While my body was slowly winding down, attempting to recover from its battle with Alec...my spirit still felt as though it was alive. Burning white hot with a fire that I had never known. Every inch of me felt as though it was charged with electricity. A power reserved for a deity.
There's something so alluring about wielding an energy source so infinite. My fingertips ached with the temptation to destroy something around me...just for the thrill of watching it burn. It made me want to lash out, test my abilities, see just how far they could take me. See just how much damage they could do. I wanted to test my own boundaries and crash up against the confines of my once limited prison of a life.
Did you see what I did to him? The way I 'broke' him. He was no match for me. None at all. I could have killed him any time that I wanted to. And HE'S what most other vampires were afraid of? If they're afraid of Alec's power...they must be absolutely PETRIFIED about what *I* can do. And that thought alone created the most insane curl to grace the corners of my lips. A demonic smirk that bared my fangs...which were still sharply pointing down from my gums. Some predatory vampire instinct in me was still stuck in 'hunt mode' and refused to settle down. But why should it? I liked it. It throbbed inside of me like a second heartbeat, poisoning my thoughts with an ego driven flare up. And as I walked down a dimly lit alley...my pride swelled to the point of making me giggle slightly to myself.
My clothes were tattered, my shirt...ripped to shreds of bloody fabric...and yet, I felt stronger than ever. I tilted my head back and closed my eyes as I walked forward, the cool night air brushing softly over my heated skin. I reached out to the sides with both of my arms as I walked between two buildings. My hands sparked up with energy, and I dragged my electric fingertips along the bricks on either side of me. I became drunk with the sensation. Watching the bricks sizzle. Seeing the crumbling debris fall to the concrete as my fingers left long black scratch marks on the surface. Power. Such unbelievable power.
I turned down another corner of the alley, my hands still tingling with raw, untapped, energy. I looked down at my palms...and they were itching with curiosity. I flexed my fingers a few times, and I conjured up a collection of shadows, swirling them up around my hands. Ice cold sensations covered the area, but I wasn't afraid. In fact, I just sorta 'played' with it...pushing the shadows from one hand to the other. I could hear the screams. The pain. The madness. The horrors of a thousand other vampires all in the palm of my hand. Begging for help. Clawing and scratching and competing with one another to get to me first. But I was the one with the power. I was the one in control. I took those shadows and swirled it up into a giant ball...and then looked over at a nearby dumpster.
With a smirk, I took aim, and forced the shadows forward like a giant black fireball. The screams were audible as it quickly traveled the short distance to the dumpster, and with a loud crash the dumpster was knocked backwards, almost lifted off the ground, and dented in the side. It slammed up against the wall from the concussive force...and then...the shadows began to creep back to me again. Like the loyal little puppies they are. I collected them once again, and then tucked them neatly away in the back of my mind. Back where those shadows could mingle with my own personal demons...and grow stronger.
I watched as wisps of smoke emerged from the tops of my shoulders, and with just a thought...I raised the temperature inside the dumpster until the plastic inside melted, and the papers began to burn. Bright flame. Majestic...destructive flame. Flickering its amber light against the building walls. I could have put it out easily...but I chose not to. I let it burn. I let it consume everything inside the dumpster, and I walked away with its bright light stretching my shadow out far ahead of my every step. There is sooooo much swimming around inside of me. I'm practically bursting at the seams. Why am I enjoying it so much? I could feel pieces of Alec inside me too. Strong, emotional, representations of his presence danced through my mind. A virus. But he was right. Mmmmm...this delicious energy is quite possibly the sexiest feeling that I've ever experienced. If I was Rage...I'd want to use it on other vampires too. Even it means....madness.
Walking the streets, I was able to go out to an old bin in a grocery store parking lot. It was just a place for people to dump off old clothes for the Good Will and Salvation Army, nothing that was really under lock and key. My body had healed a great deal, even though many bruises, scars, and scratches, remained...but my clothes were covered with blood. The city was still a bit too 'active' for me to get caught like this. So I rummaged through the small bin, and found an old V-neck t-shirt that fit me. I changed right there in the parking lot, and tossed my tattered, blood-soaked, rags aside. Ahhh....that's better. In fact, let me just fix myself up all the way while I'm at it.
