Morgan stared at us in silence.
“I don’t know what to say. Obviously, this is where you girls need to be. But if Kyle and Lyssa are here, why are so many monsters lurking around?
“Kyle is too carefree and Lyssa likes to think she is perfect,” Morgan grumbled, answering her own question and beginning to pace around the room.
“I think we should definitely stay for a little while.” Kaylee looked around the room, her unsaid words in all our minds: If Kyle and Lyssa weren't doing anything, we would.
Chass nodded. “I think Kaylee’s right.” She turned to face me. “Aden?”
“Yeah, we should stay. Not long, though. Just long enough to clear out this stinking town.”
Kaylee wrinkled her nose. “It does stink! All day it’s been either dull humans or sharp monsters. Not to mention the scent the vampires give off. It’s like…” She trailed off, thinking.
“Dead?” Chass with a grim face, though a smile toyed at her lips.
I laughed; though it was a bit absurd, Chass was exactly right. “Yeah, I guess they do smell sorta… dead.”
Morgan grimaced. “Aden, I know you see this as a game, a challenge, but do you understand the empousai?”
“Game?” I shook my head, not believing Morgan’s words. “Morgan, if I saw this as a game, I’d be dead. I know what vampires are like. Strong, fast, deadly. Their bite changes humans, kills us.”
Morgan gave a weary sigh. “Yes. You girls need to get some sleep.”
Chass nodded, heading to her room; she had always been the first to go to bed. Kaylee and I stayed up for a little while longer, watching re-runs of Morgan’s favorite soap operas.
When I finally decided I had a healthy serving of drama for the day, I ambled slowly to my room, my mind filling with our conversation earlier. As I changed slowly into some comfortable pajamas, I tried not to think about what Morgan had said. For some reason, her words had really bothered me. I knew Morgan knew that I didn’t always think things through, but we weren’t talking about making dinner.
I wrinkled my nose in disgust, still deep in thought. My dinners usually ended up burnt.
But these are empousai, I thought, back on subject. This is life or death. I brushed my hair and teeth mechanically and crawled slowly into bed. I closed my eyes, concentrating on breathing evenly. I counted my slow, steady heartbeats to keep my mind off darker subjects. Finally, somewhere between two- and three- hundred beats, I began to sink into a deep sleep.
Instantly alert and forgetting I was trying to sleep, I leapt out of bed and ran toward Chasidee’s room and her distressed cry. I heard Kaylee doing the same; her anguished voice rang through the quiet hall. “Chass!”
I reached Chasidee’s room as Kaylee raced down the hall. “Are you alright?” I asked anxiously.
Chasidee’s heart pounded through the dark, and her breathing quickened. “It’s Kaylee, with empousai… they were talking and…” She hesitated as Kaylee slipped into the doorway. “No. No, I’m not ok.” Silence crept over the room, and suddenly a quiet sound penetrated the night.
The soft flutter of wings and a small brush of wind made me collapse in defeat. Kaylee crumpled beside me. She sank to the floor, looking deflated. If Chasidee had a dream violent enough for her to leave… I shuddered, imagining what vampires could do to Kaylee.
Morgan’s feet shuffled through the hall until she found the light.
I winced as the sharp light tore through the bleak night. As I had earlier in the evening, I concentrated on breathing evenly. As I realized that I could possibly be losing my sister to a vision of my other sister with empousai, a sick feeling blossomed in my heart, ripping it in two. Despite my efforts, my breathing increased rapidly and my hands trembled. “She’s gone…”
I heard a horrible sobbing sound coming from Kaylee. I felt her quivering head on my shoulder and her warm tears on my arm. I tasted something salty on my lips. I lifted my hand and tenderly felt my face. It was wet with my own tears; I hadn’t even realized I had been crying.
I raised my somber gaze to Morgan’s distressed face. “She…"
I trailed off, confused and hurt.
Morgan knelt next to me. "Breath, Aden."
I concentrated on breathing slowly, and was finally able to control myself. "She was talking about…" I paused, aware of Kaylee's shaking, crying form beside me. "Vampires," I finished. "Empousai."
Morgan muttered something under her breath in what I assumed was Greek. She looked pointedly at Kay. "A dream about her?" she mouthed.
