Aphelion Issue 218, Volume 21
June 2017
 
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Caught Out

by Madeline Dyer





Caron Bates wanted to run. Run as fast as she could. She'd do anything to avoid the unavoidable situation approaching, but she couldn't. Fleeing showed weakness; one quality she couldn't afford; her parents wouldn't allow it.

He was getting closer with every step he took; his ragged breath came in short bursts. She could see his rough silhouette against the dim light emitted from the street lights. Caron pressed herself further into the brick wall, willing it to swallow her up. Anything to get her away from this creature. She didn't want to carry out her mission, but she had to. Who knew what would happen to her if she didn't? She shivered.

She was glad her parents weren't here to witness this; she'd watched them on their 'enjoyable' ruthless hunts, and she remembered how ashamed of her they'd been when they saw her make her first kill: her feeble stabs, her pathetic queasiness at the sight of blood and most shockingly, her sympathy for the victim! Her parents would never forget that and she would never forget the look of disappointment in their eyes, and how bad she felt after wards.

Why couldn't she have normal parents? But then what was normal? Anything but the parents she had; she wanted a family who would love her for who she was and not judge her upon how well she carried out their dirty work. A family that cared--cared for her and cared for her well being. A family that wouldn't dream of making their children perform such atrocious criminal acts, but she had no choice; she hated herself for the things they made her do, and she hated herself even more for allowing herself to do it. She had to do what she was told. Ignoring their orders or deceiving them wasn't an option--they'd find out one way or another, they always did, and her punishment would always be the same. Caron had no desire to relive the memory of that awful day 8 years ago...

Caron concentrated on the creature only a few feet in front of her, he was crouching down on the wet pavement, ready for attack. He was in a bad condition. She tried to use the methods her older sister, Cassandra, had taught her, but then where had that got her? She was not allowed to speak of her at home or communicate with her--not since her older sibling had declared her love for a man who her parents called an 'abomination'. Consequently, Cass had run off with him, married him, given birth to more 'abominations', been disowned by her parents, and been ripped away from her sister, her one true friend. All for for marrying a Vampire.

Unlike some places, in the town of Kaleton, vampires were accepted as parts of society. There were laws introduced some twenty years ago which made it illegal for the vampires to kill humans, or for humans to kill vampires--unless it was self-defence.

Caron looked at the person in front of her. Physically they were the same, but Caron could never let herself think of them as equals, no she'd been told many a time that they, the humans, were the superior humans; the people who deserved to live. The vampires didn't even deserve to mingle with people.

Caron paused for a few nervous seconds, this kill seemed harder than usual, but it should be easy; there were no witnesses to take care of, no places the victim could easily hide-- theoretically this was an easy kill, but it still didn't feel right. The atmosphere was wrong, the air was too heavy and too--what was it?-- watchful?

The creature murmured to himself, still in the crouching position, ready for attack. Caron tried to persuade herself that she'd be freeing the being from a life full of suffering--if she thought she was helping, it somehow made it easier. Well, it had worked for Cass, for some time anyway. If only she could break free like she had, but she couldn't. Since Cass had gone away her parents had kept a much stronger hold on Caron, and she hated it.

She looked at the creature, into the depths of his fathomless eyes, trying to find the humanity she was sure must be there, but she couldn't find it. All she could see was the ice and the coldness and the hatred.

The vampire surged forwards, snarling, his fingers grasping for the Caron's coat. She stiffened, filled by pure fright, as she always was. Two elongated fangs glistened in the light, almost threateningly, imprinting themselves on her brain. Caron had no choice, she had to kill him, or be killed herself, and if she did get away, and just left him, she could be sure that her father would know she'd encountered one of the beasts and her mother would know she hadn't carried out the deed, undoubtedly her punishment would soon follow.

The wooden stake felt heavy and bulky in her hand, she always felt awkward using it. The wonderful feeling of accomplishment that her parents always talked about gleefully never came when she was doing the killing. Caron looked at her victim. He was still again--doing nothing to defend himself.

"Please," he croaked, "please help me."

Caron ignored him, just as she'd been taught to, right from day one. Conversing told the abominations that they were important, worth speaking to, and this was something that Caron most definitely could not do. Her parents prohibited it; they'd hammered into their children's brains as soon as they were old enough to understand.

The Vampire fell, a pile of rags at her feet. Now was the time to do it. He wouldn't see her coming and surely he couldn't put up much of a fight in his state?

The muddy rags stirred feebly as he repeated his plea once more, then twice more. Caron pretended not to hear; it was easier that way. Instead she raised her arm, the point of the stake gleamed in the dark light as she plunged it into the creature in front of her, but with her head turned the opposite way. She could never look, not properly anyway, at this point.

