Cherishing Destiny (A Dangerous Destiny) (8 page)

The air was clear enough that they were not in any actual
danger, but he didn’t want to leave them like that.  He went out the back door
of the barn to the adjoining pasture and saw that the fences were in shambles. 
He would have to leave the horses inside for now, but he would make sure
someone in town knew to come and rescue them. 

He spotted a stock tank against the back wall outside and
found it to be half full of water.  A scummy film of soot and ash coated the surface
and he skimmed as much of it as he could before filling a bucket he found in a
tack room.  He methodically watered the horses and muttered nonsense to them
trying to calm them.  He found some feed as well, and since he couldn’t let
them out to pasture, he fed them too. 

It had been many years since he owned any horses, but as
his primary mode of transportation for several centuries, he knew very well how
to care for them and they were much calmer when he left. 

He jogged the rest of the way to town, mostly on the
shoulder as the road was so cracked and uneven that it was difficult to travel. 
Twice more he had to leap over the open fissures that were criss-crossing the
area.  One was nearly five feet wide,
so a crevasse?

The smoke was getting thicker as he approached the edge of
town.  He could actually hear the fires roaring and at least three small
explosions in the distance.  The wind was picking up, but seemed to be swirling
around without direction.  It did help to dissipate the haze, and he got his
first real look at Saratoga Springs when he crested a small hill at the edge of
town. 

He stopped where he stood, for the vantage of the hill. 
Everywhere was devastation.  Homes and buildings were reduced to rubble.  Whole
neighborhoods appeared to be burning.  Cars on the streets looked as if they
had been tossed around by a giant child playing matchbox.  Worse yet, he could
see bodies and smell the blood.  He began to doubt that he would find any help here
for Sara and all things considered, her condition seemed pretty good, in
comparison to the destruction he was witnessing.  He saw live people as well,
many trying to help others, but more often wandering or crying.  He also saw
looters.  As if the damage wasn't serious enough, they crashed through whatever
was in front of them that still seemed intact.  He could not understand their
desire to destroy.

He heard another explosion and turned to look for the
hospital.  It was the tallest building in the town of 28,000 (technically a
small city), but where he should have been able to see it above the trees of
the park next to it, there was nothing.  The building was gone, and he cringed
at the thought of a pancaked concrete monstrosity.  The whole town looked like
a big budget disaster movie. He knew there was nothing he could do and that he
should not try to go on into that chaos.  There was no help there. He turned
back to the road.

He shelved the idea of finding a car to drive back.  Even
if, he found one undamaged enough to drive, the road was not in passable
condition.  He would have to walk back.  He started out in a jog.  After seeing
the destruction of the town, he was starting to feel as if he had been away
from Aurora and Sara too long. 

As he passed by the driveway to the farm, he remembered
that he was going to send someone for the horses.  He turned into the drive and
hatched a plan.

 

Eleven

Aurora and Sara were leaning against one another, dozing
with their heads touching and still holding hands.

Aurora heard the horses snorting and clomping across the
hard packed dirt path that ran through the walnut grove.  She woke Sara with a
hand over her mouth as a warning to stay silent.  Sara’s eyes were wide, but
she nodded to Aurora, who released her. 

Aurora pointed outside and then touched her ear in a gesture
to Sara that she was hearing something.  Sara nodded again, and Aurora slipped
out of the open faced shed and into the trees. She circled around and
approached the horses from behind. 

As she drew closer, there was no mistaking the man that sat
on the lead animal.  She didn’t need to see his face to know him.  The wind
shifted without warning, and her scent carried to the animals that reacted as
if they smelled a predator. 
Not fair, why didn’t they ever treat Alex that
way?
 He scented her too and slid from the horses back to wait for her. 
She walked straight into his arms, and he hugged her tight to his body.

“Horses?” she asked when he let her loose enough to breathe.

“I will explain everything to you soon, but right now I
want you and Sara to grab anything in the shed that might be useful and mount
up.”

“Mount up, did you say, Alex? I’m wearing a bathrobe!” She
was certain she sounded sarcastic, but he deserved it. 
Mount up! Humph!

“Oh. Well… yeah…” His eyes swept down over her body
appreciatively.  Dirty bathrobe or no, she was still smokin’ hot.  The corner
of his mouth twitched a little as he tried to keep from laughing at her
predicament. “I’m sorry, Love, but I am being serious.  We’re going to have to
figure something out.  Things are bad, and we can’t stay here in an open shed.”

She gave him a withering look, but went to go find what she
could.

In the end, Aurora had to ride side saddle, quite a feat
without an actual saddle. The only things of use they had found in the shed
were a small box of tools and a propane camping lantern, with the little tank
about two-thirds full.  

They arrived at the barn and Sara began scooping handfuls
of water from the stock tank into her mouth, drinking as fast as she could and
not even caring about the ashy taste.  Her stomach cramped from the sudden onslaught
of cool water.  She did not want to bring it all back up, so she sat down with
her back against the wall and waited for her stomach to settle.  The sun was
low on the horizon, and the sky was painted in pinks, oranges and purples of
incredible intensity.

Aurora joined Sara outside and gasped when she first saw the
sky.  She looked to Sara. “Is it always like this?” she gushed.

“Not usually quite this colorful. I think it must be the smoke
or something.” Sara shrugged.

Aurora was surprised at Sara’s casual attitude and thought
that it must be incredible to have seen so many sunsets in your life that you can
take them for granted.  She laughed softly at herself when she realized that she
must have been like that too, when she was alive; otherwise she would be able
to remember what they had looked like back then. 

