Everything seemed so bright. I had almost forgotten how the world looked when it wasn't obscurred by darkness and shadow. How beautiful everything was when it wasn't illuminated by the constant hum of 'artificial' light. I found myself walking down a familiar hallway, surrounded by a variety of other kids my age. My old high school. I could never forget the iron lockers on either side of me, locking me into this juvenile prison, stealing little bits of my life and spirit seven hours at a time, five days a week. As I walked forward, everything seemed to be slightly slowed down. Almost as if I was wading through a deep puddle of mud. And the looks I got from the other students...I remembered them well. Nothing had changed. Those cold eyes could truly devour you whole if you gave them the attention they asked you for. As if you weren't insecure enough, with your feelings, with your body, with your place in the world...but you have their judging eyes to perform for as well. An entire society of kids, supposedly just like you, who seem to have it all figured out. Who know what they want to do, know what they want to be. They knew how to talk to people, and have fun, and impress parents, and get good grades, and be popular. All the things I couldn't do. All the things I couldn't be. I remember how often it felt like the walls were closing in on me, pressuring me to find way out. ANY way out. And I remember how often my prayers were denied, my insecurities confirmed. No....this was one place I didn't miss at all.
I continued forward, trying not to hold eye contact with anyone else for too long. I heard whispers and giggles coming from both sides of the hall. A few girls looking at me with a grin. Were they making fun of me? Was it even me they were talking about? I felt someone bump my shoulder and tell me to watch where I was going. A few others took a moment to frown their face up, or blurt out a simple, "Geek!" Before walking past.
"Watch it, dork!"
"Omigod, look at what this kid's wearing? Who dressed YOU this morning, mama's boy?"
"Hey, isn't that Justin from gym class? He can't play baseball to save his life! God, he sucks!"
"He's probably a queer, anyway? I've never seen him with a girl before, have you?"
Maybe it was just a matter of me being lost in the dream, but those same childish comments seemed to cause me just as much pain as they did before. And all at once, I found myself ashamed. In darkness, I'm revered as a messiah. The chosen one, here to bring wisdom, and knowledge, and awareness. A golden child with the fear and respect reserved for a god. And yet...returning here, I was just some loser that they could use as target practice for random insults and shoves in the hallway. How could I allow them to still hurt me? Why should I even care? I didn't need their approval. Not anymore. I'm better than ALL of them! And yet...the fact that it still wasn't enough to impress them...made it hurt even worse than it ever did before.
Moving through the halls further, I noticed something hanging suspended in mid air. Small white dots...spitballs. Hovering weightlessly as I moved towards them. There were literally hundreds of them, and I had to put my hand up to gently push them away from my face. My palms could feel their wet and sticky surface as they slowly floated away from my motions. Everything slowed down even further, as the faces of the students around me lit up with laughter. Twisted, off tune, laughter. Fingers pointing at me. Teachers shaking their heads in disappointment. And then...I heard the sound of a loud crash coming from the classroom ahead of me. Followed by the shouting of other kids, chanting as though they were starting violent revolution in the streets. The noises continued, the crashes got louder as I approached, and then...they stopped.
I wanted to see what was going on. I wanted to know what happened. But I was moving in slow motion. I couldn't get there fast enough. And suddenly, I saw a rather large male teacher dragging a young boy out of the room...and that boy...was me. The teacher scolded him, grabbed him brutally by the arm, and started the long march to the principal's office. However, as they crossed my path, the teacher didn't notice me standing there at all. But my twin did. It was like looking into the jagged shards of a broken mirror...barely recognizing my own reflection in his devious eyes. He had bruises on his face, blood on his hands and a splash of blood on his cheek, some of it smeared on his lips. And when he passed me, his eyes locking onto mine with an intimidting stare....he smiled fiendishly in my direction. And with a look of pure satisfaction for the violence he had just been a part of...he lewdly licked the blood off of his lips, and gave me a wink.
I turned slightly to see the teacher drag me around the corner, and then crept ever closer to the room in front of me. I reached it at last, and opened the door, peeking inside. It didn't look like a classroom at all. Instead, on the other side of that door, I saw a barren wasteland, stretching out as far as the eye could see. The sky was red and black, swirled together with clouds the color of a freshly lit fire. The ground was dry, cracking and splitting itself into squares of useless Earth. A heated, but gentle, wind blew across the terrain, and when I looked down, all I could see was destruction. Dead bodies, covered with blood. Ripped to pieces. Gutted. Broken beyond shape or form. It was as if the whole world had been slaughtered...and I was responsible.
