I paced back and forth for the next hour or so, just trying to get the images of my dream out of my mind. But they never left me for more than a second. The visions stayed with me, and wrapped a cold shroud around me that kept me shivering with the awful things they showed me. I was finally calm enough to sit down on the edge of the bed, with Taryn still sound asleep as usual, and silently worked everything out in my head as best as I could. And the answers I came up with bothered me more than the questions themselves.
Over and over, I kept asking myself what could be haunting me so much as to make me have nightmares so terribly disturbing. And the answer was simple, even though I didn't dare admit it to myself, even though I skirted around it in an attempt to find another, easier, answer to deal with. But the truth remained...I think...I missed my life. I mean...actually MISSED it. As much as I wanted an escape from the terror of being alive for even one more day, I was beginning to realize that it would be impossible for me to just 'give it up' the way I did and not have any regrets. To think that I could just 'forget' the world and suddenly switch over to a new set of rules with ease. I tried...and I was really feeling a beauiful connection here with everybody. I was in love, I was learning new things, I was surrounded by friends, I was invited to experience the world through a whole new pair of eyes. And it was incredible! But...even though I did my best to ignore it, and the rest did their best to distract me from it, something was missing. A lot of things, actually. I was basically homesick for the life that I used to have. I suppose every kid goes to a boy scout camp and has a blast for the first few days...but by the time that first weekend rolls around, he starts to long for that warm bed and Mom's homecooked meals again. Don't know why this should be any different.
Wherever these dreams were coming from, they triggered some interesting thoughts in my mind. Thoughts about what that boy said in the park that night as I jumped down to attack him. A boy who was once so ruthless, so brutal to me, at one time. But that night in the park, his eyes were filled with fear, with pain, and more importantly...shock. Shock and amazement. As though he never expected me to be seen alive ever again. He said that I was 'missing'. And for some reason, I guess the words never really sank in as deep as they should have until that very moment. 'Missing'...I'm actually 'missing'. I'm the kid on the milk carton. No one knew where I was, or what had happened to me, or if I was even still breathing. Not even my mom. What did she think when I didn't come home? I mean...how long did it take her to realize that something was wrong? Did she cry? Was she hysterical? Did they come looking for me? Did she have to clean out my room and inform the school that I was gone? And when the teacher told the rest of the class, did a single one of them feel sorry for what they did? So many questions. Too many to wrestle with at once. Here I was thinking that I was gaining a wider perspective of everything, when in reality, I was just trading one perspective in for another. Leaving the other world behind to fade into the darkness behind me. As fed up with my life as I was, I never expected to miss it at all. I guess I was wrong.
I laid back down at Taryn's side in the bed, and snuggled up next to him, my lips gently pressed against his warm neck. I closed my eyes, and sighed outloud. Thinking about whether I should be happy with what I had before, or what I have now. I wonder if I'll ever get old enough to forget. If after another ten years or so, my life, my mom, Richie, and even the sun itself...will all just become some distant memory. A fantastic 'fairy tale' of sorts, that I can think back to and smile as I whisper it in my sleep. It seems Taryn hasn't quite let go just yet, and he's been here for a decade. I suppose I've got a long way to go.
I wasn't even asleep at the time, I KNOW I wasn't. I was just laying there at Taryn's side and thinking with my eyes closed. I wasn't even tired. And yet, a vivid daydream seemed to take a hold of me almost immediately. It sucked me into another dream world without me even being asleep, and suddenly I couldn't move. I couldn't even open my eyes. I struggled with myself, but my body was frozen in it's relaxed state. I was paralyzed! And I found myself standing at the anchor on the edge of Navy Pier again. Hanging over the side, looking over at the dark waves as they licked at the corner of the pier. But this time, instead of the icy waters that I remembered, it looked to be almost boiling hot. With wisps of steam slowly rising from the surface, whispering for me to jump. I held onto the railing as tightly as I could, trying to mentally 'will' myself to wake up. But some gravitational pull was trying to drag me further forward. I held on even tighter as I felt the steamy heat from the lake envelop me, drenching me with sweat. My heart was pounding even harder, and it was then that I felt movement in the bed next to me. It was TARYN! He's AWAKE! In my dream state, I looked up at the sky, and shouted out for Taryn to help me. To wake me up. But he couldn't hear me. Not in this place. I felt his kiss land on my cheek, and then his body pulled away from mine in the bed. Physically, I was aware of his presence, but my mind was still trapped in this nightmarish fantasy, my body still frozen in that peaceful sleeping position. I began to panic as I felt the bar I was holding onto get hotter and hotter. Literally burning my hands. But I knew that the second I let go, that the pull of the lake would suck me in and I'd fall. "TARYN!!!!" I shouted, my voice echoing in the blackness of the night. I got no answer. The suction of the water pulled on me a little bit harder, and the bars began to glow red as the heat increased underneath my fingertips. I looked down into the water, which had now been brought to a full boil, and saw small shapes appearing underneath it's glass surface. After a closer look, the shapes began to finally rise to the top...it was a BODY! Badly scalded, red, peeled skin, the eyes wide open in a frightening stare. It was Taryn! DEAD! The body floated in front of me as I screamed outloud, and then another one floated to the surface as well. Dion, then Richie, then Bryson, then my mom...one by one, everyone that I had ever known from both my old life and my new one began to float to the surface of the boiling lake, and they burst into flames. I felt my fingers burning so hot that I could no longer hold onto the railing, and I had to let go, some of my cooked skin peeling away from my hand as it was stuck to the bars. Sizzling and popping as it cooked on the hot metal. I fell face first into the water, and the burning bodies floated all around me, their stares fixed on me, as the water burned every inch of my body. No amount of screaming could save me now, and the last thing I remember was my face bursting into flames as I rose to the surface for air. My body scalded so badly that it was becoming numb to the pain.
