Chapter OneScarlet Myst
Becca stood in front of the wall of jungle, illuminated only by the stars and the bright moon overhead. Her jeans had been changed to a pair of shorts that fell mid thigh, giving her legs room to breathe. Her t shirt replaced by a thick strapped red tank top, revealing pale shoulders spotted with tan freckles. The silver light of the moon almost made her skin glow, the bright white from years of staying indoors nearly matching the color of the moon’s luminescence.
The air was quiet at first, until one started to really listen. It’s nothing like in the movies. They make it seem so loud and busy. I didn’t even realize there was any noise...it’s all so subdued. A backpack hung at her side, slung over one shoulder carelessly. It held a few bottles of water, and some trail mix, for she wasn’t quite certain just how long she was going to be in the rainforest. But, she was excited nonetheless.
Letting out a deep breath, Becca took her first few steps into the trees. As soon as she made it past the first set of plants, she was bombarded with sounds coming from animals here and there. The cries of various birds and monkeys filled the air, mingled with bugs chirping and buzzing. The bushyness of the trees blocked out the majority of the light, letting in only a few interspersed beams that passed through openings in the leaves. She slowed down drastically, keeping her eyes peeled for any roots of plants that would trip her, animals that might wish harm to her, or branches from various plants that might leave her with scratches or cuts.
As she slowly ventured deeper into the rainforest, the colors seemed to get brighter and more intense. Frogs stuck to leaves changed from simple green colors, to bright oranges, yellows, and reds of the poison dart frogs. Plants shifted from ferns and trees, to flowers with bursts of reds, blues, oranges, yellows, purples, and any other color imaginable. Massive leaves wound around other plants, hoping to gather more sunlight than the other plants. It was beautiful, but it was a matter of survival.
The plants weren't the only things that changed, either. There were animals making appearances. Becca jumped and gasped as she nearly stepped on a spider the size of her fist. She caught glances of monkeys jumping between branches overhead. One screeched when it almost landed on a branch with a very large python wrapped around it. It was amazing the sort of things that she was seeing when she hadn’t even walked for a solid twenty minutes. And, as much as she didn’t want to admit it, the rainforest was every bit as creepy as the stories made it seem. She had a constant feeling of somebody watching her, even though she was the only one there. Try as she might, it was nearly impossible for her to shake the feeling of being watched. She continued walking, the light slowly fading and the animal cries slowly turning more menacing. Then, she arrived at a small clearing.
The large leafy trees opened up into a clearing the size of a football field. The large, bright flowers were still spotted throughout the meadow, but interspersed through the bright yellows, reds, and oranges were deep blues and royal purples, pleasingly contrasting to the eye. The grass was growing somewhat wild, but it wasn’t quite overgrown. There was a small pond towards the far corner of the clearing that shimmered a bright blue-green, the large moon reflecting on the flawless surface. Becca’s icy blue eyes grew wide in amazement as she took in the prairie. A slight gasp slipped past her ruby lips, and she was almost shocked at the sound of her voice. Since she entered the treeline, the only sound she’d been making was breathing slightly heavy as she dodged tree roots, leaves, and branches. She’d grown so used to the sounds of the rainforest that her own voice sounded almost foreign.
Becca heard a small growl that startled her, but she couldn’t help but laugh when she realized it was simply the sound of her stomach. She hadn’t eaten since lunch, and it was already 9:30 at night. Towards the middle of the clearing grew a few bushes that were spotted with bright red berries. She wasn’t sure if the berries were safe to eat, but she decided that it would be worth giving it a try. Stepping onto the slightly overgrown grass, her steps sank in as if she were walking on a sponge. A grin tugged at her lips and she walked towards the bushes, resisting the urge to skip like a schoolgirl.
