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Friday Fiction - Kim Petersen

Black Heart

Blood Legends: Undead – Episode Twelve

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Black hole. Black heart. Black everything.

I looked up at the night sky. Silvery clouds stretched across the half moon and the stars shone like cryptic messages. Bats soared on silent wings while the sounds of night creatures echoed in my ears. Nothing had changed. Yet, everything had changed. No single element appeared the same to my vampire senses. Everything was accentuated. Everything was striking.

“Are you ready, dad?” Avila’s eyes flashed electric blue through the dark. Her skin appeared luminous and as pale as the clouds overhead as we stood at the foot of the forest assessing the cabin in the clearing.

The torment swirled in my gut and almost quelled the thirst biting at my veins when I looked at her. My girl. Ribbon laced braids and days at the fair. Lipstick on prom night. The way her eyes turned green before she was about to tell me a lie. Warm blood and a human heart. My girl had died and I wasn’t there for her. She had been reborn into the cold-blooded beings now dominating our world. She was now a vampire. It was time to level the score.

I gave a slight nod and glanced at Sun who stood next to Avila. Her golden hair tumbled over shoulders clad in black leather. It was just as lustrous as the eyes gleaming back at me. Her long talons clung at her hips as her gaze deepened.

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

My jaw tightened.

“Yes.”

Boisterous laughter erupted from behind the weathered timber walls of the cabin as the door flung open. A hawker male swayed as he gripped the balustrade to steady himself before making his way down the stairs. His voice slurred when he mumbled. Whiskey and tobacco mingled with the sickly odor of week-old sweat and carried on the breeze. His boots dragged across the clearing toward a tree. He belched repeatedly as he fiddled with his fly. The sound of his beating heart was intoxicating. I groaned inwardly and stepped forward, stopping when Sun grabbed my arm. Her fangs glinted with her hiss.

“Marius will kill you.”

My veins bulged with the venom coursing through me. It took everything I had to tame the rage. I reached for her hand. Cold on cold. Darkness accompanied apathy. It was consuming. I held her gaze. My lips barely moved when I replied.

“He already has.”

I released her hand and spun around before sprinting toward the hawker. The shadows were a part of me; the breeze was my ride. Blood was my lover. I stopped behind him and tilted my head to the side, watching as he stiffened before slowly cranking his neck around to look at me. Spidery eyes widened as I grinned.

“Hello, friend.”

He gasped. The tips of his filthy beard fell as he stumbled back.

“Wha — what the hell?”

“Suitable word.”

Black hole.

I could feel the pressure splintering in the pit of my stomach. My pulse throbbed desperately. I ensnared a hand around his throat. My talons cut into his skin as I rolled back my lips, hissing. My movements were effortless. The sound of his wail distorted in my ears when I flung my jaw forward to sink my fangs into his flesh, instantly relishing the taste of the blood he offered. His pulse was ecstasy.

Sweet. Salty. Warm.

In the cold-blooded creature I’d become, it was the warmth I craved above all else. But there was not enough blood to bring back my humanity. There was not enough vengeance to bring back Scarla nor return Avila to her mortality. But there was the blood of dreams and dreams were yesterday’s wishes — and those wishes were my retribution.

I’d come here for more than just the blood of the hawkers that had killed Scarla. I had come with the promise of returning to Marius the rare blood he so desperately sought to possess. Promises made by the undead remained undead.

A growl tore through my throat as I released the hawker. He slumped at my feet. His blood coursed into my being. Elation gripped me. I felt my eyes blaze as Avila and Sun watched silently, the hunger in their stare unmistakable. I nodded and licked my lips.

“The ginger-beard is mine. No survivors.”

Demons. That was the word circling in my mind as we took the steps onto the cabin porch before crossing the threshold into the sitting room. Demons for the merciless creatures we had become and for the treacherous acts we now bestowed upon surviving humans. We had become what I had despised the most — slaves to the darkness and forever damned.

Avila and Sun stood either side of me as we paused to take in the scene. About a dozen hawkers sprawled on the lounges and lingered around the edges of the room, cackling. One of them sat on the floor and strummed an old guitar. Smoke curled from makeshift ashtrays and glowing pipes. Through the haze a withered coffee table crammed with bottles of whiskey and dirty glasses was the center of their world.

Black heart.

Silence fell as they became aware of us. Promises of death foreshadowed. It had never sounded so pleasing. My nostrils flared as I inhaled fragrant gifts. Sour pickings. Riffraff lineage flowing in sanguine fluid beckoned as I curled my upper lip and my eyes settled on ginger-beard.

His dark eyes flashed as he stood up. The machete he fingered was familiar. Sweat formed across his brow and clung to the tips of his beard as he squared his shoulders, facing me. The machete balanced ahead of him.

Some of the hawkers gathered beside him; others cried out and made for the doors leading to other parts of the cabin. There was no place they could hide.

My gaze rested on the machete.

“What do you think you’re gonna do with that, hmm?”

Ginger-beard swallowed. His heart thumped in my ear.

“I shoulda known you was a traitor to your kind.” He shook his head. “Club-fed pussy. Taking deals with the devil and feeding on the blood of the innocent. This was the only the way you could make it in the new world.”

“Perhaps you’re right.” I stepped forward. “But sometimes the people claiming to be our kind force us to make choices we never dreamed possible.”

He took a sharp breath. His fingers tightened around the machete handle. Avila and Sun began to advance. The hawkers standing next to him started to back away. Ginger-beard’s lips trembled.

“You came here for the blood — you can have it!” His fingers shook as he reached into his jacket pocket to produce the vial. “Take it — but hear this, blood-sucker — the time will come when the earth will know reckoning; an era when the Blood Legend will appear to right the wrongs of your kind and claim vengeance on all kindred. You will fall and you will fail.” He tossed the vial at me. “And I’ll be laughing from my grave.”

I gave a half laugh. Failure already blackened my heart. I slipped the vial in my pocket before lifting my arms in a sweeping gesture. When I spoke, my voice was hollow.

“Bleed the pigs.”

Black everything.

I lunged for ginger-beard as he swung the machete. The blade pierced my stomach but I felt nothing. His hair was like matted straw as I gripped his forehead. Bloodshot eyes swelled and brimmed from sunken sockets. Screams and wails reverberated across the room. Avila and Sun screeched as talons tore through flesh and fangs sunk into skin. I dug my fingers into his face. He didn’t even struggle as I looked into his eyes and gave him a black smile.

“You stole a part of my soul and now I’ll take yours with me to hell.”

I roared before abruptly twisting his head between my hands. The sound of bone crunched beneath the impact, but I didn’t stop. I couldn’t stop. A red haze filled my vision as I tore his head from his neck in one fluid action. Blood sprayed over me. My eyes closed and I saw Scarla.

Warm honeyed eyes. Long dark lashes. Soft skin, platinum locks and sensual hips. Lips and love; my love. Bella donna. She smiled and reached for me as my heart cracked and my soul yearned for one last touch — one final kiss. And then she was gone, and everything was black and bloody, and curdling cries filled the air as I looked at the unfolding massacre.

Black everything.

I turned away and left the cottage. I bolted through the forest. My feet were like wings. My heart pumped darkness. I stopped at the edge of the sea to gaze down at the footprints that spread like golden illusions beneath the pale moonlight.

My fingers felt like steel as I reached for the vial of rare blood; blood that had the power to transform me into something more powerful than any other vampire on earth. The same blood that took my girls.

I removed the lid from the vial, dropped to my knees and gazed at the dark sea. The cold water rushed all around me with the incoming tide. I felt nothing. Nothing.

“Did you ever want to step into someone else’s feet?”

Scarla’s voice taunted the edge of my soul as I recalled the last of our conversations.

“Don’t you mean shoes?”

“No.”