But...far off in the distance...too far me to see with anything more than my senses...was a 'light'. No, wait...that's not right. It was more like an anti-light. A vortex of darkness, swirling wildly in a storm of anger and pain. It was pulling on everything around it, drowning it in sorrow. Sucking it into its turbulent center like a bottomless whirpool. I could almost feel the emotional outburst from where I was standing, and it gave me a shiver. Endless cold. Unimaginable fury. How could one soul possess so much hatred? And how is it...that I can find so much of myself in its hypnotic effect?
I was almost drawn to it. It was more than curiousity. It was as if....it understood a part of me that I couldn't understand myself. As if it were calling out for me to connect with its level of darkness, and become one with its unrestricted power. But....just as I noticed that darkness in the distance....it seemed to take notice of me as well. In fact, I could feel it searching for me. Shining a spiritual searchlight in an attempt to locate me. Whatever this entity was, it had become aware of my presence...and it was mentally reaching out to hunt me down. It was just as intrigued by my light as I was by its darkness...and I backed away as I found its persuing eyes getting ever closer to landing upon me and my newfound family in the lot. How did it know I was here? How did....'he' come to find out about me?
He was tracking me somehow. Something I did....one of my many visible actions in this world...it left a mark. A signature. Comicality told me that every act committed left behind a piece of the person who did it, and this other entity was using it to find me. Rage....he was watching. Waiting. I had somehow alerted him to my existence, and now he was seeking me out. I can't let him find me. I can't let him hurt my friends.
I could feel that spotlight getting closer, and I backed up even more. Hoping to find a way out of this dream before he was able to pinpoint me. I had to move. I had to stay hidden. The darkness was spreading, and the clouds above swirled up into a building storm, as my own unchecked emotions began to prepare to fight this new threat at all costs. This was no time to be cocky...I needed to be SMART! I needed to 'hide'! But the storm wouldn't listen. It was angrily growing in size, flashing bolts of lightning and earth rattling thunder sending out a challenge to Rage and anyone else who dared to harm me or any my companions. Rage locked onto the storm, feeling the pain, the regret, the humiliation...and I wondered....if he could see me. Could he sense my agony? My conflict? I think he did. nd he was drawn to it instantly.
As I looked ahead, I saw myself standing on the edge of deep cliff...the same boy from the hallway. My other side. My growing anger, personified in the loss of my self control. He looked over his shoulder at me, fangs beared, eyes glowing crimson, staring through me. His stoic expression was void of any feeling whatsoever. An empty abyss of madness. And he wanted Rage to come. He was practically calling out to him. Wanting to hurt him. To murder him. To accept his desire to try and take our love from us. It couldn't have been 'me'. It couldn't have been. It was so dark, so merciless. It was the vision of a boy who had been picked on and abused, stressed out and beaten, ashamed nd confused. He was a boy pushed beyond his limits until there was simply no soul left for him to defend. It was a part of me that I had been fighting to get away from my whole life. A part of me that I was willing to KILL myself over, just to prevent him from ever reaching the surfce! Maybe it was the real me. And maybe....it was his time to take over for a while.
My mind seemed to fill itself with the sound of tribal drums as I watched my other half stare out over the wasteland and await Rage's call. This had to stop. This CAN'T happen! What am I doing? I backed up some more, hoping that I could control the swirling clouds above me for just a little bit longer! I called out to my other self, but he wouldn't listen. He wouldn't even acknowledge me anymore. He was a warrior. A god. Who was I to influence his divine will? I fought HARD to get my emotions under control, closing my eyes tight and reminding myself that it was all just a dream. Calm down....calm down...be smart, Justin....be smart. It was then that I took one more step backwards, nd bumped into something behind me. It scared the shit out of me at first, and I spun around to see what it was! And the Beast stood before me, towering over my young frame, eyes glowing red and ready to force my hand and push me towards creating another bloodbath. The second our eyes connected, it roared outloud, causing my body to be blown back off of my feet and down onto the field of corpses beneath me! The whole world shook, and I saw a demonic wingspan spread out as the creature took hold and claimed this domain as its own!
