"So that's it, right? I mean, this guy is what we've been looking for?" Taryn asked excitedly. It almost seemed too good to be true, but I was definitely keeping my fingers crossed.

"Well...we'll see. I'll give that site of his a quick look in a few days. I don't want to look too eager." Doc said, closing his laptop. "I'll check it out this weekend, and make sure to poke around about more than just mimics so he doesn't get suspicious. If all goes well...we might have just found ourselves a teacher." I started to walk towards Doc, but he grabbed his laptop and held it against his chest, outstretching an arm to stop me. "Ah ah ah! You keep your little laser light show away from my electronics. I don't know what you did, but between you nearly knocking out my signal and whatever the hell it was you did to make Jun smell so bad...I'd just as well keep my distance."

"Aww, Doc, I just wanted to give you a great big hug for being so wonderful." I teased.

"Whatever. FIRST, you get trained on how to handle that freakin' circus of extras...THEN you give out hugs! Comprende?" He said, and cheerfully backed away from me as he got ready to go analyze his 'data'. "Do yourself a favor, Justin. Go get yourself some air. Have some fun, get around 'people' again. It can be extremely theaputec to trade one insane existence for another every once in a while."

Taryn kissed me on the cheek with a grin, and his green eyes sparkled as he asked, "Well, what do you say? You wanna get out of here?"

"Hehehe, do you ever even need to ask me that question?" I replied. "You know, when I was a little kid, the concept of being alone to play night and day in an abandoned junkyard sounded like heaven on earth to me. Now all I wanna do is get away from it."

"It loses a bit of its luster, once the novelty wears off, I guess." He smiled.

He looked down at his shoes bashfully for a moment, slightly embarrassed by the shabby-ness of the old place. But I brushed my fingers through his hair, and told him, "Lucky for me...some things keep their novelty forever." And when he looked up at me, our lips connected, and I felt myself, once again, being swept away. Emotionally moved by the iresistable power of his affection. This is truly what 'eternity' was created for.

Our lips parted with a smack, and I saw the slightest blush come to Taryn's cheeks. "Cool...well....let's do it then."

"Sounds like a plan. It'll be good to have a night out."

"Yeah..." He sighed, gently biting his bottom lip. Taryn had these warm moments of shyness that just fit his nature so beautifully. They made you want to hold him, protect him, shield him from everything but your love. He was a true angel to me, perfection manifested in the flesh. "Let me change into something a little bit more 'social', and I'll be right back. K?"

"Are you sure you won't need any 'help' in there?" I grinned.

"Help getting dressed? No. Help getting UNDRESSED? Maybe later." He kissed me again quickly, and trotted back to our home to get changed. I can't believe how much my heart just sings when I see him happy. I could literally just float away.

"DUDE!!!" Came a booming voice from behind, ripping me out of my dreamy haze and nearly scaring me to death. I spun around to see Gyro bouncing towards me. "I heard you were going out! Where to?"

I was shocked. "How the hell did you know we were going out?"

"Dylan told me. So where we going?" Hehehe, that boy is getting better at that invisibility trick every day. So much for some quiet time alone. "I hear there's a couple of BIG parties out South, and one near downtown! It's a rave! It's in this old donut factory or something, no humans allowed. It'll be awesome!"

"I don't know, Gyro. Me and Taryn were just kinda looking for some time to...mellow out, you know?"

"Gimmee a break! 'Mellowing out' is for old people! C'mon, let's go! It'll be fun! Don't make me go by myself."

"I don't know. Ok? Maybe. But it'll be LATER though."

"Later, sooner, it's all the same. No problem! I'll tell ya what, why don't you and Taryn go off and 'suck sausages' or whatever someplace private for a while, and then meet up with me and the gang over at Bernie's place? Deal?"

"Did you just say...?"

"Solar! I'll see ya later!" And before I had a chance to respond, he was practically skipping away from me. If only I could bottle one OUNCE of that boy's energy and sell it on the open market, we would ALL be millionaires!

"I heard you guys were going out. You mind if I tag along?" Jenna asked me from the side.

"Jesus, word spreads quick in this place!"

"Oh, yeah. I overheard Dion telling Max. So, can I go? I gotta get out of here."