I threw the vial into the receding waves and called her name. My voice was instantly stolen in the wind.

“Thousands of footprints have marked this beach over just as many years; I’d give anything to step in any one of them.”

I stretched to my feet. Her name was a whisper on my lips as I began following the prints back up the beach toward the road.

“But then you wouldn’t be here with me in this moment.”

Prints that would haunt me forever.


Also published by P.S. I Love You on Medium


Thanks for reading! Black Heart is an urban fantasy set in a post apocalyptic world, and is the final instalment in Kim Petersen’s Blood LegendsUndead.

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The Void

Blood Legends: Undead – Episode Ten

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Some moments seemed endless.


“Marla!” Dark eyes flickered at me. Ginger-beard licked his lips as he clutched the vial of blood.

Void.

Some moments were barren of thought. His eyes bored into me. My mouth was a desert.  A thin figure pushed through the hawkers crowding the stairs. A woman.

I glanced at her as she took the vial, pausing to look at me with a twisted grin. Her skin appeared cracked and discolored beneath the dull shine of the studs and hoops adorning her face. Her gray eyes were cold.

“How long?” Ginger-beard said.

“Six minutes.” Marla pulled a small box from her jacket pocket – a blood test kit. She dropped to her knees and began fidgeting with it with tremulous fingers.

Ginger-beard scraped the end of his switchblade across calloused knuckles and grunted a reply. Scarla sobbed as hawker fingers knotted in the hair at her nape. A rusty blade balanced at her throat. She trembled as she looked back at me. Torment. It killed. I could barely control the pain. The sound of his voice was like salt on a wound.

“People like you always thought you were superior to everyone else. White collar bullshit blinders. Used to get around like your shit didn’t stink in your cars and shiny suits.” He gave a half laugh. His breath was a stench. “I’m not a bloodsucker lover, but I can’t help but take satisfaction in how things have turned out … I always believed that one day people like you would get what’s coming to ya; white collar crimes finally caught up when your biological poison went wrong.”

He leaned closer. “Justice. That’s what that is. You people were so caught up in your own asses that you never saw it coming, did ya? Where did all that education and privilege get ya at the end of the world, eh?”

I tightened my grip on the machete.

“I’m still here, fucktard.”

He laughed. “I’m looking at a dead man walking. You don’t have what it takes to see this out. This world isn’t made for your kind anymore.”

The hawkers lingering on the stairs chuckled but I ignored them as Marla stood up suddenly. She waved a piece of cardboard between filthy fingers. The silver rings on her brows lifted.       

“Score!”

My breath quickened.

Void.

Some moments seemed endless. I swung my eyes back to ginger-beard. A pasty yellow tongue stuck out as he grinned.

“Well, well, the blue-eyed white neck delivered after all.”

My throat felt like sharp glass.

“That’s right. You’ve got your ransom.” I flicked my chin. “Leave the woman and get the hell off my property.”

His eyes pierced into me. “You might just have a half decent set for a club-fed.” He gave a snigger and my blood ran cold. Marla laughed.

His voice filled my head. “Bleed the pig!”

Void.

Some moments swallowed you whole. My brain felt like an acute explosion as the hawker yanked Scarla’s head back. The sound of her cry blasted in my ears as the rusty blade sunk into her throat and slid across her skin, releasing a flood of blood from the jagged wound.

“Scarla!”

I roared and swung the machete as I charged forward, collecting Marla in the back of her skull just as she spun around to move away. The blade cracked against bone. Manic gripped me. I drove the shank forward with the thrust of the motion as loud cracks rang out across the yard. The sound of the gunfire instantly purified my mind.

Clarity.

Some moments feel as if you see the following scene unfold before it happens. Time slowed. Marla dropped to the floor as the hawkers on the stairs lunged forward, propelling blades and swinging chains ahead of them.

Fuck.

More shots fired. My ears buzzed. I jabbed the machete in front of me, piercing leather as a stabbing pain detonated in the side of my gut. My flesh felt like sponge. The odor of blood mingled in the air along with the shouting hawkers. Pain was a welcome friend beneath the repeated strikes of ginger-beard’s switchblade. I stumbled back, instinctively reaching to quell the wound as I managed to stabilize my footing.

My fingers were warm, sticky. My head began to spin. Ginger-beard cackled like an old hag. Sinister. Wicked. His ugly face contorted before me as I swung the machete. The effort was lost as the end of a chain caught around my wrist. Metal stung my flesh as the machete clanked to the timber floor and gunfire reverberated over the cottage. The sound of squawking birds mixed with laughter. I balled my fists and launched a right hook at a converging hawker. A blade plunged into my gut. Images distorted.

Scarla.

My heart felt like a blackened husk as I doubled over. My boots were awkward. I stumbled again. Sweat dripped into my eyes. Or was it blood? I couldn’t breathe. My hands clenched my stomach as my head filled with pain.

Thwack!  A white flash zapped behind my eyes. Then I was spiraling. My legs gave way and I fell hard to the brutal blows of dirty boots and blunt chains.

Void.

Some moments are not spent within our fleshy exteriors. I drifted away. Darkness beckoned as ginger-beard bent over me to trace the switchblade across my cheek.

“I was wrong about you, white neck.” He paused the blade, digging the pointy end into the flesh just below my eye. “You ain’t got nothing between your legs that your high-end pussy didn’t have. We did her real good. She was a running train and screamed just as loud as one.” He gave a throaty chuckle and stretched to his feet. “I’ll let you think about that while you bleed. We did ya solid.”

The image of receding boots doubled as numbness took hold. A chill ran across the back of my neck and radiated through my body. My eyes felt heavy. Heavy. A whirling sensation overtook and then there was nothing.

Void.


Also published by P.S. I Love You on Medium


The Void is an urban fantasy set in a post apocalyptic world, and is part of Kim Petersen’s Blood Legends. Episodes set to publish weekly for 12 Weeks. Catch up on previous episodes here.


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The Proposition

Blood Legends: Undead – Episode Seven

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Fail and we were dead.


The vampire’s image flashed through my mind. Soulless eyes. It wasn’t even a thought. I was too pumped to think. My nerves felt stringy. My chest throbbed. I bounded up the stairs and every muscle strained. Sweat stung my eyes and almost blinded me as I shone the flashlight ahead. The stairwell was cramped, grotty and red. Dull scarlet lamps barely illuminated the landings. Human waste and stale iron snapped against my senses.

My breath was all I heard. Or was it Avila’s? She took the stairs two at a time in front of me. My calves pounded. My ears buzzed. No time to think. Control was just beyond my grasp. We had to get out of here.

Three flights up, one to go. The door below creaked open, the faint sound grated into my heart. The jarred door blew in the sound of laughter. Lunacy. It was familiar. Michal. Avila stopped suddenly. She grasped the piped balustrade and swung around. Wide eyes peered at me through the dark as footsteps flew up the stairs behind us.

“Dad?”

I pushed a palm into her back. “Go!”

For Christ’s sake — go!

The final landing loomed at the top of the stairs. Dark. Red. Hostile. My boots felt like a stampede. I pushed upwards. Avila was just about there. She yelped and tripped forward. I was so close behind her that she caught me in the offshoot. My chin slammed against her back and the machete slipped from my hand as I scrambled to get up.

I vaguely heard her behind me as she shifted to her feet and sprung onto the landing. The darkness was broken by a long hiss and golden eyes that glinted like firestones. Shallow breath. My fingers curled around the machete handle. I steadied my gaze to find him on the landing below me, golden hair like pink floss. Crimson lips appeared askew.

He leaned against the wall. His chin tilted and his lips twisted into a sinister grin. My senses zoned in on him as I crouched on the stairs.

“Going somewhere without saying hello?” His voice was a singsong. He tapped long talons together. “Tsk. Tsk. Would-be warrior humans, when will you ever learn?”