She plucked a berry off of a thin branch adorned with decently sized thorns. She tried to remember what she learned when she was a young girl about plants being safe to eat in the wild, but she was drawing a blank. The only thing she could think of was the saying for knowing how to recognize and avoid poison ivy. Which did her absolutely no good in the situation she was in. So, giving in to her slight gambling habits, she popped the red berry into her mouth. As soon as she bit down, her mouth was flooded with tart juices, a single small seed getting stuck in one of her teeth. The flavor reminded her of the sour cherry flavored candies her mother used to buy her for Christmas when she was a child. The memory brought a smile to her lips, as Becca picked off more and more berries, carelessly scratching her hands here and there on the thorns, just enough to bleed slightly. But nothing too bad.
Suddenly, the hairs on the back of Becca’s neck began to stand at attention as if she’d been struck by lightning. She hadn’t really heard any noises or noticed anything that would be considered out of place for what she knew of the rainforest, so the cause of alarm was a mystery. She slowly stood up from her slightly bent position, wiping a bit of the deep red juice from the corners of her mouth with the back of her hand. It stained her skin just enough to be noticed. The open area she was in had poor lighting as did the rest of the forest due to the trees, but more was let in here. Because of this, Becca couldn’t help but feel as if a spotlight were being shone on her. A sudden feeling of vulnerability washed over her, and her heart began to race. She was panicking. Her eyes darted left and right, looking for the source of her paranoia. There was no sound. No movement. Nothing.
She couldn’t take it anymore. The feelings of being watched were bubbling up inside of her, getting to be overbearing and she decided she had to keep walking further into the forest, or else she might scare herself enough to turn back and leave. Letting out a shaky breath, a shiver ran up her spine. Her hands relaxed at her sides as she collected herself, picking up her bag and slowly walking to the end of the clearing. Just as she made it to the beginning of the trees yet again, she noticed the slightest hint of a path.
The grass was the same as in the clearing, unlike earlier on when it was growing lush and free. However, there was a stretch of about three feet across that was slightly beaten down and worn, as if it had been walked occasionally for the past year or two. It took Becca by surprise to see something like that in the middle of a rainforest, seeing as how there wasn’t supposed to be any sort of inhabitants aside from the creatures dwelling amongst the trees and wild ferns. Hesitating for a long moment, she took a step forward. I’ve come this far...there’s no point in turning around now.
Becca walked for not even two minutes before she noticed the path was becoming more and more defined. She tried to figure it out; it wasn’t embedded with tire tracks, and yet animal prints didn’t exist. As far as she was concerned, there was no explanation. She blinked a few times, her eyes focusing a little too much on the same path of ground for just a little too long. Then, she started to hear noises. There was a tree about two feet ahead of where she stood on the path whose leaves had rustled as if by an unseen wind. But it was that tree alone. There hadn’t been the slight chirps of monkeys or the pattern of wings when it moved. Just a quiet swaying as if somebody pushed it. She stopped dead in her tracks. Oh god...what if it’s some sort of predator? Do the big cats climb trees to hunt their prey? Can they jump down and attack from the trees? Oh, god. This can’t be happening...I’m going to die. Today. I'm going to be killed by some sort of animal. It’s going to rip me apart and eat my skin. It’s claws are going to gouge into my-
She was cut off with an answer to one of her questions. A crouched form appeared in the middle of the path in front of her. It had jumped out of the tree that she was suspicious of just a moment earlier. She was relieved at first, but the feeling only lasted for a brief moment. When she realized that this could be even more dangerous than some large feline, she was truly terrified. She could feel her heart beating faster. Her hands and legs shook. Her eyes grew wide in fear and, partially, disbelief. It was a human.
As he was crouched, there wasn’t much detail Becca could make out about the man. It was obviously a man, however, from the blocky shape of his torso and back, and how he seemed to be layered with muscle. His skin resembled a slightly darker version of hers; it obviously hadn’t seen much sun, but it still had the smallest tint of a tan. Before standing, his head snapped at attention like a feral creature hearing it’s next meal, looking up at her and meeting her eyes.
