I stared at the glass bottles in front of me, only 10 feet away, sitting on the rusted hood of an old car in the lot. I took a deep, meditative breath, and then opened my eyes to stare the bottles down as though I could 'bend' the glass with pure thought alone. I concentrated harder, and harder, and harder still. But no matter what guidance Bryson was trying to give me...I just couldn't get my extra to work right again. After a few more moments of mental strain, I sighed outloud in frustration. "Dammit...."
"No, no....that's ok, Justin. That's ok. Don't get frustrated with it, it'll only hinder your progress."
"You'd better hurry up, junior." I saw Max sitting on a tire off to the side, finishing off another beer and letting a loud belch rumble through his chest. "I'm finishing them off faster than you can knock 'em down." He stood up, walking over to the hood of the car, and placed another empty bottle up with the others. I think I was up to seven now.
"Ok, I need you to think back." Bryson told me. "How did you get it to work before?"
"I don't know how I got it to work before. I...I got MAD, and it just sorta...happened."
"Emotional release. Alright, that's a start. Now....is there a way to channel those emotions? To bring them to the surface? What is it that you think about when you need to let go?"
I know he was just trying to help, but the fact of the matter is, I don't really have any control over this extra of mine. The only times I've ever used it was in extreme situations of self defense. I'm not exactly sure how to 'recreate' that all on my own. What do I think about? I think about my life, I think about someone hurting Taryn, I think about my mom's drinking, my abusive dad, my feeble attempt at suicide...there's PLENTY for me to think about when I want to get pissed off! But I don't know how to really 'summon' it, or whatever, yet. It just happens. When the pain gets to be too much, and I just can't take anymore...it takes on a life of its own. "I don't think I can do this, Bryson."
"Working on number eight here, Justin..." Max taunted, almost a third done with his next beer already.
"You 'can' do this, Justin. You already have. You just have to learn how you did it. You can learn that by understanding why you did it, and when you did it last." He could see me getting aggravated with my own failure, and put a brotherly hand on my shoulder. "The power is already within you, Justin. I know this is hard. Figuring out the twists and turns of your own personality and trying to change it into something physical and concrete...it's not an easy thing to do...but it's a barrier I'm afraid you're going to have to cross before it crosses you." He said. "Now come on, just give it a few more tries, and we'll take a break. K?"
"Bryson..." I whined.
"JUST a few more. Stay focused with me here." He put his hands on my shoulders and pointed me in the direction of the bottles again. Taking a few steps back afterwards, just in case. I gritted my teeth angrily. Upset that I had to keep doing this over and over again. It's been a whole week and a half already, and this training stuff is NOT at all as much fun as I expected it to be!
"Almost done with eight, kiddo!" Max yelled again.
"Max...can we get some quiet here? Please?" Bryson looked over and Max threw his hands up with a slightly intoxicated grin.
"Sorry, boss man."
"Alright, now remember Justin...reach inward, find that energy deep down in your very being, and then use it to bridge the gap between you...and the bottles."
There was not a sound to be heard, as Bryson backed off even more and gave me space to do my thing. I was almost ready to just walk over there and KICK the fucking things over! Grrrr...the more I tried, the harder it was to get it to work. This is so STUPID!!! When am I gonna learn something cool? I've been TRAPPED in this lot for ten days straight without seeing anything outside of that front gate! Bryson has been drilling me for hours a night on this stuff, and my only breaks come when he gives me some boring CHORE to do. This is worse than high school! I'm TIRED of reading books, and learning century old vampire history and folklore, and I'm DEFINITELY tired of staring at these stupid fucking BOTTLES all damn night!!!
That's when I felt it. That 'twitch'. It was really small at first, almost unnoticeable, but it was there. In the back of my mind. I felt it build up for a quick second, and then die down again. I think...I think that was IT! "I think I 'felt' something!" I told Bryson.
"GOOD! Now..be gentle with the sensation. Don't force it, just let it come naturally. It's built around your emotions, Justin, so you're gonna have to let them express themselves freely, without restriction. Take what you're feeling, and let it out slowly." Funny thing, my extra was so unique, made just for me...and Bryson seemed to know more about it than I did sometimes.
I'm not used to being...um...'open' with my feelings, not for anyone. But I tried to let go a little bit at the time, just to see what would happen. It took a little while, but soon...I let my mind go enough to get a taste of that sensation again. It was hard trying to keep it steady. Almost like balancing a plate on the end of a pencil. But the more I got used to the feeling, the stronger it got. Occassionally it would build up enough to where I thought I almost had it...but I'd get excited and lose it just as fast. Come on, Justin...concentrate. I know I can do this.
"That's EIGHT!" Max shouted out, and I lost the feeling completely! SHIT!
"MAX!!!" Bryson scolded him with a dirty look. "Do you need more chores to do???"
"Just keeping count, boss." Max walked up and placed the eighth bottle on top of the car and walked away. Snickering at me for not even 'shaking' one of my targets yet.
"Well maybe if you stop drinking them so fast and shouting every fifteen seconds!" I said angrily. More at myself than at him though.
I was determined to rattle one of those bottles and be DONE with this excercise as soon as possible! I looked back at my targets, gazing harder than ever and trying to dig into my emotions a bit more forcefully. I wrinkled up my forehead, stared a hole through those bottles, and clenched my fists in an attempt to make it work. "It's not 'physical', Justin. Remember? If I can visually see you straining, then you're using the wrong muscle."
Arrrrgh!!! Ok, now Bryson's getting on my nerves too! Just because I can't hit a stupid bottle from ten feet away! I'm SICK of this! Why can't I DO this??? My inner voice began to kick and punch at my confidence, infuriating me over my own failure to get this perfect like I wanted to! And then....the power built up almost automatically. My anger had triggered the right energies within me, and once it built to a sizeable amount of pressure...it was ready. It didn't shoot out like before, all on its own. No...this time I could feel it circling my head, right above my eyebrows. A dark halo of anger and pain, frustration and rage, restraint and swallowed memories. The very air around me felt hot, burning my insides with every breath that I took. I could feel the power swelling, and when I looked at the bottles again, I knew exactly what to do.