My eyes never left his. The clock was ticking.

His eyes narrowed to slits. His voice throaty.

“You cannot outsmart or outrun a vampire. Give me the vial.”

Shit. They know we’ve got the blood.

I took a sharp breath and grabbed the machete as he lunged up the stairs. He moved like speed. The machete blade slashed at his chest as his talons caught me.

He slipped to his knees, grinning. Blood spilled over the blade as I stood and swung again. He leapt to feet, catching the thrust of the blade with his hand and tearing it from my grasp. The metal clanked on the stairs and a roar tore from his throat as he lunged at me.

Time stalled as I dodged his yellow fangs and talons. Avila’s low shriek clung in my ear as she slipped from behind and jabbed her stake through his heart. His nails dug into my arm as he froze. His jaw dropped and his expression paled before he collapsed.

His body crumbled onto the stairs.

Holy fuck.

I spun around to see Avila panting. More footsteps came from below. No time to think. My arms burned. So did my lungs. I grabbed the machete. We bolted toward the lobby door, bursting across the threshold and sprinting through the vast dim space that separated us from the streets. There was sunlight in the street. Relative safety.

The distance appeared unfathomable. I kept my focus on the big lobby door. Avila ran silently beside me. Adrenaline burned through my system, dulling the pain. Fail and we were dead. Fail and the world would know even more evil.

My lungs silently screamed. Almost there. I reached for the chrome door handle and pulled. I heard a thump from behind. What the hell? Avila screamed beside me. My hand gripped the handle as I yanked on the door and turned to look for Avila. She was gone.

Sunlight flooded across the threshold and spilled into the lobby. I stood fast, jamming my boot against the heavy door as the warmth of the sun radiated over me. My chest heaved as my gaze darted around the lobby.

“Avila!”

“Dad!”

Her voice was followed by hideous laughter. That was when I saw her — trembling and ensnared between the claws of a vampire. My stomach dropped as I met her stare. They stood in the shadows along a wall painted gray that forked to give way to a series of long corridors. I hadn’t seen him coming, and now, she was at his mercy.

The vampire’s dark hair hung over his face and almost concealed eyes that glowed like neon lights as he held her firm. His fangs glistened only inches above her throat. She squirmed beneath his grasp and gritted her teeth.

“Let me go, asshole!”

He laughed, and his laughter was chorused by four other vampires as they emerged from the shadowy corridors to stand beside him. My heart felt like stone when I recognized Marius. It was defeat that gripped me.

I stood firm in the sunlight. I studied them as I struggled to gage the situation. The sun was neither friend nor foe in that moment. I wanted to burn to ashes as I beheld my daughter and took in her pallid expression and wild eyes. She swallowed visibly. Her eyes narrowed as she shook her head.

My little tough nugget.

I knew she meant for me not to yield to the bloodsuckers. Yet, I couldn’t accept what that would mean for her. Hopelessness rimmed as Marius moved toward Avila. He clasped her hand and pulled her to him. His pale features were a striking contrast against his thick black hair as he regarded her before turning toward me, grinning.

“Jett, isn’t it?” His brows raised as he looped an arm around Avila. He glanced down at her. “Such a beautiful daughter. Now, we both possess something that is precious to the other. What to do …”

I stiffened and lifted my chin.

“Let her go, Marius. I have what you want.”

“Step away from the sunlight and give it to me.” He went to stroke a strand of hair from Avila’s face but she turned her head away and looked at me.

“No, dad. Don’t give it to them.”

Marius laughed. His barnacle cronies joined in behind him. I wanted to kill them all.

“Hmm … such fire!” Marius glanced at the others before giving Avila an approving nod. His gaze darkened when he looked back at me. “Quite an admirable trait, but one that will not keep her alive.” He paused and took an exaggerated breath. “Tell you what; I have a proposition for you, Jett. I heard tell that you are an extraordinary hematologist — a skill I am in need of to help build the utopian world I have envisioned. Join us and no one needs to die today. In fact, no one need die ever. I’m offering you and your daughter the gift of eternal life. What do you say?”

I gaped at him as his words spiraled through my mind. It was despair that found victory over my emotions as I looked at Avila. She stood defiant and brave in the face of evil. Her eyes focused on me and my heart shattered as the weight of the situation shadowed me. If I handed the blood over to Marius, he would possess the power to transcend into a vampire with extraordinary abilities. He and his clan would become all powerful; monstrous creatures of the night that would ravage the earth and take every living being with them.

I could feel my veins bulging beneath my skin as Avila’s eyes dampened and she mouthed the word ‘no’. My heart lurched. I shuddered as I strained to provide an answer to a choice I’d never dreamed possible.

Dreams were yesterday’s wishes on charred wings. The survival of humanity now rested on my shoulders and my daughter’s life.

My beautiful little nugget.


Also published by P.S. I Love You on Medium


The Proposition is an urban fantasy set in a post apocalyptic world, and is part of Kim Petersen’s Blood Legends. Episodes set to publish weekly for 12 Weeks. Catch up on previous episodes here.

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Rare Blood

Blood Legends: Undead – Episode Six

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Cold. It crept through me and jarred my senses.


“Who or what the hell is out there” Avila stalked between two long benchtops. She stopped to whirl around and glare at Michal. “You’ve set us up.”

She had a point. It was clear we weren’t alone.

Michal’s bald skull gleamed dull beneath the emergency lights illuminating the laboratory. His finger’s shook as he thumbed his glasses. “Wha – why would you suggest that, pigeon?”

Her eyes narrowed. “Don’t you pigeon me, asshole.” Her fingers tightened around the stake she waved with menace. She stepped closer to Michal who fidgeted beside me. “Who is up there, Michal? Have you become a Shadow Guardian? Are you their puppet now?”

He stiffened. His breath was hot and putrid as he slid closer to me, glancing between us. He began shaking his head and mumbling. I grimaced and stepped back. My thoughts were erratic as I scanned the workstations, dormant machines and the dingy spaces cordoned off by glass panels. Empty space. My gut flipped. A faint whiff of human waste lingered in the stale air. I looked back at Michal. 

“Where are the others?”

He shrieked and his arms flailed. His filthy white lab coat swung wildly as he paced the lab.

“Questions! Questions!” He stopped abruptly. Beady eyes dropped and followed the pattern his fingers sketched along a bench surface. When he looked back up, a layer of spit foamed his lips. “Did they send you here to interrogate me?”

Avila and I exchanged glances. Michal had always leaned on the eccentric side. It became obvious his mental health was strained. Horror. It teased out our weaknesses. My back ached. I didn’t have time for this bullshit.

“Where is the rest of the team, Michal?”

There should have been six other scientists here. They were the group that had stayed behind to keep researching for a cure. I knew all of them. They were the brave souls that had lost their loved ones to the virus. That had vowed to never give up.  

Michal’s eyes darted around. His fingers tangled together as looked up at the ceiling. I followed his gaze. It was a stick-built grid system. Some of the ceiling tiles were misplaced. I swallowed hard and increased my grip on the machete. He shivered visibly before he rushed toward me, his boots squeaking.

“They deserted me. All of them.” His lips parted to reveal a set of stained teeth. He was about to say something else when was distracted by Avila who had begun stalking around the lab. She was headed toward the isolation spaces confined by glass panels. The experimental rooms were doused in darkness. Michal screeched as he set off after her.

“What are you doing?” 

Avila ignored him. She stopped short of a glass wall to peer into one of the inky spaces. Her shoulders stiffened before she whirled around to catch my stare. I noticed her expression pale over trembling lips. Michal halted somewhere between us, facing Avila as he began pulling at his ears.

Dead silence. My blood iced as Avila’s gaze settled on Michal. Her boots dug into the floor as she planted them wide with her hand firmly holding the stake. She stared at him when she spoke.

