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House of Kings

By´╝ÜKeary Taylor

DEATH WAS TERRIFYING. EVEN THOUGH Samuel promised it would be the easy part.

I suppose he was right in some ways. All I had to do was take a pill. All I had to do was make a stir, calling in two more vampires, let one of them sink their fangs into my neck. So in a way, death was easy.

But this part. Resurrection. Coming back from the dead… This is hell.

I was dead. Every cell in me died. Slowly cooled. Slowly stopped splitting and reproducing. Slowly slipped into oblivion.

But now. Now. I feel acid slowly filling every crack of me back up, like I’m being re-inflated. Death and hell and thousand-year-old science breaking into every cell and crevice of my body—so supernatural—and entirely my reality.

It’s the only sensation for a long time. I burn in acid, unable to escape my own body. Wishing for death’s comfortable arms once again.

But then there are the sounds. Garbled. Incomprehensible. Frantic and demonic—deep, hissing, hurried—and oh so very, very loud.

Next come the smells. Of age. That is most prominent. Old house. Old furniture. Old dust. Old bodies.

And I can smell the blood. When I imagined this moment, I expected the thirst to be immediate. But even in my new, infantile state, I can tell the difference. The blood is of their…my kind. It isn’t what I crave.

My throat burns.

I burn.

Burn a thousand moments. Burn a thousand years.

I lay and wish for death.

345,600 SECONDS AFTER I TRIED to end my life with a single pill, 345,600 seconds after I collapsed to the ground and a set of fangs sank into my neck, my eyes fly open.

The dim light is blinding at first and my eyes sear in pain. A low, feral hiss rips from my chest as my hands fly to cover my eyes. I roll to the side, only to free-fall through the air for a fraction of a second—yet it feels like minutes—before a strong set of arms catches me.

“Try to go slow and easy,” a smooth voice purrs into my ear.

And all in a second, I take in every decibel of it, every smooth and calming emphasis. I take in the clarity. I hear the breath rattle through his lungs and I swear I feel the vibration of his vocal cords.

My eyes open to see King Cyrus’ face.

His hands firmly grip around my forearms as I settle awkwardly onto my feet. His glowing red eyes meet mine, and I see the search in them deepen.

But I can’t concentrate. Not when the burning in my body is so demanding.

He must see it in my eyes a fraction of a second too late.

I rip from his grasp, crashing into the bed behind me that I just rolled out of. My force sends it flying across the room and I hear wood crack. My eyes search the space in bewilderment. I’m in my bedroom. And I am surrounded by people.

Anna. Markov. Lillian, Nial, Samuel, and Cameron.

It’s too much. Too much. I’m going to burn to death in front of them all.

My breathing comes out ragged and feral as I stumble toward the door. But they’re all standing in my way.

“Alivia,” Cyrus says, closing a strong hand around my wrist.

I react without thought. My newly acquired animal instincts fly to life.

My arm twists out of his grasp and my hand closes around his throat. Before he can react, I throw him against the wall. Anna and Nial step toward me, and I can just feel my eyes glow and the veins on my face flare with anger and thirst as I hiss in their direction.

“Calm down,” Anna says, her eyes dark and serious. “You just need to feed.”

“You’ll feel much better after you drink,” Nial says. He holds up an insulated bag, a sight I’m becoming very familiar with.

“Please,” I hear Cyrus say from directly behind me. “Aliv-”

But he doesn’t get a chance to finish. I hear footsteps thundering up the staircase. It’s Cyrus’ court members, rushing to the aid of their King, whom I’ve just attacked.

My eyes flare wild, the breath coming in and out of my chest in harsh huffs. Anna takes a step forward, lunging to grab me. I sidestep her, shoving her away as she does. Nial and Cameron are about to grab me when Markov plows into them from the side, knocking them into a wall.

“Go!” he yells as he points for the window.

I don’t hesitate a millisecond longer.

In two leaping bounds, I sail toward the glass.

It shatters. And I fall and fall. But every second is like ten and I watch the ground rise up at me, position my feet, brace for impact. I hit the ground in a roll, one flip over the ground, before popping up on my feet.

It’s nearly sunrise. While it’s still pitch black outside, while somehow, I can see perfectly clear as if it were day, I can feel the sun. Beyond the horizon. Behind the trees. I have maybe an hour, likely less, until I will wish for death.

I stumble through the snow, having hesitated only a second, disoriented, overwhelmed.