She waited for the sound of his 'life' draining away, but he didn't make a noise; normally they screamed, mumbled, cried out, choked, howled, but he was silent. Too silent. Nervously, Caron glanced down.

A pale, white-knuckled hand had snaked its way out from under the rags, and he was gripping her stake strongly. Caron could see his even paler tendons standing out from his skin, he was holding it tightly. A red eye peeked out from under the grey clothes. Caron gulped wondering if now was the time to scream or run. Somehow she had missed and somehow he now had the weapon, but worse of all he had seen her. No Vampire had ever seen her and lived to tell the tale. Soon the entire town's Vampires would know it was her. They'd track down her parents too.

Pale-faced Caron weighed up her options. It was sure to be too dangerous to take another aim, after all she only had one stake and now he had it, and there would be no way she could get it from him--not if she wanted to get out of the alleyway alive. She could wait here and hope he would kill her or she could leg it.

The Vampire let out a low moan. This time Caron ran, her feet skittering on the wet pavement, as she ran out of the alley way's cover and into the raging storm. This time running could not be fleeing, nor could it be portrayed as weakness; even her parents should be able to realise that. She had tried her best.

Lightening streaked around her, each time getting closer, circling her, ready to squeeze her for her crimes, like a python suffocating its prey. Thunder roared trying to deafen her and the rain pelted down upon her face like sharp arrows hitting a dartboard. She was glad of her long coat. At least it protected some of her. For now she would concentrate on getting home, she could worry about her escaped Vampire later.

The 'time to worry' proved to be an hour later, when Caron was in the 'safety' of her own home. Quaking under her bed covers, she listened for the signs that her parents had found out what she'd done. She listened for hours. Nothing could be heard apart from her anxious breathing or the wind howling against the panes of her window.


* * *

The next morning when Caron got up, there was no sign of either of her parents. She hadn't seen them for 24 hours now but she wasn't worried about their disappearance, only their return--they often went on long hunts, never leaving any means of communication in case it fell into the wrong hands.

Always cautious, Caron moved slowly, with anxious looks around her, like a small animal looking out for predators. It wouldn't be the first time she had thought she was on her own, only to have been scared stiff when she heard a movement in the next room, and to make matters worse she was still trembling after last night's events, and what would happen when her parents found out.

Yesterday's experience had left her feeling vulnerable and scared. As it was she was jumping at the slightest noise. Her heart was pumping far quicker than she felt it ought to. Try to relax, she told herself, but it did little to help her.

Last week's letter from the council lay on the dresser--her parents had been issued a court warning about their younger daughter's sporadic school attendance. In fact she rarely attended; her parents didn't like her socialising with others of her age. Her mother thought that the less people they knew, the less people would find out what they were up to and so it would keep them safe.

The thought of school didn't particularly fill Caron with hope. She liked it better than the other tasks she was often given, but there's only so much someone can like school, and she didn't exactly have any social contacts or friends. She blamed this on her parents, it was their fault. She had no friends because they'd made her be suspicious of anyone who wanted to be her friend. Anyway she only went to Kaleton High about twice a month if that so it wasn't that big a deal.

Anyway, today wasn't going to be a school day, Caron decided as she made herself a mug of hot chocolate. When her parents were at home she'd always be given new tasks to carry out, such tasks similar to last night. Or tasks that involved cleaning their kills that they often brought home. Or making new weapons, and if that weren't on the agenda, she'd be plowing through a day at school. No, she wasn't going to Kaleton High today, so why not enjoy a day of freedom for once? A day where she wasn't told what to do. A day she could do what she wanted and not be bullied into anything.

Her thoughts wondered to her sister. She could try to track Cass down, but she didn't even like to think of the consequences it involved if her parents ever found out; she wasn't that good at covering her tracks, and where would she start with trying to track her down anyway? No, it didn't seem like a good idea; her parents would find out anyway, so there was no point in tempting fate.

In the end Caron spent the whole day at home, sitting on tender-hooks, awaiting her parents' return, dreading what her punishment would be. What a way to spend her 'day off'.

It was seven-thirty at night when Caron heard the door creak open. She remained where she was, sitting on her bed, shaking at the prospect of what was to come.

But nothing did. Her parents just acted normally. As if nothing had happened. Was there a small chance that they didn't know? It was unlikely, but Caron hoped so.

