"Gone From Daylight"
"The Beauty and the Darkness"

Char went back to the corner of the room, and Becca handed her the clipboard as the two of them traded places. Tim was looking on with great interest, as she approached me. I began to worry about exactly what she was going to find inside of my mind, what she was going to bring to the surface in front of these other people. But I attempted to relax anyway. The quicker I get this overwith, the better.

Becca put her hands on either side of my head, her middle fingers resting lightly on my temples, her thumbs closing my eyes for me. "Okay Justin, here's what I want you to do. I want you to keep your eyes closed, and I want you to picture something for me, ok?"


"I want you to imagine that you are looking in a mirror. Nothing else exists. Just you...and the mirror. I want you to look at your reflection, and I want you to hold that image as long as you possibly can. If it begins to change, I want you to focus, and try to change it back. Can you do that for me?" I said yes, and did as she asked. I imagined myself standing in a totally dark room, with just a full length mirror in front of me, and I looked at my reflection. I stared at it, but the image faded away almost instantly. I brought it back, trying hard to concentrate, but I couldn't look myself in the eye for very long. I hated looking at myself in the mirror. Even when I did, I hated what I saw. Always wishing that someone else would one day be looking back at me. No amount of compliments would ever allow me to see myself in a positive light. This excercise was turning out to be harder than I thought.

"I can't...I can't hold it." I said, sighing outloud.

"That's ok, Justin. You don't HAVE to hold it, I only want you to try. Losing that image will tell me just as much about you as holding it will. Ok? There is no pass or fail for this excercise...only the truth. Please don't get discouraged. Relax, and try again." I did as she asked, and continued to struggle with keeping my eyes on the wussy little blond kid in front of me. It made me sick to even look at him. Becca began to speak, and Char wrote down what she heard. "Subject displays signs of low self esteem, possibly sprouting from abuse and the teasing from classmates. I sense a deep hatred inside of him. Signs of a bad temper are evident, but kept under control. Many symptoms of supressing mass amounts of guilt, sadness, self pity, and anger. Emotional turmoil is present, as well as a fear of death. There is a conflict between this fear and his apparent understanding of it through his attempts at suicide. I assume the subject has had some experience with the matter before his crossover, coming from a friend or relative. The amount and extended time frame of this emotional conflict, would indicate the other party responsible was still alive at the time of his crossover. A closeness with the other party would indicate that it was a best friend. The connection was strong, and the ability for the subject to put himself in his friend's place so easily would indicate that both the subject and the other party were of the same age." I didn't like this. Not at all. I lost the image almost immediately, and was almost ready to walk out of that office for good. I can do this on my own if I have to. "Please Justin...we are only trying to help you. You must concentrate."


"We can't protect you until we know what to expect from you, Justin. Let the ladies do their job." Tim said from the corner. I took a deep breath, slumped back into the chair, and let Becca continue. "Other problems continued at home. An alcaholic mother. Justin claims full responsibility, as well as feelings of guilt. Homosexual urges assisted the subject in his feelings of rejection, causing him to hold back. To remove himself from the people around him. The secret of his attraction to males, as well as the secret of his abuse, caused feelings of mistrust and withdrawal to manifest rapidly. Subject believes in the individual, as opposed to the majority. He perceives the world as 'evil', and has transfered much of his self hate to those who would perpetuate that hate in others. The subject equates the helplessness of fighting society and the world with the helplessness of being able to fight his father."

"THAT'S NOT TRUE!" I shouted!

"Justin! Please!" Tim snapped back.

"But Tim..."

"This is NOT about explanation, Justin. Your mind already has the answers you are looking for. Don't shut them out. Let them come to the surface so we can help you find them." Becca said calmly. "Now please, Justin...the mirror. Concentrate on the mirror." I tried, but as she spoke, I saw the reflection in the mirror get uglier and uglier. And tears began to bleed from my eyes. "Issues with the subject's life seem to almost equal his fear of death. Indicating that the subject, at one time, saw no difference between the two extremes. There is a level of frustration that has led to a cut-off or finalized vision of what life is. A stunted growth, where no further information is desired, or accepted. This also includes a loss of belief, as there is no strong traces of religion left. Subject sees himself as a martyr, as a tortured soul who has now seen the light. However, I see a possibility for the subject to eventually fall back into the same self destructive habits that he experienced in life. Suspicion, fear, guilt, low self esteem, suicidal tendencies, and fear of rejection, have been surpressed further inward since his crossover, but they are still a very present part of the subject's personality. His need to hide these traits prevents his ability to deal with them, and therefore keeps him from ever being truly happy with himself, or with others." Becca let go of me, and backed up to give her final analysis. I felt my cheeks wet with tears, my heart sinking lower, as my soul tried to repair the hole the two of them just ripped into it. "My theory is that the subject suffers from lingering feelings of self pity, originating from a feeling of guilt for 'causing' his father's abuse. His reluctance to feed shows a great feeling of sympathy for the pain of others. Also originating from this abuse. He knows what the pain feels like, therefore he sees it in others as powerfully as they do. I reccommend that he work through his other issues with a friend or therapist."