I saw the lights of a gas station not more than a block or to away from me, and I headed towards it. It was pretty empty at that time of night, but it was still open. I didn't bother going inside to ask for a key to the bathroom. I just snuck around to the side of the building, focused my energies on the lock, and the doorknob snapped, shattered, and fell off...unlocking it for me. I turned on the light and stood in front of the mirror. Claw marks. One bruised eye, quickly trying to repair itself. Bite marks in my neck and face. The wounds had stopped bleeding, but I had lost so much. I could almost feel my body running low on its life essence. I was going to have to feed again soon. What an enchanting thought. Something tells me that hunting is going to be a LOT easier than it's ever been. Almost too easy. Maybe its time for me to perfect my 'craft'. Get better at it. Try out some of these new powers of mine.
I looked in the mirror, and I saw something in the eyes that seemed to be crying for help. Something that I thought for sure I had left behind in that hospital fighting Alec.
"Not bad...for a FIRST outing." I whispered softly. "Not bad at all."
I looked at my fangs, and had to concentrate on getting them to retract. Finally...I saw them slowly slither their way back up into my gums, waiting for their chance to be called upon to draw blood once more.
"You felt it...didn't you? The monster...that I promised you would become, if only you allowed it to rise up within you. That was the test...and you passed with flying colors." I didn't even realize that I was talking to myself. What's worse I didn't know if I was the one talking....or the one listening. It was some kind of psychotic split, and I was too confused to figure out which one of us was the reflection. "A god you are, Justin. Don't run from it. Embrace it. You are the legend that other vampires have prophesized in their most sacred scriptures. Your name is the one they whisper in secret. You are both their messiah and their boogeyman simultaneously. Accept. Admit. Advance."
I didn't....'feel' like myself. Not at all. But...I couldn't understand what was wrong either. It was like...I almost forgot how I even GOT there. I splashed some cool water in my face, and returned to the mirror. "I'm still me. I'm....I'm still me."
"You don't really believe that, do you? You're more ME than you."
"That's not true. I did what I had to do to save my friends."
"Did you? You mean Richie? Dylan? Those friends? For all you know they're probably BOTH dead by now."
"DON'T say that! Don't...say that. I....I was trying to...I wanted to save them. I wanted..." I took a deep breath, feeling tears roll down my eyes. Was I still talking to myself? Out loud? Both sides of the conversation? Ugh...what's happening to me?
"Poor Justin, still refusing to submit. You could have saved them both if you had just given in to me when you had the chance. How many others are going to have to die before realize that?" I said. "Come on, Justin...let me out! Your little conflict back there triggered something fierce in you, boy. You're a beast in your own right. Stop fighting me, Justin. You can't deny me anymore than you can deny your sexuality. Your abuse. Your anger. Your guilt. Am I simply to become another lifelong secret that you desperately try to hide from the rest of the world? A spot of 'truth' to ruin your social mask? I'm not lying dormant anymore, Justin. I'm right here. Right in front of you. Use me. Use me...and the world can be yours. Both in darkness and in daylight."
I ran the water again, to splash more on my face, hoping that it would clear my head a little bit.
"I'm not going to lose my mind. I just need to untangle a few things. Taryn and I...we'll go away. Some place where Rage can't find us. Some place safe."
"Gods don't run." I said. "Do you really think that Alec could be killed so easily? He's going to come back harder than ever before. Because next time...he'll be ready. You should have ended his life when you had the chance."
"I should have ended his life when I had the chance." I said. Wait...did I mean 'I'...or did I mean 'you'? Wait...there is no 'you'. There is no other person. Still talking to myself. My head hurts. "I need to get home."
"You need to get home."
"That's what you just said."
"You mean...that's what 'I' just said." I rubbed my eyes as the other voice laughed at my bewilderment. It truly was enjoying the feel of me breaking down mentally. I was gripping the sides of the sink and head a light crackling noise below me. I looked into the sink basin to see the water freezing rock solid all the way back up to the faucet, and I instantly let go of it. "All the places I could take you. All the things we could accomplish. Let me in, Justin. Turn me loose. So the next time anyone comes to fuck with us or anyone we hold dear...we can show them the kind of horror that nightmares are made of."