At first it was like looking into a mirror. Becca was captivated by his eyes. All her life she’d been told her eyes were a hypnotic shade of blue; when she was first born she was tested for blindness because of how light of a color they were. She was the center of attention when first going to school because the other children were fascinated with her eyes. She now understood why everybody marveled at them.
Staring into the eyes of this mystery man, she felt as if he was stripping her naked and seeing her in a way nobody else was able to. She felt as if he could see her soul; every fault she was, every mistake she’d ever made, every accomplishment, everything. Just in this one gaze, he knew her inside and out. It was terrifying. But it was also exhilarating. Under different circumstances, she would’ve melted to the floor under his gaze. But she was pulled back into reality when he stood up.
Those eyes she had just lost herself in took on a feral appearance. His eyes were slightly almond shaped, complemented by the sharp facial features given to him. His cheekbones and his jaw were very distinct, stubble dotting his chin like a 5 o’clock shadow. His lips were full and pulled into a one sided grin, radiating a deviant attitude. It sent a shiver through her. His hair was black and shaggy, reaching the bottom of his ears. He stood around six foot four, towering over her by almost a full foot, for she was only 5’5”. He wore a pair of jeans that were tattered and torn from being caught on branches and thorns, no shirt, and a jacket made out of some sort of leather. It was unbuttoned, showing that he had some definition from muscle on his chest and abs, but he was still built slender.
He took slow, careful steps in a wide circle around her, assessing her as if she were to be his next meal. His eyes wandered up and down her frame, hesitating when they met her eyes once more. He moved with the grace of a hunter, the fictional killer feline popping into Becca’s head as she watched how he moved. Even though the ground was crisp with plant life, his steps were silent, while each one she took made the smallest crunch. He lived in the forest. It was obvious.
Once he’d made a full revolution around her, Becca somehow managed to regain her voice.
“W-who are you?”
She blushed at her voice being so soft and afraid. She was always told she was a wonderful speaker, and to be turned into a terrified little girl was just pathetic. The man grinned at the tone of her voice, obviously pleased by how intimidated she was with him. He stopped walking, or rather floating, around her and stood in front of her, his body language still tense and ready to pounce if need be.
“I think a much better question is who are you? And why are you here? We don’t usually get visitors this deep into the forests...”
His voice was thick with an accent that Becca couldn’t define. It was smooth and wrapped around her, sinking into every crevice and filling her with a sort of ecstasy. What is wrong with me?! Something can’t be right here. He isn’t...he isn’t normal. Becca shivered.
“I...uhm...I-I won a contest. For a trip to tour the Amazon....b-but there was a tour guide, and glowing trees, and then these berries, and a path, and-”
“Glowing trees? Berries?”
He took a small step closer to her, reflexes screaming at her to take a step back, but something stopping her from doing so. Instead, with a shaky voice and trembling limbs, she explained the glowing trees and the bright red berries, since he had some sort of interest in them particularly.
“You’re coming with me.”
Before Becca had a chance to react, he was behind her, holding her close to him so she couldn’t move her arms or fight. He wrapped some sort of blindfold around her eyes before picking her up and throwing her over his shoulder.
“What do you think you’re doing!? Let me go! Where are you taking me!?”
What had been a weak and defenseless voice just a moment ago suddenly turned aggressive and angry. She’d always hated when people picked her up, and for it to be somebody who had been looking at her like a piece of meat...well, that only made it worse. She was mad. But, in order to shut her up, he bounced her. She was up in the air for a moment, a squeal escaping her lips, only to be interrupted by a grunt as her stomach landed on his shoulder, making her feel sick. She decided to shut up after that.
As he carried her, Becca noticed that most of the animal sounds started to fade away. The entire time she was there she could always hear at least a sort of whispering animal cry further off in the distance. But, the further they walked, the quieter the sounds were until they finally disappeared. She counted his steps, a measure she took thanks to reading various kidnapping stories for assignments at school. His shoulder stuck into her stomach, and he’d shift occasionally, making her groan in discomfort. Finally, she counted step 2,137. He stopped, putting her down like a sack of potatoes.
