absence.

            “Where’s my mother?”

            “Aunt Sara’s back in the study,” said Ryan. “Froze up when we heard that weird noise.  Turned white as a sheet.”

            Alice didn’t blame her.  That sound had been downright inhuman.  On thinking of that sound, Alice suddenly realized something that sent a chill through her bones.

            “Penny, we can’t call an ambulance.”

            Everyone looked at Alice with dumbfounded looks.  Penny had just finished getting her purse and fishing her phone out when he stopped to stare at Alice.

            “What are you talking about?” asked Penny.

            “We can’t call an ambulance,” said Alice. “Ryan, that sound you heard?  It was a vampire.  That’s what did this to Paul.”

            Ryan looked confused and terrified.  All he could do was say, “What?”

            Alice got the sense that he wanted to say she was crazy but couldn’t quite bring himself to do so.  It wasn’t hard for Alice to guess why.

            “You heard that shriek, right?” she said. “Can you name one living thing that makes a shriek like that?  It was a vampire.  I saw the fangs right in her mouth.” She looked down,  “Uncle Paul, the one who attacked us would have passed right over you, crawling on the roof.  You saw it, right?”

            Weakly, Uncle Paul nodded, his breathing still strained.  Penny put her hands to her mouth, starting to breathe heavily.

            “But wait,” said Ryan. “If it was a vampire, why didn’t it…I don’t know…drain your blood or something?  Why just hit Dad’s neck?”

            “I don’t know about that,” said Alice. “But this seemed to scare it off.”

            She held up the cross around her neck for everyone to see.

            “But why can’t we call 911?” Asked Penny.

            “Because we’d just be putting the EMTs in danger,” said Alice, walking up to the front door and closing it.  She then locked everything, including the chain lock. “They’d get attacked, and Uncle Paul wouldn’t be any better off.”

            “Then why can’t we call the police?”

            “Penny, you didn’t see how fast that thing moved.  Believe me. We’re lucky only one of them got permission to come in.”

            “There’s more than one?” asked Ryan.

            “I’m afraid so,”  said Alice. “And after seeing a vampire in action, I know the police couldn’t help us.  They won’t believe the truth, and if we lie just to get them out here, they’ll just walk into something they’re completely unprepared for.  Garlic and wooden stakes aren’t exactly standard police equipment, and who knows if guns even work on them?”

            “We have to do something,” said Aunt Betty, grasping Paul’s hand.

            “I know,” said Alice.  “Get Paul back to the study and get some ice.  That should help with the swelling, but make sure you don’t put pressure on his neck.  He still needs to be able to breathe.  We’ll lock ourselves in the study with guns.”

            “And then what?” said Penny. “We hold out until sunrise?  The sun hurts vampires, doesn’t it?”

            “That would be my guess,” said Alice. “And I imagine wooden stakes through the heart work too.  Honestly, though?  Vampire stories have existed for hundreds of years.  There’ve been so many versions of them that who know’s what’s real and what’s not?  We need more information,” she pulled something out of her pocket. “Fortunately, I have a hunch as to where we can get it.”

            And she held up the business card to the FBI agents who’d talked to her before.

 

Uncle Paul could walk, but since it wasn't easy to breathe, Aunt Betty supported him.  They brought him to the study, where Alice’s mother was.  As Alice had learned, Sara Hayes sat there in shock, her eyes wide as she stared into space.  She didn’t even seem to notice that they’d entered the room.  As the others lay Uncle Paul down on the floor, Alice went to her mother and knelt next to her.

            “Mom,” said Alice, looking her in the eye.

            “Alice,” said her mother, staring into space with fear. “That noise.  That horrible noise.  Was that what I think it was?”

            Alice closed her eyes and sighed.

            “Yes,” said Alice. “I’m afraid it was.”

            Her mother closed her eyes, clasped her hands together, and gave out a tiny sob, saying, “Oh God.”

