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Wendy cursed loudly. In her terror at seeing the vampire that had first revealed itself to them, she had completely forgotten about the dark, swift shape she had seen duck behind the gravestone. They had never been facing a single vampire, but a pack of them.
The five creatures came forward. One ripped the crossbow from Jacob's hands before he had a chance to reload it. Another tore the belt, with its stakes and mallet, from his waist. Others did the same to Wendy, relieving her of her own paltry weapons.
Unarmed, each was grabbed from behind by a vampire and led away. The remaining three formed a guard, one in the lead and two following behind.
Wendy and Jacob were marched through the graveyard until they came to the wrought iron perimeter fence at the rear of the cemetery. On the other side of the fence was what looked to be an old cow pasture, long since abandoned and gone to seed. The tall grasses and weeds stirred in the soft breeze and pale illumination of the moon. In the distance, nearly invisible, was a ramshackle farmhouse. Judging by its silhouette, it looked ready to collapse under its own weight.
Wendy shrieked as the creature holding her from behind pitched her over the fence. She landed in a heap, most of the wind knocked from her lungs. Jacob landed hard beside her. In the same instant, their captors landed beside them, quiet and nimble. Wendy realized with a start that they had simply leapt over the five-foot-tall fence.
She was hauled back to her feet. Her legs were weak. If not for the vampire once more holding her arms from behind, she would have fallen. Again, she and Jacob were marched forward, toward the old farmhouse.
Abruptly, Jacob twisted hard, cursing the creature that held him. Its grip was too strong; he was unable to free himself. Still, the vampire cuffed him hard on the back of the head, knocking him to the ground. It instantly yanked him back to his feet. The vampire acting as point spun around, backhanding Jacob, whipping his head to the side, splitting his lips. Blood flew through the air. Wendy shuddered upon hearing the five creatures' combined hiss of desire. The creature holding Jacob grabbed his short, dark brown hair, drawing back his head offering his throat to the vampire on point.
"The leader of our cultus wants you both alive," it said, "lucky for you." It turned and began walking once more.
The others followed, forcing Wendy and Jacob along with them.
"Are you okay?" Wendy asked.
The vampire holding her tightened its grip painfully on her arms, causing her to wince. "No talking."
In answer to her question, Jacob nodded, glaring at the back of the lead vampire. Blood dripped from his split lips.
The dilapidated farmhouse grew steadily closer. Even in the pale light, Wendy saw that it was leaning badly, ready to cave in on itself. She wondered how it managed to stay upright at all. She and Jacob were taken up the creaking, wooden front steps and forced over the warped, broken planks of the porch. The front doorframe was crooked, the door wide open. She and Jacob were marched through the portal and into the rotting structure.
Gagging at the stench of decomposition and putrefaction, Wendy tried to hold her breath. The smell of the vampires was bad out in the open. In the confines of the house, coupled with the musty odor of the building itself, the combined reek nearly made her pass out. Bad as it was just inside the front door, the oppressive stink grew exponentially the further in they were taken. Unable to take any more, her legs buckled. The vampire holding her arms released her. Wendy collapsed to the floor, the planks squalling beneath her, and was sick. Before her stomach had even been emptied, she was grabbed and dragged along, leaving a trail of vomit on the already filthy floor. When she was reduced to nothing more than painful dry heaves, she was pulled fully back to her feet, forced to walk again.
Upon entering the kitchen area, Wendy saw another door set into the back wall, half-rotten, hanging slackly on its hinges. Wan moonlight filtered through panes of cracked, dirty glass to partially illuminate the upper portion of a rickety set of stairs that led down into darkness. The odor which rose from the crepuscular depths was so abominable, so rancid, that it forced Wendy back to her knees. Her stomach clenched painfully, spasms wracking her body, as it tried to empty itself again. She went cold, as if her blood had turned to freshly melted ice in her veins. She began to sob.
Beside her, Jacob collapsed. He vomited, the dinner he had eaten at the Holdridge house splattered down the front of his bodysuit, as the vampire holding him shoved him toward the waiting darkness.
Bio: Scott Harper is the author of more than 30 published short stories and several novels. There has been talk, from several fronts, about turning his fourth novel, "Predators or Prey?", the first book in his Wendy Markland series, into a live-action project.
Harper graduated from Marysville High School in 1993 and began screenwriting in 2007, after the publication of several short stories and novels, and has worked on projects for James Tucker Productions and 11th Dimension Films. He is currently involved with several projects, covering literature, film and comic books.
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Official website: www.scottharper.net