I heard the music stop inside, and saw the others file out of the house shortly after I hopped onto the back of the truck. Cyrus didn't even bother to lock the front door, but that was understandable. The house barely looked inhabited from the outside anyway. The chimney was still emitting a steady cloud of dark smoke into the air, and the smell was strong, but fading fast. I can't believe they were actually going for this. I can't believe they're going to take me someplace close enough to where I could run home. All I'd have to do is distract them. For five minutes, ten at the most. If the local kids are having a party tonight like they were the other nights that I was there, Cyrus and his crew would be too busy scanning the crowd and drinking liquor to be paying me much attention. If I take the darkest path on the North end of the cliff, I can make it halfway home before they even notice I'm gone. I'd be covered by thick bushes and dark shadows as well, just in case they catch on earlier than I expected. It could work. All I have to do is keep my mouth shut and look normal until I can get some distance between us. Hopefully that's not gonna be easier said than done.
As the others approached the truck, everyone took their original positions...except for one change in the 'seating plan'. This time, Cyrus had John Boy sit in the cab of the truck with him, Kristin, and Scout. Meaning that Sebastian was now going to sit in back with the rest of us. I felt my stomach muscles tighten up slightly as he climbed over the side and came to sit next to me on the old tire by the back window. A swirl of emotions were instantly stirred up inside of me. Half of them dreamily gazing at his unnatural beauty and his delightfully arrogant way of appearing oblivious to it. And half of them warning me with bells and whistles to stay away from him. To hate him. To beware his every alluring trick and treasure for fear that he'd leave me hanging again, with no solid feeling to hold on to. He sat so close to me that our legs were touching. Our shoulders too. I didn't want to be tempted, I really didn't. So I stubbornly scooted away from him a bit, hoping he got the message. Looking up, I saw both Shank and Razor giggling slightly at my reaction, looking at each other, then back to me as though my response had absolutely no effect on the situation. I have to admit, it was pretty humiliating.
Kriegar was the last one to stumble onto the back of the truck, his sideburns and wild brown hair looking even more out of whack than usual, and he was carrying two arms full of liquor bottles. "Here!" He grunted, and carelessly tossed me a bottle to catch. The second I caught it, he threw me another one, then a third. "Don't you fucking drop a single bottle on the way over there tonight. They're FULL. You got me?" He said. I suppose he wanted me to hold these for him? At least, that was what I could gather from having him practically whip the bottles at my head. He sat on the edge, patted the side of the truck, and Cyrus started the ignition to drive us back to Rainbow's End. Don't worry, Wes, we did it...we're on our way home.
We pulled away from the old house and began our journey down the dirt road. It was completely night outside now, and there was no light whatsoever outside of the headlights from the dirty old truck, and maybe an occassional passerby that was going in the opposite direction. Other than that, the road was pitch black, the stars offering no further illumination that what it took to be seen in the night time sky. Everyone was sitting in silence, same as me, and I happened to look over at Dex for a moment because he was being so strangely quiet. His eyes were focused on the full moon with an intensity that I had never seen before. I mean, he barely blinked, even with the wind blowing onto his face. He seemed mesmerized...as though he were mentally having an in depth conversation with it. And the only part of him that moved at all was his thumb, running in small circles on the edge of that bladed cross. Over and over again, nearly shaving a layer of skin off of his thumb tip, but not quite. I sat and watched this activity for a minute or two, wondering what he was so fascinated with. And as I looked closer, his eyes....his eyes appeared different somehow. Like they were glowing with a bright golden color, reflecting the moonlight in its entirety. Brightly enough to almost reflect on his cheeks. It was...eerie. It didn't even look real at first, and I rubbed my eyes slightly to make sure I wasn't seeing things. Then, Dexter's head lowered slightly, and his gaze connected to mine. The shine in his pupils dimmed and faded away in a second's time, and left me wondering if maybe I had just been looking at him from an awkward angle. Something had changed about him. Something was completely different about his very presence than it was not more than 15 minutes ago. This was not the same happy-go-lucky half crazed boy that I had been exposed to earlier. At that moment...he seemed almost...sinister. And as he stared me in the eye, he didn't crack a smile. Just waited in silence for me to be the first to turn away. And then, he went back to watching the moon. What the hell was that about? I thought, maybe it had something to do with our conflict back at the house. Or maybe it was just Dex's way of being a whole other kind of 'weird'. But the truth is, I didn't recognize a single trait or mannerism about him when he looked at me like that. I don't even think it was him, really. I swear, this day has been so confusing.
As we traveled along, I began to move and suirm in an attempt to get myself comfortable on the tire. Nothing worked. What's worse, my body felt sore and worn out. It had to have been from the hours of marathon sex that I had been involved in all afternoon, I was sure of it. But I never expected my body to feel this 'awkward' all of the sudden. My arms and legs just felt like they weren't long enough, or strong enough. I kept gritting my teeth without realizing that I was doing it. And my arms and legs were itching like crazy where I had been scratched by the others. My breath felt heavy...almost like a thick liquid was filling my lungs, and my shoulders began to ache. With all of these things going on, I still had a fever that would flare up out of nowhere for a few seconds or more, and then vanish with no rhyme or reason. I kept moving and fidgeting until Sebastian finally spoke up.
"Your discomfort is only gonna get worse if you fight it. Just let it happen." He said.
"Fight what? I'm just...I don't feel good."
"I know." He said, and scooted closer to me again. "But soon...you're gonna feel GREAT. I guarantee it."
"Whatever." I said, and turned my head in the other direction. The less I had to look at those flawless features of his and those deep chocolate brown eyes, the less I had to worry about investing any more emotion in the heartless son of a bitch. I DO learn my lesson once I've been 'kicked' one too many times. Still...even looking away from him, he smelled delicous. I had to close my eyes and practically shake myself free from wanting him.
I watched Kriegar as he finished off a bottle of Jack Daniels and release one of his disgusting belches at full volume. Then he tossed the bottle over his shoulder to shatter on the road behind us. He made a face, and rubbed a few circles on his chest, as though he were calming down some of the burn from his last drink. Then he grinned widely, smoothed some of his hair back, and then reached down by his feet to open up another one. Watching him drink so abusively made my stomach hurt sometimes. How he could continuously keep himself so sedated and not be sick from it, I'll never know. But I'll be damned if I'M the one to tell him to slow down. I think he loved those bottles more than he loved the rest of them.