            So Mom had figured it out without even seeing one.  It was no wonder she was upset.

            Alice took a deep breath and said, “Mom, Uncle Paul was hurt.  He needs help holding an ice pack to his neck gently, so he can still breathe.  Can you do that?”

            When she heard that Paul was hurt, Sara Hayes looked over and seemed to break out of her stupor.  She went over to help, and Alice breathed a sigh of relief. 

            The next moment Alice retrieved a marker and told Penny to mark the window and the door with crosses.  Then Alice got some garlic powder from the pantry while Ryan snapped off a leg from the dining room chairs to sharpen a stake.  Sadly, the wood cutting ax was in the toolshed, so Ryan got to work with a serrated knife from the kitchen, putting a point on the chair leg.  Alice and Penny armed themselves with rifles while Aunt Betty grabbed a pistol and a flashlight, which ended up being the only light source in the room, and they kept watch.  In a moment of inspiration, Alice got the marker again and started marking her skin with crosses.  She put one on either side of her neck, several on her arms, more on her legs, and finally, one on each palm.  When she finished herself, the others eagerly accepted such markings.  Ryan took a break from sawing to get marked and went back to work immediately.  Alice marked everyone else, and she prayed silently that it would be enough.  Alice didn’t mark her Uncle’s neck, unfortunately.  Alice didn’t think he could take it, so she settled for marking under his neck.

            “This is brilliant,” said Ryan, still sawing the leg. “Now we’re vampire proof.”

            “I don’t know,” said Penny.  Does anyone else think this seems…I don’t know…too easy?”

            “Hopefully,” said Alice, finishing up marking Penny’s ankle and picking up her rifle. “We’ll soon find out.”

            Alice got out her phone, thankful she had a signal and picked up the business card to dial the number.  She didn’t do so immediately, as everyone in the room looked at Alice doubtfully, even Uncle Paul with his strained breathing.  Alice’s mother, in particular, had a terribly fearful look.

            “Alice,” said Aunt Betty. “They’re never going to believe you.”

            “Maybe,” said Alice. “But when I talked to them, they admitted that they’re investigating other, similar murders.  Thinking back, they never said how long they’d been doing so, but it has to be at least ten years since the day Arthur was taken.  If they’ve been investigating it for that long, there’s a chance they’ve already discovered the truth.  I mean, admit it.  It wouldn’t surprise you if the government knew vampires existed and kept it secret.  Would it?”

            No one argued with that, and Alice dialed the number, setting the phone to speaker so everyone could hear.  Moments later, she heard Agent Walker’s voice.

            “FBI, agent walker speaking.”

            “Agent Walker,” said Alice. “I’m on my Uncle’s farm in the country, and we were just attacked by a vampire.”

            The other line was silent for a moment as Alice held her breath.  When Agent Walker answered, he did so seriously.

            “That’s quite a claim, Mrs. Hayes.  I acknowledge that all these murders are at least made to look like vampires did it, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to give me something to go on if I’m to take you seriously.  Please explain what happened clearly with as many details as possible.”

            He hadn’t flat out dismissed them, which Alice took as a good sign.  She took a deep breath and explained the situation as clearly as she could.

            “Three of them showed up at the door.  I knew something was wrong the moment I saw them.  They were impossibly perfect.  No wrinkles, blemishes, or even freckles marked their skin.  They tried to get my Uncle to let them into the house.  We agreed not to with all the murders going on, but one got permission to use the bathroom.  That’s when she attacked.  She whistled ot the others who cut the power.  Then she bruised my uncle’s neck to the point where he can barely breathe and can’t speak, and then it went after me.  The only reason it didn’t stick its fangs in my neck is that I’m wearing a cross.  When it saw that, it shrieked, unlike anything I’ve heard, and crawled away faster than anything I’ve ever seen.”

            Alice waited for the answer with bated breath.  The others in the room didn’t seem to be breathing much either.

