Blood…there was so much blood. The metallic tang in my mouth was overpowering, and yet not as unpleasant as I would have expected it to be. I lifted my hand to inspect it curiously, marvelling at the slick crimson liquid it was drenched in. Was this blood all mine? If so, then surely I wouldn’t be alive. And yet, nobody else was crying for help, nobody else was screaming in agony. A strange sense of detachment had filled me, but I knew for certain that this must be my blood, and I would most definitely feel the pain soon enough. I wondered briefly how I knew that; unless I had suddenly become psychic! I would have snorted at my own stupid comment if it weren’t for the gravity of my current situation.

‘Alice! Al, come on, we have to get you to a hospital, right now!’ The panicked exclamation startled me; I had forgotten that I was not alone, but my head had seemed so hollow and my dark thoughts had submerged me into isolation. In fact, my best friend had stumbled over me when I was lying on the ground in a pool of blood. Her voice was more shrill than usual, and her eyes were round and glassy. Every so often she would sniff heavily, as though she were about to cry.

‘N-no, not hospital,’ I mumbled through slowly numbing lips before coughing deeply. My friend tried to protest, but I insisted, ‘I can’t go to a hospital. You know this was no accident, not something normal stitches can sort out. Besides, that would freak out every other patient there. I need that school, that headmaster. You know, Cross Academy, I need Headmaster Cross. I know it’s him, he’s the only person we’ve ever heard of that can help in the event of a vampire attack. It’s the only hope I have – just look at all this blood.’ Hearing the circumstances out loud shook me slightly in making it more realistic, but my words were still coherent and sure – thankfully.

I spat the mouthful of my own blood onto the grass, intrigued by the silver shimmer the moonlight cast on its deep crimson colour. The smell was sharp and bit into my nose strongly; it smelt like iron filings and salt and lighter fluid all mixed together. It was a smell that usually repulsed me, but now I barely noticed it; it was like a background smell – if there was such a thing. There was so much blood…it was all gushing out of two small but deep pierce marks on my neck, I now realised. The mark of a vampire…A legend that had been scoffed at for centuries, but now turned out to be true…and every bit as scary as the campfire myths suggested. The consequences of this evening preoccupied me: would I become a bloodthirsty monster, just like them? But I forced those thoughts away, for they could have no positive outcome. If I didn’t focus purely on my next move, I wouldn’t live long enough for there to be any consequences.

‘Cross Academy,’ I repeated, to try and push myself into action. ‘It isn’t far, just on the outskirts of town. You…don’t have to come if you don’t want to…’ I watched my friend anxiously, waiting for her reply. I didn’t move towards her; I knew it would frighten her.

I stumbled through the city in a blur, struggling to put one foot in front of the other. My friend had abandoned me when I had given her the option, dithering mindlessly when I knew her answer from the start. Lying with fake apologies, she had hurried away, leaving me to fight my way – alone – to Cross Academy. I knew why she had run…she was scared. She was scared of the blood, but more so of me…and of what I might become. And yet I was not allowed to be frightened, I couldn’t simply run away; I had to keep pushing forward regardless of my feelings.

The wrought iron gates finally loomed into view, splitting the indigo sky with their black, glinting in the stars’ feeble light. Over the metal frames crawled intricate, spiralling designs that seemed very gothic and very old-fashioned. I pushed on one handle experimentally, and I was glad to find that the gate swung open easily. It was very fortunate that they were well oiled and unlocked; I could feel my strength slipping away as more of my blood did. I didn’t stop to consider just how fortunate I was – could it be purely coincidental, or was somebody expecting me?

The grass was slippery with early morning dew already, so I knew to hurry before morning lessons began – not that I knew where I was headed. That was the first moment that I really began to worry. What if I couldn’t find the Headmaster? And what if I did find him, but the Headmaster couldn’t actually help? After all, all I had to go on were rumours that the reclusive Night Class here was made up of vampires, living under the protection and mercy of Headmaster Cross. They could well be humans, the same as the rest of the world.

‘Hello,’ I called softly, afraid to disturb anything that wouldn’t want disturbing, ‘Hello? Is anybody here?’ I paused to cough more blood out of my airways before forcing my legs to move again. ‘Please,’ I cried weakly.

‘What are you doing here?’ Despite the harsh edge to the unfamiliar voice, I could have laughed in relief. ‘Who are you?’

‘Help, I need help please,’ I gasped, stumbling towards the source of the voice.

Then the boy strode closer, and I finally got to see him. A look of distress was etched into his mature face, early age in his young grey eyes. He shoved a mop of beautiful platinum hair back distractedly before speaking again. ‘I guess I should take you up to the school…tonight is bad,’ he muttered, seemingly to himself, ‘Why did it have to be tonight?’

I coughed again, a chesty cough that caused more blood to dislodge itself, causing a look of panicked pain to spread over the boy’s face. I would have placed him at perhaps seventeen, and he was a little taller than me, but he seemed to have faced some events that had forced him to grow up early.

‘I know tonight is bad for you, but you shouldn’t let that get in the way of saving her life. I’ll take her up to the infirmary if you go and inform Headmaster Cross. Don’t worry, I’ll look after her.’ A stronger male voice sounded across the grass, but I didn’t have enough energy left to turn. ‘I know you don’t like us, but put your grudge behind you for a minute. It’s getting late; the Day Class will be out soon to sneak up on the Night Class. And by the looks of her – and all that blood – if you don’t get her some help soon, then she might not make it.’ The silver haired boy in front of me seemed to argue internally for a while, his face contorting with the weight of his thoughts, before he finally nodded and sprinted away, his long legs striding effortlessly to carry him over the grass quickly.

‘I’m Akatsuki Kain,’ the new voice informed me calmly, ‘I’ll get you up to the school. You don’t have to worry anymore. And like I said, I’ll take you to the infirmary so the school nurse can look after you.’

I felt two strong arms encircle my waist and haul me up effortlessly, and then I was gliding easily through the schools grounds in the hold of a complete stranger, blood still flowing relentlessly. And yet despite all of those facts, I felt safe and comfortable in the sturdy grip that held me carefully to the stranger’s chest.

‘T-thank you,’ I whispered, ‘thank you…’ I peeked up to see a gentle chalky face surrounded by wild, blonde hair. I noted the way his fringe spiked over alert, honey coloured eyes and the reassuring smile that hinted at kindness, and then my vision dissolved into a lonely black.