Dion took me to a small stone pedestal in the middle of the park, and we both climbed on top of it. "What are we doing up here?" I said. I was only standing about a foot and a half off of the ground, but it was a little embarrassing. I felt like I was on display or something, for the whole world to judge me. He could see my discomfort, and told me to forget about it.

"Do you honestly think you'll ever see any of these people ever again? To hell with them, you live your life, they live there's, and that's all there is to it."

"What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to choose." He said.

"Choose? Choose what?" I asked bewildered.

"You said you wished you were somebody else, I wanna know who. Go ahead. Look out in this beautiful sea of people, and pick one." I giggled at first, but Dion looked me in the eye and asked again. "Well?"

"You're serious about this, aren't you?"

"Yes I'm serious. C'mon, humor me for a bit. I'm curious."

I decided to play his little game, and I searched the crowd for a kid that looked 'worthy'. I had done it many times in school, looking at the others and wishing I could be what they were. Saying to myself 'I wish I was that guy', 'I wish I was that cute', 'I wish I was that funny'...this wouldn't be too much harder. So I scanned the mass of people and selected my first target. A gorgeous looking 19 year old kid with sparkling blue eyes that would put Elijah Wood to shame. He was laughing with some of his friends and having a good time. "Ok...him. I want to be him, just for a little while. It would be awesome."

"Okay, why him?"

"Because...HE has friends, HE has a sense of humor, HE has a good time wherever he goes, HE has people who adore him, HE has..."

"AIDS..." Dion whispered in my ear.


"The guy you pointed out, he has AIDS. He doesn't even know it yet, but I can tell by the scent of his blood. It's tainted, missing a few elements. And the girl he's laughing with is the one that gave it to him. Is that what you want?"

"Bad example. What about that kid over there?" I said, pointing out a sexy young 13 year old kid with medium length blond hair and a slim waist that was begging to be hugged.

"That one over there?"

"Yeah. His dad's buying him a pretzel at the stand. What if I was him?"

Dion looked over and once again came back with another surprise. "That's not his real father. It's his new foster dad. About eight months ago, both of his parents were killed by a drunk driver on their way home from a dinner party. Three days a week, instead of playing with his friends after school, he goes to a shrink to help him work out his trauma. He cries himself to sleep most nights, and he's given up his faith. Care to try again?"

"I think I'm starting to see a pattern here, Dion."

"Oh, don't stop there dude. Keep going. What about the cute guy over there? Or that one?" Dion kept going, reading their every thought and translating it back to me with ease. "You see that one? His girlfriend and his so called best friend just lost their virginity to each other behind his back. And the red head kid? His uncle just came to live with them. And every time he gets a second alone, he forces the kid down on all fours and sodomizes him until he's satisfied. He said he'd kill him if he ever told anyone. What about the brunette over there with the drinking problem, or the guy who's so shy that it practically cripples him, or that guy who's so pressured to be on the football team that he can't even study to be what he really wants to be, an engineer? What about them?"

"Okay, okay..I get it." I said, overwhelmed at his 'example'.

"Do you? Justin, nobody's life is perfect. We see a small glimpse of their life and figure that it would be magic to live the way they do. That they don't have our problems or our setbacks because they happen to be good looking or popular. But trust me, we'd be equally as miserable in their shoes, just for different reasons. You look at them and believe their lives to be ones of pure joy and bliss. Some of them, whether you noticed it or not, probably saw you in the same way."

I thought it over a second, and giggled a bit as it dawned on me, "Quit making sense already. You're freaking me out here."

"We're all hurting in our own ways, Justin. Whenever you're feeling down, you're never alone. Remember that." He said, a serious tone taking over.

"I will." And he hugged me. Dion was quickly shaping up to be one of my best friends, and it felt strange having someone care for me the way he did. I wasn't used to it at all. And even though I wanted it, there was a piece of me that just wasn't ready to accept it. A piece of my soul deep down that told me to beware. I didn't want to be hurt again, not by someone I trusted. It would kill me. So I returned the hug, but with caution. Friendly caution, but caution nonetheless. I just couldn't trust him, no matter how much I wanted to. What a cold world this is going to be if I never learn.

We spent another few hours out on the town before he led me back to the lot. Bryson hadn't made it back yet, and I guess I'd gotten away with it. I didn't mind being back so much now that I had seen the outside again. I couldn't wait to go again. Dion was going to walk back to his truck and continue looking up at the stars, but when he smiled, I felt something stir inside of me. A barricade was coming down, and a feeling of genuine friendship crept into my heart. I didn't want to hold it back anymore, and even though it felt as though I was taking a big risk trusting anyone with my emotions after all I've been through, I was willing to take that chance on Dion. I ran to catch up to him and hugged him tightly around the neck, a stray tear falling from my eye. It was incredible, the feeling of release from that restriction. "Thank you Dion. You have no idea how much tonight meant to me. Thank you for being a friend." I felt I had to thank him, again and again. Why was he doing this? What made him see me differently from everyone else I had known before? All those times I thought it was me who was driving them away. Why couldn't he see the same thing in me that disgusted the others so? Whatever the reason, I was going to enjoy this until he decided to cut me off and treat me like shit, the way I expected everyone to do at some point. Maybe he'll be the first person in my life to prove me wrong. Maybe he'll learn to cut me off and ignore me like the rest. Only time will tell.

I finally let him go, and Dion wiped his eyes, both specs glowing wildly through his bright hazel contacts. "No problem. We'll do it again soon. Ok?" And he gave me a pat on the shoulder and smiled as he walked away. A new friend, I couldn't wait to tell Taryn when he got back.

