I started seeing the dead people just about the time I figured out I was the Slayer. That was when my family thought I was dependent on drugs and I thought a girl in my class at school looked like Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter.
I know, I know, I'm weird. I've been told that a lot in my fifteen years. I have a weird name, just to go along with my personality: Claire de Lune. I guess my mom looked me in the eye at my birth, saw the oddball reputation of my future years, and decided to name me something to match it. When I was seven, she told me my name meant 'by the light of the moon'. I didn't understand why I was named that until she explained that she gave birth to me by the Eiffel Tower, in the soft, blue-gray light of the evening. Anyway, enough about that. I go to a public school, though my parents left me a fortune large enough to have graduated and owned part of town already.
Oh, how rude of me. I never told you about my parents. See, my parents were young, wild, and free. At the crisp age of seventeen, they ran off to France, wed in holy matrimony, then gave birth to me (you know the story already). They decided Paris was too fancy for them and brought me back to Buffalo, New York, their hometown. They always taught me originality, selflessness, and bizarreness. In seventh grade, my parents went away, on a business trip to Cuba. There was a plane crash and they were among the five hundred wealthy, first-class passengers that did not survive. Since then I have lived with my strict Grandmother, who I call Nanny, who forces me to have tea time in Victorian-style clothing. It annoys me that my Watcher, Graham Lathings, cannot come to my house. Nanny still thinks he is a suitor. Which is just so ew, as he has to be, like, three-thousand and a half years old.
Well, about those dead people. I was in the hallways this afternoon after school (I stay after to avoid Nanny and so that Graham can train me), and was rounding a corner. I noticed that a person was mirrored behind me in the Plexiglass window. I turned around, expecting some cruel punishment from a fellow schoolmate, and instead encountered -
thin air. No one was there. I glanced back at the window and there he was. A young boy, he couldn't have been older than ten, with blond hair framing a sallow, caved in face. Then I realized that he was either a vampire evading me or my eyes playing tricks on me. I knew, since I had come to accept my profession, that the last excuse was not a valid one. But neither was the vampire. No one yet knew I was the Slayer, so the vampire would have bit into my neck instead of playing hide-and-seek with me. I slipped around the corner, forgetting entirely about the image reflected in the mirror, when Graham barked out, "CLAIRE!" I pushed open the large wooden doors with ease and walked straight into a winter wonderland. Fake snow layered the outskirts of the gym floor, glittery and cottony. Cardboard snowflakes dangled from the ceiling, and various Christmas decorations were planted on the floor, plastered on the walls, and perched on the bleachers. Slaying had been so time-consuming that I had nearly forgotten it was almost Christmas. "Take your time." Graham tutted, hands on hips. I apologized and made my way across the expanse of white sparkly decor to the only empty spot in the gym: a large square in the middle of the gym, left open for the Christmas dance. "No training today, since the school is of such convenience with one such as myself. Instead, I will brief you on your latest mission."
I giggled. "Brief me on my latest mission? Who am I, James Bond?"
Puzzled, Graham looked at me. "N-no, you are the Slayer. Are you okay? Can you truly not remember who you are, your goal in life."
I laughed even more. "Graham, you are so great at spotting sarcasm, you should be a seeing-eye dog." He glared at me and I stopped laughing.
"I have knowledge of a band of vampires planning to attack the partiers out on the street on Christmas Eve. You must stop them all at their game before they harm anyone."
"Great. Now I miss Christmas too?" I complied and walked out of the gym. When I got home, I was ambushed by Nanny's maid, who rushed me upstairs, clothed me in a spring green tea dress, and ushered me into the too-pink sitting room. With as much elegance and grace as I could muster, I walked over, sat down, and subjected myself to warm tea and croissants before my way-early bedtime. "Nanny?" I asked, waiting for her okay to speak before I continued, "May I go to the Christmas dance at school?" Of course, the dance was my only excuse to skip Christmas dinner to rescue those meals from the vampires.
"What? Why not?"
you are a prim and proper lady. You will not go prancing around in a
miniskirt and high heels at a high school dance teeming with impure,
lustful young men." That was my grandmother, always over-protective,
always suspicious of boys. I went up to my room that night, and raced
through plans and possible punishments in my mind. I found that the
only realistic option, amidst convincing Nanny to let me go, was
sneaking out. If I was caught, I would be in a boiling vat of oil, as
was customary to whatever my grandmother believed in. But it would have
to do. In my bed, snug and cozy as one could get, I listened to the
noises of the outside world and silently counted down to my untimely
death: 3 days.