"Go back to bed," Morgan decided finally. "We'll deal with this in the morning. Chass will need time to think about whatever this means, whether she comes back or not."
I awoke to the warm sun dancing playfully over my face. I stretched and pulled the blanket tighter around me.
Finally, with a surrendering groan, I turned to look at my alarm clock. Suddenly, I remembered the empousai and Kaylee’s promise to Kyle—I want to catch them. With a sly grin, I skipped to my closet.
I quickly dressed in a short denim skirt and a silver shirt with my favorite matching flats. I waltzed into my bathroom and began brushing my straight golden hair. When I was done, I brushed my teeth and danced downstairs.
I heard two strong, slow heartbeats and a quicker, more human heart. “Good morning!” I sang with exuberance.
I entered the kitchen with more enthusiasm than necessary, showing my warm, bright personality. I glanced at the table and stopped dead in my tracks. Morgan sat in one of the chairs, looking tired and discouraged. Kyle sat on the window seat, soothing a red-eyed Kaylee.
The horrors of the night before washed over me. “Chasidee,” I gasped, wide-eyed and disbelieving. Her frightened words of Kaylee with vampires reverberated in my frozen mind.
Morgan bit her lip, deciding what to say. “You three should go to school. Say Chasidee is sick. It’s… for the best.”
I nodded numbly. I looked at Kaylee and Kyle, who looked as if they had been waiting for me.
“Let’s go,” Kaylee murmured.
I headed towards the front door, not bothering with breakfast. The first thing I noticed when I walked outside was the driveway.
Morgan’s car was missing. I shuddered, imagining what Chasidee could do with a car. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to drive the thoughts out of my mind. I opened my eyes, hoping, but the car was still gone. Sighing, I slid into the driver’s seat of our car. Where Chass usually sits, I thought hopelessly.
I had to concentrate on only the road as I drove to school. As I pulled into a parking space, an old yellow Mercedes caught my attention. I threw the car into reverse and pulled in next to it.
“It’s Morgan’s!” Kaylee squealed with delight. She bounced with excitement in the passenger seat. “Chass is here! She has to be!”
“Told you she just needed to cool off a bit,” Kyle whispered into Kaylee's ear. "She's back, like I said."
Kyle walked with us across the parking lot. I remained tense, searching the crowd for Chasidee. I strained my ears, trying to locate a slow, steady heartbeat.
In a sharp, sudden movement, Kyle grabbed my hand and pulled me aside. He pointed silently. I followed his finger to where a girl stood in the shadows. She had long, straight black hair darker than midnight and wore dark jeans with a black shirt and boots. She had dark make-up on, and my heart ached as I recognized her olive green eyes.
Looking back, I probably shouldn't have run quite as fast as I did, just in case any mortals were wondering why I was going faster than, say, an Olympian athlete. Chasidee smiled sadly as I approached. She held her arms out for a hug and I wrapped her in a tight embrace. I felt Kaylee join us for a group hug.
Too soon, Chasidee pushed us gently away. With a troubled mist veiling her miserable eyes, she bit her lip. “Will you—”
“Of course we forgive you.”
“Thanks, Kaylee.” Chasidee tore her gaze from Kaylee to me. “Aden?”
I swallowed. “Well, will you come back home, and never leave again?”
I smiled, lighting up the darkness of the shadow. “Then I guess I can forgive you.”
Chasidee laughed softly. She cocked her head like a curious puppy, and then smiled again. “The bell is about to ring,” she explained.
Kaylee grinned and skipped back across the parking lot, meeting up with Kyle.
"I'm sorry I left," Chass whispered, watching Kyle fight playfully with Kay. "I've never had a dream like that before. It was...overwhelming, I guess."
"That's ok," I smiled, not letting her finish. "You needed some time to think. You probably know what the whole dream means already," I teased.
Chasidee shook her head. "I don't know. I just..."
"Well, what'd you see?" I asked, though I'm not sure why. If anyone could translate a dream, it was Chass.
"Just... It was dark, and Kay... She was just standing there. There were two vampires and they were talking with her and she wasn't scared, or..." Tears began forming in Chasidee's eyes.
"Whatever. Probably doesn't even mean anything," I smiled, trying to cheer my sister up. "You're probably just worried about the empousai here."
