Home > Reign of Blood (Reign of Blood #1)

Reign of Blood (Reign of Blood #1)
Author: Alexia Purdy

Chapter One

Never tease anything that wants to eat you. The ravenous eyes that bled death all around and peered from their windows drooled at the sight of us. The buildings loomed above as we rushed across the concrete and asphalt, hurrying to beat the sun as it set. They lurked in every window, shrouded by the shadow from the searing sun. The east sides of the buildings were crawling with vampires. They smirked and sneered their inhuman growls, hissing right at us as we jumped from sunbeam to sunbeam, racing to the awaiting van. Only the light kept them at bay. Only the light kept us from their sharp, gripping fangs.

Each block felt like it stretched longer and farther, growing with each of our steps. My mother ran hurriedly, as fast as she could with my little brother wrapped around her, molded to her chest, afraid to look up. I was dashing right next to her, afraid to get left behind and afraid to be first in any place. My backpack bounced on my back with each jump and step. I tried hard to not look up. To look upon them was to feel your soul drain of life, to wither away. Mom always said not to let them look into your eyes; they can steal your humanity and freeze you in your steps. But I did look, and I did study their red searing eyes. Even while running, I had glanced up into their pale, grey ashen faces. I waited for them to take my soul; I waited and discovered that I was immune. Immune to their mind control and their deepest desire. I wanted to smile and flip them off but I didn’t think that my mother would appreciate that. I wasn’t sure if she or my brother were immune. I wasn’t about to piss her off by admitting that I had given in to such a temptation and had stared eye to eye with monsters.

So for now, we ran. We ran to our awaiting van where mom tied my little brother into his seat and slid quickly into the driver’s seat, turning the ignition and slamming the gas as though our lives depended on it. Actually, they very much did. Soon the sun would fade, inhaled into shadows and we would be surrounded by monsters capable of draining our bodies of every little drop of crimson blood. They did not discriminate. They would rip even me and my younger brother to shreds. For now, they waited in their makeshift graveyard; the city’s dilapidated buildings and streets.

I stared out the windows of the van and hugged my knees to my chest. Mom had her serious and stern face on. Sometimes I wish I could see her smile again, like the old days, before any of this happened. Before foraging for food had become an absolute for survival. Before running was a daily occurrence. Seeing her hair streaked with grey was not something I thought I would see so soon. She wasn’t that old.

Times like these, even I felt old.

We left the city limits well before sunset. We were safer in the rural areas, where vampires feared to tread, too far from the shelters of the concrete jungles. I learned early on that some part of their humanity must still be intact because unlike the stories and movies I had heard and seen about vampires, these ones hated to sleep in the dirt. Oh, and all that crap about mirrors and garlic? Definitely not true. Stake to the heart? I had found that it did work but decapitation was a much more successful option. Missing the heart was too easy a mistake. Crosses and holy water? Well, that does work but you must be a believer for it to work as intended. If you did not believe, well, let’s just say you might as well be throwing plain water at them.

An arsenal of swords, crosses and faith was pretty much all I needed. It had been just a year since the virus had turned more than three quarters of the population of the Americas into blood-seeking walking dead. Most died within days of contracting the strange ailment. I’d had all the practice I needed for a lifetime in learning how to kill vampires. It definitely made for an interesting life but I would give anything for my old one. Nothing beat a cold soda and movie on a Saturday night. High school issues seemed petty compared to the ones I had now. Stability, security, all gone. Staring out the dusty windows of the van as the trees grew thicker and the dusk seeped into the sky, I felt nothing but numb. Everything was all but gone.

Chapter Two

My name is April. I live in a bunker, somewhat hidden in the sparse forests surrounding what is left of Las Vegas, Nevada. I wish I could say that the nights would bring bright lights, slot machines ringing and an endless party, but that would not be so. The valley is a graveyard, black as pitch at night and a ghost city in the day. All that is left of a city that never sleeps.

My mother Helen and my younger brother Jeremy live with me in this makeshift home buried in the side of the mountains. It’s pretty cool considering we could be out in the open where the vampires roamed at night. It was simple; we had found a door in a mountain cabin to what would’ve been part of a basement that led down a long hallway and into a cemented-in bunker. Located deep inside the bowels of the forest near Mt Charleston, this had become our home. It was ventilated somehow, had stores and stores of non-perishable food lining shelves and storage areas in a separate room.

