Home > Disarming (Reign of Blood #2)(12)

Disarming (Reign of Blood #2)(12)
Author: Alexia Purdy

My patience was running low as I crept further into the building. It was slow going with debris and overturned furniture in my way. The stale air felt thick and made my throat itchy. Breathing in the toxic fumes of mold was going to take a toll on my allergies. I was glad I kept my prior regimen of taking my daily preventative meds going. The bottles were available in the old warehouse stores by the hundreds. I doubted I’d run out before they all expired. I never thought about what I would do when the effects no longer worked and the medications dried up from time. Any which way, the future would come. No matter what happened—or didn’t happen—it was there, looming over my head.

It’s not that I didn’t look forward to the future. Who knows? Maybe it won’t be as bleak as it seems it will be. I didn’t know any of this would happen. I didn’t know the world would die so fast outside my windows, withering in screams and blood. I could only hold out to find a future somewhere that resembled anything normal. Maybe that was the main reason I was down here. I was left wanting the normal, craving it like an insatiable disease eating at my insides. A normal where Jeremy could be a child, not some jaded kid raised on killing and scavenging like an animal. Most of all, I wanted him to have a life where he would have others besides me, especially when I am gone. Others to keep him safe and sound.

So I kept on, keeping my steps light on the ground. It was a relief to arrive at the double doors that led to the underground corridors. The great metal doors creaked in the silence, filling it with a pitch that made my hair stand on end. I cringed, hoping it would not attract any unwanted attention. I leaned on the door, letting my weight hold it as it slowly came to a close. The affirmative click made me sigh in relief. It was another barrier to attack from the ferals. I didn’t really expect many down in these hallways—only those who had lingered in the dark from the beginning would be found here—but I highly doubted anyone would have wanted to remain here during the outbreak. I would be surprised to find anyone here.

Stepping on the smooth concrete slabs under my feet, I kept a constant vigil back and forth, ahead and behind me. My shoes left pressed imprints in the untouched dust that stuck to everything. Cobwebs dangled above and moved delicately like moth-eaten curtains as I passed. Certainly no wind had touched them since the breakdown of civilization. I hoped my disturbance was not tragic to the tiny critters left to stare at me as I passed. I welcomed them in this darkness; their tiny, unseen eyes were surely fixed on me. I shuddered for a moment before I assured myself that only humans had been affected by the virus. Thank goodness. Who knows what it could have done to animals. So far, none were infected that I had seen.

A distant shuffling echoed down across the walls, making me stiffen. I listened to it as it faded. I prayed I had just heard myself brush against a wall, but there it was again. Something dragged, like a broken foot pulled along as the other limped on as best it could. I immediately knew it wasn’t human and gripped the hilts of my swords. I was ready for it, almost eager.

I turned the corner to find just what I wanted to find: a feral, its withered body barely able to move in the darkness. It paused, a single shiny red eye finding the illumination of my flashlights too bright, making it wince. Where the other eye should have been hung an empty socket. Pus and fluid dripped down its cheek and its flesh was rotting to the point of falling off its bones. Too hungry or too weak to care, it continued to shuffle toward me, a low guttural moan barely registering in its throat. It was so weak, I almost kept walking past it, but a quick swing of my sword and it was down forever, dark, inky blood oozing from its severed neck, spilling into an impenetrable black stain on the grey floor.

I stepped over its bag of bones body. It had been weakened and slow for so long, cobwebs had taken up residence on its shredded clothes. I felt narrowly disappointed. Where was the fight? I could feel my blood burning inside my veins for more than this. It was pitiful. I was used to the vicious feral fights with snapping jaws and scratching nails trying as they must to rip my flesh away. Not this. Not this lack of strength and an odd feral vampire or two to get in my way. Where were they all?

I sighed, remembering that this place had probably been cleaned out long ago by the humans. Not only that, their nightly cattle calls with the ferals were taking their toll on the population of the wild vampires. It was definitely noticeable now, especially here on The Strip. I wondered if the humans really wanted to hide anymore. This kind of extermination would not go unnoticed by others. Didn’t they know that? Their genocide was going to attract a lot more than just feral vampires.