“Dad, I think the team are still here.”

Fuck.  

My nostrils flared. I lurched forward as Michal began stumbling backward. He spun around. He blinked rapidly at me before he tried to escape. But he was already within arm’s reach. My blood ran hot as my finger’s clamped into the back of his neck. He squealed as I yanked him toward me, and he struggled as I dragged him toward Avila.

She poised the stake at his chest. She looked at me and flicked her chin toward the glass panel. My knuckles tightened around Michal’s neck as I leaned forward to peer past my transparent reflection into the glass.

Cold. It crept through me and jarred my senses. I shivered violently as I took in the grim scene confronting me. Blood was everywhere. It splattered across the floors and stuck to the chrome trolleys and benches. Severed limbs and body parts splayed across a wheeled stretcher and appeared distorted through the darkness. My head throbbed. I tore my eyes from the dismembered bodies and clawed Michal’s flesh. He yelped as I growled.  

“What have you done?”

His skin felt damp. His stench was putrid. He quivered and peered up at me, his words tripping over his tongue. 

“Th – they were traitors.” He shook his head, wincing as Avila pressed the stake into his chest. “The rare blood – I couldn’t trust them – they all want it.” He gestured toward the ceiling. His voice lowered. “What they say is true, Jett. The blood is power.”

Avila twisted the stake into his coat. “Where is the damned blood, Michal? You told us it was here.”

He became still then, his lips twisting into a grisly smile. “I hid it from them. I tricked the kindred.” He laughed. “I had to kill them, Jett. If they had the blood and turned kindred, there would be no hope left to save what’s left of humanity.”

What the hell?  

My thoughts reeled. I kept my grip firm. “The kindred are here?”

He nodded rapidly. “They’ve been here almost from the start. With some Guardians.” He swallowed hard. “They call the overlord Marius. He let us live for the sake of our research. He’s a cunning one … smart. He has a vision to build a functioning society for the clans. Humans will be hunted down, seized and kept alive as prisoners to bleed at their own discretion.”

“They need scientists …”

“Yes! Specifically, hematologists.”   

Avila snorted. “That’s why you’re still breathing?” She dug the stake further into Michal’s chest. Her eyes shadowed as he whimpered. “You’ve set us up. You’ve baited my dad here for them.”

Michal shook his head furiously. “N – no, no. I might be many things, but I’m not a traitor!” He gave a rueful laugh. “I’m not suited for the world out there now.” His gaze dropped to his arm as he slowly peeled back a grotty sleeve to reveal puncture marks trailing bruised skin.

Avila gasped. “It’s already started.”

Michal looked at me and reached into his coat pocket to produce a vial of blood. His fingers trembled. My stomach felt like metal as he spoke.

“You are the way to get the blood out of the city.” He pushed the vial into my palm. “It’s the gold our world knows now. It cannot fall into the wrongs hands, Jett.”

I loosened my grip on him and took the vial. My head swirled and my body trembled as though with a fever. I glanced back at the dark room where the forsaken lay in torn pieces. Michal was utterly insane. Yet, an exceptional mind still lingered beneath the madness long enough to keep the rare blood from the enemy.

Avila lowered the stake. The sound of light footsteps drifted from the stairwell into the lab. Her eyes widened at me.

“They’re coming.”

Michal jerked. His eyes bulged as he gestured wildly toward the killing room. “Take the back-up stairs to the lobby. It’s the door at the rear behind the benches and trolleys. Hurry!”

Back-up stairs? News to me.

There was no time to procrastinate. The sound of footsteps echoed down the stairwell shaft. I spun around with Avila as she flung open the heavy glass door and ran toward the back of the room where I spotted a discreet door beyond the stretcher and trolleys strewn with body parts.   

I tried not to think about the blood or the blind eye sockets peering from mottled skin as I pushed Avila into the stairwell. As I stepped into the dark, narrow space and began to ease the door closed, the sound of the laboratory door cracked as it flung open.

I paused to peer through the slit in the door now inches apart to see a figure shadowing the threshold. His hair was glossy and dark above a milky complexion and startling-blue eyes. He wore black leather and chunky boots. A swathe of crimson hugged his torso. My heart froze as he raised a jeweled hand to drum talons against the door frame and flash his white fangs. But it was the sound of his silvery voice that sent my blood cold as I quietly closed the door.

“Michal, Michal. What are you cooking up down here, hmm?” He chuckled. “My daytime slumber has been disturbed with the news you have received some visitors. You know how protective I am of my sleep …”   


Also Published by P.S. I Love You via Medium


Rare Blood is an urban fantasy set in a post apocalyptic world, and is part of Kim Petersen’s Blood Legends. Episodes set to publish weekly for 12 Weeks. Catch up on previous episodes here.

Blood LegendsUndead Episode Seven – The Proposition Available in:

2019-12-27T21:30:00

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The Proposition

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Dead Air

Blood Legends: Undead – Episode Five

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Was I leading her into a death trap?


The print of my palm smudged the slick of grime layering the heavy glass door as I eased it open. Dozens of contorted prints already smeared the surface. Avila’s short breaths pricked the hairs on my neck as I peered into the lobby.

Dead air.

I scanned the dim spacious area. The foyer spread out in a flawless vision as my eyes darted, taking in the oversized couches and mahogany furniture among huge pots of faux greenery and sprawling rugs. On one side of the room, a vivid painting dominated the wall beyond a marbled countertop. On the other, rows of individual workstations lined the internal window-wall. My skin went cold as I spotted the solitary office chair lying overturned near the workstations.

My tongue suddenly felt like sandpaper as I inspected the black leather chair, which was the only evidence of the annihilated city beyond the heavy doors.

How had this building managed to escape the apocalypse?    

It was an unsettling revelation. Other than that, I detected no movement in the lobby, but that didn’t mean shit considering the vast space and dozens of upper floors I couldn’t see from this viewpoint. My gaze trailed to the door leading to the building’s stairwell which loomed unburnished and gray at the foot of the elevator corridor about fifteen meters away. I gripped the machete in one hand and a stake in the other, stealing myself to race to the door.

I glanced at Avila and gestured toward the stairwell. My voice was barely audible when I spoke. “Move fast and don’t make a sound.”

Her grim eyes nodded a reply. My heart lurched. I wanted to take her in my arms and hold her against my chest like I had when she was child. I wanted to make everything alright for her again. But it was a futile wish and wishes were yesterday’s dreams. There were no words enough to take away the reality. She had become a child of devastation.

Our boots hardly touched the floor as we dashed through the lobby, keeping to the shadowed sections of the room before stopping short of the stairwell door. My chest constricted as I glanced down the darkened corridor where metal elevator doors glinted dully in the muted light offered by the grubby windows skirting the lobby. The unscathed appearance of the place heightened the mood of eeriness.

Something doesn’t feel right.

I tried to suppress the thought and the accompanying shudder as I grabbed the door handle before slipping into the gloomy stairwell. The narrow shaft immediately seemed to close in all around me as an inkiness infected my bones. I paused to allow my eyes to adjust to the diminished light while Avila slinked in beside me.

She gagged. “Argh!” She clutched at my elbow. Her was voice low and shaky. “Death is here.”

She was right. The stench was unmistakable. It was distinctive and sickly-sweet and as familiar as the rising sun. I reached for the flashlight stowed in the side pocket of my rucksack, flicking it on to illuminate an endless flight of concrete stairs broken by short landings as far as the light stretched. A frigid draft filled the stark shaft. There were four flights of stairs between us and the lab. Four flights. I prayed that death lingered in the opposite direction as I reached for Avila’s trembling hand.

Her skin was cold against mine. She clutched the stake in her other hand as if it were an extension of herself as she clung close to me through the dark. I gave her a squeeze.

“I’m okay, dad.” 