Becca ran her hands over the ground she was sitting on, only to recoil in shock for a moment. She was expecting a sort of gravel, or dirt, or grass. Instead, she was met with something that resembled cobblestone streets. She turned her head side to side slowly, hearing hushed conversations around her. There was people, and a lot of them. She wasn’t able to make out what any of them were saying, but she could tell by the tone of their voices that they were quite surprised about something. Then, she heard the voice of a small child.
“Mommy....is...is that a human?”
Becca was confused, her mind swamped with unanswered questions. Why was she being referred to as a human? Obviously she was a human, just as they were. Maybe they call themselves something different. They might use words from a different language...they do all have that odd accent. I seriously need to figure out what’s going on though...something about all this just isn’t right, here.
Then, the odd man...the one keeping her as a hostage, said a single line that sent horror coursing through the crowd.
“She ate the berries.”
Before the crowd’s uneasy whispering had a chance to subside, the man hoisted Becca back onto his shoulder, and started walking again. She was almost more annoyed than anything else. At least he doesn’t really walk...gliding makes it less painful. This way his shoulder isn’t jamming into my stomach every time he takes a step...though these people are getting on my nerves. And I really want to know where he’s taking me...I’m worried...
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Becca landed on the ground, yet again, with a thump and a groan. This time instead of being a sort of cobblestone, it was smooth like tile. The atmosphere even seemed different...there wasn’t the same whispering from groups of people, or occasional buzz of insects. It was fairly silent. She heard somebody shift behind her and she flinched, unsure of what was going on.
“Calm down. I’m letting you see.”
Becca blushed from how jumpy she was, but she knew it was understandable given the circumstances. She felt the man untying the blindfold at the back of her head, and doing it quite gently. Her eyes had been closed so the material didn’t irritate them or make them itchy since she hadn’t really been able to move much, so when he took the blindfold, the sudden light wasn’t as big of a shock as it would’ve been. She waited for a moment, letting her eyes adjust, before opening them to a sight that took her breath away.
She was in a large, open room adorned with fancy decorations that reminded her of pictures of palaces she’d seen in her history books. The floor was made of a sort of marbled white tile with streaks of green and black swirled into it, covered with gloss. The walls were painted a brilliant white, accented with golden trim. Massive paintings of regal looking men hung a wall in a line, looking to be a family history of some sort, as the men all had some similar appearance. In front of the wall with the portraits sat a large chair one would see in a castle; it was made of bright red velvet cushions, a golden headboard, and golden legs and arms, both inscribed with intricate patterns that looked like they would take ages to complete by hand.
In the chair sat a man that looked slightly familiar, but Becca couldn’t quite place his face. After thinking for a moment, she realized that he looked like the father of the man who had been carrying her. He shared the same sharp facial features, icy blue eyes, and the same slim but muscular build. His hair was a dark grey, fading from the same black of his son’s, but cut closer to his head. His face was littered with worry lines and shadows under his eyes that looked like they were the result of years of stress. There were two long scars that stretched from the bottom of his nose, through his lips, and down to the middle of his chin. It was intimidating. Then he spoke.
“Who is she, and why have you brought her here? You know we don’t bring humans to our town.”
There it is again...’humans’. What are these people?
“I found her walking in the forest. She says she’s here because of a contest...but I don’t think that’s right.”
His father looked at him with a furrowed brow.
“What makes you think that?
“She ate the berries.”
The father paused for a moment, his emotions about as easy to read as a wall of stone. His eyes bore into his son, trying to look for some sort of crack in his expression, as if he might be lying. He stood up, rubbing his temples with his index fingers, which were also decorated with scars, and paced slowly as if he was thinking very hard. He, too, moved with an uncanny sort of grace.
