Chapter 1

My heart pounded and every inch of my being screamed to leave. Taking a shaky breath, I looked over at the boy standing beside me and nodded. I knew the vampires and rouges roamed here, but my family needed food and I intended to get it. Every since the vampires exposed themselves, the world went to hell in a hand basket. Vampires started evading the biggest cities (one of the cities, which happened to be my home, was now unnamed but stretched for miles in every direction of the fence) of the United States and most of the small ones were destroyed. What happened to the captured cities?
Humans were no longer humans, but a food source; the captured cities were forced under rule by our living dead. Many humans cowered in their basements, hoping it would all go away like a bad dream. The vampires were unforgiving though and the more the humans hid out, the more they went searching. Soon enough, cities were isolated by breath taking concrete walls and humans lived in constant fear of when they would become a vampire’s meal. Even though, most of the vampires actually tried to keep a collected hold on society and formed a system. The system basically stated that as long humans followed orders, became a ‘civilian’ in the vamp world, and sacrificed a member of their family three times a year, or every four months, they would not be harmed and received a food supply that would just barely last until the next sacrifice. It was a tough crack down and apparently they didn’t know soon enough their food source inside the wall would kill out.
After about two years, the vampires realized that their precious blood was cutting down quick and that they had to do something. Since they were vampires, they figured it wouldn’t be so hard to have a monthly gathering and bring in as many humans as they would need to feed their population from outside the wall. They carried out the plan. Ten to twenty humans were brought in every month. It was by far enough to feed the vampires; even then they still had the hundreds of humans from families and gangs, and other groups of people throughout the city. Instead of dropping their monthly gatherings to a minimum, they started turning extra humans into vampires. The second generation vampires were near perfectly matched to their masters, but soon they wanted to be called Master themselves. Secretly they started to create their own offspring. It was then that the Rogues were born.
Their secrets however, were infected with rabies. How so though, no vampire or any human knew. Now, whether you followed the System or not, you could become a vamp’s meal. These nasty creatures roamed the streets at night and any one they caught, animal or human, were drained of blood and dumped into the pipes below the streets, some where even turned into a Rogue them. For someone like me who traveled under the ground, it wasn’t such a pleasant surprise to wonder upon.
I knew that rogues were outside the wall as well, but the vampires and the humans they brought back rumored that they were so crazed by the disease they would attack anything that stood in the way of a human, even one of their own kind. But I’m sure they told us this just scare anyone away from tempting to slip out of the gates.
Though once a Rogue from the outside, or Oar’s as I call them slipped past guards and pushed the city into a raging mass of terror. All of the vampires hunted for it every night, but the Oar was relentless, always slipping past even the best vamps. One night though, the Oar had settled on a small child clapping out her slippers. She was unaware and her small high pitched screams echoed throughout the city. That’s when the vamp’s finally caught, and beheaded the Oar. Sadly, the young girl was torn to bits and had to be killed as well. After the capture, humans and vamps alike could sleep with a tad less worry.
I couldn’t though. My family, or what was left of it, were not civilians. Sure, I hated the idea of giving one of the up, but we needed food. After I started thinking about it though, realization struck. How hard would it be to scrounge up food in abandoned homes or lost places? Even though we weren’t civilians, both of my parents were taken in to become food and they left me, my two brothers Dustin and Gabe, and our dog. The idea sickened me at the time, but I knew I would have to kill the dog to use as meat. Gabe and Dustin didn’t protest; they too knew you couldn’t love something as simple as an animal anymore. As I dried out the dog meat that night, I heard the two boys crying in their rooms. From then on I swore that it was them over me.
Over the next two months, we adopted two other kids who were alone. One was my age, nineteen, and the other around fifteen or sixteen. None of us knew exact ages, we just guessed. It was a lot of mouths to feed, especially since Camo and I were the only ones who went for food.
“Devin!” Camo hissed behind me. I knew he felt it too, that strange pull when vamps were around. Swallowing the lump that rose in my throat, I shook my head. “There’s no way I’m turning back now. We haven’t even gotten to the wall yet.” Camo cursed under his breath, but continued on behind me. Our tasks were not easy, but we did what we had to do and we got out. Simple, but not easy.
I rounded the corner and quickly darted back around. Camo eased up beside me, our bodies becoming one with the dank tunnel around us.
“Please! I’ll do anything, just don’t hurt me!” Cried out a shrill voice ahead of us. Camo tensed beside me. I pushed my finger to my lips and shook my head. If we turned around now, the vamp would surely hear us and it’d have three humans to drain.
“You know I can’t leave you alive. Oh no, no, no little human. ” Replied another voice, much more calm and collected, but feminine. I peeked around the corner and saw that the vamp’s back was too me and the pleading human stood in front of her, cringing on his knees. I snickered inwardly at the thought of why he’d found himself face to face with a vamp. Same thing all men want. Camo tensed again, but this was different. His eyes shown of pure terror. The female vamp had noticed us.
She smiled wickedly and before I could even blink, she had a hard grasp on my ankle and was dragging me out of the little hole where Camo sat. Her grip tightened; a shriek escaped my lungs and I had to fight hard not to cry. “What do we have here? Another street rat?” She crouched down to my level and blew out a soft breath. I snarled my nose at the stench.
“It’s all too bad, it really is.” She sneered and I knew she would take pleasure in killing me. I heard Camo scuff his feet, trying to steady them. Clenching my eyes tight, I lashed out with the vamp and hit her squarely in the ribs with my foot. She hissed and turned on me. “What a brave little rat you are.” Her eyes sparkled red and I immediately regretted what I’d done. She pinned me against the ground, my head connecting with the concrete ground hard. I bit back a string of curses. Looking just past her, I saw the trembling man runaway.
“Looks like your shrew is getting away,” I smiled bitterly. It wasn’t much of a comeback, not one at all really, but I knew all vamps hated smug prey. For all she knew I was one of his gang and tried to lure her away, make her feel stupid. Long, slightly curved fangs stuck out from her upper lip like miniature tusk. I didn’t know how I was going to get out of this one, or how Camo was going to get out of it alive. All of the long nights spent hungry watching my brothers shrivel, all the dangerous trips outside the wall. All of that in hate of vampires, and now I will die by one.
Closing my eyes I waited for the sharp fangs to tear my throat out and drain me. It never came though, just a loud hiss and a dull thump. Camo slid down beside me and cradled me in his arms whispering that it was okay. My cheeks flushed hot and I pushed him away, standing up. I almost forgot about my ankle, but caught the wall just as I started to fall. “This will put a damper on our runs.” Being optimistic when your ankle was hurting like hell wasn’t easy. It was then I realized something. Looking up, I saw another vampire. She was much smaller than the first, but I could tell she was stronger, or older.
She smiled at us. “I never liked her preying on young scavengers when they were just trying to live. Of course I can’t talk… I’ve had my moment as well.” The vampire started to walk away, but she turned back around to face Camo. “Next time, boy, you won’t be so lucky.” I didn’t know if that meant he would be dying, or if she thought there was something between us and he wouldn’t be leaving with me alive. Either way, I stepped in front of him and glared at the vampire. She chuckled, but turned and walked into the dark.
Camo shuddered behind me and I swallowed a lump. “Come on Camo, we need to get back.” I choked out, not looking back. It was an empty run and nothing could change the fact that sooner or later, my family would die of starvation. Camo walked beside me; every now and then he’d look over at me, but turn away just as quickly. Sighing in my head, I threaded my fingers through his and felt him smile. After all, I was going to die, hopefully later than sooner, but who knew?