I SHOT up in my bed, too terrified to scream, having just enough breath to gasp desperately at finally crash landing back into reality. I was sweating profusely, my sheets damp with the perspiration. Again, my heart was pounding hard enough to hurt as the contractions spasmed inside my chest. I must have startled Taryn as he was getting dressed, and he dropped his shirt on the floor to run over and see what was wrong.
"Justin? Justin what's the matter? Talk to me hon, what's wrong?" He grabbed a hand towel and wiped the sweat off of my forehead as I fought to catch my breath. I was clutching my heart and was so overwhelmed by the idea that I could move again that my emotions went wild. My gasps became little sobs, and soon I was crying almost uncontrollably. "Aww baby...what's WRONG, Justin? Tell me!" Taryn hugged me as tightly as he could and was doing all he could to comfort me. But I couldn't speak. It was as though the tears had come out of nowhere, and some type of hysteria kept me from being able to collect my thoughts beyond just hugging him back. I was afraid to even blink, terrified that the nightmares would come back to kidnap my reality again and force me to live through another horrifying vision.
Taryn and I clutched at each other for dear life for a few minutes, and eventually, enough of my senses returned to relax a bit more. I had been holding Taryn's arm so tightly that I had left fingernail marks on his skin. What's happening to me? I gathered enough courage to allow my eyes to dry up a little, and was finally able to speak. "Something is wrong with me, Taryn. Something is really wrong." I cried, and my tears began flowing steadily all over again.
"Something like what? What happened?"
"Dreams...bad dreams. I've been having them almost every night. And this time I wasn't even asleep."
Taryn hugged me tighter. "Are...are you sure? I mean...vampires, we don't dream every night. Our minds don't work that way."
"Yes, I'm sure!" I said loudly, feeling the tension in my fingers clamping down on Taryn's arm again. "They just keep coming, Taryn. I see such awful things...such God awful things..." I felt another rush of panic set in and for the first time, I felt no safety at all in Taryn's arms.
"Shhhh...listen, I'm going to go get Bryson, and he's going to help you through this, ok?"
"Taryn...I'm already a freak as it is, please don't get him all worried and flustered about this..." I pleaded.
"Justin..." Taryn started, and then he put his foot down. "No. Ok? NO! You need HELP, Justin. You NEED to talk to somebody who can guide you through this. This isn't something that you can just bottle up and handle on your own. Bryson has experience with stuff like this. He can help you if you'll just let him."
"I just...Taryn...I don't want to be an outcast. I don't want to be different. I HATE always having to be the oddball everywhere I go."
Taryn grabbed me by both sides of my face and looked directly into my eyes. "Justin...look at me, ok? You are NOT an outcast! Do you understand that?"
"Taryn..." But he interrupted me before I even started.
"No...listen. I love you. You hear me? I LOVE you! And I am not about to let you self destruct just because you have some crazy idea that we're all going to hate you for being different. We're ALL different, Justin. ALL of us. And we're NOT going to blast you for that. We're not going anywhere." I tried to turn my head away, but he guided it back to look at him. "I'M not going anywhere."
"I just...I just..." Tears were still pouring out of my eyes and I wanted so badly to believe him. To feel safe and accepted and loved unconditionally. But something inside kept me from letting it soak in.
"Let go, Justin. All of that bullshit, that anger, the kids at school, your dad, all of the assholes that made you feel so low...so worthless...let them go. Those battles are over, but you're still holding onto the sword. Still swinging it at every person that walks by because you're afraid they'll get close enough to hurt you again. You're here with ME now. ME...and I love you whether you believe it or not." I embraced Taryn's lithe body against mine, and cried silently over his shoulder. "I know baby, I know. Sometimes...when we've been hurt repeatedly in our lives, it changes us inside. We put up our defenses and build an impenetrable fortress around ourselves to protect us from the pain. It can be soooo hard to open up again after living through so much. So hard. But if you never take that chance, if you never let anyone in...you'll stay protected forever. Protected...and alone." He leaned to the side to kiss me on the cheek. "I know how it feels. But I promise you, Justin...if you're willing to trust me...I'd move Heaven and Earth to make sure that you never have to shed another tear out of pain. Not ever again. But you have to let me in, dude. If I hadn't opened myself up after a long silence...I never would have found you. And I wouldn't have known the love that I feel when I'm with you."