"Release you..." I whispered.
"Release me..." I whispered again.
"Release....US!" And that's when I looked back up at the mirror, and saw the dark shadow of the Beast quickly rise up behind me and roar loudly as it looked to almost be strong enough to hold its form together again.
With a knee-jerk reaction, I smashed my fist into the center of the mirror and shattered it to pieces! But the laughter continued...and I gripped the sides of my head tightly as I fought to keep myself together. "Home....I need to go home. I need to....need to go...home..."
The lot never felt so far as it did that night on my tired feet. My mind was trying to work itself out. Trying to find something that felt more normal. But it's hard to find something that you can't define. I had flashes of being in that hospital, of Richie being unhooked from those machines, and then...Alec showed up. And everything from that point on was moving too fast for me to really visualize it properly. I could almost feel the cool shower of the sprinklers overhead, the deep DEEP slices of Alec's razor sharp claws and teeth, the bone shattering blows that I took to nearly every part of my battered teen body. But, even with Doc's extra attempting to help me, everything else was a blur. As though 'this' particular mind wasn't even present. And if I wasn't me...then who was I?
I do remember Dylan. His...sacrifice...for the boy he loved.
I remember the sound, the spray of blood, the sight of the scene...just as I had drawn it way before it happened. Dylan...innocent little Dylan. The boy who's shy smile could make even the strongest willed person melt in a heartbeat.
Going back...I don't know what I'm going to find. If anything.
My mind continue to wander lost in a mental fog. Did I kill him? Did I kill Taryn's little brother? No...no, but I should have. Or...no wait...I'm not...I'm not a murderer....
At that moment, I hear screams inside of my head. I thought back to dirty old men in parks, and late night workers at Kinkos. I thought back to Natpea and an entire warehouse full of trained fighters and soldiers. I thought back to those vampires in the alley...crushing their bones and unleashing a world of pain on them that they weren't ready for. Rooms full of corpses, and drinking human blood for sustenance. Maybe I am a murderer. Maybe I always was. That's what I've been hiding from myself, isn't it? This other 'me'. This alternate person who was able to do all of those terrible things. The one who jumped on that boy in his classroom and pounded him with a fury that left bloodstains on his bruised knuckles...all over a couple of spitballs. Seems so long ago. But the more I remember...the more I'm being forced to accept what I was becoming. More and more every day. I could feel it...growing inside me. The fetus of a unmerciful demon, waiting to be born. Given life by the love that I was trying so desperately to protect. The same way Dylan was trying to protect his...but without the same cost.
Thoughts....so confusing. So clustered.
I noticed that there were other vampires out that night, as I got closer to home. Hidden just outside of the light. I never said a word to them, nor did I give them a menacing look. But there was something about me that the could easily tell was unnatural...even in their world. One by one, I watched them scatter away from me...slipping back into the shadows in order to avoid being seen by me. Scattered...like roaches. Fearful of a much more powerful vampire. A higher being. It only helped my already twisted thoughts fall further into darkness. It felt good to be a giant among them. They should be afraid of me. The only question now is...should I be afraid of myself?
The streets were so quiet in our part of town. Tonight...they were almost deathly silent...until I approached the front gate of the lot. It was only then that I became aware of the tears, the wailing, and the pain.
Everyone in the lot was gathered around Bryson's truck. Eyes red. Sniffles. A few bloody rags were strewn about in the dirt. And in the center of it all...was Bryson doing all he could to mend Dylan's fatal wound...while Jun held the dying boy's hand.
I could feel the agony and the misery stinging me from all sides like a swarm of angry hornets the second I stepped foot into the lot. Taryn was sobbing softly to himself, while Jenna tried her best to keep a slight distance from everyone else, Gyro holding her close and keeping her knees from buckling. Her emotions spiraling so far out of control that it nearly made her sick. Even Trevor and Michael stood side by side...hurt that something like this could happen to one of their own.
I approached slowly. Cautiously. Nobody even realized that I was there just yet. But the pain was unbearable. It was a sobering experience from the wicked thoughts I was having just moments ago. I never thought I would see the day that young Dylan would be laid out on the hood of Bryson's truck like that. He seemed short of breath, and tears rolled out of his eyes while Dion paced back and forth frantically.