Gallons of water sat in drums as big as me and a filtration system was set up for recycling the water that we did use. The place was wired with solar energy and generators if needed. The sleeping quarters were in a corner of the first room and consisted of three beds lined up next to one another. My mother and I took turns keeping watch during the night while Jeremy got to sleep the whole night. It wasn’t much, but it was home.

The luck we had felt when we found this place was overwhelming. It was more than we could have hoped for. By chance we had searched the plain log cabin that sat atop the bunker and discovered this entombed sanctuary. Whoever had built it had had some money to burn and probably had been some sort of apocalypse-paranoid survivalist. It didn’t matter in the end; it had not helped them any more than any money could’ve have helped in the end of times. The owners hadn’t made it back here and it had remained untouched until we’d found it. I often wondered who they had been. It wasn’t like they had lived here much, there had been no family photographs displayed across the walls or sitting on the coffee table. Nothing to mark it as lived in at all, like an abandoned and forgotten place, a just-in-case sort of place.

We still had to run down to the city for supplies. My mother did not like using up the stores in the bunker; she said she’d rather use what was widely available now in the abandoned stores and shops in the city than use what we had. It made sense; the city’s abundance was for now, the bunker supplies for later. That didn’t mean I didn’t hate going down there. The city was crawling with vampires. They lurked in shadows of the evenings and stared hungrily at you as you walked about. A thousand eyes watching and sizing you up, it was the most uncomfortable feeling ever. As long as you didn’t stay out too late, you wouldn’t see them as much in the morning and afternoon hours. Dark buildings were an absolute no go. They holed themselves in the guts of structures until nightfall, when the burn of the sun no longer seared their ashen skin.

I hadn’t always been so physical, but since I’d had it out with a vampire or two already, I had insisted on watching tape after tape of martial arts and weapons training after those near-fatal attacks on me and my family. My mother participated in these training sessions with me, too. Our slender muscles proved our dedication. We were femme fatales. I liked it that way. Delicate flowers were for the dogs.

The days went by slowly. Some weeks we didn’t venture out at all, some weeks we explored the city every day. My mother really didn’t want to go all vigilante and kill the hives of vampires we tended to find. I had killed some smaller ones, but my thirst to extinguish them grew with every kill. I spent my days sharpening my knives and arrows. I’d spend hours in the hunting stores, running my hands over the variety of weapons, guns, crossbows, all sorts of contraptions. I would settle on some shorter swords, machetes, daggers and crossbows. I had guns of course, but they were loud and tended to awaken the hives around us, getting them stirring earlier than we like.

This was the reason we were running that day. I had gotten in a bind and had to shoot a large hive of about 6 vampires that I’d come upon in small grocery store. I had cursed myself for letting them surprise me. I should have noticed their putrid smell before coming near them. But for some reason I had been distracted and hadn’t been at my most-alert that day. Mom had been pissed. She’d had to join me to extinguish them, leaving my brother outside in the open daylight. This was a definite taboo. He was defenseless, and at six years old, his haunted eyes made him older than he should’ve been. He couldn’t handle a gun, let alone a sword or crossbow. He always had a knife which we had taught him how to use, but with his scrawny body, he was sure to not last long in a world of death all by himself.

After getting an earful that day, Mom had banned us from going to the city for at least a week. I hated being cooped up in the cabin and bunker. I had spent my time hunting animals for fresh meat, but it being the end of summer and the beginnings of fall, the animals were not so frequently available. Occasionally I would track a deer, but jackrabbits were more common. Coming across any kind of beef would be nice, but the vampires had ravaged the few farms around the north end of town ages ago. This had left us with little options in the meat department. Ever since the electricity had shut down in the city, the freezers stank of the rot of death in every market. Beef jerky was all we could really find to enjoy any kind of red meat.

