Well, that’s usually how my Choose Your Own Adventure books ended. Sometimes I died on Mars. And sometimes I died in the Wild West. But I always ended up dead.

Let’s see if you suffer the same fate.

Where we left off, Heather was fighting with Grinnauld, Neil was fighting off a pack of Guardians, Kayleigh had stabbed Jacob in what has to be the worst case of sibling rivalry evs, and the Ancient One was making you wish you’d spent more time studying Occlumency and less time mooning after Cho Chang.

Last week, you guys AGAIN tied up the votes (the most indecisive CYOAers ever!)! So what’s it going to be, here, in this, the VERY LAST CHAPTER of CYOA? Will it be:

A.  stick with the original plan and get all stabby on the Old Dude, or

B.  let him start sucking yr blood and pray that Grinnald’s whole “it’s INSIDE of you!” thing wasn’t just an inspirational tactic?

I honestly have no clue. Let’s see where the moment takes us, shall we?

Chapter 24: Congratulations, You Have Died

“Come to me, child,” intones the Old Ancient Dude as he beckons you closer. “Come to me, and we can end all of this.”

You stop, tilt your head to the side as if puzzling a big quandry, and finally look around the room, making sure to let your gaze linger on Neil longer than the others.

“Yes. We can end all of this. Right now.”

As you say this, you take out the tiny knife from your pocket. The Ancient One’s nostrils flare briefly, and you can tell that he recognizes the encrusted dagger. But his brief moment of shock is nothing compared to the way his entire face goes slack as you lift up the knife . . . and bring it to rest right next to your own jugular.

“So here’s the deal, Crusty the Clown-Face. You’re going to let every one of my friends go. Grinnald, Neil, Jacob, and Kayleigh. You’re going to let them all walk out of here. If you do, I’ll let you do whatever you want with me.”

The Ancient One smirks. “Child, I could do whatever I like with you now.”

You close your eyes briefly and then look back to him. “Not if I kill myself first. Do you know how quickly a human bleeds out if their jugular is severed? Well, actually, I guess you do. Anyway, you release my friends, or you’ll have to resort to lapping up my blood from the floor, like a dog.”

“What are you doing?” screams Neil from across the foyer. “Are you crazy?”

“I really think . . . . it’s a bad idea . . . . wish you wouldn’t” huffs Grinnald, as he shoves a wooden chair leg through Heather’s chest.

And just like that, Heather is on the ground, lifeless, eyes already glazing over. You think back, again, to the jeers and taunts that have followed you around high school. And then you remember the first day of third grade, when Heather let you sit beside her on the bus, and showed you her Converse high-tops that had hearts drawn on the soles, and how she offered to do the same thing for your shoes. And all of a sudden you can’t remember why or how your friendship dissolved, and the sadness of that, the idea that there is no more Heather to someday reunite with, years from now when you run into one another at the mall, makes your eyes fill up with tears.

The tears only help to stiffen your resolve, as you turn back to The Ancient One and lift your chin. “So, what’s it going to be? Do you want me, or not?”

It seems that neither of you move for a minute, before finally, The Ancient One nods.

“Warren, Andrew,” he snaps to the two Guardians fighting Neil. “Leave him. Leave them all and let them go. We will hunt them down later.”

The Guardians retreat behind The Ancient One, leaving Neil and Grinnald to both rush over to you.

“You can’t do this! Are you crazy?” Neil screams.

“You are even more clever than I thought you were. Good luck,” whispers Grinnauld.

“Get Jacob and Kayleigh out of here.Make sure Jacob’s okay,” you say to Neil. “Now,” you add, seeing that he isn’t moving.

“Come on, Neil,” Grinnald says, tugging at his sleeve. “I can’t carry them all by myself.”

Neil looks at you, again, as if you are betraying him, and then turns away to lift Jacob, now unconcious from blood loss.

As Grinnald and Neil exit the house with Jacob anda thrashing Kayleigh in tow, you bow your head and walk silently up to The Ancient One.

Oh God I hope Grinnald is right, you think silently to yourself. I hope my blood, whatever is in it, is enough to kill this dude.