My eyes shot open with a gasp! And I took a deep breath, almost choking as I sat up in bed, holding my chest while I tried to keep my heart from beating so fast. I huffed, puffed, and panted...a sheen of ice cold sweat covering my bare chest. It took me minute to rub the last remaining dream images out of my eyes, hoping to focus and quickly adjust to reality again. What kind of sickness did that temper tantrum bring out of me? It was like...every hurtful emotion that I ever had was suddenly...taking on a mind of its own. And it kept feeling better and better everytime I experienced the raw energy within its ice cold grip. Why? I'm not usually like this. This isn't me. It just....it can't be me.
My first instinct, once I was able to catch my breath, was to look over beside me, and touch the lump under the covers. I pulled back the blanket to see Taryn's raggedy flop of reddish brown locks come into view, his pale lips spread gently as he continued to slumber on until his regular time after sunset. I stared at his beauty, so amazed that he was still here beside me. So relieved that he was alright. I slinked back down in the bed, and looked to see the scars on his neck were gone. His body was still cold and stiff, but it was a small discomfort to bear when I found myself snuggling up to him and running my fingers through the softness of his hair. I leaned forward, and kissed his lips tenderly, smiling as though tasting them for the first time. And I felt a tear dribble down to my pillow as I traced a finger across the flawless skin of his cheek. I don't know how long I lay there, worshipping the well crafted artwork of his every delicate feature...but I was instantly excited when I felt traces of his warmth returning back to him. His body began to soften and loosen up like warm butter in my arms, and when he stretched his arms above his head, I was right there to slip under them and place a lover's kiss on his kissably pink lips.
"Hehehe! Well, good evening to you too." He said, caught by surprise with such an early smooch.
I smiled, and kissed him once again, this time, my tongue pushing forwrd to further seal our embrace. Minutes passed by in a flash, and I was breathless when our lips parted again. "I missed you." I whispered softly.
"I can tell." He giggled, but then a serious look appeared on his face. "I'm sorry for being so stupid, Justin. I didn't mean for any of that to happen. I just couldn't..."
"Don't...ok? It was my fault. All of it." I told him. "But you don't have to worry anymore. Because...I'm never gonna let anyone hurt you ever again. You hear me? Not ever." I told him.
Taryn gave me a look of concern. "Justin...I..."
"No! Don't say it!" I snapped. It startled him slightly, and my sudden spark of anger surprised even me. I quickly lowered my voice and calmed down. "Taryn...what that bastard did to you was NOT your fault, ok?" Taryn's face didn't change. In fact, he looked away from me. "He...he KNOWS not to fuck with us anymore. It'll be MONTHS before Soren can even get that place operational again. And even then, he's not gonna risk hurting you again. Not after what I almost did to him."
"What you almost 'did' to him? Justin...I know that you were...angry, and you wanted to help me, and I LOVE you for it, baby! I really do!" He reached up to caress my cheek as he looked deep into my eyes. "But...you can't just keep...'hurting' people. You can't beat up everybody who causes us any trouble."
"Why not?" I said the words before I even knew they were on the tip of my tongue. It was an instant response, backed up by a delayed sense of logic that further twisted the question into something real. Why can't I take down anyone who causes us pain? Huh? How much pain have I lived with? How much has Taryn lived with? With all of our heart and our forgiveness and our compassion, we've been made FOOLS of by our own humanity. We didn't just 'give' our lives over to darkness. We were bullied into it! Pushed and prodded until we had no other alternative left to us. Why SHOULD we be the ones to endure this suffering! Let THEM suffer for once! Let the wicked pay for the shit they toss everybody else's way! For once, fate has given me the power to DO something significant! For once, I don't have to just turtle up and TAKE it! I can fight back! I can MAKE them understand!
But...as Taryn's eyes lowered, and refused to meet mine again...I knew that he wanted no part of it. I didn't get it. Why wouldn't he want the same thing that I want? Why would he want to go on living in pain when I can protect him? I was confused, but felt empty the second he pulled away from me and got out of bed to get dressed. He didn't say anything at first, sliding his boxers on over his smooth nude body, soon reaching for a t-shirt. I looked down, almost ashamed for what I was thinking. For what I was saying. I didn't want Taryn to be ashamed of me, I just...I would do ANYTHING to keep him safe. Anything.
Taryn kept his eyes down the entire time that it took him to get dressed. I knew that he was trying hard to block me out. To bite his tongue on what he thought about me. And despite my good intentions, I just....I wanted to make things right between us, you know? I was trying sooooo hard to make things right. Why am I so BAD at this? So lost when it comes to being more than just....'average'? I knew that I could be better. Stronger. More amazing than any other vampire in existence if I really wanted to be. But...without the love of the half naked boy standing before me, what would any of that be worth? What would my existence be when his highly cherished kiss was subtracted from an already dismal equation? And it was then that I looked down at the floor, and tried to keep the watery deposits in my eyes from rolling down my cheeks. I didn't want him to be afraid of me. I only wanted him to trust me to keep him safe. No matter what.