            “Alright,” said Walker. “I’m got some good news and some bad news.  The good news is that your description of a vampire attack is accurate enough, and I believe you.  I’ve dispatched men to your location.”

            Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, including Alice.  Alice, however, braced herself for the next part.

            “And the bad news?”

            “The bad news,” said Walker. “Is that it will take them just under an hour to get there.  You’re going to have to survive until then.”

            “Honestly?  That’s more than I hoped for.  I just wanted information.   Do you really have men that close?  We’re a day out of Saint Vivia.”

            “You’ve seen all the murders on the news,” said Walker. “That many Vampires in one place isn’t normal.  Something big is happening in Saint Vivia City.  We’ve been calling people in from all over the place.  Several of our units already on their way here were in your general vicinity. I just redirected the closest one.”

            With this new information, Alice had a hunch about something she found both reassuring and frustrating at the same time.

            “Tell me.  Are you actually FBI?  Or are you something that specializes in this sort of thing?”

            She could hear the amusement in his voice.

            “You catch on quickly, Mrs. Hayes,” he said.  “No, I’m not FBI.  I represent a secret organization called The Night Hunters.  FBI was just my cover story.”

            “And you hunt vampires?”

            “Among other things.”

            “Other things?” asked Penny fearfully.

            “Let’s stick with vampires for now,” said Alice, hoping to avoid any distractions.  “What can we do while we’re waiting for backup?  Could Aunt Betty, I don’t know, rescind the invitation?”

            “No,” said Walker. “You guess right that it has to be someone who lives at that house, but only the person who gives the invitation can rescind it, and it must be spoken out loud.  That’s why they injured your uncle’s neck.  I can tell you what to do, but first, tell me what you’ve already done.”

            At that moment, Ryan held up his finished stake, showing it off for Alice to inspect.  She nodded to him before speaking to Walker again.

            “We’ve locked ourselves in my Uncle’s study with the guns, my cousin Ryan just finished turning a table leg into a wooden stake, we have garlic powder, and we’ve marked the window, the door, and ourselves with crosses.”

            “First thing to do,” said Walker. “Barricade the door and the window with something heavy.”

            “Are crosses not enough?”

            “It’s true that symbols of the Christian faith have always been a vampire’s Achilles heel, but to actually hurt them, you need materials of religious significance.  Water and trees have symbolic relevance in the bible, for instance.  That’s why wooden stakes and holy water are so effective.  The image of a cross can repel them, but that’s not enough to kill them.  All the image can do is create a mental block, and that can be overcome with enough willpower.  Some older Vampires can resist it entirely, but even if this particular vampire was repelled, it’s only a matter of time before she’s ready to attack again.”

            Alice let that sink in for a moment, and she could just feel the worried looks around her.

            “How much time do we have?” she asked.

            “Impossible to say I’m afraid,” said Walker. “It depends on when she last fed.”

            Alice closed her eyes as she figured out the rest.

            “Because she’ll overcome it when she’s hungry enough.”

            “Correct.  You’ll know the vampire is hungry enough when she no longer looks human.  Vampires can hide their true appearance behind an illusion that makes them look human.  If they get too hungry, they lose control of this ability, revealing their true vampiric form.  I recommend you barricade the room before that happens.”

            “Okay, give us a minute.”

            Alice locked the door, and then she, Ryan, and Penny moved the only things they had available to block the door and the window, a pair of bookcases.  Once those were in place, Alice picked up the phone.

            “Okay,” said Alice. “We have the closest thing approximating barricades available.  Now what?”

            “Now,” said Walker. “Avoid fighting the vampire if you can.  Stay behind the barricade.  So long as only one of them can enter the house, your best hope is to stall until we can get there.  I guarantee that you won’t have the proper tools or training to take down a vampire safely.”

            “I’m sure that’s true,” said Alice. “But suppose we have no choice?”