"My sentiments exactly." I sighed. "Yeah, sure. Grab whoever else wants to go and we'll meet you up front." What else could I do but surrender? Hehehe, at least my little 'family' here can't accuse me of not spending any quality time with them. I certainly hope that Taryn didn't have any, as Gyro so eloquently put it...'sausage sucking' in mind. I suppose we could always come home early and lock the trailor door, right? After being a few nights without him, I'm begging for a brand new taste.

By the time Taryn came back out in a new set of clothes, I had Dylan, Dion, Jenna, Trevor, and Michael, standing at the front gate with me. Gyro and Max, on the other hand, were dead set on going out to that rave tonight. So they made sure to remind me to come meet them at Bernie's club before it gets too late. Gyro screeched, "DON'T take all night, either! I've got some people that I KNOW are gonna wanna meet you, dude! They might even ask for autographs!"

"Gyro...dude, don't go out there spreading the news around. Ok? I mean it. I don't want what happened getting out there in the streets."

"Aww, here we go." He said. "You and your secrets. You should be going wild with all types of 'celebrity-isms' with your status, man! What the hell good is all that fancy stuff if you can't tell anybody?"

Max, thankfully, jumped in. "Just be sure to keep your mouth shut, alright? Humor us, will ya?" He said, Kid clinging to his side like always. "Don't worry, Justin. I'll keep our gossiping little hummingbird on a short leash tonight."

Gyro frowned his face up. "Ugh...RUDE!"

"Thanks, Max." I sighed a bit, and took Taryn's hand in mine as we started to leave the lot.

We had barely made it out of the front gate before it became clear that me and Taryn were no longer in control of our destination.

Dylan spoke softly to Dion, saying, "Can we get some Jolly Ranchers candy while we're out?"

Jenna said, "We've gotta stop and get this month's fashion magazines. I saved up a couple of dollars, Taryn can I borrow some change?"

"Sorry, I'm all out." Taryn answered.

"Screw that, I thought we were gonna have some FUN while we were out. Who want's to shop for shit we can't afford?" Trevor added. Wth Michael chiming in right behind him.

"Yeah, seriously. Let's go to the Pier and see what's going on over there instead."

Jenna persisted, "It'll only take a couple of minutes, you guys. Geez. Besides, it's on the way to the Pier, helloooo? We can do both."

"And get Jolly Ranchers for Dylan." Dion said, giving his boyfriend a loving squeeze. "I'll buy."

Taryn lifted my arm and put it over his shoulder, looking up at me with the most incredible smile. I stole a quick kiss from his soft grinning lips as we heard everyone else lay our plans out for us for the rest of the night. "Hehehe, is this what you meant by 'having a night out'?"

"It's not exactly what I had in mind. But as long as the most important piece of the puzzle is here, how could I complain?"

Being downtown with the others gave me such an incredible feeling of 'family'. Even with Trevor and Michael there. Funny thing, after all the trouble they've caused me, I've grown to accept them as a much needed part of my existence. I might even go so far as to say that I'd miss them if they were gone. I suppose thats why they're still at the lot, and why the others have never gotten upset enough to give them the boot. Maybe the dysfunctional parts of our family are there for a reason. If for no other visible purpose than to give us perspective. And deep down, I think Trevor and Michael needed us for the same thing.

The masses of the Chicago population passed by us, around us, and through us, like an endless river. No one paying any attention to the vampires that walk amongst them. We could have had our faces printed on every milk carton in the tri-state area, and nobody would have noticed. They hardly looked up from the ground they were walking on. Thousands of people lost in their own thoughts, absorbed in their own problems. Looking at their watches, listening to their Ipods, talking on their cell phones....anything to diconnect them from the moment. Anything to disconnect them from the reality of the people standing right next to them. They seemed so alone. And yet, so unaware that it didn't even phase them. After being away from this technological madness for almost a year now...it seemed like a lot of pointless 'noise'. Putting people in neat little boxes, defined by the products they buy. I may not have much...hell, I'm actually homeless by definition...but I can't see myself 'needing' this materialistic garbage anymore. A collection of gadgets built with the illusion that they could actually do something for your spirit. Toys meant to replace true human connection, real emotion, excitement, and joy, and love. Wow...the things from my life that I thought I'd miss the most...I didn't miss at all. How strange is that?