I waited and waited, hoping that somehow I'd get to see my boyfriend and ask how his night went before I went to sleep, but I couldn't keep my eyes open. I went back to the van and laid my head down for a bit. It was almost 5 AM, and as it came closer and closer to sunrise, my body began to litterally go numb on me. I yawned one last time, and could have sworn I heard some voices coming back to camp, but I couldn't stay awake another second. I passed out and that was that.

When I woke up the next night, Taryn was in my arms. As soon as I realized it, I snuggled up closely to him and threw a leg over his smooth stomach. I woke him with a kiss and he smiled lazily at me. "How was your night?" I asked.

"Oh, nothing spectacular. Just did a little of this and a little of that. How about you?"

"Oh, you know...same ol' same ol'." I said with a wicked grin. I laid next to him, softly rubbing my leg up and down over the top of his young body, and relishing in the heat radiating from it. I began to get hard immidiately, and he couldn't help but do the same. We kissed passionately, our tongues sliding past one another with a mellow precision, and a moan escaped my lips. My legs tingled, my stomach tightened, and I was locked in a preorgasmic state that made it difficult to breath without groaning in pleasure. My whole body felt so incredibly alive. Taryn's hand traveled up the outside of my thigh to cup my young globes, and he kissed with more urgency as he felt my excitement begin to leak and ooze onto his heated flesh. He gripped me tighter and I began to grind into him, my thrusts now causing the bed to squeak a little with every movement. Then, as my head began to spin, and my orgasm began to build, I felt something strange happen to me. It wasn't so much a pain, as it was an emptiness. A quivering inside that made my body feel like it was severly lacking something important. I slowed down my motions a bit, but when Taryn's lips met mine again, I forgot all about it. We began to get into it again, Taryn and I rolling over on top of one another, enjoying our young lust as only we could. But the feeling came back again, a bit stronger this time. Taryn moved his kisses down to the nape of my neck and buried his face in it, licking playfully at me until I was ready to burst. I ran my fingertips over his back and through his shiny hair, but that feeling just continued to intensify until I was more concerned with THAT than I was about anything else. And that's when it happened. I felt my body shiver uncontrollably, and I trembled slightly under Taryn. He stopped what he was doing, and looked down at me as he raised up onto his knees. He seemed a bit worried, maybe even scared about what had just happened.

"Please tell me that you were doing that on purpose." He said.

"Doing what?"

"You can't be...not already. Not this soon. Please God, not this soon."

"What are you talking about?" He didn't say anything at first, he just rolled off of me and put his pants back on. "What? What's happening here?"

Taryn was pacing back and forth a little, and he looked at the calendar on the wall to see how long I had been awake since the crossover. "Shit...shit...." He repeated to himself. What the hell was going on here?

"Taryn? What's the matter?"

"Shit...shit shit shit!" He said, freaking out from what it looked like. He finally calmed down a little bit and sat at my feet on the edge of the bed. "Look, Justin, I'm gonna ask you something, and I want you to be honest with me, ok?"


"Was this...did you...feel...Shit." He couldn't seem to get the words out right, but he swallowed hard and tried again. "This trembling in you...did it make you feel 'empty'? You know, like hollow inside?"

"Yeah, a little. Why?"

Taryn closed his eyes and sighed out loud. Geez, you would have thought I had just told him I was pregnant. I told him he was worrying me, and he took my hand in his, looking directly into my eye. "This was bound to happen sooner or later Justin. I knew that. I just didn't think it would be this soon."

"WHAT already?!?!?!"

"You're...you're...hungry, Justin. The first few weeks, you've got enough juice from before to last you a good long time. But it DOES run out eventually, and then you get hungry."

"That's all you were worried about? Me being hungry? God Taryn! I thought you were going to tell me I was dying or something!" I said relieved, but Taryn was leaving something out, and when he didn't let go of my hand, I knew he had more to tell me.

He stumbled around a few subjects, none of them making much sense. "You know...when your body runs out of 'fluids'...it will cease to work. Unless...of course...you decide to fill it...with other fluids. Which you can only find...in other...um...people. If you know...what I mean. You DO know what I mean...right?" It was like he was trying to explain the birds and the bees to a five year old.

"Umm...no idea what you're saying right now." I said, which caused a look of frustration to appear on Taryn's face. Not frustration for me so much as it was over himself. Whatever it was, he didn't know how to tell me face to face.

"Shit! Um...stay there." He said, and he yelled out the door for Bryson to come check me out. "Don't worry babe, he can explain it to you a little better." Bryson walked in and asked what was going on. "Bryson...Justin is...uh...he's hungry."

"Hungry? Already?"

"He's early dude. I checked the calendar and everything. We should have had another two weeks easy." Taryn and Bryson talked back and forth in front of me, Taryn almost in tears and Bryson trying to calm him down. Then they began to whisper so I couldn't hear them, and it got me all riled up again. TALK TO ME!!! It's MY well being that's at stake here!

"So you didn't tell him?" Bryson asked.

"I tried, but I don't know how. I mean I do, but I don't, you know?" He was almost babbling now.

Bryson let out a sigh and told Taryn to wait outside while he talked to me one on one. Taryn looked so sad, so scared, and before he left he blew me a kiss and told me that he loved me and he always will. My 'mentor' sat at the foot of the bed and said, "Listen Justin...you're about to enter a new stage of this thing a little earlier than we expected, and it's not exactly puberty here. This is a life or death situation."

"You've got my attention."

"Good. Because the picnic ends here kid. From now on, things get a bit more complicated." Bryson told me to sit up and take a few deep breaths before he talked to me. He wanted me calm and attentive for everything he was about to lay on me, and it scared me. "We were hoping to have a little more time to ease you into this slowly...but...seeing as you're growing so rapidly, I don't have the luxury of breaking you in...properly."

