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Burning the Midnight Oil by Keya

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Author's Chapter Notes:
Snippet of a poem, 'An Empty Road Traveled,' written by me. This is an unusual one. I ask that you keep an open mind. It's told by the viewpoint of a slave, Akiba, a casualty of war. Where David is slowly and surely killing his Pack and the vampires turn prey in a world where humans hunt them.

To Carla & ET, both writers, both inspiring.
I screamed, stumbled in an attempt to haul my ass out. Whereas other demon-vanquishers would stay to fight, I, Akiba, lacked the necessary will to comment suicide. Older brother thought differently. "No," I hissed, furious that he had decided to go all noble and shit.

"Get out, Wayne!"

He shook his head and riddled the beast with bullets, microscopic beads smacking into strawberry flesh. It hardly flinched, slithered closer to where Dwayne hid behind a barrel.

Damn. Had to stay and teach this ghoul a valuable lesson. "Now you've done it, bastard. You don't pickle with family and expect to live. It ain't happening!"

I whistled, the shrill noise bouncing off the ugly palm trees, going deeper into the barren chill. Feeling the summons, my 'friends' answered. Many times in the past I had tried to describe them. Failed in each attempt. But I can recite the cold, icy breeze that comes, touching the skin, tickling the bone. When the wind dies, silence replaces the howl, then utter chaos.

Poor creature! Almost felt sorry for the demon. It tried to evade the oncoming death, twisted to the side. Tiny insects wiggled across his puckered skin, fizzing like kids in a candy store. I tried to ignore the hunger lumping inside my stomach.

One tiny whine and it dropped, blood dripping from its mouth, bugs spilling on the floor. My 'friends' left, happy to have accommodated the call of a witch, leaving us behind to deal with the jumble hell-of-a-mess.

Dwayne didn't waste much time. He let the gun sag, crawled to the already rotting corpse and dived right in. I watched, indifferent. "Skipped lunch, didn't you?" He grunted.

"Vampires," I muttered. An eyebrow arched as he kept on slurping, greeting the helmet of my straight black hair. "Going to leave some for the others?"

Wouldn't do to kill the beast and not get brownie points from David. Dwayne may in fact be the brother, but my not-by-choice father had the power. The Big Man didn't ask for allegiance, he voted himself decision-maker a long time ago, before my initiation into the Pack.

What would Grandpa Max think about David had he lived? I shrugged. Probably throw his head in the cheese grinder.

"Jesus, you're going to pop if you drink more of that stuff," I said with distaste.

He finally got the picture as he heard the others flying up ahead. I raised my head, sniffed the air. Yes, sir, them coming. "Want some?" he teased, holding out a chuck. I gagged.

Dwayne moved to the side, understanding what would happen if David caught him in position of feeding. Speaking of-

David landed, his face carved in wood. Nowadays authority oozed off him. We heeded that smell. "Want some?" Dwayne repeated. I smirked, struggling to keep from laughing, but my smile washed away at the look of anguish on the faces of my other brothers. They were hungry. Starving. Being in a world that hunted vampires for sport, blood was blood, human or otherwise.

But as the high bow-before-me wolf, David had his fill first, unaware that Dwayne had denied him the pleasure moments before. My eyes traveled from one brother to another, noting Marko's lustful eyes, Paul's quaking as he fought to keep himself under control. I pitied them, pitied the little ones, Laddie and Sam the most.

Big M looked up from his feast. Glared me a stare.

"Get yourself something to eat," he ordered in his best you-slave-consume-food tone. I sighed. Legs took quick, short steps, the clicks of my heels saying goodbye. Dwayne, as usual, decided to tag along.

I grumbled when I reached the cave, hiking up to the makeshift bedroom: desk, ancient computer, and birdcage served as the décor. "If I eat turkey I am going to start gobbling," I confided to Twitter-Box, wishing I could eat turkey. "And butter sandwiches, yucky." The parakeet chirped a question. "I couldn't devour you, love, you're the smart cookie around."

Talking, pretending helped. It always had. What I had to do-what David created me to do-now that was yuck, trust me. I sighed. Had to do it. Had to eat. Couldn't last on normal food much longer.

