Annie stood in the middle of the forest clearing, and she picked up his scent several moments before she heard his footsteps. It wasn't a bad smell, not exactly, but it was clear why others in her pack referred to it as a "dead, pungent odor".
She smiled, turning around. "Nice of you to finally make it, Jeff."
Behind her, Jeff shrugged. He was smiling as well, revealing his fangs. "It was harder than I thought," he said, walking forward.
"Why is that?" Annie asked curiously as he went past her and sat on a nearby log. He made a motion for her to join him. She went gladly.
"Hunters," he said sardonically as she sat. "They're, for lack of a better word, patrolling the forest."
She gasped and looked around, almost expecting to see the glint of a pistol loaded with silver bullets somewhere in the trees. "Did they see you?"
Jeff laughed. "No. They're clueless, anyway. They talked to me earlier today, didn't suspect a thing."
Annie shuddered before clearing her throat and attempting to smile again. "Good. Anyway, I'm glad that you came. I had to show you what I found."
As she took off her bookbag and fumbled through it, Jeff stated, "Why did you have to meet me in secret? Why not just invite me over to your place?"
Annie scoffed. "Jeff, if there's one thing I know about my pack, it's that they're extremely nosey, and I...Ah, here we go!"
She pulled it out, and she heard Jeff's heartbeat quicken (Well, not "quicken", exactly, since his kind didn't have any use for a working heart, being undead and all, but Annie's sensitive ears could still hear it twitch in shock).
In her hand, she held a small, copper sphere, about the size of a baseball. Carved into it was an intricate depiction of two wolves lunging at each other, claws out and teeth bared. As she turned it, other shapes were seen: Reptilian beasts (dragons), large and hulking behemoths (trolls), small and capering beings (goblins), and, hidden between what was clearly a manticore and what might have been a wendigo, was a tall, thin human-like figure with long fangs.
"That's it," Jeff said, his eyes wide. "May I see it?" He reached out. Careful to avoid his claws, Annie handed him the ball.
* * * * *
Now, before the story continues, a little history lesson may be in order. While the reader may have inferred it by now, it bears stating: Vampires and werewolves exist.
Pretty much everything that people have heard about them is true, although there are some things that need to be explained.
First, werewolves are not bound by the moon. Their "shifting" is entirely voluntary, although they are not sapient while "wolfing", only being about as intelligent as a fairly smart canine. Also, when not in their wolf form, a lycanthrope is blessed with enhanced senses, hearing and smelling in particular. Otherwise, there is almost no way to tell them apart from a normal human. However, one give-away is the fact that werewolves often live together in packs, usually in a single apartment building or something similar. Another is that a werewolf's eyes will turn yellow if they are ever angered, frightened or sexually aroused (which is why, in public, lycanthropes tend lead very placid lives). Finally, the last way to notice a lycanthrope is the fact that they love meat. No matter what their diet before being bitten, a werewolf will begin to crave meat of any kind. In Annie's case, she usually keeps a package or two of raw hamburger in her backpack, so that she can have a quick snack.
Second, vampires, well, they aren't the romantic seducers that you may be imagining. No Pattinson clones here. While there are a certain amount of handsome or beautiful vampires, it's pretty much dependant on how he or she appeared before being bitten. No, these bloodsuckers, while pretty indistinguishable from a normal person during the day (Oh, yeah, they are completely fine in the daylight. In fact, they love the sun), are closer to werewolves than you'd originally think. An hour or so after the sun sets, their nails become long, jagged claws, their teeth retract into their gums and are replaced by shark-like fangs. They don't need to sleep, since night is when vampires are supposed to hunt. Thankfully for the human race, vampires are totally fine with regular food, and (nowdays anyway) they are able to resist their bloodlust. There are vampires who can go throughout their entire existance without biting a human, Jeff included.
These two "creatures of the night" aren't exactly enemies - they're pretty civil to each other - but they don't associate much. Again, not enemies, but lycanthropes and bloodsuckers tend to stick to their own kind (until recently, when assosciation with humans became pretty much unavoidable). In fact, Annie and Jeff wouldn't be having this conversation if she hadn't been sniffing around Jeff's private hang-out, chasing after a juicy-looking chipmunk that had caught her eye. The fact that they became such close friends is nothing short of a miracle.
Anyways, back to the story.
* * * * *
Annie beamed as she watched Jeff examine the artifiact with something like awe. "Do you like it?"
"Yeah," he said. He looked at her. "Where did you find this?"
"Well, I didn't exactly find it. Our pack leader gave it to me. It's been in our den for years. She said that it was very powerful, and to not let it out of my sight."
Jeff looked down at the object again before handing it over to his friend. "She's right. Our own clan leader has told us about this thing for years."
"Do you know how it works?"
He looked at her, eyebrow arched. "You don't? I thought that a bookworm like you would have figured it out by now?"
