There’s a knock at my door. I don’t bother to answer. They took the locks away a long time ago. Nothing is stopping them from coming in.
My nightmares still roaring in my ears, I wipe my nose on the back of my hand and then go back to fiddling with the tie of my left shoe. “Hey. You’re already up.”
Seth. He’s only here half of the time. I don’t glance up. “Do you need something?”
He takes three steps into the room and sets a glass bottle down on the table against the wall. “Just wanted to say happy birthday before I head out.”
I glance at the pink substance. Twenty-one. I didn’t think I’d make it this long. Most days, I wish I hadn’t survived.
“Thanks,” I murmur, my throat tight.
Seth hesitates in the doorway, his bulky frame overtaking the small space. “I don’t have to leave if you wanted to do something special tonight. I could push the rest of my plans, Tamyra.”
I shake my head. I don’t have the energy to argue with him. What would we possibly do? My birthday is the anniversary of everything going wrong.
He doesn’t insist on springing any other surprises on me. “You should put that in the fridge if you don’t want it until later. I put some other stuff in there, too.”
“Thanks,” I say again, my hands undoing and redoing the lace of my boot as I wait for him to leave.
He lingers there again, but I don’t continue the conversation. There’s too many muddled emotions between us to try to sift through it right now. I owe him my life. I hate him for it. He wants me to have a future, to be happy, and there’s just no way I can promise to do that. My life ended three years ago and I continue to go through the motions every damn day for his sake, for the sake of people I don’t know and may never meet, for the memory of everyone who lost their lives so I could continue to trouble the world with my presence.
Finally, Seth leaves, his heavy footsteps thudding through the rest of our shared cottage. His departure means Seymour should be getting here any minute. I only have one shot.
Grabbing the bag I stuffed under the mattress, I sling it over my shoulder and tip-toe out of the room. Silent. One careful step after another. These vampires have better hearing than most and will catch me if a single wooden board dares to squeak.
I just need to get away.
To scream out into the world and not have someone watching me break down.
It’s all I want for my birthday. Not to hurt anybody or escape. Just to have a moment alone.
They boarded up the windows in my room and the bathroom after my last escape attempts. There’s another window in the kitchen and the front door, both of which Seth or Seymour could see me using to leave. Typically, they keep the room they share locked, but they’ve been getting sloppy the last few times they swapped positions. I can grab a few more supplies and sneak out the window in there before they have a chance to realize I left.
I inch the door at the end of the hall open and squeeze inside, careful to hold the handle as I put it back in the closed position. Breath frozen in my lungs, I listen for footsteps. Nothing yet. I don’t hear Seth talking, either. He’s probably out there waiting for Seymour to get here.
There’s locks all over the drawers and cabinets in the rest of the house, the two men in charge of me making sure I don’t get into anything without their direct permission. I brought that on myself. The first few months of my imprisonment are a blur, but I remember acting out. I broke so many dishes that they switched everything to plastic after only a week. I let the stove run just to press my hands to the hot grates and then sit on the floor to watch it heal. I couldn’t hurt myself, punish myself enough, so I took it out on the rest of the house and the two men working to keep me alive.
Three years later, I have a better understanding for why they did the things they had to, but it doesn’t mean I like it. It certainly doesn’t mean I appreciate any of it. Seymour likes to tell me that grief is immeasurable and will ease with time, but I can feel its deadening weight in each of my limbs.
Nothing helps. Nothing erases the memories of that night or quiets the screaming that fills my dreams. Nothing takes my focus off of the past, I suppose, but the letter tucked into my pocket.
A careful handwritten letter composed of three lines.
You are in grave danger.
Your friends can no longer help you.
Meet me at the waterfall.
I found it tucked under my pillow three days ago. The words woke something dormant in my veins. Not fear. Fear is an old friend at this point.
Something dangerous and thirsting for retribution.
Whoever left it had all the chances they wanted to attack me when they dropped it off. I don’t know how I slept through an entire person in my room, but I won’t let it happen again. I’m not even worried about the warning. There’s always someone trying to kill me. It’s an average Tuesday after the last few years.
Whoever this is needs me alive and needs me to come willingly or they would have kidnapped me from my bed. Curiosity piqued, I need to get out there to see who it is and find out what they want. I cannot have a whole entourage, so I need to be out of the house in the next thirty seconds or so in order to slip my personal guards.
Stopping in front of the dresser placed at the foot of their bed, I pry open the first drawer and take out a handful of sharpened blades. They slide into the designated sheaths in my pants. Four blades total. Two slipped in at thigh level, the metal pressed tight to my body. The other two are smaller. They slide into the pockets designed into my boots. All of them padded and secure. All of them seamlessly designed to make it nearly impossible to see the weapons before I pull them out. I pull out one more and tuck it into the holster-like pocket attached to my hip for quick access.