"Things are moving so fast. I don't even know who I am anymore." I sobbed.
"Then we'll learn...together." Taryn kissed me gently on the forehead, and whispered, "Ok?" And I nodded, giving him the strongest smile that I could after such an emotional drain.
That night, we stayed in the van, never once leaving the comfort of our bed to go outside. Dion stopped by briefly to see what was up, but most of the night we spent alone. Just me and Taryn, talking about whatever came to mind. He never seemed to run out of things to completely fascinate me with. He saw so much beauty in the little things, a concept that I understood, but still hadn't fully grasped. It was as if he had taken the time to study and analyze the rotation of the Earth itself, and could feel it when he closed his eyes. Another cute habit of his. Someimes while we were talking in bed, he would close his eyes and smile. But he was always listening to every word, and said that he loved to feel the tingle from the very vibration of my voice. He knew all the buttons to press to make me feel beautiul. He could do it effortlessly sometimes, and it was usualy enough to make me blush. I think he liked that.
Hours passed without us even being aware of how long we were laying there. An eternity could have passed and we never would have noticed. If Taryn hadn't yawned and stretched out to get more comfortable I never would have known that dawn was approaching. I heard the noise outside begin to die down a bit as the others settled in for the night, and then I heard Taryn yawn again. His eyes were getting drowsy, and he'd be out soon. I watched closely this time as he stretched out, his smooth slick body looking as though it was getting even thinner right before my eyes. His arms raised, I saw his t-shirt lift up and his soft belly was exposed to me, looking as smooth as ice, yet warm to the touch. I couldn't help myself, and leaned forward to gently lick at the creamy surface of his skin, tracing my way down to his cute little navel and running my fingertips delicately up his side. Taryn giggled bashfully and curled up from the ticklish sensation. "If you wanted to get involved with THAT little activity, you should have started long before now." Taryn grinned.
"Come on, we've got a few minutes, don't we?" I kissed his stomach again, and sucked tenderly at his flesh, taking a tiny pinch of it between my teeth and nibbling at it.
"Hehehe...ow ow...ok! No biting!" I bit down a bit harder. "Hahaha...OW! Ok Cujo, no more! Quit it, come on now!" We laughed a bit to ourselves and I moved up to kiss him sweetly on the lips. "We'll have time tomorrow, I promise. Besides...you might fall sleep down there and choke!" He laughed.
"Choke on what? You're not THAT big!"
There was a pause for Taryn to look at me with shock, a smile trying to spread out on his face as he sat there open mouthed. Then, with a quick flick of his hand, he hit me with the pillow! It was almost enough to knock me clear off of the bed, and I would have been kissing the FLOOR if he hadn't caught me. "That's what you get, bitch!" He said.
"Ok...I give. But don't think I'm going to forget about tomorrow."
"Me either." Taryn pulled back the sheet and invited me to climb underneath. I pulled the covers around me, and spooned myself into him, my back against his chest, his hardness fitting in between my cheeks perfectly as always. He snaked his arm around my waist, and I took him by the hand. "Love you." But by the time the words left his sweet lips, I was already feeling the sleepiness taking control of my body, and I was beginning to worry about what the night would bring if I went to sleep again. What horrible dreams I had to look forward to this time, and he could feel it in the way my body began to tremble. I clutched onto his hand even tighter, and he gave me a loving squeeze. "It's ok baby...I'm right here. If you start having bad dreams, just remember that you're laying right here beside me, holding my hand. And know that I love you. Ok?"
"I will." I said, a bit comforted by his words, but still having more faith in the ability for my dreams to rip me to shreds if they really wanted to. As I held onto his hand, I felt his fingertips begin to go cold as his body prepared for it's daily hibernation. The life began to quickly seep from his body, and his once warm embrace went cold as well. And yet, it never lost it's tenderness somehow. Strange.
I fought to stay awake for as long as possible. Just ONE more minute, that's all I needed. But the haziness was hitting me harder and harder by the second, and my mind was becoming numb. My thoughts began to drift, and the harder I fought to remain conscious, the more my need for sleep pulled me into it's darkened abyss. My eyelids weighed a ton, and my body relaxed almost to the point where it hurt to move. Taryn was already out, and couldn't feel me quaking in his arms, preparing myself for what was to come. In 'normal' dreams, it's sometimes possible to say to yourself that it's only a dream, a hallucination of your subconcious. But in a vampire's dream, it's much harder to do. They're so full of color, so clear, so undeniably real, that 'reality' itself looks like the illusion in comparison. These dreams had taste, touch, smell, texture...everything was perfect beyond belief. And despite my boyfriend's love and concern for me, I knew that this was going to be something he couldn't help me with, not ever. I needed help, and soon.
Those were my last thoughts of the night...before the dream sucked me in, and the emotional torture began.