I thought about finally knocking them all over with ease, with just a gentle burst of energy. That's all Bryson asked me to do, and it seemed like it would be so easy now that it was working right. But somehow, the anger inside of me was a bit stronger than I had given it credit for. The hatred and frustration seemed to have a mind of its own, and it wouldn't be controlled by anybody. When I mentally reached out, trying to keep some kind of balance, trying to let the blast move slowly...it SHOT out of my head at top speed! The memories and images seemed to be screaming all on their own, startling me as the kick back from the blast nearly knocked me back a step or two! There was no 'padding the gloves' on this one. ALL of the bottles suddenly exploded violently and shards of glass went flying in every direction! Some of them even cutting me on the arms and the cheek. Bryson ducked down to dodge some of the 'shrapnel', and I tried to pull the power back in. Attempting to contain it and shut it off before it did any more damage. I felt this strange mental fullness as it reentered my body and cut its destructive wave short. So full in fact, that it left me disoriented for a moment after regaining control.
Max lazily laid back against his truck with 'number nine' half empty already. "Heyyyyyy...the boy's got a little focus afterall." He grinned, already half drunk.
The energy was still inside me, but I think I had more control now that the initial power surge had left me. Somehow, with minimal effort this time, I was able to look over at Max and direct the blast instantly towards him. In fact, it didn't take much thought at all. With a smile and a swift nod of my head, I caused the half full bottle of beer to unexpectedly shatter in his hand and spill its contents all over him. He jumped up instantly, surprised by the cold shower...and gave me a harsh look. "You son of a..."
"Calm down, Max." Max heeded Bryson's word, but he wasn't too happy with me at the moment. Especially when I couldn't hold back my grin.
"Keep it up, rookie. You're seriously standing on my last nerve here." And he turned to walk back to another side of the lot. I won't lie, I got a great deal of satisfaction from that little prank.
"Here..." Bryson handed me a paper towel for the small cuts on my arms, while tending to the three or four small ones on my cheeks.
"Don't...I got it." I said, taking the other paper towel from him and mopping my own brow with it. Looking down on the ground, I saw glass everywhere. And it seemed that everytime I dried a small trickle of blood from one cut, I found another only inches away from it. As the sting from the cuts began to take effect, I realized that maybe I had gone too far with the demonstration. Even more so when I saw a few cuts on Bryson's arm and neck as well. "Sorry, Bryson. I guess it got away from me." He was so concerned. Like a MOM almost. As if he were fighting his every urge to take care of me and heal the cuts on my face with the wipe of a wet thumb. I almost felt guilty for depriving him of the gesture.
"It's ok, Justin, that's what practice is for." He answered, and we turned to see Doc roll up in his wheelchair. Typical smile and a wink like always. He had his lap full of newspapers at the time.
"One Chicago Tribune, and one Chicago Sun-Times. Here ya go." Doc handed Bryson the papers and turned to roll over to me to say hi. "How's the training treating you?" I nodded in the direction of the broken bottles. "Whoah...is that a good thing, or a bad thing?"
"Um....we don't know yet." I answered.
"Well make sure to tell me when you figure it out. I'm still kinda anxious to see what you can do. You know, I've never once come across a vampire that can 'evolve' as fast as you can? It's rather intriguing. You're always three or four weeks ahead of normal developement, at least. It's like you're sucking everything up like a sponge."
"Doc..." Bryson stopped him before he got too far into his conversation. He took the hint.
"Just saying it's cool, that's all." He grinned over his shoulder at Bryson. "I'll shut up now." Then he rolled past me. "See ya later, Justin. Come by my place sometime tonight and we'll chit chat. Cool?"
"Sounds good, Doc." I said, and looked back to see Bryson already leaning back on another car, diving into the paper. He was always so into the newspapers he got. It was practically written in as a daily part of our limited budget. He never really shared it with any of us though, and we never asked. I just never got his intense fascination with them, day by day. Weird. "So...so what now?"
He looked up from his page, as if he had forgotten I was even there. "Why don't we take a nice long break, huh? What do you say? Maybe you and the crew can get out of here for a little bit." I didn't know if I had heard him right. Or maybe I did, but was intepreting it to mean something totally different. Was he saying that I could leave the lot? I didn't move right away. It was odd for Bryson to suddenly...let me out like this. I almost thought it was a trick.
"You mean...I can go out?"
"Sure. Why do you ask?"
"Well...I was sort of under the impression that I was going to be stuck here for a long long time. Until I finished my training."
"Well, you ARE finished. For TONIGHT that is. But we start again tomorrow, so don't go letting them corrupt you into too much trouble tonight, you got me?" Then he looked back down at his newspaper, dog-earing a page or two.
"So...if I go...you're not gonna, like, get mad at me or anything, right?" I asked, just to be sure. "No short curfews, no extra chores, no..."
"Do you want me to change my mind? Because we've got a lot of constructive activities to be done around the lot if you'd rather stay..."
"NO!" I shouted, smiling at both my sudden freedom and my reaction to his 'threat'. "I'm gone. No take-backs. I'm outta here." I grinned, but before leaving, my mind got the best of me. I probably should have left it alone...but I needed to know. "Bryson...do you mind if I ask....um...why you're being so nice to me?"
He looked up from the paper, almost taking offense to the idea of me taking of him for an old grump. But he didn't let it show for more than a split second. He turned his eyes back down to his paper, and said, "Training is meant to promote the growth of experience, Justin. The development of instincts. As much as I'd like to lock you away and keep you from making any more mistakes during your crossover...you're not going to get all of the experience you need sitting around this lot every night. So go, already. Have fun."
"Sweet! Thanks Bryson!" I said, hugging him quickly and skipping off, ready to get back to the other end of the lot.
"NO TROUBLE tonight, Justin! You hear me?"