"Rain, try to see if you can get in here." Bryson told her, and Rain stepped forward to place her hands on Dylan's wound, her make-up running down her cheeks in long black streaks. "We'll see if...maybe we can 'split' the damage and get his heart working again. You take as much as you can, and I'll do the same." I watched both of them try desperately to heal him. But while the wound itself seemed to be stitching itself back together...there was no heartbeat to be found. No life to be given back to him. Even with Rain and Bryson both straining themselves to the point of personal injury...there was nothing they could do. I saw Max sitting not too far away, holding Kid in his lap. Kid may be young...but he knows death when he sees it. And he buried his face into Max's chest as they both tried to keep from sniffling out loud. I stepped closer...but I didn't want to be seen by anybody. I don't think I could handle their eyes on me right now.
"Bryson...stop. You can't take anymore." Jenna whimpered, but Bryson held his hand on Dylan's chest for a few seconds more. He tried soooo hard. "BRYSON!" Jun had to stand up and literally pull Bryson back before he killed himself.
"We'll try to find another way." Jun told him, but Bryson angrily kicked the side of his truck. Stuck for a solution.
Dylan sat up, and wiped his soft hazel eyes free of tears. Bloodstains still smeared on his pale unblemished skin. "It's not your fault, Bryson. It's ok." He whispered sadly.
At that moment, Taryn noticed me in the background...and his focus brought on the focus of everybody else in the lot. Taryn moved forward, and he hugged me so tightly around the neck. His sobs nearly broke my heart...his trembling frame vibrating with an inner pain that I wasn't quite ready to deal with. Doc rolled over to me, and I asked him, "Can he repair it? Can he fix Dylan's heart?" Doc didn't want to answer. He didn't have to. >From all of the lessons and teachings that Doc and Bryson and all the other members of the lot had taught me during my training...one fact was always consistent.
When the heart's gone....it's gone. End of story.
Taryn wept hard on my shoulder, and I felt my eyes beginning to water up as well as I found myself overwhelmed with emotion. A complete mental breakdown was beginning in my heart and starting to spread like wildfire to all of my senses. Oh God....it was pulverizing my soul from the inside out.
Doc said softly, "Jeremy says that he has some equipment a his lab that might be able to help Richie stabilize. Even though it's not completely rebuilt yet, Richie should be safe there. At least for now."
"Thanks Doc." I said, the first few tears falling, as Dylan's sad face looked in my direction. He looked...almost ashamed to be causing the REST of this amount of pain. How can someone so sweet ever be ashamed of anything? How can a boy with so much heart...have it stop beating?
"I'm going to take it." Bryson said with a look of determination. "I'm going to take it all."
The others gasped, and Rain was the first to speak up. "What are you TALKING about???"
"We don't have any other choice..."
"You're NOT taking it all! You can't!" She protested, sniffling even more as she stood in front of him to block the way.
"I can take his wound...and I can put it in me. That might just fix his heart..."
"And completely RUIN yours in the process!!!" Rain said.
Doc chimed in. "She's right. Bryson...if you do that, it'll stop your heart for sure. And there's no guarantee that it'll even work. There's a chance Dylan's heart won't start up again after you finish. We could lose you both. And your sacrifice will be for nothing."
"I've gotta do something. It's my sacrifice to make. I don't care what happens to me..." Bryson said, but Rain pushed him back.
"*I* care what happens to you!!! Don't do this!"
"Rain...get out of my way."
"I won't let you!!! Don't you get it??? I CARE about you!!!"
Doc tried to help, Jun tried to talk some sense into him...and while everyone was arguing and shoving each other...one faint and fragile voice brought an end to the conflict. With one simple word.
"No....." Everyone stopped fighting, and turned to see Dylan wipe some more tears from his eyes. "...Don't, Bryson. Don't do it. They need you more than they need me. Everybody does." It was quite possibly one of the most terrible things that I had ever heard slip from between those thin lips of his. But with a sniffle, he tried to keep up a brave face to let them know that he was serious.
"Dylan..." Bryson said, his bottom lip quivering ever so gently. "...You don't...you don't know what you're talking about, ok? This could work. This might be able to help you. If...if you just give me a chance to try..."