Chapter 2

By the time Camo and I reached the end of the tunnel and crawled
up the rickety ladder, the sky was dark. "Great." I muttered. Storms in this
world could last up to a solid week. Looking up at the sky I felt a small drop
of rain land on my cheek. Smiling slightly, I looked back at Camo and continued
back towards our home. Truth was, I loved storms. They never made it
easy on our lives, but something about all the power they held was amazing.
My grandmother said her mother, my great grandmother, was the same way.
Of course, if I were to tell any of my group about it they would think I was crazy.
Rain, storms, and lighting were not something you should like being a street rat.

Camo scoffed and I looked over at him. He pointed up ahead and his
eyes grew dark. Following his fingers direction, I saw what he meant. One of the
rival groups were all drooling around a girl. She was probably a few years younger
than me and Camo, but she was about their same age.

"Do you think we should help her?" Camo asked worriedly, watching the other
group. I sighed heavily and took a step forward purposely snapping a stick. The other group
jerked their heads up almost in fright. When they recognized it was us, a few chuckled
and tried to look tough by crossing their arms. Camo was about to do the same, but I
stopped him with a look.

"I thought yous didn't venture out into the rain, Devin?" One of the
particularly grungy guys asked. He took four giant steps forward, landing right
in front of my face. "Street rats don't like rain. Or so I thought." I pinched my nose
and turned my head away. We all had bad breath, and we all knew it. But for some
reason it still bothered most of the street rats when someone mentioned it. I knew
who was talking to me. His name was Finn. Finn was a great person to be in a
group with because he protected anyone. But if you ever got on his bad side, things
pretty much went downhill from there. His cold blue eyes locked into my suttle brown
ones as he too remembered what happened.

