E V E R M O R E
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He was going to die.
Pain was eating at his midsection as he ran. The voices behind him were getter closer. Fear spiked into him as he darted from shadow to shadow trying to remain undiscovered from the Hunters. Branches slapped into his face streaking trails of blood behind. The rain above pelted against his bruised body and the darkness of the night blinded him of any sense of direction as he crashed against solid tree trunks.
"Over there!" The force of his collisions with the trees caused vibrations that triggered the Hunters. Fully alerted, they rushed towards him. Death was coming.
"It was a failure! It must die!" They were closer now.
Desperation drove him to shove himself away from the tree. Immediately, he collapsed to the ground in an outcry of pain. Toxic acid seemed to burn and claw at him from the inside out. His head felt as if it was being cleaved in two and the gums in his mouth were tearing as blood gushed forth. Gasping in agony, he wrapped one arm around his midsection and curled his body close. Something was wrong with him.
The sudden sound of thundering footsteps forced horror to fill his watering eyes. His heart pounded in his ears as he saw streams of light flash through the forest in search of him. Panicking, he twisted his body onto his aching stomach crushing muddy leaves and twigs as he inched away from those who were going to kill him.
"Where is it! Find it you fools! It must be killed!"
Lying low, he waited until the sounds dissipated before crawling onto his knees. Slowly, he moved and tried to stand. His burning legs wobbled in protest, shaking his entire frame as he straightened and pushed onward. For miles and miles he ran. The stretch of time seemed everlasting as he soon grew numb from the afflictions within his body.
At last, he stopped when he reached the cliff edge of a forest and saw the peek of dawn rise over the horizon. He listened intently for the voices that had stalked him, and when he heard none, he sighed in relief. He observed his surroundings and saw that tall trees had cloaked him in their protective shadows. Staying in the darkness, he watched as the sun's rays fanned over the land. His attention was caught as he saw a small city below the cliff that was immersed in the lower forest. Reaching a hand out, he looked at the sun and hoped to be touched by the warmth of the sun as well.
Scorching pain laced through his hand the moment sunlight touched him. He hissed, wrenching his hand back and holding it against his chest. Backing away from the sun, he looked down at his hands. Fumes radiated from the skin and burns had formed over the flesh.
Eyes widening, he cowered away from the rising light back into the shadows.
Ellis Ainsely leaned against the heater at the back of the large auditorium. Coming in late, all the seats had already been occupied and the room packed full. She held her hands inches from the heater as she tried to warm them in hopes that blood circulation would resume. Outside the building was a chilly Minnesota fall afternoon.
"Vampire blood can halt the spread of cancer cells. Antigens and proteins in vampires that are not found in humans are key to defeating hundreds of human diseases."
Attuned to the speaker, Ellis observed the elder doctor who spoke confidently behind the podium. His voice was deep and it carried through the room that was filled with reporters, scholars, scientists, and university students, like herself. Near his fifties or so with silver-gray hair, the doctor looked much older with his stern eyes and deep wrinkles that lined throughout his face.
To all in the room, he was known as the Vampire Savoir.
She watched as he adjusted the thin spectacles that were perched on his nose.
"Unlike humans, vampires are never afflicted with the proliferation of cells. Their bodies' immune system are much more advance, and therefore, they can be collaborators in continuing the research of the human genome project and uncovering cures for human ailments."
"But doctor! Are you saying that humans need to change into vampires?" A reporter shouted from the crowd.
"Absolutely not." The older scientist replied. "The Vampire Treaty written years ago has safeguarded both species as intellectuals cohabiting on this planet. We are merely borrowing their donated blood."
"But doctor! Vampires need human substances to survive. They can easily kill us!"
"I understand that there are stereotypes and negative images of vampires that seem inerasable, but I assure you that the vampire race is struggling to survive and we need their help as much as they need ours. As we all know, until the Vampire Treaty, millions of vampires were hunted by humans to near extinction. Carrying the prejudices of the past is not the practice of this research which is focused on helping humans and will not assist our goal in eliminating human diseases."
Ellis smirked at the last comment. The doctor definitely knew how to stay on topic.
"Dr. Ainsley, surely your research has not risked the lives of you or your team?" Another reporter asked.