So here I was, stuck on the mountain, staring down at the city that used to be our home. Watching the evening sun sink over the crests of barren rock near Mt. Charleston, at least the vampires didn’t venture up here. Their inherent fear of being out in the open when the sun rose kept them near the buildings of downtown and the strip. They were such territorial creatures; they liked to group together in small hives. We thought it curious that we didn’t find them in the outskirts of town, proving our theory that they preferred the clusters of buildings in the center of town. Still, the Strip was rich with food stocks that were nearly impossible for us to reach. It would mean treading into those bowels of darkness and silence, the remnants of the previously bright, noisy casinos. It was a darkness infested with death.

I tore myself away from my thoughts. Night was approaching. As the shadows fell across the cabin, we locked the huge, heavy metal door that was the entrance to the bunker and flipped the lights on inside to illuminate the concrete sanctuary of our isolated home.

Chapter Three

“April, grab your gear,” my mother said. “We need to find more powdered milk and possibly any kind of meat products we come across. Also bottled water, detergent, and soap. Got it?”

Groaning, I snatched the page of lined paper with her neat writing pressed into it. Mom had been a teacher before the end of the world and teaching English year after year had been her passion. Now, only my brother and I were her pupils, more so Jeremy than me. I was seventeen and my eighteenth birthday would be coming in just a few months. I was no longer a child, being thrown into adulthood and survival mode faster than I ever would have thought.

“How far in are you planning to go today, Mom?” I tied my dark black hair into a tight ponytail and pulled on a thin jacket. The fall weather could get a bit chilly in the shade, but in the sun’s warmth, it felt perfect. The dry air was still today as the usual wind made itself scarce. I slid daggers into the sheaths on my belt and one on the side of my boot then slung a quiver of arrows onto my back and a crossbow over my head to strap across my chest. I had come to love weapons. The crossbow was a bit bulky but I had chosen the lightest one I could find in the sporting goods store. It took some practice to get used to it but I could hit things dead on now. It was nice and quiet, which was a major plus. I favored it along with my machetes. Blade fighting was more intense and messy, but also quiet.

Mom pulled on her own gear as Jeremy fidgeted on the ottoman. He always got nervous seeing us prep for an outing. We always took him with us; leaving him was not an option. If we died, he would be all by himself in the bunker, a thought that sent a shudder down my spine. I ruffled his wispy medium-brown hair. It badly needed a cut. Mom hated trimming it because it was so thick it clogged the clippers with every pass. She tended to put it off as long as she could. He glanced up, giving me a nervous smile as he visibly relaxed under my touch. He always felt safer as long as he was near one of us.

“April, is it a short or long trip?” His small voice came out shaky as he gulped down his apprehension. I motioned him to move over on the ottoman and plopped down next to him, giving him a squeeze.

“Hey, trooper. Nothing to worry about, okay? What did I tell you before? Stick by mom or me and we got your back. Don’t wander away and be extra quiet.” Leaning down I whispered into his ear, “Short trip, I hope.” I straightened up when mom turned towards us to grab a couple of duffle bags for the supplies. She tossed one to me and motioned for me to get moving. I stood up and winked back at Jeremy. “Come on, squirt, you want to have fun dontcha? How many do you want me to shoot today?”

“April, stop that!” Mom’s tight voice pierced through the air. I rolled my eyes, making Jeremy giggle as he jumped off the ottoman and ran towards the door.

“Sorry, mom,” I said sarcastically. Pressing my lips together, I gave her a feigned smile and batted my eyelashes at her as I walked by. Her eyebrows rose into arches as she shook her head and sighed. I was seventeen but she treated me like a child, even after everything that had happened. I was more adult now than a child, and I never would be one again.

Checking the monitor that connected to the camera that scanned the outside perimeter, I verified that is was all clear before turning the huge deadbolts, releasing the thick steel door. The cool autumn air rushed in along with some dust and dried leaves. There was a breeze dancing about and it kicked up the dirt and pollen like crazy. I sneezed, rubbing the itchiness that immediately stung my eyes, making them water. I hated fall and spring just the same; they sucked pretty bad for the allergy-plagued like me. I tacked a note to myself in my brain to snatch up more allergy meds when I hit the stores in the city today. A stock of them would be good; lord knows they would not be manufactured anymore.

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