Annie blushed. "I'm sorry, but there's no instruction manual for these type of things. I'm just supposed to carry it with me."
Shrugging, she replied, "I don't know. She just said that she had a dream and that I should have it on me for awhile."
Jeff was about to reply when:
BANG! nbsp;A silver bullet passed between them and smashed into the tree behind them. Splinters of wood flew everywhere as two more flashed by their heads.
Both Annie and Jeff dove quickly to the ground as the air was filled with the lethal pellets, and Annie realized that the gunshots weren't so loud: They just seemed that way to her ultra-sensitive ears.
A rough voice rang out. "Come on out, you furry freak!"
A second voice sounded. "Yeah, you damned hellhound!" There was a frenzied yodel and a new fusillade of bullets. "Bark and show us your snout!" Several more voices laughed, and Annie realized that they were surrounded by at least 10 or so...
Hunters. Damn it.
"What are we going to do?" Annie whispered. "They outnumber us!"
"We should just make a run for it."
"That might work for you, but these are silver bullets, and, remember, they seem to be after me, not you."
Jeff pursed his lips. "Maybe I can distract them while you get away? When they see that I'm a vampire, they'll probably forget all about you."
She looked at him incredulously. "Sorry, I'm not going to let you sacrifice yourself for me, and..."
"Well, well, well, a vampire and a werewolf hanging together! Well, this just warms the cockles of my heart!"
The two friends looked up, startled, into the cruel, bearded face of a hunter who had snuck up on them. He sprayed a mist of water into Jeff's face, and the vampire, who had started to rise, fell back to the ground, writhing in agony. The water had been mixed with garlic, and Jeff's face was blistering badly.
"Jeff!" Annie cried, crawling over to her friend. She glared up into the barrels of the hunters' guns, her eyes flashing a dark, baleful yellow. "You hurt him!" Her face lenghtened, and her teeth sharpened, and a fuzz of light brown fur began to grow on her skin. Her fingers curved inward, beginning their transformation into claws.
"Grab her," the bearded hunter said, and two pairs of strong hands gripped Annie's arms. They were encased his silver-lined gloves, and Annie roared (Literally, as her bestial side was starting to show) in pain. The hunters dragged her over to the leader, who had moved closer to the edge of the forest clearing. As Annie's transformation reversed, her canine whimpers changed to those of a human.
"We gonna kill them?" One of the hunters asked this in an almost pleasant manner. The leader nodded.
"I want its skin on my wall," he said.
That's when Annie, who was still holding the ball, felt a warm, pulsing heat in her hand.
* * * * *
One more thing that you should know: As much as a vampire and a werewolf are able to defend themselves, there are still moments when one may find themselves in a sticky situation. That's when the Orbs come in handy.
Several hundred years ago, a group of "creatures of the night" (Lycans and vamps weren't the only ones involved, although they're the only ones who are still around in the current day) came together. Humanity was starting to find ways to kill them, and the creatures needed some sort of defense. So, that's why this small congregation of beings, skilled in magic, began creating small, copper spheres endowed with enchantments that could render its wielder almost invulnerable whenever it was needed. It was hoped that, eventually, every family (Yeah, monsters have families) would have at least one. Unfortunately, only a relatively small number was made, thanks to (violent) human interference. One of these is currently in Annie's hand.
* * * * *
The heat grew hotter, and Annie winced. She heard the hunters laughing faintly, but she paid them no mind: Despite how hot the ball was, she felt no pain. In fact, she felt good. Wonderful! Euphoric!
"Hey, what's that glowing thing it's got..." One of the hunters began to say, before Annie began to change.
The sudden bulging of her arms startled the two hunters who were holding her, and they let go. Annie couldn't help but smile as she tranformed, watching the cruel faces of the hunters change into expressions of fright. She was only five-something in her human form, but she was now towering over them, and she knew that she probably looked nothing like a human anymore.
Annie almost felt sorry for them, but then she remembered what they were going to do to her, and she caught sight of a wooden stake in one of their hands and remembered Jeff. She pushed the sympathy out of her mind.
Just before her animal side took over, she rumbled, "Bet I look like a hellhound, huh?" She swiped at them with her claws and fell on all fours. "You'd better run." (Actually, it was more like, "You'd beeeuurturrr rrrrrrrrAAAAARRRRRR!" but the sentiment is the same.)
In her present form, Annie was bigger than usual (On all fours, she was currently about the size of a Hummer), stronger than usual, invulnerable to silver, capable of regenerating wounds...
Add to that teeth and claws that were already capable of tearing through steel as if it was tissue paper...
Well, let's just say that the battle was a short one.
The ones who survived scampered into the forest.
* * * * *
Jeff awoke to Annie pressing a damp towel to his face. "What..."
"Shh. It's okay. They're gone."
