Um, and there’s a scary something out there that just broke in upstairs! And is CALLING OUR NAME!

While we’ve been pretty badass lately, it’s time to dial back on the Buffy juice and get real. By running away! You unanimously chose A.  snap out of it, and say, “Neil, get us out of here!”

Keep reading to find out what happens next.

Chapter 17: For a Dose of Reality, Turn To Page 206

“Neil, get us out of here!” you shriek. Jacob still has a grip on your arms, thank God, or you’d be headed upstairs toward that creepy voice.

“Jacob, take both the girls and RUN!” Neil says. “I’m going to stay and fight this guy. I’m tired of dealing with this shit.”

Jacob looks defiant, but Neil stands his ground. Shrugging, he shoves you and Kayleigh out the door and into his car. “Take my keys,” he says, and orders you to go straight back to your house. “Don’t open any doors or windows. DON’T let anyone in. I’ll be there as soon as I can, but I’m sure as hell not running away to let Neil play hero.” And then Jacob disappears back inside.

You look wide-eyed at Kayleigh, then over her shoulder. A tall, skeletal figure in black, tattered rags is disappearing into the upstairs window of Jacob and Kayleigh’s house

“What the hell? He’s just going to leave us alone? I don’t think so, big bro,” Kayleigh says, and wrenches open the car door. “C’mon. We have to go back in there.”

Jeez. What IS this? you wonder. Do I LOOK like Buffy Summers? Or even Willow?

“Wait,” you say to Kayleigh. “We can’t just barge in there unarmed.” You pop open the trunk and start rummaging through Jacob’s crap. Does this dude live in his car? You pull out some rope, a couple of wooden stakes, a Swiss army knife (whoa), a lighter and a flashlight. Hey, you never know. You stick the lighter and one of the stakes in your pocket, and hand Kayleigh everything else but the knife. No way are you letting go of that thing, even if the blade is only 1.5 inches long and duller than a nail file. As Kayleigh dashes for the front door, you sigh and follow.

So much for getting out of here, you think.

As you approach the house, you can hear sounds of a struggle coming from the stairs and Kayleigh screaming. Heart pounding, you sneak up to the front door and peek inside, convinced you’re going to see Jacob broken and bleeding at the bottom of the stairs and Kayleigh being dragged away to her death, with only Neil fighting for her life.

“What the eff?!?” you shout. It’s not JACOB at the bottom of the stairs. It’s Neil. And he’s not broken or bleeding, but he’s been tied to the bannister. Jacob is struggling with the creepy thing you saw climbing into the house (ugh — it looks like it’s been dead 1000 years), and Kayleigh is screaming at … Jacob?

“Kayleigh! What the EFF??!?” you repeat. She turns to you and grins. You KNEW there was something sinister about the way she said, “There you are,” when she woke up, old best friend grin or not. And the grin she’s giving you now is NOT an old best friend grin.

Neil grunts, and you break away from Kayleigh’s gaze. You rush over and cut the ropes (WHY did you give Kayleigh the rope?) and he leaps over Jacob and the monster (seriously — he just leapt 15 feet in the air) and pulls it off Jacob. While Neil holds its arms, Jacob looks around for something to bash the creep with, but suddenly it disappears like vapor.

The front door slams. Oh, shizzle. Kayleigh’s gone, running off down the lawn toward the car. Where you left the keys in the ignition. She hops in and is gone, headed toward the run-down, strip-mall part of town. You just stand there, and discreetly look down at your jeans to make sure you haven’t peed your pants. Then you run over to Jacob, who’s sitting on the stairs with his head in his hands. His forehead’s bleeding.

“Are you ok?” you ask, worried.

“I’m fine. God, how could I be so stupid?” he groans. You turn to Neil and give him a “Don’t you even dare say ‘I told you so'” look.

He replies with an innocent, “What?” look, then says, “C’mon, guys. We have to go after them. I know where they’ll be, but we can’t do this alone OR unprepared. First of all,” he says, turning to you, “we have to make sure YOU can’t be influenced so easily by the Ancient One’s powers of persuasion. And it’s past time for us to tell you what’s going on.”