When my mother and father were taken away, I knew I had to get Gabe,
Dustin, and myself out of the area. Finn had helped us, done more than I could ever
thank him for. We were our own little group of four until I realized the Rouge vampires
were starting to watch us. I guess I knew why Finn didn't mention that he had been a
civilian before. Any street rat would kill him. It was a given. But he didn't tell anyone and
in return, that caused serious trouble for us. After the Rouges started hanging by our
make-shift house every night, I asked Finn what was going on. He shook his head and
said nothing.

Gabe and Dustin knew something was up, so they asked Finn themselves. Finn
didn't answer them right away, but that night he told us about his previous life. I immediately
kicked him out. The look on Finn's face was indescribable, but I knew I had to protect
my brothers. In the week that followed, I heard that Finn had joined a crew of his own
and that he had become one of the most feared street rats. And that he was out to get me

Thinking back to this, I glared up at him. He towered over me, but I didn't waver.
After only minutes of our silent staring contest, Finn backed away and turned his head
toward Camo. "Finn, no." I looked over to where the voice came from to find a girl that looked
a lot like Finn at the head of the crew. Her eyes were the same cold blue and her hair the same
dark red. [i]Finn's sister.[/i] I looked at her in shock, but when her eyes met mine, I quickly
focused them one something else.

I tugged on Camo's shirt and he backed away from Finn. If anything, Camo knew
what Finn could do, but he also knew the damage he could put on Finn. I glared at Finn,
my eyes pleading him to go away. No matter who, or what, he used to be and what he was
now, I still cared for his safety. The two boys still tossed threats with their eyes, but Finn
also backed away. Clearing my throat, I made a pointed look at the girl who was circled
by his crew. "Let her go. She's not food." I knew he wouldn't listen to me at first, but
if I started out argument of with a order, I was bound to win. Finn tossed his head back
and looked at the girl grudgingly. "Eh, we're done with her anyway. Yous can take 'er." I
was almost shocked at how quickly he agreed. Finn must not want trouble either tonight.
That meant something was definitely wrong in the city.

I nodded my head in a mutual thanks and started walking towards the girl. I had
elbow several people hard in the ribs before they parted, but I finally reached her. She
was small, very small. Her amber eyes darted back and forth like a caged animal and she
messed with her hands nervously. I held out my hand. "Come one, get up." The girl got up
herself, refusing my hand. Pulling it back to my side, I nodded. "Well then, lets go." Camo had
walked up beside me and the girl looked at him with awe. It was true, Camo had pretty
good looks for a rat, but hardly anyone thought of that anymore. I rolled my eyes and
pushed her forward.

"What's your name?" Camo asked later, trying to fend off the awkward silence.
The girl looked puzzled for a moment, then she held up a finger like she had gotten some
brilliant idea. "It's Lizzie." Camo nodded thoughtfully. "Camo, and that's Devin." I waved
limply and continued sloshing through the soaked ground. Already in a matter of ten minutes
everything in sight was soaked.

When the three of us reached home, I found out our door had stuck again. Wrapping
my hands around the handle, I pushed my shoulder to the door as hard as I could, but I didn't budge.
"If they have this door locked, so help me..." I muttered, pushing on the door again. I looked at Camo
and he walked over to the door and pushed on it with me. After another minute of struggle, I
slammed my shoulder against he door and I heard a soft click, then it gave way. I stumbled forward
and toppled into Jessie, the other girl in our group. She braced herself against me so neither of us
would fall. When we both had our balance, I heard a snicker behind me and looked to see Camo
bent over with laughter. Huffing, I stalked to my room and plopped down on my bed.

I don't know how long I had been asleep when I heard a soft knock on my door.
Rolling over, I threw a small blanket off my and heard it swish to the ground. The knock came
again and I moaned, not really wanting to get up. "Come in." I said groggily. A few hesitant seconds
later, my door creaked open and a small face peaked through. "Devin?" Whispered a voice
that wasn't familiar to me. Then I recognized it. I slung my legs over the side of my bed, yawned,
then got up and opened the door wider. Lizzie looked at me and smiled sheepishly. "Everyone else
is asleep, but I wanted to ask you some questions." She turned her head away from me and
peered into my room. I frowned slightly and steeped out of my doorway and pulled the door closed
behind me with a soft click.

I beckoned Lizzie to follow me into the 'living room' and sat down on a love seat. "Ask away,"
I mumbled still asleep. Lizzie plopped down into a chair next to mine and took in a deep breath.
"Okay so, how often do you guys go on food runs and who normally goes?" She frowned at herself
and somewhere in the back of my mind I wanted to kick her out. But, in this world everyone's crazy.
She probably just had a traumatizing moment when she was younger.