"Yep!" But I was already turning the corner. Going to find my sweetheart and let him know that I was free as a bird for the rest of the evening.
I saw Taryn, Dion, and Jenna sitting on the roof of some wreck, engaged in some lighthearted conversation. Taryn's eyes lit up as he saw me enter the clearing, accompanied by his warmest of welcome grins. "There's our school boy. Looking all fine and cheerful." Dion smiled.
"So did you finally knock 'em over?" Taryn asked, hopeful.
"Better than that...I 'shattered' them all." I giggled. As I got closer to the table, they noticed the cuts on my face and arms. "I guess I've got a little bit more to learn about 'control', huh?"
"Awww, Justin...you got cut." Taryn slid down off of the roof and sat on the hood with his legs spread, beckoning me forward to examine me closer. "You ok?"
I snaked my way right between his legs while resting my hands on his thighs. I quickly sprung up on my toes, and sneaked a quick kiss from his lips. "Never been better."
He looked back down at me, and then lowered his head to kiss me properly this time. Slowly, with a lover's pressure, his lips against mine. I could feel his reddish brown locks come gliding forwards, brushing softly against my cheekbones, and his warm breath slid peacefully across my skin. His lips touched themselves to mine again and again, and I could feel his smile with every kiss. My soul seemed to be spinning itself in circles as my heart raced with the joy and delight of Taryn's gentle loving contact. His smile made me smile too, and we kissed as well as we could, considering that we were both giggling sexily at one another.
Dion playfully rolled his eyes. "Ohhhhh, here we go."
Jenna swatted him on the arm. "Stop that. I think it's sweet."
"You're emotionally tapped in. You think everything is sweet." Dion slid down to the hood behind Taryn and gave him a gentle push with his foot, making him slide off the edge and stand on his feet in front of me. Taryn just grinned and gave him the finger. "So should Jenna and I leave you two alone, or are you gonna take this inside your OWN place where it belongs?" He taunted.
I interrupted, "Actually...Bryson has decided, in his infinite wisdom, to let me PLAY outside the asylum tonight. And THAT means...we gotta go out!"
All three of them teased me a bit by saying, "Hmmm, well, I don't know. I'm kinda tired tonight actually."
"Nah, I don't feel like leaving tonight, I think we should just stay here and do nothing for the rest of the evening. What do you guys think?" Jenna added.
Then Taryn shook his head and told me, "I guess it's official then. We're staying in. You want a...'chair' or something?"
I was surprised that they could keep a straight face. "Come on....it's been TEN days, you guys! Count 'em, TEN!" I said, to no answer. "Please?" Still no answer. They all looked away from me as though they didn't even hear me. "Ok, you want me to beg? I'm BEGGING! Ok? Here...this is me on my knees! Begging!" I said kneeling down.
"Nothing special about that. Taryn's seen that trick before." Dion joked.
"Please, oh please, oh PLEASE, take me out somewhere! ANYWHERE! I don't care if we watch GRASS grow, just so long as we don't do it HERE!" I doubted they could hold their smiles in for much longer. "Aww C'MON! I'm going CRAZY here!"
"Sigh...I suppose." Taryn grinned, and I practically jumped for joy. "I can't say no to my blond bombshell." He touched his forehead to mine, and kissed me on the tip of my nose.
"I'm gonna go grab Max, you guys. The last time we went out and didn't invite him, I had to hear about it for a week." Jenna added, and gave both Taryn and me a hug as she walked past. "You guys are so damn CUTE together. I love it!"
Taryn gave me another sweet peck on the lips. "I'm gonna go grab a different pair of shoes, ok? We're gonna do some walking, and these are almost worn out. K?"
"K!" And when he turned to walk back to the trailer, I grabbed a handfull of his ass. Granting both of us a giggle.
Dion and I stood alone in the center of the lot, and he smiled at me. "It looks like you're coming into your crossover just fine. You used to it, yet?"
"I think so." I shrugged. "I mean, I'm getting used to the idea of it and all by now."
"Good. Good." Dion nodded. "You know...with all sincerity...you make me proud, kid." And he rubbed my shoulder with his hand. Just getting that slight recognition, that level of approval, from him made me feel like I was ten feet tall. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would have a family like the one I 'fell into' when I came to this abandoned car lot a few months ago. I was starting to feel like a real part of the group. Like I could actually contribute to something around here and exist with some kind of purpose. After the life I've lived, I don't think they understand how the smallest positive comment can make the biggest difference to me.
"Thanks..." I think I was blushing at the thought, and he ruffled my hair with a grin. Just like any big brother would.
I saw Jenna come back to join us, and she said that Max and Kid would be coming with us. "Do you guys have any idea when Trevor and Michael are going to come back? Bryson is gonna be worrying about them soon, if he's not already."
The very mention of their names caused a bad reaction in me. A tension that tightened up my muscles and warned me to stay on my guard. It had been a joyful week and a half without them here, and I wasn't looking forward to dealing with them again. I suppose every family has their share of black sheep.
"They said they were taking some kind of 'lover's holiday' or something. They left pretty much right after Justin did." Dion answered. "They didn't really say when they'd be back."
"Well, if you hear anything on the street, pass the word that Bryson is looking for them. Alright? With the two of them missing, Rain on one of her little vacations, and no word from Gyro since last week...he's ready to blow a fuse." She said. "He lives off of worry. It's best not to test his limits for it."
"Gyro will be fine. THAT much, I know." Dion looked over at me, and we sorta shared an invisible wink at one another. "The rest will come back when they feel like it. Besides, the lot's been quiet lately. Let's not jinx it by bringing back the 'problem children' before their time."
"We ready to hit the streets or what?" Max said, approaching with Kid in tow behind him as always. Kid's hair was looking kinda fluffy and out of order, and he had a huge hole in one of the knees of his jeans, and a t-shirt delicately decorated with dirt and grass stains. Usually Jenna is the one who's constantly keeping him well kept, bathed, combed, and dressed like a real 'little boy'. Max just sorta kept him like he would a puppy, left free to roam the yard and take care of himself as he pleases. I think Kid enjoyed Max's way better.