"What happened? Are you okay?" He sat, wincing as he realized how much his face still hurt. The blisters were gone by now, but Jeff's skin was still red with the burns.
"Yeah." Annie smiled and removed the towel, placing it on the ground. She picked up the copper ball, and Jeff was startled to realize that she was covered in blood. Her teeth were stained red, and, although her hands had been washed in the stream nearby, he could see crimson stains on her fingernails. She was naked, and her clothes were torn to shreds nearby.
"I think I know how this works." She looked at him sweetly and held the ball out to him.
Deciding that this wasn't the right moment, Jeff didn't inquire further.
PART 5: THE MONSTER, PART II
"Oh, my God," Britta whimpered as the beast came to a stop ten feet away from them. It growled softly and continued to glare malevolently in their direction, and the group was able to get a good look at the creature.
It towered over the friends at about fifteen feet tall, and its tough, leathery skin was a dull shade of red. It had two powerful and muscular legs, like those of a dinosaur, and a long, lizard-like tail that repeatedly coiled and un-coiled. Its front arms were long and vaguely primate-like, with long, blade-like claws at the ends of its fingers.
Its face was like a mix between a crocodile and a shark, made even more explicit by the yellow, reptilian eyes and the long, slender jaw filled with jagged, yellow teeth. The monster sniffed the air briefly, and seemed to be briefly distracted, glancing upwards.
Jeff gently pushed Annie, and glanced significantly at the others. It was clear to all of them what he meant: Run.
As one, the friends turned and bolted back down the path, back toward the dock. Too terrified to scream, their breath came out in ragged gasps.
There was a ferocious roar behind them and the sound of thudding footsteps.
"It's chasing us!" Troy cried.
Jeff looked back briefly and caught sight of the creature quickly gaining. He let out a hysterical laugh. "I can see that!"
Without thinking, he reached out to both sides of him, grabbing Annie and Abed's arms. He shoved them forward. "Keep running!"
Higgins watched the chase on the monitor. "The Whore is falling back."
Martin nodded gravely. "Ready the trip-wire."
Higgins pressed a tiny red button on the keyboard in front of him.
Up on the forest path, a tiny, silver wire lay in the path, heavily disguised by the dirt.
The monster was gaining, but Annie thought that they were gonna make it. They were almost at the dock, and the beast was far enough back that they had time to get in the canoes and get away from the island. "I hope that it can't swim!"
Suddenly, she heard Britta give a sharp scream. She looked back and saw that her friend had tripped. The blonde lay sprawled on the path, struggling to get back on her feet. The monster was rapidly closing in.
"Britta!" Annie slowed down, planning to stop and help her. Jeff grabbed her arm, pulling her away and, even as she hated herself for it, she saw that he was right. The creature was too close.
She turned away, trying to block out Britta's screams as she ran.
Martin winced at the Whore's gory demise, nearly gagging when a piece of her flew from the Apex's jaws, splattering against the camera's lens.
Higgins, on the other hand, cackled with glee. "Awesome!" He pulled out a candy bar from his pocket and tore open the wrapping. "I knew that the big boy would come through for me!" He took a huge bite.
The older man looked at his partner, his disgust evident on his weathered face. "How can you watch something like that and enjoy it?"
His younger partner rolled his eyes and took another chomp of his candy bar, flecks of chocolate sticking to his face.
Martin shook his head and looked at the screens. "They've reached the docks."
Higgins chuckled. "Haven't they got a surprise, huh?"
Jeff felt like he was going to pass out when they finally reached the dock. For a brief, terrifying second, he thought that the boats were gone, but then he saw them, still tied to the same place.
He finally slowed down, his feet thumping on the wooden panels, and the others followed his lead.
"Is it...Is it following us still?" Annie stammered.
Abed glanced back at the forest. "It doesn't look like it."
Troy looked numbly at his feet. As Jeff worked to untie the canoes, Annie went over to him and gently touched his shoulder. Abed shuffled over, as well.
Troy looked up. "We left her. She fell, and none of us went back."
"None of us could have done anything," Jeff snapped as he finished untangling the second rope.
A heavy silence fell over the four friends.
"Ugh, this is boring!" Higgins whined. He stood. "Get me when something good happens."
"Where are you going?"
"Getting another piece of candy from the vending machine."
"You've had enough."
"Whatever. Just destroy the canoes." With that, he left.
With Higgins safely out of the room, Martin muttered to himself, "Little fat shithead." Looking at the screens again, he pressed a few more buttons.
Hidden machines in the lake began to stir. Suddenly, long, sharp spikes suddenly shot up from the lake floor below the canoes, puncturing them.
As she began to climb into the boat, Annie was startled by a sharp punching noise. Water began to rush over her feet.
"Oh, God! No!" Jeff cried out as the boats began to sink
Annie quickly scrambled out as their only means of escape disappeared beneath the shallow water.