It was at that moment...when Taryn pulled his shirt down over his head, that he looked back at me, and saw my bottom lip quivering as I attempted to bottle up the sadness before he was able to see it. Even without looking up, I could sense the despair in his heart. The sympathy in his eyes. And he moved forward to sit beside me on the bed, putting his arm around me and holding me close...cheek to cheek, as I struggled to understand. Maybe we were both struggling to understand. Who knows? I just wasn't ready to let go of his love. And he wasn't ready to let go of mine. It was the only bond that kept us strong in this time of adversity. It's the only thing that held us together...and I appreciated it above everything else.
As Taryn's hug pulled me in, the first few silent tears fell from my eyes. And then, the first sniffle...which led to a much more visible emotional expression. There was no holding it back. Part of those tears were created by the joy of having him back. Part of those tears were created from the embarassment of losing my cool. And some....some were there from plain old confusion. Confusion about what to do, what to say, who I was, and who I will become. But no matter what the reason, no matter their purpose, Taryn's arms held me tight, and refused to let me fall. He never let me fall.
"It's ok, Justy. It's ok." He whispered, gently rocking me back and forth as my quiet sobs were muffled by his shoulder.
"I'm sorry....ok? I'm sorry. I was just so....so damn SCARED!" I cried. "I couldn't let them hurt you. I can't live without you. You're all I have left in this world! There aren't any more alternatives, Taryn. There isn't anyone left to make things ok again. Just you." I felt more tears spill over from my eyes, and cried some more. "It wasn't ME out there last night, Taryn! I SWEAR to you....it wasn't me...."
"I know, honey! I know." Taryn squeezed me, kissing my forehead tenderly as he continued to sway with me, offering all the comfort he could provide me. "I don't know how to help you, baby. I don't know what to do..." He sniffled, a heartbreaking tone in his voice. "But we're gonna find a way! Ok? We're gonna find somebody that can tell you what you need to do to get through this. Ok?" He kissed me again, and I could feel his tears on my cheeks as well. "I know it's hard. I know. But I'm HERE for you, Justin. I'm not going anywhere, baby. You hear me? I'm right here."
It might have been five minutes, it might have been twenty, but Taryn held me in his arms until my heart was full again, and my tears began to dry. We were silent, finding an unchallenged comfort in each other's embrace. But once we heard some voices outside, we knew that it wouldn't be long before someone came knocking on our door to find out what happened last night. I could practically 'feel' Bryson's concern seeping through the walls from the second he opened his eyes on the other side of the lot.
Taryn loosened his arms a bit, and gave me a kiss on the cheek, smoothing out my blond hair on both sides to get it looking somewhat decent. "You get dressed, and we'll talk to Bryson about getting you some outside help, ok?" He said, his voice still trembling a bit.
I nodded with a sniffle. "Ok." I got out of bed, and he gave me a deep kiss on the lips before slipping his sneakers on and heading outside. The second the door opened, I heard Gyro's excited whine, and everyone rushed over to hear about what happened. Taryn giggled a bit, and gave me a wink before closing the door behind him. It made me smile warmly to myself. Ugh...it's gonna be a long night telling THAT story over and over again.
Just as I was pulling on a pair of black jeans, I thought back to the menacing images from my dream, and I could almost swear that I heard the echoes of distant thunder in my head. I remembered the cold look of satisfaction in my own eyes as I stood on the edge of that cliff...and I wonder...do I really have any choice in whether or not I become that other person.
Or am I merely delaying the inevitable?
I put my shoes on, stood up, and took a deep breath before opening the door to the trailor. The night sky was blindingly bright with stars, and the only thing that could possibly be brighter...was the giant gleam of Gyro's overwhelming smile as he hopped up from the hood of a nearby car and ran over to greet me at top speed.
"DUDE!!! Did you really beat up like a THOUSAND fucking people last night???" He shrieked, his boyish little voice cracking from the strain.
I stepped down onto the ground. "Hehehe....well....I don't know about a thousand..."