Taryn's arms wrapped around me from behind and he gently licked the back of my neck, making me shiver inside with a chuckle. "Alright, let's move." Dion said, and we all left the lot in a group. Bryson and Doc, stayed behind in the corner. Dylan was probably holding his own private little church mass like he always did when he woke up every night. He wouldn't have come with us though, not with Dion there supplying him with enough fear and self doubt to possibly make him feel silly. Jun, on the other hand, went to do his excercises in a disclosed area of the lot. We didn't disturb him. I learned my lesson from the last time. But Jenna left him a note saying where we'd be on his shirt, which was sitting on an engine not far from him. His chest was so smooth, so lickable...I could watch him practice all day.
We took our little troop and headed out into the streets, two or three conversations going on at once between us. God...I loved that feeling. Just being a part of something so incredible. Some nights, even now, it still feels so unreal. Frightening me into thinking that I'm going to wake up any minute, and find myself fast asleep in my bed again. Opening my eyes to the same old room, the same dim sunlit world, where being a target for pain was the only thing I was ever good at. I thought about it a lot. But, during those scary moments...as though he could sense the careful change in my demeanor...Taryn would bring me right out of it. It didn't take much from him at all. Any affectionate gesture would do. An arm on my shoulder, a wink, a smile, a kiss on the cheek, or a gentle grip of my hand. Every time he did it...I knew he was real. And I knew I was happy to be by his side. It's the kind of attention that I had been seeking throughout my whole existence...magnified and larger than life...and yet still able to hide behind a single twinkle in Taryn's deep green eyes. How could I have gotten this far in my life without having this feeling to keep me strong? How could anybody?
It was Jenna's idea to go to Navy Pier that night, and although Taryn and I had made it our special little getaway, we weren't used to going there before it closed and all the crowds were gone. We were still at least six or seven city blocks away from the entrance, and already we could feel the 'life' emanating from the place. Cars and taxis paraded past us, groups of people passing us every now and then on the sidewalk. All of them either coming from or going to the same outdoor party. I felt like such an outsider being around them again. The living appeared to be so strangely opposite from everything that I was at that moment. They walked different, talked different, laughed different, smelled different. As much as I was enjoying my life in darkness, this was the first time I had actually 'reconnected' to the human race in such a public place for at least a month and a half. I never thought that any amount of time away from society could rip me so far apart from what was once my own SPECIES. But it had. Humanity was not what I remembered it to be. Not even close.
I felt Taryn put his head on my shoulder briefly, before placing a tender kiss on my cheek. "What did I do to deserve that?" I asked.
"You were thinking again. I love to watch you think." He giggled warmly.
"Hehehe, you are a weird one tonight." I said back to him. But something happened at that moment. Something unexpected. I couldn't really put my finger on it, but some kind of weird sensation got caught up underneath my skin as we continued walking. It rushed through me like a wave of vertigo.
"You ok?" Taryn asked, seeing the sudden change of the look on my face.
"Yeah....yeah, I'm fine." I told him. I delivered a return kiss to his other cheek with a smile, trying to ignore that little twitch in the back of my mind. I let my hand rub the small of his back for a few steps...but soon, I felt it again. Stronger this time. This time the sensation was a bit easier to pinpoint. It was definitely coming from one of US.
I felt my body shiver slightly as Jenna's extra automatically picked up on the source causing it. It almost felt like it was coming from Kid. I looked over and saw him walking not far from me. The strange thing is...he was looking around an awful lot. His huge mouse brown eyes circling through the entire area as though in some kind of desperate search. He was 'anxious' for something. Watching him out of the corner of my eye, Kid attempted to straighten up and look straight ahead again. But I could already tell that something was wrong. I felt the surge crawl through me, slowly at first, and then hitting a dose of adrenaline to kick it into second and third gear. I suddenly became aware of a bad taste in my mouth...like battery acid and sulfur almost. Or tinfoil. It was bitter, salty, potent. Seconds later, I felt my tongue go completely dry.
"Kid? Kid, are you alright?" I asked, looking down at him as he peeked back at me nervously. Naturally, he didn't even acknowledge me. Not with a nod, or a shake, or even a full stare to assure me that he heard me. He just kept walking. "Kid....?" I said again, reaching out a hand to put on his shoulder to get his attention. But he took a harsh deliberate 'detour' immediately, to avoid my hand and walk on the other side of Max. God forbid if I was to touch him or anything. As sweet as he is, that boy just does NOT like me.
We were walking past an alley when a slight noise echoed through the buildings on either side. Like the sound of someone rummaging through trash. As we walked past, I noticed a homeless guy, about 35 years old, I suppose, lifting up a dumpster lid to see what was inside. But....as the rest of our group walked past without making much of it, I felt my attention being pulled closer in the man's direction. I got that horrible taste in my mouth again. So bad that I had to spit it out on the ground in front of me. THAT'S when I recognized the emotion. It was too far out on the surface to hide anymore. I knew EXACTLY what was going on here! "Oh SHIT!!!" I said outloud.....but it was too late to stop the chain of events now. "KID! NO!!!"
With BLINDING speed, Kid dashed away from us and charged his way into the alley! Silent, swift, vicious! His small ten year old frame was able to easily pounce up on top of the dumpster...bringing the lid down on the man's arm and trapping him there! "KID! NO! NO!" Jenna shouted, almost as if telling a puppy not to sit on the couch. However, the boy was already in attack mode. I doubt he could even hear us anymore, nor would he recognize our voices if he had. Not over the intense fury of the thirst. Kid jerked forward in a frenzy, biting the man on his shoulder while his arm remained trapped under the boy's weight. He screamed out loud. VERY loud! We all jumped, and it felt like the whole WORLD could hear us! I thought for sure someone was going to run over to see what was up, or call the cops on us! FUCK! We couldn't even MOVE!