"I AM SO SICK OF THIS!!! You guys and your goddammned secrets!!! Just tell me already!"

"It's for your protection Justin."

"I'm a big boy, Bryson!"

"I know...and that's good...because I'm going to have to be blunt with you right now, ok? Give me your hands." I did as he asked, but instead of grabbing my hands, he grabbed me by the wrists and held tightly. "I know you've read the scary stories, and I know you've seen the monster movies, so I won't insult your intelligence by beating around the bush with this. Justin...you ARE hungry, and you need to eat soon. If you don't, your body will break down, decay, and eventually die. There's no way around it."

"Wait, wait...what...what are you talking about here?" I asked nervously. But deep down inside, I knew exactly what he was talking about, and I knew at once that the most horrible part of the vampire legend might, in fact, be true. But I didn't want to hear it, I didn't want him to say another word about it. Shut up Bryson! Tell me this is all just a sick joke!

"Justin...if you want to keep living...that means we're going to have to teach you a few skills to get by with."

"SKILLS LIKE WHAT?" I was raising my voice a little now as panic began to set in. A fear raced through me and my perfect vision of paradise in this junkyard faded away. Only to be replaced with the cold image of murder.

"Like...how to hunt, Justin." Oh my God! That very word..."HUNT"...it made me feel sick in the stomach. What did he mean hunt? Like kill innocent people...for food? To creep in dark alleys and take the lives of anyone walking by? Is THAT what he means???

I pulled my hands back from his slightly, but he held his grip a little tighter, refusing to let me go just yet, but not really holding me prisoner. "I want you to listen to me. I know this is really uncomfortable for you to hear right now, and I hate to drop it on you like this so soon. But the fact of the matter is, this is one of the harsh realities that you're just gonna have to deal with and fast. Understand that once your body goes dry, that's it. Nothing that we can do will rejuvenate you. You can starve to death in a matter of days, and it isn't pretty. I don't think you want that. I know Taryn doesn't want that. So take a little time and weigh your options here, ok?"

This time I pulled a little harder to get away from him, but he held tightly onto my arms, resulting in a slight struggle between us. Everything that he was telling me, the hunger in my stomach, and the fact that I was being 'restrained' by his vice like hands, were all beginning to bury me in a feeling of genuine terror. I could feel myself becoming hysterical, struggling more and more violently to get loose. I panicked, tears rolling down my cheeks, my voice ready to leap out of me in a scream of horror. All I could think of was getting away from him. From ALL of them. THIS is what they made me into? A murderous monster? I may not have liked my life, but I didn't go around killing people, that's for sure. Bryson didn't know wether to hold on or let go. He saw the hysteria building in my eyes, and from the look on his face, he had done this before. Perhaps with the others.

"LEMME GO!!!!" I screamed. I was struggling with all my might now, desperate to get some space between me and him. But Bryson held me tight, worried what I would do if he let go.

"JUSTIN! Please...listen to me! I need you to be strong here for a few minutes! We can talk this out!"

"There's nothing to talk about! You lied to me! ALL of you! I'm not like that! I'll never be like that! I'm not a murderer!"

"This isn't about murder Justin, it's about survival." But I wasn't listening. I was too terrified to let him pollute my mind with anymore of their 'peaceful' propaganda. I had to get away, I HAD to! Why is he holding me?!?!?! Why won't he let me go?!?!?!

"I SAID...LET...ME...GO!!!" I was able to wrestle one hand free from his grip, and then I felt a stirring inside of me. Something building up deep in the very core of my being, and it shot out like a fire! The same as it had with Taryn on the lake, but more focused, more direct. It was almost as if I knew what I was doing this time. Bryson screamed out loud and fell backwards to the floor, tightly gripping his head from both sides. Blood trickled down from his nostrils in two bright red streams, and tears poured from his tightly squinted eyes. I stood in amazement at what I had done for a second, but once I realized that I was free, I headed for the door and took off. As I bolted out of the van, every head in the lot turned to watch me. They looked surprised, concerned even, but I knew they were laughing. Max, Rain, Trevor, Dion...even Taryn. They all must have gotten a big kick out of watching me run off like a scared rabbit. They made me like this, turned me into one of them. Sickening creatures, all of them.

I heard Taryn call after me and start to run behind me. But then I heard Bryson's agonizing cry say, "NO! Let him go! Let him go!" And no one chased me. No one at all. I ran for what must have been a half hour before realizing that I had nowhere to run to. Where was I going to go? What was I going to do with the next 500 years or more? My fear kept me running without thinking, and if I hadn't worried about where I was at the moment, I might have run until the street just couldn't take me any further. I sat down in a dark staircase leading to the subway. I collapsed in a corner, put my head in my hands, and cried my eyes out. Oh how I cried. Wracking sobs that left me weak from the raw emotion they drained from my very soul. And just as I thought I was getting ready to stop, I felt that peculiar rumble inside of me, telling me again that I was hungry, and the waterworks started all over again. So this is my punishment? My payment for the crime of attempting suicide? Now it was a matter of kill or be killed, everyday, for the rest of my life. And that could be a looooong time. My alternative indeed.