“If you have no other choice but to fight, then loud sounds, bright lights, and strong smells can throw them off.  You can use your flashlights to blind it, and your guns, even if you don’t hit her, will at least hurt her ears.  Their strongest sense is their smell, so if you have garlic, that will work.  None of these methods will repel it completely, I’m afraid, but it can distract them enough to get the upper hand.

            “After that, your best bet is to shoot it so it can’t move, then stake it through the heart.  The problem with that strategy is that vampires heal from normal wounds fast.  Your window of opportunity to stake it will be quite low.  It doesn’t help that vampires are fast in general.  It won’t be impossible to shoot them, but you’re likely to miss all the same.  Furthermore, that’s assuming you’ll even see it coming.  Vampires are nocturnal predators, and a successful hunt ends with them catching their prey before they even realize it.  I still maintain that your best bet is to hold it at bay until we arrive.”

            “What about cutting her head off?”

            “If a vampire loses its head, it can just put it back on.  You need the right weapons, like a sword shaped like a cross and plated with silver, or perhaps a giant wooden axe.”

            “Too bad I’m fresh out of swords,” said Alice, starting to get a headache. “What about fire?”

            “That will do it, but the amount of fire you’d need risks starting one in the house.  Considering you can’t leave the house should it catch fire, I’d recommend that only as a last resort.”

“Alright.  You mentioned it could change its appearance with an illusion.  Can vampires make other illusions?”

            “No,” said Walker. “For most people, they can only alter their own appearance.  To gain more influence over a human, they must feed from them.”

            “Good to know,” said Alice. “One more question.  If we do manage to kill this vampire, what will the other vampires do?”

            “In the unlikely event you manage to kill this vampire,” said Walker. “The others will undoubtedly try to force you out of the house somehow.  That might include sending in humans under their control.”

            “What?” asked Penny, distraught.

            “As I said, vampires can take control of someone once they feed on them,” said Walker. “There’s a good chance they won’t risk their food source if they don’t have to, but it will be the easiest way to get inside a house they can’t otherwise enter.  If any humans enter the house, I recommend you shoot to kill.”

            “But…” Penny stammered. “But we can’t shoot people.  I mean, if this is true, aren’t they just victims too?”

            “The process to control their victims isn’t instant.  The more feedings they undergo, the more control the vampires have.  If any humans are willing to attack other humans on behalf of a vampire, then I’m afraid they’re too far gone to help.  The kindest thing you can do for them is free them from their mental bondage.  Furthermore, if any humans approach asking for help, they are under a vampire’s control.  There’s no way a human is getting to that house without the vampires getting to them first.”

            Alice looked around.  Everyone was distraught at this news, none more so than Alice’s mother.  Alice took a deep breath, putting on as determined a face as she could.

            “We understand,” said Alice.

            “Good,” said Walker. “One more thing.  Your description matched vampires.  That’s true.  But I did find one detail rather…odd.”

            “What’s that?”

            “Vampires usually only target one person at a time to avoid attention.  In the cases where they take an entire household, they do so one at a time, making sure they have control over all of them before anyone realizes something is wrong.  They always target someone with authority to grant an invitation first, for obvious reasons.  However, in your case, they merely disabled someone so he couldn’t rescind his invitation and went straight for someone who doesn’t even live there.  That suggests that they’re targeting you specifically, Alice Hayes.  Why would they do that?”

            Alice looked at her mother, and the fear in her face was evident.

            “Believe me,” said Alice. “I wish I knew.”

            Once again, Agent Walker didn’t respond immediately.

            “Alright then,”  said Walker.  “You just sit tight, and our men will be there as soon as they can.”

            “Got it.”

