B1 — S1. Terror

Scarlet took a deep breath as she awoke, stretching under her soft fabric sheet.  Shifting her back, she pulled her braided long black hair out from under her as she changed positions against her satin pillowcase.

She yawned, opening her blue eyes to stare at her bedside clock.  “Ugh,” she moaned. It’s seven P.M. … mom and dad are still home.

Pushing herself up against her headboard, the bed-frame creaked.  She cracked her neck, before pulling her blue blankets up to her stomach.  Dully examining her room, she breathed a heavy sigh. She had posters and pictures everywhere showing what her parents hated the most, vampire hunters; she didn’t particularly like some of them, but just annoying her vampire crazed parents was enough for her.

She looked at her red laptop beside her, lying atop her full-sized bed.  What should I do tonight?  I could draw … Minicho could be on Discord, but she can get annoying with that represent phase she’s in.  Maybe I should just look for some Netflix shows and pretend I’m not online.

She glanced back at her clock.  Should probably wait for mom and dad to go to their secret vampire club before going down to make dinner.  She frowned, eyes darting to her stomach as it growled.  Ramen tonight?  Maybe mom or dad have some leftovers in the fridge.

She breathed through her teeth with frustration as a knock sounded at her door, her mother’s voice following.  “Scarlet, you awake? I thought I heard your bed.” I hate this metal bed, and of course, they had to get it in red!

“Yeah, mom.  What’s up?” She said with a bit of annoyance in her tone.

Her mom opened the door; Scarlet was a little shorter than her, but her mom worked out, so she was a lot more filled out than her skinny daughter.  Her black hair shifted as her brown eyes appraised the room with disdain. “We’re hosting the gathering tonight.”

“That right,” Scarlet said dryly.  “Joanna and Florence coming to tonight’s gathering?”

“Of course,” her mom said brightly.  “We’re going to be doing the Bloody Ritual of Kartash!  I developed the incantation myself.” She said with pride.  “We’ll be channeling the primeval forces of the blood deity, Marvok, to bring about the incarnation of Scarlet herself.”  She was almost bouncing on her toes.

“Uh-uh,” Scarlet puffed a breath through her mouth.  “The same blood god Scarlet that you named me after?”

“Yeah, the very same!  We’ve been preparing the proper ingredients for this ritual for three months!”

Lips pursed, Scarlet nodded before folding her arms.  “Right, like the last thirteen attempts to summon Scarlet’s incarnation.  The last one was at Johnny’s barn, right? The one that you spent two hours reciting from that massive script—that you forced me to listen to?”

“Oh, no,” her mother shook her head.  “No, that was to call forth Ravilla, her apostle.  We hoped it would work since we’d used Round Island Boa skin, but that didn’t work either.  We needed something more powerful.”

“Yeah, that’s the problem,” Scarlet muttered, head falling back to her headboard.  “Explain to me again how channeling Marvok, a blood deity, is going to bring Scarlet, a god, into this world?”

“It’s complicated,” her mother said with a sad smile.  “You wouldn’t understand.”

“Huh,” Scarlet huffed.  “I guess you’re right—anything good to eat downstairs?”

Her mother didn’t answer as she stared at a new poster she’d just added above her desktop computer desk.  “Is that Trevor C. Bel—really, Scarlet? You know Trevor worked with Alucard, the son of Dracula.”

“Is that right?”  Scarlet said with a frown, scooting off her bed, she went to the poster and tore it off the wall, ripping it in two.  “Thanks for letting me know—I’ll get another picture of Abraham Van Helsing.”

“Honestly,” her mother said with a disapproving tone.  “Why do you insist on provoking your father and I?”

“Hey, you like the sparkly Vampires,” Scarlet said, smashing the ripped poster into a ball.  

Her mother’s eyes narrowed.  “Those are not Vampires; such a ridiculous concept.”

Scarlet smiled.  “Hey, they’re called Vampires right; so, you must like them.  You like Vampires, I hate them. To each their own, right?”

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Her mother huffed.  “I know you just do it to spite us; you’ll get over that phase eventually—we ordered KFC for the gathering.  Come down and grab a plate.” She shut the door.

“Don’t count on it—and I’ll be down to get some in a minute!”  She fumed. “Freaking Vampire fanatics. You’re the reason I always got bullied in school.”  She muttered, dropping back on her bed. What am I going to do with my life?  Everyone I knew are off working or getting ready for college.  Earning my own money might be good; maybe I’ll see if I can make some commissions off drawing online.  She groaned as she heard the doorbell.  All the Vampire freaks are here.