They searched through the barn and tack room for anything
that they could use and built a nest of straw and horse blankets in the loft to
sleep in later.  Alex was digging through the pockets of an old jacket hanging
from a nail in the tack room and found a partially smashed Snicker’s bar that
was still sealed in the wrapper.  He tossed it to Sara, who ate it as if it was
the first meal she had eaten in a week. 

Sara found a sack of old clothes that it looked like
someone was using for rags.  Some of the old shirts had already been torn into
pieces, but she found a couple of old, holey t-shirts that Aurora and Alex
snatched up immediately.  She was still wearing her uniform dress, and she
thought that it looked a lot better than anything in the rag bag, so she kept
her own clothes on. 

Alex’s t- shirt was a little tight, and she grinned
naughtily at the picture he made with his muscled chest and arms, stretching
the cotton to its limits. 

She also found an old pair of jeans with plenty of holes
also.  Aurora claimed those and they both laughed when the legs were too short,
but the waist was so big that they would have fallen around her ankles if she
had not found a length of rope to tie them up with.  Alex just tied the sleeves
of his coveralls around his waist and wore them like pants. 

When the hilarity of their little camping adventure began
to fade, they grew quiet, each in their own thoughts until Aurora said, “Alex,
I think you should tell us what you found.”

All three of them lay on the blankets in the straw in the
loft and Alex told them about everything he had seen.  He left out the description
of the bodies, but the women were not fooled, they inferred what he would not
say. 

After a while, they all slept, exhausted, but Aurora woke
every time she heard the horses stir below.  She wasn’t sure what she was
worried about, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was coming.

 

Twelve

In the morning, Alex opened his eyes to narrow shafts of
light stabbing between the boards of the loft wall to land on his face.  How odd
to sleep at night and wake in the day, he thought.

He heard the women talking softly below and he bypassed the
ladder and jumped lightly to the floor below, landing on the balls of his perfectly
healed feet, like a cat, almost silently. 

“Show off,” Aurora commented looking thoroughly
unimpressed.

Sara looked a little impressed, however, and he flashed his
brilliant smile at her and said, “Good morning, Ladies.”  He shook his head a
little. “Do you know that I can’t actually remember the last time I wished
someone a good morning?  Morning! Just think of that!”

“Alright,” Aurora said. “I admit, It is pretty great.”

“It would be a little better with some breakfast. I am
starving!” Sara informed them.

“We are definitely going to have to come up with a plan,
something more substantial than squatting in a neighbor’s barn.” Alex rubbed
his chin thoughtfully.  “Sara, did you say that the radio interference was
supposed to be temporary?”

“Radio interference is supposed to be temporary, but
earthquakes and blinding auroras aren’t supposed to be part of the deal either,
so don’t count on it,” she replied.

“I think that I should go back to the house this morning
for the CB just in case.  Also, I would really like to bury old Nate.” His lips
drew into a grim line. “I don’t think that the funeral homes are picking anyone
up for burial just now, and I don’t want to leave him like that.”

“We could go with you.” Aurora offered. 

“I think it would be better if you stayed here.  I won’t be
long. Maybe you can come up with some ideas while I’m gone.” He squeezed her
shoulder.

When he rode off, Aurora decided to have a look around the
property.  The house was literally burned to the ground, but she decided to
take a look anyway.  At the edge of the yard, she spotted a cellar door.  The
wind, which had picked up considerably since yesterday, had covered it with so
much dirt that she almost missed it because it blended in with the yard around
it.  She pulled open the door and revealed a set of steps leading into the
darkness below. 

Darkness was not a problem for her Vampire sight, so she
went in to explore.  The cellar was small, maybe 12’ by 12’, but had a half
dozen sets of shelves lining the walls.  Each of the shelves held dozens of
glass canning jars that appeared to be filled.  It was too dim even for her
eyes to see what the contents were, so she pulled a jar from the nearest shelf
and muscled it open.  The odor of peaches filled the little room. 

Aurora grabbed a few jars and carried them back to the
barn.  When Sara looked up at her, she made a little curtsey and said, “Breakfast
is served m’lady.” 

Sara was thrilled. She sniffed at the open jar of peaches.  “Do
you think they are okay?” she asked hopefully.

“I would be able to smell it if they were bad,” Aurora
assured her. “Eat what you want; there must be hundreds more. 

The jars were not labeled, but Sara could see that Aurora
brought two jars of peaches, one of something that looked like possibly apple
butter and another that looked like pickled green tomatoes. She decided to
stick with the peaches for her breakfast, and she ate a whole jar in minutes,
even sipping at the sugary liquid they were floating in. She laughed at herself
when she dribbled down her chin, and Aurora laughed with her. 

Sara wiped her chin, feeling so much better for having
eaten.  “Aurora, what about you and Alex? How long can you go without feeding?”

“I’m hungry,” Aurora said, “but it will be several days
before lack of blood actually starts to affect us in any significant way. At
least, I think so.  Obviously, something is happening to us.  You know that we
can walk in the sunlight, but that’s not the only change. I have been feeling a
little off, not quite as strong, and I have a fluttery feeling in my stomach as
if it’s a bit upset.”

“Maybe you should take my blood.” Sara blurted the words
out quickly so that she wouldn’t have a chance to chicken out. 

It wasn’t the part about giving blood that she was concerned
about, but she was afraid she would be too embarrassed to tell Aurora that she
wouldn’t mind being bitten.  She blushed when she thought of the fantasies she
had indulged in starring Alex and Aurora. 

Aurora looked at Sara’s flushed cheeks and knew exactly
what that was all about. The Lake Vampires were so magnetic that they were
often propositioned.  “Let’s wait and see what happens,” she said. Sara looked
so embarrassed that Aurora was compelled to add, “Sara, I sincerely thank you
for your offer, and I may have to take you up on it in a day or two if you truly
mean it.”

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