The last of the sun's rays were just shining through the bars when Mckey Black opened her eyes. Her back hurt and her hips ached. She slowly sat up and looked around the room. Actually, it was more like a cage. The walls were made of cinderblock and the bars on the windows were solid iron. Mckey struggled to her feet and hung onto the wall for a moment until the cage stopped spinning. A small slot in the bottom of the heavy oak door opened and a box was shoved through before the slot closed again.
The smell of food floated across the dank air and Mckey's stomach gurgled. She undid her green combat pants and lowered herself over the hole in the floor that they had been told was a toilet. The others were still asleep but she kept her eyes on the floor, her cheeks burning from embarrassment. Mckey yanked her trousers back up and pulled her green vest down before slipping into her cream coloured jacket. She flicked her black ponytail over her shoulder and stepped into her boots before crossing the room and picking up the box.
"What did we get?" Mckey turned and smiled at Ferelith Diosal. The other girl was caught up in the arms of her boyfriend and was currently trying to extricate herself without waking him up. Mckey smiled as she thought about how far the ebony skinned woman had come since they had found her scrounging in the ruins of London. It felt like centuries ago that the world had gone to Hell but it wasn't even a year yet. So much had happened in that time. Mckey smiled a little and ran her hands over the slight curve of her stomach. Not all the changes had been bad.
Ferelith stood up and used a white hairband to hold her orange dreads out of her face. She yawned and stretched.
"It looks like warm bagels with cream cheese and a flask of tea. Ooh, chocolate croissants too" said Mckey.
"Where the Hell did they get this stuff? Every supermarket we've passed since The Smilers came out has been looted" said Ferelith. Mckey passed her a bagel and a croissant and a small cup of tea, they leaned against the wall.
"I'm more worried about why we're getting the good stuff. They were talking about this hunt thing and we've been here two days already." Ferelith sighed and swallowed the last of her tea, Mckey turned her back and hummed loudly when her friend walked towards the hole in the ground. Ferelith pushed herself off the wall and moved to her pile of clothes. She pulled on a lace front, sleeveless vest with a blue lining and a long black and turquoise skirt over knee high cream boots.
The two dogs that were lying in the corner on a blanket whined softly when a figure moved from the growing shadows and glided across the room to the barred window. Jethro Walker turned his glowing eyes to Mckey and smiled, keeping his lips closed to hide the fangs that had already sprouted from his canines.
"Well, I've had my breakfast so I guess it's time you had yours" said Ferelith. Jethro almost bounded across the room and fastened his fangs into the flesh of Ferelith's neck. She winced a little but didn't struggle, that only made it more painful. After a few more moments they broke apart and Jethro held a piece of cloth to the mark on her neck.
"Sorry" he murmured, wiping his mouth. Ferelith gave a shaky smile and moved away to sit on the floor behind Mckey. Jethro dropped his gaze to the ground for a moment, his face burning in shame and then he quickly got dressed. Black jeans and a white t shirt were enough over his boots, he pulled his wavy brown hair back into a ponytail and turned back to Mckey. She smiled and held out a mug to him. Since his transformation into a vampire he didn't really need to eat and drink normal food but it made him feel better to keep some of the everyday things going.
"What smells good?" The voice floated from under a bundle of blankets, a heavily tanned face with short brown hair followed the voice and Ash Walker stared around the room.
"Nice of you to join us, little brother" said Jethro, smiling a little into his mug of tea. Ash hauled himself upwards, looked around the room and groaned.
"I'd hoped this was a dream" he said. Ferelith threw her makeshift bandage down the toilet hole and then they all turned their backs and hummed loudly until Ash was finished with it. He kept his back turned as he pulled on black trousers and a grubby light coloured shirt.
"So, what's for breakfast?" he cried, clapping his hands together. Mckey winced as the sound echoed off the walls, Ash's false cheer seemed a shocking contrast to the drab surroundings.