Hoisting herself up, she went to her bathroom and frowned at her morning looks.  What can I do to embarrass mom and dad?  How about a Solomon Kane shirt; they hated that show.  They should stop giving me an allowance … nevermind, I’d rather they didn’t.  Stretching, she began getting ready.  After showering and brushing out her hair, she changed into a comfy black sports bra and underwear before donning a black Solomon Kane shirt and black pajama bottoms.  Looking at herself in the bathroom mirror, she stretched a little before going downstairs. She heard the current conversation as she descended the stairs.

“Jeremy, Adele, this will be the night!”  Kris said with enthusiasm.

“Indeed,” her mother said.  “Three months to work out the kinks.  We are the chosen ones; we’ve sacrificed and worked for so many years for this moment!”

She glanced at the twenty-two people gathered in their large front room with a sigh; she caught sight of the newest member of her parents’ roleplay group, Kyle, and it appeared he brought a guest; a giant black-haired man that made her nervous.

“Ah, Scarlet, just waking up?”  Joanna asked with a bright smile as Scarlet hovered between the kitchen and front room.

She caught her parents’ scowls at her shirt and Florence shook his head.  “Solomon Kane…” Yes!  Just the effect I wanted.

“I thought it was appropriate for the occasion,” she said with an innocent smile.

Her mother sighed with exasperation before turning back to the group.  “Alright, we’ll begin by reciting the ancient text before we begin the ritual.”  A thought seemed to surprise her as she turned to her daughter. “Hmm, Scarlet, we need some hair for the ritual.  Could you go up and get your brush for us?”

“What?  Seriously…”  Scarlet muttered with a furrowed brow.  “Use your own hair…”

Her father spoke up.  “Scarlet, we need hair from someone named Scarlet to link to the incantation.”

Scarlet puffed out a long breath as every eye locked on her.  “Whatever…” She slowly walked upstairs, muttering, “You named me Scarlet for rituals … didn’t you.”  Wait … how many times have they taken something of mine to use in a ritual without telling me?  They’re so weird, but they’ve been like this all my life … the only change is the number of people that roleplay with them.  I guess it makes them happy…

Grabbing her brush, she brought it back downstairs and handed it to her mom.  “You aren’t going to burn my brush, right?”

“Don’t be silly,” her mother said with a bright smile.  “I’ll return it when we’re done.”

Eyebrows lifting for a second, Scarlet huffed.  “Right. Well, I’m going to go get some food and watch Netflix.”

Her mother nodded, several of the other members waving as she left to the kitchen.  Wow, they really ordered a lot.  Grabbing a plate, she piled it with mashed potatoes, chicken, and corn before grabbing two water bottles; putting them under her armpit, she walked back upstairs with her plate.  The group was chanting some bogus spell her mother had written, waving her brush in the air. All hail the mighty brush of Scarlet!  She giggled, walking into her room and closing the door.

She set her plate beside her keyboard and started her computer.  Putting in her earbuds to drown out her mother’s loud voice, she started watching a drama while eating.  She finished an episode and started the second, cleaning off the last of her plate. Why would Tami…

She froze as she felt a pulse oscillating within her, back and forth; her throat went dry, a spur stinging her gums as her vision tinted red.  She jumped to her feet as her stomach convulsed; without thinking, she ran to her toilet and vomited. Breathing heavily, she glanced forward, the toilet and wall seemed to fade as she saw into the next door neighbor’s house.

Her throat constricted as she watched Ms. Franklin through the walls; she could see her heart pumping blood through her body, easily recognizable by its faint glow.  Clearly visible, she saw her blood, skeleton, muscle, nerves, and organs with a desire; her vivid vision shifting between them in confusion.

“What’s going on?”  She coughed, wiping the dribble away from her lips.  Her hands froze. My fingernails are black?  I didn’t put any fingernail polish on?  Spitting into the toilet, her vision returned to her bathroom, moving to the mirror, she paused.  She couldn’t speak; her eyes were gone; replaced by a seemingly hollow blackness with glowing red irises, deepened further by her red-tinted sight.  Mouth opening, her vision locked on fangs, tongue glazing across them. I’m—no—impossible … my lips, it’s like I’m wearing crimson lipstick and my skin is even paler.  I can’t be a Vampire!

She winced as another spur struck her gums.  This has to be some kind of joke, right?  What if … did mom’s spell actually work? How else could this happen to me?  Turning her vision to the front room, she looked through the walls with a desire; no one.  Her focus moved to the basement; twenty-one bodies of life, her vision shifted to the front yard as she watched someone else staring up at the sky; it was Kyle’s guest.  She swallowed, eyes widening as he turned into a bloody mist, floating across the street. What is happening?