I DO wish I could taste chilli dogs again though!

We made sure that Dion was able to get his sweetheart some candy, which Dylan sheepishly whispered a thanks. You could tell that he hated asking for much of anything, but something tells me that Dion would allow him to fake satisfaction when he could provide him the real thing. Not to mention that he used his leftover cash to help Jenna get two magazines. It wasn't much, but it brought them both some of the joys of home. And that was all the money we needed. Hell, our biggest expense was laundry...a strictly maintained budget that Doc and Bryson guarded like two dragons tending to a mountain of gold. Everything else was just...not necessary once we got out of the habit of lusting after it 24 hours a day. Hmm...maybe it's a 'runaway kid' thing.

We got closer and closer to the Pier, dodging through some five lane traffic to walk under the approaching bridge. Flashing lights, smiling faces, and the sight of that big ferris wheel bearing down on us from a distance. A community of life. We couldn't help but smile. It's good to remember these things. It keeps the darkness from overwhelming us and devouring our emotions whole.

We went straight to the boardwalk, listening to the music wrap around us as the sights and sounds welcomed our group with its festive embrace. Tourists wandered from one end of the Pier to the other, and our moods lifted to match our scenery. Joy can be so contagious sometimes. I could hear Jenna inhaling deeply, trying to come as close to tasting the carnival-like junkfood as she possibly could from her enhanced sense of smell. And while Taryn and I had loosened up our affection a bit while out in public, Dylan pulling away from Dion as well...Trevor and Michael seemed to become even more open about being boyfriends. I guess Trevor had trained his better half to let go of the social stigma of it. While mine still lingered, even if only a little bit. And Dylan had only been in darkness for a short while longer than I had, so he clung to his mask with the same level of discomfort. I noticed what I was doing, and although Taryn kind of expected me to do it, I felt bad for feeling any shame about having him at my right side. So I reached out, and clumsily took a hold of his hand.

Hehehe, the look on Taryn's face was priceless. He wrinkled up his eyebrow and pulled his hand away from me with a smile. "Don't be a weirdo." He said, and although his soft reddish brown locks slid forward to obscure his face from my view...I could still see a hint of his rosey blush, surrounding a nearly perfect smile.

Dion saw Dylan's eyes light up when he smelled cotton candy being made fresh underneath a nearby canopy. He quickly tried to hide his interest before anyone saw it, but Dion didn't let things like that escape his attention for long. "Do you want some cotton candy?" He asked, and Dylan shrugged halfheartedly, not answering yes or no. "Hehehe, Dylan? Do you want some?"

"No....not...not really. I don't need it." He answered, and Dion reached into his pocket to count the remaining change that he had left. It was scarce, but I'm sure he had at least a dollar's worth in there somewhere. "You don't have to do that. Dion, put it away, ok?"

"Shhhhh....I'm counting." He grinned, and finally came up with a total. "Looks like enough to me. Come on."

"Seriously, ok? I don't want any." Dylan whined.

"Then you can watch me eat it." Dion smirked, and started walking, with Dylan following right behind him.

"Ok...but JUST a little bit! You better eat most of it!" It always did everyone's heart good to see those two together. They were one of those rare couples that just happened to be a perfect fit, locked into the same situation. It was the kind of relationship that made you truly believe that fate exists...and that it really does have the best of intentions for us all.

I saw Taryn smiling, and when he saw me staring, he said, "Can you believe it? We're still together." He giggled at the look on my face. "You know what I mean! It's just...weird, you know? I mean...this is where you and I first met."

It was then that I heard Trevor's voice sneak over Taryn's shoulder. "Actually...this is where you and *I* first met, too. Or have you forgotten?" Trevor's demonic grin was enough to give you bad vibes no matter what he said. But something about that comment struck a nerve with Taryn. Even though he was quick to hide it, I could feel its sudden pinch.

"Actually, yeah. I was trying very hard to forget, to be honest." He replied with a roll of his eyes.

"Try as you may, it was definitely an evening of wonders. Wasn't it?" Trevor's eyes met mine for a moment, and then focused back on his 'target'. "It was right over....there. In a crowd of tourists, a decade ago. You were watching a show..."


