Slayer by Kiersten White

To everyone who was never chosen, but who chooses themselves

They, of all people, should have known better than to be in a cemetery as the sun set and night claimed the world.

The hunter watched the mother, straight as a lightning rod jammed into the earth, channeling her grief into the grave where her heart had been buried. On either side of her stood a little girl in pink cowboy boots. They were both skinny and pale, their red curls now leached of color in the darkness.

Darkness was the great equalizer. Everyone was the same in the dark. Colorless. Featureless.


The hunter would keep them that way. It was her job, after all. She turned to the vampire beside her. They were both invisible in the black recess of a mausoleum. “The woman lives. The children are yours.”

Technically only one of the girls needed to die, but it was better to avoid any prophetic loopholes. The vampire strolled out toward the grieving family. He didn’t hide or prowl. He didn’t need to.

One of the girls tugged frantically on her mother’s hand. “Mama. Mama!”

The woman turned wearily, without enough time to be surprised before the vampire threw her. She flew back, hitting her husband’s granite headstone and falling unconscious to the soft ground over him. MERRICK JAMISON-SMYTHE: HUSBAND, FATHER, WATCHER loomed above her in classically carved letters. The hunter wished she could take a photo. It was perfect staging.

“Hello, girls.” The vampire’s glee was audible. The hunter checked her watch. She should have picked a hellhound, or perhaps the Order of Taraka. But they were outside her price range and, frankly, overkill. Two children needed a very minimal amount of kill. And she liked the symmetry of using a vampire.

He held out his arms, as though inviting the children in for an embrace. “You can run if you’d like. I don’t mind chasing. Works up an appetite.”

The two girls, who the hunter had expected to be screaming by now, looked at each other solemnly. Perhaps standing on the grave of their father, who was dead because of a vampire, they felt the truth: This was always their fate.

One of the girls nodded. The other threw herself at the vampire’s legs with such startling speed and fury that the vampire fell backward, tangled up. Before he could kick the girl off, the other one jumped on his chest.

And then the vampire was gone. Both girls stood, brushing dust from their neat black dresses. The second little girl tucked the stake back into her flowery cowboy boot. They hurried over to their mother and patted her cheeks until she stirred.

At least their mother had the sense to be panicked. The hunter sighed, annoyed, as the mother pulled the girls to herself. Now they were all watching the night. Alert. The hunter had hoped to avoid the confrontation of revealing herself, but it had to be done. She pulled out her crossbow.

Her beeper chimed. She looked down at it out of habit, and when she looked back up, the family was gone.

She swore. She should never have used a vampire. That was what she got for trying a bit of poetic tragedy. She had orders to keep their mother alive if possible, and she had wanted their mother to live, alone, having lost everything to the same pathetic half-breed of monster. Punishment for thinking she could hide from prophecy. Punishment for risking the entire world for her own selfish desires.

Well. The hunter would find them again. She flipped up her hood and strode to the nearest gas station. A pay phone waited in an anemic pool of light. She picked it up and dialed the number on her beeper.

“Is it done?”

“No,” the hunter replied.

“I’m disappointed in you.”

“So ground me.” She hung up, scowling, and then went inside the gas station. She had failed to avert the apocalypse, for now.

She needed candy.


OF ALL THE AWFUL THINGS demons do, keeping Latin alive when it deserves to be a dead language might be the worst.

To say nothing of ancient Sumerian. And ancient Sumerian translated into Latin? Diabolic. My tongue trips over pronunciation as I painstakingly work through the page in front of me. I used to love my time in the library, surrounded by the work of generations of previous Watchers. But ever since the most recent time the world almost ended—sixty-two days ago, to be exact—I can barely sit still. I fidget. Tap my pencil. Bounce my toes against the floor. I want to go for a run. I don’t know why the anxiety has hit me differently this time, after all the horror and tragedy I’ve seen before. There is one possible reason that tugs at my brain, but . . .

“That can’t be right.” I peer at my own writing. “The shadowed one will rise and the world will tickle before him?”

“I do hate being tickled,” Rhys says, leaning back and stretching. His curly brown hair has once again defied its strict part. It flops over his forehead, softening the hard line of his eyebrows, which are perpetually drawn close to his glasses in thought or concern. After we finish this morning’s lessons, I’ll tidy up my small medical center, and Rhys will train for combat with Artemis.

I shake out my hands, needing to move something. Maybe I really will go for a run. No one would miss me. Or maybe I’ll ask if I can join combat training. They’ve never let me, but I haven’t asked in years. I really want to hit something, and I don’t know why, and it scares me.

It could be the demonic prophecies of doom I’ve been reading all morning, though. I scratch out my botched translation. “As far as apocalypses go, tickling’s not the worst way to die.”

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