A humming noise stirs Briar awake and she opens her eyes with difficulty. Everything is blurry and dark, expect for two suns -no, lights- sparking and popping above her. Something glows an eerie green in the corner of her eye. She has no idea where she is.
She lifts her head off a pillow and pain lances sharp and hot through her head. What the heck? Mind throbbing and disoriented, she tries to blink away the blurriness. It doesn’t work, but Briar can still make out the shapes around her. She seems to be lying on a creaky bed with a patterned green quilt, which looks very out of place. The room is cold white tile and quite big. And some sort of… metal table to her right. Unease rises up inside Briar when she realises the black mass on top looks like a pile of ashes among iron handcuffs.
Trying to move her head as little as possible, she moves her eyes to the left. A pale arm and a blood-red dress- someone else is here! Briar is about to speak when she remembers what had landed her in this… mad scientist lab. The cool, dark woodland, a brief flash of pain and then blackness… Something or someone had knocked her out.
Panic rushes through her head. I’ve got to get out of here. Briar begins quickly analysing her situation. From moving her arms slightly, she can tell she isn’t constrained to the bed. She might be able to jump up, but fat chance when she’s this dizzy, and when there’s seems to be no doors or windows at all.
Just as the real fear begins to set in, someone comes running out of the shadowed end of the room. The figure feels familiar. Even in her daze, Briar recognises the blonde hair and white-suited silhouette.
“WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING?” The words explode like fireworks in Briar’s ears and she tries not to wince. She honestly can’t tell if Ash is yelling at her for getting herself abducted or actually at the lady in red beside her. Her brother skids to a halt, heaving for breath. He glances at her once before turning furiously to the woman.
“Your husband and I made. a. deal.” Ash spits out through gritted teeth. Vaguely, Briar wonders what the deal is, but her head is starting to seriously hurt and she concentrates on not swearing. A voice as chilling and as clear as ice answers him. “Pity.” She says coldly. “This girl is interfering in our business.” “It was a promise, and you know what will happen if you break it.” Ash’s voice sounds like a buzz now. The lady in red turns to look into Briar’s face, and this time she very nearly swears. The woman’s face is the cruelest and gauntest one she has ever seen.
The woman studies her with piercing hazel eyes. “Very well, she will be released. A shame. I’ve rather missed experimenting.”
“Briar! Briar, are you okay? Wake up!”
A voice shakes Briar out of her unconsciousness. A worried face swims into her vision, a bespectacled face with evening sky-dappled leaves rustling behind her.
“Allie?” Briar scrambles to her feet and almost falls over- her head is pounding. Her eyes slowly start to clear and soon she can see Allie Beard normally. “Oh, Briar, what happened? I saw you lying on the ground after I was walking home from a party, and you looked like you had passed out!” Allie waves her hands around fretfully. “Are you okay? Do you need to go to the hospital?”
Briar rubs her sore temples to try soothe them, and to straighten out her crazy memories. “I’m… not sure.” She says slowly, remembering Ash. “I think I may have…” Upon looking at Allie’s increasingly worried expression, she decides to lie. Was it all just a nightmare? “I think I may have bumped into a tree. Silly me.” She jokes weakly. Luckily, Allie seems to believe her and her face relaxes into a relieved smile. “Okay then. I’ll walk you home anyway, just in case.”
By the time she reaches home, Briar’s headache has dulled and all she is looking forward to is a good nights sleep, so she can try sort out reality from nightmares when her mind is clear. However, as soon as she walks in through the door, Isla jumps at her as a bundle of excited squealing and energy.
“GUESS WHAT BRIAR?!” She shrieks. “I’m guessing it’s something stupid, so good night.” Briar snaps and attempts to move around her little sister. “No, you have to listen!” Isla hops up and down, effectively blocking Briar’s way up the stairs. “Fine, what?” She sighs, deciding to get it over and done with.