Tim spoke up, "And his extras?"

"The subject has a desperate need to be loved and accepted by others. He will do anything to be seen as 'normal' by the majority, while still maintaining his own sense of individuality. This, combined with his sympathy and almost desperate need to understand the people around him, is what caused him to manifest his powers as a mimic. He absorbs the feelings and abilities of the people he is in contact with, and becomes more like them by adopting the traits they possess. Also, his mistrust of others in life makes the subject long to avoid betrayal, rejection, or lies of any kind. Therefore, the subject has developed an acute mind reading ability as a protective measure." Becca circled the table once, and then continued with, "Now THIS is interesting. It appears that because of his supression, his passive resistance, the teasing and withdrawal, Justin has created some new ability the likes that we have never seen before. Most vampires with supressed memories develop extras that turn inward. But when combined with the explosive temper of the subject, it has become something completely opposite from what was expected. For example, in his memories, I saw a fight in school. Just before his crossover. The details of that fight, so soon before he was born into darkness, had a considerable impact on the development of this particular ability. He holds back the emotion, surpressing it deeper and deeper, until, all at once...boom."

"I'm sorry...did you say...'boom'?" Tim asked.

"Scientifically speaking...yes." Becca replied. "It seems that, in times of danger, a mental wave of energy will merely explode out of Justin in any given direction. An uncontrollable eruption that lashes out at anyone causing the distress. At emotional boiling points, his explosive temper, this huge outburst of rage, expresses itself as a blast of mental energy. It's a loss of control, appearing when the subject is pressured beyond the limits of his restraint. If taken at full impact, I suspect this blast can cause severe pain, paralysis, and possibly even death. In both vampires AND humans alike. This is something he will need guidance on before it becomes unmanageable."

Char stood up, and handed the notes to Tim. "We'll both be reviewing our records over the next few days to see if we can find any similarities between Justin and any of our other subjects. In the meantime, let's just hope the elders don't find out about him. If they label him as potentially dangerous, we could have a problem on our hands."

"Thank you ladies. You've helped out immensely." Tim said, and opened the door to let them out.

But before she left, Becca walked over to me and ran her fingertips over the band around my arm. "He's good for you, you know? I sense a lot of love in your heart. That alone, will always keep you safe." She whispered, and they walked out.

Tim moved over to dig through a desk drawer, and took out a small piece of paper. "I'm going to give you this now, but you don't have to use it. There is a church just a bit further north from here. The address is on the back of this card. If you run into any trouble, any trouble at all, I want you to go to this place, follow the small map scrawled out on the front, and wait there for further instructions."

"What is this place?"

"It's a sanctuary. You will be able to rest easy there." He said, and he put a hand on my shoulder, guiding me to the door. "I will send word to Bryson as soon as Char and Becca come back with their results. Try to maintain a low profile until then. Got it?"

"Yeah...I got it." I said, and I gave Tim a huge hug, squeezing him tightly. "I just wanted to be loved, Tim. I just wanted to be loved."

"Your first mistake, Justin...was thinking that you weren't." He whispered. And he let me go. Back into 'the wilderness' of my life. Was it true? Was I as messed up in the head as they said I was? I can't believe it. There were people who knew about me. People who knew about my attractions, my life, my history. They...could look into my eyes, or hear my voice, and they KNEW all about the pain that lay behind it. Something about that made me feel so strange in front of them. I had to let go of my trust. I was wide open, completely vulnerable now. They knew exactly what buttons to push, they knew what hurt me the most, what angered me, my preferences...everything. So those were my choices...either lock myself in a dungeon, where the pain could never reach me. Or open myself up to it completely, invite the pain to hit me dead on, and pray that the very people I had mistrusted for so long...would back down from such a golden opportunity. Sometimes, even the strongest faith can make you feel so helpless. So alone. So impotent. I was soooo sick and tired of feeling like I was taking a giant leap of faith for even the simplest of tasks. Tired of thinking that almost everyone was out to get me, and not having a wealth of evidence to disprove that theory. And now Tim and his many helpers have set out to help me find myself. I should have been honored, but instead, I felt like I was their puppet. The only thing that I had to make me feel even remotely safe, was the tiny bit of faith that I had in believing that they were 'good' people. I was 'forced' to trust them once they uncovered my secrets...otherwise, everything that I worked so hard for...would be gone. I pray that I'm right, and that someday, I would be around to thank them for freeing me.