It was maybe a half hour later when the roads and the trees started to look somewhat familiar again. We must have been getting closer to home. I couldn't tell if I was feeling a certain degree of relief, or if that idea made me more nervous than before. I almost felt as worried about walking away from Cyrus as I had when they got me to defy my father's wishes. I had lied to get myself back here, and I was planning to ditch them the first chance I got. But what were the consequences going to be for that? These guys have already proven a certain lack of stability when it came to being 'played with'. Hopefully, once I'm out of his sight Cyrus won't hold that intimidating grip on my soul that he had been strengthening from the moment I met him. Hopefully...he'll grant me the permission to go home.
I felt Sebastian lean over and put his head on my shoulder. The contact made me gasp a little bit at first, and while the feeling of his warm brown locks cascading over my shoulder felt good for a moment or two...I refused to give him the satisfaction of exciting me again. I shrugged my shoulder away from him, and scooted even further away from him, until I was sitting on the edge of the tire. "What's that for?" He asked.
"You know what that's for." I mumbled.
"Aww, what's the matter?" He was mocking me, a pouty voice leaving his beautifully thin lips.
"Leave me alone, ok? I'm not interested."
"Oh, come now...we both know that's not true." He grinned. He scooted over to me and whispered in my ear, "I know you want me, Wesley. It's ok to want me. You know why?" He let his tongue lick a small patch on my cheek, his breath cooling it as he spoke, "Because you can have me. You can touch me, kiss me, and suck me...anytime you feel like it." I didn't dare turn back to look at him. Not even when I felt a warm kiss land on the side of my neck.
"Yeah. So you told me." I growled stubbornly, not offering anything more. I stood my ground, but I was already hard as a rock. My body proudly displayed what my heart and mind tried hard to deny. I wanted him. Not for ANY other reason than more mindblowing sex. But...somehow that had become an extremely powerful motivation indeed.
"When we get back to the house...I want you again. This time, just you and me." He moaned. Block him out, Wesley. You know he's just bullshitting. Block him OUT! "We can go into one of the rooms upstairs. The others won't bother us there. We can spend the whole night in each others arms. We'll be exhausted by sunrise. Then we can sleep, with me spooned up against you, flesh to flesh. It'll be much more...intimate this time. Promise. Hehehe..." He had a sensual laugh, soft and sexy. And as he kissed my neck again, I began to tremble with the weakness he had been searching for.
"You don't care about me, so stop it." I was hoping to hold out for a while longer. We were almost there.
"What would you like? Sweet candy kisses and giggling glances from across a crowded room? If you want me to say 'I love you' when we finish, I'd be more than happy to do so. Just say the word."
"That's not the point. That's not real."
"It is if you want to make it real. You can believe whatever you want to believe. And in the meantime...you get to have me over and over again. And you never once have to worry about spending enough 'quality time', losing me to someone else, arguing about petty matters, jealous tantrums, or being faithful. I'll play whatever game you design for me, Wes. Starting and ending and starting the game over again whenever you feel like it. And believe me...you'll learn to enjoy it. A lot." His seduction was laid out for me, plain and simple. In many ways, I should have been offended that he offered me no affection, no love, no feeling whatsoever. But...there was also something about his straightforwardness that enticed me. Something about him offering me his body in the most blatant way imaginable, actually ASKING me to objectify him, and use him at will without guilt or consequence...that just turned me on. He didn't expect anything from me other than sexual satisfaction for the both of us. And as disgusting an offer as that may seem, I didn't really see a downside.
I didn't answer, I just kept my eyes turned away from him. Not giving him a 'yes'...not giving him a 'no'. And he laid his head on my shoulder again in total comfort. And I let him do it. For the rest of the ride...I let him do it.
Cyrus pulled off the road a little ways away from our destination. He made sure that the truck was far enough off of the road to not be seen by anybody unless they were specifically looking for it. "Alright, we walk from here." He informed us as he turned off the ignition. "We don't need anybody stumbling across Rainbow's End who doesn't belong there, right?" He smiled wide at me and walked over to put a hand on my shoulder. "Let's go make use of that 'full moon', shall we?" And we started our march. Almost there, Wes. Almost there.
It didn't take long for the troops to fall into their usual positions, thereby forcing me into a position of my own. But it was John Boy who was standing closest to me the whole time. Cyrus led the way, Sebastian as his dutiful right hand man, and Scout moved around in a slightly frantic pattern around them. Kriegar, with a an almost off balanced sway, protected the center of the group, while Shank and Razor watched over all of us from the back. Dex was right behind me, only by acouple of steps, but he kept his head down the entire time. Preoccuppied with his own thoughts, and whispering little phrases to himself over and over again. I couldn't make out what it was, but I dout I would have understood it anyway. That left me in the center with John Boy and Kristin, who seemed to be carefully scanning the entire area around us, listening for every sound, searching for anything out of place. It was such a logical order for them to all naturally be in. Almost strategic in its formation. It made me wonder if there was supposed to be some task that I should be attending to myself. Where was my place in all this? Or was I just left as the only one without a purpose in their little clique of misfits?
"Watch your step." John Boy said softly, and reached out an arm seconds before I stumbled over a fallen branch. He caught me before I fell, and smirked at me as he lifted me up and we kept walking. "Are you feeling any better, Wesley? You seemed somewhat 'distracted' earlier."
"Yeah, I'm a little better. But these damn scratch marks still itch like crazy."
"What scratch marks?" John Boy asked.
"What do you mean, 'what scratch marks?' I'm talking about the ones you guys put on me when we..." But as I pushed up the sleeve on my shirt, I noticed that my arm was bare. There wasn't a trace of a scratch left. But that can't be right. It was just there a few hours ago. I rolled up the other sleeve, and saw nothing. I ran my hands under my shirt to feel my chest and sides...but there were no scars. Not even the texture of a scab remained. Until I touched my back...and it was then that I felt the raised fleshed of only one remaining scratch. The one that belonged to Cyrus. "...I....I guess they weren't as bad as I thought." I said, not believing it fully myself.