I watched in horror as blood came gushing out of the man's shoulder, spraying the wall behind him! All the rest of us could do really was to stand there huddled together in order to try and give the kid some kind of awkward 'cover' while he finished him off. I couldn't keep watching this...but I couldn't turn away either. So much blood...so much pain. Oh my GOD, I can't believe I'm watching someone get murdered! The man was in so much agony, that he began thrashing wildly to get away. The commotion allowed him to get his arm free from its confines and violently push Kid off of his shoulder. The fangs were ripped out of his flesh with a sickening 'slurp', and his hand was not enough to stop the uncontrollable bloodflow. He backed up, a look of sheer terror in his eyes, crying and holding his hand against the place where Kid's teeth had sunk in. His shirt was now almost completely wetted down with blood, hot enough to steam up in the night air. He couldn't believe what was happening, but Kid wasn't finished just yet. The boy lunged forward again, trying to find that angle, that position that would get him to a main artery. ANY main artery! But the man was fighting for his life this time. He hit him again and again, kicking his legs out wildly, eventually throwing Kid up against the brick wall! He would do anything to survive.....ANYTHING! But it was all in vain. The fact of the matter is that Kid was stronger than him, faster, more perceptive...his hunger was going to win out. There was no doubt about that.
Kid was relentless. He attacked the man from all sides, scratching, clawing, biting...like a child possessed. The man wouldn't last much longer. He was taking some heavy damage, and was bleeding profusely from a number of bites and scratches on his body. Kid had taken chunks out of his arm, shoulder, right side, and one of his ankles. It was a savage side of him that I never could have imagined existed in a boy so young, so quiet. Not in a million years. FINALLY, the man made the mistake of tripping over his feet, and falling backwards onto the cement. He might as well have jumped into a pool of pirahna. It was a done deal after that. Kid pounced on him immediately, tearing and ripping at him until he was too weak and hurt to go on. Then...with his once beautiful childlike eyes, now glowing a ghastly shade of crimson, Kid's fangs shot downward an extra inch for the final bite. He sank his teeth in without mercy! And the man screamed out loud again for help! Somebody HAD to be hearing this! We're all gonna get BUSTED for sure!!!
My breathing got so heavy that I was actually becoming dizzy from it. My head was spinning, and my heart was beating fast enough to almost break down at this point. The homeless man saw me watching, all of us blocking the entrance to the alley. And he began to call out to me in a weak voice. "Please....please help me..." His sounds went unheard, his voice now just a matter of gasps and gurgles...his eyes full of tears as he felt his life swiftly slipping away. Those eyes. I'll never forget those eyes.
Taryn could see my frightening reaction to what was going on, and he took my hand, squeezing it firmly. "It's ok, Justin. It's ok." He said, trying to calm me down. But I could already feel tears falling from my own eyes at this point. I was sooo scared. Soooo sorry to see this happen to another human being.
"But he's....he's..." I could hardly speak.
"Shhhh...I know, baby. I know. Just look away. Ok?"
"Come on, Justin...for me. I need you to focus elsewhere. Just for a few minutes. Look this way, ok?" He physically had to turn me around to look out into the street in front of us. "Here, look sharp, k?" He said, using his sleeve to dry the tears from my eyes so as not to draw any attention from the passing cars on the street. Jenna and Dion stood guard, making sure that our group was blocking as much of the alley as we could. Max seemed pretty unaffected by the whole thing. More concerned with the fact that it was taking so long. How could they WITNESS something like this??? How can they be so calm?
I felt Taryn rubbing my back and shoulders in small circles, whispering words of encouragement into my ear. But all I could concentrate on was the sickening sounds of Kid draining that poor man dry. His shouts and kicks, now slowing down to involuntary convulsions and muscle spasms from the shock of it all. I could hear his fingernails scrapping across the concrete below him, as though his spirit could physically hold on to this world. I was still crying, no matter how much I sucked it up, and Taryn was consistently catching each tear as it fell. I had to hold his hand tighter to keep him close. He was willing to do anything to comfort me. Here I am, thinking about how 'happy' I am and how 'great' it is to have someone to finally love...and all the time I was forgetting the true horror behind living as one of us. I felt Taryn's arm wrap around me and pull me close, kissing me on the cheek to let me know that he was right there. But there were still the sounds of scraping and clawing from the man behind me. I heard a muffled moan, and instinctively turned my head around to look. I didn't WANT to see...I HAD to see!
Kid was on top of the man, his small wiry body barely big enough to completely cover the man's chest. And his knees were locked tightly on either side of his ribcage, his head buried deeply into the man's neck. His left hand was covering his mouth to muffle the screams, and I could almost see the life evaporate from his eyes. Taryn held me tighter, and turned me back around towards the street while Kid finished his 'meal'. I saw it coming. I FELT it. And it was too late to do anything. Too late to help him. I pray you never know the chill that runs up your spine when you know that someone is being slaughtered right behind you.
The alley became silent again. All struggles had ceased. And Kid finally dislodged his fangs from the meaty flesh of the man's neck. I saw a small river of blood almost touch the heel of my shoe as it travelled down the alley, and I moved my foot away in disgust. Everyone turned around and saw the body laying lifeless among the trashbags in the corner. Kid stood up on his feet, his tshirt completely soaked in the thick purple gelatin of the man's blood. It was all over his face, his neck, his chest, his arms...he was covered in it. Considering what had just happened, the rest took it rather well.
Jenna walked into the alley and lifted Kid's chin with two fingers as he silently licked his lips. "Ohhh...Kid. Sighhh...LOOK at you. You're an absolute mess." She took a handkerchief out of her pocket, and began wiping Kid's face down. I stood there and watched it all. The uncaring precision of it all. She wiped the boy's face as if it was covered with 'blueberry pie filling' or something. With Kid frowning up his face and pulling back like a five year old trying to avoid a bath. Jenna turned back to Max as she tried to quickly clean him up. "Didn't he tell you he was hungry, Max?"
"Oh yeah, sure. We had a long drawn out conversation about it yesterday." He sneered sarcastically. "HE DOESN'T TALK!!! Hellooooooo?"