You approach The Ancient One and slowly push your hair back behind your ear.

“At such a momentous occassion as this, I feel like I should stop and say a few words. About the century-long struggle and the glory of this moment. But. I’m hungry.”

As the Ancient One says this, he sinks his teeth deep into your throat. The pain is overwhelming, and suddenly you realize with a horrible clarity that Grinnald . . . . is wrong.

There’s nothing special about your blood, or maybe the potion has worn off. But you’re pretty sure that whatever’s going on with your red blood cells, they aren’t weakening The Ancient One. At all.

You realize that you only have seconds left to act. Thumbing the ring Jacob gave you to keep The Ancient One from playing mind-meld,you slip the knife back into your hand and, praying that at least one of those stupid vampire experts is right, plunge it straight into The Ancient One’s chest.

And nothing happens. The Ancient One doesn’t even seem to feel it, and blissfully continues draining you of your life source for another 15 seconds.

And then you feel, like an earthquake, a tremor erupting from The Ancient One. He releases you and you fall to the ground. The Ancient One is convulsing in front of you, his skin becoming even more ashen and drawn.

“You . .. you . . .” he trails off as he collapses on the floor. There, with a final shudder, he dies.

YES! I kicked his ASS! you think to yourself. And then, shortly after, OH SHIT I AM SURROUNDED BY VAMPIRES. And also, OW, as the pain in your neck becomes all too clear.

But even as you are trying to figure out how, or even if, you can escape, you notice that all of the junior vamps are undergoing the same change as The Ancient One. One by one they’re dropping to the floor and dying. It must be a chain – maybe everyone who The Ancient One has sired can’t exist without him? That would be awesome! Check you! Doing away with an entire family of vamps at once!

Your self-congratulations are short-lived, however, as you realize how weak you actually are. You lack the energy to stand, so you sort of scoot across the floor on your belly, weakly calling out for Grinnald or Neil to help you.

Your weak cries for help must have been loud enough, or otherwise super-hearing is a vampire trait, because Neil busts through the door, sees you, and picks you up.

“Where is everyone . . .” you whisper.

Neil grits his teeth and walks faster. “Almost there; everyone is outside.”

Soon, you see Grinnald, kneeling over Jacob and pressing his shirt into Jacob’s wound. Whoa, you have time to think. Professor Hottie has got some serious back muscles.

“Put her on the ground here, Neil,” Grinnald says, barely sparing a glance your way. “Then step back.”

You wonder why Grinnald is acting so frosty towards Neil, and you turn your head to Neil to ask what the deal is. That’s when you see the sweat beading his forehead, the grit of his teeth, the concentration in his eyes, and you understand.

“Neil, put me down. It’s okay. Go somewhere else.”

“I can stay. I can fight it,” he pants.

“Don’t be stupid. I’m not willing to be either your temptress or your midnight snack. Go elsewhere until the blood is cleaned up.”

Neil looks at you, closes his eyes, and nods. He deposits you on the grass near Grinnald and takes off for the street. Just before he disappears from view, he turns, and looks at you.

“I’ll see you soon.”

You nod at that, then turn to Jacob. He looks stable, though still unconcious. Suddenly, a thought hits you.

“Where’s Kayleigh?”

“She’s over there, by that tree,” Grinnald says, pointing to a tree a few feet away. “I’m surprised; I had actually expected her to be more trouble – “

You don’t hear the rest of Grinnald’s statement, as fear propels you to crawl, as quickly as you can, to the tree near which Kayleigh is laying. Your worst fears are confirmed as you see Kayleigh, drawn and quivering.

“Oh, God, Kayleigh. Kayleigh, I’m so sorry!”

“‘s okay . .. sorry for getting you into this mess.”

“We can do something! Reverse the process. Maybe if you drink from me, you would -“

“No,” Kayleigh responds softly. “Nothing is going to reverse this.”

“Does it hurt?” you ask, afraid of the answer.

“Like hellfire. Wish . . . it’d go faster. This dying is killing me,” Kayleigh huffs out, followed by a weak grin.