Gyro's energy was off the charts, and I felt it wash over me as Jenna's empath ability kicked in on its own. "I bet you it was MORE than a thousand! Prolly more like a MILLION!!! Right??? Awww, I WISH I could have been there to see you kick that much ass!!!" He danced around me for a second, swinging his fists and making ridiculous noises with his outh, and then actually jumped up onto my back without warning. "Dude, you've GOTTA tell me EVERYTHING! I hope you fucked them up GOOD for messing with your man!"
"Hehehe, well, let's just say that I think a few of them will think twice before coming around us anymore." I said, blushing a bit from Gyro's relentless worship of me.
"So how'd it start? Did you just walk in there and start pounding or what? Did you use all your cool powers? OOOOOOH!!!! Did you get to use MINE??? The thing I taught ya, with the tingles? I wanna know if you used MINE! You can hurt people with it, you know?"
"Hahaha, so you told me." I laughed, feeling his weight getting heavier on my back as he squirmed around, his arms tight on my neck.
"Jesus, give him a break, will ya?" Rain said as she walked past. She was obviously dressed up to go out somewhere for the evening. "He's probably not even healed all the way yet, and you're using him for a freakin' jungle gym."
I turned my head to whisper in Gyro's ear as he rested his chin on my shoulder. "Maybe you should use some of those tingly good vibes on her every once in a while."
"EWWWWWW!!! I don't wanna see my sister get...'turned on'!!!" He cringed, and slid down off of my back, sticking his tongue out and making a face like he had just swallowed a mouthfull of bleach. He shivered at the thought, his eyes closed. "Yuck! You're SO gross dude." And he walked away from me.
"Hehehe, you know you LOVE me!" I told him.
"I DO!" He yelled back happily.
Everything seemed so calm. So outrageously normal. It almost didn't seem real. I looked over to see Taryn sitting on the hood of an old Caddy, being barraged with a bunch of questions and jokes and cheers for his safe return to the family. They crowded around him as though he were getting ready to stand up and act it all out for their amusement. Trevor and Michael were not too far away from the group. Far enough to pretend that they didn't care. Close enough to listen to the story in full. I could have gone over to help him absorb some of that glory. I could have taken a bow and giggled through ego stroking compliments of me being some kind of great warrior, and a true hero. But the fact of the matter is...I was terrified last night. Scared out of my mind. I wasn't some heroic figure, beating down bad guys and standing triumphant on a mountain of gold. Instead, I was left ashamed. Bleeding, crying, dirty....broken. The only thing that kept me going was blind rage. And as Comicality once warned me....that wasn't always going to be enough.
Last night...it wasn't enough.
As I walked out into the center of the lot, the others noticed me, and happily tried to wave me over. They wanted me to join them. To give them the full story. But I had something that I needed to do first. Something important.
"In a minute, ok?" I said. Taryn's eyes met mine from across that distant space...and we connected in the most intimate way. He knew that I was headed over to Bryson's truck. He knew that I was about to ask for the help I needed, from the only source that I had. What's more...he knew that it took a great amount of faith and struggle for me to open up like that, when I had been so shut off from the world for so long. Yeah.....he saw that, and an unexpected smile crossed his lips. His eyes were glowing with this...this pride, you know? This unbelievable love for everything that I am. And you'll never felt anything more 'complete', than the stare of true love's rose colored gaze. He knew what I was about to do. He knew that I was about to bare all to Bryson and try to get the help I needed. And that brought him so much comfort. It felt good to rid him of some of that worry for a change.
I don't know....maybe I HAD grown a lot since I've been here. Maybe I had learned to put more trust in my friends, more faith in their guidance. Then again, maybe I had just gone plum crazy and didn't know it yet. But whatever it was, it was bringing me to a point where I felt comfortable letting go of my secrets. Just a little bit at the time. You never realize how heavy those secrets are, until you begin to leave them behind you.
I saw Bryson standing beside his truck with Doc right next to him, laptop in hand. He had a thin jacket on, and was leaning down to tie his shoes. I walked over slowly, wondering where to begin. Trying to figure out a calm and cool way to start off an explanation that details me as some sort of bloodthirsty monster, ripping through an army of guards and indiscriminately slashing through flesh like the swinging blade of a pendulum. I didn't know if I had the words...but I needed to find them. He needed to know.
However, when I got there...the look on Bryson's face was a solemn one. It was something I rarely ever noticed, especially from him. Bryson's eyes looked dead, and cold...but he attempted to cover it with a somewhat 'generic' greeting. "It's good to have you home, Justin. Damn good."