"Well, you should know how to read the signs by now, Max." Dion added, still keeping guard. "We can't afford to have him running around with a thirst like that. It's dangerous."
"He could have drawn me a fucking picture or something! I didn't know he was gonna 'jump' somebody out of the blue, he should have let me know ahead of time..." But Max could hardly get it out before Jenna was back on him again.
"He's just a little BOY! You have to help him. He doesn't know any better." She had done all she could to clean Kid's face, but it left smudges of blood and dirt on his cheeks anyway. "Have you been keeping a feeding chart on him like Bryson asked you to?"
"FUCK no! What, am I trying to get him pregnant? 'Gee, it's been 30 days, something's gotta bleed..."
"STOP IT!" Jenna scolded, standing up and holding Kid's hand. "Alright you guys...we've got to get him to a bathroom or something and finish cleaning him up before we go anywhere."
"They've got bathrooms on the pier." I said.
"Are you crazy? We can't sneak Kid past hundreds of people looking like 'this'..." Jenna replied, looking around and trying to wipe some of the excess ooze off of the boy's shirt.
Just then, Dion got an idea. "Listen, there's a small harbor for boat houses and the like just north of here. We could try to sneak onto one of the empty ones and clean him up there."
"How far is it?" Taryn asked.
"A few blocks, tops. It's our best bet. We'll just have to hide him until then." We all agreed, and figured that was our best strategy for the time being.
Jenna looked down at the corpse lying at her feet. "Max, help me move this body over to the wall. We'll cover him up and make sure that nobody finds him before the Slag Hunters do." They did so, and began covering his lifeless body with trash. I saw Kid peeking from behind Max, watching them take care of his 'mess'. That same innocent sparkle in his eyes as though he could have never done such a thing. And as I looked on, I began to wonder...how long has this been going on? How often have people been getting murdered all alone in alleys and dark corners, right outside of my field of vision? Years? Decades? Centuries? Could I have been one of those lost souls had I wandered down the wrong alley one night and met up with someone looking for a late night snack? All that commotion, all that horror, and not a single person on the street noticed. How insane...to be so oblivious to the foul deeds around you. Insane...but lucky. If I had a choice, I'd rather not know either.
"Ok, lets go." Dion made sure to gather us around Kid in a somewhat 'discreet' but normal pattern to hide him. And then, we all sort of wrapped our forward walking steps around the bloodstained child in the middle. Kid didn't seem to mind much at all. He almost looked like he was treating it like a game. We must have walked for about ten, maybe fifteen, minutes before we got to the docks where some personal boats lay floating in the harbor, just South of Navy Pier. Dion checked each one, peering through the windows to find one that was empty. Most of them had their lights off, but were occuppied with couples pounding away at each other in sexual bliss. Men, women, gay, straight...taking advantage of their floating hideaway. I think it aroused Taryn a bit, because his touches got more frequent as we walked past those locked in 'activity'. Looking over at him, he smiled, and then placed a sweet kiss on my lips. Normally, I would have soared to cloud nine from such a display. But this time it felt weird. Someone had just been killed, not more than twenty minutes ago. We left his body in an alley among the stinking trash and rotting food. And now 'getting Kid cleaned up so we could have some fun' seemed to be our only concern. Was I supposed to forget? Were we all supposed to just go on as though nothing happened? I guess....I guess we were. It was with that realization that I found a whole other inner conflict in my soul. Wondering if I should long for the day when such a brutal display no longer phases me the way it does....or if I should 'fear' it. Knowing that I will have given up everything that once made me....sane.
"Here, what about this one?" Max pointed out a boat with no lights on, and no motion going on inside. In fact, it looked like it had been empty for a while. Months at least.
"Sounds good, c'mon." Dion agreed, and we all kinda secretly made our way onboard from the dock.
It didn't take much for Max to pop the lock on the door and slide it open to grant us entry. He was just as good at breaking stuff as he was at fixing it. The 6 of us walked in and looked around in the dark for a bathroom. We didn't want to turn on any lights and draw attention to the supposedly unoccuppied vessel, so we had to spread out and feel our way around. It was a pretty small space, a bit cramped for my tastes. And once you put a bed and a table in it, your furniture options were pretty much stuck at zero. I could feel it lean and sway quietly from our weight as we moved about the small vessel, the waves of the lake lifting it and dropping it as it saw fit. There was a small bathroom on the boat, looking more like a closet than anything else. And Jenna took the little boy in to finally get him looking presentable again.
"Here...come out of this..." Jenna told Kid, and he instinctively raised his arms as she pulled his shirt off. His smooth hairless chest was pale enough to see even in the darkness of the ship, and even though he was quite strong, not a single defining muscle would show through his thin layer of boyish babyfat. As Jenna put the shirt in the sink, I could see how the homeless man's blood had dyed Kid's chest straight through the fabric, it was an uneasy feeling to see it. Once his shirt was off, Jenna pulled off both of his dirty untied sneakers and his dingy socks, reaching for the button on his pants. Kid's hands went down to push her hands away, but she lightly smacked them so she could concentrate on what she was doing. Kid protested, his hands batting hers away constantly as his face wrinkled up in a pout like grimace. I could hear the faintest whine come from the back of his throat as he clutched onto the button of jeans. Jenna finally gave up with a little frustration. I guess she understood. "Sighhhh...Max...can you give me a hand here?"
"Don't worry, I got it." Jenna came out of the little bathroom compartment while Max went in to take her place. When Max reached for the boy's pants, there was no protest at all. Max closed the sliding door for some privacy, saying, "You know, I don't care HOW young you were when you crossed over...you're gonna like 'girls' someday."
"Alright, I guess we just wait now until the little brat is clean." Dion said, plopping down on the bed to rest his feet. I sat next to him while Jenna and Taryn walked around to look through the place a little bit more. I could hear the shower turn on, and I hoped it wouldn't be long before he was finished. We WERE trespassing afterall.
