Bryson honestly had NO idea what to do with me. NONE. And something about that made him feel just as lost and helpless as I did. He just didn't know how to help me. And 'helping' people is all he really knows how to do.
I went to a corner by myself, and watched as Taryn walked over to the trailer with Rain right behind him. His sullen eyes glanced at me briefly, and with a certain sadness, he looked away, and climbed in to get his blankets and some extra clothes to wear. I was trying really hard to keep it from hurting...but it wasn't working. The pressure on my heart was building from not being able to reach out and just...'touch' him. For a moment..it reminded me of how things used to be before he brought so much love and light to my life. It reminded me of just how cold the world can seem when you don't have someone else's embrace to keep your warm. God...I can't believe I miss him this much already.
"Ahhh, shit!" Gyro walked over to lean up against the car beside me. He was making the weirdest faces, and nearly going cross-eyed trying to look at himself. "I think that asshole broke my nose. I don't think Bryson healed it all the way. It still kinda hurts too. Does it look funny to you?" He asked me, and it almost made me giggle to see him attempting to look at his own nose.
"You can use a mirror, you know?" I suggested, pointing to a cracked, but 'functional', side view mirror on the car.
"Right. I knew that." He said, and squatted down to examine himself a little bit better. "I dunno...it still looks kinda crooked to me."
"I'm sure it'll be fine tomorrow night, Gyro." I said, and he could hear the sadness in my voice, and looked up as I sighed at the sight of the trailer slightly moving as Taryn cleaned out even more of his stuff.
"Hey...don't sweat it, dude. Seriously Taryn's always been a little moody For as long as I've known him, anyway." He told me. "He's a hell of a lot happier with you than he ever was with Trevor, that's for sure. He'll be back."
"I know. I just...I hate being away from him. That's all." I said. And when I felt a slight touch in my senses, I could feel Dylan's bashful presence sneaking its way around me as usual. "Hey, Dylan."
With a bit of a pout, he became 'visible' again and leaned against the car on the other side of me. "You always see me." He said.
I gave him a little smirk, and said, "Well, maybe I just think that you're worth noticing." And the comment caused him to blush considerably. Looking at both sides of me, two well meaning youngsters pretending not to want anything other than to stand there in silence with me...I had to smile "You guys DON'T have to worry about me, ok? Seriously. I'm just feeling a little blue, that's all. I'll be fine."
"We know...we just..." Gyro started, but didn't have a quick lie to give me. "You fought that 'Rage' guy...and you saved us, Justin. Me...my sister...everybody. I mean, I know Taryn's upset about his brother and all, but...you know...thanks."
I don't know why that appreciation made me feel worse inside, but it did. "It's alright, Gyro. It was an accident. Everything I do is an accident. I can't save anybody."
"There aren't any accidents, Justin." Dylan said, just above a whisper. "I don't know much about any...prophecies or scriptures or ANY of that stuff. But...I think you're here with us for a reason. And you show us a little more of what that reason is every day."
"Yeah...I'll believe that when I have some proof that I'm not just getting 'lucky' over and over again." I said.
Dylan was quiet for a moment, then he said, "I remember when you were wondering how I could still believe in God after al the bad stuff I had been through. How I could even have any faith in his existence at all."
"I still do, to be honest."
"Well...see, most people have it backwards. They think that...once they have 'proof'...then they'll believe. But the truth is...once you believe..the proof is everywhere you look." He said. "We believe in you, Justin. Even if you don't believe in yourself. And maybe that's what's missing. Maybe there's more proof out there than you're willing to see."
I looked at Dylan, who swiftly hid his bright hazel eyes from me, timidly looking away as if he expected me to be 'upset' at him for his insight. "I seriously hope you're right, Dylan. Thanks." I said, and he brightened up immediately. Hehehe, it was the one thing that made me feel better, just letting Dylan know that his advice helped. He beamed with a pure white smile, and I gave him a hug.
"Awww, you guys!" Gyro said, and quickly jumped into the hug to squeeze us both.
But while we were huddled together, Dylan looked up with a bit of confusion. "Gyro? I think your nose might be crooked."