"No, I suppose not." His smile got wider, and he continued to walk with me at his side. Then I heard Dex's whispers get a bit louder, and a bit more angry from the sounds of it. "Dex...how are we feeling?" John Boy asked him.
Dex seemed to snap out of it immediately, and for the first time since we had left the house, he answered as though he was his lovable old self again. "I'm good...um...I'm as ok as a bowl of pudding." Whatever THAT means.
"Ok, Dex. Because you know to tell us if you're feeling 'strange', right?"
"Oh yeah. Sure thing, John Boy. I'll tell everybody. You told me 'no more surprises', and I said, 'yeah, no more surprises'. So...yeah, I'm good. Promise."
Kriegar took another swig of his bottle and grumbled, "Crazy fucker. I'm not gonna be the one to tie him up next time. You can count me out."
"I'M NOT CRAZY!!!!" Dex suddenly screamed at the top of his lungs until his voice cracked, making all of us jump. Kristin quickly put her hands on his shoulders to calm him down.
"Ah, here we go..." Kriegar moaned.
"Dex..." Cyrus called to him from the front.
Dex lowered his voice instantly. "I'm ok, Cyrus. I'm ok. No more surprises. I'm fine." The others hesitated before believing him fully. "I'm FINE! Just go. I'm fine." He squirmed out of Kristin's grip. "I'm fine." Then he mumbled to himself. "Call ME crazy. I'm not crazy. This is a GOOD moon. A GOOD moon. And he calls me crazy. HE'S the one that's crazy. Big...big ol'...weirdo." I think I was beginning to see the warning signs of Dex's little 'problem'. Despite his adorable quirks and eccentricities, there seemed to be something deteriorating in his personality more and more by the hour. And it was a little more unstable than just being a bit of an oddball.
As we walked through the woods, I began to hear music in the distance, and could see the fire lit edge of the cliff leading down to Rainbow's End. Thank God...I MADE IT! So far, so good. I didn't dare pick up the pace of my footsteps or give away how glad I was to be someplace recognizable for the first time since this morning. So I kept my position and just follwed them through the trees towards the edge of the cliff. Sure enough, things were jumping as usual. There were just as many rowdy teenagers there as there always ways. Maybe even a few more. I had to silently thank the stars for that one. The more commotion there was, the better the chance of me sneaking away undetected. We all lined up at the edge, and stared down at the crowd for a moment...like wild coyotes in the hills staring down a ravaged piece of meat in the prairie below. I looked up above me, and the moon seemed to be staring down on us with the same predatory eyes. Full and bright, it watched over us...and I felt this strange 'pressure' falling down on my shoulders. As though gravity had suddenly been increased on the ground beneath my feet. My fever began to burn again, and my breaths got short, soon turning to heavy pants and wheezes. The others noticed, but didn't really do anything to comfort me. This time, Cyrus himself walked over and stood by my side.
"Suck it up, newborn. You can beat it." He said patting me on the back. "Sighhh...look at 'em, Wes. Carrying on without a care in the world. It's amazing isn't it? Almost arrogant." His watchful eye viewed the crowd hungrily, a demonic grin on his lips that looked as though it were made for a cartoon super villain. "The blinding illusion of complete 'safety'. How I love it so." He said. "Why don't the rest of you go down and 'mingle' with our public. I want to talk to Wesley alone for a moment."
They followed his order without question, but Scout turned around to watch us. He backed away, turning a suspicious eye towards me as his favorite leader and I were left behind. That boy really, REALLY, doesn't like me! Like, at ALL!
"Don't you wanna go down with the rest of them?" I asked, hoping that Cyrus wasn't changing the plan and spoiling my getaway. "We came to have fun afterall, right?"
"In a moment." He said. "Just sit here with me for a little while. Come on." He said, and crouched to sit down on the ground, his legs dangling over the edge of the cliff. I hesitated for just a second, and he patted the ground next to him. I didn't want to look 'hurried' or anything. I guess a couple more minutes wouldn't hurt.
I let my legs dangle over the cliff as well, seeing the beach area stretched downward forty feet beneath my feet. The bonfire was a bit smaller than normal, creating a much more intimate light around the walls of Rainbow's End. The orange glow of the flame burned steadily, creating a parade of shadows on all sides that danced with a certain spooky grace. It was hypnotic. I became aware of Cyrus smile from the side of me, and by the time I turned to see him looking at me...he jerked and PUSHED me forward! Almost hard enough to knock me over the side! "AHH!!! JESUS!!!" I shouted, my heart leaping up into my throat as I fought to not fall over the cliff. "What the FUCK, man?!?!"
"Hahaha! You feel that? Right there in the center of your chest?"
"You mean the fucking heart attack you just gave me?" I said, still catching my breath.
"No...it's something much more exhilirating than that. Feel it. Go ahead, take a moment a feel that. It's like that first drop of a roller coaster, isn't it?"
"Yeah...whatever it is, I'm sure it's great. Just...don't 'push' me anymore. K?" Cyrus flashed me a big smile and ruffled my hair, actually inspiring a smile of my own. It was weird, but despite some of his mean-spirited antics, Cyrus had these chosen moments of brotherhood that could almost excuse him from any offense. Moments where you felt like his favorite person on Earth, his only shining star, and when that was mixed with whatever subliminal admiration you hid deep down inside for him...it boosted your ego like you wouldn't believe.
"Let me see your arms, kid." He said, and I reached over as he lifted up my sleeve. "You scratches have healed. Good boy. That was fast."
"Yeah, I thought they were pretty deep, but I guess not. They still itch a little bit though."
"Ah, don't sweat it. By the time you wake up, that'l all be overwith. Then you can get to working on more 'important' changes." He grinned.
"Like growing hair in strange places and thinking about girls?"
"Not in your case, fag boy." He grinned. I reached out a hand to shove him playfully, but the second I touched him, I pulled my hand back quickly. For a moment, I almost forgot who I was sitting there with. "What's wrong?"