I walked for a few more minutes, becoming more and more worried, almost panicking at one point. Thinking that I had made the wrong decision by letting them know the real me. It may be hard for people to understand, but you simply can't keep secrets like that for your whole life, and then just...'hand them over' to somebody else. It takes months, YEARS, to just get enough courage to even BEGIN to reveal who I really was. To even scratch the surface. Even with all their vast powers, they knew the details...but they didn't have the experience. They didn't know it like I did, they couldn't. And even when I reveal myself, piece by piece, I can't help feeling as though I'm weakening the structure that I had built around myself for so long. That I was giving the outside world more power over me. The same world that I had grown to hate, and fear, and mistrust. The same world that was full of quick judgements, prejudice, and abuse. So I dedicated my life to being able to tuck myself away from it. To finding the strength to protect myself, and find shelter in the world's everlasting rain. Now, by just 'giving away' my privacy, my thoughts, my fears, my feelings...I was essentially giving away a piece of my shelter, brick by brick, until it crumbled around me. Then where would I go? I'd be stuck in the same rain as everyone else, drowning in the misery until I was as sadistic and uncaring as they were. I can only hope that my perspective is wrong on this. And that I haven't sold my soul to people I hardly even knew, much less trusted. Please let me be wrong. Or right. Or at least know the difference between the two. Sigh...life. By the time you figure it out, it's over. I guess we'll see if vampire's have found the secret to defeating that myth.

I turned a corner, bumping into someone by mistake. "Sorry..." I said, but as I turned to look at who it was...I saw a familiar face. A pair of hazel eyes, a well groomed cap of blond hair, and a face that I couldn't forget if I tried. "...Chad?"

"Well, well, well...if it isn't the old grasshopper! Long time no see. How's the leg?" He grinned.

"Son of a..." I reached out to grab his jacket, and that's exactly what I got...his jacket. By the time my fingers had a hold of it, he had swiftly gotten out of it and was standing behind me!

"You have GOT to be kidding me dude! I thought you would have been practicing." I put my hand on his shoulder, and he squirmed away. I grabbed the back of his shirt, he squirmed away again.

"God DAMMIT! Chad, listen...I'm not playing a fucking GAME with you here! I just want to talk to you!" I screamed.

"Sorry grasshopper, but I'm busy. Some other time." And he began to walk away from me. Something inside of me just snapped at this point. That was it! I won't be ignored, I WON'T! If a chase is what he wanted...then that's what he's going to get! I lunged towards him, to which he quickly dodged me without even looking. Shit he was fast! While on the ground, I spun around to grab at his ankle, and he jumped over me. I sprung up onto my feet, only to meet an impish grin on his young face. "Don't tell me you're trying for 'round two'?!?! I don't think you're up to the challenge buddy boy!"

I didn't say another word! Instead, I ran forward again, as fast as I could. The second he saw me move, he took off, leaving a blur of his image behind him. But he wasn't getting away this time! This was it! This was the answer! Whether it be a 'promotion' or 'disembowling', I had a feeling this Comicality figure had the answers I was looking for. And if Chad was the key to finding him, then he was going to give me EXACTLY what I needed! Even if I had to chase him down and beat it out of him! My legs began to work all on their own, as I kept my eye on my target. Chad was moving so fast, that the debris behind him was flying up in every direction. I was able to keep up with him, when suddenly I realized that I could go...faster. I don't know how to explain it, but everytime I reached what I thought was my maximum speed, I felt like I could push myself even harder if I wanted to. And my body would just 'adapt' to it naturally. Ok Chad...let's see just how fast you really are!

Whether it was Dion's training, my recent feeding, or this 'mimic' ability finally kicking in, I found myself running so fast that I could hardly breathe. I was clearing entire city blocks in mere SECONDS! And I don't think he was expecting me to keep up for this long. That's when he grabbed a stop sign and swung around into a quick turn to shoot down an alley. Evidently, he knew his way through the maze of alleyways better than I did, so I was going to have to stay RIGHT behind him. Otherwise, he'd lose me like he did last time. I tried to stay just a few feet behind him, but he was able to manuever between the buildings so fast and with such agility that I found myself running into walls and tripping over garbage cans. It was almost an instant replay of the last chase, as he snaked around corners at what looked like the speed of light. With me, only able to catch slight glimpses of him before he disappeared behind another wall.

The chase became more and more fierce, and I kept pushing so hard that I thought for sure that I'd hit a wall at top speed and put myself right in the hospital! But I just stayed focused on the speedy gremlin in front of me, and somehow I managed. Then, the corners became more and more twisted, harder and harder to move around at that speed. The short bursts of color that was Chad, were less and less frequent, and soon, he was out of sight. And I lost track of him. I eventually stopped running, breathing hard, and standing alone in the middle of the alley.

"FUUUUUUCK!!!!!!" I screamed out loud! The frustration was unbearable, and I punched a dent in the dumpster next to me, sending it slamming up against the next building! SHIT! I was huffing and puffing, wanting to destroy everything around me for letting my one chance to find some answers get away from me. Why couldn't I run faster? Why couldn't I have pushed harder? How could I just...LET him get away from me like that? Then, as I felt the anger inside of me calm down a little bit, as it began to fade away...my senses kicked in. Automatically. I thought back to my first run in with Chad...and suddenly...it all made sense. Perfect sense!

I remembered the last time, when my legs cramped up and I fell down in the alley! "Are you ok dude?" That's what he said, I remembered it distinctly! I was following him, running RIGHT behind him, and as soon as he got a little bit further ahead of me...he simply disappeared. HOW? How could he possibly dissappear without a trace, and then suddenly be looking down on me to ask if I was ok? Wouldn't he have been MILES away from me if he was simply 'faster' than I was? His voice echoed in my head again...."Are you ok dude?" Grinning down on me from above. That's IT! He hadn't gone ANYWHERE! He was still HERE somewhere...watching!

I looked up onto the roof, and at first I didn't see anything. But I kept my eyes focused on the rooftop, and sure enough, I saw a few blond hairs blowing in the wind. And Chad's head slowly peeked over the side. The little bastard hadn't dissappeared at all. He wasn't untouchable, just hiding out on an entirely different level. He caught me looking, and was shocked to have seen me staring back at him. He moved away from the edge, and I jumped up on top of the dumpster! The alley was narrow enough to jump back and forth between the two apartments, from window sill to window sill! I sprung back and forth until I was on the rooftop! I looked both ways, and caught a glimpse of Chad roof hopping and heading East...fast! I took off after him, and my body reacted all on its own. Whenever I came to the edge of one rooftop, I just KNEW I'd be able to make it to the next one. No matter how far the jump. And I cleared it everytime. As long as I kept my eyes focused on Chad, anything was possible. I saw him heading towards the elevated train station, and he was trying to jump onto one of the moving trains as it left the station. I HAD to beat him there! I HAD to make that train!

He jumped onto the moving train as I reached the platform, running on the roof and going from one train car to the other. I ran the length of the whole platform in less than ten giant steps, and was able to barely latch on to the very last train car as it pulled out of the station. My foot slipped and I was lucky enough to catch a decent grip on the lip of the corner. I was clinging onto the edge, almost falling down onto the tracks behind the train, but managed to pull myself up. I don't think Chad was expecting me to catch it, because I saw him on the middle car, taking a short rest from the run, and looking the other way. I took a few seconds to conserve as much energy as I could, and then pounced forward, trying to get to him before he could catch sight of me. I was getting closer, and closer, and then...he turned and caught me gaining on him. He stood up and hopped onto the roof of the next car, and I was right behind him! I was so close! I reached out and grabbed him by the shoulder, but he spun around and twisted awy from me! He tried running again, but I was able to latch onto his other shoulder. THIS time, when he spun around, he punched me dead in the stomach, catching me off guard! It stunned me a bit, a jolt of pain running through me. He jumped onto the next car, and I ignored the misery to go after him! I was almost close enough to get my hands on him again, when I saw him duck! I looked up just in time to see a large metal fixture almost hit me right between the eyes! I reacted quickly and fell backwards to avoid getting almost decapitated, and then hopped back up as Chad jumped to yet another car, almost reaching the front of the train! I followed, jumping at him and tackling him down to his knees! He struggled, elbowing me in the ribs, and then squirmed away from me! I grabbed his leg, and he kicked me right in the jaw! But all of the pain was temporary. It faded so fast that it was practically non-existant. I stood up grabbing him by the wrist, and he turned to swing on me again...but this time, my instincts kicked in! I stopped his punch in mid swing and twisted the arm behind him. He was able to manuever himself out of the arm lock, and we battled each other, swing for swing, as the train sped along on the tracks high above the streets below. His kicks were fast, his punches even faster, but not fast enough to connect. Neither were mine. We fought frantically, neither one of us able to get the advantage, when I felt that sensation again. That simple knowledge that if I pushed myself harder, I could beat him. I didn't focus on the fighting, or my speed...afterall, I had no idea what I was doing in either respect. My instincts were doing it for me. The only thing I concentrated on was catching Chad once and for all, and my body did the rest! I felt my attacks getting faster, stronger, more accurate! And soon, without even knowing it, I was able to get a hard shot in through his defenses! My palm opened up and landed a harsh blow to Chad's ribs that hit a lot harder than I was expecting it to! It surprised the both of us, and sent him falling backwards on his ass!

"Oh shit! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to..." I gasped. I gave him a hand to help him up, and he spun around to footsweep me! The train hit a curve, and as I fell over on my side, I rolled with the centrifugal force of the turn and almost slid off the edge of the train! My feet dangled over the side helplessly, and I held on for dear life until the train got through the curve and started going straight again. I strained to get back up to the roof just as the train passed over Addison street, right in front of Wrigley Field. That's when I saw Chad balance himself, and then flip off of the train! I watched as he spun his way over the elevated tracks, and down on top of a moving bus! SHIT!!! I looked around for a different way to catch up to him, and finally just jumped onto the next rooftop that passed by! I could see Chad on top of the bus in the distance, and kept him in sight as I began jumping from building to building to catch up. I was surprised that I was able to keep him in sight! But I eventually found myself running on a roof along side the bus, with Chad completely unaware that I was still following him. And as soon as the vehicle passed in front of a dark alley, I leapt sideways from the building, and over the roof of the bus...grabbing Chad and dragging him off with me!

We landed on the ground with a thud, and I dragged him off the street, still dazed at what just happened. "HEY!!! LEMME GO!!!" He started kicking and screaming, but before he had a chance to find an escape route, I lifted him up, and tossed him in a nearby dumpster! I slammed the lid down and locked it shut, sitting on top of it with an uncontrollable smile on my face. "LET ME OUT OF HERE!!!"

"That was a cool trick, you know? The whole rooftop thing. I never would have thought of that the first time." I said.


"Tsk tsk! Does your mother know you talk like that?"

"C'MON!!! I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING!!!" He pounded on the insides of the dumpster, rattling the whole thing and making a bunch of noise. But the lock held the lid closed. "COME ON!!! LET ME OUT!!! I DON'T LIKE THE DARK, OKAY???"

"Are you 'caught'?" I asked.


"Are you 'caught'? If I let you out, will you tell me what I want to know?"


I kicked the sides of the can a little bit. "I can wait all night, you know?"

"Yeah! Well SO can I?" He shouted.

"I'm sure you can, Chad. But you're going to have plenty of company! That's for sure!"

"What the hell are you talking about???"

"Well...that IS a dumpster, you know? Lots of rotten food, old wrappers, beer cans...I'm sure there are a lot of critters that are dying to find a feast like that."


"Oh suuuure. Rats, maggots, roaches...spiders..." After hearing that, I heard such a ruckus come out of that dumpster that I was afraid he'd turn it over with me on top of it! I jumped off and stood back as he clawed at the insides of his prison like a madman.

"LET ME OUT!!!! PLEASE??? YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND!!!! I HATE SPIDERS!!! HATE HATE *HATE* SPIDERS!!!" He was in a frenzy! Banging like crazy to find a way out!

"Then answer the question! Are you 'CAUGHT'???"

"COME ON!!! I CAN'T!!!" He whined.

"You know...as soon as the sun rises, you're gonna fall asleep! And your little friends are going to have a field day with you. You'll probably be their biggest meal yet! For all you know...you could wake up with a mouth FULL of them!"

"AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! ALRIGHT!!! ALRIGHT!!! I'LL TELL YOU!!! ANYTHING!!! I SWEAR!!!!" He screamed, practically in tears!


"YES!!!!!! OPEN THE LID DUDE!!! PLEASE!!!!!" I opened the lock with a brick and stood back as Chad BURST out of the dumpster and rolled back and forth on the ground as though he was on fire! "GET 'EM OFF!!! GET 'EM OFF!!!" He shouted, but I didn't see anything at all.


"GET 'EM OFF!!!!"

"CHAD!!! There's nothing on you dude!"

"Are...are you sure! What's THAT?!?!?! WHAT IS IT?!?!?! GET IT!!" He jumped in front of me, looking over his shoulder and spinning in circles.

"It's a spaghetti noodle, dude! Chill out. Here..." I pulled it off of his shoulder. "See? Spaghetti noodle. Ok?"

It took him a few more seconds to settle down, and he had a bad case of the 'shivers' for what seemed like the next five minutes. But he eventually calmed down enough to talk. His first words being, "That was NOT cool, dude!"

I couldn't help but giggle a bit to myself. "Hehehe, I'm...hehehe...I'm sorry man. Seriously. That...that was a rotten thing to do."

"A VERY rotten thing to do!"

"Yes...VERY rotten! I admit it. Hehehehe!" I couldn't stop grinning.

"It's not funny." He pouted.

"Awww...look, it serves you right. You DID almost kill me on that train, you know?"

"It wouldn't have killed you. You might have walked with a limp for the next few weeks, but it wouldn't have killed you. And at least I didn't SCAR you for LIFE with some traumatic experience, you jerk!" He sneered. He must have been terrified, even thinking about it made him twitch and start brushing off his shoulders again.

"So does this mean you'll tell me how to find Comicality?" I asked. That was the million dollar question afterall.

"Sigh...why can't you just leave him alone?"

"Chad...he came looking for ME."

"Then he'll FIND you! Why do you have to hound him and seek him out? I swear, you guys won't be happy until you storm his hideout and dissect him for the world to see." He said.

"Who's hounding him? I don't want to expose his identity or have him perform any great feats of magic for me. I just want to talk to him, to ask him some questions."

"Sure! And I'm willing to bet that on this block alone, there are five MORE vampires looking to ask him some questions. And in this neighborhood, there's probably a hundred. In this city, mabe even thousands. So everybody asks a question, and the answers bring more questions, and then they need favors, and then bigger favors, and then they need 'counseling', and the second he stops being their little magic genie in a bottle, they get mad and curse him for not being God! Well excuse me if I'm not anxious to put another rat in his house to nip at his heels."

This wasn't going the way I expected it to. "Chad...listen to me, ok? I'm not looking for favors, or handouts, or anything like it. I just want to talk to him. I don't know what it is, but I honestly think that he can help me. He may be the only one who can give me the answers I need." He was stubborn, but I could tell that Chad was at least listening to me. I sat down next to him against the wall, "Please? I need him right now."

"I said I would help you, and I will. Alright?" He snapped. It was like he couldn't believe that someone was actually able to catch him. Hell...I couldn't believe that I was actually able to catch him. But looking at him like this...I don't know, this is not how I wanted it to be. I suppose it was a piece of that little 'sympathy' issue that Becca was talking about.

"Sigh..." I knew I was going to be taking a big risk here, but something told me it was worth it. Besides, I couldn't have him change his mind and run off again. "...look, I don't want to force you. If it's that important for you to keep his secret, I'll just...I'll just wait for him to find me." I could see Chad looking at me from the corner of my eye.


"I'm serious. If protecting your friend means that much...then I'm not going to force you to break your confidence."

"You mean...I can just go?" He asked.

"I need his help, Chad. I'm not lying about that. But I don't want you to think I've got a gun to your head."

He thought it out, and stood up. Shit! Come on kid...have a heart. I'm bluffing here! He almost turned to walk away, but then he stopped. "You...you promise you won't hurt him?"

"I wouldn't do anything of the sort. Just talk, that's it. You have my word." I said, holding up my right hand.

Then he just turned around and started walking. I looked down at my feet, and began to wish that I had stuck with the original plan and played the 'terrifying killer spiders' card instead. But he turned back and said, "Are you coming, or what?" The words surprised me, and I sprung to my feet quickly, running to catch up. This is it! My one and only chance to get some answers! I hope this Comicality is as friendly as I'm hoping he is. Because if he isn't...I'm going to be in a lot of trouble.