Her words tore into me as I wondered if bringing her along had been the right decision. Was I leading her into a death trap? Would my choice forever change her destiny?

There was no way for me to know and no time to second guess my decision. The alternative was to leave her alone at the cottage. Now that the hawkers knew where to find us, she would have been a sitting duck. I told myself that she was safer with me as I released her hand, ignoring the tension in every nerve of my body as I eased down the stairs toward the lab.

The building groaned and the shadows seemed to deepen with each step downwards. Like contorting, dark limbs, they writhed and expanded against the shaft of light from my flashlight before disappearing into the blackness we left behind. Avila’s nails sunk into my waist as we crept along walls, her breath jagged in my ear while my senses went in overdrive. I pushed forward, progressing cautiously and with as much speed as I could, stopping when we reached the bottom of the stairwell to shine the light on the heavy metal door of the lab.

An odd sense of relief flashed through me as I skimmed the light around the bottom landing, seeing nothing but the gray slabs of concrete that enclosed the small area. The coast was clear but my fingers still tingled as they clutched the machete handle. I glanced at Avila and motioned toward the door. 

“Come on.”

I moved away from the wall as the sound of Avila’s stake clanked against the floor as it slipped from her hand. My body froze as the sound reverberated along the steel balustrades, echoing up the lengthy shaft in a climatic staccato. 

“Shit!” Avila cringed and scooped up the stake. She looked up.

I followed her gaze, catching sight of the balustrades glinting through the darkness as goosebumps covered my arms. My breath hitched at the faint sound of footsteps from above. Avila’s gasp was followed by a sudden pinging noise at our feet. I looked down at a silver coin rattling against the concrete before coming to an abrupt stop.

Holy fuck.  

Silence. I could barely breathe. Utter dread pulsed through me as I grabbed Avila’s arm and dashed toward the door, gripping the handle at the same time that it opened an inch to reveal Michal’s pasty face peering at me.

His dark eyes appeared spidery and wide beneath his glasses. His voice quivered.  

“Jett?”

“Michal.” I pushed on the door and ushered Avila into the lab, crossing the threshold as the cold draft carried the hideous sound of laughter. Two words clung in my mind.

Dead air.


Also Published by P.S. I Love You via Medium


Dead Air is an urban fantasy set in a post apocalyptic world, and is part of Kim Petersen’s Blood Legends. Episodes set to publish weekly for 12 Weeks. Catch up on previous episodes here.

Blood Legends: Undead Episode Six – Rare Blood Available in:

2019-12-20T21:30:00

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Rare Blood

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Hollow City

Blood Legends: Undead – Episode Four

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What if I couldn’t get to her in time?


“So, what’s your story, huh?” Avila glared at Sun sitting between us on the bench seat as we raced along the highway.

Sun shrugged; her fingers twisted in her lap. “What do you mean? My story isn’t any different from anyone else’s.”

“Ha.” Avila’s lips curled as she indicated the stake leaning against the seat beside Sun. “I’m not buying the innocent act, Sunny. What’s with the blood-soaked stake? Did you kill kindred?”

I glanced at Sun as her jaw squared while she stared straight ahead.

“No.” She gave a rueful laugh. “Turns out, stakes can kill humans too.”

Avila was silent for a moment. I could almost hear the gears in her mind turning over. Her eyes never left Sun.

“What happened? Who’d ya kill?”

Sun shifted slightly before she faced Avila. She frantically rubbed the back of her neck.

“Avila,” I started, shaking my head. “Leave it alone.”

Avila didn’t even look at me. Her eyes were like fire in water as she scrutinized our hitchhiker. It was Sun’s brittle voice I heard next.

“Hawkers. There were three of them. They stumbled upon me in an old church I was squatting in. They’d been drinking rum … and just as nasty as the devil’s drink.” She gave a half laugh and shook her head. “They’d been looking for some ‘pink cookie’, they said. For days, I couldn’t stop them, couldn’t leave, could barely breathe. On the fourth night, the ginger one got sloppy with his rope knot. I waited till the booze knocked them out cold and then I jimmied the rope from my wrists and drove this stake into each of their hearts.”

Avila raised an eyebrow. She nodded briefly before turning her gaze toward the passenger window. Not much was said after that. We’d all been through our version of hell. Sun was right. Her story was no different to anyone else’s.

The two women exchanged a few words every now then, but I tuned out for the most part. My thoughts were trained toward the rural landscape as it began to give way to desolate suburban streets that skirted the outer sections of the city. After hearing the disturbing scene Sun had just described at the hands of hawkers, I was having trouble pushing away visions of those barbarous humans pawing over my woman. Scarla must be beside herself with fear.

Swiney prickass lowlifes. If they so much as touched a hair on her head, I’ll kill them all — one way or another.

I couldn’t help but think of that last moment we shared on the beach together. The way the shade of her eyes deepened like copper inkwells when she looked at me. It haunted me. I’d failed her.

What if I couldn’t get to her in time? What if it all went to shit?

I shuddered as feelings of helplessness and anger coursed through me. The hawkers had said they had a way of testing the blood type. If that were true, I couldn’t produce anything other than the real thing. I had to keep my eye on the endgame. It was all I could do as I kept speeding through the streets, ignoring the stillness of the shopfronts, townhouses and buildings that only months before were part of a thriving city. Now, those dwellings were prey to vultures, crows and vermin that scavenged for human remains.

When the streets narrowed and the maze of suburban districts began to merge with clusters of tall city buildings, I slowed the pickup in search for a discreet place to park. The hidden laboratory was in Norbury’s southern precinct, about a mile and a half away. I didn’t want to risk drawing unwanted attention by driving the truck through the inner-city streets. We would walk the rest of the way.

Scarla’s favorite Italian restaurant caught my eye. We’d spent many an evening together drinking red wine and dining on boscaiola in that cozy joint. She loved it for its unexpected charm and authenticity. She loved it for its candlelit dining and checkered tablecloths. Bella donna. My gut knotted as I peered closer at its gloomy facade.

Below the sloped faded green roof, the windows were covered in a slick of grime, the words “Bella E Buona” now barely visible. I recalled the off-street parking bay around the back of the small building. It was a perfect place to stow the pickup, and quite fitting given we were here for Scarla’s sake.

I veered into the driveway and stopped the truck, the wrenching sound of the park brake shattering the silence in the cabin. I reached for my machete and the rucksack filled with rations and a water canister. I had also brought the hunting knives, a box of matches, a flashlight and a few candles. In the pickup tray, I stored a supply of fuel enough to get us back home. Avila and Sun gathered their belongings and climbed from cabin as I refueled the truck before setting off into the city.

Avila’s boots scuffed the gravel parking bay as she crept around like a predator. She was clad from head to toe in black, her jeans appearing sprayed against her slim legs as she clutched the cleaver in one hand while carrying the swaddled stakes over a shoulder. She moved closer to me, gesturing toward Sun.

“What are we gonna do about her?”

I finished refilling the tank and twisted the cap into place before straightening to peer at Sun. She rummaged through her rucksack before producing a canister and taking a sip. As harsh as it sounded, she couldn’t tag along with us. I could not risk jeopardizing the location of the laboratory.

“She will go her own way.”

Avila gazed at Sun and nodded. I knew what she was thinking, but we had helped the woman reach her destination safely. There was nothing more we could do for her. We had our own problems and time wasn’t on our side.

We parted ways with Sun and set off toward the lab. The hairs on my neck tingled as we hurried through the wasted city streets. It was as if time had frozen, leaving behind a collection of vacant buildings and harrowing steel in the wake of devastation. My breath shallowed as I thought about those who had died at the claws of the undead that hid in city basements and underground tunnels during the daylight hours.

