The factory had only been abandoned a few years, but the state of decay made it seem like it had been left to rot for decades. Even from far away, she could see most of the windows had been smashed and mold had begun to seep over the walls, blackening them. Nature had no mercy for anything or anybody, reclaiming what it could as fast as possible. Just like vampires. Just like the survivors.
Ironically, much of the destruction—if not all—you could find in the cities had been caused by humans. Vampires had no use for food, medicine or other material things found in cities. When the invasion began, most of them had simply taken over the mansions and luxurious countryside residences. As people fled from the cities trying to find somewhere to hide, even the most sprawling metropolises had become ghost towns. The vampires had no interest in them, and people couldn’t stay in them without risking being discovered, so nature took over.
Before people had taken off, there had been a lot of looting, destruction, chaos. People still hadn’t really grasped what was going on, so they clung to the notion of material richness. Grab nice clothes, take the expensive car with you. Soon the cities had been pillaged until they looked like warzones. Fires had broken out, people had killed each other. All without the help of vampires.
She stopped the car between two sheds and looked around. Part of the factory’s roof had collapsed and flaking speckles of paint danced around in the wind and away from the walls. Moss peeked through some of the windows and looped around the broken glass. Just beyond the factory, a couple of abandoned cars and a yellow bulldozer looked almost ready to spring to life. There was enough debris around that the car looked like it belonged there. She could see a metal staircase far ahead, providing entrance to the building. She grabbed her bag and made a dash for it.
The sun was setting down behind her, giving way to the sounds of the night. Soon, all the night hunters would come out to play.
The wind whistled and howled all around her, dragging bits of leaves and dust. She shivered and zipped up her jacket as she ran up the steps. Ivy looped around the stair rail, poking her hands when she tried to hold on to gain speed.
The door was unlocked. She stepped inside and pushed the door closed behind her. Too bad there was no way of locking it. Not that it would’ve stopped a determined vampire, but it might have been enough to convince him the place was empty.
She was in some sort of control room. A few empty lockers and the remnants of what looked like machines littered nearly every corner. Pieces of glass blanketed the floor and her first thought was that at least she would hear the crunch if somebody made their way into the room during the night.
The stale smell of mold permeated the room, extending towards the corridors ahead. She could hear the splatter of water in the distance, but other than that, the place was quiet. No animals scurrying by—at least not yet. She needed to find a place to hide until dawn. Somewhere not only hard to reach but also where her smell wouldn’t be so obvious. Both the two-legged and the four-legged predators had excellent noses. She didn’t want to be found but if she was, she didn’t want to be surprised in a corner, with nowhere to run.
She left the control room and hurried down a corridor on the other side of the room. There were bits and pieces of metal all over the ground and she told herself this was another place to avoid in the dark—it would be impossible to walk around silently when the floor was a minefield of rubbish. Just a careless step somewhere and the sound of her feet kicking metal would reverberate all around the place.
Darkness was quickly slipping into the building and her heart sped up. The next room would have to do, whatever it was. She couldn’t risk running through the building anymore once night set in. She turned a corner and pushed a door open. The room smelled like decay, like the rest of the building. There was a tiny window on the back wall, just big enough for her to slip through. A massive desk was pushed against a corner and she decided that was it. She climbed over the top and sat on the floor, against the wall. The back of the desk was made of solid wood that touched the floor, so she wasn’t visible from the other side. She glanced up towards the tiny window, trying to figure out how many seconds it would take to jump up and out through it.
She took a knife from her bag and leaned her chin on her bent knees, waiting for the night to swallow her whole.
At some point during the night, she fell into a jagged sleep. She dreamt of somber passages and predators snooping through the darkness, so close to her that she could almost feel their breath on her skin.
She woke up gasping for air in a pitch-black room. For a second, she couldn’t figure out where she was and every muscle in her body screamed for her to get up and run. She extended her hand and touched the cold wood in front of her and suddenly remembered her safe corner in the factory.
Then she heard it.
The first crack had been barely noticeable and easy to blame on the many night critters living in the factory. The next one was a lot harder to ignore. Her senses clicked into high alert, so when she heard the rustling sound of fabric shifting, she knew she wasn’t alone. Part of her wanted to jump out in case the visitors were human, but her mind knew better. She forced her ears to adjust to the silence. None of the agitated breathing of the fugitive, no careless knocking against walls or accidentally kicking some rubbish on the ground. No, whoever—whatever—was walking around could see in the dark.
She had decided long ago that there was an elegance to the silence that surrounded vampires. They walked without disturbing the air around them, except for the occasional thump or crack of things shifting as they moved.