"Um, normally everyday, unless it's rainy. Camo and me usually do the runs, but sometimes
Jessie will come if we know the loads gonna be big." I didn't ask her why she asked me the question,
honestly I just wanted to answer her questions and go back to sleep. Lizzie nodded and looked at
me curiously, almost as if she didn't believe me. I'm guessing she was hungry and thought that you had
get your own food. That's always how Jessie was. I sighed and got up, walking to our pantry.

Shifting through the cans, I found a small can of fruit and brought it back out. I sat back down
on the loveseat and picked up a pocket knife from nearby, prying open the can. Lizzie watched me
the whole time, her eyes never leaving the can. "If your hungry, just ask. Your part of our group now." I
told her, handing over the can. Lizzie took it gingerly as if it were made of dust. After only moments though,
she tipped the can back and sucked all the fruit out of it. "Thank you so much, Devin! Really." I waved her
off and let her finish the can before saying, "We only eat one can of food a day, and normally it's during
the hottest part of day. But sometimes we allow ourselves to splurge and eat twice." I looked back over
towards the pantry and sighed inwardly. I had just given my food for the day to Lizzie and there wasn't
enough for me to eat another.

I sat on the loveseat for a while after Lizzie went to her own bed. Something bugged me about
her, though I didn't know what. Maybe there was a reason Finn and his group were treating her so nasty.
Shaking my head as if clearing the though, I got up and moved slowly towards her room. She didn't have
a door on it, so spying was a breeze. What I saw was astonishing. Lizzie was dancing. I had no idea
what dancing it was, but it was graceful and full. She danced for a while too, hardly getting winded at
all. Maybe nothing was wrong with Lizzie. Like with Camo and Jessie, I would just have to wait and see.

I barely remember leaving Lizzie's doorway and passing through mine to fall on the bed.
I know it had to happen though because I woke up there. Pushing of the thin blanket that had become
hot in the current weather, I sat up and rubbed my eyes. I didn't hear anything from the group in the living room
and I immediately got worried.

A few minutes later as I walked into our living room and sat down on the loveseat, everyone
became quiet. Camo hung is head and Jessie awkwardly twiddled her thumbs. "Guys, what's up?" I asked
leaning forward and placing my elbows on my knees. Camo cleared his throat, but didn't say anything.
Narrowing my eyes towards Jessie, I asked again, "what is going on?" Jessie lurched forward and curled
in on herself, sobbing. My eyes darted from her to Camo, and back again. It was then I realized two people
were not sitting around our group.

My eyes grew round and I darted down the hallways towards a small room in the back of our house.
Bursting through the doors, I didn't see anything at first until my eyes adjusted to the darkness. I scanned the rooms
and my gaze landing on a unmoving figure, and beside it another. But it was breathing. I stepped forward cautiously
and lifted the curtain that hung in front of a window nearby. What I saw scared the living heck out of me. On a small
twin bed, one of my brothers lay in an awkward position, his neck snapped back and skin pale. The other say staring
down at his dead sibling. "Oh..." I whispered, not knowing what to say.

Dustin looked up at me, his eyes grave and dark. "Gabe's dead. I saw the vampire. She left before I could
tell someone. But I remember..." He choked back a sob and continued on, "she said something. It was about Lizzie."
I ran forward and swaddled Dustin in my arms, trying hard to hold back tears for my brother, sucked dry. Gabe was
the liveliest of us all. He never thought about missing meals, he always tried to help people out before himself. I knew
he got that from our mother, just like me.

Camo had walked up behind me and was looking down at Gabe's body when I pulled away from Dustin,
a few tear's still running down my face. "Your face is cleaner now." Camo mumbled out, trying to lighten the spirits.
It didn't work, but I smiled lightly to make him feel better. I stood up, having to become the tough leader no one wanted,
but the one everyone needed. "We need to bury him and go out for food again today. I think we need to bring every
one along and scout for a new place to live as well." Dustin and Camo looked at me, astonished. If a vampire knew
we lived here, they were sure to come back and suck the rest of us dry. Both of them knew it, but they
didn't want to leave their only home.

I turned my back and called through the house, "Eat all you can from that shelf, but pack two things
for later." I knew Jessie was still crying, I could hear her sniffles. Lizzie was somber, not grieving for the one
she never knew. Camo and Dustin were trying to be model males, holding back all the tears and sobs. Every now
and then I saw Dustin wipe away a tear and Camo the same. Myself? I couldn't feel a thing. It was all empty. I felt nothing.


Publication Date: 07-30-2012

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