At this I gave a short haughty laugh. Yep, attract other unsavory beings—like me. Was I not here now, lurking in shadows and eager to infiltrate their solace? I was definitely going to find them, no matter what. I wondered if anyone else ever had similar ideas. If so, they hadn’t come this way from the look of the dust and mess around me. I wondered if Elijah would have done the same as I was doing if he had discovered them too. Maybe.

How many entrances were there to the underground? It hadn’t occurred to me before that there could be many of them. I gulped, hoping that I was the only one sneaking in at this very moment.

Finding the door which led even further into this labyrinth, I shoved through it to find a set of stairs leading down and down. Peeking around, I saw that it only led the one way. There was no staircase up. It had to be a private entrance of some sort. I shut the door behind me and crept slowly in to glance over the rails. The stairs spiraled down on and on, disappearing into darkness−I couldn’t see the bottom. There had been no electricity so far, making me think that the underground city was sealed and self-contained in every way somehow. I hoped to find some utility lines to lead me in.

I took to the steps as stealthily as I could, wincing at every creak or shift in the metal. Most of the steps were concrete, but the inlaid metal was the noise maker. I sweated all the way down, the air becoming more and more stifling. It was like smoking a cigarette of dust, and I suppressed the need to cough as well as I could. My eyes burned and watered, streaming tears down my face as I descended farther into the dark. This place was like a tomb, and I hoped it would not be my last resting place.

Chapter Fourteen

Catch Me If You Can

Elijah

SLEEP EVADED HIM, always, like chasing feathers in the breeze, it was endlessly unattainable. Elijah sat on the untouched mattress, not wanting to stare for long hours at the unchanging roof tiles. He hated nights when there were no tasks to complete and he was left to dwell in his thoughts throughout the silent hours. It made him restless to linger with the ghosts of the past, the things that were never going to be the way they were supposed to be, no matter what he would have wanted.

Running his fingers through his messed-up locks, he let out a breath. He had wanted to do so many things in his life, and it was all gone now. Sailing the Pacific, traveling to every major city of the world, becoming a successful director−those things were no longer possible. They would never happen now. No matter how much he tried to devise a way he could still accomplish some of his hopes and aspirations, it all had ended with the outbreak, filling the world with demise and death. Would there be anything left of the other side of the world to see if he was even able to get there? He doubted it. He was pretty sure devastation like the kind that had occurred in Las Vegas was worldwide. Nothing would have held it in one place. It’d been an extinction sort of event.

Elijah slipped his shoes on and pulled on a plain black shirt. He had left his jeans on when he’d laid down, so he was pretty much dressed. Wandering the hallways at night was a solace. Even with the dimmed lights, the white of the walls greyed out enough to seem more comforting than stark. He padded down the corridors, touching the smooth, painted cement blocks that composed most of the walls down here. It was pretty tough, but cold and unwelcoming. Still, he guessed warm and comforting was not in the building’s blueprint plans when they had built this place.

He ducked into the control room where her highness Katrina usually sat during the daytime. Right now, without her suppressive presence, it was a sanctuary of sorts. All the cameras were doing their timed-out dance, flashing different scenes of the city across their screens. Some workers were still busy shuffling about their chores and running machines that required 24/7 operation. The wall of monitors had a sedative effect on him. He could breathe and watch the world pass him by. It made the compound feel bigger than it was.

Elijah gave a curt nod to one of the security techs who sat tweaking some camera angles. They knew his routine and left him to his own devices. He hovered over the switches, clicking them, looking for anything interesting or out of the ordinary. Usually there was nothing. Usually the monotony of flipping through each quadrant would wear him out enough to the point where he’d be able get some rest back in his room. He didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary tonight.

He shouldn’t have been so easily settled into his routine. He almost didn’t notice when one screen flashed something unusual: a woman crept by, not quite noticing the camera until a second too late, just before she returned to the shadows. If Elijah had not been so intent on scanning the different scenes, he would have missed the flash of her presence, a presence that sent his heart jumping. It was her, the girl April, who had followed him into his sanctuary at the Palms and stalked around his apartment. It was the one who had haunted his thoughts since that fateful day.