It’s time to go.
I slide open the window and slip through without a sound. It closes with a whisper, straining to tattle on me. I don’t stick around to see if either of them noticed.
Nobody comes racing around the other sides of the cottage as I step away from the building and disappear into the trees. Tightening the bag on my shoulders, I take off at a sprint. The waterfall isn’t far from here. It’s a space they use for training me in different combat combinations, forcing me to keep my balance along the wet shore and uneven rocks or hold my breath under the water until I can reach the other side. It’s basically home territory against whoever left that note.
I don’t slow down until I’m almost there, listening for any pursuit from my guards while also scanning the area ahead. There aren’t very many hiding places out here. The trees are a bit more sparse in this area and are too thin to truly hide behind. I press my hand to one of them, my fingers sticking to the syrupy substance bleeding from the trunk.
The rushing of the waterfall makes it impossible to hear anything clearly. I step past the tree line and look over the bank of the river in our metaphorical backyard. Nothing. No one. The writer didn’t give me a timeframe.
This was stupid. I don’t know what I expected.
That’s a lie. I do. I’m waiting for an opponent who can finally put me out of my misery. Someone good with a blade. Someone better than me at hand to hand combat . Someone faster and stronger and merciless. Someone dressed in old fashioned robes and spouting insane science like an alchemist out of the old world who just needs my heart or my blood or my spleen, but not me to continue on with their evil plans.
I won’t go down without a fight, but there’s a dark part of my soul that would happily lose.
When still no one comes rushing behind me to drag me back to the cottage and no strangers pop out from the dirt to end my life, I walk to the edge of the water and settle onto a large rock. The waters are clear here. Small fish wriggle along the bank, picking up bits of sand and spitting them back out as they search for food.
My reflection taunts me from the surface of the water. Look, it dares.
I don’t meet its challenge.
There’s a shoescuff behind me. I’m off of the rock in a split second, my boots splashing into the water as I pull the knife from my hip.
The man behind me has his hands held on either side of his head. Not Seth. Not Seymour. Taller than me by a few inches with long, black hair and a prominent nose, he watches me with careful eyes, his posture too casual for someone at the other end of my blade.
“I just want to talk, Miss Raeleigh.”
My hands don’t tremble as I stare across the space. “Talk fast.”
“You’re in danger.”
He waits for a response. I don’t give him one. That’s not news. It hasn’t been news for years.
“I want to take you somewhere safe.”
I can’t stop the snort that huffs from me. “And you expect that I’ll just go?”
“I expect that you won’t have much of a choice.”
My blade catches the early morning sun. “Why’s that?”
“Ivan’s troops have learned the location of your safe house. We have a couple of hours to clear everyone out before they’ll be here.”
Ivan. It’s such a simple name for such a terrible man.
I don’t lower the knife between us. “I can handle it. I’m not abandoning the others here.”
He lets his hands slowly fall and rest at his sides. “They’ve been made aware of the situation. They know what to do.”
No. That’s not good enough. Seth and Seymour aren’t family. They’re barely friends. I don’t know what relationship title to give them, but, whatever it is, they don’t deserve to die in a battle that was meant for me.
Nobody else gets to die for me.
“Either let me walk away or try to restrain me, but I don’t have time to stand here with you.”
He doesn’t move. “I’m on your side, Miss Raeleigh. I can take you somewhere safe and your friends will join us later.”
Each step a carefully calculated risk, I move out of the water and then circle him until my back is to the trees. He can attack and die here on this lonely beach or he can let me go. Those are the only options I’m giving right now.
Before either of us can make a move or issue further threats, a boom echoes through the forest behind me. Ivan. He’s early.
I don’t bother with the man by the river. I sheathe the knife at my hip and start running. Back to the cottage. Back to Seth and Seymour. Back to all I truly have in this meager life.
The man from the waterfall is yelling. He wants me to stop. Desperation burns through each syllable.
I don’t care.
They need me more and I don’t owe him a damn thing.
I’m halfway back, the acrid smell of fire burning its way through my sinuses, when he launches his attack. He doesn’t tackle from behind or throw weapons. He just appears in front of me, in the line of my path, and I have no way to stop.
Smashing my shoulder into his chest, he lets out a groan as he hits the hard-packed dirt first. I roll, but he’s not out of the fight, his hands clinging to my backpack. Hunched over in an attempt to get away, I pull the knives from my boots and let him pull me back. One hits dirt. The other hits its mark.