I found myself standing out in front of a house barefoot. It was raining in buckets and lightning was cracking around me in rapid succession, the thunder loud enough to rattle the ground under my feet. The raindrops were ice cold, tiny crystals of ice in each and every drop, and had soaked me through to the bone. My clothes were heavy on my slim teenage frame, and my hair had been matted down into my eyes. I could taste the slightly salty tang of the rainwater on my lips, as I shivered from the cold. I started to walk towards the house in the distance, and the slick mud squished under my footsteps, sticking to my feet and making them even heavier. I got to the front door and attempted to open it, but the lock wouldn't budge. I struggled with it a bit, but it refused to let me in. I banged on the door with my fist, and tried again to force it open on my own. No such luck.
As I kicked and banged at the door, the storm raged on with more ferocity than before. The wind began to blow so hard that I could barely breathe, and the rain was whipping across my face painfully like tiny daggers of metal. The thunder was shaking the windows of the house, and the lightning was almost bright enough to blind me. I pulled as hard as I could, just trying to find an escape from the downpour outside, and just as I was about to give up, the door swung open, kncking me back onto my ass.
A loud male voice shouted, "FINE!!! YOU WANT IN, THEN COME IN!!!" I felt a large hand grab me roughly by the collar, and lift me up effortlessly. Then it basically threw me into the house and up against the wall. I could hardly see what was going on, but the voice yelled at me again. "You SEE??? He's a fucking SISSY!!! What's the matter sissy boy? Too pretty to get wet now? Can't stand a little rain before running to your MOMMY???" I stood up, but he used his hand to push me hard into the side of a table. A sharp jolt of pain shot through me as it dug deep into my side, and I spun slowly to the floor. I could hardly breathe, and the pain in my gut was enough to make me curl up into the fetal position, unable to straighten myself out. What the heck WAS this? What was going on here?
The hand grabbed me again by the back of the neck, and lifted me to my feet. My stomach...it hurt sooo bad...I just wanted to lay there. Just for a little bit. But he wouldn't have it. He pushed me up against a wall, hard enough for some of the hung pictures to fall to the ground from the impact. I looked down at the floor, and saw 7 different pictures spread out in front of me. Pictures of me when I was younger, of my mom and I, of me and Richie before he got sick...my life. Just looking at them, it was hard to believe that I was ever happy at one time. That there was once a time that I smiled with a genuine feeling inside that I deserved the joy that I felt inside. But...as I looked at the pictures more closely, they began to change somehow. The pictures of my mom began to wrinkle up and fade as the woman in the photo allowed her drinking to warp her appearance. The once happy woman suddenly let her head droop, her hair became brittle and frizzy, and her skin was like paper. The pictures of Richie began to lose his hair, and he got sickly looking and distorted. The pics of me seemed to lose that once happy smile, and tears appeared in the eyes of every picture. Weeping for the changes that eventually overwhelmed my life in my last days.
"ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME??? LOOK AT ME WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU BOY!!!" Shouted the voice. That's when I finally pushed the soaking wet locks of blond hair out of my eyes, and looked into the face of the man hurting me so violently without reason. I never thought I would see him again. It had been so long.
"Dad?" I whispered.
"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU MUMBLING FOR??? SPEAK UP WHEN YOU TALK TO PEOPLE!!! YOU'RE ALWAYS TALKING SO SOFTLY!!!" He pushed me up against the wall again.
This isn't real...it's all just a dream, Justin. None of this is real. I clenched my fists together, doing all that I could to believe that, trying my hardest to see through the illusion and let it all go. I'm not here...I'm in bed...and I'm holding Taryn's hand. I tried so hard to believe. So hard.
"I'M TALKING TO YOU!!!!" My father struck me hard across the face, my frail body falling back against the wall hard.
I 'felt' it...just as painful as I remembered it. I felt tears fall from my eyes, and a surge of fear too over all of my instincts. Even with the knowlege that it wasn't real, the dream took a hold of my emotions anyway. "This isn't real," I said outloud, hoping that I could somehow snap myself out of it. "This is all a dream."
"WHAT??? WHAT DID YOU SAY?" He shouted, and I turned my back on him, hoping that I could shut out the images before me and somehow gain control of this situation. But my dad wasn't going to stand for it. "Don't turn your fucking back on me BOY!!!" He spun me around and nearly choked me with the grip he had on my thoat.
"This isn't real...this isn't...REAL!" I gasped between breaths.
"Oh really?" He smacked me hard across the face, then again, then again. "Is THIS real enogh for you, boy? HUH?!?! How about this? Real now???" The blows that he was giving me actually stung me, my nerves reacting to the powerful stimulations that my vampire dream provided them. My mind was beginning to lose its hold on reality, and I fell into the trap of thinking that this was all happening for real. I couldn't keep focused for much longer. His smacks got harder with every blow, and then without warning he punched me in the stomach with a closed fist. All of the air rushed out of my lungs, and I fell to my knees, as if paying homage to my father's dominating position. I gasped desperately for breath, and fell over onto my side helplessly. Curling up, once again, to try and bear the pain.