Half an hour later, Caron went downstairs, still shaking, and quickly made herself a ham sandwich. Both her parents were in the kitchen and watched her every move, but neither said or did anything. The whole time she was sure her parents were about to talk to her, to say something, or do something, but they didn't, but the atmosphere was still horrible. So tense, so still. Caron made her food as quickly as she could before returning to the safety of her room where she locked the door.

That night, Caron couldn't get to sleep easily. Every time she closed her eyes the vision of the Vampire whom she hadn't killed, looking out from under the rags staring at her with his piercing red eyes, was all she saw, and it scared her, badly.


* * *

The next morning as Caron was eating her breakfast in silence, the doorbell rang cutting the atmosphere with a knife. Caron flinched at the shrill noise.

"Better answer it," Caron's dad said making no move to do it himself. He put down his newspaper, picked up a tissue and dabbed at his long moustache, and looked up at Caron, his face expressionless. He was a big man, in all senses of the word, and not one who you'd want to meet alone on a dark night.

Caron got up and went to the door, brushing toast crumbs off her blouse as she went. Carefully she opened the huge oak door and stepped back in shock.

A vampire stood at the door. Several more stood behind him. Caron flinched, instinctively reaching towards her trouser pocket, it was empty. Of course it was. She only had the weapons when she went out hunting.

"Caron Bates?" The Vampire asked. He was a tall male Vampire with bright red hair.

Caron nodded warily. She fidgeted uncomfortably on the spot, avoiding looking the Vampire in the eye.

"Right, we need you to come with us." The Vampire showed some meaningless I.D, "We've received a 'complaint' about you and-"

"What's all this?" Caron turned to see her mother standing right behind her.

"Mrs Bates, I presume?"

Caron's mother, a small athletic woman, nodded at the Vampire, raising her eyebrows at him.

"Mrs Bates, we've received a complaint about your daughter," he showed the same I.D again, "And we need her to come with us."

Caron looked at her mother pleadingly. Mrs Bates nodded, "Ok."

Ok? Ok? Caron wanted to scream at her mother for help, but her voice wouldn't let her. Her own mother was just handing her over! And then she was surrounded. Vampires pulled her out of her house and tugged her down the garden path. She shrieked in fear and tried to get away, but it was useless. After all they were Vampires, and for the first time in her life Caron felt utterly helpless, and she was scared.

"Mum!" Caron screamed kicking out at the Vampires. They snarled at her and tightened their grip on her, but she ignored them. "Mum! Please!"

But Mrs Bates just smiled and did nothing to help her daughter at all. She just stood in the doorway, leaning against the wall, running a perfectly manicured hand through her thick black hair. She looked up at the sky for a few seconds, then turned and shut the door.

"Mum! Help! Dad!" Caron's screams went unanswered as she was pushed roughly into the back of a blue car. "Get off!"


* * *

The High Court room was huge and had to be about a thousand years old. Caron stared about it, from inside her glass box. Intricate carvings lined each wall, beautiful stained glass windows filtered the light into a rainbow of colours that bounced off the pearly white floor.

A female Vampire standing at the altar clapped for silence. Immediately every noise ceased and everyone looked at the Vampire who'd clapped. This was one powerful-looking Vampire.

"We hereby witness the agreement for the execution of the human Caron Bates. For only two nights ago she was caught in the act of attempting to murder one of us!" There was a collective gasp from the audience, but the Vampire carried on, "We have the victim, whom she tried to kill, her with us. Mr Travelonii has already given him his statement. It matches up exactly with the CCTV footage that shop-keeper, Miss Jones, handed over to us."

"The Council, have for sixteen hours, looked at all the evidence," another Vampire took over, "and they have come to the unanimous decision: this girl is dangerous. She cannot live. She is a threat to all. She will be executed and then, when her-"

"No!"

Caron turned to her left to where the outraged shout came from. A young-looking Vampire in the first row of the audience had stood up.

"No! She cannot be executed. She was under orders to carry out that work."

"Harry Kaes sit down at once!" The Vampire at the altar shouted.

"No, not until Caron is released," he yelled running at the female Vampire conducting the ceremony.

"Security!"

Caron stared wide-eyed as swarms of Vampires dressed in white sprinted down the aisle to where Harry Kaes and the female Vampire were fighting.

And then all the Vampires surrounding the seat that Harry Keas had vacated sprang up in action, half of them lunging at the security Vampires, others at Vampires seated around the room.

The fight was spectacular in a gruesome way. There was blood everywhere, pooling on the floor. Screaming filled the High Court. The Vampires all moved in a blur, so fast that it was almost impossible to see them. Caron stayed as still as she could, trying to draw the least amount of attention to herself as possible.