"Um...thanks." I said, still confused by his demeanor. "Bryson...I kinda need to talk to you about...last night. Actually, I need to talk to you about a lot of things."
"I understand, but.it'll have to wait for a little while, ok? Perhaps tomorrow. Tonight I want you to work with Jun some more on your meditations." Bryson kept his head down, pretending to fiddle with the zipper on his jacket. He was hiding from me. "Doc is searching around with Pan's help to find us somebody that can tell us what to expect from you. Maybe they can give us a clue on how to better assist you in learning what you need to learn."
"Jun will be ready in about ten minutes. Maybe twenty..."
"Bryson? Is something wrong?" I asked, and his eyes looked up at me briefly.
"No. Not wrong. Just....not wrong, ok?" He said putting his hand on my shoulder. "I'm sorry, Justin. I'd talk to you tonight if I could. But...I have to go out tonight."
"Hehehe, go 'out'? Not our Bryson. Our Bryson NEVER goes out." I smiled, hoping to lighten him up a bit.
It barely got a smile. "Sometimes...he has to." Bryson replied. And it was then that it clicked. And when I looked behind him, I saw that he had stashed a small plastic bag behind Doc's chair, with an extra shirt and pants inside.
"You're....you're going to feed tonight....aren't you?" Bryson didn't answer, he just grabbed the bag and started backing away from us.
"Be sure to give Jun your full attention tonight, alright? Remember to focus, and dig deep into those feelings. Trust Jun, he knows what he's doing. We'll tak tomorrow night." He continued to back up for another few steps, and then turned around to leave the lot before I had the chance to ask him anymore questions. I didn't bother to call after him. It was hard enough for him to even look me in the eye, how do I expect him to confess to searching for a warm body to feast upon in the streets. It's difficult enough to justify it in our own minds without having to say it outloud.
Doc could see the sympathy in my eyes. "Don't sweat it, dude. He'll be back in an hour or two, he'll sulk for a little bit, and go right back to being big poppa in no time. You'll see."
"I don't think I've ever seen him like that, Doc. Never."
"I have. He usually tries to sneak out unnoticed when he goes out to feed. He doesn't want the others to ever see him leave. It's like he thinks we'll look at him differently if we do. I don't get wht the big deal is. I mean, the guy's gotta eat some time. We all know that." Doc wheeled himself over a bit to show me his laptop screen. "Anyway, Pan and I have been checking out a lot of underground channels, hoping to find some more information on Vampire Mimics without setting ourselves up with any 'red flags' from the Elders. Unfortunately, most of those channels lead to a dead end. And the few people who know something are either complete crackpots or simply aren't talking. They pretty much sign off the second the subject gets mentioned. You, my friend, appear to be a very touchy subject."
"So, I take it that no one is gonna help me. I'm on my own?"
"Not quite. There are still a few untapped resources left that we've got to check out, but we've gotta take it slow. If we start poking around too hard, the powers that be are gonna want to know why. And if we're unlucky enough, they might just send a few 'problem solvers' out here to poke us back." He said, and then I felt him take a hold of my hand as I stared off into space. "Don't worry, Justin. There's gotta be somebody out there who knows how to help you. We've just got to find him. That's all." Doc gave me his pattented carefree smile, and I wished that it could bring me all the comfort that he was expecting it to. But it didn't. I may be more alone than I thought when it comes to the grand scheme of things to come.
"Thanks, Doc. Keep trying, k? Give Pan my thanks."
"No doubt." I started to leave, but Doc held my arm. "Um...but you ARE gonna come back later and tell me that story about what happened last night, right? Hehehe, I really wanna hear the details."
Now that time...I couldn't help but smile. "You got it." I said, and walked back towards the lot's center. I guess Taryn had managed to break up the big circle in order to keep them from jumping on me the second they saw me, and folks had spread out a little bit more. I saw Rain and Taryn in a far corner, with her being visibly angry that he almost got himself killed. But after a few shoves and some bitter words, Taryn hugged her close around the neck, and she slowly but surely returned the sentiment. She had tears in her eyes, and they seemed to only further decorate her pretty face as the streams ran over he black and purple goth eye makeup. The relationship between those two ran so deep. You could feel it. I wonder if she's right. If her and Taryn had bonded through this melancholy misery...and by making him happy, she was now forced to suffer alone. I thought it best to leave them to their time together. She might need him more than I do right now.