Gleefully, Isla spins in a circle before starting on her story. “Okay, okay, soooooo today we got assigned our partners for our history project and Jeannie was away so I was the odd one out and so I had to go with the other odd person out and GUESS WHO HE IS? CLAYTON ALTO!” Isla squeals without even bothering to wait for Briar’s answer.
“Yes, great. Hurrah. Now, if you excuse me, I’m going to bed.” Briar rolls her eyes and leaves her sister still happily twirling behind her.
Tired and annoyed, Briar wearily climbs the stairs with her… nightmare?… still swirling in her. However, she meets another interruption. It’s Fern, standing in Briar’s bedroom with her arms crossed. “Mommy, I want to go to sleep.” She whines at her mother. “Sweetie, all I want to know is that if you’re alright. You’ve been a bit distant lately. Is everything with Max okay?” Fern asks gently.
“Mommy, don’t worry. It’s just that work is a bit stressful. I want to get a promotion.” Briar finds herself lying for the second time today. “If that’s just all…” Her mother says doubtfully. “Yes, I’m totally fine.” Briar says firmly. She feels the need to change the subject. “Anyways… what’s with the fashion change?” Fern smiles and looks down at her new dress- soft, sea-blue with lace. “Oh, this? I just feel like I’m getting a bit too old for my lace top and high heels. This is much more comfortable. I’m not as young and fit as I used to be.”
Fern gives her daughter a sad smile and Briar feels a twinge of pity. “Mommy, I think you are beautiful and will always be.” She hugs her mother. “Thanks, sweetie. Oh, and remember Briar… I will always be here if you need any help.”
“Sim Nation was founded on 6th February 1512, not the 20th February 1215.” Clayton Alto leans over to point the mistake on Isla’s history paper. She blushes furiously and mumbles a ‘thanks’ as she rubs out some words. “How do you know so much about history?” She asks timidly. “It’s interesting to learn about the past, you know? So we can learn from our mistakes.” Clayton explains cheerfully. “I’ve never really thought of it that way.” Isla says thoughtfully, and smiles shyly at him.
They chat for a while more, Isla jotting down notes a little messily from gazing at Clayton too much. He doesn’t seem to notice, however, and continues to explain all he knows about Sim Nation’s history- which is a hell of a lot. “Okay, enough of me being a history geek.” Clayton half-smiles. “How about you? What do you like?” Isla is startled. She wouldn’t think that a guy like him would like to know a girl like her’s hobbies.
“Music and art, I guess.” She sighs. “I love playing the guitar and painting in my room all day. I can pour all my emotions into my paintbrush or into the notes of a song. This way, I can turn all my stress and worry into something beautiful. I know it’s a bit silly but…” She looks down, embarassed. “I don’t think it’s silly. Music is really amazing, I love to play piano as well.”
Oh my god, this guy is such a classic. Briar flops into the seat opposite, finally tired of listening to the two from the kitchen. “Hi.” She interrupts her little sister’s gazing-into-eyes-dreamily thing. “I’m Briar.” She gets her first good look at ‘the hottie’ (quoting Isla & Jeannie), who returns the greeting politely. She is unpleasantly surprised. Sure, he’s okay looking, but his pale skin, and glowing eyes- freaky.
Briar knows enough of the supernatural by now that this guy might be a vampire. That does make her worry. If he is a bloodsucker, he might just do that to Isla. Dangerous, especially as her sister doesn’t seem to be able to see the supernatural. And yet… as Briar watches Isla enthuse about music with Clayton, all shyness and awkwardness forgotten, he doesn’t seem to be threatening or possessive, or even human teenager jerk-pervy at all. Just a well-mannered boy, maybe with just strangely pale skin. Huh. Weird.
After finishing their history notes, Isla invites her new friend outside to play in the pool, as spring is in the air and it is a warm day. Briar watches the boy carefully for any danger signs. However, all seems normal. The only thing weird is that for a breath holding contest, Clayton manages to stay underwater for longer than humanly possible.
After that they hang out on the loungers, under the shade of a patio umbrella. Briar only hears snippets of their conversation, but she can tell they are talking contentedly about upcoming concerts and art exhibitions and the such.