Chass nodded, not looking comforted. She smiled weakly and we began walking towards the school, catching up to Kay and Kyle.
As we walked to English together, I quickly told Chasidee and Kaylee about my plans to deal with the vampires after school. I hurried through them, talking low and fast. They agreed immediately, though Chasidee made several changes, calling my plan "impulsive." We walked into the classroom still smiling. Kyle waved to us from his seat, motioning for Kay to join him.
The majority of the day passed in a furious blur. The anticipation and excitement built up in me until I thought I would burst.
During fifth period, as I waited impatiently for Algebra to finish, I sensed something out of place. A sharp smell drifted through the slightly open door. I sniffed quietly and wrinkled my nose at the sharp metallic smell. Monsters. The tall vampire walked briskly past the door and I made a snap decision.
“Yes, Aden, what do you need?”
My eyes darted from the door to Mrs. Davidson to the vampires to the class. “I, uhh, need to use the restroom.”
Mrs. Davidson sighed. “Hurry up.”
“Can we go as well?” Mrs. Davidson’s head whipped around to glare at Kaylee and Chasidee.
“Thank you so much!” Without waiting for an answer, Kaylee burst out of her seat and into the hall.
Chasidee and I sprinted down the hall to where the three empousai were. Sensing no other humans, I leapt. In mid-air, my form changed from a weak, vulnerable human to a strong, capable lioness.
I landed easily on the small vampire. I tore out her throat in a quick, precise movement. She dissolved into the stale air and I turned to help my sisters. Chasidee was a spotted blur as she kept the tall empousa busy. I came up behind him and raked my razor-sharp claws into his cold, lifeless skin.
As he faded, I heard a yelp. I spun to help Kaylee while Chasidee fluttered in confusing motions, shredding the empousa with her deadly talons. The vampire fought viciously. Finally I was able to get a clear shot at his throat, which I promptly sank my eager teeth into. The vampire flung me into the lockers, knocking the breath out of me. As I struggled to recover, Chasidee finished the job.
A faint whimper pulled me back into reality. I shifted back into my human form and knelt at Kaylee’s side. Chasidee was already there, delicately poking and prodding along Kaylee’s muscular form, looking for an injury.
Suddenly, Kaylee phased back human. She gripped her left shoulder, which bore two identical crescent cuts; both were bleeding freely. Bite marks.
Terror gripped me and refused to let go. Kaylee had been bitten by an empousa. I shook my head, refusing to believe that in a matter of minutes, Kaylee would be lying dead on the ground.
My sister. Gone. Forever.
A burst of light behind me lit up the hall and shredded my bleak mood. I turned to find a kind looking woman standing over us. She had soft sky blue eyes and blond hair so light that it looked nearly white. She hurried through the hall, her long creamy dress flowing around her as she pulled a small vial out of thin air.
The woman pulled the top off of the bottle and put it to Kay's lips, gently urging her to drink the pink liquid.
That’s when I screamed.
“NO! What are you DOING to her?! Leave her ALONE! Leave my SISTER alone! Get your HANDS OFF of her! MOVE! Get OUT of my WAY!” I felt tears of rage and fury slide down my cheek and a violent sob erupted from my chest. My throat ached from yelling.
The woman stood, but only after Kaylee had taken all of the liquid.
“Move!” Chasidee shoved her way next to Kaylee.
"I'm sorry," the woman murmured. "I should've explained first. That was an antidote. It's the only way to keep a Blessed alive or a human from turning after they've been bitten by an empousa. It requires an enormous amount of magic and strength to create one, so we use them sparingly. But we need Kaylee in Olympus. We need all of you." She looked away, studying one of the classroom doors.
Chasidee, who had been deep in thought, froze. “You. You’re Hera.”
The woman smiled. “Yes, but we…" She stopped, something catching her attention. "We have company.”
Hera shimmered and disappeared. I tugged on Chasidee’s hand, not sure what Hera had meant. We carefully picked up Kaylee and sprinted out the side door. I smelled the dull fragrance of humans hurrying through the hall as the bell rang. Right, I thought, company.
“Thank goodness,” Chasidee sighed. “I thought they would never leave!”
I nodded in agreement as the mortals went back to their classes. I helped Chass pick up Kaylee and we began to move her across the parking lot to where our car was.
