Subtle Secrets – Chapter 1
© 2016 Lissette E. Manning
All Rights Reserved.
Abby sat across the roof’s edge, staring at the city below. The sun was peeking over the horizon, a sure signal that it was time for her to slink back into the shadows. Though the sun’s rays wouldn’t hurt her much, her kind had a natural aversion to sunlight. Such things were ingrained into a vampire’s system no matter how much the species might have evolved.
With a sigh of regret, Abby pushed herself to her feet. A sharp gasp was rent from her lips as she turned around. The one person she never thought she’d see again stood before her.
“Wh—What are you doing here?” she asked.
The vampire smiled, his cerulean eyes sparkling with determination. “I needed to see you, Abbessé.”
Abby approached him, reaching out to curl her hands around the smooth contours of Sam Connolly’s face. She allowed herself to remember him, committing every detail of his face to memory. She’d gone far too long without any knowledge of him, and had thought he’d died a long time ago. Though he was now much older and wiser, she’d never forgotten him. To see him standing before her in the flesh sent her mind into a tailspin.
“I . . . I thought you’d died, Sam!”
He clasped her hands and brought them his lips. “Rumors of my death were grossly exaggerated.”
“But . . .”
“That’s neither here, nor there.”
“What brought back your return?” she asked as she pulled her hands free of his.
“A great many things.”
“Most of all, you.”
Her blue eyes widened and were full of confusion. “Me?”
“Yes. Stories have wandered far and wide about the girl intent on ridding the world of the wretched Falgori.”
She tossed her head back and laughed. “You’ve sought me out because of that?”
“It’s not often one is so foolish.”
“Foolish? I’ll have you know—”
“You’ve survived, Abbessé. That’s all that matters.”
Sam drew her away from the roof’s edge, leading her into the interior of the ruined building. They ascended the staircase toward the hidden room he’d prepared years ago when he’d been forced to go underground. He’d stumbled upon the hotel during his travels, and had made himself at home in it from the moment he’d set foot inside the building. It mind-boggled him that Abbessé had found this place on her own, yet it also pleased him to see her.
Ever since the world had crumbled into ruin, nothing had remained the same. The mysterious plague had turned quite a bit of the world’s population into vampires. Half of it had turned into something else. Something far more deadly.
Humans called these creatures the Falgori. The bodies of those infected with the mutated strain of the plague would find themselves changing into grotesque dog-like beings. Their heads would grow and lengthen to accommodate the enlarged brain. The creature’s nose, mouth, and chin would become a snout, its teeth growing jagged and sharp.
In his mind’s eye, Sam saw the creatures he fought on a daily basis throughout his scavenger hunts. He recalled the extended rib cages, the long thin abdomens leading into large bony hips. The rear legs of these creatures were also long and bony, their hooked toes branching out into sharp claws. Its skin, what was left of it, was of a pale pink color stretched tight across their bodies. Veins and arteries peeked through the translucent skin, hiding the venom coursing through the creature’s body. Once injected into its victim, the venom spread quickly, transforming the human or vampire into one of the Falgori within seconds.
He shook his head to clear it and pushed the door to his apartment open. Sam reached out to flick the light switch, bathing the room in a soft golden glow. Abby let go of his hand, taking in the mere splendor of the chamber. He watched as she made her way inside, picking up objects of a long forgotten era.
She fingered a sixth generation iPod, a distant reminder of the necessities the world couldn’t live without so long ago. A discarded Kindle Fire HDX sat upon the scuffed wooden coffee table. Her deft fingers powered it on, its screen flashing open to the Kindle program and the book he’d been reading earlier.
“Wh—Where you’d get all this?” she asked as she sat down on an old black tattered bean bag he’d tucked near the right side of the panoramic window.
Sam closed the door behind him, and set the locks in place. “Throughout my hunts, I’ve come across the occasional knick-knack.”
Abby chuckled and shook her head. “Knick-knack!? These are things of an era gone by.”
“Ten years is not that long, Abbessé.”
“My name is Abby, Sam.”
A slight smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “I’ve forgotten how feisty you are.”
She snorted and rolled her eyes at him. “Yes, well, there’s no need for such names of old now, is there?”
“I’ve always liked your name.”
Abby’s smile disappeared as she set the device aside. “How have you survived?” she asked.
Sam took a deep breath, taking a moment to formulate his words. “On blood, mostly. Food, when there’s nothing else out there. Mind you, I’d rather have blood, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?”
“I saw you die!”
“You thought you saw me die.”
He sighed and pushed himself to his feet, pacing the length of the room in an agitated state. “The Falgori . . . I was bitten, but the venom didn’t kill me.”
Her eyes widened with horror. “You’re one of them?”
“No. I don’t think so.”
“But you said—”
“I was bitten, yes. I’ve an immunity against them now, though. I don’t know how or why I survived. I just did. By the time I came to, you were gone. I assumed you’d died, Abby. There was so much blood!”
Abby swiped a hand across a trail of red tears coursing down her right cheek. “I didn’t.”
“I can see that. You’ve become some sort of rogue hunter intent on wiping out the wretched Falgori, once and for all.”
“I have to. If only to make the world a better place.”
Sam came to stand in front her. He dropped onto his haunches, clasping her hands in his. Abby sniffled, several tears snaking down her already streaked cheeks.
“You don’t have to.”
She wiped her nose across the back of her hand, leaving behind several red streaks across her pale flesh. “Yes, I do.”
“The Falgori killed my family. They must pay!”
He chuckled and shook his head. “So you’re going to take each and every one down on your own?”
“If I have to.”
“Abby . . .”
Abby yanked her hands free of his and jumped to her feet. Without uttering another word, she stomped out of the apartment in an angry huff. Sam found her indignance amusing. He’d questioned her ethics, hoping to glean a little insight as to what drove her to do what she was doing. So far, he hadn’t learned much.
The vampire known as Abbessé Franklin was still a mystery to him. He’d heard of her exploits along his travels. People—vampires, really—spoke of the girl cutting a path of destruction across the United States. He suspected that she was keeping something from him, and would give her time to come clean. Sooner or later, she’d have to if they were going to work together in bringing the Falgori down, once and for all.