"I believe you had 'misplaced' something that night...?"

"Stop it!" Taryn said through gritted teeth. "You know, if you were so damn anxious to come out here, why don't you and your little 'robot boyfriend' go find yourselves an activity and leave us alone." The building anger in Taryn's emotions was as visible as it was spiritual. I felt the instant rush of aggression as it flooded his veins faster than his self control could hold it back. It was a minor tantrum that only lasted for a second or two...but it was something I wasn't used to feeling in his presence. Ever.

"Whatever. This is boring the shit out of me, anyway. Come on Michael, let's go find that 'activity' Taryn's talking about." Trevor made sure to lightly bump Taryn's shoulder as he and Michael walked arm in arm to another spot entirely. "We'll meet you losers at Bernie's later. Or not."

Michael looked back with a satisfied grin. "Bye, Taryn. Fuck you, Taryn. Hehehe!" And Taryn held up two enthusiastic middle fingers as they strutted away from us.

"Don't let them get to you, Taryn." Jenna said. "As long as you give him buttons to push, he's gonna keep pushing 'em."

"I know, I know. He just...he crosses the line, sometimes, you know?" He huffed, and I gave him a hug from behind.

"Hey there! T-Baby!" We heard a raspy voice coming from the steps, and saw an old homeless guy standing against the wall. He was in his fifties from the looks of it, but might have been younger. Missing some of his teeth, with a ratty grey beard, but smiling from ear to ear regardless.

"Jimmy? Dude, is that you?" Taryn asked, squinting his eyes a bit.

"The one and only, kid! How the hell are you? I was starting to think you picked up and ran away to Florida. You ain't never been one for the cold."

"Nah, you know I'm a Chicago boy, born and bred! Like you said, 'I LIKE a little variety in my weather'!" I take it that Taryn had known this guy a long time, even though he was human.

"Oh, so you're biting on my lines now? Well, why don't you come over here and impart some of your wisdom on me, youngblood?"

Taryn leaned over to whisper, "I'll be right back, ok? This guy is an old friend of mine. He's the coolest."

"Hehehe, go for it. But if I catch you two making out, I'm gonna be jealous." I giggled, and he swatted me on the arm.

"Shut up! God, you're so BAD!" He said, and went over to greet his buddy with a hug.

Jenna and I were the last two left standing there, and as we leaned back on a small picnic table behind us on the dock, Jenna saw me staring dreamily at my boyfriend enjoying himself. I must have looked so GOOFY to her at that moment, but I couldn't help it. "Your emotions are so genuine, Justin. So pure. People could write volumes on the vibe that I'm getting from you right now, and never come close to explaining it."

"Hehehe, I'm sorry."

"No, don't be. I like it. It kinda tickles." She grinned. "So many people are afraid of being truly vulnerable enough to be in love. The vibration is refreshing."

"Thanks. I think." I said to her. Jenna's sky blue eyes lit up, and she patted me on the leg. I looked back over to Taryn, whose smile was as enchanting as it was the first night that I laid eyes on it. God, he was so beautiful. "I keep thinking that I'm gonna find some way to really show him how I feel. Something spectacular, you know? But nothing seems quite right. I wish I could do more. I'd give him the world."

"You know, they say that doing is a function of the body, being is a function of the soul." She told me. "One person might buy their sweetheart a diamond necklace, take them to Paris, and have fireworks blaze overhead, to say 'I love you' and have it mean something." Then she nodded over to Dion and Dylan, further down the Pier. "Others...might just scrap some loose change together to buy them a ninety nine cent cotton candy." At that moment, I saw Dion lightly mash the cotton candy in Dylan's face as he tried to eat it, causing both of them to laugh as Dylan whimpered for him to hold it still. "You don't have to 'do' anything, Justin. You and Taryn together...you are love. The hard part is accepting it into your heart without any expectation for anything more." I leaned over a gave Jenna a kiss on the cheek for being a doll as always. She got a bit of a surprise tingle from the sentiment, and I felt her shiver and laugh as it tickled her senses even more. "Hehehe, omigod, just being around you two is a rush, you know that?"