A chill ran through me as we silently pushed forward, keeping our ears to the ground and our eyes trained on every street corner and abandoned car. You never knew what could be lurking in the shadows by day. Those brave enough to linger in the city with the bloodsuckers were just as dangerous as far as I was concerned. They were the ones who sought to strike a deal with the wicked. The ones who vowed to protect them while they slumbered. We called them the Shadow Guardians.

By the time we reached the building where the lab lay beneath ground level, the sun was swallowed behind the towering smoky glass and concrete buildings. The air cooled against the sweat on my brow and was tinged with the sickening stink of decomposing flesh. It wasn’t long before my fingers ached from gripping the machete so hard.

I stalled at the entrance of the building as I cocked my head to gaze toward its mirrored veneer. It was a building I was familiar with, having visited its plush interior levels on many occasions in the course of my career. The laboratory had been created for covert government research purposes. And while I had never worked for the agency, I did periodically have dealings with their ongoing intensive research programs. I was initially led to believe their sole purpose was to find a cure for cancer and other blood diseases. However, it wasn’t long before I became aware of the experiments with biological weapons that went on here. Particularly when presented with an in-depth confidentiality agreement.

I took a deep breath and turned to Avila. “Ready?”

Her eyes darted around the street before she looked at the huge glass doors leading into the lobby. She gulped.

“What if they’re inside?” Her voice wavered as she turned back to me. “What if we wake them?”

I reached out to stroke away a strand of hair from her face. I forced a smile, but it evaporated as soon as it had emerged. It was possible we could be walking into a vampire lair and there was nothing I could say to comfort her.

I steeled myself and took another sharp breath.

“Get the stakes out and keep close to me.”


Also published by P.S. I Love You on Medium

Hollow City is an urban fantasy set in a post apocalyptic world, and is part of Kim Petersen’s Blood Legends. Episodes set to publish weekly for 12 Weeks. Catch up on previous episodes here.


Blood Legends: Episode Five – Dead Air Available in:

2019-12-13T21:30:00

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Dead Air


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The Hawkers

Blood Legends: Undead Episode Two

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Dying dreams on broken wings cannot fly.


A thick cloud of dust billowed above the road behind me as I slammed my foot against the accelerator of the pickup. Any other day, I would have taken extreme care to disguise the sound of the engine, much less leave an obvious path of smut leading toward the cottage. But today wasn’t any other day. Today Scarla had vanished without a trace.

Hawkers. It had to be. But how they managed to slip past me to grab Scarla undetected in a matter of minutes was beyond my comprehension. And all without so much as a sound from her to alarm me.

Since when did those lowlife pilferers possess such stealthy tactics?

My thoughts harrowed over the severe truth. Since vermin infected our streets and claimed most of the population.

Anarchy and destruction have a way of bringing out the best and the worst in humanity. Eventually, you cultivate the ability to ignore the suffering when desperation becomes second nature to every surviving human. But ignorance isn’t an option when you’re targeted by the wicked.

My knuckles whitened as I gripped the steering wheel and the tires slid over the rough terrain, just missing one of the dense and twisted tree trunks that fringed the road. I was covered in sweat and a thin layer of grime from searching the grassed hinterlands near the beach for signs of her. My face stung with the moisture that clung to the scratches I knew marked my face, but I barely felt it. It was all I could do to keep it together as I raced back to the cottage to get what I needed before starting back out to look for her.

Damn it! How could I be so foolish? How?

I let loose a barrage of four-letter words, fighting to keep control of what little resolve remained. I should have known better than to yield to Scarla’s desire to escape the confines of the cottage. Dying dreams on broken wings cannot fly. There is no room left in this world for the dreamers. They were poached the moment the virus murdered most of humanity.

Avila was already out front and standing at the foot of the cottage porch stairs when the truck skidded around the final bend to emerge into the clearing. Her aqua eyes narrowed toward me while her usually chiseled features scrunched beneath the thick tawny hair framing her face. As I yanked the parking brake lever and moved to get out of the truck, her olive complexion paled as she rushed closer and pulled on the truck door to face me.

“Dad?” Her gaze drifted beyond me to the empty truck cabin. My breath felt like steel when she looked back at me. “Wha … where’s Scarla?”

Her voice quavered but I could barely look at her. I shook my head fast before climbing out of the truck and pushing past her. I marched toward the cottage, bounding up the few stairs leading to the front door as she raced after me.

“Dad, stop!” She grabbed my arm, sinking her nails into my flesh as I reached the threshold. It was difficult to tame my racing mind when I turned to face her. Even more difficult to form the words I knew I had to say. Her brows dipped over a pinched expression. She clutched onto me. “What happened? Where is she?”

“I don’t know, she vanished.”

Her jaw gaped as I tore my arm from her and walked into the cottage. It was a modest dwelling with timber floors and burnt orange curtains that Scarla thought gave the place a cheerful vibe. I’d never agreed with that notion. I hated those curtains.

But curtains were the last thing on my mind as I stomped through the cluttered space that passed for the sitting area, heading for the room at the end of the short hall that stocked our supplies. The small room was filled with stockpiles of canned and dried foods, loads of water, kerosene, and piles of spare bedding among other things. It was here that I’d kept the few weapons I had managed to salvage before deserting the city.

Admittedly, there wasn’t a whole lot, and none of it would be of any use in the face of a vampire. Humans, on the other hand, could bleed when facing the blunt end of the few rusty hunting knives I’d collected. There was also a small-bladed axe, a cleaver and my prized possession, a machete that I used frequently to cut and gather firewood. I’d heard machetes were particularly useful for cutting limbs in addition to wood. Somehow, I got the feeling I might soon discover how to dismember a hawker or two. It was limbs and blood that I craved right now.

The blades were discreetly stacked on the shelf in the corner behind rows of water bricks, cans of fuel and oil, and dozens of bottles of bleach and candles. I began pulling them out as Avila burst into the room, stopping just short of me. I ignored her glare as her arms outstretched to take the knives as I pried them from the shelf.

“Hawkers?” Her boots squeaked on the timber floor as she swung around to place the weapons on an old coffee table pushed against the shelves.

“I didn’t see them.”

She took the cleaver from me, catching my gaze with solemn eyes.

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to find the bastards and cut off their limbs, that’s what I’m going to do.” I swung my gaze from her and reached for the machete, stiffening when I felt her hand on my arm.

“It’s too late, dad. She’s gone. We can’t get her back.”

My entire body felt as if an explosion was shredding every organ. But my heart fought ceaselessly against the onslaught. As much as I loved my 22-year-old daughter, those were the words I didn’t want to hear.

I dropped my chin and sighed, the machete heavy in my hand as I allowed the blade to swing to my side. The inside of my head throbbed against my temple. It was pain that consumed me as Avila’s hard stare begged for my acknowledgment. The moments stood as still as a tomb on a starless night. They were the same moments that forever sealed our fate like an impenetrable vault. When I looked back at her, it was the pain that thickened my voice.

“I won’t let her go, Avila. I’ve already lost too much.” I shook my head. “I looked away from her for only a moment and they snatched her away. I have to get her back.”

Avila’s jaw twisted. She gnawed on her bottom lip before gesturing toward the lone window in the airless room.

“Okay, but there’s nothing we can do right now; it’s almost nightfall.” I was about to protest when she stopped me with a flash of a palm. “Listen dad, we can’t do this alone. You can’t do it alone. They’ll kill you on sight. We need to contact Michal. We need help.”

Michal was our sole connection to what little life remained in the city. We’d been work colleagues at the Norbury Blood Research Center for more than two decades. He was one of the most gifted hematologists I’d ever met and had chosen to stay in the city to search for a cure for the V-Virus, working with a group of vigilante scientists in an underground laboratory.

Our communication with Michal was sparse and not always reliable, considering that the only means of contact rested solely on old CB radio transmitter. We’d agreed to reach out to one another only when it was necessary. Scarla was more than necessary, but what could he do? He was a few hours’ drive away and I had no idea if he could handle a blade.