She ran downstairs; her hands fumbled with the basement door, but it was locked from the other side.  Pounding her fist against the door, she heard a snap as she indented the oaken frame. “Mom!” I need to get into…  Her thought froze as shadow surrounded her and she was standing behind her mother.

“This can’t be right,” her mother whispered.  “We did everything correctly…”

“Adele,” Joanna muttered, pointing behind her with shock.

Her mother turned to stare into her daughter’s eyes.  “Scarlet?”

“Mom…” she said in a panic, but her eyes centered on a closed casket.  She licked her lips reflexively, swallowing. “Why is that casket full of blood?”  She took a deep breath; it felt intoxicating. “What’s going on, mom?” She whispered.

Scarlet’s skin prickled as her mother dropped to her knees with tears of joy dripping down her cheeks.  “My daughter, you have become the avatar of Scarlet herself! We succeeded.”

“No—no,” Scarlet took a step back, bumping into the wall.  “I’m—that’s not…” The rest of the room dropped to their knees except for Kyle that seemed floored.

“Yes, my daughter.”  Her mother breathed with reverence.  “You are the prophesied savior of the world; you will bathe in the blood of the non-believers and create a kingdom of the night to last an eternity!  We are your faithful apostles on this mortal plane that will slaughter any who oppose your will.”

Tears began dripping down Scarlet’s eyes.  “Mom—you’re scaring me. Dad…”

Her father bowed further.  “Yes, the bloody tears of the avatar will start the christening of the Monarch of Death—Scarlet, The Reaper of Blood has returned to us.”

Scarlet started to hyperventilate.  No, what’s going on?  Why are my parents acting like crazy people?  This is all just a roleplay, but this is real for me…  “Stop—please, stop…”  She whispered.

“What…”  Kyle breathed.  “She can’t be real … this is just a cult … it can’t be real.”

Her mother moved to the casket.  “Yes, Kyle, this is very real—the Monarch of Death, Scarlet, has returned.  She must be christened in the blood of her followers; come, Scarlet, your baptism awaits.  Disciples, lift your goddess to her empowerment.”

Scarlet trembled as her parents’ friends, people she’d known for years, closed in on her.  She couldn’t speak; terror gripping her chest as they laid their hands on her, lifting her above their heads.  They chanted as they made their way to the casket her mother had opened, blood glistening in the torchlight around the room.  No … stop … please … I’m scared.

“Stop!”  She screamed teary eyes closed in desperation.  She was momentarily shocked as silence followed.  Opening her eyes, she saw blood spikes branching off from a pool of blood that surrounded her, skewering everyone nearby.  She dropped with the bodies as the solid blood liquified; falling atop the corpses.

“No…”  She breathed, body quivering as her hands pressed against her chest.  “Dad?” Her father’s thrilled features were lifeless as he stared at her, two feet away.  The blood around her flowed into her body, separating from the pools of red spreading across the concrete.  Her nose began to burn. No … I didn’t … I couldn’t…

Her mother’s voice was pained but held such joy.  “I see—this is what’s meant by christened in the blood of her followers … such an honor!”

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Scarlet’s vision shifted to her mother with fear; she saw blood flowing down her stomach, but with her enhanced vision, knew it wasn’t fatal.  “Why, mom … why did this happen? Dad—I killed dad … everyone…”

Her mother’s smile terrified Scarlet.  “We have recorded this glorious moment, my goddess.  Here we are, don’t turn away, my daughter. We will become the foundation on which your throne will be built!  The time has come for you to rise above the rest; to prove your spirit never dies, Scarlet. It’s time, your father has gone to take his throne above; so, don’t weep for him for this has been the labor of his love.”

Scarlet stared at her mother in horror.  They’re crazy … actually crazy…  Stumbling to her feet, she tripped a few times across the bodies littering the floor.  Crawling up the stairs, she began pounding the door, wood splintering against her small fists.  “Let me out! Help!”

A man’s voice yelled on the other side.  “Stand back!”

Stumbling back, she heard her mother calling up to her.  “My goddess! You have yet to drink the blood of your following.”

There was a loud bang as the doorknob blew off and Kyle’s guest forced the door open, shotgun in hand.  He froze as he caught sight of Scarlet, cowering a little further down the stairs. Sirens were blaring in the distance.  “What are you?” He breathed, backing up hurriedly as she ran by him, bloody tears staining the floor as she passed. Scarlet wanted to escape; she didn’t know exactly from what, but she wanted to get away; so, she ran from the darkness behind her.

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