---------------------------------------- ---------------------------------------- --------------
The next morning I woke up, had a hearty meal of bacon, eggs, toast, and warm honey milk, thanked Eloise, our cook, and had Jameson escort me to school, and headed straight to the library, instantly burying myself in piles of texts about Christmas sacrificial rituals, none of which I could understand, all borrowed from Graham. I heard a sound of clattering books and glanced up to see that Luna Lovegood had joined me. I gave her an acknowledging nod and went back to my attempt at translating. Good Lord, ancient languages are harder to understand than tenth grade math.
"Watcha doing?" I hear a soft, curious voice ask. I look up to see the girl that looks like Luna Lovegood trying to read over my shoulder. She must have moved closer to me, as she is know sitting right next to me.
"Ach bleichm magdonum...What's that?" she asked me, her accent was horrid, but I forgave her and answered.
"It means, 'the corpses will walk.'" I turned the page and we both shuddered in sync. On the page was a drawing of the boy I had seen the day before, and I knew from what I could read that 'on Christmas day the corpses will walk'. I would have to question Graham later about that 'vampire' deal.
"Corpses?" The girl shivered. She held her hand out to me and smiled, "Oh, I'm Cameron Marx."
I took her hand in a firm hold and started, "I'm -"
"Claire de Lune. I've heard a lot about you." My breath caught. How could this girl, who I knew nothing about, know so much about me? She sensed my insecurity. "Well, I mean, I've heard a lot of cool things...do you wanna hang out sometime?" I nodded and Cameron continued, "How about after school, we'll go out for ice cream."
"That'd be great." so after school, I met up with Cameron, and we walked to Truman's Coffee Shoppe. Over ice cream sundaes and Pepsi's, we discussed our lives. In what I considered to be a surprise, she explained to me she knew I was the Slayer. "Wh-what?" I stammered, befuddled.
"I - my grandmother was a Slayer. She died in childbirth, with my mother. It was such an ironic way to go, when she was so strong. On her tombstone, her Watcher considered writing, 'Killed over 100,000 vampires, defeated by a baby.'" Cameron gave an awkward chuckle. "I've killed a few myself - even if I'm not as strong as you."
My eyes widened in amazement. I had always sensed that more vamps were disappearing than I could tally up myself, but I just figured I killed more than I took credit for, or that there were a bunch of idiotic vampires who walked out in the sunlight. When I should have confronted her and demanded to know if she had told anyone, instead I asked, "How many?"
"About 20,000 vampires and one demon, since last October." I gasped. I had been Chosen last October, and I had massacred 50,000 demons and various underworld evils. She - who had no powers whatsoever, except knowledge - had killed almost as many with her bare hands. How could I not have known she existed? How could Graham not have known? She interrupted my deep thoughts by talking again. "Do you think I could help you from now on?"
It was my sacred duty to Protect the mortals and Kill the undead, and I should have said 'Absolutely not!', but I knew that we needed her on the good side, fighting for the Better, so I smiled and nodded. We walked out of the coffee shop, and went to Graham's house.
When we informed him of Cameron's knowledge, he was astounded, and immediately agreed to hold a meeting with the council over her. Until then, she was to secretly help me with my Slaying. He jumped on the question I had forgotten to ask, and she told him that she had kept my identity a secret. Relieved, Graham's worry abated, and he subsided into a puke green sofa. Really, he has the worst taste in furniture that I have ever seen. Anyway, I explained to him about the Christmas Corpse Celebration, and while we were on the topic of scary things, I told him about the dead people.
"You've seen them too?" asked Cameron. She tugged on her hoodie strings and bit her lip, before she pulled me aside and told me that she had seen the character in the book I had. "I - I also knew what that phrase said." I was confused as to why she had lied, until she explained, "Kimberly Sanders was behind us, and I didn't want to let you know I've seen you Slaying with her around, since her boyfriend disappeared recently." Of course, the head of the Cheerleading squad, nosy and annoying, would instantly accuse anyone who kept a secret of knowing the whereabouts of David Snow, her Jock boyfriend. But the knowledge that Cam had seen me performing my duties bit me in the side. I noted that I would definitely have to be more discreet.