"You don't have to be afraid of me, Wes. It's not in my best interest to ever hurt you." He told me, but when I didn't respond with anything other than a nod, he put his fingers on my chin to turn my head in his direction. He looked me deep in the eyes, and leaned in so close that he was only inches from my lips. "If I seem to be hard on you, it's because the truth isn't as easy to grasp as a lot of people think. A lot of lingering habits are going to remain with you for a long time. It takes a great amount of struggle to break the chains that hold you back...but once you're free....you're free." I never really understood his philosophy about being so 'free' all the time. Sometimes it felt like he despised the whole world. Other times, he seemed to observe them with curious fascination. But whichever side he was on, he stood as a god among men. At least in his own mind. I didn't think I was delusional enough to stand beside him with such conceit.
"I'm not afraid." I said, rather unconvincingly.
"Yes, you are. I can smell it on you. In fact, the scent has been getting stronger ever since you requested that we come out here." He said, his face now a bit more serious than before. Did he know? Shit...how could he know. He was staring me right in the eye without blinking, but I kept my pokerface on as best as I could. "You see? Even now...your body temperature is rising ever so slightly. Your nerve cells are firing off, adrenaline is being induced to your bloodstream. The mere mention of your fear has already triggered the appropiate response in you." It was like he could see right through me. Even though I was trying to calm myself down, he could sense my betrayal from a mile away. "I can 'sense' your anxiety, Wesley. All that chemical activity leaves the slightest traces of hormone filled 'dew' on the surface of the skin." Cyrus leaned closer to my neck, and took a long, healthy sniff. When he leaned back again, I saw a glow in his eyes that faded as soon as I focused upon it. "That residue lets me know when you're scared. It lets me know when you're aroused. Or when you're angry. It's a tell-tale sign that you can't control. Not even if you wanted to." He reached out to touched my arm, taking it lightly by the wrist. "I can feel your muscles contract, and fill with blood. In case you needed to fight. Or perhaps...in case you needed to run. Hehehe, I can guarantee you, boy...neither one would do you much good right now if it actually came to that."
I lightly pulled my arm back, taking it out of his grasp, and attempted, still, to moderate any giveaway signals that I might be offering about running off tonight. "I'm just...I'm anxious to get down to the party, that's all. It's been a long day, I haven't been feeling too well..."
"Suuure. Of course. I understand completely." He gave me a lopsided grin, and then looked back down at the party again. "Fear is nothing to be ashamed of, you know. It's natural. It's primal. It heightens your senses, your awareness. Makes us strong." I saw hm spit over the edge of the cliff at the crowd. Not hitting anybody, just as a gesture I suppose. "They live their whole lives being afraid and get nothing out of it. Hoping to gain courage and identity by buying meaningless garbage and gathering hordes of thankless pseudo-friends to surround them and make them feel loved. Trying to define their lives by putting it into little concrete pieces of fluff. Hoping to warrant their existence by bouncing their reflection off of the peole around them. Worried about their perceptions and ideas of who somebody else thinks they should be." He looked back at me, "Unless you validate them as being 'cool' and 'important'...they don't exist. You understand? Without their precious possessions and well known friends, not a single one of them has the strength to stand on their own. They're just over-animated pieces of meat...waiting to be picked off by a bigger animal." He said. Then he put his hand on the back of my neck, and rubbed me gently. "They shouldn't be pitied...they should be wiped out." Then he moved to stand up on his feet again. "Enjoy yourself, kid." He finally gave me a final pat on the shoulder, and started to walk down the path towards the beach. Leaving me to sit there by myself. I thought about it for a second, watchng the rest of the drunken teenagers participate in the same games, dances, kisses, and sports as they had the last few times that I had been there. Most of them were the same faces as before. The parties were practically identical, and whatever variations did exist weren't worth mentioning. They were just flopping about and making noise for the hell of it. Honestly...if I wasn't trying to sneak home, I probably could have skipped coming here tonight entirely and not felt like I missed anything important. I'll be damned. Every once in a while...Cyrus finds a point in all that ranting.
Still...that wasn't the point. I should be trying to get out of here. I could have just taken off right then and there, got up and started running through the forest before they had a chance to run back up o the top of the cliff. But as I looked down at the party, I noticed John Boy standing over by the lake. His small round sunglasses were totally black except for the reflection of the bonfire in the lenses. And yet, blind as he was, I could tell that he was staring right at me. A delicate smirk on his boyishly young face, his head slightly cocked to the side as if he could sort out my thoughts from across the distance. He didn't move, and neither did I. Not for a whole minute. But as I felt my fingers and toes twitch a bit, a tension rapidly building up in my shoulders as the beginning of another 'flash-fever' returned, I decided to stand up on the cliff's edge and get down to the beach. The sooner I got down there, the sooner I can get home and sleep in my own bed until this 'illness' of mine passes. Besides, if I hang out and pretend to have a good time, I might get Cyrus' lackeys to stop staring at me long enough to disappear. So, with one final look at the layout from an elevated position, I dusted off my pants, and started down the steep pathway to the party to make an appearance.
This side of the cliff seemed to be even steeper than the side I was used to manuevering my way down. The path was slippery and dirty, my feet sliding and trying to catch a foothold as I awkwardly angled myself to keep from sliding down to the beach. The half dance-half rock music was loud, and echoed off the stone walls surrounding the area. The mass of bodies seemed to envelope me the second my feet touched the sand, and I was sucked into the party without a chance for resistance. I felt a girl grab my ass, and I watched a strange buffet of intoxicated smiling faces greeting me as I gently pushed my way through. I could smell the liquor on their breath, and the smoke on their jackets. I could feel the heat from their active bodies, and it felt like I was standing next to that bonfire all over again. It's hard to explain, but as my fever began to fade, I got extremely lightheaded from it all. It was an overstimulation of sorts. I heard what sounded like a hundred different voices all at once. And yet, I could pick out and understand each and every one of them. It got to the point where my ears hurt from it. My eyes made everything clear and crisp, where the very edges of the crease in someone's jacket looked sharp enough to cut through stone. And the smell...my God, the smell. For just a moment, being around all of those people at once, it was like standing in a burning slaughterhouse. The stench of heated meat flooded my nostrils, and the aroma was both revolting and alluring at the same time. And again...just as before, the fever left me, taking the stimulation of my senses with it. I sniffed the air, trying to see if I could get that scent back. I looked at my hand, but my sight had returned to normal. And the sounds of all those individual voices had been blurred into the nonsensical static of 'white noise' that it was before. I stood still, and looked around at my surroundings. Okaaaay....I'm definitely imagining things now. I'd accuse the others of slipping drugs into my drink earlier....if I had HAD any drinks.