"YOU SEE??? GODDAMN SISSY!!!" He screamed, and I looked over to see who he was talking to. That's when I saw my mother sitting on the kitchen floor, handcuffed to one of the pipes under the kitchen sink. She had a trickle of blood coming from her nose and another from her mouth, a black eye decorating her face.
"Please....you're hurting him." She cried.
"SHUT UP BITCH!!! HE'S GOTTA STAND UP AND BE A MAN!!!"
He lifted me to my feet again, but I was too weak to stand on my own. My stomach ached, tying itself into a tight knot as the sting from his punch lingered painfully in my abdomen. I couldn't stand up, and fell back down to the floor. I heard aguing coming from the kitchen, and then I watched as he hit my mother across the face. Then he did it again, and again, as she cried out in pain. My stomach tghtened up, my fists balled up, and my teeth clenched so tight that I thought they would break with even the slightest increase in pressure. I staggered to my feet, and stared directly at him, the fucking bully that he was, and remembered that I didn't have to take it anymore.
Seeing him hit her...watching as he took out every frustration from his own fucked up life on people who had nothing to do with it, made my hatred for him boil beyond control. With a scream, I charged at him and attacked him with everything that I had. My fists pounded away at him, and legs kept me perfectly balanced as I attempted to give him the beating of a lifetime. I could feel his bones cracking and his flesh bruising as I completely let loose. Then I stood back and watched as his battered body fell to the floor in front of me...lifeless. It took me a minute to calm down and let my fists unclench. I let my arms drop to my side, and looked down at the body of my father. I kicked it to make sure he wasn't moving. And if he had one bit of life left in him, I'd snuff it out without a second thought. THAT'S his reward for the life he stole away from me.
Just then, I felt a hand on my shoulder, gripping me tightly, and I turned around to see my father standing behind me! I looked over my shoulder as the other body dissolved into the floor, melting and bubbling with his voice wailing as it faded away. "WEAK!!! That's all you are boy, all you've been, all you will EVER be! WEAK!" He shouted, and he tossed me up against the wall. I sprung back and began swinging again, my knuckles bloodying themselves from the destructive blows that I was delivering to his face and chest. But this time, before I was even able to beat this one to the floor, ANOTHER man entered the room. Also my dad! There were two of him...and a third was coming through the door now! I kept going, kept striking out as hard and as fast as I could. But as a fourth and fifth clone entered the room, they were beginning to be too much for me. I felt punches hitting me in the stomach, the teeth, kicks hitting the back of my legs...I couldn't stop them all. That's when yet another version of my dad appeared in the kitchen next to my mother, and began to hit her again. Slaps so loud that I could hear them clearly, even over the fighting.
I tried, and I fought, and I struggled...using every last bit of strength that I could muster up, but the army just kept coming. I kicked one through a window, broke another's neck, used a lamp to bash in the head of a third...but now the house seemed to be filling up with new copies as fast as I could fight them. All of them shouting at me, evil, hurtful, venemous things. And all the while, my mother getting beaten within an inch of her life in the kitchen. I made it a mission to just get to her and nothing else. But they were EVERYWHERE, and they blocked my path at every turn! I fought harder, now using whatever weapons I could find in the living room, but they just kept coming. I shouted outloud, my mental blast leaping forward and knocking five of them to the floor, two more against the wall. But the sea of attackers closed in on the path I made almost instantly. They all reached for me, their large hands tightly gripping my arms and legs so that I couldn't move, and they pinned me to the floor. I screamed, straining every muscle in my body to get up! To FIGHT!!! I am NOT helpless!!! I CAN BEAT HIM!!! I've...got...to...get...UP!!! The more I fought to rise to my feet again, the more they held me down, pressing my face down into the floor. I was crying now, tears of anger and hatred overflowing from my eyes, but he didn't care. He was stronger than me! So much bigger and more powerful than I was! Why couldn't I hurt him? Why couldn't I FIGHT??? WHY???
My mother was beginning to lose consciousness, and I looked over to see my father pour out bottles of booze all over her, the liquid stinging her eyes. He grabbed her by the chin, and pried her mouth open, pouring more inside until she choked. I made a second attempt to get free! And a third, and a fourth...but I couldn't help her, I couldn't SAVE her! No matter how hard I tried! "ARRRRGH!!!! LET ME UP!!! LET ME...GO!!! *MOM*!!!" But they were pinning me down so hard that my attempts to battle them were absolutely useless. No amount of struggling could get even one hand free.
"Don't even THINK about fighting me, boy! You ain't SHIT!!! Do you hear me, sissy boy? You're NOTHING!!!" I felt him punch me in the stomach so hard that blood gurgled up in the back of my throat, and I spit it up onto my shirt. I coughed up a bit more and tried to curl myself up a bit to relieve some of the pain. But the clones kept me spread out, and the pain swept throughout my entire body with no means of minimizing the agony. I began crying, feeling so helpless, so alone, so frustrated. I had forgotten...I had forgotten what it felt like to live this life...with him there. "Still kicking? HUH???" He hit me again, this time, even HARDER! "See what I mean? NOTHING! You're NOTHING!" He dipped a finger in the blood that I had coughed up onto my shirt, and used it to put a giant '0' on my forehead. "ABSOLUTE ZERO!!! PUNK ASS KID!!!"