"You DID try, Bryson. You did everything you could. And...it didn't work. It's not your fault." He said, and that caused Dion to nearly break in half emotionally.
He quickly moved toward the hood of the truck to kiss Dylan on the lips, and wrap his arms around his slender waist. "Dylan...baby, we're going to find a way to fix this. You hear me?" He cried. The entire time I've known Dion, he has never once lost control of his emotions like this. He's never once been reduced to such a steady stream of agonizing tears. I couldn't stand to look at it. I lowered my head, and gently gave Taryn a squeeze at my side. The whole ordeal was so painful that I could barely breathe. "We're gonna fix it, baby. We're gonna fix it." Dion told Dylan between kisses.
But Dylan stopped him, and lightly ran his hand over Dion's hair and down to the back of his neck. Looking at him with watery eyes. "I don't think so. Not this time. It's not his problem to fix."
"No. No no no...we're not giving up on you. That's NOT gonna happen."
"Awwww, baby....if God has a plan for me...and it's supposed to end here...then I'm in no position to challenge it. If anything...I'm blessed. Blessed that, for once in my life...I got to see what it was like to be truly loved by somebody special. I'm blessed that he allowed me to spend...just a LITTLE bit of time...in your arms." He sniffled. "And it was soooo worth it."
Dion swallowed hard, and gnashed his teeth together in anger. "I don't wanna HEAR that shit!!! Don't you DARE say goodbye to me!!! After all we've been through, it's NOT going to end like this! You're not leaving me here all alone! You're NOT!"
Dylan's tears slid down his cheeks, and he simply said, "I love you." Which made Dion protest even harder.
"NO!!!!" He shouted. "Why did you follow us??? Why did you GO there??? WHY???" He slammed his fist into the side of the truck. "WHY?!?!?!?!"
But Dylan just let his hands lay softly on Dion's broad shoulders, and gave him a weak smile. "Because...I needed to keep you safe." And for a moment, he looked up at me, and his smile grew slightly bigger, even through his tears. "Justin once told me...that there might come a time when I'd have to fight for someone I loved. He said I wouldn't have to think about it...I'd just do it. I never knew how to 'fight' or anything. Not ever. But you know what? He was right, Dion. He was right." Dylan sniffled. "All I could think about...was keeping you from getting hurt. And if I could...I'd do it again."
I saw Trevor and Michael both getting choked up, and they began to walk away to keep from showing their vulnerabilities to the rest of us. A moment later, Max said that he was going to take Kid to bed...but I think that was his way of doing the same thing.
Dion saw the small gathering moving away, and I had to admit that the emotions became so strong inside of me that I had to mentally use Dion's extra to numb myself from their attack. I felt sick to my stomach. It was like there was a void in me that would never be filled up again. Thinking back to Dylan's friendship, his bashful grins and giggles, us pulling on his shorts in the shower...and the look of utter bliss on his face as he told me about him and Dion looking forward to leaving the lot and having a place of their own...the void grew bigger. The screams and the shadows in me got stronger. And I retreated even further into a state of 'unfeeling'. So far, in fact, that my darker side began to take advantage of my absence...and I felt myself pull away from Taryn's soft embrace.
I don't need this right now. I can't deal with this. I've got other things to worry about. I should leave. I should go back to my trailer and stop torturing myself by looking at this.
I think Jenna became overwhelmed, and she needed more distance from things as well. She let go of Gyro, and she lightly pushed him away as she tried to get her empathic abilities back in order. Dion slid out from Dylan's hug...and he looked around with an extreme burst of ANGER in his eyes. "So you're all just gonna LEAVE??? Is that what's happening here???"
"Dion..." Bryson started, but Dion cut him off.
"NO!!! You're a *FUCKING* healer, so HEAL him!!! FIX IT!!! I don't care WHAT you have to do, but FIX it!!!"
"We're....we're gonna do everything we can, Dion. I promise you."
"I don't WANT your promises!!! I want my boyfriend to SURVIVE! And goddammit, you're gonna make that HAPPEN!!!" He screamed, his eyes bleeding heated tears of rage.
Doc attempted to calm him, "Dion...I'll look for some info and ask for some help. But..."
"BUT??? But WHAT???" Dion asked.
