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“This isn’t your fight Ruby, don’t waste your time.”

“It’s everyone’s fight who’s willing to take part in it.”

“Just leave it alone okay, it’s not your life you’re screwing up if this doesn’t work out. You can just run back to your mansion if this all goes to hell.”


“Hey, uh, sorry, I promise I just got here.” Emerson declared quickly, in a panic as he stood outside her apartment, hand still raised as though he were about to knock. He noticed her staring and quickly pulled it back.

“Oh hey, sorry, I was out.” Jo said, trying for a friendly smile.

“No worries, what’ve you been up to?” his eyes drifted to the bandage on Jo’s arm, coat having been removed upon entering the building. “Oh”

Jo followed his gaze, seeing what he was staring at. Her eyes widened a bit in panic. Even in the slums, most bitten tried their best to hide. She took a step back, a cold fear engulfing her.

“Hey hey, it’s okay! I won’t tell, I swear!” Emerson waved his hands frantically, fumbling over his words to try to ease her nerves. He gulped a little before reaching up to pull down his hood. “See” he said, tucking his arms around him uncomfortably. “I’m an abomination.”


“Jo, please, I’m sorry about what happened, can we please talk about this? I get it, I do, but seriously, this is big, please Jo. Please help me.”


Jo sighed, thumb hovering over the “delete” button on her cell. Ruby had called three times before, growing more and more desperate with each call.

She was right though. This was bigger than just her. This was more important than just the life of one insignificant bitten being put on the line. There were people out there like Emerson, dubbed abominations by the upper class, tossed away like trash. Was it selfish of her to hide like this? To pretend none of it was real and that there was no hope of anything better? The voice in the back of her head that only sounded vaguely like her own kept up its mantra of “this is the way things are. This is the way it’ll always be. This is the way it has to be.”

Jo buried her face in her hands, freezing in the cold apartment with the yellow walls and leaky ceiling. She thought of a soft pastel house in the suburbs where her parents still lived. She thought of the diner she used to go to with her dad. She thought of the friend she hadn’t seen since that fateful night that hell found her walking home.


Ruby had stopped calling after a week. Jo had fallen back into the monotony of her life, prospects of a new world all but forgotten. She delivered papers in the morning, and spent the rest of the day trying to fix whatever had broken in her house. It wasn’t a happy life. It never had been, but what bitten was happy? Emerson stopped by every now and then, less frequently now though; Jo suspected her bad mood had something to do with it. Some nights she just said “screw it” and got drunk off tequila in her living room, waking up hungover, sore, and cold.

This wasn’t like her.

There was a knock on the door. It sounded hesitant and shaky. Jo trudged over, engulfed in an old sweatshirt. She looked through the peephole, finding Emerson standing there, face dull and eyes vacant. She swung the door open slowly, the creaking drawn out.


“Turn on the news.” Emerson didn’t even try to play nice. His face just stayed the same stone as she’d seen through the peephole. Jo slowly let him in, making her way over to the beat up picture tube that sat on the coffee table. Emerson sat down on the sofa, still staring straight ahead. Jo pushed the knob in, the remote having been lost long ago. The screen stayed dark. She smacked the side twice, jostling the thing to life, before sinking down next to Emerson.

The setting was familiar. It was outside the clinic where she got blood. The walls had been spray painted in glaring red.


Protect the people

Monsters go to hell

God damns sinners

Kill the bitten


There was an obvious riot outside the building, though it was clear the footage wasn’t live. Among the protesters were both humans and upper class creatures, brandishing signs and flags, and god knows what else. A few pedestrians stopped to call out the mass, and Jo’s jaw dropped in horror as one, a man not much older than her, with twisting horns and clawed hands was dragged down and beaten. A brawl began shortly after, she watched as a woman walked out of the clinic, only to be hit over the head with what looked like a brick. Shots rang out after that, and Jo had to turn away. Riots were common, but this? This was a massacre.

“Seven people were killed.” Emerson spat out, still staring blankly at the television. “Thirty-two injured.”

Jo’s body shook as she broke into hysterical sobs. She knew that building. She knew those people. They were her neighbors; they waited tables at her favorite restaurants; they sold hotdogs on the corner. They were people.

Neither Jo nor Emerson moved until the hours had ticked well into the morning. At two am Jo got up and reached for her cell, locking herself in the bathroom. She sat down inside the shower, not really sure where else to go. The phone rang a few times before a voice answered.


“I’m ready to send the system to hell


Ruby arrived a six thirty that morning, which was quite a feat seeing as her residence was five hours away, but Jo didn’t ask questions. Emerson had passed out on the couch at some point, leaving the two young women to converse in Jo’s bedroom.