Looking around me, as usual in a crowd of people, my 'companions' stood out. Kristin was sitting on a rock with her knees drawn up to her chest...watching me. John Boy was walking unaided by the lake's edge...watching me. As I turned around to find the others, Sebastian, Scout, Kriegar, Dex, the twins...I noticed that they were surrounding me on all sides. Positioned in such a way that they could see me from all sides. Whenever I connected eyes with them, they were already staring right back at me. This might not be as easy as I thought it would be.
"Hey...Wesley, right?" I turned around to see Jack standing next to me, a cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth, plastic cup of 'miscellaneous liquid' in hand.
"Jack! Hey, what's up dude?" I said outloud, patting him on the shoulder and giving him a much friendlier greeting than he was expecting. If I'm going to shake the others, I better make this convincing. "I haven't seen you in a while. What's going on?" I guided him towards the drink table, and tried to keep him from looking too confused while I found a spot away from their center. There was a strong concentration of people by the seeingly limitless alcohol supply, and they provided me some cover for the time being. The music was much louder there too. Hopefully that would drown out anything that was said between us.
"Dude, are you feeling alright?" Jack asked me, politely shrugging my 'friendly' hand off of his team jacket.
"Listen, I can't really go into it right now, but I need to find Kyla. Have you seen her around her at all tonight?"
"Right behind you. And she doesn't look happy." Jack said, nodding over my shoulder. I looked to see Kyla walking towards me fast, with a stressed look on her face.
The second she was close enough to reach me, she hit me in the chest hard with her open hand. "Where the HELL have you BEEN??? The whole camp's gone fucking ballistic looking for you! Your dad already called the cops twice, they're practically ready to start a manhunt to find you!"
"Kyla, listen to me...I don't have much time. I need your help."
She hit me again. "You had me worried SICK!"
"KYLA! Please...are you listening to me? I've gotta get home!"
"Yeah, no shit."
"No, I MEAN it. I haven't been able to get back all day. I was too far out."
Her brow wrinkled up in confusion. "Wait...what are you talking about?"
"I'm being....I'm being watched."
"Watched? Watched by who?" But the second the words left her mouth, I saw Kriegar and Sebastian approach the table where we were standing to get a drink. Their eyes landed directly on us, and secretly tapped Kyla on the leg to let her know to keep her mouth shut. She got the message right away, and being the champion liar that she was in times of crisis, she slipped right into the act. "Hahaha, can you believe this guy Jack? Oh man...Wes...if you keep telling dirty jokes like that, I'm gonna start having weird thoughts about you." I almost forgot to keep up the game myself.
"Yeah, well...it was my uncle's joke, so..." I smiled as convincingly as I could, but my eyes drifted over to the sentries sent to keep an eye on me. Kriegar seemed more focused on going through the horde of bottles, looking for something to satisfy his thirst. But Sebastian? His eyes glared at me, no emotion on his face at all. The wind blew a few wisps of his long almond brown hair out of his face, and he stared in silence. As if to tell me that he knew exactly what I was up to. Kriegar handed him a cup of Scotch, and he took it without his eyes leaving me. "Um...Kyla, Jack...this is Sebastian. And Kriegar. They're friends of mine." I said, hoping to break some of the tension.
"Hi..." Kyla gave her best flirtatious grin to Sebastian, but as always, he was unaffected.
"Ahhh, here we go." Kriegar grunted in a husky voice. He picked up a full bottle of Johnny Walker Black, and tossed the top over his shoulder. "You wanna swig? Huh?" He said, offering the rest of us a swallow. "No? Going once, going twice..." We shook our heads to refuse, and he merely shrugged his shoulders in response. "...Sold." He turned the bottle up, guzzling a few big swallows, the liquid bubbling as it rushed down his gullet. Then he gave Sebastian a light backhanded slap in the chest. "C'mon. Let's go find us some entertainment."
Kriegar walked away, but Sebastian kept his eye on me for a moment longer before he began to back away calmly. Before turning his back to me, he gently raised his cup, and gave me the most curious smirk. I couldn't really put my finger on it, but it was like....he not only knew what I was up to...but he was daring "THEM???" Jack said, once they had left. "I thought I told you to stay away from those freaks, dude! They are mentally fucked, every last one of them."
"I know, I know. Look...I know my way back home from here. There's a darkened path on the East side of Rainbow's End. There's enough forest to cover me until I'm far enough away from this place to make it back to camp without being seen. But I'm gonna need your help."
"What do you want us to do?" Kyla asked.
"I need a distraction. Something flashy...something that can keep them occuppied for JUST a few minutes. That's all I need. By the time they notice I'm gone, it'll be too late to catch me." I said. Kyla sighed outloud. "PLEASE, Kyla! They've pretty much got the whole place blocked off. They're watching every move I make. I can't do this without you." She thought about it a second, and found herself an idea.
"Hey, Jack? Is your little cousin, Dallas, still out here somewhere?" She asked.
"Yeah. He's out here sniffing somebody's crotch I'm sure." He answered.
"Does he still have that box of fireworks under his bed from the gas station on highway 65?"
Jack gave her a look. "Hehehe, I love the way you think." He said. "I'll grab him."
Jack merged himself with the crowd to find his cousin amongst the partying teenagers, and Kyla pulled me away from the drink table. "Ok, here's the plan...I'm going to stand by the boombox and wait for Jack to tell me when he's ready, then I'm gonna hit the stop button. When you hear the music shut off, you get ready to blaze a trail towards the East side of the cliff. But don't take off until you see the first firework go off. If you run too early, they'll know something's up. Got it?"