My legs began to tighten and cramp again, and I but a little less than last time. I suppose my body was getting used to the exercise. I don't know how long I had been there before I decided to finally get up. I felt so helpless, so hoplessly stuck in the middle of a bad situation. How much of my humanity would I have to give up in order to take a human life? Could I even do it? Even if it was to save my own life? And once I did, what would I use to seperate myself from the savages then? I wouldn't be able to lie to myself, not about this. I stood up, and felt the tears wash over my face again. I knew I wouldn't be able to stay gone forever. And I knew that once sunrise came, I was going to have to find something to sleep in sooner or later. I felt the rumble in my gut again, and this time, it refused to go away quietly. It hollowed me out a little bit more this time, and was more a discomfort than a pain. But I could tell that it was only going to get worse. I could starve to death in a matter of DAYS he said. DAYS! That means if I was planning to live through this, I was going to have to kill by the end of the week. The idea made me sick, and I had to sit back down to cry once again. The image of me sinking my teeth into someone, hearing them scream and fight as I drained them of their life in an orgy of blood...it made me nauseous. So now my only options were to make a 'habit' out of murdering the people of Chicago in cold blood, or sit right here on these stairs, and wait to die...slowly. Life doesn't get easier, it only shifts from one problem to another. Life...the word never had so much meaning for me until that night I walked out on the Pier. Taking my own life, wondering about the mystery of Taryn's life, appreciating the little things in life, changing my life, sacrificing my life for the one I love, seeing people ignore life, knowing that everyone has problems in life, taking the lives of others to save my own life...now it was all I thought about. Now the word has become the most important one in my vocabulary, and it has turned into a good friend as well as a deadly enemy. What was I going to do? Would it even be considered noble to choose death over murdering someone else? And I'm already dead, so what happens then? Does the afterlife even exist/i> for me anymore? So many questions, so many questions. My head ached with them. When I finally stood up and started walking again, I noticed the people around me again. But this time, I didn't feel I was worthy to walk among them.

I had made it about a block and a half when I felt a hand on my shoulder. A gentle hand that seemed so familiar. "Taryn?" I said, as I spun around. But it wasn't Taryn...it was Trevor.

"I thought maybe you could use a friendly face right about now." He said. I shied away from him a bit, not knowing exactly what he was up to.

"What do you want?"

"Come on Justin...I didn't HAVE to come out here you know. I just want to be a friend."


Trevor almost looked a little hurt, and I felt bad for suspecting him when he had done me no wrong. Not lately anyway. "Look, if you'd rather work this out on your own, fine by me. But this is going to be one hell of a tough time...even tougher if you try to go through it alone." He said. And he extended his hand to me. I looked at it, and then into his eyes to see if I could see any hint of treachery in them. "Please? I can help. Trust me."

"I don't know."

"Look, I can't change the way things are, but I can buy you some time until you figure things out. But you've got to follow me tonight, wherever I tell you, no questions asked. Got it?"

"How can you help me?"

"Let's just say I've got friends in low places. I did the same thing for Taryn once, now I'm doing it for you. Deal?" Trevor didn't show me any kind of foul intentions behind his smile. Then again, someone like Trevor is usually very good at hiding stuff like that. But what choice did I have? Any help at all was better than sitting here crying alone. So once again, I took the devil by the hand and allowed him to lead me to another 'alternative'.

We walked for quite a while, to the northern outskirts of town. He didn't say much, and neither did I. I just quietly cried to myself and thought about how much I miss at least having an IDEA of who and what I was. I didn't have these kinds of questions in my life before. I didn't have to take these kinds of risks, or wonder what I'm going to do every second of the day. I couldn't even control myself anymore. What kind of life is this to have?

Trevor led me out past the city lights and to an old yard in some dark part of town. "Here we are." He said.

"What the hell is this place?" I asked, looking through the tall chainlink fence and seeing nothing but a crusty old shack in the distance surrounded by piles of junk four feet high. It was too dark to see much of anything except for a single light bulb dangling from the broken down porch of the old place.

"C'mon, I'll give you a boost and we'll climb over."

He had completely avoided my question, but it didn't matter. I wanted to check this place out anyway. Curiousity got the better of me, it always does. He cupped his hands and lifted me up a bit so I could swing a leg over the top of the fence and crawl over. As soon as my feet touched the ground on the other side, I heard something move behind me. I turned around, but didn't see anything. I looked back to see Trevor starting his ascent to the top, but heard a deep guttural growl behind me. I KNOW I heard it! And I spun around again to find nothing but space in front of me. I moved away from the fence a bit and walked further into the darkness, trying to adjust my eyes to see in the thick black cloak of night around us.

Suddenly, the growl got louder, more evident, and it came from the right side of us. Then another came from the left. This was NOT good! I called out to Trevor in a loud whisper as he came over the top of the fence, but as soon as I got it out of my mouth, I saw a huge black mass rushing towards me! It was gigantic! And it was joined by another that was equally as big. They had four legs each and moved like lightning, speeding towards me so fast that I didn't even have time to react. I screamed as they leapt in the air and pounced on me, knocking me clear across the yard and up against the fence! The impact knocked Trevor from the top and he fell to the ground in front of me! The wind was knocked out of him and he coughed and winced in pain. The creature pressed me to the ground with all of its weight crushing the air out of my lungs, and two glowing red eyes looked down at me. Its hairy body was immovable and it breathed it's breath into my face in short, hot, bursts. It could have eaten me alive and I would have had no choice but to let it. I saw the other one walk over to grab Trevor by the leg with his mouth. Then he dragged Trevor over next to me, and pinned him down as well. They growled viciously at one another and saliva dripped from their long jagged teeth into our faces. We were completely helpless.

"TORSTEN! GRIM! Down! BOTH of you, down!" A voice shouted out in the distance. It was a young voice, about 16 or 17 years old. And the large creatures held back their rage at his command. They backed off of us, allowing us to catch our breath. It almost looked like they were itching to tear into us, and probably would have if their 'master' hadn't stopped us. He walked towards us out of the shadows and apologized. "You two know better!" He scolded the creatures, who's only concern seemed to be keeping their eyes locked on us. "I'm sorry Trev. I had a break in last night. A couple of night crawlers looking for a free meal. So my kids here are kinda anxious about intruders." He was a cute kid, very slim. with dark hair and eyes. He was wearing all black, including a black lab coat, and he had an evil grin plastered on his face. "Come on in guys." He said, and began walking back to the shed.