I bent down, started digging with my torn fingernails. Found worms, gulped down the catch. The surge of raw strength flowed through my veins. I hated it. "Should kill me, Wayne," I yelped to him, knowing his sharp hearing picked up the words. Didn't answer. I knew why. Even in death, family stuck together. He couldn't kill me, not until he found a way to kill himself.

I found him sitting down on the couch, staring down at Mother's necklace, pearls stained with age. "Don't let David see you have that," I warned, the hundredth time, methinks. He just nodded. My brother, the silent one, taking after Mother according to Marko; I lacked the clues on how she died. Happened before all that jazz of killing me.

But she burned brightly in the eyes of my brothers, including David. Like midnight oil and a pack of smokes. "Miss her, don't you?"

Of course he did. She had rounded the gang out. Made sure the Pack hunted and fed properly, unlike David and the eating first mumbo-jumbo. She had given them laughter, consummated her vows of loyalty by loving Max and his boys. Lucy had been her name, but the Pack called her Mother. I missed her even. Didn't know her but miss her influence. "Want to talk about it?" Stupid question but that's what I was there for, to moan and groan and eat brains, being dumb top on list, Zombie-R-Us.

"No."

"Want some?" I offered him the leftover grub. He eyed the earthworm specks, sympathy swirling in the two deep holes of his eyes. He failed to act on it. Too much for him to challenge David and give me peace. Bastard! But I loved him. Scorned my father with an inner passion that could not be acted on. Loved my brothers.

The corners of his mouth turned down. "No," then brightened, "Would like the bird, though."

Heart pounding, I snatched my hand back, staring numbly at him. "Twitter-Box?" I screeched, heartbroken. I would give him the bird. My feet started inching towards the bedroom, the problem of my zombie programming, doing things I didn't want to.

I thought he had been full from Demon Face. Shit. My baby, my pet, my only true friend-

"Don't," Dwayne spoke, grabbing my arm and pulling me on his lap. "I was just kidding, Akiba, just kidding." I closed my eyes, worn. Fuck. "You sounded like a human," he soothed.

Had I? Would losing a pet horrify a human? It had been so long since I had been mortal, a member of humanity.

"Akiba?"

"Hmmm?"

He was quiet for the longest time. "I want to kill you, to end your suffering."

No, kidding. But I left it at that. We stayed there, his arms locked around my chest, my hushed heart continuing to break, remembering. I had been a normal college student / witch once, decked out with an average to die for. Life had been good, but society found out about vampires and the got-to-kill-them-all-motto ruled.

Yeah, I had played the game. Me, hunter. You, vamps, prey.

The price: becoming food to the enemy. The result: David feeding me pastry blood, transforming me into an un-dead creature that had a taste for fresh worms.

"Do you think we'll find someone like Mother and Max, Wayne?" Out of the corner of my eye I saw Star pause in the background, waiting. In a strained voice Dwayne said yes. The other girl broke down crying blood tears, Michael comforting his lost star. We were all so lost.

Damnation.

There were more vampire-hunters out there than vampires. A war, the immortals losing, forced to feed on demons and other lowlife. Maybe that's why David made me, to remind them that humans had once been at their beck and call.

I stared at the ivory-yellow pearls, thinking. "Would Grandpa Max been able kill me?" Another yep. Star's sobs grew louder. One final question. "Even if I wasn't a zombie and I was like you, a vamp, would he still kill me and," I shuddered with longing, "bring me peace?"

I was contented with Dwayne's simple, but important answer.

"Yes."

I nodded, satisfied. All we had to do was find another Mother, another Max, break David, strangle him out of leadership, then there would be the yes instead of commands, my brothers would be full, not hungry and the two new parents would let me decay...for good. Like a poem I wrote.

--

'Tis but an empty road
Filled with blood, filled with coal
Flaming the midnight black
Cold and lonely, unloved and a fool
But free, soul at peace, wandering

--

I'll travel down that empty road, gladly, if it meant being human again.

But until the dream becomes reality I had to be subdued with Big Man and his dying breed. Waiting, forever waiting for that midnight oil to burn...and keep.

End
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