"MOM!!!" Was all I could scream, caring more for her life than mine. And that's when I heard the words that killed me inside.
"IS THAT ALL YOU CAN DO??? CRY OUT FOR YOUR MOMMA??? Fuck this! KILL that bitch!!! NOW!" He gave the order, and my mother looked over at me, with teary eyes.
She cried out meekly, "Justin...Momma loves you..." And I watched as they broke her neck with a harsh twist to the side! The light in her eyes was extinguished almost instantly as the sickening crack of her vertebrae filled the room.
The scream that left my throat came from my very soul, and I howled as tears washed over my entire face. That single, breathless scream...carried over into reality, and I woke up, still in Taryn's arms.
Taryn woke up only seconds after I did, and saw me crying hysterically. There was nothing that he could do, nothing that he could say. He embraced me once again...but it wasn't enough! His kisses, his hugs, his love...non of it was enough. I HAD to leave. I HAD to go see Tim before I had a full blown nervous breakdown. He's GOT to be able to help me, he's GOT to!
I was in a hurry to get dressed, and left the lot before anyone else really got themselves out of bed. Taryn begged me to let him come with, but I told him not to worry and that I'd be fine. It too quite a while for me to convince him, and practically had to sneak off while he wasn't looking. I hate keeping secrets from him, but everyone seems to be so damn hush hush when it comes to me these days. Can't tell anyone about my abilities, can't tell anyone about Trevor, can't tell anyone about Com...suddenly I'm being surrounded with secrets and they're all going to suffocate before long. It's a strange feeling, always holding back what you feel. Always afraid of what you say, or don't say, or what you give away when you look people in the eye. One secret always leads to another, then another, and soon you have so many that you don't know who you told and who you didn't tell. So to be safe, you have to lock everything up even tighter to keep from giving yourself away. By the time you tell someone, you've turned it into this big scandal that you made much worse than it had to be in the first place. That's exactly what I was doing. I should just tell him. I mean this is TARYN for crying outloud. Why would he mind? He wouldn't tell anyone else, it would just be me and him alone. Maybe I wouldn't be having so many nightmares if only I could get some things off of my chest. Maybe I'll do just that...before we go to bed tonight. I'll tell him about me, about my growing abilities, the mind reading...everything. Except...the Trevor thing. I'm not trying to be a PRIEST here, just getting a few things out in the open.
I'm heading off to Tim's, and he'll have some answers. I'm going to find out what's wrong, and I'm going to make it better again. I'll make it better. They're just bad dreams...that's all, bad dreams. How could I be scared of bad dreams? They're not real. They just aren't real. And I kept repeating those same things to myself all the way to Tim's place, wishing that they could bring me the comfort that I needed to believe in them. But the words simply didn't do it. I was seemingly cursed by something in the back of my mind, and it was killing me from the inside. The more I thought about it, the more it frightened me. I began walker faster and faster with every step, worrying thatthe dreams were already building up inside me, ready to attack me again the moment I shut my eyes. And there would be nothing that I could do to stop them, nothing. That scared me more than anything. I hope Tim has an answer for me. I'll be lost if he doesn't.
I arrived at his house around 9:30, and knocked on the door. He didn't answer right away, so I knocked more urgently, hoping he would get up and let me in. This was serious! Suddenly, Char and Becca both opened the door, rubbing their eyes to focus on who was knocking. "Justin? What's wrong?" Becca asked, I suppose sensing my distress.
"I need to see Tim, it's important." I said, hurriedly entering the room. Just then, I saw Tim walk out of the bedroom, with a HICKEY on his neck! I stopped walking and kinda looked away as though I didn't see it.
"This had better be good...OH...Justin! How are you?" He said, straightening up his robe and obviously unaware of his 'love bite'. I looked back to see John, naked as usual, peeking out from behind the door, then he just giggled a bit and shut it back when he saw that Tim was 'back at work'. Those two never seem to get enough. I guess I know the feeling. "What brings you by tonight?"
"Tim...I'm having some...um...problems."
"Problems like what?"
"Nightmares. TERRIBLE ones, like nothing I've ever seen before. Really personal ones too, I wake up screaming, and I can barely breathe, and..." I said, sitting down to calm my nerves a bit.
"Slow down, Justin. Relax." Tim replied.
Char walked over and gently put her hand on my cheek. "There is a great deal of trauma here, Tim. And frequently at that. Salt traces display an awful lot of tears and perspiration in the skin. These dreams must have been pretty real to cause the level of distress in someone while they're sleeping." She said. Then she turned to me and asked, "Justin...are you sure these are nightmares that caused this? Your body seems to have been reacting as though all this was real."
"Yes! I have them every single night!" I shuddered as I thought back to the confessional, the snakes, the corpses, the bites, the Pier, my father, my mom..."What's happening to me?" I put my head down and started to cry.
