Fern followed Brook out of the apartment and felt cold rain on her skin. She looked up and saw the post twilight sky above. There was still a hint of colour at the edges, but the dark grey clouds were fast rolling in. Casting a glance at her clothes, she felt undressed though not cold, the changing weather didn’t seem to be effecting her as it would have done before. Though, she could already feel the rain soaking her woollen jumper and getting into her trainers.
‘I could use some new clothes,’ she announced.
Brook, who had been slowly walking away, turned on the spot. He was wearing a long black duffle coat and hiking boots. He looked more dressed for the coming autumn weather then she did. Brook frowned a little, but didn’t say anything.
‘It would be useful. I’d stand out less come winter,’ Fern concluded.
‘The place we’re going might be able to help with that,’ Brook stated then turned.
‘Why? Where are we going?’ Fern asked, hurrying to catch up with him.
She had expected to be dragged across the farm fields again, like last night, but this time Brook was heading in the opposite direction, towards the village.
‘One of the easiest sources of blood,’ Brook answered.
‘A blood bank?’ Fern giggled.
Brook give a swift shake of his head then stepped onto the edge of the woodland boarder. Fern paused before following him. The ground was soft and wet under foot. The stronger winds had also shaken loose small branches and Fern failed to avoid stepping on them. Brook negotiated the tree trunks and low branches with the skills of a squirrel. Fern was left in his wake, struggling to pick her way around.
‘You need to teach me to get through this,’ Fern moaned, ‘why is it so hard?’
‘It’s dense,’ Brook’s voice called from somewhere ahead of her, ‘and I shall teach you how to move like a deer.’
‘A deer? What? Ouch! Oh!’ Fern cried as she tripped over something solid.
Getting her balance back, she swept her hair away and looked down at the ground. Something was half buried in the soil next to a holly bush.
‘Fern?’ Brook said as he came back to her.
‘What is that?’ she asked and pointed at the ground.
‘Rubbish, most likely.’
Fern tapped the thing with her toe. She couldn’t make out what it was at all and felt half tempted to dig it out.
‘Take my hand,’ Brook stated.
She glanced at him then the object again, ‘but I want to know…’
‘Later…we’ll be late and I can’t be doing with that. Come on.’
‘Okay,’ she breathed and took his hand.
He tightened his fingers around her palm then led her out of the woodland. The outskirts of the village sprang up from the trees and they walked through the too quiet streets. Lamps pinged into life above them and cast unnatural and harsh orange light upon the damp pavements and roads. The top of a car parked up glistened like glitter and Fern’s mind whirled with the science behind rain drops and reflections.
‘What’s up with this village? It’s so dead…’ Fern spoke softly a minute later as they past yet other house that had no lights on.
‘It’s mostly holiday homes and old people who go to bed early,’ Brook explained, ‘this whole area is out of season now. It’s the first of September today.’
‘Wow, really? I’ve lost track of everything.’
‘It’ll be like that for a while then time will make sense again. Don’t worry about it.’
‘I’ll try,’ Fern responded thoughtfully.
Out of the village into the scrubland, Brook let go of Fern’s hand for a moment and sniffed the air. Fern looked around, listening and smelling too, but she couldn’t pick up on anything. Brook took her hand again and they entered a farm. In the first field, Fern looked back and could just see the dual carriageway bridge off to their left.
‘So, weren’t not going to seaside town?’ she asked, having worked out the direction of things.
‘No. Not for the moment with that…other vampire lurking there,’ Brook growled softly.
‘Dacian,’ Fern whispered then instantly regretted it.
She stopped, bit her tongue and tasted a pinprick of blood.
Brook shot her a look, his face and eyes flashing anger before returning to the calm form he had taken on tonight. He took a deep breath and sighed it out. He squeezed her hand and tugged her on.
‘We are going to have to talk about it,’ Fern pointed out, ‘I don’t think we should just forget it happened…I really don’t want that to be honest.’
‘You women,’ Brook said in a low voice, ‘always wanting to go back over things and get into long useless debates.’
Fern opened her mouth to snap back at him, but the loud barking of a dog stopped her.
Brook froze and she bumped into the side of him. She couldn’t see the dog, it was further up by the farm house, thankfully fenced in, but it had caught their scent.
‘This way,’ Brook muttered as an outside light came on and shone on a back garden.
Making their way out of the farm, they found themselves on a cobbled single road. Brook went to the left, taking them inland and further from the sea. Tall bushes and trees blocked their views of the fields and other surroundings. The rain became heavy and Fern’s mood dropped.
‘I’m wet through. How much further?’ she asked.
‘Not much,’ Brook answered.
‘How come we have to walk anyway? Can’t we fly or get a car or something?’
‘We can fly and run fast in short bursts,’ Brook answered carefully, ‘I had a car once, but up keep and money…’
‘Money? Oh my god, what are we doing about that?’ Fern yelled.
Brook spun and grabbed her shoulders, ‘calm down,’ he snapped, ‘it’s alright. One thing at a time, okay? You must being coming back to your human senses,’ he mumbled.
Fern’s stomach growled and she pressed her hands over it, ‘I need to…’
‘We’re almost there. You can see the town’s lights now.’
Fern looked where he had indicated and she could see glowing lights coming from buildings and the streetlamps. She let Brook take her hand again and after a few more minutes they had entered the town. Unlike the village, noise drift to them and Fern had to take a few moments to pick out things and connect them. She could hear cars and car horns on the road, peoples’ voices and footsteps coming from the buildings and the streets. Music and TV sounds leaked through windows, mingling with the rumble of cars and voices. A family of cats were meowing in an abandoned factory and an old dog was sheltering in a closed down shop doorway.
As they walked past the sad, skinny looking animal, Fern felt a tug on her heart. She stopped and felt the urge to do something for the dog. He or she was soaking wet and shivering. Fern couldn’t tell what breed it was, though the dog was big and dark brown, maybe in colour. It was hard to tell in the night rain. Brook called her and she waved him back to point out the poor creature.
‘We can’t do anything,’ was Brook’s response.
‘Why not? We could take him home or find someone…’
‘It’s not our place,’ Brook cut her off.
‘No!’ he snarled and grabbing her wrist pulled her away.
‘Brook!’ Fern shouted and tried to twist out of his grip.
Ignoring her, Brook dragged her around the corner and towards a large building. A cluster of people were queuing to get in and two people were inviting them through the double doors.
Fern caught her breath and looked at the scene before her. The heavy rain was making the queue of people look worse off, though she retracted that thought as she realised they were all homeless people.
‘Where are we?’ Fern whispered behind raised hands.
‘A shelter,’ Brook stated.
‘We’re going to fed off them?’
‘Yes and get you some new clothes too.’
‘But…we’re not homeless or poor…Wait are we?’
Brook shrugged, ‘what does it matter? Right now, we are putting on masks and becoming one of them. Don’t start. Just follow me and stay silent. You wanted to learn how to be a vampire, didn’t you?’
Fern nodded and looked at the floor. There has to be other ways though, she thought sadly.