"What are we going to do now?" Jeff said, clearly unable to tear his eyes away from where the vessels used to be.
"What happened?" Annie asked, confused.
"Maybe they...hit some sharp rocks?" Abed guessed, clearly unsure.
"Does anyone have a cell phone?" Abed asked.
Jeff started, and then he reached into his pocket.
"There's no service. Well, that's just GREAT!!!" He punctuated his shout with a wildly exaggerated punch into the air.
"Uh, guys?" Troy said, finally speaking again. "I think we should get out of here."
The group looked back at the woods, where the creature stood, watching them, its teeth stained red.
When it charged, the friends did the only thing that they could think of: They jumped into the water.
"What'd I miss?" Higgins said as he came back in, eating from a bag of Skittles.
"The Apex came back. They jumped into the lake."
"Cool." Higgins threw his head back and dumped the rest of the candy into his mouth. "Are the nets ready?'
To the group's dismay, the monster followed them into the water. Apparently, it could swim.
Jeff had no idea what they planned to do. There was no way that they could swim all the way back to land.
Below them, a small machine popped out of the lake's floor. It aimed upwards, and it shot out a small net. The tangled webbing wrapped around a pair of flailing legs, pinning them together.
Troy suddenly couldn't move his legs, and he briefly sank below the water. Using his arms, he broke the surface and uttered a strangled cry for help. Before he sank under for a second time, he looked back and saw the beast coming closer, looking like a red crocodile. It was pretty far away, but...
When he came up again, he was relieved and overjoyed to see the others coming back for him. Abed was the closest.
He reached out for his friend, and Abed grabbed his hand. For a moment, everything seemed alright.
Neither of them noticed the monster suddenly surge forward, closing the last few feet at an astonishing speed. Neither of them felt it when the massive jaws closed over them, killing them instantly.
* * * * * * * * * *
PART 6: THE END
"Okay," Martin said. "That does it for the Scholar and the Fool." He watched as the two remaining survivors struggled in the water. "That just leaves the Athlete and the Virgin."
The two men were silent as they watched the Apex swim back to the island.
"So, what? We just leave them to drown?" Higgins said after a minute, gesturing at the screens. "That seems...anticlimactic."
"Whatever happens, happens. They might turn back to the island. There's no way that they'll make it across."
"Why didn't we put a forcefield up, just to be sure?"
"The lake is big enough. Besides, you can't hide a forcefield in a body of water. It'd be clearly seen, even from far away."
"What are we gonna do?"
Jeff and Annie treaded water, watching in silent shock as the creature climbed back onto the beach and stalked into the forest.
"They're dead," Annie said tonelessly. "It's just us now."
Jeff didn't reply. He closed his eyes, treading in silence. When he opened his eyes again, he looked around. "What do you want to do?"
The mainland was pretty far away. It didn't seem like they could make it. They might have to go back to the island.
However, they both knew what was waiting for them on the island.
"Uh, let's..." Annie paused and swallowed hard, images of Troy and Abed and Britta's mutilated remains flashing through her mind. "Let's try to get back to the mainland."
"Yeah." She smiled weakly and briefly. "I'm a great swimmer. We'll make it."
Jeff nodded. "Okay. Let's try." He held out his hand, and Annie slipped her hand into his.
Wordlessly, but taking comfort in each other's company, they headed towards the direction of safety.
A half hour later, Higgins and Martin were packing up and getting ready to go.
"Well, that was fun," Higgins said. "Can't wait for next year."
"I'm surprised that Edison managed to keep her head above water for so long. After Winger went under, I thought for sure that she'd go quickly."
"I've gotta go tell the wranglers to get the monster and put it back in its cube, so..."
"...Yeah. Anyways...good night."
After Higgins left, Martin found himself alone in the room. He looked back at the screens, and stared at the lake. He sighed heavily, turned out the lights and left.
As they left the cabin, Jeff felt a sudden chill in the air. He looked up at the darkening sky.
“What is it, Annie?”
“You ever get the feeling like you’re being watched?”
He looked at her quizzically. “What makes you say that? Do you feel that way now?”
She shrugged. "A little."
Feeling a bit protective, Jeff, without thinking, put his arm around her shoulder.
"Don't worry. Everyone's here. What could possibly happen?"
Almost on cue, a deep, rumbling roar emanated from deep within the forest. They all jumped, and Britta gave a sharp scream.
"What the hell was that?" she demanded.
Before any of the others could reply, a large, dark shape crashed through the forest trees. There was a second, louder roar as Jeff caught sight of a set of sharp, yellow teeth and a pair of blazing green eyes.
Too shocked to react, the friends watched in stupefied horror as the monster stomped onto the path, eyeing them hungrily.
NEXT, IN PART II: The monster pursues the group through the forest, while Martin and Higgins do everything in their power to ensure that the friends die in the proper order.