"This isn't normal, Tim. No vampire dreams every single night. It's not possible. Not unless the images are inspired by an outside source." Char stood up and looked over at Becca with a great deal of concern.
"An outside source?" Tim mirrored the same look for a moment, andthere was a silent pause that made me look up and ask what was up. Tim then turned to talk to me. "Justin...I want you to think back, and concentrate, ok? Besides us...is there anyone else that knows about your abilities?"
"What do you mean?"
"Is there anyone else that has found you out to be a mimic?" Becca answered. "Anyone at all."
"No...no I didn't tell a soul." I said, wiping the tears from my eyes. They all looked at one another, and then back at me.
"Someone...or something must have stumbled upon Justin's ability somehow. They know." Becca added.
"Or they're trying hard to find out." Char replied. She took me by the hand and looked me in the eye. "Justin...we're not exactly sure what's going on or who is trying to get to you...but if you're dreaming every single night, then it is not an accident. Something is trying to pry its way into your mind, and by exploiting your deepest, darkest fears, regrets, and weaknesses...it can eat a big enough hole through your mental defenses to tap into anything that it wants to."
"Why would someone want to do that?" I said.
"Whoever it is must have found out that you're somewhat 'gifted' with your extra and is trying to investigate you further to see what it is."
"Well how do I STOP it???" I shouted.
Tim stepped in, "We can't stop it, Justin. Not unless we know who it is. They've already gotten a lock on your brainwaves, so they can pretty much find you no matter where you go. Justin, I MUST know if you've told ANYBODY about your special abilities. This could be dangerous. And if one person could find out without your knowledge, then it won't be long before the elders figure it out too."
"Aren't the elders supposed to be our mentors?" I asked.
"The elders are our protectors, Justin. They can't afford mistakes, or loose ends, or any vampire acting as a wildcard. Our underground dealings with the humans are very fragile already as it is. The second that either side steps too far over the line, it'll be genocide. If the elders find out about your abilities and decide that you're too young or too aggressive to keep your abilities under control, they'll send hunters out to find you. And believe me...you don't want that." Tim sat back in his chair, and sighed to himself. "Things may become more difficult for you soon, Justin. And I may not have the means to help you beyond a certain point. Do you still have the information that I gave you? About the sanctuary on the edge of town?"
"Yeah...I got it." I didn't know whether to be confused or terrified or what. I hadn't done anything wrong to anybody. But I doubt that it's really going to make a whole lot of difference if things get any worse than they already are.
"Good. The old church isn't much, but it's a good hiding spot when you're in trouble. I have a friend there named Dash who will be moe than happy to accomodate you in times of need. He's a good man, you can trust him, I assure you." Tim stood up and went over to a cabinet in the corner. "Take these." He said, handng me some blank tapes.
"What are these for?"
"They have certain special sound impulses that will slightly alter your brainwaves while you sleep. You may not sleep as restfully, but it's better than nothing. You have four different tapes, make sure you listen to a different one each day to keep changing the patterns, ok? It won't stop your intruder forever, and eventually they'll be able to hone in on your frequency again. But this will at least allow you to get some sleep for the next week or so. Ok?" Tim put them in a bag for me and handed them over. "We'll work on finding out who's behind this."
Becca then said, "This entity is taking advantage of your fears, Justin. It knows that you still have problems lingering in your subconscious from when you were alive. It knows that you still harbor that anguish, that pain. It's the dagger that it uses to twist into your back. Until you confront those demons...it will always have a very powerful weapon to use against you. Do you understand?"
"I don't know how." I whined. "I just don't know how."
Char walked over to me, and pointed to the markings on my arm. "This is how." My token of love, my brand for all eternity. I wasn't exactly sure how it was going to help me, but I knew that it somehow was the key. "He can help you Justin...if you let him."
I hugged them goodbye and left, now wondering if I should be looking over my shoulder. Wondering if something was watching me, raping me of my mind through my dreams. Just when I thought I was beginning to fit into this 'other' world, I realize just how little I know about it. That my teachings have been pretty much contained within the fence of that old car lot. Based only on what they tell me, and nothing more. Comicality was right...I'm still just a beginner.
"Hey!" Came a friendly voice from under the train tracks. I looked over and saw Jenna sitting ut in front of a small hot dog place. "Out for a stroll tonight, I take it?" She said.
"No, not really. I went to see Tim about some things. Nothing serious." I said, and walked over to sit down next to her. "What are you doing out so far from the lot? I thought you were mostly a homebody." I smiled.
"I'm here for THIS..." She said, and pointed to the hot dog joint as she saw somebody getting ready to come out of the front door. As soon as the door opened, the air around us was filled with the scent of chili dogs and onions, gyros, Chicago style hot dogs with huge pickles and relish...mmmmm, my God! No WONDER she was sitting right in front of the door. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, sighing to herself. Then she whimpered, "Ohhhh, what I wouldn't GIVE to be able to have chilli dogs again. Just that scent alone is making me sooo homesick."