Did it feel good, being in love? Of course it did. It filled me up inside with a warmth that you'd have to be in love to understand. But...there was still that dark corner of my mind, that held the horrible truth about his fate. No matter how hard I tried to fight it, no matter how much I tried to pretend it didn't exist...it would not let me forget. And I may have to spend the rest of eternity, protecting him from the nightmare of some prophecy that I refuse to be a part of anymore. And even then...I may lose him in the end. Fate brought me here, it knew I was coming, and it was prepared twelve steps in advance. How do I fight against something so flawlessly in control?

"You're feelings are dwindling." Jenna told me. "Penny for your thoughts?"

"It's nothing really. I just...I'm worried that you guys are gonna find out, some day, just how big a screw up I really am. That's all." I attempted to smile despite the sad feelings inside. But...Jenna's an empath. What would be the point?

"You realize that you worry MUCH more than is necessary, don't you?" She used her slim fingers to brush some of my blond hair out of my eyes, and hold my attention. "Nobody expects you to be perfect, except for you. Let it go. Flaws aren't a bad thing. They're the only thing that makes life interesting."

"I know. I try. But it doesn't always work."

"Only because you let that little voice in your head tell you that you're not good enough to make it work."

I chuckled a bit. "That 'little' voice is probably a lot bigger and meaner than you give it credit for."

"Ahhh, haunted by old ghosts, are we?" She smiled. "Does that have anything to do with you spewing liquid 'stink' all over Jun tonight?"

"Arrrrgh!!!" She laughed at my reaction. "God, don't you start too! God...he is NEVER gonna forgive me for that!"

"Oh please! If Jun can forgive Trevor for pushing him off of a bridge into oncoming traffic...on PURPOSE, mind you....then he can forgive a little mix-up with your extras." She giggled. "You know, I didn't want to say anything before, but you've always got this...'despair' surrounding you. Even when you're happy...I can always detect a hint of sadness lurking just around the corner. What is that about?" She quickly straightened up, "IF you don't mind me asking, that is."

What could I tell her? What have I been telling myself in those dark moments when I had to ask the same question? "I don't know. To be honest, it's been so long, I hardly notice it anymore. It's just...a part of me I guess. Maybe forever."

"The pain?" She asked.

"The pain. The anger. The fear. Everything. It's not going anywhere. My father made sure of that." I sighed to myself, and I could see Jenna's mood change right in front of my eyes as some of that misery seemed to seep into her once cheerful attitude. It was like this 'gloom' washed over her, and she became completely in tune with what I was feeling. "Shit...I'm sorry. I'll stop."

"No, it's ok. Go on."

"I shouldn't. I don't like to talk about me, ok?"

"Why not?"

"Because...it 'infects' people. It brings them down and makes them just as miserable as I am. Just like it's doing to you now. And DON'T tell me that it's ok, because it's not! It's my burden. I'll deal with it on my own."

There was a short silence, where I didn't look Jenna in the eye, but I could feel her stare as it fell upon me. Was it pity that she felt? Looking at poor little Justin and his fucked up life? So what? I don't care. I don't need her to feel sorry for me. I'm fine. But after a few moments, Jenna rested her hand lightly on my leg, and said, "You're not hiding from the pain, Justin. You're just hiding from us."

"I don't really need any more 'wisdom' tonight, ok?" I sulked a bit, and she didn't press any further. I didn't even feel her scanning me for a deeper look at my emotional state. But I have to admit that I felt bad for shutting her out. So after another uncomfortable silence, it was like the words began to speak for themselves. "I just don't want to learn to depend on anybody, Jenna. Not ever again. I depended on my dad to take care of me, I depended on my mom to take care of me....I depended on my best friend, Richie, to always be around. I depended on God to swoop down and save me. None of those things ever worked out. And after so many let downs, heartbreaks, and betrayals...a guy's just got to learn to stand on his own and not count on anybody for anything." I don't think I had ever said the words aloud before. But now, it was like my soul had finally found an outlet worth telling it to.

"You don't have to do it all on your own."

"Yes, I do. Because the second you put your faith in someone to catch you, or be there for you, or love you...that's when they drop the ball. That's when they walk out on you, or stop talking to you, or decide that they'd rather be with someone else. That's when they hurt you the most." I told her. "I figure...as long as I stay alone and deal with my own problems...I'll be ok. Chances are, I'm the only one who really cares about me anyway."