"I seriously owe you one, Kyla."
"You owe me PLENTY, camp-boy! But for now, just get your ass home before the adults start sending search parties into the woods. We don't want them finding this place."
"No problem." I said.
"Good. Now...here." She handed me a cup and poured some cranberry juice in it. "Pretend to have a good time or something." She melted back into the crowd and met up with Jack further down the beach. I saw them talking to a younger boy, maybe 12 years old at the most, who I guessed was Dallas. Short brown hair, big innocent eyes, delicate lips. A small, but visible, beauty mark on his right cheek. And wearing a button down shirt and a pair of jeans. He looked almost too...'decent' to be here. My eyes were strangely drawn to him. He seemed...I don't know...'different' than the rest. It was almost like looking at my soul in the body of someone else. Hard to explain. I saw Jack giving him an abridged version of the plan, and the youngster nodded before heading off to rush back to his house for the right materials. Kyla nodded at me to let me know that everything was square. It was a sigh of relief, believe me. I took a sip of my juice and relaxed a bit. It was just a matter of time now.
"Enjoying that 'moon', Wesley?" I didn't even have to look to know who's voice it was. Especially when I felt is strong fingers creep up and lightly grasp the back of my neck. Cyrus stepped in front of me, an abnormal grin on is face, his gaze fixed deeply on my eyes.
"Um...s-s-sure. Why do you ask?"
"Well, I thought you wanted to have fun. Be a part of the party. And yet, here I find you, once again...all alone."
"Just enjoying a few quiet moments. That's all. Nothing wrong with that, right?" I surprised myself at how well I was keeping everything so calm and collected. Even when I could feel his grasp gently tightening on my neck.
"Moments spent in silence are usually where we discover our true selves." He grinned. "Hopefully I'm not disturbing any soul searching moments for you."
"No...no, I'm cool."
"Good." His hand left my neck, and began to travel down my back until his palm ran over my last remaining scratch marks. "Very good." I felt a sudden burn, and my vision seemed to go completely white for a second as all of my muscled tightened up into a knot at once. I winced in pain, and jumped back from his touch.
"Ah, fuck!" I shouted, feeling my body return to normal again. But my fever wasn't so quick to vanish this time. It burned hotter than ever. Hot enough to scald my skin from the inside, it seemed. Then began to fade ever so slowly into a somewhat comfortable temperature.
"Still not feeling well?" Cyrus smiled. It sounds werd to say it...but I think he hurt me on purpose. It was like...he was the one making me sick.
"Tsk tsk tsk...that's really too bad. You know, if you want, we can take you back to the house. Perhaps we can...cure what ails you at home." Home...the way he said it, you would have thought I had nowhere else to go at all.
"That's alright. It's going away."
"No, Wesley......it's not ever going away." His face got serious, and I suddenly felt that invisible leash of his tighten around my throat until I could hardly breathe.
"Wes...hey, come here. There's some people I want you to meet." Kyla trotted over, thankfully saving the day.
"Evening, Kyla." Cyrus spoke softly, barely turning his head to face her.
"Hey..." She replied, temporarily caught under the blanket of his menacing presence.
"If you have time later, I believe the twins have been searching for another 'special interlude' with you. They SO enjoyed their last one." Kyla was locked into his stare, and didn't say a word. "I'm just throwing that out there. In case you had another.....itch to scratch." Cyrus said with a bit of a cocky sneer, his grin as insulting as its subtlety could manage. With that, I tried to break the both of us away from his control. I took her by the arm and gave him a weak grin as I tried to get her focus back on the plan.
"So who did you want me to meet, huh? I don't wanna miss them." I snapped her out of it, and we started to walk away. "I'll talk to you later, Cyrus."
"I'm sure you will, boy." He never turned back to look at us leaving. Just stared out into the blackness of the lake before him. Damn, I gotta get out of this place.
"So what's up? Are we set?" I asked, and she nodded.
"Yeah. Dallas ran home to get he stuff. He should be on his way back by now."
"Is that him?" I asked, looking off into the distance to see the boy from before stumbling down th steep side of the path with a brown bag in his arms.
She looked out among the crowd for a second, and then spotted him with a squinted eye. "Yeah, that's him. Damn, Wes...good eye."
The boy was slightly out of breath, but made his way over to us pretty quickly. As he got closer, that invisible aura of his became amazingly real for me again. It was such a strange feeling that I got in the back of my mind. It was like...this kid had some kind of special importance above everyone else there. I suppose he was just cute, and maybe it was some crazed hormone out of whack that made me think it could be something else. But deep down, it was almost as though we shared something. Some kind of detailed understanding about life in general. I felt it in the very center of me. So weird.
"I got it. Lots of stuff. Which ones do you want?" He asked.
"Something bright, flashy, and loud. But not too big. It would be like sending up a flare for every cop in the area and lead them right here." Kyla told him.
he boy looked up at me, and gave me a handsome smile. I guess I was staring awfully hard, wasn't I? "Hi. I'm Dallas." He said, his voice such a delightful pitch of cheerful youth. He seemed a bit bashful, but he hid it well. You barely noticed it at all.
"I'm Wesley..." I felt my fever beginning to slowly rise again, and I was afraid that it was about to burn out of control like last time. Anxiety sunk in, and I started to tap my feet impatiently. "Ok, Kyla. When are we gonna do this? I need to get home."
"Hold your horses, I'm looking." She said, digging through the bag. "Ah ha...here. These are perfect."
"You GOT something?"
"Yep! These should buy you a good twenty to thirty seconds to get lost. After that, you're on your own. Got it?"
"Twenty to thirty SECONDS? Are you crazy? I need at LEAST five minutes to get a safe distance away from here!" I told her.
"Hey, it's up to you if you think that they'll be fascinated for that long. But from what I know, the surprise is gonna wear off pretty fast with that bunch. They catch on pretty quick." I sighed and bowed my head, anticipating defeat. "Look, twenty to thirty seconds is all I can get ya, ok? You only need to get up the hill and far enough down the path to not be seen from the beach. After that, you're home free. Cool?" I nodded slowly in reply, and she said, "Good. Now go stand somewhere close enough to the East side so you can make it to the path and up the hill fast. Remember to wait for the music, k? Then run your ASS off!"