The doctor looked at the speaker with honest eyes and prepared his words carefully. "My team of researchers work exceptionally well with each other. Both humans and… vampires."
Loud gasps erupted through the room.
Immediate bursts of outrage and accusations were thrown at him for endangering his human protégés. Vampires did not deserve to be educated some thought, much less learn and study the human body other added. Throughout the room people saw vampires as killers and beasts. It was a known fact that humans had lived in fear of vampires for centuries and encouraged the extinction of the nocturnal race. It wasn't until the late twenty first century that vampires were hunted to minimal numbers which forced the race to come out of hiding and plead for coexistence.
Unlike the majority of her fellow homo sapiens, Ellis saw equality in the vampires and humans. To judge vampires who fed on humans were to judge humans and their hunger for cattle. Neither was God nor right or wrong. A great man had once told her that.
"In fact!" The doctor's loud voice commanded attention again, "It is due to my vampire students that such research was made possible. The vampires I have worked with have whole heartily assisted this project of extracting and isolating antigens."
"You will be eaten before you know it!" A reporter charged out of the room followed by others. Some stayed to continue and vent out against the doctor's Equalist views. Hoping to calm the crowd, the elder doctor raised his hand but to no avail.
Seeing the struggle, Ellis couldn't help but jump in. A crowd like this could rile up and be physical if not controlled. Sometimes humans were worst than vampires in their rage.
"You're all a bunch of hypocrites," she said loudly. "We're lucky cows and chickens don't protest our existence as we eat them." When eyes turned towards her, she didn't shrink from the stares. It made her more determine to defend the vampires. "Don't bother to come asking for the antigen if you are diagnosed with cancer. We should be appreciative of the other race for their contributions to our rising health and medical care."
Ellis spoke truthfully. Since the collaborations of vampires and the study of their bodies, the progress of human health dramatically increased. Hearing her, the audience mumbled at her audacity and quieted down. Several turned away from her with scowls.
Grinning at the reaction, Ellis turned her eyes towards the doctor who smiled at her over the microphone.
"Thank you, Miss Ainsely.
"You're welcome… Dr. Ainsely," she replied to the great man who taught her so much. Her father.
. . .
An hour after sunset, Ellis headed home with her close friend Adian Sage. Like her, he was a university student who studied in the school of Paranormal Science. Both of them were the highest achievers of their class and her father's favorite students. Walking side by side, Ellis vented her anger to her friend like she always did since they were children.
"I can't believe the nerve of those people," Ellis fumed. Seeing her father share his discoveries made her so proud, but hearing him being picked apart by people who were nothing but bigots pissed her off. If it wasn't for her father and the vampires half the human race would be wiped out. The revolutionary vaccines to stop human cancers and diseases were all thanks to Vampiric Studies that her father had invested his entire life in. "I mean… seriously…"
Muttering on, Ellis didn't bother to notice that Adian was glancing at her from the corner of his eye. He was noticing how her face heated to a blush when she was angry and how her brown eyes lit up when she cursed. Finding her extremely attractive since the start of college, Adian had hoped they could be more than friends someday.
"Are you listening?" Ellis demanded of her friend.
Adian feigned innocence. "Yes."
Scoffing at her friend, she stomped ahead of him. Adian was insufferable sometimes. He didn't speak more than a few words to her but since the moment their fathers made them play together they had been inseparable. Ellis used to tease Adian that he followed her, but in truth, he was only following her to keep her out of trouble. Unlike long ago when teasing shorter and smaller Adian was so much fun, now he was taller than her and much bigger.
Without looking back, Ellis knew that he walked with his hands stuck in the pockets of his jeans and had his head down in an angle. Girls had swooned about the way he walked, as if he had no care in the world, and took his time. Being so slow, it irritated Ellis rather than made her swoon. Adian also had rich black hair that always had the habit of drooping over his eyes and making him look disheveled. Ellis tried cutting it once and before she knew it, the hair had grown back to normal. His eyes were a smoky gray-brown color and his face was that of a centerfold hottie from a teen magazine. Even though Ellis admitted Adian was a cutie, he was off limits because he was her best friend.
"Ellis," Adian appeared beside her in a creepy silence. "Do you want me to walk you home?"