After we finished our discussion, we walked back over to Graham's ugly sitting room, and he instructed us to get started immediately. "And remember," he said sternly, glaring at Cam suspiciously, "It is your responsibility to keep this a secret. If you tell anyone, and I mean anyone, the Council will dispose of you instantly." she nodded and we left the door.
Two hours of lurking around in alleys and graveyards had us beat. Sweat poured down our faces, and our cheeks and hands were dirty with the dusty ashen remains of our enemy. Blood dribbled from our foreheads, where we had both suffered a kick to the gut which had sent us flying back into the tombstones, headfirst. The air was thick with humidity, and soon after, as expected, it started to rain. I appreciated the weather, as it washed my wounds clean and dissolved all the clotted dirt and stinky-ness on my body. I walked her home, just in case of a vampire attack, and rushed home myself. As soon as I walked through the door, Nanny jumped out from the shadows to attack me. Well, actually, she just did that normal parent thing, where the 'bad' child comes home, and the mom is sitting on the couch, with bloodshot and baggy eyes, in a pink dressing gown, with balled up tissues all around her.
"Where were you?"
"I'm sorry I'm late, I got caught up at school, making up a test or something."
"Are you high?"
"Um, no. Why would you think I'm on drugs?!"
"You always come home late, you read all of these occult books," to my horror, she pulled Demons and their Weaknesses and The Vampyr out from under the couch. "you even lie to me, and you are courting that mature young man."
My alarm rose along with my voice. "I am not courting
him! Or anyone! You'll be happy to know I have ONE friend, and its a
girl! You know nothing about my life, or why I'm always out late! If I
could, I'd explain it all to you, but I can't!" I stormed out of the
room, up the winding staircase, and into my room, taking care to slam
the door as loud as I could. Countdown: 2 days.
---------------------------------------- ---------------------------------------- --------------
I skipped school the next morning. I suspected my inner rebel was coming out, due to last night's argument. I headed straight to Graham's house, and he smiled at me. He was clearly proud that I had went against the school's wishes...he must've held a grudge over the Christmas decorations in the gymnasium. "I have news." he ushered me into his house and informed me that the Council had agreed to allow Cam help us out, saying that two strong girls were definitely a good thing. He also told me that the Council had released new information on the Christmas ritual. They had been mistaken, no vampires were involved. Instead, a band of assorted demons would be holding a sacrifice to the Patrons, who were apparently the guardians of a tablet I needed to destroy. What's more, these Patrons knew who I was, and had been tracking me. Great. That little boy with the screwed-up facial features was following me.
"Fun-fun." I was going to kill that little boy one-handedly. Or, uh, two-handedly, as that is how many hands I have.
---------------------------------------- ---------------------------------------- --------------
It was midnight and Cam and I were walking around the school grounds. Fresh snow sparkled and crunched under her boot-clad feet as we snooped around in the darkness. Since that little boy seemed to enjoy haunting educational facilities, Graham had ordered us to make that our current haunt. So there we were.
And, just as soon, slaying.
A gang of vamps rushed towards us and we took up battle stance. I tossed a spare stake to Cameron, and retracted the trusty stake that I had handcrafted on my own, Mr. Ouchie. He held his own in the battle with evil.
"Ho-Ho-Ho!" I did a little war-cry and I lunged for the vamp's heart. Mr. Ouchie plunged into his heart. A precise, clean kill. My favorite. My victory was short lived. A vampire that I had thought Cam had already taken care of jumped on me and practically usurped Mr. Ouchie. A pang of regret for bringing him along hit me. He mimicked me, bringing the stake to his heart, laughing and being a jokester for all the others. I spun around and jammed my hand into the stake poised above his heart, and Mr. Undead flew peacefully into the already dusty air. "Didn't your mommy ever teach you not to play with weapons?" Then, for a brief moment I stood in utter silence, proud of my kill and astounded at the stupidity of the creature.The only sound was of leaves blowing around me, and I enjoyed the peacefullness. It had been a while since I had been able to be without noise. For so long, I had been the Slayer, and it had put so much strain, that I had not been in total, absolute silence in six months.