“Alright, how are we going to do this?”

“I’ve got a plan.” Ruby declared. “It’s not a good plan, but it’s a plan.”

“Mind sharing?”

“When Mathias employed me, I was just that, an employee, but, as time went on, we grew closer. We were friends, hence why he left his estate to me, but I digress. Anyways, Mathias wanted me to be accepted in the upper circles, but I was just a maid in their eyes. He didn’t particularly care though, so he brought me along as his plus one to the parties. At first people assumed I’d come as an escort, but he made it quite clear I was there as a genuine guest. Naturally most didn’t approve, but I was eventually accepted.”

“So you want to repeat this process with me?”

“And your friend out there, if at all possible. The bitten community and the rest of the ‘undesirables’ are targeted in different ways. I want to represent both, make it clear that this is about more than just vampires.”

“So you think we’re just going to party our way out of the segregation?”

“Oh god no. it’s probably going to be hellish, but it’s the least bloody way to go about it.”

“That’s fair.”


Ruby had made a few calls after that, taken their measurements, and then bolted, leaving Jo and Emerson alone. The weight of the past few hours hit them both pretty hard, leaving them passed out on the couch and the floor respectively.


“I don’t think I’ve ever woken up to someone making breakfast.” Emerson’s sleepy voice carried from the living room.

“Well don’t get your hopes up, it’s store brand toaster waffles and scrambled eggs.” Jo called back, dumping said eggs onto a plate.

“Still better than I’ve ever had.”

“Where’d you come from exactly, I feel like we would’ve run into each other if you’d been in the slums your whole life.” It went unsaid, yet understood that abominations like Emerson hardly ever saw the outside world. They were born that way, and dumped into the slums the moment they were able to breathe on their own.

“I’ve bounced around. My parents dumped me when I was born, some guy found me in an alleyway and then I got tossed from group home to group home until I just kinda left.”

“Oh wow, wouldn’t a hospital have confiscated you and had you sent here?”

“Don’t think I was born in a hospital, can’t be sure, but who knows.”

“Yikes, that’s just a whole bucket of bad.”

“Pretty much. What about you? I mean, I know you’re a bitten, but how long have you been here.”

Jo sighed, sitting down on the couch with her plate, passing one over to Emerson. “Well, I was fifteen when I got bitten. I did the whole hospital thing, you know how it goes, the first bout of hunger sends you into a frenzy and all. So, after I calmed down, they let me see my parents and told me to pack a bag. I haven’t seen them since.” She bit into her waffle, not bothering with utensils. “I never really knew what their stance was on bitten, so I don’t even know if they’d want to see me. Not like it matters, contact isn’t allowed.”

“At all?” asked Emerson, sitting up and tilting his head. His tongue, thin and forked, darted out of his mouth, tasting the air.

“Yeah, they’re afraid families will try to reunite.”

“God forbid.” the boy scoffed, biting into his food.


“Alright you two,” Ruby clapped, having paraded into Jo’s apartment, interrupting her, now regular, breakfast with Emerson. “we haven’t got much time, so I’ll have to fill you in as best I can before I throw you to the wolves.” She’d hauled two covered clothing items in with her and was now laying them out on the coffee table, moving Jo’s coffee cup to the floor.


“So, I’ve had some presentable clothes made for you both, don’t worry, it’s on me. Frankly I couldn’t have you showing up looking like that, no offense.” Her eyes scanned the both of them, eying Emerson’s hoodie and discolored jeans as well as Jo’s crumpled wife beater and pajama bottoms.

“Fair point.” Emerson shrugged.

“Now, the first event we’ll be attending will be next Friday evening. I’ve made a few calls and gotten my plus one extended to a plus two, so technically you’re invited, so long as you don’t read too much into it. There will be a lot of very powerful people there, so just, don’t do anything stupid.”

“You mean besides showing up in the first place?”

“Yes, besides that.” Ruby unveiled the first of the garments, fiddling to straighten the suit on its hanger. “Just don’t piss anyone off, okay?”


“People will likely introduce themselves by their name, title, should they have one, and their breed. I’d suggest you glorify what we’re doing here. Call yourselves civil rights advocates or something.” She pulled back the second wrapping, laying out an A-line red dress next to the suit. “I’ve got shoes ordered for the both of you, don’t worry.” Her gaze fell to Emersons dinged up docs and Jo’s sock clad feet. They weren’t even decent socks, three of her toes were sticking out. “Let’s just not muck this up too bad, alright?” Ruby said, finally settling after having been flitting about the room for so long. Jo raised her coffee in a toast.

“Here’s to not screwing it up.”

Submitted: September 19, 2018

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