"Hehehe...I guess I can understand that." I watched with a grin as Jenna simply bathed herself in the aroma of Chi-Town junk food at it's finest. Then, got a little bit nervous about asking, but did it anyway. "So...you're from here?" I didn't think she'd mind, but so far everyone at the lot has been extremely private when it came to their lives. It almost felt rude to ask. Besides, we all had our issues. Issues big enough to make us all want to give up our old lives and start anew here in the darkness of night.
"California, actually." She said.
"Ahhh...California. Were you a 'valley girl'?" I grinned.
She playfully kicked me under the table and said, "As a matter of fact, I WAS! Thank you very much, and we're not all dumb blonds like they show in the movies."
"So what made you move way out here?"
"Sigh...a guy." She giggled a bit, and bit her lip in the cutest way. "I guess you could say that I was led astray by one of Cupid's 'broken' arrows."
"Ah, I'm sorry. He wasn't what you thought he would be?"
"Not at ALL. But he was older than me by a few years...mature, cute, had his own car. He made me feel so beautiful. And the things he would say...wow, they could make any girl melt. I met him and we hooked up, I was on cloud nine." She said, then, her smile faded a bit. "Then he...planned this road trip thing. All the way to Chicago for a 'business trip' as he called it. I sort of lied to my parents and told them that I was ust going with some girl friends of mine. I guess we drove for about 100 miles or so out of town, stopped at a hotel to get some rest...and we made love. At least *I* was making love. It was my first time, and I loved him soooo much. It hurt a little bit, but he promised to be careful with me each time. We made a few more stops along the way, each time having sex, more passionate with every embrace, and when we got to Chicago...I found out the truth."
"It seems that I was a part of his 'business trip' afterall. And his business included recruiting young pretty teenage girls like me. Bringing them far away from home where they had no chance of getting back to where they found them...and basically...'working off' a plane ticket home. I had been used, broken in, and he wanted to sell me to the highest bidder at some fat cat electronics convention."
"Oh God, Jenna...I'm sorry. That is so...I can't believe someone would do that to you." I sympathized and moved over to her side of the table to give her a hug. Which she accepted gracefully.
"It's ok...really. I had years to deal with it. I refused to sell my body an be his little blond money maker, so he tossed me out into the street. But not before smacking me around a bit first. I was alone, cold, on the streets of a city that I had never been to before. And I was begging for change out on Belmont just to get something to eat. There are a lot more dirty old men in the world than you might think. You'd be surprised what people asked me to do for a few bucks." She smiled at the memory, as though she remembered such an awful period of her life with a certain level of fondness. "Anyway...at the time, Dion was living in the basement of this old house, and I guess he was out to feed one particular night when I was feeling pretty low. It had been three weeks and I had no shelter, I was starving for something to eat, I still had bruises on my face from Mr. Wonderful, and it was October in Chicago. WAY too cold for a 'valley girl' like me. I mean, I was 15, I didn't know what to do. My parents would have KILLED me if they knew what I had done to get out here. Believe me, you don't know my parents. I hardly know my parents, but I know that people with money aren't too forgiving when it comes to embarrassing the family name. It sounds whacked, but believe me...it would not have been a pretty sight." The door opened to the hot dog place again, and Jenna took another big whiff before going on. It was cool, I had never seen that look of ecstacy on her face before. "If you ever ask Dion, he'll swear up and down that he wasn't targeting me to be 'feasted upon' that night, but I know deep down that it crossed his mind. He read my thoughts for a reason, and thank goodness for me, he liked what he saw. Dion took me in, we sat in that basement and just talked for hours and hours. He was even able to score me some food by breaking into a grocery store around the corner."
"Hehehe...you guys broke into a grocery store?" I lauhed.
"Hahaha...yeah! It was sooo funny, I had never done anything like that before! And Dion laughed at me because I fell trying to climb into the back window and knocked over an entire shelf of cans! They went everywhere and he could NOT stop laughing for like the rest of the night. So we take as much as we can, and go back to his basement to gobble it down. I thought it was strange that he wasn't eating anything, but I was so hungry that I didn't care." She said with a smile.
"So...Dion is the one that bit you?" I asked.
"Yeah." She blushed. "It was a few days later when he told me who he was. He had to finally go out and get some nourishment of his own...came home with blood on his clothes. I'm not sure exactly what attracted me to this life, but I didn't want to go home. I didn't want to stay on the streets..." Jenna looked up at the sky, searching for the words, "...I just needed this. It had been calling to me for a long time, and you know what? I don't regret it. I have a family now, and I share a bond with them that's closer than anything I've ever known. I know that I should have probably cherished my life a bit more, but I can't help but feel free when it comes to this life. I see a beauty in it that a lot of people seem to miss."
"Sounds like you found your calling then." I said, in awe of her way of looking at it. If anything, I thought regret and rejection would be a part of every vampire's exstence.
"Yeah," She replied. "I guess I have. It's not exactly what I had in mind when people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Hehehe! Now I don't have to grow up. Go figure."