Jenna found a picture on the wall, of a man and a lady standing together in front of the Art Institute. We kind of made the assumption that they were the owners of the boat. "I wonder if this is his wife." Jenna said, running her fingers across the glass.
But Taryn had a different assumption altogether. "Um....I'd say it was a 'sister', if anything."
"What makes you think that?"
Taryn turned towards us, holding up a few items out of the man's dresser drawer. One of them was an extremely gay magazine, and the other was was a large video box called 'Johnny HotCock and the Men at Sea'! Taryn's eyes widened in the cutest way as his surprise gave way to a burst of giggles. "Whoooah..." Dion said, getting up to get a closer look at the box. There were pictures of guys piled up on each other in a myriad of different sexual positions, hardcore positions. Taryn turned back around with a grin, rummaging through more stuff in the drawer. There were polaroids, and handcuffs, and half melted candles...this was DEFINITELY a 'love camp' away from home for somebody.
"Dude...I can't believe you're going through this guy's stuff." I said, snickering. But it didn't keep me from getting up off the bed to see what else he had.
"Check THIS out!" Dion smiled, reaching in and pulling out one of the largest flexible rubber dildos that I had ever SEEN before. It was purplish in color, but see through, and had ridges and glitter on it. It was almost the size of my 'wrist'. Taryn and I burst out laughing, and Jenna had to gently remind us to keep quiet. I held my hand over my mouth, but Taryn's smile was causing me to laugh even harder. Dion jiggled it little bit to make it wobble, and soon all four of us were snickering uncontrollably to ourselves. It was a moment where the playful little kid in all of us couldn't be contained.
We heard the door to the bathroom slide open and Max stepped out, his shirt wet from trying to help Kid get clean in the shower. "I think he's good to go..." He said. But as he entered the bedroom, the four of us turned around to face him, each one of us holding an item from the drawer. Dion with a dildo, Jenna holding the handcuffs, Taryn with the magazine, and me holding the video. Max stopped in mid sentence...his mind working through a mist of confusion as he tried to comprehend what the hell was going on here. He gave up pretty quickly. "Okaaaay....I'm gonna go wait outside now." He said, and turned to leave without asking another question.
We put everything back in the drawer as best as we could, trying to make it look as 'undisturbed' as possible. And helped Kid get dressed again in all but his shirt. There was no way that we'd be able to hide the bloodstains in his shirt, or even wash them out for that matter. As adorable as he was, little nipples looking like two thumbtacks in the cool air on, what could be considered, the beginnings of a boy's smooth chest...he couldn't go out like this either. So we rummaged through the back of the boat owner's closet to grab an old black AC/DC tshirt and put it on him. It was ridiculously big on the boy, half of his collarbone was visible through the wide neck of the shirt, and it hung almost down to his knees. But it was all we really had to work with. At least he was clean.
"Let's get out of here before Mr. HotCock comes back with a friggin' SHEEP or something!" Dion joked, and we all walked out. Jenna made sure to grab Kid's old shirt and wrap it in a black plastic bag, ringing it out in the sink and rinsing all of the blood down the drain before we checked out. From there...it was on to Navy Pier. Problem avoided. For now at least.
Walking back towards our destination, I did my best to not really look over at Kid as he tugged and twisted at the oversized shirt covering him. Everytime my eyes caught sight of him, I would flash back to the incident in the alley. I tried not to, believe me. But just seeing him, walking besides us as normal and carefree as always...it would drag the images kicking and screaming from the back of my mind. Taryn, always in touch with what I was thinking, did his best to comfort me. "You ok, hon?"
"Yeah...just a bit shaken, is all."
His hands rubbed my shoulders as Max looked at me over his shoulder. Almost as if to call me a wuss for being so squeamish. But Taryn's ever comforting words helped to even things out. "I know. It's hard, baby. And it takes time. You'll get used to it, I promise." He said. It was all he could do to soothe me, and I almost felt guilty for allowing it to work. He kissed me on the cheek, and I reached down to hold his hand the rest of the way. Love was my only anchor for the time being, and I intended to hold on for dear life.
The closer we got to the pier, the more we could feel the life of humanity swelling around us again. The traffic, the people, the sounds, the laughter. The world began to 'move' again in its carefree patterns. It was comforting. Which amazed me. Because while there was a time not so long ago that I wanted to be apart from all of this structural insanity...I suddenly longed for its predictability again. It was like wanting to be a young child for a second time...to truly envelop yourself with the joy of being totally lost in a world that looked so much more fantastic than it really was. You never know how much your youth protects you until it has been sucked away by life's problems. I missed it. Looking at this place, alive with people having fun...I really did miss it.
As we walked up on the front lawn, heading towards the carnival-like atmosphere of the place, we felt ourselves being swept along in humanity's strong current. Pulling us in, integrating and assimilating us into a solid mass like all the others. Blending in with every day society as though we had no choice. You truly have to live outside of this imaginary prison in order to see the walls of it closing in on you upon your return. I had forgotten what it was like...being a part of the herd.
We made it closer still, past the outdoor fountain and crossing the street to where the cabs and all were lined up by the dozen to make whatever money they could off of the visitors to the pier. There were lights, and music, and an ocean of bodies moving in unison. The noise was mellowed out as it blended into the familiar low hum of the masses. I could almost feel myself smile as we walked through the gates on the right side of the pier itself. After seeing so much darkness and death in the existence of this place, it seemed like a completely different experince altogether.
There was a clown faced man on stilts walking past us, with a huge smile on his face, sprinkling shreds of colored paper down on our heads. There were hot dog vendors over by the edge of the dock, and I saw Jenna close her eyes as she inhaled a huge whiff of the aroma. She was always so enraptured with the idea of junk food. It didn't take much to get her tastebuds screaming. I leaned over and butted her shoulder with a smile as she grinned at the fun of being caught. We waded further into the thickening crowd as we walked down the pier. We saw everything from rides, to magic tricks, to shops, to roller blading boys that were SURE to turn anybody's head! "HEY!!!" Taryn giggled, hitting me 'hard' in the gut. "Watch it!"
