Where are they, Chelsea Childling?

This is a series of short stories, detailing the adventures of Chelsea Childling. You can start with her origin story or pick any story from the index.

Just a quick little announcement here. These next few stories are a little more… connected than normal for this series of shorts. So… for the summer… two stories a month.

See you on July 2!

***

Chelsea ran a finger along her hatchet for what felt like the eight-hundredth time. The edge had been honed to not-quite razor sharpness. The weapon wasn’t entirely about slashing though. At least not the way Amber and Jackson trained her. It functioned more as an extension of her hand. The head trapped hands to guide blows away from her. The handle also acted as a bludgeon.

Where are they?

She checked the gas. They’d barely had a quarter tank when they’d pulled up to the house. Chelsea fought down fear and studied the house in front of her. Nearly thirty minutes ago, Amber and Jack had broken in, ready to destroy the vampires inside. After they took care of the human minions who also lived there.

Chelsea killed the engine. The last thing she wanted was to run out of gas. She’d been tapped as the getaway driver.

So why aren’t they getting away?

Even worse, why was the house so still and quiet? No lights had snapped on, no signs of violence.

What do I do now?

Jack and Amber had been very clear that Chelsea wasn’t ready for this fight. She might have the burning desire to kill monsters, but she’d never been in a real fight with one. They’d been equally adamant that her being the getaway driver was not only helpful but vital.

Chelsea ran a hand over the head of her ax again. The smart thing would be to stay put.

I threw smart things out the window when I decided to walk home with Dink that night.

Heart pounding and sweat sliding down her spine, Chelsea got out of the car. The subzero air didn’t cool her.

Lights were on in the neighboring houses, illuminating snow-filled yards, but not one had snapped on in the nightling’s house. She clutched at her ax as she tried to walk nonchalantly to the basement window Jackson had broken half an hour ago.

Darkness lurked beyond the jagged glass. Chelsea swallowed fear and slid into the basement. A metallic scent and silence were all she found. She waited a few moments, blinking rapidly, trying to force her eyes to adjust.

Slowly, the solid black faded into shades of gray. And in front her, blood splashed across the wall. Her lungs couldn’t seem to draw air as she stared at it. Was it too high on the wall to be Jackson? Or would that not matter once blood started spraying? Did blood actually spray or was that just in movies?

Her knees shook, and she nearly fell to the floor. The handle of the ax bit into her hand. Chelsea sucked in a shaking breath and unsheathed the weapon.

The silvery head quivered in the air in front of her. Teeth squeaking in her clenched jaws, Chelsea hazarded the first stair. Nothing moved above her.

Her stomach dropped with each terrifying step. Every time she picked up her foot, she wanted to run back to the car. Only the memory of Dink kept her going.

A good man- a better friend than she deserved. She hadn’t appreciated him until he’d been killed. And he’d been taken by a nightling, because her spoiled, drunk ass had to be chaperoned back to her dorm.

At the top of the stairs, she paused, trying to listen for anything. Her whistling breath and pounding heart made it a fruitless exercise, though. Chelsea stepped into the dark kitchen. Her feet slipped a little on the wet vinyl.

Of course, it’s blood. You don’t have to look down.

But she did. She had to know. A trail of blood might lead her to…

Don’t. He’s not crumpled up in the corner. He can’t be. He just can’t.

Her eyes darted around too fast to actually see. She took a breath and looked around again. A man sat slumped against the wall. The relief that he wasn’t Jackson was short-lived. One eye stared, though the kitchen stood too dark for her to tell the color. The other dribbled down his cheek from the gash an ax had left.

Her ax slipped through her fingers. It wasn’t the thud of it hitting the floor that froze her. It was the splash that immediately followed. Chelsea fought down screams, twisting and turning to search the room.

Despite her labored breathing, no sounds came from the house.  Slowly, she bent over, eyes on the opening to the rest of the house. Once she had a grip on her, now wet, ax, she hurried upright, weapon thrust out in front of her.

She stood there, arms tight, waiting for a vampire. Nothing changed in the darkness around her. But now she could make out more bodies on the kitchen floor. Chelsea coughed, forcing herself to swallow bile. She didn’t have time to puke. Two more people, a man, and a woman lay on the vinyl. Their arms were sliced, marked up with huge wounds.

Chelsea nearly tossed the ax in her hands. She didn’t want to hurt people.

Don’t be stupid. This is why Jack and Amber didn’t want you in here. These people serve nightlings.

Nightlings. She let the knowledge run through her brain. One of the many types of vampires. The most familiar. The pale, pretty ones.

She wiped the wet handle of the ax across her jeans. She ignored the dark stains it left, adjusted her grip on the weapon, and inched towards the doorway.

Pop culture had some things right. They enthralled humans. They burned in the sunlight. They liked to sleep in coffins and Jackson said they were a real bitch to keep from resurrecting. But garlic, silver, and stakes to the heart were useless. Decapitation was the best strategy.

As she crept down the hallway, she relaxed a little. Her heart still pounded and her shirt clung to her sweaty skin. Yet she could breathe. She’d practiced fighting for weeks, while Jack and Amber taught her about nightlings. She had some idea of what to do. And so far, all the wounds looked like what she imagined her hatchet would do to a person. And none of the bodies had been Jackson or Amber.

Remember what Jack said: Staying calm keeps you alive. Maybe whatever Jack has to do to keep them dead takes a long time.

The main staircase loomed to her right. Chelsea gave the empty living room a cursory glance before inching up the stairs. Halfway up, a scream rang out.

Chelsea couldn’t stop her own startled scream in response.

“Henry!” A woman’s voice snapped in the darkness. “There’s someone else in the house. Bring them to me.”

Chelsea fled back down the stairs, towards the basement. The broken window meant freedom.

At the bottom of the stairs, a body slammed into her. Her head bounced off the wooden floor with a sharp flash of pain. Her ax slipped out of her grip and spun across the floor.

Instinct took over and Chelsea screamed again. This cry was a primitive bellow as she flailed wildly at her attacker, kicking and punching blindly. She connected with the man’s face. She felt more than heard the heavy crack under his skin as her fist slammed into his jaw.

As he moaned, she scrambled out from under him. Her ax glinted dully from a few feet away. Chelsea skittered over to it, scooped it up, and spun back to the man.

He wavered to his feet. “My master, she wants you.”

‘Master’? He’s a minion.

The man lunged for her, and instinct took over once more. Chelsea swung the ax. The sharp blade bit into the man’s neck. As blood oozed down to coat the handle and her hand, the man struggled feebly. A wet gurgle escaped his lips as he sank to the floor.

“Henry!” The woman called down the stairs.

Chelsea tugged on the ax as the stairs creaked under someone’s weight. The head had gotten caught on something in the minion’s neck. Chelsea yanked with all her might.

The ax came loose with no warning. The loss of tension sent Chelsea straight to the floor. She sat there, stunned and tailbone aching, clutching her ax.

“Henry?”

The nightling’s voice sent more fear down her spine. The need to run away sent Chelsea to her feet and towards the basement.

Jackson…

Chelsea froze. Jackson and Amber were still somewhere in the house. She took a deep breath. Her brain kept screaming at her to run away. Instead, she crept to the kitchen and looked for a place to hide.

***

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