I swung my gaze toward the window, noting the diminishing light spreading through a gap in the curtains. Honestly, the way I felt, I could not care less about the threat of the kindred if it meant I could find Scarla and bring her home. But I was aware my thoughts weren’t rational at that moment. There was Avila; I had to protect her too.

Reaching out to Michal couldn’t hurt. Perhaps he could stay with Avila while I got this under control. My fingers clenched the machete handle as I glanced back at her, ready to concede when a loud knock thumped against the cottage door. The sound of my name spoken by an unfamiliar and gnarly voice reverberated through the flimsy walls.

What the hell?

Avila’s eyes widened. I motioned for her to stay put as I gripped the machete and raced to the front of the cottage, edging along the wall of the sitting room to steal a glance through the curtains at the yard. My blood drained to my feet as I caught sight of a group of hawkers spreading across the clearing and leaning against the timber porch frame.

There must have been about fifteen of them wearing ragged leather jackets above grimy jeans and carrying an array of long blades and rusted chains between frayed fingerless gloves. The voice called again; the sound of my name grating against my churning gut. I steeled myself, taking the few steps toward the door before flinging it open.

Stained teeth greeted me with a wry grin that split between wiry ginger whiskers. His tall, solid frame filled my vision as he toyed with a switch blade and cocked his chin to the side. Dark eyes bore into me above pockmarked skin.

“Ah, you’re home! How fortunate that we caught you at the witching hour.”

My eyes flashed dangerously.

“What do you want?”

He laughed, a few of his cronies joining in when he leered their way. He turned back at me.

“You’re asking the wrong question, my friend.” He leaned closer, his breath hot and rancid in my face. “I have what you want. The question you should be asking is how bad do you want it.”


The Hawkers is an urban fantasy set in a post apocalyptic world, and is part of Kim Petersen’s Blood Legends. Episodes set to publish weekly for 12 Weeks.


Catch up on the first instalment, Footprints Here


Blood Legends: Episode Three – Sun Available in:

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Also published by P.S. I Love You via Medium


Footprints

Blood Legends Episode One

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“She had a way of bringing me undone.”


“Did you ever want to step into someone else’s feet?”

I tore my eyes from the gulls screeching above the waves that crashed against the jagged rocks, their wings beating against the briny air as they swooped the water’s surface looking for a meal. A faint smile played over my lips.

“Don’t you mean shoes?”

The breeze captured Scarla’s platinum locks as amber eyes settled on me. Her smile was as meek as mine, dissolving just as fast when she dropped her gaze to grab a handful of sand. My throat restricted. The wind instantly carried a chord of torment as I watched her.

“No.” She allowed the golden grains to fall from between her fingers. She raised her chin toward the sky and squeezed her eyes shut. “Thousands of footprints have marked this beach over just as many years; I’d give anything to step in any one of them.”

My stomach hollowed.

“But then you wouldn’t be here with me in this moment.” I reached to catch a tear as it splashed over her cheek, folding my palm against her smooth skin while my gaze melted into her. She was all I saw in a disintegrating world. She was everything. “You would rather be elsewhere?”

She leaned her chin into my palm, her lashes dewy when she met my stare.

“Yes, with you, Jett.”

“Where should we go?”

My gaze instantly fell to her lips when she smiled. Pale pink and plump. They reminded me of blossoms and lifted my heart in much the same way. She had a way of doing that. She had a way of bringing me undone.

“Florence.” She pulled away from my touch, combing a hand through unruly hair as it wisped across her face. Her white blouse rippled and clung to her breasts.

“Ah, you want to immerse yourself in some Italian Renaissance, Bella donna? Where should we start? The Galleria degli Uffizi?”

She laughed.

“That will do just fine, signor. We’ll spend our days exploring galleries, eating crostini di fegato and drinking chianti while we marvel at the architectural masterpieces. Afterwards, we will put on our best threads and go to the opera.”

I feigned a frown.

“The opera? Hmm…”

“What?” She gave me a gentle nudge. “I’m sure you can conjure up your inner-aristocrat for a few hours if need be.”

“Only for you, Bella donna.”

I shifted, positioning myself behind her on the sand and pulling her between my legs so that her back molded against my chest. I wrapped my arms around her, burying my nose near her ear and breathing in her scent. She stiffened, her voice barely audible over the sound of the rumbling waters.

“Do you think the virus has spread that far?”

I shrugged.

“If it has, we’ll get love-drunk on chianti at the opera with them. I hear the undead love high society.”

“That’s not funny.”

“I’m not laughing.” I pressed my lips against her temple. She tasted salty. Sensually salty. My voice was husky when I spoke next. “Can’t we just pretend a little longer?”

She arched her neck so that her throat stretched beneath the afternoon sun. Her eyes closed as she leaned further into me, reaching to claw her fingers through the dark hair curling at my nape. I wanted her now, but I knew this wasn’t the time nor the place for intimacy. We were alone on the beach, yet that could change at any moment. People were seldom friendly these days. Especially those that we call the hawkers.

My gaze drifted toward the horizon as I held her in my arms. If I could pretend on anything, it would be any place but here as long as she was by my side. It would be some place where the Vampiric virus ravaging the earth couldn’t reach.

They say everything happens for a reason. Yet, I could think of no justifiable reason for the horror our world had become. Almost overnight, the lives of millions of people worldwide had turned into a living nightmare. A harsh reality where those infected by the virus feasted on humanity during the dark hours. Now, it was the kindred that were fast staking supremacy over the earth; humans had become the minority.

My thoughts shifted to my daughter, Avila, who we’d left behind in our hidden cottage; the meager refuge we’d sought after fleeing the city when it became obvious that I could no longer help contain the rapid spread of the virus. We were among the lucky ones who got out just in time.

“We should get back to the cottage,” I said, knowing that she wasn’t ready to leave. It wasn’t often that we stole time away from the cottage. I’d come here for her. Sometimes, she needed to dream.

She squirmed in my arms, swinging around to face me. Her brows creased.

“Just a little longer? I want to trek through some footprints before we go back.” She motioned toward the sand etched with shallow prints. “Will you join me?”

I held her gaze, smiling behind the pain of all I knew she’d suffered and lost to the outbreak. She’d lost her little boy at the hands of a vampire. I shook my head.

“Go find your rainbow, Bella donna. I’ll wait here.”

“Okay.” Her eyes deepened against the blue of mine as her lips slightly parted and she leaned toward me. I groaned inwardly as the sweet taste of promises to come found my mouth with her kiss. They say that the eyes are the gateway to the soul. I think lips are the same for the body. She pulled away and leapt to her feet, casting me a grin. “I’ll be ten minutes. You can watch my rainbow from here.”

I scanned the beach again, pushing away the apprehension that shadowed my every waking hour.

“Stay where I can see you.”

My words were swallowed in the wind and the space between us as she walked toward the shore, but I knew she wouldn’t wander far from me. She was more than aware of the lurking dangers in the form of hawkers. They were the ones who polluted the daylight hours by terrorizing the survivors. The profane remains of humanity who relished the aftermath with unspeakable acts of violence. Thankfully, we hadn’t encountered any hawkers this far from the city. Still, you can never be too vigilant.

I watched Scarla for a few minutes as she stomped between prints, and looking back at me every now and then, smiling. She was safe enough that I took a breath and sprawled back into the sand. The warm grains cushioned my head as I closed my eyes beneath the sun, inviting the false sense of well-being its rays provided.

For the millionth time since the arrival of the V-Virus, I thought about the continuation of life. It isn’t until you are faced with endless death and chaos that you realize the earth will stop for nothing and no one. There are no free rides out of here when evil comes calling. No help lines to pull you from the brink of insanity.