"There's a..." Doc didn't want to say it, but Dylan's time was short. There was no sugarcoating the outcome. "...There's a chance that...it's out of our hands. It's a possibility that you just have to accept."
"Accept??? ACCEPT??? What...that my boyfriend, the only person that I've ever loved, the only person who's ever loved ME is gonna DIE??? No! NO, I don't accept that! And neither are you! *ANY* of you!!!" Dion looked around a everyone in the lot. "What are you doing?" He sobbed. "This is DYLAN! OUR Dylan!" He cried even harder. "Nobody has anything to say? Nobody??? I thought you CARED about him! About BOTH of us!!!" Dylan wanted him to stop, but Dion ignored him. "Family!!! Isn't that right, Bryson? Isn't that what you TOLD us??? Isn't that what we are? A 'FAMILY'? When ONE person in our family needs help...we ALL pitch in and give him some help! Not just ONE person! Not just a COUPLE of people! BUT EVERY LAST FUCKING *ONE* OF US!!! NOBODY gets to just walk away and do nothing! Nobody gets to just sneak off into the shadows and pretend this isn't HAPPENING! What the hell is WRONG with you??? How can you give up on my Dylan? How can you just look at his tears and IGNORE him??? Is it too much pain for you? Well, imagine how I feel! Imagine how HE feels! You don't have any shame at all!"
Dylan reached out to touch Dion's shoulder again. "Dion...don't. It's ok. Nobody here is a miracle worker. Don't blame them..."
"So not a single ONE of you have an answer for me??? Fucking NOBODY???" Dion screamed. "Bryson? Rain? Doc?" Then...as I was slowly trying to move away from the circle myself, Dion's dark eyes focused on me hardest of all. A fire burning inside of him, fueled by a level of hatred that I had never seen in him before. "What about YOU, Mr. Miracle? Huh? The great SAVIOR! The prophet! The CHOSEN one! Why don't you reach into your little fucking bag of tricks and pull out something that's worthwhile? Huh? Why don't you try doing the rest of us some good??? It's YOUR fault he's like this!!! It's *YOUR* fault we went there in the FIRST place!!! So his blood is on YOUR hands!" It hurt. God, it hurt. Even with his extra operating at full power...the sting of his words seeped in through the cracks, and did the damage they were meant to do. "Heh...the Vampire Messiah! Fucking WORTHLESS!!!"
I couldn't even speak. I didn't deserve to have my position defended. With the emotion choked up in the back of my throat, and I turned and left the group. Tears pouring out of my eyes, just trying to make it back to my trailer before I broke down completely.
But Dion called after me, even angrier than before. "HEY!!! Hey I'm TALKING to you!!!" I just kept walking, and heard some rustling as some of the others had to literally restrain him. "Don't you turn your fucking back on me, JUSTIN!!! This is YOUR fault!!! We were all better off without you! You hear me??? We could have ALL lived a better life WITHOUT you here!!!"
I got back to the trailer, and I shut the door...mentally blocking out the noise from outside. It was soooo much to handle. It was...more than I could bear. I sat on the edge of our mattress, and I stared at the floor. I swear....I SWEAR...I went through my mind and I cycled through every single extra that I ha at my disposal. I went through every one. I remember how Doc told me to organize my thoughts and memories and put them in order...and I struggled to find an extra that could help. But....there weren't any.
Every extra that I had acquired, every extra that I had gotten from Alec tonight...was either a 'weapon' or a 'concealment'. A way to attack, or a way to run. What does that say about people in general? If extras are a representation of who people were when they were human...then there should be something that I can use to help Dylan get better. There SHOULD be some ability that can be used to HELP somebody else. But people don't do that, do they? All we know is creating conflict and hiding from conflict. How many vampires actually try to help SAVE anybody? How many have abilities that are created from a need to help others instead of trying to find ways to save their own necks? Hardly any. Hardly any.
I was swept up in the moment, dizzy from my search, and I tried to just mentally slip into darkness for a while. Just for a few minutes. I can't...handle this. I can't. Brittle...and broken...I attempted to lose all feeling...sink back into nothingness...
And that's when I heard a whisper. A whisper in my own voice.
"Don't let it happen again. Let me out. And we'll protect them together. We...can be one."
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