"I was just LOOKING!" I said, rubbing the sore spot.
"Well knock it off before you get HIM in trouble!" I was shocked, but couldn't help but grin.
Jenna smiled. "That's Taryn. Always ready to 'kill' the competition."
"Very morbid." I said, but he tickled a smile out of me by digging his fingers in my side.
I could feel society wrapping its protective fingers around me again. Attempting to reprogram me, even if only for an hour or so. It's nearly impossible to fight, you know? The urge to imitate your surroundings. Especially when they seem to be having so much fun.
The sights and sounds of the place captured you from every angle, and something about it just made you feel good inside. Also, as we walked, I noticed a few members of the crowd who seemed different somehow from the rest. They walked with a unique stride that didn't quite 'blend in' with the rest. With a closer look and not much effort, I could easily tell they were vampires. Just like us. Some a bit older, some even a bit younger. And the moment I noticed them...the noticed me right back. I didn't take a count of how many we came across, but there were small pockets of them all around us. No doubt trying to get a piece of their lives back too by being around the living again. Tangible ghosts, haunting familiar places and examining the things that they had left behind. However...what caught my attention most was how one of them looked at me as we approached. It was a girl, about 18 years old, and her eyes widened as though I were a giant spider on the attack. She froze, staring at me, and stepping aside quickly as we walked by. It was strange, she kept her eyes down to the ground, trembling slightly in front of me. I wondered exactly what she could have seen in me that would have spooked her so much.
As we continued to walk further down the pier, I found a few more vampires giving me a similar reaction. Some even going so far as to take their friends and go inside the building to avoid me. I didn't understand. What did I do? It was then that I heard it...like a whisper in the back of my mind. "Rage...." I turned around to see where it came from, but saw no one. My mind reading ability must have switched itself on again, and I began picking up signals from the seemingly terrified vampires on the dock. "Rage..." I heard it again. I passed by a vampire, and made sure to smile and say hello...hopefully putting him at ease. I don't think it worked. "It's him...it's Rage..." And then...as quickly as it shut itself on, my reading ability shut itself off again. What the hell is a 'rage', and what does it have to do with me? I could feel a sudden isolation from my own kind, all of them except for the choice few that I was walking with. Whatever it was that they were talking about...it certainly must have them scared shitless.
"What's wrong?" Dion asked, noticing a silent pause as I searched around me.
"Um...." Not seeing anything, or even understanding enough of what happened to know what to tell him...I tried to let it go. "...Nothing. Nothing, just...forget it." I said, and we kept going.
After another ten minutes or so, we had made it all the way out to the middle of the pier, and there was a huge 250 foot tall Ferris Wheel standing above us on the upper level. Just then, some humans walked passed us, and we could overhear them talking to their little girl. "You know, I hear they have a place inside where you can make your own teddy bear? You wanna go do that? Huh?"
Kid's ears perked up immediately, and his eyes widened. He almost smiled, but remained tight lipped through his excitement. Not that his huge expressive brown eyes didn't convey 'the ear to ear' grin anyway.
He turned to Max in mid step and tugged at his shirt, pointing eagerly at the family that just passed us. Max frowned up. "What?" Kid kept tugging, almost bouncing on his heels. "No." But Kid didn't give up, only tugging harder. "I am NOT buying you a 'teddy bear'!" The little boy wrinkled up his brow in a silent whine, looking almost hurt at the rejection. Practically begging for it. "Kid...you are too old for some goddamn teddy bear!" Kid pouted visibly, letting go of Max's shirt. "Besides, we don't have any money to waste on that garbage."
I could see Kid's eyes widen again, as though there was a second wind breathed into his plea for a gift. Then...without even looking...Kid took ONE step backward, reached behind him, and plucked the wallet out of some guy's pocket as he walked past! It was just that easy for him! He opened it up to find forty dollars and a few traveler's checks inside. Taryn and I giggled to ourselves at Kid's determination. He really didn't give a shit, as long as he got that teddy bear. Even Max had to snicker gently at the act. Jenna, of course, played a motherly role instead in the whole situation. "KID!!! STOP it!" She grabbed the wallet from his hand, and walked after the man he stole it from. "Sir?...I'm sorry sir, I think you dropped this..."
The second she was gone, we watched Kid back up again, ready to take another sucker the second he had the opportunity. And Dion had to hold his ever crafty hand still. Kid pulled away and looked back at Max, giving him the most heartbreaking desperate puppy dog eyes that you've ever seen on a boy. And of course, Max, through all that gruff and grumpy exterior...was a softee at heart. Especially when it came to his little private 'satelite'.
Watching Jenna give the wallet back to the man not far from us, Taryn knew that she'd be back soon. With a sly grin, he gave Max a look and said, "I'll keep her busy for a second or two. Get outta here." He, himself, becoming a part of the inevitable plan.
"Sighhhh....you're a pain in the ASS, you know that?" Max groaned, not that it phased Kid at all. "Come on...we'll steal from somebody inside." Kid's face lit up immediately and he hugged Max tight around the waist with his eyes closed. "Alright, alright! Yeah, I know. 'Love and hugs'! Great, now turn me loose." He said, prying the grateful child from his body. And he took Kid by the hand to lead him inside before Taryn and Jenna came back to stop them. I could faintly hear him lightly scolding Kid as they walked away. "You know, Bryson doesn't like it when you steal like that. You've gotta be careful. They put you in 'juvey', and that'll be all she wrote. You got me?" I doubt Kid was listening. He was too busy skipping along and looking for this magical teddy bear haven he had heard about. It was the kind of boyish adrenaline rush that gave him back his humanity in my eyes. Almost making the murderous act of making that poor homeless man his lunch...seem like some nightmare. A faulty memory that created itself out of nowhere. There is such a Jekyll and Hyde nature to this life, and I wondered how much of my sensibilities I'd have to let go of before settling into the 'reality' of it. Perhaps all of them.
Such is the life of an undead parasite.