“Yes,” Kanin agreed quietly. “I imagine they will.”
“Can’t you help him?” I gazed at my sire, imploring. “Teach him how to be a vampire? Like you did with me? I’m not getting through to him.” Hurt and a little anger flickered, though I tried to push it down. Didn’t Zeke realize he wasn’t alone, that I’d been through all this, too? “Will you talk to him?” I asked Kanin. “He’ll listen to you.”
“No, he won’t.” I blinked, and Kanin’s gaze shifted to me, stern and sympathetic. “He’s not ready to listen, Allison. He won’t hear me, or you, or anyone. I was able to teach you because you had already chosen to Turn. Ezekiel was not afforded that choice. And until he comes to terms with what he is, no one will be able to help him.” He raised his head, staring at the spot of disturbed earth and clay where I had slept. Where Zeke was still buried, a few feet away. “You can reach for him,” Kanin murmured, “but it’s up to Ezekiel to look up and see it. He has to take the first steps out of the darkness himself.”
I clenched my fists against the railing, fighting despair.
“What am I supposed to do, then?”
“Just be there, Allison.” Kanin didn’t look at me, though his voice was understanding. “When it’s time, if Ezekiel does manage to accept what he is, he will not look to me or Jackal or anyone else for help. He will come to you.”
We fell silent again. Jackal didn’t return, and Zeke slept on in his shallow grave. I crossed my arms, waiting for him to wake up, hoping against hope that he would be himself again. He’d given us all the information he could about Eden: where it was located, how the town was set up, where Sarren would likely go when he arrived. All delivered in the same flat, emotionless voice he’d used since Old Chicago. I wondered if Zeke was steeling himself for what he might find when we got to the city. If he was preparing himself for the loss of everything he had loved. We’d been so focused on catching up with Sarren, intercepting him before he reached the island. But Sarren was probably already there, and if Sarren was in Eden…
“Kanin?” I ventured.
I licked my lips. “Everyone in Eden…is probably dead, aren’t they?”
My sire turned, looking down at me. His voice was calm.
“What makes you think that?”
“Because…we couldn’t catch up with Sarren? Because he’s probably already there, doing whatever awful thing he’s been planning?” I kicked at a rock in frustration. “We failed, didn’t we? We did exactly what he wanted us to do in Old Chicago, and now there’s no chance of catching up. Sarren knew I would go after Zeke. He knew exactly what he was doing when he left him there. I played right into his hand, and now he’s in Eden laughing at us all.”
Kanin still didn’t answer, and I sighed. “I want to think they’re all right,” I said, feeling a lump in my throat as I thought of Caleb, Bethany, our old group. Probably all dead, because of me. “I want to believe that everyone in Eden is okay, but…I’m just fooling myself, aren’t I?”
“No.” Kanin’s soft voice surprised me. The vampire raised his head, gazing off into the darkness, the hint of a smile on his face. “If there is one thing I have discovered over the centuries of watching humans,” he murmured, “it is their stubborn and indomitable will to keep living. As a species, it is almost impossible to kill them completely. They survived Red Lung. They survived the rabid plague. True, many of them now live in vampire cities, enslaved and ignorant of the times Before, but there are still small settlements that exist outside the Princes’ territories. Humans living free.
“Sarren is one vampire,” Kanin went on, as I stared at him in amazement. “No matter how deadly, how terrible his plans, even he cannot wipe an entire city from the face of the earth in a few days. Humans are ever resilient, and their will to live surpasses everything else. Do not lose hope, Allison.” He bowed his head, his next words so soft I barely caught them.
“Your hope is the reason we have a chance to stop this.”
A shifting of earth halted our conversation, the sound of dirt being pushed back as a body rose from the frozen ground.
Zeke, kneeling in his shallow grave, shook clay from his hair, brushed off his jacket, and rose, his face as blank and detached as ever.
“Sorry I kept you.” His glassy blue eyes stared right through me, his voice low and indifferent. “Are we ready to leave?”
I resisted the urge to leap up and shake him, just to see some sort of emotion cross that empty face. Anger, surprise, disgust, anything was better than the apathy he showed now.
“Almost,” I told him instead. “We’re just waiting on Jackal.”
“Aw, isn’t that sweet.” And Jackal sauntered into view, smirk firmly in place. “But don’t wait around on my account.
It’s not like I can’t wait for yet another riveting night of listening to you people whine at each other. Oh, woe is me, I’m a vampire. I’m a horrible monster who eats babies and murders bunnies, boo hoo hoo.” He snorted and glared at Zeke. “I know that’s what you’re thinking, puppy. This robotic song and dance isn’t fooling anyone, and it’s starting to get really annoying.”
He bared his fangs, a brief, threatening grin. “So, why don’t you stop playing the f**king whipped dog and start acting like a vampire? Or are you afraid you might actually like it?”
No response from Zeke. It was like Jackal hadn’t said anything at all. The raider king shook his head in disgust, and I glared at him. “I don’t suppose you found anything useful,”
I challenged, “like a working car.”
Jackal rolled his eyes. “If I had, I would be driving to Eden right now,” he said. “Being around the lot of you is like slowly pushing nails into my brain.”
“Stick around,” I told him. “Maybe I’ll find a way to make it literal, as well.”
Abruptly, Kanin shoved himself off the railing, brushed past us, and began walking down the highway without a word.
Left behind, Jackal, Zeke and I blinked at each other a moment, before Jackal gave a mocking snicker.
“I think the old man is getting a little tired of us,” he remarked as we hurried to catch up. His eyes gleamed as he smirked back at me. “Maybe you shouldn’t be such a wretched shrew, sister.”