“Funny girl,” you say soberly. Suddenly, Kayleigh grabs your hand.

“Please . . . please just kill me. I need it . . . to be over.”

You shake your head, sobbing. “I won’t! I can’t!”

“You can. Please. Would . . . make this easier.”

You look at Kayleigh. “Do you remember the slumber party we had for your 13th birthday? And how we played Truth or Dare?”

“Made . . . you kiss Jacob. You’re welcome, by the way.”

“Jacob? I don’t – That is, I mean, it’s not . . . ” you trail off lamely.

“Please. I’m dying, not stupid.”

“Anyway,” you respond. “We were playing Truth or Dare, and I picked Truth, and you asked me what my number one, greatest, worst fear in the world was.”

“Spiders,” she replies weakly.

“Yeah. Until now. Love you, Kayleigh.”

“Love you.”

You quickly shove the stake into Kayleigh’s heart before you can stop yourself. She convulses once, then lies silent and still on the grass. Undone, you lay your head on top of her stomach, and weep until everything fades to black.

——–Four Weeks Later ———

You hear the knock on your front door and slowly make your way from the couch, where you are very busy watching a marathon of The Hills, to the front door. You’re still a little weak, but your doctor – and Grinnald – expect you to be fully healed soon.

You open the front door and your jaw drops. “Jacob,” you whisper in disbelief.

“Can I come in?” Jacob walks in after you nod your assent and heads straight for the couch.

“Um. I . . . . hi,” you finish lamely. You haven’t spoken to Jacob since the night at Heather’s – first because he was in ICU getting transfusions, and second because you were pretty sure he didn’t want to see you.

“Look, I need to say some things, and I’m really sorry for just coming over unannounced, but I’m just going to say them. And then I’ll go and we don’t have to ever mention it again, okay?”

“Okay,” you whisper.

Jacob seems to steel himself and takes a breath. “Okay. First, I’m really sorry. I’m so, so sorry. About Kayleigh and the whole thing, and I just – “

“You’re sorry?” you interrupt. “What do you have to be sorry for? I killed her, Jacob. I killed your sister. My best friend. It’s me who has to apologize, but I’ll never be able to, not in any way that would ever make it better.”

“No, you have it all wrong,” Jacob replies. “It was all my fault; I didn’t stop her at the beginning when Mom told me she was going all weird, and then I let her get ensnared by The Ancient One, and then she stabbed me and I didn’t even fight back – “

“Jacob. She’s your sister. You tried your best to protect her. You don’t need to apologize.”

“If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even have been involved in all this.” Jacob stares at his feet as he whispers this.

“Please. I was involved before you showed up. Maybe I’ve been involved since birth. And if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have had the ring and I wouldn’t have been able to fight off The Ancient One. Speaking of the ring,” you say, as you slowly pull it off your finger. “I guess I should give it back to you. No vampires to be fighting.”

‘Keep it,” Jacob says curtly. Then, looking at you, he sighs. “The second thing I wanted to tell you is- God, I should not even be mentioning this to you – but I just wanted to tell you that . . . I think about you. A lot. I have for as long as I can remember. And I know that’s weird and I’m just wondering if maybe – maybe someday you could think of me as someone other than the kid who used to put shaving cream in your shoes when you’d sleep over.”

You smile at the memory. “Jacob, I don’t want to think of you as someone other than that kid.”

Jacob looks down, nods, and lifts his face back to you. “Okay, I understand. I’ll just go-“

“Because I like that kid who put shaving cream in my shoes. And the one who refused to speak to me for a month because I said that comic books were stupid. And the sophomore who was too busy with his first girlfriend to even talk to me. And the high school senior who’d let me ride to school in his car. And the latest Jacob, the totally hot, muscled Jacob, who is brilliant and still as funny and kind as he always was – I really, really like that Jacob.”

As soon as you’ve finished talking, you blush. From what tiny, non-petrified, actually kick-asscorner of my brain was that hiding?

Jacob grins. “Hot and muscled, huh?”

You laugh. “Shut up.”

Jacob leans in closer to you. “Okay, I’ll stop talking.”

And then he does.


Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink.