I laid there next to Taryn for a few more minutes, the frozen state of his body giving me a shiver from its lack of a comfortable temperature. I just wanted to absorb some of his invisible essence for a while longer. Sometimes...it felt like my heart wouldn't beat at all without it. We were still in the Ice Zone sleeping quarters, and I found myself restricted by the confined space as I stretched my body out with a yawn. Naturally, I was earlier to rise than most vampires, And I leaned over to let a kiss linger on Taryn's cheek as he slept peacefully at my side. His face had gone so pale, his lips almost blue. And yet, even with the lingering appearance of death displayed on his coma like slumber, his angelic features gave him all the warmth of a sleeping baby in his mother's arms. It was at moments like this that I really took time to appreciate every delicate curve of his sweet kissable lips. The smooth and flawless surface of his skin. The sensuous sight of his soft neck, begging to be licked and sucked on with more passion than most people ever get the opportunity to experience in their lives. He was more beautiful than any other creation in my recent memory...and he chose me to accompany him throughout all of eternity. Me. That's not just luck. That's destiny.
I just hope that destiny is kind.
I heard a few noises outside of our compartment, and was ignoring them at first. I figured that it was probably just some humans wandering around, looking for the party to begin again. But these noises sounded awfully close by, and I knew that none of my friends were awake yet. So I decided to put my clothes back on as best as I could in the tiny space and peek my head out of the curtain again. As I looked around at the confetti and party related garbage covering the entire floor for as far as the eye could see, I noticed a few vampires walking around with large sacks and black masks on their faces. What were they doing? Cleaning up, maybe? No...not hardly. I rubbed my eyes a bit, and noticed them leaning over to pat down the pockets of vampires who fell asleep on the floor. A lot of them dropped wherever they were partying last, unable to reach a comfortable bed before the big sleep took hold of them. Were they....? They were pick pocketing the sleeping vamps for their possessions! Fucking Raiders! They really don't have any shame at all.
I heard the noise again and noticed one of them reaching into Dion and Dylan's compartment to check their possessions as well. "HEY!!! Get out of there!" I shouted! The man turned his black mask towards me, surprised that I was awake so early. "You heard me! Fucking beat it!" I climbed out of my bunk and had to physically chase him off for a few steps before he actually started moving. I looked around me at all the Raiders basically picking up everything they could from their helpless victims like they were 'farming' for jewelry or something. "ALL OF YOU! Take a hike!" I guess they weren't really looking for a fight. Why would they even bother? There are hundreds of thousands of sleeping vampires in this place to rob. All they had to do was move to the next sector. Most of them just packed up what they could and went to probably go 'farming' around the corner somewhere. A few others stopped to shout or grumble a few curse words in my direction for screwing with their business, but they moved along regardless. I swear, this world gets more twisted every day that I'm a part of it. There are despicable opportunists lurking in every culture, I suppose.
"Way to go, hero. I'm sure they'll change their ways immediately and go straight, after that vicious tongue lashing you just gave them." Came a voice from above me, and I looked up to see Michael leaning out of his bunk, pulling back the curtain. "That's why every compartment has a safe installed in the wall. Raiders are everywhere in this place. They're like roaches. I'm sure Dion and Dylan hid their stuff away where it would be safe though. No worries." He climbed down from the top bunk and he got a quick shiver when his bare feet touched the floor. "Jesus, that's cold!"
"This isn't the kinda place I would walk around in my bare feet, dude." I told him.
"Very true. But I'm too lazy to go back up now." He yawned.
"What are you doing up so early, anyway?"
Michael gave me a sideways look, with a bit of a pout. As though he didn't want to tell me. Then he admitted, "It's a side effect of...you know..."
"A side effect? What do you mean?" I asked.
"You KNOW....that 'thing' I did to you...back at the lot. The possession." He turned his eyes away from me a bit. It was almost as if he were showing some level of humility about it all. Not that he wanted me to see it.
"Oh. That." I said quietly.
"Yeah...well, the effects linger sometimes when I make a really strong connection with someone. I get momentary flashbacks and relapses of stuff. I haven't learned how to get rid of 'em yet, and it keeps me linked on to my host in the strangest fucking ways. So basically, if you're awake, I'm awake." He told me, still warming up from his hibernation, using his hands to rub his arms and shoulders. "I've still got some residual twitches left. I don't have any kind of focus on it, but I still feel things from time to time. I can't wait to be fully disengaged from you again." Then he looked at me, "Which reminds me...what the fuck were you DOING last night? I had bruises popping up all over me when I went to sleep! You're supposed to be having fun in this place, not throwing yourself down the steps."
"It's a looooong story, believe me." I told him. He sat beside me in silence for a moment, watching as a few humans and a couple of early rising vampires sleepily shuffled their way passed us through the garbage on the floor. I looked over at him, some of his dark brown hair brushing the tops of his eyebrows, and I realized that this was probably the friendliest Michael has ever been to me the entire time that I was there. Of course it's not hard to top the friendship factor when eveything else has been wrapped up in threats, blackmail, and envy. But at that particular moment, he almost seemed like...well...'family'. I was almost afraid to speak for fear that I'd ruin the moment. "So...I see you and Trevor made peace pretty quickly." He looked at me, squinting his eyes a bit as if he were trying to figure out the 'angle' in my comment. "I'm glad. You two should be happy."
"Yeah. We are." He said, looking back out at the empty dancefloor. He didn't say anything else at first, and I wasn't going to push it by adding anything else to the pseudo-conversation. But then he confessed, "He's all I have, you know? He took me out of a really bad place, and he made me into something better. He saved me." Even though I had my issues with Michael and his scheming boyfriend, the parallels between their relationship and the one Taryn and I shared, were frighteningly similar at times. "Trevor is the only thing keeping me afloat in all this...darkness. You understand that....right?" There was something in the way he looked at me, something in the tone of his voice, that almost made the statement feel like an apology.
"Sure...I get it." I said, surprised at the sentiment behind it.
He nodded his head and paused for a second. "I just...I don't know what I'd be without him. I doubt I could exist at all without him by my side in some way." I could almost feel a pinch of agony radiating off of him as he spoke, his eyes looking down to examine his fingernails as he picked at them. "I know that....what he feels for me...might not be as strong as I want it to be. I mean, I'm no idiot. But I'm patient. And I know he'll realize how much he loves me in time. Lately, he's been more amazing than ever, and it really feels like he's mine. Having Taryn and Gyro so distracted and absent from his heart was the best thing that ever happened to me." He told me. "And sometimes it hurts...not having it be one hundred percent genuine. But, like I said...he's all I've got. And I just can't bear the thought of him being with someone else, and just....'forgettng' about me like I never existed." He said. "I couldn't survive something like that, Justin. Being ignored and forgotten is the most painful way to die."
I tried to bring him some level of comfort. "I'm sure that Trevor cherishes the time he spends with you. He loves you just fine." Was it true? I don't know. I could never really tell if Trevor was being affectionate wth Michael, or just satisfying a need. But as I saw Michael's eyes water up slightly, I figured it was a version of the truth that he needed to hear at that moment.
"I'm afraid that one day, he's gonna just...get bored with me and move on to someone better. I know he is." He said, as one stray tear fell from his eye. He stopped it immediately and turned away to regain his stoic expression. "I'd do anything to keep that from happening for as long as I can, Justin. Anything."
"I know..." Michael didn't say a word until he had stopped the beginning of his waterworks entirely. Trying to remain tough and unnaffected by his own emotion. With all of that hatred and jealousy in his heart...he really did love Trevor with everything he had to give. It was, quite possibly, the most honest expression of love that I had ever seen in another person. I didn't want to pity him, but no other emotion could really describe what I felt as I saw his soul chasing after Trevor's ambitions in a hopeless race to the finish line. I should leave it alone. Who was I to tell him that his boyfriend was settling for someone to 'worship' him completely, instead of searching for a love to be shared equally between them both. Who knows? Maybe I'm the one who has it all wrong.
Michael sniffled a bit, but regained his composure quickly. "I don't need to be thinking about this shit so early in the evening. I'm as bad as Jenna is." His eyes hardly met mine at all. He wouldn't give me the satisfaction. Then he softly asked me, "Do you have any idea what it's like...to wake up every night and wonder if the only thing in this whole fucking world that you have left to live for....could be suddenly taken away from you beyond your control?"
"Yeah. I do. Believe me." I said, and felt our first bond connecting on something real. The emotion had soured us both, corrupting us from within, until there was nothing that we wouldn't do to keep our boyfriends at our side. It was one of the few things that Michael and I actually shared as brothers, and it was overwhelming. Michael lowered his head a bit, still fighting off the emotion, refusing to be vulnerable to it. And after an uncomfortable silence, I took a deep breath and said, "Look...I'm sorry if I jumped on you back at the lot. I was just....I was angry, you know?"
"Duh..." He replied quietly.
"You know, I'd rather you and I be friends instead of always trying to rip each other's hearts out." I offered him somewhat of a verbal olive branch, hoping that a truce could be made between us.
But as his eyes connected with mine, his gaze hardening as though he were expecting a trick, I knew that I was asking for far too much, far too soon. He didn't trust me at all, he couldn't. It just wasn't in his nature to do so. But he held the animosity back by simply telling me, "Just stay away from Trevor, and we'll be fine, you and me."
I guess that was the most I could get from him right now. I'll take it.
He stood up on his feet, and stretched a bit as his body was still adjusting to being awake this early, and he started to walk away from me. "Where are you going?" I asked.
He turned and said, "Trevor likes Jolly Ranchers, and I saw a candy cart full of them just a coule of sectors north of the habitats here. I'm gonna go get some and have them ready for him when he wakes up. He'll like that. He says they make my kisses taste even sweeter." He said with a gentle smile.
"Remember to watch your step out there." I said, nodding towards his bare feet.
"I won't catch anything that won't be gone by tomorrow's sleep cycle. I'll take my chances." He turned to walk a few steps further away from me, and I was willing to let him go without another word. But he stopped not far away, and gave me a look that I couldn't quite describe. Not quite admiration, not quite jealousy, not quite sympathy. But some strange combination of all three. And he said, "I see the way he looks at you, you know? Taryn, I mean." He told me. "If Trevor ever looked at me like that...I don't think I could handle it." Another tear slid down his cheek, and he told me, "You don't have anything to worry about, Justin. You've got the the kind of love that can survive almost anything." And before I could answer or even fully absorb what he said, he turned to sadly shuffle his steps away from me. Going out to retrieve a candy treat for the boy who he loved more than himself. The boy, who he wanted to return just a fraction of that love in return. As I watched him disappear around the corner, I wondered if he was satisfied. Maybe he was just enjoying the best of two dismal choices. Sometimes...being locked in a fantasy is better than being alone.
Some of the club's party lights turned on overhead, disco balls began to spin, and I could hear the sounds of mic and speaker checks going on in the distance. I looked all around me as the club prepared to get back into full swing all over again. Gearing up for another night of reckless debauchery. Looking at one of the specially crafted overhead clocks, I saw that I still had about twenty to twenty five minutes before Taryn and the others were awake. So I figured that I should do something to kill the time until then. Besides, now that this place wasn't bubbling over with unbalanced madness, I could actually walk aroundand see what was around me. I was glad to hear some music being pumped into the club again. The silence always drove me crazy while I was waiting for my sweetheart to return to life again. So I stood up and stretched myself out a bit, feeling my muscles warm up and become completely flexible again, and began exploring a little bit.
I looked around me in all directions as all of the computerized flatscreens began booting up and the lights began to slowly dim around me. I suppose that he IceZone was big on having their patrons wake up to the same electric atmosphere that they experienced before the big sleep came to take them away from it. I could feel the rumble returning to the walls slowly and could hear a few more voices in the distance as more and more 'early risers' began to stir and move around again. Some of them waking up to find their pockets empty and angrily cursing the bastards that ripped them off. ot that the Raiders weren't long gone by now.
I just picked a direction and started walking. No biggie where I was headed. Just so long as I could find my way back before the chaos started again. The disorienting haze of the club's technology was getting heavy again, cancelling out as many extras as it possibly could as I walked through the wide corridors of the place. I don't think it was as bad as before. Or maybe I'm just getting used to it. I couldn't tell. I was stepping over bodies left and right, the thickest concentration of them being on the massive dancefloors. More resembling a battlefield of fallen soldiers than the celebrated party circles it was before. Vampires who didn't want to stop partying long enough to find a comfortable place to rest their head before dawn were beginning to wake up with aches and pains in their backs and necks. Hehehe, I didn't envy that at all. The confetti and empty bottles at my feet just gave the floor an undeniably festive quality to it, exploding in an artistic array of clashing colors and textures. It was kinda cool to walk amongst the 'dead' like that.
Just as I kicked a small cluster of balloons forward, I heard someone call my name. "Justin! Dude...you are, like, everywhere these days, aren't you?" I looked around and saw a boy sitting on a stool by one of the abandoned bars in the club, a few years older than me, with the same long brown hair, but it was tied in a pony tail this time. I moved closer. "It's me, Jarrod. Remember? I met you not long ago over at...."
"Dash's sanctuary. Yeah, I remember." I smiled, shaking his hand as he invited me to sit at the bar with him. "What's up?"
"Ah, you know, same shit, different toilet." He grinned. Seeing a familiar face in this gigantic place was extremely comforting. It made the place feel more like 'home' to me. "It's a small world, man. I was actually kinda hoping that I would run into you again, but I wasn't thinking it would be this soon. How have you been?"
"Um...good, I guess. I've been runing around a lot." I told him.
"I believe it. Hey, you wanna drink?" He looked down at the bartender on the floor, who was still lost in his daytime hibernation. "Bartender, can we get a drink up here?" Naturally, he didn't answer. "Hehehe, terrible service in this place." He got up to walk around the bar himself to step over the bartender and set us up with two glasses. "Pick your poison?" He asked.
"They ALL taste like hydrochloric acid to me." I told him.
"Ah, I see. So you wanna pussy drink. That's ok, I've got just the thing for ya." He teased me a bit, but poured me something that didn't taste half as 'dangerous' as the other stuff I've had since I crossed over. Then he leaned over, putting his elbows on the bar, "Early riser too, huh?"
"Yeah. I wish I wasn't though. It sucks when everybody else sleeps later than I do."
"Tell me about it. It can drive you crazy if you're not careful. But it has its advantages for those of us who like a little quiet time to ourselves. I happen to be one of those people." Jarrod poured himself a drink, and clinked glasses with me before taking a sip. "It's all kinda touch and go, the whole sleep thing. Some vampires are born into darkness with light sleep cycles, some have extremely heavy sleep cycles, and there are a rare few who don't have a sleep cycle at all. Which I hear is really painful if you injure yourself. Because you have to sit there for hours and suffer through your bodies healing factor. I imagine it would be a freaky thing, feeling your body 'stitch' itself back together while you're up for 12 hours reading the same book over and over again." He grinned.
"Well, in that case, I guess I got off lucky."
"Indeed you did." He took another healthy sip, and then looked me in the eye with a smirk. "So, how did you manage to get yourself into the most extravagant vampire celebration in the city, anyway? You using some of those fancy moves of yours in one of the championship fightng arenas around here or something?"
"Oh...no, nothing like that." I said, taking in another mouthful of the sweetened drink he gave me. "Actually, my friend, Gyro....he's like...patched in to anything concerning liquor, lust, and loud music."
"Sounds like my kinda guy."
"Trust me, he's everybody's kinda guy." I told him. "Him and his connections got me and all of my friends tickets to come here. Two nights. We've gotta be out tonight with enough time to get home before dawn. How about you?" Just then, I saw another two or three Raiders walk by our bunks again, and I frowned up. "Hey! Knock it off! Get outta there!" I shouted. "GO!!!" They kept moving and went to the next sector with the others. "I really HATE those creeps!" I mumbled.
"Hey, there's big money in being a Raider. Being hated is a small price that they're willing to pay for the kinda cash they make."
"I'm sorry...you were saying?" I asked him. "How did you get in again?"
Jarrod looked around secretly for a second, and used his foot to gently kick the bartenter on the floor to make sure he wasn't awake and listening. "Honestly?" He whispered, moving closer. "I got in using a very extravagant forgery." He grinned at me as he poured himself another drink that was much stronger than the one he had before. "It took every last cent that I had to get it, but it was worth every penny. Walked right through the front gates, no problem."
"You like it that much, huh?"
"The party? Oh...well...yeah, sure. The celebration is probably one of the most exciting, most elaborate, and most amazing functions that I've ever been to in my entire crossover. Without a doubt." He took a sip of his drink, and his face wrinkled up from the powerful tang of it. "But...that's not why I'm here tonight."
I looked at him as he grabbed a bottle and brought it back around the bar to sit next to me again. "So...why are you here then?"
"You see that over there?" He nodded towards a sign that was on the wall behind me. I looked at it and it was advertising a new technological advance in vampire 'nourishment' and 'species support', as it said in bold letters. "You know what that's about? Hemoslugs. Actual humans fattened up and bred in a private factory for vampire consumption. They're actually here, in the open, where everyone can see them and sample their wares. Can you believe that?"
"I saw a couple of them near the entrance. They looked kinda scary."
"VERY scary, believe me. It's not just a whispered rumor anymore, these things are real. And they're looking to start mass producing and marketing them very soon." He said. "You remember the radio show that I told you about back at the sanctuary? The one that I run on a low frequency?"
"Yeah, I remember."
"Well, I'm gonna blow the story wide open on this as soon as I get all the facts together. I've been doing my research, and the vampire Mafia is pumping a whole lot of money into this thing. It's gonna be the ultimate cash cow of the new millenium, and they're making sure they get their claws in it early."
"Hehehe, there's really a vampire Mafia? I thought that was, like, a joke." I chuckled, but Jarrod was serious.
"No joke. Believe me. What? You don't think they had a hand in running this club? Or any of the other clubs around the city? The fighting rings, the casinos, the spice shacks...they're tapped into everything. This new technology is just another number in the books for them. They're not thinking about the possible ramifications of having something like this discovered by the human population." He said. "One of their top guys in the area is headlining this particular project. All paths lead right back to him." Jarrod scooted closer, taking a small notebook out of his inside pocket. "He goes by a lot of names and aliases. John, Greyfox, Drew...a lot of people know him as JT. But most of his associates call him 'The Lizard'."
"The Lizard? Why?"
"His extra...it allows him to walk on walls flawlessly. He developed an entire fighting style based on it. Something about...being able to fight in as many dimensions as the walls allow, or something. Anyway, all of the top ranking Mafia element are taught to use this skill so as to become his enforcers out on the streets. It makes them, like, invinceable, you know?"
I smiled to myself, "Well...I wouldn't say invinceable." I should probably thank him for allowing me to indirectly pick that extra up from his goons.
"Whatever. Anyway, he's funding the movement to make the hemoslugs more marketable with growth hormones and all that. Then we're talking millions of dollars, here! Do you know what kinda muscle he can buy with money like that?" Jarrod took another big sip, and set his glass down on the bar top. "Somebody's gotta stop this before it's too late. If the humans find out what he's up to, it'll be open season on vampires. They'll slaughter us all." He looked over at the sign again, and then got up to tear it down off of the wall. He crumpled it up in his hands and came back to join me. "I can't believe this shit. You know, these slugs are only two, maybe three years old? They're never taught to walk, never taught to speak...they're just fattened up and given injections to make the bloodflow more plentiful. And vampires think they're being so smart by growing these things. It's no different than sneaking into a nursery at night and draining a toddler." He said with an obvious bad taste for the very concept of it. "How the Elders can just turn their backs on this on pretend it's not happening is a mystery to me. It's not right."
I finished what I was drinking, thinking about what he said. But, I have to admit that there was a part of me that would be thankful for the chance to spare more lives a year by maybe getting a more stable source of food. What would be so different between this and Jeremy's blood shack? I don't want to go hunting every month for fresh meat in the streets of Chicago for the next 100 years. If I could get around it entirely, I would. But for now, I'd rather choose the lesser of two evils. I asked, "I thought the hemoslugs were supposed to spare us from having to hunt so often?"
"Ha! Yeah...they'll say anything to make it sound humane. Trust me, the people who came up with this technology experimented on and tortured countless human beings and unborn fetuses in order to get this right. Humanity was not their main concern."
I was silent for a moment, and said, "You know...we kill too. How is that any better?"
Jarrod put his drink down, wrinkling up his brow. "Justin...we kill for survival. We hunt for food. They're doing this for profit, and they're gonna pay dearly for it."
"But...won't it help?"
"NO, it's not gonna help!" Jarrod began to get irritated instantly. "Listen, I'm not saying that our way is perfect. If anything, it pretty much guarantees all of us a nice warm spot in hell when we finally do go beyond darkness. But to rape the world and abuse these poor creatures for the almighty dollar is just unforgivable. It's as disgusting an enterprise as anything ever created. And when I make my report live on that radio frequency, I'm sure a LOT of other vampires are gonna agree with me!"
At that moment, causing both of us to jump at once, the speakers above us kicked on, and music blared into the room at top volume. The lights dimmed themselves way down, and strobelights began to flicker and flash in the corners of the room, as the celebration began to kick into gear again. A few more voices could be heard around us, and some of the bodies on the dancefloor were resurrected from their sleep, stretching and yawning, trying to recover from the momentary disorientation. As vampires slowly began to stir in spread out clusters of two and three, the Ice Zone came back to life, ready to regain its glory and spin out of control for another evening of unimaginable delights.
After the shock had worn off, and we could catch our breaths again, Jarrod and I looked at each other again. Then a bashful grin broke out on his face, and he apologized. "Sorry. I didn't mean to come off as some kinda fanatic or anything. I can be a bit of an activist when it comes to 'vampire politics' and all."
"S'ok, really." I told him. "Besides, you're right. I just...I wish I had an alternative. That's all."
"We all do, man. We all do." He said. There was a loud noise behind us, and we turned to see a huge body building female vampire, angrily chasing three Raiders all by herself, as they had evidently been caught trying to snatch her purse. That lady was a fucking MONSTER! I'd be high tailing it too, if she was chasing me.
"Well there's something you don't see everyday." I giggled.
"Oh man, if only I had a dollar for every time I said those same words since I've been in this place!" Jarrod teased as the behemoth chased the Raiders around the corner. We heard a loud crash and some screaming, as though they were being physically tied in knots, and then saw a very satisfied muscle-bound 'lady' walk back around the corner with her purse on her shoulder. Jarrod and I couldn't help but laugh. Good for them, hehehe! Jarrod then turned to me and asked, "So the BIG question is...when are you gonna break down and let me talk to you on my show?"
"No....I don't know if..."
"Aw, c'mon! They'll eat it up! Newblood halflife saves vampire sanctuary from attack? It'll be huge!"
I smiled, but kept my head down to keep him from persuading me. "I told you, I don't even want that being spread around. It was just something that sorta 'happened', you know?"
"Whatever. The truth should never be a secret to anyone who seeks it. It's practically the radio station's motto."
"Hehehe, don't you get in trouble for that?"
"Trouble? For speaking the truth? Nah, not exactly. I've gotten some choice words from a few pissed off Elders who told me to cease and desist before though. Had to stop broadcasting on that frequency entirely." He said.
"What did you do?"
"I opened up another frequency and kept smoking! Hehehe, can't stop the media, baby!" Jarrod poured himself another drink, and just as he put the bottle down, the bartender woke up and got on his feet. He took the bottle from him and gave us both a scolding look before putting it back on the shelf behind him. "Sorry!" Jarrod called after him as he walked away to refill his supply for the night. "So listen, I can give you an exclusive spot on the show, you get to tell what happened from your own perspective, no tricks, no games, no 'edited' comments taken out of context...it'll be great. Whaddya say? Huh? Come on, do it!"
"Sorry. I'm kinda...laying low at the moment. I'm afraid you're gonna have to find yourself another story." I grinned.
"There ARE no other stories! Not anything worth reporting about, anyway. There's a couple of wild goose chases here and there, but nothing concrete." He said, but he got my attention when he added, "The last one I was investigating was a total wash out. That weird...vampire mimic rumor that's got everybody so buzzed lately."
"Oh....really...?" I said. I felt my smile visibly fading, and had to remind myself to keep it up.
"Yeah, it's some screwy prophecy that the psychics are going crazy over. There have supposedly been these 'sightings' and predictions and...it's all a bunch of bullshit. I might as well be chasing Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster."
I tried not to let on that I had any idea what he was talking about, but wanted to make sure that veryone thought this whole thing was as 'ficticious' as I wanted them to believe it was. "So...what did they say?" He looked at me strange for a second. "I mean...what kinda stuff did you...find out?"
"Nothing really. I investigated a bunch of different places around town, and nobody can seem to get their facts straight. One person says he's blond, the next person says he's got reddish brown hair. One person says he's the kind of noble savior they were all expecting, the next peson claims that he's a...um...." Jarrod flipped over a few pages in his notebook to find the exact quote. "...A destructive force that knows nothing of compassion or mercy. A serious threat to our kind that needs to be wiped from the face of the Earth before he does any more damage to all we've built as a society." He told me. "You see? Bullshit? According to their reports, this guy is practically showing up in two places at once. I chased the story around for a little while out of curiosity, but nobody really has their facts straight on this just yet. So I've got no story."
"Can I see that?" I asked, reaching out for his notebook.
But, unfortunately, he pulled it back. "Sorry bro, but this stuff is kinda classified. Even if it's bullshit." He put it back in his pocket and sipped his drink again. "I'm thinking that this kid, whoever he is, is being mistaken for this ancient old prophecy that was written in the scriptures years ago. From what I hear on the street, this boy is tearing up shit something awful. He's going to be in some serious trouble when the shit boomerangs and hits him right between the eyes. I heard that the Elders have already dispatched Hunters into the area. Half the assassins in the Midwest are searchng for this kid."
I put my glass down, my hand trembling a bit. There was no faking a smile at this point. The more trouble this 'Rage' was causing, the more careful I was going to have to be. He's the LAST person I'd want to get confused with. "What if...they make a mistake? I mean...you said that nobody had their facts straight yet, right? Don't they have to be sure they've got the right guy?"
"The right guy? Hehehe, no, not hardly." He told me. "I did a story on an ex-hunter once a few years ago, and he showed me over 500 files of targets that he was hired to take out, and a majority of his kills either turned out to be a bad case of mistaken identity or innocent people who got in the way. Unfortunately, in matters this severe, the Elders are pressured to use speed over accuracy when solving the problem. I guess they figure that even if they get the wrong guy, the carnage alone will cause their true target to lay low and prevent exposure." Jarrod took another sip, almost finishing his drink. "They can be some heartless bastards when they wanna be, believe me. But it's nothing to really worry about. With Hunters searching every corner for him and closing in on his location, I doubt this kid will last another week."
"But....sometimes, people get away, right? I mean...when they miss?"
He smiled at me and said, "They're Hunters, kiddo.....they never miss." Jarrod must have seen the deadpan look on my face as my shoulders dropped, and I felt the increasing weight of tragedy bearing down on me again. Those dark questions resurfaced with a vengence. What if they come for the wrong person? What if the Hunters blame me for everything that Rage has done? So far, none of the angry people I've run into have been big on asking questions first. What if they hurt me? What if they hurt Taryn? What if that Hunter in the sanctuary was just the beginning of what I was going to have to face in the near future? I didn't DO anything! Why is this happening to me? All I wanted was to be happy. Is fate so disgusted with me that it's willing to throw these life threatening obstacles at me at every turn? "You alright?" Jarrod asked.
"Oh..yeah, I'm ok. Just...the alcohol in this drink must be getting to me. That's all." I said. "What is this?"
"A Shirley Temple." He smiled. "Sprite and Grenadine. No alcohol." I looked at the glass, and we both shared a slight giggle over it. But mine was shortlived. My mind was plagued with too much too enjoy the moment for more than a second or two. "Justin...relax. K? The rampaging halflife story will be over before I even get the chance to investigate it. And the whole mimic legend is a ghost story. A total vampire folk tale. It's our culture's take on John Henry and Paul Bunyon. Hardly anything to worry yourself about."
I nodded, but his words gave me no comfort at all. I kinda wish that drink had alcohol in it now.
The party began to swell around us, the crowd thickening more and more as the celebration returned to life. Vampires were now waking up in much larger groups of twenty to thirty at a time, maybe more, and that was every few seconds. I looked back at the bunks where my friends were, and noticed Michael climbing back up to the top compartment with his Jolly Ranchers in hand. Bryson was the first to peek his head out of the curtain, and even though he was disheveled, sleepy, and stiff...he was the first to climb out and take 'inventory' of the others to make sure they were all there. I started to get up to go and join them, when I saw Taryn lazily peek through the curtain and look around to see why I wasn't laying there by his side. Even with his hair in total dissarray, he was still too cute for words. His lips were pouted out slightly as he scanned the room, and then, as if our hearts connected all on their own, he found me. Our eyes locked on to one another, and I waved for him to come join me. He gave me the sweetest smile, and then went back into the compartment to get dressed.
"That's...Taryn, right? Your boyfriend over there?" Jarrod asked.
"Yeah....." I sighed dreamily.
"You've got a good thing going, Justin. Love, good friends...tickets to the biggest party in the country, maybe even the world...don't ever let that go. Keep your heart." He said, as I looked back at him. "The second you stop believing in something more is the second you lose it all."
If only my belief, and my belief alone, could be enough to keep him safe. To keep us both safe. As I saw Taryn emerge from that bunk with fresh clothes on and a smile on his ruby lips, fixing his hair and letting Bryson know where he was going...I thought about how much he meant to me. And how he saved me from myself when I needed him most. How could I not give my life to protect him? He's the one angel that God left here for me to enjoy. And no matter what storm the rest of our kind sees coming on the horizon for us, I'm going to fight with everything I have to make sure that we stay together. Forever.
Just like we promised.