Her dark straight hair was tied back against the nape of her neck. She had flashlights, small and square strapped across her chest and one on her head with a band holding it in place. She had already shut them off and was making her way by the bit of light filtering into the outer hallways of the compound. She had reached a side entrance that was rarely used. He wondered if she would figure out how easily she could slip in, just hot wire the door and she’d be home free.

He grinned, watching her furrow her brows at the simple contraption. They had figured zompires would not be able to get it together enough to figure out a simple door lock. He almost laughed, thinking about how Katrina had never put into the equation that there would be other humans out there who would want to sneak in. She had written off all of humanity just like that. Her error had been a big one, one he’d hope would secure her downfall soon enough.

The woman, or girl—he wasn’t quite sure for he hadn’t asked her what her age was, though it seemed pretty certain that she was in her late teens, maybe early twenties—made her way in easily. She slipped quietly into the rear of one of the main greenhouses. It was lit up in there like twilight all night long with the full spectrum of light slowly growing as daybreak came. It was sufficient to see a lot of the floor, though the foliage and abundance of greenery would be sufficient to hide her for a while. Elijah knew she had figured this out and was now weaving her way through jagged rows of saplings, fruit and eucalyptus trees. Her black clothing hid her enough that no one noticed the svelte woman dodging people, sticking to the shadows and snapping quick, concise pictures of everything she saw.

She’s studying us.

Elijah shook his head, amused by this revelation. Of all things, this human was studying other humans! Ha! But what for? What did she want to do with those pictures? Why didn’t she just waltz right up to the door and introduce herself? She was definitely human and might have been welcomed.

Or maybe not. He frowned. Katrina was volatile and could decide she was a threat to the city instead. And what if she was a hybrid human? Could she be?

He craned his neck. Trying to keep up with her on the cameras was becoming difficult. She moved stealthily, quick and silent. Few humans had these qualities. She was an expert in her movements for being so young, well versed and definitely fit. Yet her route was not concise or straight, as though she didn’t know exactly where she was going. Maybe she didn’t, maybe she was just exploring. Either way, if Katrina saw that he was watching her instead of arresting her, he might be in heap of trouble. He wished he could go out there, grab her and disappear, and talk with her for just a bit. If only he hadn’t run her off so quickly−he’d been too worried that she would find out about Vida. She had anyway, so chasing her off had been useless on his part.

Maybe she could tell him more about the world outside, how she had survived and if she was alone out there or not. Something told him that she had been out there all this time, surviving and living off of the shattered land. It was wondrous. He longed to know her, to hear her voice tell him stories of what she’d seen, of what had happened in her life so late into the nights when the dead roamed the streets and searched for her life blood. The way she moved like a stealthy cat, quietly and smoothly, made him want to stop her in her tracks and ask her a thousand questions, if not kiss her.

“What are you doing?” Katrina’s abrasive voice behind him made Elijah stiffen. He turned slowly, inconspicuously clicking the monitor to another camera, far from the woman.

“Why, hello, Katrina. Can’t sleep either, huh? I was just doing some late night work to sharpen my mind.”

“Oh, cut the crap. What are you doing in here?” Her face looked puffy, as though she had rolled out of bed, run a brush through her loose, wavy hair and come straight to the control room. Could it be she was seeking him out? He wanted to snicker and say such out loud, but he pressed his lips tight before he could say a torrent of things he’d regret. She was irritated as it was, maybe from not finding him in his room.

“I can’t sleep. Like I said. What’s your excuse?” He turned back to the monitors, and flicked his eyes across them all, crossing his fingers and hoping April didn’t appear on another camera while Katrina was here. It would not be good, not good at all.

“Hmm. I didn’t think you liked camera duty that much.” She came to lean on the console facing him as she crossed her arms. She looked different with her dark hair lying softly over her shoulders. Without makeup smeared across her face, she looked younger, fresher, he thought. He wasn’t sure, but his aversion to her remained. Maybe it was his heightened hybrid human senses, but this woman was not right in the head. She sent a chill down his spine with just a look. He wondered how much sanity remained intact inside that skull of hers and what exactly made his skin crawl about her.

   
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