“I’d like to apologize for the way my son has treated you thus far. Judging by the blindfold he had on you, you weren’t brought here of your own free will. For his acting...not so civilized, I apologize. Now, I know you must be confused by all this, and I feel terrible for dragging you into the middle of everything, but I will explain things in due time.”
“I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Dante. This is my...town. What is your name?”
Dante, as he claimed to be called, spoke with a sort of regal splendor, like a king from years past. It was interesting, how a man that looked so battle worn could speak with such elegance and kindness. Becca was hesitant, but she decided that it would be best to indulge him.
“My name is Becca. I live in Michigan. I won an essay contest, and the prize was a trip to the Amazon.”
Becca was intimidated by the man, and she wasn’t sure how to address him. He nodded and smiled, which struck her as being out of character for the man. He looked so tough and mean, but when he smiled a sort of warmth flooded his eyes. Despite having the appearance of ice, they made her think of Summer...it was somewhat comforting.
“I see...so, you came to a clearing while you were walking, and there were berry bushes that you ate from...correct? A clearing with blue flowers?” Becca nodded.
“Interesting...I hate to unload all this on you at once...but...I’m afraid we really don’t have much choice.”
He sighed, as if heavy with burdan. He obviously didn’t want to tell her whatever it was that he had in mind, but it seemed to be important. She made sure to listen close.
“Millions of years ago...creatures...like me and my town roamed civilization like normal people. We were a peaceful bunch...there were laws and treaties to make sure nothing got too out of hand. We would never feed on any of the humans, they would never discriminate against us, and we would live in peace. Things were fine for the longest time...we held jobs and upstanding members of society. But, as most things go, there is no such thing as perfection and peace.”
“There was a sort of...resistance group amongst our kind that was growing. They were angry, and wanted to rebel. They believed that we were a superior race when compared to the humans, and that there was no need for us to live by their rules. So, in the middle of the nights, they started to break the ultimate rule, of never feeding on humans. They killed two each night that they went out on the hunt. They broke the treaties.”
“So, when the humans discovered what was happening, we were banished from the cities. All of us...everywhere...around the world. We tried to band together...we made camps around the world in places secluded from the touch of humans. We were in Peru originally, but we decided it would be intelligent if we moved to the rainforest, here. That way it would be very difficult to be detected. Humans killed those of us that they could find, and some even searched out our camps. Machu Picchu? That was an old camp that the humans found. Ours is called Scarlet Myst, for the red color the mist takes on when the sun sets on rainy days.”
“Anyway, even when we were equal with humans, there was still some of us that were better than the rest. Like royalty. My family would be what humans consider the kings and queens of our kind. I am the eldest living member, therefore I am the current King. There were a few other separate bloodlines that were considered to be royalty as well.”
“There were things that separated these bloodlines from the rest of our kind. We have different, more advanced abilities. We don’t need to feed off of people or animals in the same way that the rest of us do. We have a higher tolerance for pain, so we make better warriors. What’s more, we are immune to poisons that others are not...including those found in certain berries...Now, Becca, do you see where I’m going with this?”
Becca sat, eyes wide with realization and fear at what Dante was telling her. The berries that she ate earlier in the clearing...they were poisonous to others...Her icy blue eyes were the same as theirs. She had the pale skin. Confused, afraid, and a little worried, the most she could manage was a hesitant nod.
She was one of them.
Becca was a vampire.
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Because of her knowledge of the whereabouts, Becca was never allowed to leave Scarlet Myst. She tried to leave for months, but eventually her powers awakened and she was like everybody else living there. So, she gave in and became one of them. She was married to Aiden, Dante’s son, for she was of a separate royal bloodline, and she was needed for the survival of their kind. They had multiple children, took over the mansion once Dante passed on, and ruled what became a small town. However, not a single day passed where Becca wondered what her life might have been like had she gone to bed that day instead of finishing her essay.