Gyro jumped back and covered it with his hand. "You see??? I TOLD you he fucked up my nose!" He screeched, and then marched off away from us. "I'm going to bed! I don't want anybody looking at me with a broken nose! I'm gonna break HIS nose the next time I see him! See how HE likes it! Asshole!"
Dylan was a little disturbed. "I...I didn't mean that it looked bad...I just..."
"Nah, don't worry. Hehehe, he's been stressing over it anyway. I'm glad that you at least got it off his mind." I said. "So....what are you doing out here, anyway? I thought you were playing 'doctor' with Dion, and helping him to get healed up."
He sighed a bit, "I had to go. He told me that I was running out of places to kiss and make better."
I giggled at the thought. "You must have kissed all the 'good' places first, then." And he elbowed me in the side, which was still a little sore.
I winced a bit, and Dylan gasped, "Oh my gosh! I'm sorry!" But I told him that it was alright. Geez, was there a spot on me that Alec didn't slam his fist into? I saw a more serious look appear on Dylan's face, and he said, "I'm glad that you were there tonight, Justin. I mean it. Bad things could have happened."
I knew what he was getting at, and tried to reassure him. "You know...Dion can take care himself pretty damn good. He's a strong fighter. I'm sure he would have been able to get out of there, even without my help." Somehow, I don't think Dylan was convinced.
"I don't like it when he fights." He said. "Dion just...he's always ready to jump in and take on just about anybody just to protect us. I'm just scared that one of these days...he's not gonna come home. And I don't know what I would do if my Dion didn't come home."
"You know, sometimes...when you see the people you love in danger...you don't really make the choice yourself. Sometimes your heart makes it for you. And you just...know it's right." I told him. And at that moment, I saw Rain and Taryn emerge from the trailer with a load of stuff slung over their shoulders. Taryn gave me another quick glance, and then started to walk away to go be with Rain in her car. But this time...I wanted to stop him. I had to stop him. I wouldn't be able to go to sleep tonight Not like this.
I filed through the extras in the back of my mind, looking for the one that was the strongest. Brought to me by the boy I had been closest to. And with Taryn's abilities, I sent him a silent message. "I know you need your space, Taryn. I understand. Just...please don't hate me, ok? I care about you, and I love you...and I'll be right here whenever you want to come home." It was all I could say. The only comfort that I could give him.
He received the message, and looked back at me with tears in his eyes. He sniffled a bit, and sent a message back. "I'm sorry, Justin. Really, I am. I just need some time. There just isn't a whole lot about me for you to find 'beautiful' right now."
My answer? "I don't love you because you're 'beautiful', Taryn." And I remembered to send him the very first message he ever sent to me, that cool dark night out by the Aquarium. "I love you...because you saved me."
He heard me loud and clear, and Rain called out to him, just as the first tear fell from his emerald green eyes. He wiped them away with his hand, and walked off to go be with her. And me? What else could I do but go to bed? The longer I stayed out here, the more it hurt. And I didn't really have the energy to pretend that everything was fine and dandy for the sake of everyone 'else'. So I said goodnight to Dylan, who was still looking worried about his boyfriend, and I gave him as much of a comforting hug as I could before walking back to the trailer. It looked so....empty without his presence in there. Taryn hadn't taken everything, but it was enough to sense a real 'absence' in the space where his stuff used to be. I suppose I could try to just get myself together and do without him for a few days. I just have to keep myself busy, that's all.
Unfortunately, I still had a full hour and a half to go before the dawn finally came to put me to sleep. Geez, don't vampires ever get the luxury of taking a nap or something? It would be nice to go to bed EARLY once in a while. I read through some books, bounced a ball against the ceiling, even ended up talking to myself for a while. Having too much time to think can be a really BAD thing in darkness. The last thing a vampire wants is to be forced to let his mind wander to things he'd rather just leave alone.
And then, with my first yawn of the night, I began to get undressed. I don't think I've ever been happier to feel the sun on the rise again. I got under the covers, and felt my body begin to relax...and then stiffen up. Starting from my toes, and crawling all the way up my body as my thermal heat left me. The big sleep came to claim me for its own.