"I never liked those damn dogs." Trevor whispered. And they looked at us and growled as though they understood.

"Those are DOGS?" I asked in disbelief. I mean they were huge! And mean as hell I might add!

"Wolves actually." The kid at the door said. "The best damn guard wolves I've got. Nobody's gotten past them yet. Hell, one time some dope had to ring my doorbell at 4 AM just to get his ARM back."

"Justin, meet Jeremy. Jeremy, this is our new recruit." Trevor said.

"Pleased to meet you man. A rookie, huh? Ah to be young and innocent again. Let me guess...the boy scout here isn't taking the 'news' too well, right?"

"No, not really. But he's hungry, and he might not be ready to go out on a hunt just yet. He's a good kid, I was hoping you could help us out a bit." The Jeremy kid looked me up and down for a minute, and then guided us down a flight of steps to a giant freezer.

He flicked on a switch, and the basement was flooded with light. An enormous place that was definitely a far cry from what I expected to find by looking at the place from the outside. It was a laboratory, filled with tables, and on each table was a corpse. A lifeless corpse, frozen solid, some covered up, some not. I froze in my tracks as Trevor and Jeremy walked ahead, chatting away and not seeing anything wrong with this picture. Jeremy was the first to notice me gone and turned to see me staring straight ahead. No words could describe what I was feeling at that moment.

"What's the matter with your friend?"

"He'll be okay. Justin...how ya doin' there buddy?"

"Th-th-there's...there's dead bodies in here...." I stuttered. I was too scared to move. I always thought I'd be strong if I ever saw a body up close, but this was a bit too much. Suddenly, the scenes from every zombie movie I've ever seen came rushing back to me in an instant, and I was almost ready to run out of there screaming.

Trevor walked back for me, "Justin, dude, take my hand, ok? It'll be fine. Just hold my hand and come on." Trevor was trying, but there was no way this was going to be fucking ok!

"Corpses, in here....everywhere..."

Jeremy waited a few seconds, and then he said, "Okaaaay. You two work this out, and I'll meet you in the back. I've got shit to do." And he walked off, leaving me standing there in a tremendous graveyard full of frozen bodies. I almost fainted.

I'm not sure how long it took Trevor to talk me into setting one foot in that room, or guiding me all the way through it, but he did eventually. I made my way to the back, where Jeremy was watching tv and smoking a joint. "Oh, there ya are. I thought you guys would never make it. Geez, you sure pick the squemish ones Trevor."

He took a hit off of the joint and blew it lazily into the air before getting up and looking around the room. "Now where did I leave my sandwich?" He said. "Ahhhh...here we go." He walked over to another corpse that was sitting in the upright position and grabbed it off of its shouler. It almost made me sick to see him take a bite. He saw me watching and said, "What? It's not like HE was gonna eat it."

"Have a little class, will you Jeremy. He's new to all this." Trevor said.

"Well he better get used to it awfully quick, don't ya think? Come on Justin, look at him. He might be dead, but he's still damn cute if you ask me." He grinned, and then he sat in the corpse's lap and licked his icy cheek. I gagged at the sight of it, and turned away to keep from getting sick. "Say, you know...he doesn't have a bad package on him. A nice long icicle and a pair of snowballs. I think he likes you. Brings new meaning to the term 'stiff' doesn't it?" Jeremy was really getting a kick out of grossing me out. He had no inhibitions about kissing or touching any of these things, and he took joy in knowing that I was disgusted by his lack of repulsion.

"Knock it off already." Trevor said, smiling a bit at Jeremy's morbid sense of humor. He playfully slugged Jeremy in the shoulder and they smiled at each other.

"Hey, I'm just goofin' around. Lighten up." He climbed out of the dead guy's lap and took another hit of the joint before asking, "So...what kind of stuff are you looking for kid?"

"W-w-what do you mean?"

"You know...something sweet, something salty, with a little tang to it. Any particular age? Race? Type? Take your pick, I've got 'em all."

I looked over at Trevor for an answer. "I....I don't understand."

"Um....Justin...Jeremy here...he runs a business, see? For people like you."

"A business?"

"He's a blood dealer. He can get you what you want, and you don't have to kill anybody. Not yet at least. It's a transitional thing, until you're a bit more comfortable with everything."

"You're asking me...what kind of blood I want?" I asked. I couldn't do it. I couldn't drink human blood. I'd be sick to my stomach.

"That's the idea braniac. I don't necessarily have a wine list, but I can make a few suggestions if you want." Jeremy said, taking one last drag and a bite out of his sandwich. He put it out and leaned against the table to hear my request.

"I don't know if I can do this." I said, getting nauseated by the idea.

"SURE you can. Just tell me what you want, and I'll give it to ya. Now I'm betting those hunger pains are getting worse by the minute, and believe me, you don't want them getting too bad on ya. You'll be crying for your mommy by the third day." How is this so easy for everybody else? How can they do this without any remorse. All these corpses...they used to be PEOPLE! People with lives, with dreams. People's mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, best friends and lovers. They were NOT born to be just some pieces of meat in a freezer. After a moment or two of my silence, Jeremy turned to Trevor and said, "Look dude, the kid is pretty scared and it doesn't look like he's ready for this."

"He'll be fine, just give him a minute dude."

"I don't HAVE a minute 'dude'. I've got four deliveries to make tonight and you two jerk offs are holding me up. I'm sorry man, but I don't have time for your boy here to wrestle with his conscious, I've got a business to run."