The thick darkness enveloped everything. How far was sunrise? Despite her efforts to stay perfectly still, her body was trembling, her ears pulsing. The drumming in her chest was so loud she wondered if they could hear it, smell the blood rushing through her veins.
Two of them. Maybe more. The sounds were so inconsistent and so subtle, it would’ve been easy to pretend they weren’t there.
The elegance of monsters, her mind screamed. It was a clever trick, one that many would fall for in a desperate attempt to hold on to sanity. Hold on to the hope that death wasn’t coming.
Crack. Crack. Crack.
The sounds were getting closer, which meant they were moving down the corridor—probably inspecting every room as they went along. She had to make a decision and make it quickly. She could stay where she was, frozen, and hope they gave up before they reached her room. Or she could get up and try to scurry away to another section of the factory. Both options were equally terrifying.
She closed her eyes and tried to steady her heart. Pictures of her body being drained of blood flashed in her mind. Get out, Isabelle, she told herself. You have to get out now.
She focused on the sounds for what felt like an eternity. Moonlight was streaming through the small window and she tried to guess how far sunrise was. A couple of hours? Minutes away? She considered jumping out of the window, but that would mean breaking the glass first. If she did, would she have time to jump out of it before they got to her?
The sound reverberated down the corridor. At least a hundred feet away, she guessed. Then prayed her guess was right.
Holding her breath, she slowly stood up. The room was empty. Moonlight streamed through the windows beyond the door, bathing the corridor with a phantom-like shine.
She looked at her feet, trying to discern the objects on the floor so she could avoid them. The smallest sound, just a single wrong move —and they would be on her in a second.
Before she scurried into the corridor, she paused long enough to take a deep breath. Her mind was screaming for her to turn around and go back to the false security of the desk, but she shushed the thoughts away. Instead, she stepped into the moonlight, her heart in a frenzy.
The corridor was empty too. She moved away from the moonlight melting into the building and saw the break of light painting itself on the horizon. Sunrise was just minutes away. Whatever vampires were in the building were there to hide from the coming daylight—not because they’d seen her car and were looking for her. They had probably been caught out and had to walk into whatever dark place they could find to wait for the next night.
A hint of hope sprang up but she pushed it down immediately. Not yet, she told herself. Not yet.
She took a tentative step, then another. The corridor around the corner was also empty. Although she couldn’t see it clearly, she knew the door to the control room was at the other end of the corridor. If she could make it out of the factory and into her car, she could take off. They wouldn’t risk following her out into the open with dawn so close.
Her feet froze to the ground. The sound was closer than before. Too close. Did she have time to tiptoe all the way to the door? In a split second, she decided she didn’t—and instead she took off running.
Crack. Crack. Crack. Whatever was there was now aware of the human running down the corridor. She didn’t turn around to see if they were behind her. Or how close they were. She just kept running. The door into the control room was open. She rushed through it and darkness swallowed her. There were no windows there, no light, and her mind struggled to remember where the exit door was.
“A night of surprises, I must say.”
Her whole body froze, her breath caught in her throat. The queasy feeling in her stomach got stronger and she had to force herself not to throw up.
The door. Where was the door?
“You’re going the wrong way,” the vampire said, a hint of a smile in his voice.
It was impossible to tell if he was lying to confuse her or just enjoying the situation.
She took a deep breath and turned around to face him. He was blocking the other entrance, the moonshine enveloping his massive body from behind and casting his face into complete darkness. The darkness was good, in a way, because she couldn’t see his eyes. And that meant he couldn’t charm her into submission. Or at least she hoped he couldn’t.
“I’ll just go,” she said, even though it sounded so ridiculous.
The vampire laughed and her stomach quivered in response.
“Please, don’t,” he said. Then his voice got deeper, close to a roar. “You smell delicious.”
She reached behind her back, looking for something solid. Nothing. She walked a step backwards into the empty space.
He didn’t move and she knew he was playing with her. The way a cat played with a mouse it was about to kill. Just to enjoy the hunt longer, just to get the bite in when least expected.
“Come out and play,” he said, echoing her thoughts.
Her hand found the deadbolt—and he jumped towards her. She ducked, screaming, and fell against the door. It slammed open with a loud thump. The first hints of sunlight burned into her eyes and spilled into the room. She scrambled to her feet and then ran towards the car.
As she jumped in, she dared look back and found his eyes boring into hers from the safety of the darkness. It took several minutes of speeding down the highway before her heart stopped booming against her chest in a maddening race.
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Genre – Paranormal Romance/Dystopian Romance
Rating – R
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