            And so they waited.  Alice, Penny, and Ryan stood at the corners of the room and gripped their rifles, while Aunt Betty and Alice’s mother held up flashlights at the barricaded door while they tended to Uncle Paul.  Ryan had the wooden stake stuck through his belt.  As a man who worked out for a living, he was easily the physically strongest among them, so if anyone could put a stake through a torso quickly, it would be him.  No one moved from their spots or dared to speak.  Alice left her phone on the table, and it showed Agent Walker’s number as he stayed on the line.  Now that they’d stopped talking, it stuck out to Alice just how quiet it was.  She kept listening for more of those shrieks or the sound of it crawling on the walls outside that room, but she heard nothing.  They’d been waiting for ten minutes, and she already felt like she was going insane.

            The worst part was her mother.  Even as she cared for her brother-in-law, Sara Hayes had this sunken look in her eyes, and it wasn’t hard to guess why.   Not only were they surrounded by vampires, but they now had a pretty good idea about what had happened to Arthur.  If Alice were honest with herself, she’d probably be happier not knowing.  She could only imagine what her mother was thinking.  All Alice could do was try very, very hard not to think about it herself.

            More time passed, and Alice became aware of just how restless everyone was.  No one could sit still, and everyone shifted position constantly.  No one, however, was more restless than Ryan, whose eyes darted around everywhere.

            “I wish she’d just get it over with,” said Ryan. “The wait is killing me.”

            “I’d rather she never show up,” said Penny.

            “Somehow, I don’t think we’re going to be that lucky.

            “Could you please not be such a pessimist?  I’m doing that well enough expecting the worst without help, thank you.”

            “I just want to do something rather than just stand here.  Be the hunter rather than the prey.”

            “I don’t recommend that,” said Walker.

            “Could we please stop talking?” said Alice angrily. “I’d rather not make it easier for the vampire to sneak up on us.”

            Her voice came from outside the door, “Well, guess who’s the smart one?”

            Alice, Penny, and Ryan pointed their guns towards the door.  Alice could feel her heart speed up instantly, knowing what was out there.  The vampire’s voice was different this time.  It was more guttural, like an animal speaking.  Alice didn’t want to know what she looked like now but had a feeling she was going to find out.  The sound placed the vampire in front of the cross marking the door, so she was undoubtedly hungry.

            “Now now,” said the vampire, smugly condescending.  “There’s no need to get jumpy.”

            “Then maybe don’t sneak up on people,” said Alice. “It tends to make people tense.”

            The vampire laughed a throaty, gravelly laugh.  Alice, heeding agent Walker’s words, attempted to stall.

            “How’d you get back inside?” she asked.  “We didn’t hear anyone breaking in.”

            “Picked the lock,” said the Vampire. “I so rarely get to do that, you know?  But let’s not waste time with chit-chat.  I have a proposal for you.  You, Alice Hayes, give yourself up to us, and we’ll let the rest of the family go.”

            “No!” shouted Sara.

            Alice resisted the urge to look at her mother after that outburst and kept her eyes focused on the barricaded door.

            “So let me get this straight,” said Alice. “You’re a dangerous nocturnal predator who feeds off the blood of humans, and you expect me to trust you to keep your word?  Not to mention you hurt my uncle so bad he can barely breathe.”

            “Well, I don’t deny it,” said the vampire. “But I heard your conversation.  I know you’ve turned to the Night Hunters, so I know I have limited time.  If I can save time by making a deal, I’m willing to do that.  However, if not, I don’t have time to waste taking control over all of you, so anyone who gets between Alice and me will have to die.  It’s as simple as that.”

            Alice clenched her teeth, but the vampire wasn’t finished.  Its next words were smugly condescending.

            “So Alice can save all of you by giving herself up.  Or, you know, the rest of you could save yourselves by giving her up.  Either works for me.”

             Alice tried to think of a way to stall some more.

            “First, tell me why you’re after me.  If…”

            “Did I not make myself clear?” asked the vampire irritably. “I know the Night Hunters are coming, so I won’t tolerate stalling.”

            Alice cringed.