"I'm going to pretend that you didn't just say that." Jenna said, a hint of insult in her voice. "That 'bigger, meaner' voice that you were talking about has definitely gotten you turned all backwards. It's not you, Justin. I wish you could see that."

I paused for a second, and realized that I might have said too much. "Sorry. Like I said...I don't like talking about me that much. I should keep quiet."

"You should DEAL with what you're feeling, instead of always trying to tuck it away someplace where you don't think anyone would ever find it. Those shadows always come back to their owner. Always."

I saw Taryn smile cheerfully at his friend as he pointed me out from the steps. No doubt announcing me as his new 'boyfriend'. His friend Jimmy gave him a thumbs up in approval, and Taryn's soft blush rushed to his cheeks as he took pride in the love of his life. It was then that I told Jenna a little more. "I think I just worry sometimes, you know? I mean, life for me has always been, like...this torment for so long. Sure, there were some good times in between, but it's always followed by more disaster. I'm not USED to being happy. I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and for things to go sour again."

"Did you ever stop to think that maybe you're the one dropping that shoe? And bringing that suffering into your own life, just to balance things out again?"

"Heh...maybe. Who knows?"

"You do. You just haven't accepted it yet." She sid calmly.

"You know...there was a time...where I was convinced that God had completely given up on me. I felt lost. Betrayed. Abandoned. It was the lonliest feeling that I had ever known." I said. "It wasn't easy...swallowing that pain. Having to come home day after day, and see his face. To get beaten, and kicked, and cursed at. Made to feel like less than nothing. God....sometimes I swear that I can still hear his voice. Clear as a bell. I can't get it rid of it. It talks to me all day long, and sometimes it just...." I stopped for a second, wishing that I had another way to say it, but I didn't. "...It just makes me hate myself sooooo much, Jenna. Everything that I do. Everything that I am. He's always right here with me, telling me what a worthless failure I am. And after all this time....it still hurts." I felt Jenna lean over and hug me, resting her head on my shoulder as she just stayed silent and let me ramble for a few minutes. I didn't realize how badly I needed someone else to listen to these thoughts...until I was in the middle of putting them into words for thefirst time. "Some nights, when I wake up...I look over at Taryn, and I feel like a total fraud. I lay there and I wonder...how could this angel possibly see anything beautiful about me? I feel like....like I had just 'stolen' this precious treasure away from some other boy who deserves it so much more than I do. And because of that, I'm keeping Taryn from being complete. I'm keeping him from paradise by forcing him to deal with the hell that is my miserable existence. Every day I feel like I'm dragging him down. Like I'm dragging all of you down. I just wish I could have stayed alone. That was the plan. I should have stuck to it."

"Why do you say that?" Jenna asked me, hugging me tighter.

"Because...I don't belong here. I'm not supposed to be happy, Jenna. I'm trying to make myself fit, and I can't because it all feels like a fake backdrop to me. I'm not worth this. I never was. And just being here...sometimes it makes me feel worse. Because I know that I'm going to have to face the fact that I was meant to suffer. And I'm going to take a lot of people with me if I get any more involved in this fantasy."

"I don't think Taryn would agree with you."

"Taryn doesn't know what's good for him..."

"And you do?"

"I don't KNOW! But I'm trying to save him!"

"Save him from what, Justin? From you?" She asked me, sitting up to look me in the eyes. I was forced to look away. "Is he one of the people you want to hide from? Because I don't think it's fair for you to make that decision without his consent."

"I can't...BE this vulnerable all the time, Jenna! Ok?" If only I could stop talking. If only I could silence the emotion. "You don't understand...I'm letting my guard down again. And THIS time...when I get hurt...it's going to be more than I can bear!"

"The walls have to come down some time."

"It's just...such a WEAK feeling. Being so open. So exposed. Before, all the problems I had were beating me down with no salvation in sight. And when I was at my weakest point, I always had this....this ANGER to burn and keep me strong! The PAIN, and the FRUSTRATION, and the SORROW...it helped me to stand up and scream that I wasn't going to take it anymore! All of that hatred kept me going. All of that pain gave me focus."