But it brought me no peace.
I found myself...standing on a stone plateau, looking out on an infinite stretch of barren wasteland, with dark clouds sliding rapidly across a sunset sky. I could feel a wind blowing through my hair, and the pulse of unimaginable power almost burning the palm of my hands. I knew it was a dream. I could tell. And I didn't move. I didn't speak. I never knew which way one of these things were going to go. But the power....my GOD, the power!
"You can't save him, you know?" Came a voice from behind me. I almost didn't want to turn around...but I had no way out of the dream. Not until the sun went down. So I slowly looked over my shoulder, and saw a boy facing the other way, looking into a giant black pit with no bottom to it.
I stepped closer, looking at his blond hair as it fluttered in the wind. "You have no idea what I'm capable of." I said.
"It won't matter. You're only slowing down the process. Fighting against the inevitable. Taryn won't survive much longer. He can't." I kept moving closer, step by step. "It's a part of the prophecy. It is written in the scriptures."
"The scriptures are WRONG." I told him, and walked to stand side by side with him at the edge of the pit.
When the boy turned to look at me...it was MY face I saw. A mirror image of me, with glowing red eyes, and fangs lowered...a sinister grin plastered on his face. "The scriptures are NEVER wrong, Justin. You know that, don't you?"
"Who are you?" I asked, but he simply grinned at me, refusing me an answer. "WHO ARE YOU???"
"I'm you, Justin. I'm the dark angel that you were meant to be. That you were bred to be." He said.
"That's a lie. I know who I am."
"Of course you do. It's the only reason that I exist. Deep down...you know that I'm in here. Waiting. Biding my time while you figure out how to reach me. How much of me you're willing to bring to the surface, just a little bit at the time. I've been amazed at your progress, though. You might be able to bridge the gap between you and me a lot sooner than you think."
I looked at him closely...and it actually DID appear to be an exact replica of me. Right down to the peach fuzz blond hairs on the back of my neck But I couldn't accept what he was saying. I wouldn't. "This is some kind of trick. And I'm not fucking buying it."
"It's ok if you want to fight me. I expect it. It's a part of the change." The boy turned to face me, eyes turning an even deeper shade of crimson than they were before. "We have a lot of dark work ahead of us, you and I. This Vampire Dawn is going to sweep through the human race like a hellfire burning out of control. We are going to light up the night sky with so much blood and destruction that the Elders themselves will tremble before us. Comicality was wise to keep us a secret for so long. Soon...we will be too powerful for even their BEST hunters to bring us down. Nothing will be able to stand in our way."
"I won't let you out. You hear me?" I said. "I can keep you locked up right here, where you can't do any damage to ANYBODY!"
"Do you really believe that?" He smiled. "Do you honestly think that you have what it takes to protect Taryn without my help? You've seen only a 'taste' of what is coming your way, Justin. And Alec? Let's face it...without tapping in and giving freedom to MY image...you don't stand a chance against him. He will rip you to pieces, and do the same to your friends."
"That's NOT gonna happen!!!" I shouted.
"What are you gonna do? Save them all?" He smirked, looking down into the abyss. "The same way you saved Jarrod at the club? Or Xairen at the sanctuary? The same way you saved Richie? You're fooling yourself."
I felt like he could almost reach into my soul and read what was there before it even happened. I tried to write him off as just another nightmare Or perhaps another entity trying to imitate my looks by entering the dream. But somehow...I knew that whatever this 'thing' was...it really was a part of me. A true representation of thoughts that I knew had already passed through my mind a million times before, no matter how hard I worked to block them out.
I looked up at the dream-lit sky as it began to darken overhead. The winds picked up...and storm clouds began to roll in from all sides. The other version of me smiled cheerfully at the sight of it, and crackles of lightning and thunder could be heard in the distance. "It won't be long until it comes back, you know?" He said, looking over at me with a wicked grin "The Beast." He clarified. "Comicality did all he could to keep it at bay, but it has been regaining its strength ever since. It's attracted to your pain, Justin. The abuse, the humiliation, the sadness...it has a hunger for your suffering. And it won't stop. Not now. It can't. It's too close to finding you and taking what it needs to crush its enemy once and for all."
"We beat it once, we can beat it again..."
"You never beat it at all. In fact, if anything, you've probably been feeding it since your last encounter." He told me. "But don't take my word for it. You'll see for yourself soon enough."
"I can take the Beast, and anybody ELSE who comes for me!" I yelled, hearing the thunder roaring behind me.
"YES!!! I KNOW you can! That's what I WANT from you!" He said. "We must fulfill our destiny...and become 'one'! Use me, Justin! I can make you more powerful than you have ever dreamed!"
I took a step away from him, but he stepped closer. "I don't know what you're doing...but it's not working. I...I know who I am..."
"Really? Who are you?" He asked. "Hmmm? Are you that little blond boy that used to get picked on in school? The one who used to undress his drunken mother and put her to bed at night? Are you that sad little bastard who let his father beat him senseless for YEARS without saying a word to anybody? The one who would rather DROWN than live one more day as a pathetic rag doll, tossed around for the world's amusement? IS THAT WHO YOU ARE???" He shouted, his voice ringing through the clouds, and echoing for miles in al directions. But then...he lowered his voice, almost to a whisper, as he put a hand on my shoulder and leaned in close to my ear. "Or...are you that explosive monster that took your fist and gave that high school bully exactly what he deserved? The one who murdered over a thousand trained fighters to save the one he loved? The one who was alive with light..reducing the strongest of opponents to cowering 'children' in your presence? Ask yourself, Justin...which version of yourself did you enjoy more?"
I felt my fist balling up, trying to keep the anger at bay. But my emotions were so riled up at the moment that it was hard to speak. It was as if he could touch the most painful feelings I had, and twist them until I was ready to submit. "I'm not going to let you make me do this." I said, holding it in. "I'm not going to give you the satisfaction."
"Oh, Justin...I'm not going to MAKE you do anything. I'm just going to sit back...and wait for my chance to be born." He smiled. "You see...the fact is...EVERY Mimic that has ever lived has either died insane, or alone, or both. Do you honestly think that you are going to break that chain of events now?" His voice was almost like a seductive 'hiss' as he spoke, and I tried my best to tune him out. I tried so hard. "Eventually...you're going to have to make a choice, Justin. You can either let Taryn die while you watch in horror...or you can give in to the madness..join me, and together we can protect him. But you're going to have to make up you mind sooner or later. The clock is ticking."
"There's...there's another way. I can...I can save him another way..."
"No, Justin. I'm afraid not. You read the text. You know what has to happen. And you know that I am the only salvation you have. Your friends and loved ones will not survive this. You put them all at serious risk for every minute that you try to keep me locked up in here. Release me, Justin! Let me out, and together we can show this world why it fears the darkness!"
I wanted out. I didn't want to hear this. I needed to find a way out. "You're not me! I don't know you at all."
He got angry, "The Beast IS coming, Justin! It's on its way as we speak! Alec is still searching every inch of this city for his brother! And he's looking to make an EXAMPLE of you! The other vampires who have discovered you will soon be coming to claim a piece of the infinite power that you hold! And when the Elders officially confirm your existence? They're going to send every cutthroat assassin they've GOT to murder you before you can do any damage to the precious political balance that they've built with human kind! So you might THINK that hiding out here in this dingy old abandoned lot keeps you safe...but I guarantee you that it only SEEMS that way! Eventually...you are going to have to FIGHT! And fight hard! And in order for you...or for Taryn...or for ANY of them to survive, you are going to need...ME." He said. "The longer you fight against it, the faster you seal Taryn's fate! You don't HAVE to lose him! Take your throne, Justin...and become what I already know you are. The most powerful vampire demon to ever walk the Earth's surface. A creature with the ability to tear this whole charade down from its foundation with the blink of an eye."
"I won't. I WON'T!" I said, the dream almost holding me in place.
"Think of it, Justin. It's already too late for many of their minions to stop us. With more time, more practice, we can defeat the BEST of their warriors with little effort! We've come soooo far, we CAN'T stop growing now! This is the next evolutionary step for us! You're a MONSTER, Justin! Armageddon itself, manifested in flesh! This is our purpose!This is what we were BORN to do!" He said, walking a slow circle behind me. "Haven't you seen it yet? Haven't you read the signs? Call it insanity if you want to, but the truth of the situation is...the path of the Vampire Mimic...leads only to me. I am the creature you need to be in order to save the one you love. I am he level of maturity that you need to reach. I am your future, born of your past, inhabiting your present. I am but the first part of your 'circle', Justin. It's already happened, and yet it hasn't happened yet. There's no breaking the circle, Justin. I'm just the first part. The first part of your 'circle'. Your 'circle'...'circle'...'circle'..."
The next thing I heard was a banging on the outside of the trailer door. I jumped up with a gasp, and found myself covered in a cold sweat! The sheets were damp, and I could hardly catch my breath. "Justin!!! Dude, are you alright in there???" It was Jun's voice, and even though I was awake, it was hard to shake traces of the dream from my reality. Extremely hard. It was like I could still feel him. With every fiber of my being...I could feel him. And it took a moment for me to rub the evil self image out of my eyes. "Justin?"
"Yeah...I'm...I'm awake!" I hollered back, putting Jun's worried heart to rest. I looked over at the tiny digital clock on the floor, and it said that it was almost eight o'clock! I NEVER sleep until 8 o'clock! Up until about the last month and a half, I've been waking up before everyone else in this place. I don't know...maybe I'm just...exhausting myself or something. Yeah, that must be it. "I'll be out in a minute." I said, and peeled the sheets off of me to get up and get dressed again. It was one of the few evenings that I had to wake up without Taryn by my side...and I already wished it was over.
I managed to open the door to the trailer, and step outside on wobbly legs. I don't know what it was, but I felt a little dizzy inside. Like that 'other me' was swimming around in my blood. It made it kinda hard to focus.
Dion walked over to me, looking a lot better than he did last night, and when I asked him how he was doing, he said that it was no big deal. His shoulder and knee were still a bit sore, but Dylan took good care of him. He also said that Bryson was still pretty banged up after taking so many bruises away from the rest of them. I asked why he didn't just use Rain's extra to get rid of it, But Dion told me that he didn't want to deal with the emotional backfire of healing up that much damage. I guess that was understandable. Gyro was just happy to have his nose back in working order, and came skipping around the corner to say, "What's up, Superman?"
I found myself standing in front of my trailer door again. Still inside. I was...disoriented for a minute...but when I opened the door to step out again...everything was the same as it was before. Exactly the same!
I stepped down on wobbly knees, and tried to get the dizziness to leave my head, when I looked up and saw Dion walking closer. "Hey, you ok?" He asked.
"Yeah. Just...I think I overslept or something. That's all." I said. "How are you doing?"
"Ah, it's no big deal. My shoulder and my knee are still a little sore..." Then he nudged me with a smile, "...But Dylan took good care of me last night, so I can't complain." Once I started to focus again...I recognized the conversation. Word for word. I was overcome with a sense of utter confusion as I saw Dion look over towards Bryson's truck. "Sucks for Bryson though. He's still pretty banged up after taking so many bruises away from the rest of us. I don't know why he does it, honestly."
I was quiet for a second...staring at Dion in silence, wondering if this was another dream or if it was real. As an experiment, I said my 'line'. "Why doesn't he just use Rain's extra to get of it?" I said it clearly, and watch as Dion played out the scene without a single flaw, or even a change in the tone of voice for how I had seen it.
He shrugged his shoulders and said, "He says he doesn't want to deal with the emotional backfire of healing up that much damage. I imagine it would cause a lot of pain if you...."
"You already said that." I said, and he stopped to stare at me.
"That. I mean...I mean THIS! You already..." I tried to get my words together. "We've already had this conversation! All of this...it already..."
He wrinkled up his forehead a bit. "I'm afraid I don't understand."
"Dion...I know this sounds crazy...but I've been through this before." That didn't seem to clear out any cobwebs. "Any second, Gyro's gonna walk around that corner and say, 'What's up, Superman?'"
And before the words even left my mouth all the way, Gyro came practically skipping around the corner, overjoyed that his nose was fixed again. "What's up, Superman?" He saw me and Dion looking at one another, and stopped walking. "What? What did I say?"
Dion grinned at first. "Wait, are you guys playing a game or what?"
"NO! I'm NOT playing a game!" I said, raising my voice, and Dion tried to calm me down.
"Justin...it's alright. So what? Gyro said 'What's up, Superman?' Gyro says that at least two or three times a day..."
"I'm TELLING you, Dion...I SAW it! This moment, you, and me, and Gyro...all of this happened before. But, like...it DIDN'T happen...not yet! But..but it DID! It was like this...this 'circle'...and it went forward, but it brought me right back to the beginning again! Like a...like a.." Both of them looked completely bewildered, and it was making my head hurt trying to find a sensible way to explain it all. I took a deep breath, and calmed down, and tried to put my thought in order. "Ok...ok, look..I came out of the van, I asked how you were doing, you told me about your knee and your shoulder, and about Bryson, and then Gyro came around the corner and said what he said."
"Okaaaaayyyy...." Dion said.
"And then...the next thing I knew, I was back in the trailer again. And everything happened all over again. Word for word."
"You mean, like...you saw the future?" Gyro asked, his eyes brightening up.
"No no no...not like that. It...it HAPPENED, you see? I didn't just 'see' it ahead of time, it actually happened. And then everything happened again...just like it was supposed to happen. Do you...please tell me you understand?" They were trying, but I'm sure that I must have sounded pretty damn crazy to them. Attempting to get them to understand was just frustrating me even more. "I'm just...I'm having a tough time explaining it..."
"Yeah, that's...pretty obvious, actually." Dion replied.
"I don't know how to say it, but I know what happened. I'm not crazy."
"Nobody said you were 'crazy', Justin..."
Gyro asked, "Well, if you saw all of that before it happened, how come you didn't see this part? Like, this part right now?"
"Because this is a different part of the circle. Or...or maybe a different circle altogether. I just...ugh...!" I felt a slight headache beginning to settle in, and held on to both sides of my head. "Zero warned me about this. He said the circles would come for me. He TOLD me!"
"What's a 'Zero'?" Gyro asked, but Dion hushed him.
"Justin...look, maybe it's just one of your extras flaring up again. Maybe it just got away from you for a few seconds, and you got...'confused'." Dion said with concern.
"I don't know. I don't know anything any more." I said.
Then Gyro popped in with, "Well, suppose I did something different instead? Like...what if I said something else, or didn't come over to talk to you at all?"
"It's not possible."
And just as I was saying the words...a chill ran through me. And I almost feared the words myself. "Because....the circle was already complete. You didn't have a 'choice'."
My mind went blank...and I thought about the scriptures. I thought about losing Taryn forever. And for the first time...I had to face the fact that I might not be able to stop this. I might not have what it takes to fight fate. And if the circle is already complete...and I'm just playing out my role in all of this...then losing Taryn might be the only way to keep from losing my mind. As I've been told by many others, his death is instrumental to finding the Dawn. It made me think back to something dark that Zero told me the last time I saw him....
"In the end of all things...I pray you will be able to make the right decision. After all...love and loss, are eternally bound."
The idea kept me frozen for a moment or two. And that's when Gyro called my name for what was the second or third time. "Huh?" I asked.
"I SAID...if it already happened, and you can see it, then what happens next?"
I don't know how the circle came to me or why, but I answered, "Jun wants me to see Doc. We've been 'contacted'."
"Huh? What the heck does THAT mean?" Gyro asked, just as Jun came over to talk to me.
"Justin...great news! Doc wants to see you! We've been contacted! The Jeweler wants to speak with you personally!" Jun was happy. Overjoyed, in fact. But Dion and Gyro were both at a loss for words.
"Whoah....solar!" Gyro whispered, his eyes and his mouth agape with excitement.
Without saying anything else, I decided to follow Jun and see if maybe this 'Jeweler' could give me some help. Hopefully...he'll have access to some answers that I can't find out for myself.