"Justin? Justin? This is your last chance. You know what you've got to do if you don't take this blessing while you can. I don't think you're ready to make that leap yet." But I could only stare down at the floor. "Look man, I can only buy you time. This will keep your mind somewhat clear for a while and it'll put an end to those hunger pains long enough to keep you healthy so we can all sit down and talk with you."

Jeremy looed at his watch and started tapping his foot while I thought it over. What choice did I have? I hated to do it, but without seeing another way out other than a slow agonizing death, I slowly agreed. "THANK YOU!" Jeremy said, throwing his hands in the air. "Now, I've got some exquisite stuff for ya, come take a look at the selection." He grabbed me by the hand, pulling me to my feet, and dragged me over to the freezer to see more bodies in bags, hanging lifelessly from large hooks in the ceiling. I tried to turn away, but where was I going to look? They were everywhere. "Now this one is a beauty. Aged 33 years, low cholesterol, no known diseases or infections...top of the line, primo shit. Comes in male or female. Just so you know, females tend to be a bit sweeter. Sugar and spice and whatnot. And I'll even let you take a sample home with you. What do you think?"

He sold it like a pro, definitely an experienced man in this line of work. Still, I just couldn't see myself doing it, and remained silent. He waited for a few seconds, and then went on. "O...K...not your type. Let's try....this one then. A little bit younger, about 25 years old, track star. There's still some slight traces of adrenaline in his blood if you want a quick pick me up. Athlete's blood tends to be a little harder to swallow, but it's worth it for the rush it gives you. Um...we only have this one in male right now. The last of the female was drained out yesterday. Maybe...this would be more to your liking? It's good for a first timer like yourself." He said, looking at me for approval. But I never raised my eyes from the floor. I felt a shame like I've never known, participating in something so unholy as to buy blood from a corpse for my consumption. Then I felt the rumbling in my chest start up again. This time, it hurt. It was like having an air bubble pass through my heart and travel to every vein and artery in my body. I felt my body shake and almost go into full blown convulsions as the hunger grabbed a hold of me.

"Sigh...I don't have all day Trevor, really man!" Jeremy said. But when he saw me having hunger pains, he said, "Oh great! Just great! You know what? If this kid pukes on my clean floor I'm gonna let Grim and Torsten eat you guys for lunch. You hear me?"

"He's gonna be ok. He's alright. Just grab me an order of the 33 year old, male, and warm it up a bit for him, ok?" Trevor said as he got down to his knees and helped me. Jeremy walked away and was back in a flash, bringing with him a clear bag full of blood. Oh God, it looked like a half gallon of the stuff. I was really, REALLY not ready for this. But as my heart cramped up and my stomach turned inside out, I knew that was the only thing that was going to stop the pain. Every hunger pain was worse than the one before it, and if I survived this one, I didn't want to live to see the next. Trevor took the bag and opened a little slit in the top. Jeremy looked down anxiously to see how I'd take my first taste, his eyes aglow with anticipation. Trevor brought the bag closer to me. It's contents were a jellied crimson syrup that stained the insides of the bag as it moved. "Ok Justin...now before I give this to you, clear your mind, ok? Don't think of it as blood. Your mind will make you sick with the idea of it if you do. Just drink it down, don't worry about the taste, and don't fight it. You ready?" I wasn't, but my body was crying for it. In fact, the second he opened the sack, I could smell the blood's aroma, and my body quivered with a craving that frightened me. He held it up to my lips, and began to tilt my head back slightly. This was it...my final sin to secure me a nice warm spot in the center of hell someday. I felt the first few warm salty drops dance across my tongue, and the rest came flooding into me. It was thick, like drinking luke warm uncoagulated jello. I tried to do as Trevor said, and pretend it was something else, but my mind wouldn't let it go. It oozed its way down my throat in big gulps and some of it spilled out of the corners of my mouth. Like a thick sappy gravy, the liquid continued its assault into my body. It was filling me up fast, and my stomach felt like it had eaten five thanksgiving dinners at once. I felt bloated and full, and the bag was only half empty. I didn't want anymore. I couldn't stand it. It had such a sickening aftertaste to it, and its consistency was was vomitous at best. But they continued to feed me, and I just closed my eyes and pretended it wasn't real. I swallowed as much as could at a time, hoping to hurry up and empty the bag so that I didn't have to worry about it again. But it seemed endless, a bottomless bag that filled up again faster than I could drain it. Everytime I gulped down a mouthfull of it, my cheeks were puffed out again with another load. And finally, just when I thought I couldn't take another drop, the bag crinkled up and was drained of its last few drops. Trevor took it away and sat me up again. I was dizzy with sickness at this point, and a low toned belch left my lips.

"Good boy. Hee hee hee...I think he likes it." Jeremy said. "Now, I hate to feed and run, but I've got a big party to supply at that new club The IceZone accross town. Their last party lasted like 15 HOURS or something like that! Can you imagine the money to be had? So I'm off. Have a nice death, kid. Come back and see me some time. We'll feed, we'll smoke, we'll have hot buttered sex...we'll make a night of it."

"How much do I owe you Jeremy?" Trevor asked.

"Consider it a freebie. But this is the LAST one, got it. My favor to you for being such a cutie."

And with that, Jeremy rustled my hair a bit and went on his way. Trevor helped me to my feet, but I had to lean against a wall to keep my balance. I was so incredibly full that the slightest pressure would have made me burst open like a giant water balloon. But it seemed to be going away rather rapidly. In fact, it was as though I could feel the blood being redistributed back into my system. The fullness in my stomach diminished a little more with each second, and the hunger pains went away. So this is how it works? I use up my fluids, and then replace them with more. It still felt disgusting, as fascinated by the process as I was.