We walked through the streets for a few minutes, my heart racing, my mind spinning with a million ideas. What would I ask him? Where does he live? What the hell do I CALL him? Comicality? Com? Comsie, maybe? I evidently haven't thought this through enough. "So...Com found you, huh?" I asked.

"He found me, I found him...who remembers? I was just discovering who I was at the time, I was just getting my thirst. Still trying to figure things out. I was hiding myself away, and just beginning to understand my place in all of this. He lent me a friendly ear."

"First hunt?" I asked.

"Yeah. I waited, and waited, and waited. I thought I'd never give in to my cravings. But, I was able to talk about it. Soon, I learned to understand it. Shortly after that, I went out to find a suitable donor before I messed up and jumped on the first thing that got my hunger kicking."

"I wish I was that lucky." I said, remembering that poor clerk.

"Ohhh...I'm sorry to hear it man. Those last minute things can be tough." He said. "Was it someone you knew?"

"No...a clerk. I don't know what came over me. I just...jumped on him...and...that was that. I can't believe that I just...left his body laying there in the alley. God...what his family must be going through." I felt so bad. I was hoping to not hold onto that image any longer. But it will stay with me forever. I know it.

"Don't worry, Slaghunters will take care of the body. They're pretty good at making believable stories about missing persons too. I'm sure they'll take care of things." There was that word again.

"What the heck IS that?"

"What? A Slaghunter? Dude, you haven't been into your crossover very long at ALL, have you? In case you haven't noticed, our population isn't neccessarily 'small'. We're all over the city, the country, and the world. We all have to eat, and all of those poor folks that we call 'snacks'...have to be accounted for. Slaghunters are in charge of that. They make sure to keep our activities masked at all times."

"So...they're like us?"

"Nope. 100% pure human! And 'off limits' as far as feeding is concerned. So make sure you don't mess around and bite the wrong person. They're government 'owned', and we don't need any problems with the likes of them down here on the streets."

My eyebrows raised, and my mouth dropped open. "The government KNOWS about us???"

"Well, of COURSE they do! Always have." He said without batting an eye.

"But...but...why didn't they tell anybody? How could they keep something this big a secret?"

"Psh! The government was BUILT on secrets dude! They've known about us for almost as long as our species has been alive. If they let that information leak out, there would be riots in the streets. Hell, the human race can barely go long without killing EACH OTTHER! They'd practically crucify the likes of US!" I was baffled, completely dumbfounded. I know that I had lost my faith in the 'system' a long time ago...but I never thought they would be sinister enough to cover up the murders and disappearances of its own people.

"So they're watching us?"

"What? Do you think that somebody can just turn up 'missing', they put your picture up in the post office, and forget about you? No way. They keep very detailed checks on the growth of our population, how much we eat, where our highest concentrations of vampires are...everything. You think they don't know what happened to YOU? Trust me, Uncle Sam knows exactly where you are." I couldn't believe they knew. They KNEW. "See, when somebody mysteriously 'disappears', the government can't really afford to make any unproven assumptions. You're a potential voter, a consumer, a tax payer. Once you slip out from under their control, they want to know why. They want to know where you are, what you're doing, and why you aren't in line with the rest of the brainless automatons. I'm willing to bet that once you were reported missing, they sent up a red flag and checked with officials from our world to make sure you were found, and fast. I guarantee you...you're FAR from missing as far as the government is concerned."

"They know about us...and they let it happen. Every...single...day." I whispered.

"Don't be shocked. There have been lies and cover ups for as long as there have been people. As long as there is someone with the ambition to be in control. Look at how hard it is to smuggle guns into this country, or drugs. But they exist. In abundance, I might add. Do you honestly believe that they can't stop it if they really wanted to? They only thing THEY'RE concerned with is keeping lowlife street dealers from cutting into their profits. Our connections with them are no different. They don't want a war anymore than we do, so we maintain a low profile while they help to protect us. There has to be a balance of power between their world and ours. We agree not to let our population get out of control, they agree not to have each and every one of us systematically exterminated. If we break the rules, it would be a witch hunt the likes the world has never seen."

"And if 'they' break the rules?" I asked.

"We come to the surface, and storm the gates before they have a chance to outnumber us."

"No winners."

"You got it. So let's just hope that it never comes to that."