"Oh, snap! RUN!" Cam interrupted my relaxation. I looked back at her, who had successfully slaughtered the remaining candidates for undead-president, already taking a bounding leap in my direction. What I saw behind her frightened me beyond anything else I had ever seen: at least fourty Patrons, all glimmering white in the navy night sky, with the boy at the head of the group, were marching toward us. Marching on the frigid darkness, marching with their translucent legs not even hitting the ground.
And I ran.
After about two miles, I could tell Cameron was exhausted, yet she kept running, stopping ever so often to catch her breath. Pant, run, pant, run, pause, run, run, run, pant, run, pant, pant, run. Still, the Patrons were in hot pursuit, and I knew we couldn't get ahead of them enough to lose them. So we slipped into an alley and hid behind some dumpsters. The Patrons must be blind, because, amazingly, they just kept right on in the same direction.
It didn't take me long to figure out that they weren't after us. Naturally, demons aren't petrified of Slayers. So I walked out into the street soon enough to see them turn a corner, straight into, yep, you guessed it: the Our Lady Peace Graveyard.
"Cam, come on. I think they're up to something. I don't think they were following us at all!" I said hurriedly, then, without anything further, zipped down the cracked pavement, headed to the Patrons' hideout.
The graveyard was icky. It smelled rotten, of flesh, and bone, and dog urine. Because of the canine-waste stench, I suspected that Old Man Hutchins wasn't keeping his Labrador Retrievers on too short of a leash. It didn't take me long to find out who had contributed to the sickly dead smell. After all, it is a graveyard. You know, where people die and get put underground and stuff? But, more than that. Dead people don't smell that awful. To that effect, the dead smell had to be something besides unfortunate souls and corpses.
It didn't take Cam long to spot the source of the yuck-factor. In a small section of the cemetery sat a cauldron, a black, chipping pot of human remains mixed with all other types of nasty bits and pieces. I pinched my nose shut as she tugged me unwillingly over to the cauldron.
All other sorts of winny-type words dashed through my mind and pierced the long expanse of dartboard in my mind.
Oh, that's it. BULLSEYE!
Patrons stood in a circle, their horrid white faces enclosed in billowing black capes, bowing their heads to the ground, murmuring chants.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Are we crashing your little fiesta?" Cam grinned. The Patrons rose their ghostly faces and rushed toward us.
"Cam. Great one. Did I mention I don't know how to kill these things?"
"Oops." But it was too late. These creeps were rushing toward us.
And that was when I saw it.
A gleam of bright gold hit my face. Under the demon-stew, a cracked tablet twinkled. Why would they put that there? To hide it from me, of course. "Cammy, can you handle this?" she nodded her reply and hit the Patrons anyway she could. Nothing worked. I inched my way toward the cauldron. She picked up the cauldron with amazing strength for a mortal and tossed it over the guys.
The Patrons were dying! Melting into the ground as the bubbly concoction of dead-person soup rushed over them. They disappeared slowly, the yucky mixture filling them and destroying them at the same time, until nothing was left but a muddy hole were they had stood - hovered.
She had pulverized the Patrons, all of course, except for the boy. "Follow the Leader?" Cameron raced to the cemetery gate and scaled it. The boy followed, just as she had signaled.
She was backed into the alley with the boy making his way to her. And I held the tablet. I went with instinct. I had no clue what the tablet might do, but I decided what happened couldn't be worse than the situation right now. I raised it above my head and smashed it down onto the cement. I held my breath, but relieved, let it out a second later. The boy disappeared with a flash. I bent over and picked up the broken pieces of the tablet and slung them into my bag.
A rush of blood went through me, like always after a good kill. I was now prepared to go home and see what Santa left m-
Hey, wait a second.
I checked my watch. It said 'December 24' and '3:00 A.M.' on the top. Wasn't this supposed to go down a day from now?
---------------------------------------- ---------------------------------------- -------------
I sat on the putrid green-colored couch, thinking that at that moment, there was no better place to be. I sipped peckishly at the toasty mug that held Hot Chocolate, relishing in the warming sensation it gave my frozen fingers.
That night, Graham had to have apologized about a gazillion times for the miscalculation. It seemed, he said, that Patrons have a bad habit of eluding tracking systems, and that the Council apologized and graciously thanked me for my assistance in retrieving (and annihilating) the Numengard Tablet. I nodded, and smiled, as did Cameron. We both said it had been as an easy transaction as eating pie. But we both shot each other looks that said: Yeah. Brick pie.