"Got it. Thank you, Kyla." I tried to make my way over to the East without giving any clues that I was purposely heading in that direction. I looked around a bit, and the rest of my 'friends' seemed to be lookin the other way. Or drinking. Or focusing on the crowd more than me. So I waited in a corner of the beach behind some large rocks, and listened for the signal.
And I waited.
And I waited.
It seemed like it was taking forever. But I was afraid to stick my head out and see what was wrong. If somebody caught me hiding over here, everything would go to shit. So I waited a bit longer. Dammit! My pulse was racing, and I got even more nervous. I've been gone from the party for too long. They're going to KNOW I'm missing. They've probably already started looking for me. Come on, Kyla. FUCK, KYLA....COME ON!!!!
Just then...the music stopped.
I held my breath for a moment, as the beach fell silent, and my hands were shaking in anticipation of the run I was going to have to make. And then...the sound of whizzing object shot up into the air, followed by two more. I heard the first 'pop' of a firecracker and saw the light illuminate the wall as the sparks came down with a whistle. That's the signal, Wesley! RUN, Wes...*RUN*!!!!
I shot up to my feet just as the cheers of the partying teens witnessed the flares, and ran for the path! My heart was beating so fast that it nearly shut down on me in the first sprint, but I didn't stop! I felt the sand of the beach FLY under my feet at top speed, and the wind did its best to push back against me as I ripped through it. I was hauling ass like never before and JUMPED the first few steps up the hill! The steep slant of the path was hard on my knees and ankles to climb with any kind of speed, but I pushed harder and harder until it had no choice but to let me escalate its dirt covered passage. I felt low hanging branches whip out at my face, bushes and vines tore at my legs threatening to trip me up, if I wasn't careful. But I pressed on until my legs almost gave out on me. Higher and higher I ascended the path, not once looking behind me. I was too frightened to look back. It felt as if Cyrus and his ghouls were just one step behind me with arms stretched. Reaching out. Breathing down my neck. Claws ready to capture me and drag me back. I don't wanna go back! I DON'T WANNA GO BACK!!!
Finally, I reached the top of the cliff, and saw a few more of the fireworks burst over the lake. They were running low, the shower of sparks were getting smaller and smaller. I only had a few seconds left. I was already exhausted and out of breath. I bent over with my hands on my knees, huffing and gasping for air, my chest burning with each inhalation. My body was worn out, but I couldn't stay. No time. I took off running down the darkest side of the forest path that I could find. I literally began to kick up dirt behind me, my hands stretched out in front of me to block some of the damaging foiliage racing towards my face at the speed I was moving. I didn't stop. No matter how much it hurt. No matter how badly my muscles ached. I kept going. My legs became so weak that I started to trip over myself, but I only fell to one knee, and got back up to keep running. My hands were covered with mud, my clothes now decorated with nature's rips and tears. My breath was coming out so hard that I began to whimper involuntarily with every gasp. And then...I heard something behind me.
Something heavy. Large. Running, what seemed like, TEN TIMES faster than I was. It was galloping hard, breaking branches along the way. I HEARD it! I KNOW I heard it! I kept moving, kept pushing, kept fighting the branches in front of me. A rush of blinding hysteria washed over me and I became breathless in my persuit to keep running. I looked back this time, and it was too fucking dark to really make out any details! But there was something behind me! Something huge. A dark form that clouded everything around it...and it was determined to catch me! The object behind me was gaining ground so fast that it quickly became clear that my running away was useless. The galloping shape stomped down hard on the forest floor, shaking it beneath my feet, and got closer and closer with every step! No matter how hard I pushed, my body was ready to give out! I couldn't keep this up for much longer. And just when I couldn't take anymore without my heart exploding...I saw a small thicket of bushes ahead on the side of the path, and I forced myself to dive into their dark protection without even caring WHAT I landed on!
I landed on my chest, a rock digging into the side of my stomach, but the panic inside completely numbed me from the pain. I swiveled around to stop the branches from moving, and held my breath. Every muscle in my body ached and spasmed from overexertion. And my heart was beating so hard and fast that I was sure that whatever was chasing me could hear it from a mile away. Calm down Wes. Calm down. Easy now. I waited in those bushes, too scared to look, too scared NOT to look. I held myself completely still, listening for every sound around me that could possibly be a threat. My hands were shaking so bad that I had to grab two handfulls of my shirt just to keep them from rattling the bushes around me. I listened...too frightened to breathe. And I heard...nothing. Nothing at all.
And I waited.
And I waited.
Not a sound. Not a single breath, or a gallop, or a broken twig. What if this is a trick? What if....what if I move, and it gets me? What if that's exactly what it's waiting for? I waited for whatever it was following me to get maybe get bored and leave. Or possibly make some kind of noise that would give me an idea of its location. My mind was flooded with thoughts of some monsterous creature reaching out and snatching my head right off of my shoulders if I so much as blinked an eye. So I sat and waited. I felt a tickle on my sweaty arm and looked down to see a giant centipede crawling across it. A sudden reaction caused me to jerk and fling it off of me, making the bushes rattle. Shit! I closed my eyes and prayed hard to God Almighty that I hadn't been found out. But as time went on, and a few more minutes passed, I heard the faint sounds of music begin again in the background from Rainbow's End, and my mind began to settle into a more rational state. I slowly, cautiously, peeked over the bushes, and didn't see anything. It was still dark, so I took the time to scan the area carefully. But I couldn't find any trace at all of another presence in those wodds. So I stood up on shakey knees, and lightly brushed the dead leaves out of my hair.
I took a baby step out onto the path again, still lightly brushing debris off of myself, and craning my neck around to investigate every nook and cranny of those woods, both near to me and in the distance. Luckily, there was nothing. So I limped a little with my hand on my side. The pain of my dive really starting to manifest itself as my adrenaline rush began to tire out. I winced in pain, and lifted my shirt to see an obscenely huge black and blue bruise. I touched it with a finger and nearly screamed outloud. Instead, I kept it to a hiss through gritted teeth. I lowered my shirt back down and began walking down the path again. To comfort. To safety. Home.