The vampire lets out a snarl as the knife wedges itself deep into his bicep. “I’m here to help you, Tamyra Raeleigh. Do not stab me.”
I don’t care that he knows my name, that he isn’t retaliating other than to let me go and pry the blade from his arm. All I care if that I’m on my feet. The ground rumbles with the machinations of war. Birds launch into the sky in a cloud of black bodies, their screams just barely audible over the next explosion.
I don’t know if I yell it. It’s my only thought. No. Not this. Not again.
I stumble forward a few steps on the uneven ground before the vampire behind me grabs me around the waist and lifts me from the ground. Thrashing in his hold, he knocks my next knife out of my hand before I can use it. I elbow him in the abdomen.
Growling ensues. We’re worse than two mountain lions fighting for territory. I scream and he demands that I stop.
I’m drawing attention to us.
If they know I’m here, then they’ll leave the others alone.
My last two knives in my hands, I stand my ground against the vampire from the waterfall. “I will end you,” I spit.
“You could definitely try,” he snaps back. “Let’s agree to do this another time at a safer location and I’ll let you show me all your best moves, Raeleigh.”
The ass. Without thinking, I throw the knife in my left hand. It whizzes through the air, narrowly missing him as he leans to the side. It lodges into a tree several yards away.
“If that’s your best, I think I’ll be just fine.”
Killing vampires has been my main curriculum since the creatures crept into my life. Nobody told me I’d have to have a conversation with them. They certainly didn’t mention how infuriating that could be.
I bare my teeth at the creature. My human teeth. I may share some of their DNA, but I refuse to finish a fight as anything but a woman.
“Why don’t you just stand still and take it like a man?”
He clucks his tongue at me. “I expected you to think like someone born close to the twenty-first century, Raeleigh. It’s not very feminist of you to try to belittle me based on my gender.”
Who is this guy? There’s a full scale attack happening up this hill and he wants to discuss philosophy. I shake my head. This is ridiculous. A ridiculous waste of my time.
He’s trying to waste my time and keep me down here. Ivan’s people couldn’t beat me the last dozen times they tried and they won’t now. Seth and Seymour need me.
Without another word, I go back to racing up the hill, zipping past trees and keeping my path irregular in order to keep him from popping back into my path again. Up. I just need to get up. They need to be alive.
The man appears on my right, lunging to stop me. I swing at him, but he grabs my hand, pinning it to the ground as he falls on top of me. His legs on either side of my hips, his hand holding mine down, he doesn’t expect me to punch him in the face.
Blood trickles from his nose as his fangs appear just over his lip. “Seth is my brother. I’m not trying to hurt you or him. He has everything covered up there.”
There’s still yelling in the distance. No signs of fighting, though. Either they’re already dead or this guy is being honest.
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?”
His chest expands as he takes a deep breath. “You don’t have much of a choice right now, Raeleigh. Say you’ll come with me.”
What choice do I have? If he’s telling the truth, the only thing waiting up there for me is a lot of angry men hurt by the explosion Seth set. If he’s not, I can figure out my next moves from somewhere that isn’t the floor of a forest.
I can always escape and start my life over somewhere else.
“Fine. Let’s go.”
Happy Saturday and welcome to the first story from Tamyra Raeleigh. The main protagonist for my vampire novels, she’s a character that fights for the bare minimum, clinging desperately to an idea of normal while she’s swept away by the actions of those surrounding her. Fiery and feral, she’s ready to spill blood to save those left in her life.
Please also check out my writing partner’s blog piece on this mysterious letter prompt!
Bridgette White: https://bridgettetales.com/2022/08/13/blood-moon-messenger-a-short-story/
I can’t wait to see what we come up with next week! Thanks for supporting my blog 😊
3 thoughts on “Meet Me at the Waterfall”
We finally get to meet Tamyra Raeleigh! I’ve been waitting for this day and this didn’t disappoint. I love how we get a little glimpse into her mind and the situation she’s in. I’m captivated by her already. I particulary enjoyed this paragraph:
“Killing vampires has been my main curriculum since the creatures crept into my life. Nobody told me I’d have to have a conversation with them. They certainly didn’t mention how infuriating that could be.”
I think it really sums up where she’s at and the kind of person she is. Well done!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you! I was so hesitant to put her out there, but the prompt seamlessly fit into her world. I’m glad she’s still interesting among the array of other voices that have gotten to shine over the last three months lol
LikeLiked by 1 person
She’s super interesting! I really can’t wait to devour her entire story. So many rich characters and story lines!
LikeLiked by 1 person