The question was a weird one. At the upcoming stop, both of them usually went their separate ways living six or seven blocks away from one another. It was usually Ellis who invited Adian to come over.
"No, it's all right," she said with a little shake of her head. Her father would be coming home earlier after work and Ellis wanted to spend some time with him. "I want to make dinner for my dad. It's been a while since we had a father-daughter time."
With a small nod of understanding, Adian looked away, but not before Ellis caught a small look of disappointment.
She couldn't but ask, "Are you mad?"
Ellis could never stand it when Adian was mad at her. It was the most miserable feeling in the world.
"No." He grinned.
Smiling in turn they kept walking. The anger she had felt earlier was forgotten as she continued with Adian. When they arrived at the stop, they waved their goodbyes and headed their own ways. Ellis lived near the suburbs by the forest that surrounded their city and Adian lived closer to the metro area.
"Call me when you get home." Adian called back her.
"Why!" she shouted teasingly.
Adian paused before he responded. "I want to hear your voice."
Immediately, Ellis frowned at what he said. Without any explanation, Adian chuckled at her reaction and rounded the corner with a careless wave. Several blocks later on her own, Ellis decided to push away what Adian had said as nothing more but a teasing remark. He was prone to lame jokes.
Taking out her cell phone, Ellis called home to check in with her mother hen. Unlike a normal housekeeper and cook, Darla was a female vampire who watched over Ellis like a baby chick. Her father had found Darla near starvation in the woods a few years after Ellis was born and her mother had died. Darla was taken in and immediately became a mother-figure to Ellis. Ever since Darla, John Ainsely continued to take in stray vampires as part of his household and Ellis loved each and every one of them as they did her and her father.
Picking up the phone, a bubbly voice spoke on the other line. "Hello my dear," Ellis knew Darla knew it was her. Sometimes she thought Darla had a caller ID ingrained in her head.
"Hi Darla, I'm coming home and I was wondering if you could help me make dinner for dad?"
As the conversation continued with Darla, being excited and bubbling with joy, Ellis headed closer to the edge of the forest. Her father had specifically built giant cabin in the forest where vampires could live with them. Vampires couldn't stand the sunlight, so her father thought it best to have spot constantly shaded from the sun for all his vampire students and house members.
Ellis loved her dad for his thoughtfulness. His compassion entitled him with the Vampire Savior nickname.
When the conversation ended, Ellis shut the phone she stuck it in her pocket. In a few minutes she'd see the outline of the large cabin her father had built. Walking home had never been a trouble for her since her house wasn't too deep in the forest. Stepping over twigs, leaves, and logs, she loved living close to wildlife.
She hoped she could follow in the footsteps of her father someday and…
Ellis came to a sudden stop. Silently, she turned her head towards the right. She thought she had heard something from a distance in the forest. She took small steps away from the road and strained her head towards the sound. Hoping to hear it again, she stopped for a brief moment.
Then she heard it.
A small groan… or growl.
It sounded like an animal in pain. Moving a little faster now, she swished away leaves with her feet as she moved and ignored the winds that rustled the trees above her head. She headed deeper into the forest and the closer she got to the noise, the more audible it became. An eerie sensation snaked through Ellis as she headed farther into the darkest area of the forest completely shaded by trees. There was barely any sunlight and making her way through was getting difficult. She pushed aside branches and carefully moved her feet in fear of falling into a ditch or hole.
Again the sound came but with more anguish this time. Ellis felt pulled by it and knew whatever it was, it was in severe pain.
Maybe it was an animal caught in a human trap or maybe it was injured, Ellis didn't know and couldn't stand to do nothing about it. She could take it home and nurse it back to health like her father did with vampires.
Crouching low now, due to the heavy branches that drooped in the forest, Ellis crept closer to the noise. When she accidentally snapped a twig in half with her foot, the sound immediately stopped. All her movements came to a halt.
Shivers moved up and down her spine as Ellis scanned the small dark area where she was led to. Her shoes were covered in moss and all around her trees and dark plants were stationed. Cautiously, she took another bold step and saw a little shake of shadows a few feet away in front of her.
Closing in, she didn't see anything at first.
Then, she saw it, or rather she saw him and he was watching her.
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