EIGHT YEARS AGO, my father slaughtered my mother. He tied her down on the dining table with guy ropes and slit her throat with the bread knife. It wasn’t sharp. There was so much blood I thought it would never stop.
I screamed. I thought I’d never stop.
My father left me there, ten years old and elbow deep in the pulsing river of my mother’s life. He told me he was sorry. My fingers burned to use the knife on him. With blood tingling over my skin, I swore I’d have my revenge.
I called the cops, of course; I was ten, not stupid. I told them what I’d seen, and they bounced me along the foster-care chain after booking me appointments with Phyllis. She gave me lollipops and sympathetic glances over her gold-wired glasses. It didn’t help. I had to see her, though, until at last I promised I was starting to heal.
When I was fourteen, we did archery for sport at school. I loved it: it was soothing, focused—and practical. I sliced my finger on an arrow that first time, testing to see if it could kill a man. The blood got all over my bowstring. I never missed a shot.
I joined the local archery club, working clean up in their café to pay the fees. At sixteen, I was winning state tournaments. At seventeen, I won the nationals.
At eighteen, it was time to hunt him down.
On impulse I sat down with a phone book. As I opened it, the pages sliced my thumb and blood smeared across the page. I hissed sharply, but dialled the bloodied number. It was him; I’d know his voice beyond the grave.
He agreed to meet me at the Okahawa Trail, too eager for anything that smacked of reconciliation to have a sense of self-preservation. I shot him. I would have been a good, clean kill too, right in the throat—a nice sense of irony, I thought—but the arrow had been knocked a little off course by a freak gust of wind.
I could have walked away, left him to die. The bolt was only a standard cut-on-contact broadhead; any local deer hunter would have used the same. But since he was going to be alive for another minute, I figured he might as well know why I’d done it.
I didn’t expect the tears. My own, I mean; I assume it’s pretty normal for your eyes to fill with liquid when you’ve had your throat sliced and about to die. But as I stood over him, desperately bricking up the wall around my feelings, tears welled up and overflowed. “You bastard,” I whispered. “Why did you kill her?”
He stared up at me with eyes wide—fear, pain, who could tell?—gasping and gurgling as the blood oozed away.
My stomach knotted; a bread knife, guy ropes tied to the dining table, my forearms tingling, up to my elbows in my mother’s blood. Disgusted, I turned to walk away.
“Wait,” he rasped. “Stop.”
I stopped, but didn’t turn around.
“She… was trying… kill you.”
I whirled on him. “How dare you. How dare you! You, you murderer!” I spat.
“Blood,” he wheezed. “Her blood.”
“Yes,” I said, locking him in a steely glare. “There was a lot of blood. I should know; you abandoned me in it.”
“Not… abandoned. Saved.”
I snorted and walked off.
“Cassie. Your blood. You never miss.”
I froze. “How do you know that?” How could he possibly know the reason why the club members called me Zero? How did he know I’d never missed a shot?
“She… same. You get… from her.”
I inched back around to face him, pulse pounding in my chest like it might break through my ribs and explode. “What are you saying?”
“She… Your mother… Fae.”
The rough trunk of a tree hit my back, saving me from lurching to the ground.
“The blood… you have her blood.”
My mind whirled as I remembered every incident I’d passed off as coincidence, all those times I’d thought I’d just been lucky—and blood. Every time, the blood. “Why did you kill her?” I whispered.
“She would have killed you. The Blood”—I heard the capital letter this time—“calls to blood. Any… any daughter of hers… competition.”
I sank to the ground beside my father. The ooze of red at his neck was coming thicker now. Desperation surged. I snatched at my sweater, tearing ineffectually before stripping it off to press against his wound. “She wanted to kill me?” I said, still whispering. This time, it wasn’t the memories of luck that came, but of unluck: of all the times I’d nearly died before I was ten. The time I fell in the gap between the train and the platform; the time I fell from a second storey balcony and rolled down concrete steps. My grandparents used to joke that I was made of rubber, that I was the most accident-prone child they’d ever seen.
I didn’t have a single accident after I was ten.
“It wasn’t… her fault,” he said through the gasps. “The Blood. You have her power. It … drove her crazy. Blood… never share its power.”
My father’s blood seeped through my sweater and stickied my fingers. I stared at the red-streaked whorls of my left-hand fingerprints. Was it true? Abruptly, I had to know. I snatched another arrow from my quiver and sliced the tip across my palm. I let the blood well for a moment. A tingling sensation covered the palm of my hand, familiar and comforting—and unright. It wasn’t the feeling of injury, but something more; my lifeblood pulsing with energy—and power.
The truth crushed me, robbing my lungs of air. My mother had tried to kill me, more times than I could remember. My father had killed her to save me. And I’d come here for revenge.
I stared as the blood of the one who’d murdered to save me ebbed away. “I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I’m so, so sorry.”
He didn’t answer, his face grey and clammy.
I hated him for killing my mother, even if she had been trying to kill me; I hated him for making me what I’d become, for not telling me, for not trusting me. But I couldn’t hate him if he was dead.
I pressed my wounded palm against his neck. My blood had been keeping me safe for eighteen years. Time to find out what it could really do.