Several things happened in the next instant. Something came crashing through the door, sending glass shards flying through the air. As I attempted to avoid the soaring glass, something knocked all three of us down. I snapped into action, gently moving Kay onto the steps, and Chasidee grunted as she was trampled by whatever had come through the door. In unison, Chass and I phased, preparing to defend our still-motionless sister. As we began to circle our dazed prey, who had stumbled into the nearby forest, Chasidee let out a small cry. She twisted her head around to face me, her yellow eyes round with humor. She shifted back, motioning for me to follow. At the same time, a disoriented grizzly bear came trotting out of the forest, blood seeping through his shaggy, ruffled brown fur where the glass had cut him.
Kyle panted a laugh at the confusion. I shifted back and petted his soft head. "Sorry,” he grinned, phasing. “I heard you guys fighting and wanted to make sure you were ok.”
"Yeah. Aden found a chance to take out the vampires." Chass' tone was light, but her eyes were full of impatience.
I shrugged, knowing that random attacks on vampires were perfectly fine with me, but didn't fly with Chasidee. She was always planning everything. Well, I planned the attack, I just hadn't stuck with the plan.
As if she could read my thoughts, Chasidee groaned.
"And that's it?" Kyle's voice was full of skepticism.
"What do mean?" I asked.
"You just...killed them? Just like that?"
"Uhh..." My stomach turned as the fight replayed over in my head.
"There were...consequences," Chass offered, her voice unsteady.
Kyle froze, his eyes disbelieving. "Where's Kaylee?"
Chass and I both turned to where I had propped Kay up against the stairs. Kyle gave a small cry of pain and knelt by Kaylee, pulling her close to him and whispering. "What happened to you?"
The hollowness in his voice made my knees weak. I felt a need to explain, rushing through the words. "She was fighting, and—"
"The vampire, and the poison—" Chass interrupted.
"We didn't know what to do, and then Hera—" I took a deep breath as Chasidee cut me off again.
"She gave her the antidote; she's not dead," Chasidee finished.
"She was bitten by an empousa and she's not dead?" Kyle gently rocked Kaylee back and forth, closing his eyes.
"Hera said that there's an antidote." I sat down on the stairs next to them and sighed. "Hopefully it works."
"If it was working she'd be awake already, wouldn't she?" Kyle's voice broke and he buried his face in Kay's hair to hide his tears.
I pulled my knees to my chest and shrugged, hoping that Hera was telling the truth. I had never actually met a god or goddess in person before, but I was sure I could trust one. I was actually surprised at how much I wasn't worried.
After a few moments, Kaylee's eyes fluttered open. She smiled weakly and whispered, "Hey, Kyle."
Kyle's head whipped up and his face turned so white I thought he was going to faint. "Hey, Kaylee."
Chasidee breathed a small sigh of relief and shoved Kyle out of the way, hugging Kay tight. "Next time we get in a fight, try harder not to die."
"Olympus one, vampire zero," I grinned. "Now it's my turn to scare everyone, right?"
"Aden," Kaylee stated flatly, "that would be bad."
We all laughed, knowing that was true. Running away, near death...that was almost predictable for me. No one really believed me, but I swore that I had some sort of ADD. How could I not?
Suddenly, a small envelope appeared in front of us, redirecting my thoughts. A small hand shot out from behind us and grabbed it. We all turned to Lyssa, whose icy eyes burned with rage as she read the note.
"Hera wants to see you," she seethed. "I guess she forgot that I'm the only one that can take you there. No, I guess she forgot that I exist." She crumpled up the letter and threw it at my feet. "What are you waiting for? Go to Olympus," she laughed coldly. "Doesn't matter that Hera doesn't want me, anyway. I've got an Algebra test that I'm just dying to take."
Kyle, who had picked up the letter, shot a concerned look at Kay. "It just says you three. I guess I'll just...wait here."
"Go," Lyssa repeated. "And do me a favor; remind Hera that I still exist." She turned sharply and stepped through the shattered window. "Oh," she called over her shoulder, "next time, be a little quieter. It makes things easier for me to clean up."
"How do we get to Olympus?" I asked, not sure what Lyssa's episode was all about.
"Morgan?" Kaylee guessed.
Chasidee nodded. “Let’s go.”