It’s only an hour later when Clayton has to return home and the two exchange farewells in front of the garden. To her unhappiness, Briar has to admit that her sister actually is crushing on the right guy. So maybe Isla is right- she won’t do anything stupid, because Clayton doesn’t appear to be the kind of guy who would make her do something dumb.
“So… see you at school tomorrow. Thanks for having me, it’s been really fun. I’m glad we became project partners.” Clayton says and Briar can literally see her little sister melting. “Me too! See you tomorrow.” Her sister says breathlessly. Clayton grins at Isla, and that’s when Briar sees them.
Fangs. White, shiny, sharp, real fangs.
So Clayton Alto is a vampire. Damnit.
She retreats into the house and her sister follows her, looking absolutely and totally in love. “OMG isn’t he just so adorable?!” Isla sighs happily, gazing off into the distance and skipping around. “Um… Isla…” Briar bites her lip nervously. She may not take this well. “Yeah?” Her little sister asks, half-listening.
Isla looks at her with a very confused face. “A… what? Vampire…?”
“Yeah.” Briar says defiantly. “So you shouldn’t hang out with him. He may be dangerous.”
“Seriously, Briar? Of all the things you could make up, a vampire? Clayton is totally not dangerous. He’s really sweet, and he loves music too, and he’s not like all the other stupid boys!”
“I’m not lying! He’s a vampire!” Briar exclaims.
Isla jabs a finger at her older sister. “Look, I’m not a kid anymore! I’m not falling for your tall tales anymore. Vampires. Don’t. Exist. Stop making things up just because you don’t like him!”
Briar runs out and slams the front door shut at that. Why doesn’t her sister believe her? She’s so upset that she almost doesn’t notice Ash driving off in the car. Almost. Where is he going to in this hour? The thought of that brings back the ‘nightmare’. Maybe she should check out what he is doing.
Briar hops on her old bicycle and pedals down the road. The evening is sweet and tastes of coming summer, of new flowers and warm breezes. The car stays just out of her reach, but she can tell where it is going- out up into the hills.
The sky has melted into a deep tangerine by the time Briar jumps off her bike at Crystal Springs. She’s never been here before- it’s isolated and rarely any locals come here. What would her brother want to do here?
She runs through a ravine and up into a small valley, with a lake shining in the middle. Briar’s legs are rather sore by now, so she slows down as she reaches the rocky shore. There’s someone else on the other side, partly hidden by a dark copse of spruce and redwood trees.
Creeping around the shore, Briar hides behind a juniper bush. She can see through the leaves that there are several metal contraptions there, as well as piles of old crates. Her brother is talking to another blonde man- who, though? Luckily, the wind carries scraps of their conversation to Briar’s hiding place.
Hmm. Briar slips her cellphone out of her pocket and carefully turns the camera on. Maybe she can take a video of them to try figure out what is going on.
To her shock, she sees that the blonde man is none other than Xander Clavell, her blasted father. Peering at her screen, Briar notices that he seems to be yelling at her brother. Oh, nothing new about that. She instead scans the machine-type objects around them, but she can’t recognise them. None of them have any special insignia or anything.
“Full moon… few days… why is… finished?!” Briar hears snatches of what Xander is saying, who stamps his foot childishly. Ash leans back subtly. “Something… lunar… not aligned… phases… power not enough…” “Get the… ****… done!!!”
Xander marches off a little to the side and gestures wildly at his son. “Switch… test… now…” She hears him shout. Ash looks irritable and reaches down to press something at the base of what looks like a giant, swivelling light.
The machine creaks and pops for a moment, and then a beam of light, so bright Briar closes her eyes, shoots up into the night sky.
Hey guys! Hope you enjoyed this chapter. Just letting you know that things are starting to intensify and will continue to do so until Chapter 2.14. That will be when all this supernatural + Ash mystery is finally exposed. So about five more chapters and two-three after that, then we should be seeing some Generation Three heirs appearing! This generation shouldn’t be finished till Christmas though. 🐶