There was no more running for me. I doubt I had so much as a fifteen second jog left in me at this point. I was so dirty that I could feel the grit between my fingers. And I think I bloodied my nose somehow from the fall. But I soon was able to get a decent pace going, and crossed the line back to camp. I made it. I can't believe it worked. I'm never going back there again. I've only got a week left in this place, and then I'm out of here for good. I should have left it alone when I had the chance.
I got all the way up to the road that Father Johnson's cabin was on, and could see the house in the distance. Geez...what do I tell my mom? What do I tell my DAD? 'Sorry I ditched camp, but I took off in a truck with a bunch of juvenile deliquents, cursed at strangers, involved myself in several orgies, and then started diving through trees and bushes while trying to escape a figment of my imagination.' I'm sure it happens all the time. Sighhh...he's gonna skin me alive, I just know it. Honestly? I don't know WHAT I'm going to say, but there isn't going to be too much for me to hide except for the sex. I'm probably going to have to come clean about most of the other stuff. Shit...Casey saw me at the supermaret. What if he tells his uncle and his uncle tells my dad. I'm pretty much stuck with at LEAST 80 percent of the truth on this one. This is WORSE than playing pranks with Darryl. And if my dad would send me here for something I DIDN'T do...imagine what he'll do to me for THIS particular situation.
I limped up the old road, and was almost to the cabin, when I saw some lights up ahead. I thought at first that they might just be fireflies or something, but they didn't move. And the light didn't go out. As I got closer, my eyes piercing through the dark, the lights vanished. That's when I saw the horrifying sight right there in front of me.
"I hope you enjoyed your late night 'stroll', Wesley." Cyrus was sitting there on the steps leading up to the front porch of the cabin...waiting for me. They all were. I stopped in my tracks. Tired, disheveled, holding my side, my face covered in dirt, grime, and a trickle of blood. I didn't move an inch. And they all stared me down with angry faces. Silent. Deathly silent. Cyrus stood up, and casually walked over to me while the others watched closely. Their bodies looking 'un-relaxed', ready to strike if the need presented itself.
"Cyrus....Cyrus, look...I can explain..."
"Sure you can. I know." He said, a mock sense of friendship radiating from his every pore. "You were out getting a breath of fresh air, and accidently wandered your way back home. Is that it?" He said.
"Please....just...let me go inside. Ok? I'm really tired, I've had a long day..."
"Quiet." He said.
"I said QUIET!" He gritted his teeth, and his eyes burned a hole right through me. "Save your pathetic whining for a lesser animal. Don't you DARE make excuses in front of me." He stepped closer, until we were almost touching. "I'm trying to give you a gift, Wesley. A very special gift. Power...without struggle. Protection...without error. Sex...without obligation. Aggression...without guilt. I'm handing you the best cards in the deck, boy. And how do you repay me?"
"Cyrus, I told you....I just wanted to go home." I begged.
"You rewarded my kindness with betrayal and lies. You ran off like some frightened cockroach under the kitchen sink. Why?" He was angry, and I couldn't tell if he was holding back or not. I looked over his shoulder at the others, and not a single one of them offered me any comfort. Not even Dex, who was usually the nicest of the bunch. Instead, they sat united behind him...daring me to move. Daring me to say one word out of line. I knew, without a doubt, that they'd beat me into the dust if Cyrus gave them the order. There wouldn't be a moment's hesitation. "I'm going to tell you what I'm going to do, Wesley. I'm going to give you three days. Three days to change your mind and take your rightful place at my side. After that...the game is over."
"I don't want to play anymore, Cyrus. Don't you get it? I'm happy with what you tried to do for me, and I understand that you guys were looking for someone to stick around, but...I'm not the one you need. Ok? I...I'm just not that guy."
"I don't think you understand, Wes..." Cyrus said, his eyes now beginning to generate a supernatural golden glow as he stepped even closer. "...You made a committment to us. It's not as simple as backing out of a parking space, you belong to me...or you belong to no one."
A chill ran through me, and I asked, "What is that supposed to mean?"
"It means that accidents happen to those who don't fulfill their duties. Those who don't keep their promises." He said. "Just look at what happened to Jonah and Simone." His eyes flared up at me, unashamed. And all of the others stood up in unison, their hidden signal triggered to act as one unit. "Karma's a bitch, isn't it?"
I didn't say anything, just stood there with my mouth open. Then...finally, I straightened up, and held my fear as far down inside the pit of my stomach as I could. "Can I go now?" I asked, hoping a small bit of feigned bravery would be enough to amuse him to the point of letting me go.
Then, I saw this unnatural grin curl up in the corners of his mouth, stretching out much further than I would imagine. I watched in horror as his jaw slightly popped, and his smile widened back further than humanly possible. A long stream of saliva dripped from the side of his mouth, and his eyes glowed with more intensity. His voice had deepened to the growl of an eight hundred pound bear from the sound of it. And with a heavy breath, he said..."Don't let me stop you."
It was like hearing the voice of Satan himself...deep, dark, layered with a frightening tone of evil and joy combined. I stepped back, not believing my eyes at all. Was this real? Was this a part of my fever? With trembling hands, I tried to move forward. Cyrus didn't budge however. None of them did. They stood still and waited for me to move around them. When I got to the porch, the twins stood in front of the door, and made me squeeze between them in order to pass.
"One more thing, Wesley..." Cyrus said, turning around, his facial features back to normal as well as his voice. "...If you decide that you need to find us later...and you will...you can meet us at Rainbow's End. We'll be waiting for you." He grinned briefly, letting it fade again before my eyes. "Three days...boy."
With that, they all walked off of my porch. I saw Scout give me the most sickening grin of delight, as he finally got to see me fall slightly out of Cyrus' favor. He took Cyrus by the hand, and gleefully looked back at me in total satisfaction. Kristin blew me a kiss as she left, and the twins purposely bumped my shoulder as they trailed the others. They only looked back once before beginning their way down the road. Disappearing into the darkness. Three days? What happens in three days? Something has seriously gone bad about all of this. And I'm going to need help...REAL help....to get out of it.