Instead...I headed over to Dion's truck, where I once again heard the soft sounds of Sara Vaughan playing on his small radio. Dion and Napolean were sitting up on the hood, relaxed with a smirk, and I saw Dylan, Gyro, and Kid playing around not far away from them. Partially play fighting, and partially just finding a reason to roll around and get dirty. It was one of those rare moments when Kid remembers that he's barely ten years old, and needs to smile once in a while. It's, like, a LAW for children under 16 to smile as often as possible. The world steals that grin away so fast.
Dylan seemed to let go of some of his bashfullness as well for the moment, his leg only ninety percent back in working order. So he still hobbled with a limp, but it was better than seeing him in any pain. Then again...how many people had I crippled and put in even worse shape over the last twenty four hours? Still, it was good to see them in such good spirits.
As I neared the truck, Napolean stretched and yawned, hopping down from the hood to give me room. Heh, I guess he knew. Dion looked over at me, and sat up straight as he patted the space beside him. I climbed on up, and we traded a grin. "Sarah Vaughan again, huh?"
"Well, I don't have too many cds. So my options are kinda limited. Besides, her voice is so amazing to me." He replied, and I saw him look back out at the lot, watching Dylan laugh and play with the others....and I don't think I've ever seen such a sparkle in his chocolate brown eyes. He paused for a moment, almost getting lost in the sight of his new boyfriend having fun, and then he softly said, "You know...before coming to this place...before finding Jenna, or any of that...I thought my extra had pretty much taken me over. I didn't know if I was actually feeling a genuine 'emotion'....or if I was just faking it." He said. "Sometimes...when you shut your feelings off for long periods of time...it's really hard to get them to turn back on again."
"Were you...hurt?" I asked.
There was a touch of sadness that ran through him before he said, "All the time. Yeah. Hurt and so very alone." I leaned over a bit and rested my head on his broad shoulder. He sighed to himself, his eye fixed on Dylan as his sandy blond hair flopped about, and his bright hazel eyes practically illuminated his fragile beauty, even from a distance. "There was a time when I had to keep my feelings buried all the time. When I couldn't bear to let them surface, not even for a minute. It got to the point where I just wished they were gone forever."
I could hear Dion sniffle a bit, but the feeling I got from him wasn't despair. It was this...overwhelming joy. And it was coming right from the center of his heart. "What did you do?" I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders. "Things got better...mildly. I found some good friends, and I came here. The only thing was...I had been so closed off and so secluded for so long...the emotions wouldn't come back to me. Nothing felt real anymore. Every emotion seemed so artificial." He said. "So...the music helps. Hearing this music, those words, those voices...it reminded me what it was like to truly feel something again."
Dion took a hold of my hand and squeezed it as he smiled with pride. "Dylan is my music now."
Just as he said it, Dylan was chasing Kid on his bad leg, stumbled and fell down into the dust. He spit and coughed for a second, saying, "Wait...I got some in my mouth." While Gyro doubled over in laughter at his total wipeout. Dion and I giggled as Dylan shook the sand and dirt out of his hair, and went right back to the game.
I looked up and saw Dion happier than I've ever seen him. I nudged him in the shoulder, and he snickered some more. "Sorry." He said. "I get lost just looking at him sometimes. He's got so much heart, Justin. More than anyone should be allowed to keep for himself."
"Hehehe, you say that like you've never been in love before."
"I haven't." He told me. "Oh sure, I've entertained some powerful feelings between one emotionally tragic heartbreak and another...but it was never anything like this. Dylan really cares for me. He stands by me, supports everything I do, everything I am...and no matter how ridiculously unworthy I am of a boy like that...I can do no wrong in his eyes. He loves me despite my flaws, and I've got a treasure chest full of them, believe me." He grinned. "I've shared a couple of romantic words with others in the past...and they really loved the 'idea' of being in love....but...they didn't love ME. Even if I loved them." He looked at my eyes, and laughed. "Sorry. Ok, I'm babblng now. I'll shut up."
"No, you don't have to. Its cute!" I teased, and he shoved me.