            “Everyone in there can either live, or they can die as horrible a death as I can give them,” the vampire continued. “Either way, Alice Hayes will leave with us this night, now choose.”

            For a moment, Alice considered it.  She didn’t want anyone to get hurt because of her.

            “Maybe you should have made this offer before you attacked my dad,” said Ryan angrily.  “Save your deals for someone more gullible and stay away from my cousin.”

            Ryan shot his gun at the wall, making Alice Jump and the Vampire shriek.  Alice guessed that loud sounds really did hurt a vampire’s ears.  There was no way that bullet had gone all the way through.  Moments later, the room was silent again.  Alice felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

            “Thanks, Ryan,” she said.

            “Sure thing.”

            “Word of advice?” said Walker. “Aim at the roof.  You don’t want to weaken the wall.  That’s just helping the vampire get through.  Right now, the sound from the guns is the best repellent you have.”

            “Got it,” said Alice.

            Moments later, something banged on the door, causing the bookcase in front of it to shake.  All of them backed away as the three elders on the floor cringed.  Alice let out a shot at the roof, making the vampire shriek again.  For a few moments, the room was silent again, and then the banging began once again.  Penny shot this time, but the process just repeated.  The vampire would start banging at the door, one of them would shoot so the sound would repel it, or so a stray bullet might hurt it, but it would be back in less than a minute.           

            Soon the bookcase started falling over.  Ryan let off a shot and ran over, backing against the bookcase to hold it to the door.  His whole body buckled when the vampire struck the door again.

            “This isn’t working,” he said.

            “I know,” said Alice, reloading her gun. “At this rate, we’ll run out of ammo before the vampire even gets in the room.  Agent Walker?”

            She shot the roof again, forcing the vampire to flee temporarily.

            “Our men are on the way,” said the phone on the desk. “Just hold on.”

            The bookcase buckled again, pushing Ryan forward before he planted himself back.  He was never going to hold this thing off for long.

            “Walker,” said Alice, almost shouting.  “We don’t have time to wait.  Penny, get a handful of garlic powder.  Aunt Betty and Mom, get your flashlights and get ready.  We’ll overload it, then shoot it down.  Ryan, when I tell you, get away from the door.”

            “Okay,” said Ryan. “Just let…”

            At that moment, something impacted the door, and Alice heard wood breaking.

            “Ryan!” she cried. “Get…”

            Before Alice could finish, they heard the sound of wood bursting.  As Alice looked before her, she saw Ryan’s eyes roll back in his head as he started convulsing.  Moments later, his arms went limp, and he fell forward, revealing a clawed hand sticking through the back of the bookcase, claws dripping with blood.  As the hand disappeared through the wooden hole, Ryan hit the floor with a thump, revealing holes in the back of his head, spilling blood.  He convulsed for a second more and then went still.

            Alice’s eyes grew wide, and she felt herself trembling.  In the back of her mind, she heard Penny screaming Ryan’s name at the top of her lungs.  Alice grasped the gun in her hand, her fingers tightening until they were white.

            The next moment, an impact knocked the door off its hinges, and then both it and the bookcase fell onto Ryan, making Alice step back.  Then, in a moment where time seemed to stand still, Alice saw a vampire’s true form for the first time.

            The creature wore similar clothing to before but ripped, dirty, and full of holes as if she’d put something on and hadn’t take it off in years.  She had dark, grey, leathery skin all over, and her claws opened threateningly, ready to rip flesh apart.  The creature somehow had both powerful muscles and bones that protruded from her skin, including her ribcage visible through her clothing.  Her hair was wild and shaggy, and her feet, having ditched the shoes, bore sharp talons that cut into the wooden floor.

            But the thing that stuck out to Alice most was the vampire's face.  It had wrinkled skin pulled tight, showing every detail of the skull beneath it. The creature had a flat, batlike nose that sniffed the air and intense, bloodred eyes.  In those eyes, Alice saw pure hatred and malice as the vampire bared its gleaming fangs.