You look at Jacob, who nods, and the three of you head down the stairs and out the door. Neil walks a little way down the street, then stops at a car you hadn’t noticed before and unlocks the doors. You and Jacob climb in, and soon you’re heading away from your safe neighborhood (well, it USED to be safe) and toward an old apartment building downtown.

You’re all silent on the ride, and when Neil parks the car on the street you just quietly get out and follow the boys. You’re through making decisions for now — look where that’s gotten you? Plus, you’re super worried about Kayleigh.

Once inside, the three of you sit down and Neil takes a deep breath.

“Ok,” he says. “Where to begin …”

“Kayleigh –” you interrupt.

“Kayleigh.” He sighs again. “We were able to override the Change, but she didn’t have enough time to recover before the Ancient One appeared. His powers over her hadn’t completely waned, and she had to succumb to his grip on her will. She’s not a vampire, and I don’t think he’ll try to change her now that he’s finally come into contact with you. When you heard him speaking to you, that was him speaking into your mind. He found a way into your consciousness, and you need to learn to block him out or you’ll never be able to resist. We’ll never save your friend — he’s using her as bait to get to you. Once he has you, she’ll be tossed aside.”

Jacob stiffens at this point, but doesn’t speak yet.

“The Ancient One has been around for thousands of years. He’s not the original vampire by any means, but he’s definitely one of the oldest and most powerful around today. Every 50 years, he has to take an innocent in order to strengthen his powers and maintain control over his followers. This time, he chose you. Do you know anything about your grandmother?”

Confused, you shake your head. Your grandmother died when your mom was only a baby, and no one ever talked about it. Your grandfather packed up your mom and her brother and moved as far from Milwaukee as he could right after it happened, and never looked back.

“She was the last innocent he took. An innocent doesn’t have to be a virgin, or a child. Just someone pure of intention. And as her descendent, you’re a very potent symbol to him. He’s been looking for your family for years, slaughtering as he goes.” Hm. That explains the newspaper clipping about Milwaukee. “Look, there’s a lot more, but we’re running out of time. The Ancient One must have followed the trail here, and has been using Finn, Heather and even Kayleigh to get to you. It’s too late for Finn and Heather, but if we hurry we can find Kayleigh. And the thing is, you’re more than just an innocent. You might have what it takes to stop him — it’s in your bloodline. That’s why he took your grandmother nearly 50 years ago.”

You swallow all the questions you have (How do you know this stuff? Did Jacob know all the details? Why is Neil fighting the Ancient One? How old is Neil, anyway?) and just nod. Jacob puts his arm around your shoulder and gives you a reassuring hug. And now your mind’s blank and you couldn’t speak if you wanted to.

“Let’s get her protected and go after Kayleigh,” Jacob says. He takes the ring off his finger and hands it to you. “It’s probably too big, but you’ll need it.” You slip it on your thumb, and even though you A) aren’t remotely interested in getting serious enough for rings and B) you know it’s just for your protection, all you can think is, “OMG Jacob just gave me a ring!” Neil goes into the kitchen and comes back with a cup of foul-smelling tea.

“Drink all of this,” he commands. You look at Jacob, who nods again, and you start to sip. GROSS. You pinch your nose closed with one hand and swallow as fast as you can. It makes you feel a little funny (didn’t your dad always warn you about taking unknown drinks from boys?), and you shudder.

Just as you turn to Neil to hand him the mug, there’s a crash from outside. All three of you look at the window just in time to see a pair of hands let go of the windowsill, followed by another crash.

“Shit,” Neil mutters. “We aren’t ready for this.” And he runs to the window and is gone before you and Jacob can react. Jacob looks at you, and you both rush to the window in time to see Neil running off down the street after … Heather? As you’re processing that image, something HUGE starts pounding on the door. It’s starting to splinter under the impact.

Do you:

A.  climb out the window after Jacob, who’s running after Neil and Heather? They can’t leave you alone now!

B.  grab Jacob’s arm, point to the car keys on the table and take Neil’s car to give chase? Might as well be smart about it.

C.  sit down in the corner and cry? It’s been a long day.

D.  grab Jacob’s arm and the stake from your back pocket and get ready to fight? That potion was more potent that you thought.

Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.