"How much longer do you think they'll keep us in here?" asked Ferelith. Mckey sighed and rubbed her eyes.
"It's been a few days and all I can hear is them talking about how the stars aren't right yet" mumbled Jethro. He went back to the barred window and peered into the growing shadows, his vampire eyes seeing everything as though the world were still in bright daylight.
"You know, we've fought off hoards of Smilers and aliens that look like horses with squirrels riding on their backs. We've staked vampires and my brother was turned into one but the normal people on this planet are definitely screwier" said Ash. Mckey laid a hand on his arm and squeezed.
"People are always worse" she said. Ferelith wrapped her arms around herself and gave a shaky sigh.
"This hunt they were talking about. Do you think we're the hunted or the hunters?" she asked.
"I'm not sure which I'd prefer" replied Ash, he managed a real smile and Ferelith returned it. Jethro turned towards the door and a deep growl rumbled from his chest, it was soon joined by the dogs as their hackles raised and they bared their teeth. The door was flung open and a tall, spindly man entered, rubbing his hands together and grinning like a skeleton.
"Welcome to End Village, my dears! My name is Esmund Cornelius and we have been told by The Great One that the time of The Hunt is upon us!" He threw his arms wide and his grin seemed to grow making him look a lot like one of the Smilers they had spent so much time running from.
"This Great One you talk about? He doesn't wear a white robe does he?" asked Mckey. She still had nightmares about those freaks in the bed sheets and she didn't want to see any of them again anytime soon. Esmund Cornelius looked genuinely confused, he shook his head.
"No. We must prepare you. Come" he snapped. They were taken from the room and separated. Ferelith, Mckey and Kahlua were dragged to the left while Ash, Jethro and Toby were hauled away to the right. Mckey knew Jethro was more than strong enough to escape but he couldn't handle an entire village on his own and he wouldn't leave them there to die without him.
The two girls and the chocolate Labrador were shoved into a room very similar to the one they had just left, except this one had a six foot tall door made of bars on the far wall. Two girls were standing in the corner of the room, they were covered in mud and shaking like frightened rabbits.
"Hi. What are your names?" said Mckey, keeping her voice low and soft. The tallest girl had long brown hair and deep blue eyes, she swallowed and seemed to force the words from her throat.
"Aria Woods, this is my sister. Her name's Holly."
"Holly Woods?" asked Ferelith. The two girls nodded and Ferelith glanced at Mckey, obviously these two didn't get out much.
"I'm Mckey and that's Ferelith. My dog's called Kahlua. What are we doing in here?" Holly was smaller than her sister, the hair was the same but the eyes were a lighter shade of blue. She also seemed a little braver.
"The village is running out of food and the people are not allowed to leave it, the world is full of sin and we are not allowed to enter into it. We get visitors now and then, most of them seem to want to hide out here but we have to be fair. New faces go into The Hunt and if they get caught they are eaten." Mckey and Ferelith gaped at her, Holly's tone was so normal. It was as if every small village in the country did things like this.
"What happens if we survive this hunt thing?" asked Mckey. Her hand went to her slightly curved belly and Ferelith watched the move with real fear in her eyes.
"Nobody has ever survived" said Aria. Again, the phrase was uttered matter of factly. Mckey managed a small smile before turning her eyes to Ferelith who returned her smile.
"I don't think any of the others ever had a vampire on their team." Before either of the confused sisters could reply, a small hole appeared in the wall behind them and a voice floated through.
"As soon as you get outside, you will have a ten minute head start." The bars in the wall suddenly slid upwards but nobody moved. The wall behind them gave a tortured shriek and began inching forward, pushing them towards the door. To stop from getting crushed, all four girls dashed across the shrinking room and out into the moonlit night. They stood staring at each other for a moment before Aria and Holly clasped hands and sprinted into the trees.
"Okay, every girl for herself then" said Ferelith. Mckey took her hand and they followed the two girls into the shadows.