"Are you ok?" Trevor asked.

"I...I think so." I stumbled forward a bit, and he caught me. I looked up into his brown eyes and got lost in them for a second before standing on my own again. "Thanks..."

"You want to thank me? Then come celebrate with me tonight." Trevor said happily.


"YEAH! Come on, you just fed for the first time. It's practically your 're-birthday'! So what do ya say? We'll go back to the club, take a nice long walk to talk about things, it'll be fun."

"I should be getting back to the lot soon."

"What for? So Bryson can read you the riot act for running out of there like that? Just come out with me for a little bit, huh? No hurry to get home, we've got hours til dawn."

"I...I don't know Trevor..."

"Why not? You don't trust me?"

"You played some really mean tricks on me dude." I said.

"Tricks? Me? Like what? Don't tell me you're still fretting about the bridge thing? That's ancient history." He said. "If Jun can forgive me, you can forgive me too. Right?"

"You don't give up, do you?"

"Nope. 'Cause I know you're gonna cave eventually." I smiled as he looked into my eyes. "Please?" He gave me this sad puppy dog look, and even though I didn't really trust him, even after all he'd done for me that night, I didn't want to hurt his feelings. I should be somewhat grateful for his help afterall. Lord knows what would have happened if he hadn't found me tonight. I'd hate to imagine myself suffering through those hunger pains alone. He saw that he had me on the ropes and egged me on. "I know you wanna go Justin. Don't fight it! Come on...I don't bite. Unless you ask me to." He flashed me a sexy smile and poked me in the ribs a little bit with his finger, making me laugh.

"Sigh...ok ok. You talked me into it." I smiled.

"GREAT! Let's go!" He said, and before I knew it, he was walking almost half a block ahead of me. I tried to keep up, but I still had a bit of that awful taste in my mouth and it kept me feeling a bit queasy. He kept calling for me to catch up, and so I kept going strong. We ended up at the giant black metal door of the club we went to on my first night out with them. As always, the hard pumping techno rave music came flooding into the alley, and it tripled in volume when Bernie, the club security chief, opened the door. He didn't give us as much of a hard time as before. I think he was just trying to get us in before the cops saw him doing it. We waded out through the dancefloor and were suddenly drowning in a sea of bodies. Everyone was so close together and knocking us around playfully, it was like walking through a living field of corn in high wind. The music was loud, but it didn't quite deafen me like before. I suppose my ears had become more sensitive, but in a different way. I could 'seperate' one noise from the other. I couldn't do that before. No wonder they were able to hear me so clearly last time. The lights and lasers of the place swirled around us, and created this adrenaline filled confusion that saturated me with energy. It was incredible.

"Take a seat babe! I'll score us a few drinks!" He said. He sat me down at a small table on the edge of the dance floor, and then backed away from me. I saw him in the crowd one second, and then, like magic, he was gone. It was only seconds later when he returned with the drinks. Two whiskey sours and two shotglasses full of something red. "Here ya go." He said, handing me a shot glass.

"What's this?" I shouted.

"Shhhhh..." He reminded me. I was still so used to saying everything extra loud just to be heard in these places that it was a hard habit to break.


"It's alright man. This shot is a red death. Tastes like Hawaiian Punch. Hits like one too." He said. Then he raised his shot glass to clink with mine. "To Justin's first time. A cutie who can swallow like a man." He said with his perfected wicked smile. We giggled and both took the shot down in one gulp. Blech! No way Hawaiian Punch burns like that! I could feel the dizzyness of a buzz dance behind my eyes almost instantly. I took a sip of my other drink, and tried to kill the rest of that taste in my mouth. The blood was so thick that it had coated my mouth with a nasty film that made it hard to swallow.

"So, is that it? I mean, I can just go back to Jeremy's anytime I want and get blood?"

A different look came over Trevor's face. "Um...no, not quite. It doesn't quite work like that."

"Why not?"

"Dude, I already told you, I can only postpone the hunting thing. I can't stop it. That's dead blood you drank tonight Justin. I mean, it's good to tide you over for a while, but it's not going to keep you nourished for long."

"It won't? Shit! Why not? It's still blood isn't it?" I said, wishing that I had found a solution to my biggest problem with this whole lifestyle.

"Nope. Trying to live off of dead blood is like trying to live off of Twinkies and Slim Jims. What you had tonight was a snack. Nothing more. It doesn't have the same nutritional value. It's only gonna last you a few days." He saw me begin to frown up and lean back in defeat. I knew ths was going to haunt me and eventually catch up to me. There was no way out of it. "Hey, don't look so down. I bought you another week. It's better than nothing. Trust me, after a little while, the hunting thing won't even phase you." But that didn't help my mood any. That's when he took me by the hand, "Come here. Let's dance.


"Let's dance! C'mon! Let's go!" He said, dragging me out of my seat.

"No no no no no! I can't dance. Forget it!"

"Screw that! Come HERE sweetness!" He said, and literally pulled me onto the dance floor. We cut a path through to the middle of the floor and suddenly we were a part of the mosh pit. The whole club seemed alive, like it was moving according to the orders of one collective mind. The music pumped through me, and I felt my bones rattle. I stood there embarrassed again, on display. "What's the matter?" Trevor asked.

"I'm not used to this kind of thing."

"Well, you've gotta start getting used to it now! This is one of our hangouts, and you'll be here quite often from now on. Now DANCE or else!"

"Dammit, people can SEE me here!" I said, blushing under the flashing lights.