But with a slightly more serious tone, he said, "You know...last night, when you asked me if I'd go out there....and bring Dylan home the way you did for Taryn...I knew that the answer was yes. I mean, it was instantaneous. No caution, no strategy, no hesitation whatsoever...I would go. And I wouldn't have let anybody stop me either. Just knowing that, and feeling that sense of 'duty' to protect him, love him, and make him happy...it made me realize just how deep this feeling goes. And you wanna know something? It feels fuckin' great!" He stared back out to the lot, and blew Dylan a kiss. It caught his attention just long enough for Gyro to kneel down behind him as Kid pushed him backwards into the dirt again. Gyro got up to give Kid a high five, and the three of them kept going at it like they'd never run out of energy. Then Dion added, "Of course...I would have taken some HELP with me, but hey...we can't all be all powerful prophets, now, can we?"
Now it was my turn to give him a playful shove. "Trust me...I'm far from being an 'all powerful' anything. I had no idea what I was doing out there last night. I'm surprised I didn't get us both killed."
"But you didn't..."
"But I COULD have. And that's the whole point."
"No....it isn't." He said. "Justin...you're being way too hard on yourself. I mean, exactly what is it that you're trying to do?"
"I'm TRYING..." I started to raise my voice in frustration, but calmed myself down again. "...I'm trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do with all of this. I'm trying to understand how I go from being a high school freshman to some vampire messiah in a couple month's time." I sulked a little, looking down at my shoes as Dion gave me the chance to speak what was on my mind. "I just...I'm scared, Dion. I feel like I have sooooo much riding on me, and I can't even figure out what the hell I'm DOING out here. What am I gonna do when people start looking for me to bring this historic message to the masses and I don't know how?"
Dion looked at me with concern, but as always, he remained strong at my side. More than a friend, he was my brother. "Last night...when you found out that Taryn was missing...I saw a fire in you that amazed us all. And I knew that you were coming back, no mtter what. Last night, you were stronger than you ever thought you could be..."
"I was STUPID! I ran out into the streets blindly without thinking and almost lost Taryn..."
"You saw what needed to be done. And when the time came, you acted on what was in your heart, and you brought him HOME!" He said. "You did what you needed to do, when you needed to do it. And you believed that it was possible. Nothing about this great big 'destiny' of yours is going to be any different, Justin. Why can't you see that?"
"Because I just can't, ok? I feel like I'm losing my mind. I can't even control myself anymore, I just...I'm not strong enough to save everybody, Dion. I'm just....not."
It was then that he told me, "You're doing what you can with what you know. That's more than a vast majority of the people on this planet will EVER get to say in their lifetime. And that's all anyone expects of you, Justin. To just....do what you can...with what you know. Nothing more." He said. "If fate chose you to bear this burden, then it must have had your particular design in mind. And from what I've seen since the first night you stepped foot through the front gate of this abandoned lot...the world has absolutely nothing to worry about." He took two of his fingers to lift my chin, and look me in the eye. "You're not here to be some great white knight, or Christ-like martyr, Justin. You don't have to save everybody. In fact, you don't have to save anybody. All you have to do is understand that the only weapon you've been given here is the TRUTH. And by bringing that truth to as many people as you can...you are thereby giving them the opportunity to save themselves. That's all you can do. That's all we can ask of you."
I felt a tear drip from my eye. "What if they don't? What if they can't?"
"Then you let them go, and you keep spreading the message until the others get it. And they take the initiative to use that message to help you save what's left. Your only responsibility is to not let your passion die with you. Think, dream, meditate...do whatever it is you need to do in order to find yourself. And when you do, and you've got that burning feeling inside you, telling you to share it with the rest of us...you 'release'. You don't hold back! You don't ignore it, you don't wait for it, you don't let your little insecurities push you away from it. You take that voice and you scream it out to anyone who will listen! Because the world might need to hear exactly what it is that you've got to say. And nobody else. If you don't speak up....then we all lose the genius I know you're capable of." Dion gave me a brotherly smile, and did what he could to ease my mind. "Something tells me, Justin...that when you do figure it all out...that message is going to be worth the struggle it took for you to find it. And we'll all be better for it. I'm sure of it."
He wrapped his arms around me, and gave me a hug as I melted into his embrace. Sniffling to keep from crying on his shoulder too heavily. "Thank you, Dion. I needed to hear that."
"I know you did." He said, and issed the top of my head. Then...as he looked up, he saw Jun coming around the corner, waiting for me to join him. "Showtime." He whispered, and I had to release him from my hug to sit up and wipe my eyes. I nodded in Jun's direction, and looked back over at Dion, who was smiling from ear to ear. "Cork's out of the bottle now, kid. Go learn how to serve what's inside." And I slid off of the hood of his truck to go with Jun...and try once again to tackle my past.
Before it tackles me.