A few moments passed and I became aware of the breeze gathering speed, catching clumps of my hair as the sand sprayed like sharp needles against my skin. Suddenly, I felt cold all over, the breeze blowing in a sense of dread. I sat up abruptly, looking back to the place I’d last spotted Scarla scouring the shoreline but she wasn’t there.

Scarla?

My heart thumped hard against my chest as I stood up and scanned the beach. I was confronted by a stretch of bronze sand in every direction as far as the eye could see, barren of life apart from the gulls that squawked and hovered above the waves licking the shore.

I could feel my head begin to spin as I called her name, but my words were instantly stolen by the wind as panic gripped me and my feet dug into the sand to seek out her footprints. Prints that I knew would haunt me for the rest of my days.


Also published by P.S. I Love you on Medium on 11/15/2019.

Footprints is an urban fantasy set in a post apocalyptic world, and is part of Kim Petersen’s Blood Legends world. Episodes set to publish weekly.


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The Color of Green

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“Whatever it is that you’re doing to make him react that way, stop it.” Jill blinked through a thick layer of mascara. She stroked back a long blond curl and shook her head. “If you stop upsetting him, then he won’t hurt you.”

Huh?

My jaw dropped, my stomach clenching as I looked at her. Words eluded me in that moment. I had finally found enough courage to confide in someone, to voice the horror of living with an abusive husband, and this was the response my mother-in-law dished out?

I clamped my jaw shut, pursing my lips as another feeling erupted and burned my cheeks. Shame. My eyes drifted down to my feet as I forced out the words. “But I don’t do anything to upset him.”

She crinkled her nose, her pencilled brows lifting as she scrutinized me. Her next words made me want to sink between the twisted carpet beneath my feet.

“Well, you must be doing something wrong. Lucas wouldn’t hurt you otherwise.”

She swivelled towards the kitchen benchtop to pop on the kettle. I watched as she pulled two mugs from an overhanging cupboard before setting them down and looking back at me. “It’s your fault, Ava. He’s always had trouble controlling his emotions. You need to learn how to behave.”

She paused and flashed me a smile. “Coffee?”

Coffee? Was she serious? As I fixed my gaze on her, I realized that she was. I tilted my chin as I circled strands of auburn hair over my ear and narrowed my eyes. At the same time, I became aware of the rage brewing in my veins. Her smile fizzled as I marched closer to her. I tore at the sleeves on my wrists to expose the bruises on my skin, thrusting my arms at her as I spoke through gritted teeth.

“This is my fault? My fault, Jill?” I said, as the heat of my tears stung my eyes. I tried to withhold the tears as I gazed down at her, watching as she barely glanced at the angry welts.

She shrugged. “Like I said, you need to stop upsetting him. It’s not his fault.”

My dark eyes narrowed down to slits as my jaw tightened. “Are you telling me that I deserve this?”

She avoided looking at me as she turned to busy herself with teaspoons and coffee jars. When she didn’t reply, I stepped closer to her.

“Jill?” I said, biting my trembling lip. “I asked you a question.”

Her golden tresses flipped across her shoulders as she whirled around suddenly, treating me to a heated stare. “I don’t want to talk about it, Ava,” she said, clasping her slender hips. “We don’t talk about these kinds of things. We just note it, learn from it and move on.”

“Move on?” I felt the fury overwhelm me. So, I mirrored her moves, gripping my hips and glaring. “Is that the answer that’s been evading me for so long? And how about your grand-babies? He’s already started venting his rage on Liam. Who knows how far he could take it…” my voice trailed and I shuddered.

The thought of my children suffering beneath my husband’s erratic bouts of violence was too much to bear. I knew I had to do something. This life was eating me up from the inside out, and it was guilt that formed the groundwork on which I stood.

Guilt. If I could give it a color, it would be green. And not the green offered of vibrant grasses swaying beneath a summer breeze, but the sludgy green that clung to the walls of a putrid pond. Green shadowed my every waking hour. It was that murky shade that relentlessly haunted me. Green for not protecting my children from the horrific scenes tainting their reality, and green for the strength I lacked. Most of all, though, it was the muddy tint of green that had replaced my convictions.

Jill waved a dismissive hand, snorting. Her gaze hardened as she looked me in the eye.

“He wouldn’t hurt the children,” she said, straightening her short frame. “You married him, Ava. This is the life you chose. Now, you must deal with it, just like I dealt with it. I didn’t go running to my mother-in-law for sympathy.” She took in a breath and hissed. “No, I toughened up and got smarter, and that’s what you need to do. Stop upsetting him and he won’t hurt you.”

I swallowed hard as her words sunk in. She tore her eyes away and made for the fridge. The revelation came to me in a flash.

“You were abused, too?”

I saw her tense before reaching for a bottle of milk and swinging the fridge door closed. When she didn’t answer, I moved up to her, noticing her fingers quivering as she set down the milk. She didn’t look at me.

“Jill, how bad was it?”

Her chin lowered along with her shoulders and she sighed. When she turned around, I saw the pain in her eyes.

“Lucas’s father was a good man.” Her eyes glazed and darted away from me. For a moment, I wondered if she would continue. She let out a breath as she began to speak again. “But sometimes, good people do bad things.”

“Like what?”

Her fingers knotted together, and she shook her head. “He’d always had a hot temper; anything could set him off. Me and the kids lived on our nerves and walked on eggshells. It was like Russian Roulette.” She gave a rueful laugh. “One day, I came home from work to find him…” Her voice faltered.

Her chest began to rack as she leaned heavily against the benchtop. I had never seen her so vulnerable. When she lifted her eyes to mine, they were glistening and my heart cracked. “He was interfering with Lucas.”

I gasped and reached out to her, resting my hand on her arm as I searched for the right words.

My words came in a whisper. “Wha — what happened?”

She jerked away from me as her voice hardened. “Anarchy — that’s what happened, Ava. And what followed was my near death. So, you see now, Lucas isn’t to blame for his behavior. He breathes beneath the treacherous shadow of his father. You must submit to the life you chose, be there for him and forgive his indiscretions.”

My mind went blank then, before a thousand thoughts spiralled as I struggled to understand. My eyes skimmed to the floor. Then, one thought materialised above the whirl in my head — The cycle of abuse stops here.

I could barely breathe when I looked back at her.

“I’m sorry for what happened to you and Lucas,” I said, shaking my head. “But that doesn’t excuse the way he treats me and the kids. Toxic behavior can be unlearned; it doesn’t have to carry on through the generations.”

Her lips contorted in a scowl. “Did you not hear what I said? He’s been through hell! His actions are not always his own. Ava, you need to understand this — he needs you to understand this.”

“No,” I replied, feeling the heat simmer below my skin as I siphoned courage from the fire. “That’s where you’re wrong. Every action is a choice. Every hateful remark, every slap, and every punch that he delivers is a choice he gets to make each and every time.”

I reached for my wedding ring and twisted it off my finger. Her eyes widened as I placed it on the benchtop beside the milk. Then, I levelled my stare on her and lifted my chin. “Love shouldn’t hurt, Jill.”

I stormed out of the kitchen as she chased after me, calling.

“Ava! This is crazy! What are doing?”

When I reached the threshold of my bedroom, I paused to glance over my shoulder at her ashen face. “I’m taking the kids and leaving,” I said, clutching the door frame. “I’m not you, Jill, and no amount of understanding his past will justify another minute of this life. I deserve more; my children deserve more and I’m doing something about it.”

She shrieked, but I didn’t wait around for her reply. I walked into my room and opened the closet where the luggage was kept, before pulling out items from drawers and hangers and flinging them into the bags. It was then that I felt something shift slightly within me, and for the first time in years, the murky green shrouding me lightened.


Originally published by P.S I Love You on Medium – November 8th, 2019.