Trevor ran his hand through my hair, brushing it out of my eyes. "Is that so bad? Sometimes, Justin, it's good to be seen. Let go...enjoy. There's nobody here but you and me. And I only want to make you happy." I couldn't help but be amazed by what I was hearing. It made me wonder if Trevor was being a bud or actually hitting on me. Either way, it felt nice. "Now just jump in tune to the beat and shake around like the crazy white boy you are!" He laughed.

We started with just a little jumping, and that turned into stomping, and that turned into something that I can't quite explain. It was like the rhythms had taken control of my limbs and I couldn't have stopped if I wanted to. The strobelights kicked in and my body began working overtime. I could only see in quick flashes of light and it made everything come to life even more. Trevor's eyes stayed glued to mine the whole time, and we began to jump in unison, mimicing each other's body movements. I felt so free. Like I didn't give a shit what anybody thought about me, whether they were watching me or not. LET 'em watch! I was my own man! My God!!! I drank BLOOD tonight! Human blood! I'm a fucking VAMPIRE! I'm gonna live forever! WOW!!! This is great!!! A billion thoughts passed through my mind and evaporated into the flashing lights around me. For once, I was GLAD to be a part of the confusion. I embraced it, welcomed it, and let it guide me without resistance. That night, I let a little piece of me go. A piece that I could have truly done without. It was that little voice that in my head told me that I was constantly being watched, constantly being judged, and that I needed to wear a mask to fit in. Suddenly, for a brief moment, that voice was gone. And it was replaced only with the sound of the music.

After an hour of flashing lasers and jumping around, I went back to the bar to get us some more drinks. I could already feel the alcahol inside of me as it loosened my limbs made me feel a little light headed. Walking to the bar was a challenge in itself, as my legs turned to jelly. But the whole time, I couldn't keep from smiling, and even more of my defenses were lowered. As I made my order from the bartender, I could feel myself being watched. Another little voice in my head, I figured. But after a few more minutes, something didn't feel right about it. I wasn't making this up, someone really was watching me this time. I tried to ignore it, but as soon as I picked up the drinks, I felt something being shoved into my pocket. I looked around, searching the room for whoever did it, but all I saw was an ocean of people pushing and shoving each other as they got into the vibe of the music. Very strange indeed. I looked in my pocket and saw a piece of paper with a strange looking symbol on it. I didn't think much of the whole thing and put it away, but something told me not to throw it out just yet.

Trevor and I danced and drank and danced some more for what seemed like an eternity. We both left the club giggling and weak kneed, actually enjoying each other's company. It was great. It was one of the many parties I had been missing when I was still alive...and alone. Trevor and I walked back home together, but before we got back to the lot, he told me to follow him up to the rooftop, just to talk. The same one I had gone to not long before to discuss my 'abilities'. We walked up the ten flights of stairs to the top, and leaned over the edge, admiring the Chicago night as it sparkled with city lights. The moon cast a shimmering reflection on the lake, and the stars were absolutely beautiful. He leaned over the side with me, and moved a little closer. "I had a good time tonight Trevor. Well...except for the blood thing of course." I said.

"I undestand. It's a hard thing to get used to, but I have faith in you. You impress me already. In every way." He said, and he moved a bit closer. "It's really good to have you here with us Justin. Someone new to talk to, to learn from...you know, someone easy on the eyes." He said, moving another inch or two closer, his silken blond hair catching a gentle breeze and blowing across his forehead. He really was a stunning young boy, teenage perfection. His brown eyes, his soft lips, they called out to me. And I was almost tempted to answer. I could see where this was going, and I stood all the way up to take a few steps back. I hoped he didn't notice me avoiding his advances, but I was already happy. What did I need him for? Even if he was one of the most beautiful blond haired, brown eyed kids on the planet.

"You guys lead such a cool life out here." I said, walking to another corner of the roof.

Trevor stood up too, and walked over to put an arm over my shoulder. "That's because we learned to let go, Justin. And that's what you've got to do. Just give up everything they taught you, and live on your own terms for once."

"You make it sound so easy."

"It IS easy. Look out there...the whole city, as beautiful as it is, it's all artificial. All man made. So is everything you know to be real in your life. Every value, every moral, every word you've ever spoken...all man made. We're not a part of THEIR world anymore. We're beyond their limitations now, Justin. We can reach for something real." Trevor guided me back to the railing to look at the city again, but he kept his arm over my shoulder. "Technically, we're dead. Hidden away from God's sight. No more guilt, no more paranoia, no more of life's cruel jokes, no more dealing with fate's little ordeals and ironies. We're in control of our destinies now. As for humanity...we're above them now. Above the law, above society, all of it. They're scampering around trying to find happiness and freedom in their lives before it's too late. But us? We've got all eternity to discover who we truly are. And what we really want." He looked over at me when he said it, but I kept my eyes forward, afraid to meet his gaze. "We'll out live them all, Justin. Them, their children, their grandchildren, and so forth and so on until the end of time. And when Judgement Day finally comes, we can just sit up on this rooftop and watch the world burn together. Just you...and me." He looked deep into my eyes, refusing to let me ignore him any longer, and I saw him begin to lean in for a kiss. No no NO! This can't happen. This won't happen.

"And Taryn...right?" I said. He stopped moving forward, and his arm slowly dropped from my shoulder.

"Of course...and Taryn. You two make a lovely couple. He did well to find someone like you Justin." He said.

"Thank you. We made a promise to make it last forever. And I think we'll make it."

"You know what? They say, you can't even FATHOM the idea of eternity until you've been around for over 100 years. I can't even imagine. But I do know this..." And Trevor moved closer, placing a small shameless kiss on my cheek. "...Forever is an awfully long time to be making promises." He whispered. And then he walked away, smiling furtively over his shoulder as he walked back down the steps. "You'd better hurry. Not long until sunrise."