She screamed when five Vampires appeared at her box and one punched the glass side of her box. The glass splintered into thousands of glistening, dangerous shards that fell tinkling to the floor.

"Get out!" one of the Vampires, a female, said.

Caron obeyed immediately and stepped carefully through the jagged hole. The moment she was out four of the Vampires seized her.

"Stay quiet," one of them instructed.

Caron nodded. What else could she do? All around them the fight was still going on. No one was paying any attention to her or the five Vampires at all. The Vampires lead her out of the High Court room and into a network of corridors. The walk from the High Vampire Court was a brisk short one, and it was likely to be the last walk she ever took. She was thrown into a dark room at the end of the long corridor. All the Vampires apart from one left.

Caron looked fearfully at the Vampire. He looked familiar in a bazaar way. His almond-shaped eyes just looked so familiar. She felt like she should know him, but of course she couldn't know him, could she?

The Vampire looked her steady in the eye. "I've no choice," he said at last, "I should kill you really, but...." his speech faltered as he broke off in a run straight at Caron.

Caron screamed as the terrifying humanoid lunged at her, and gripped her by the shoulders. She'd never seen just how quick they were before. Or how dangerous they were. Vampires really had no limits on what they could do.


* * *

The next night Caron awoke as one of the 'abominations'. She was completely alone in a dark cellar, but she felt different. Her whole body tingled with energy and her senses were extra sharp, and her teeth; two long sparkling fangs nested between her human teeth. She smiled to herself, her lips rubbed uncomfortably against her new teeth. She shivered slightly and looked around.

The ground was covered in straw and smelt musty. What little light there was seeped through an air vent on the left wall. Caron stood up, gingerly, testing her legs. They seemed to work just as she had remembered. She walked over to the air vent, and reaching up, allowed her fingers to sit in the five-inch gap. She could feel a strong breeze outside. She wondered if her parents were out there. Would they be looking for her? Were they missing her? Well, if they did find her, they'd kill her--she was a Vampire after all. A bloodthirsty Vampire who drank blood and couldn't stand being hungry.

Except she wasn't hungry, not at all. All the longing for blood she expected didn't come. She simply felt normal apart from her heightened senses and extra energy, and the fangs.

A movement behind her made her jump. She leapt up, tingling with energy and whirled around.

Behind her a woman of no more than twenty-five years stood. She smiled at Caron. She wasn't a vampire. Her long dyed-blonde hair was plaited into several braids. Her large almond eyes displayed sorrow and sympathy and her expression tugged at Caron's heart.

"Caron?" The lady asked hesitantly, holding her arms out.

Caron ran towards her, tears streaming down to me. "Cass! I- I never thought I'd see you again!"

For a long time the two simply held on to each other, but at last, the elder sister stepped back and held her younger sibling at arm's length.

"I'm so sorry," she whispered, "I'm so, so sorry."

"What for?"

"You're a Vampire," she said softly, "When we found out you were going to be executed, it was the only thing we could think of. My son changed you. It was the only way we could save you."

"What?" Caron paused, "Your son?" That Vampire was Cass's son, her nephew? The whole thing seemed surreal.

Cass nodded, "Harry was going to turn you, but--" a tear escaped her eye, "--he got injured at court."

"What, was the whole fight planned?"

"Not quite," Cass said softly, "Our side planned it, they weren't expecting it. You didn't think we'd let you be executed, did you?"

"I didn't know that you knew. I didn't even know you were there!"

"Harry found out. He works at the Court. So do Paul and Eliza."

"Oh. Harry? He's your husband isn't he? Is he ok?"

"Yeah, I think so," Cass smiled through her tears.

"Hold on, your son turned me?"

"Yeah? He's called Paul," she smiled.

"But? Isn't he only half-Vampire?"

Cass nodded.

"So what am I?"

Cass took a deep breath, "I don't know," she said at last, "And that's one of the reasons why I'm so very sorry, because I don't know what you are, not really. You could be just like my children, or you could be different. I don't know, but you're likely to face a lot of prejudice, and you're coming home with us. I'm just sorry that I didn't come to save you sooner."

Caron looked up at her older sister, tears glistened in her eyes. "It's ok," she said at last, and in a way she knew it was, for now she could lead her own life, not the one her parents wanted her to lead.


THE END


2014 Madeline Dyer

Bio: Ms. Dyer has previously been published by Mad Swirl, Mirror Dance Fantasy Magazine, Iron Bound Magazine, Yesteryear Fiction, Farther Stars Than These Magazine, Daily Love and more.

E-mail: Madeline Dyer

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