Jenna looked at me as though a light bulb had suddenly been lit over the top of her head. "...And Taryn makes it all go away...doesn't he?"

I nodded slowly, feeling the truth seep into places where I didn't want it. Places where I couldn't stop it. "And it feels so GOOD sometimes, and a part of me really wants it to last forever...but...I don't have any defenses left when it comes to him. I don't have any control. I just don't know what to do, Jenna. Because now I'm scared all the time, and the one thing I had to fall back on is gone. All I have left to keep me whole is Taryn. And....without him...."

I didn't get a chance to finish the sentence. Dion and Dylan walked back over, their faces still slightly sticky from the cotton candy that they had devoured all the way down to the paper. Their grins were so bright that Jenna and I dettached from one another and sat upright, remembering that this was supposed to be a somewhat 'festive' night out for the others. "Well YOU two looked awfully cozy. Did we interrupt something?" Dion asked with a smirk.

Jenna looked to me to see if I wanted to continue our conversation. But I had done enough blabbering for one night. Might as well try to find a genuine smile or two before the night is over. "Nah, we were just feeling each other up." I said.

"Hehehe, I DON'T wanna know." Dion said.

It was then that we saw Trevor and Michael walking back our way from the far end of the Pier. "Well, we've had just about as much of this place as we can stand for one night. We're going to the club."

Dion asked, "Let me guess...they wouldn't serve you alcohol in the Beer Garden?"

Trevor frowned up his face a bit. "They actually called us 'minors'...can you believe that shit? I feel sorry for any poor bastard who's too stuck p to contribute to the deliquency of a minor." He had Michael clinging to his side still, like a Siamese twin. "Anyway, I know Bernie will hook us up with a few 'livations', so I'm off to meet Gyro and Max. You guys coming?"

I don't know what drew my attention to it. Was it a tug on the senses? Was it just dumb luck? Or maybe....just maybe...it was 'calling' me.

The pull was so strong, so intriguing. I got up from the picnic table where we were sitting, and walked between the other boys without saying a word as my instincts led me to a series of flat screen tvs in one of the many boardwalk shops in front of me. "Where the hell does he think he's going?" I heard Trevor say, but I didn't even turn around. Not as I saw the familiar images on the screens before me.

Taryn left his friend for a second and bounced over to take a hold of my hand. "Justin, dude! Come here for a second, there's somebody I want you to meet!" But I just kept walking, as if in a trance, and I gently pulled myself from Taryn's grip. "Justin? Justin, what the matter?" He said, his voice getting faint in the back of my mind. "What's wrong?"

The others all came over to follow me, and they stood behind me as I pressed ever closer to the tv screens. The local news was on, a special report. And behind the reporting newslady, broadcasted live...were the smoldering ashes of an old warehouse. And the ruins of what used to be Soren's underground operation.

"...While none of the media have been permitted inside the area, rumors of an alleged gambling rackett have been reported by eye witnesses who arrived on the scene first. As you can see behind me, this warehouse on the northern outskirts of the Chicago area has been reduced to rubble in what 'looks' to be a deliberate destruction of the facility..."

I heard the reporter's voice, I saw the burned out husk of a building behind her...but that wasn't what drew me closer to the screen. It wasn't that report of my actions that called my attention to the report. It was what I saw in the background.

It was faint, and it was subtle. It hardly showed up, even on the high definition flatscreens being sold in the store. I doubt any human eye could pick it out, even if they were looking for it. But I could see it. I could sense it. I could feel it.

It was the darkness. The 'anti-light'. That same hateful spiral of intense suffering that I had experienced in the dream. Limitless horror...recreated in the flesh. I could see his silhouette among the ruins of the warehouse...searching. Waiting. Examining the distinct signature that I left behind. And it liked what it discovered there.

None of the others could see him, but I could. And the strange thing is, through that live report on the news...I could almost swear that he could see me as well. Right through the camera lense, directly through this television set, and right into my very soul. His existence was an abyss of endless pain...and when our senses connected, when he realized what kind of power there was to be had from a creature who could level an entire warehouse full of trained soldiers the way that I had last night...all I could feel...

....Was RAGE.

I think the other shoe just dropped.....