            They reacted immediately.  Aunt Betty and Alice’s mother raised their flashlights, making it wince, and penny threw some garlic powder, stopping the vampire in its tracks.  Alice immediately opened fire, shooting her rifle as fast as her finger would let her as the monster shrieked in pain.  Blood spilled wherever bullets struck the vampire’s flesh, and then it fled.  Though it moved more slowly than before, it still got away, disappearing through the door and turning left down the hall.

            Alice ceased firing.  For a moment, she stood there, holding her gun up and never moving it from the now gaping hole where the door used to be.  The only sound was the labored and fearful breathing of everyone in the room.  She didn’t have time to dwell on that, however.  Moments later, Alice heard something else.  Uncle Paul gave out a painful moan, which turned into stifled sobs.  Alice didn’t need to look to figure out what he was crying about.  Moments later, Aunt Betty came over and tried to lift the bookcase off of Ryan.

            “Ryan,” the older woman said desperately. “Ryan.  Ryan!”

            “Penny,” said Alice. “Watch the door.”

            On the verge of tears herself, Penny nodded, raising her rifle to watch the door.  Alice then knelt, helping her aunt get the bookcase off of him.  Once Ryan was visible, Aunt Betty turned him over and shook him, saying his name over and over again.  Alice, keeping an eye on the entrance as she placed a finger at Ryan’s neck.  His blank, glassy stare didn’t bode well, and it only took a few seconds to determine that there was no pulse.  Aunt Betty looked up at her with wide, fearful eyes, and it pained Alice to say what she had to say next.

            “I’m sorry.”

            “No,” Aunt Betty moaned, saying that same word over and over again.  Alice could hear Penny start to cry, and Uncle Paul give out more pained moans.  For a moment, Alice looked over to see his pained face as he struggled to breathe, tears falling down his cheeks.  Alice’s mother stayed by his side, tears falling down her face as well.  Alice closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and then opened them, deciding on what to do next.

            Still kneeling next to Ryan, she reached down and closed his eyes with her fingertips as Aunt Betty clung to his lifeless form.  Then she carefully reached down to Ryan’s belt and pulled out the wooden stake.  Sara Hayes noticed.

            “Alice,” said her mother fearfully. “What are you doing?”

            “Taking Ryan’s lead,” said Alice. “I don’t think we can just wait around any more.  I’m going to go out and kill that thing.”

            “Alice, you can’t,” said Penny. “It’s after you.”

            “Exactly,” said Alice slipping the stake through her own belt. “If I fail and it gets me, then they’ll have what they want.  Then they’ll have reason to leave before the night hunters get here.”

“I would advice against that,” said Walker hesitantly. “But will concede that I’m not in a position to argue.”

 “Penny,” said Alice.  “You saw it go left, didn’t you?”

            “Y…yeah,” said Penny. “I think so.”

            Alice got a second bottle of garlic powder, poured some into her hands, spit on it, then rubbed it onto her neck and arms.  She didn’t want to waste time, so she stopped there.  Her pants were thick enough that she figured the vampire would have trouble biting through them all the way.  Covering her neck and arms would be enough.  It had to be enough.  Alice then picked up her gun, took a flashlight, retrieved some tape from a desk, and taped the flashlight to the barrel of her gun.  With those tools in hand, she braced herself, then stepped towards the doorframe.

“When I’m through,” said Alice.  “Find something else to block the door.  Don’t remove it for anything.”

            “Alice,” said her mother. “Please don’t.  You’re all I have left.”

            Alice paused, taking another deep breath and resisting the urge to look back at her mother.  A tear fell down her cheek which she tried to ignore.

            “I know, mom,” she said. “I’m sorry. Stay safe.”

            “Alice Hayes,” said Agent Walker. “Good luck.”

            “Thanks,” she said.

            And Alice went through the doorframe, keeping her gun forward the entire time.

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