It wasn't difficult at all for Payton to simply be drawn into the festivities going on around him once his new 'friends' got involved. He couldn't really explain it, but they had this strange way of making even the most mundane situations seem like they were the party of the century, and he'd be missing out if he didn't take part. He couldn't really work out why. They just seemed to be so....liberated in thought and deed when compared to everybody else in this place. Or everybody else, period. They were probably the easiest group of friends that Payton had ever made in his life. They were so quick to just 'adopt' him into their little select group of elitist troublemakers...and they hardly ever questioned him or made him feel even the least bit insecure about much of anything concerning who he was as a person. Even as the proverbial 'new kid' on the block...he seemed to get a level of love, freedom, and respect, from them that he had never known before back home. It was exhilarating and unexpected...and it gave him a private rush of adrenaline beneath the surface of his nonchalant exterior every time they encouraged him to express himself honestly. Where most people examined Payton's every move...his past and his present...his appearance and the carefully selected words of his conversation...these NEW kids encouraged Payton to be as impulsive and spontaneous as possible at all times of the day and night. They LOVED him for it. Even applauded him for it. Every other boy in that tiny town was constantly looking for new ways to categorize him, and even themselves in relation to him, right off the bat. They asked invasive questions in order to figure out how 'safe' or 'unsafe' he was, or to see what certain stereotypical, cookie cutter, box they could put him in concerning his identity. A generalized, totally uninformed, 'label' of their own creation that they could permanently brand on his backside with this...harsh, almost 'vindictive', fire. Forever attached in association with his name or any random sighting of his likeness, with this...social 'super glue'. One that forever prevented them from ever seeing him as anything else after their judgement was passed.
And yet...these new kids just had their own fun...like....ALL the time. They had their own opinions, lived their own lives, and were more than happy to have a different boy with a different perspective of life along for their very entertaining ride through their existence in these woods. They didn't care about bullshit social politics. They just...they really made Payton feel comfortable. Even when they were being undeniably 'wild' in public. And that's a really admirable quality when living in a world of teenagers. Where everyone is trying to be the 'poster boy' for normal and popular and sexy....and the only way they know how to achieve that is by totally copying somebody else that they perceive to be....'normal'...and 'popular'....and 'sexy'.
The teens Payton was running with now...provided a much needed alternative to zombifying himself to fit in with the rest of the town.
The small festival they were submerging themselves in, stretched out for about three blocks in all directions. Naturally, all of the main street stores were closed, but they took advantage of the opportunity to bring some of their merchandise out into the streets to have little sidewalk sales that night. It had a mild 'carnival' atmosphere to it, and Payton's new brethren dragged him through it like toddlers would their parents through the world's biggest toy store, shouting and giggling all the way.
"Payton! Dude, come here!" Rocky said, as he and Murphy came back to join the group. Now Rocky...even though he was known for being a bit of a hot head most of the time, could also really attach himself to one or two specific people at any given time. And he really made you feel worthy of his attention too when it happened. He rotated his focus from day to day, but once someone was in his favor...they stayed there in that spotlight until he decided to move on to somebody else. He could get extremely ANGRY if he felt disconnected or like his favorite boy might have left his side for too long. But it wasn't meant to be malicious. Not at all. If anything, his temporary dependency on Payton's constant attention was almost flattering...coming from a true sense of brotherhood. It was something that Payton wasn't used to. Especially from another boy. They usually have 'boundary' issues. "You aren't drinking enough liquor! What's the matter with you?" Rocky asked, his English accent seemed so exotic to people in this town. But he was hardly one to be considered 'approachable' by a majority of the good hearted folks that lived there. Rocky was 16 years old, and out of all the others...he was probably the one who reminded Payton most of the 'bad' kids that he met in Juvie. Those supposedly hopeless boys who were just 'trouble' for no other reason than they found it funny to see other people suffer and get aggravated from something that they put into motion. Rocky was slim, but he had a hard body, with biceps and a well defined six pack. An ass that Payton would sacrifice a freakin' GOAT to a pagan god just to get the chance to smash his face against it! And there was something about such a proper accent being associated with such a devious mind that made him intoxicating. His smooth melodic voice seemed to be so damn SEXY to Payton that he couldn't deny it if he tried. But...somehow, Payton got the feeling that approaching him in a...'gay' way...would force him to catch a beat down of epic proportions. So he was to be admired from a distance at all times. Close cut, strawberry blond hair, and wicked brown eyes that remained dark even on the sunniest of days.
Payton moved over to get closer to him, cautiously, but quickly. "What?"
Rocky kept a flask on his waist at all times. A big one. It was more like a canteen full of a stomach churning concoction of his own making. He pulled it out, and instantly, Payton began to shake his head in refusal. But Rocky persisted. "Come on, now. Quit being a baby. You have to drink."
"Can I ask why?"
"Because I'M drinking, that's why. And if I'm drinking, you're drinking. Don't want you thinking you can take advantage of me while you're all sober and the rest of us are 'wandering pig' drunk. So sip."
Payton tried to resist again, but Rocky practically grabbed the back of his head and forced the flask up to his lips. Payton heard the others laugh as they watched Payton surrender to the peer pressure and open his once tightened lips to let the alcohol rush over his tongue. Luke warm liquid that burned like fire once it got past his tonsils. An instant blast of dizziness attacked his senses, as his sinuses were pried open, and his stomach nearly cramped from the impact of the invading substance. "JESUS CHRIST!!!" Payton sputtered as Rocky gave him an opportunity to breathe again.
"Ohhhh...Jesus had nothing to do with THIS particular mixture, buddy boy." Rocky giggled, taking a swig himself and frowning up a bit from the harsh flavor of it.
"What the hell *IS* that shit???"
"Hell if I know." Rocky smirked. "But I'll bet Otto could develop his photos with it." No sooner had the words left Rocky's mouth, a bright flash nearly blinded them both from the side, and they raised their hands to protect their eyes from the nearly blinding explosion. "Otto! Will you put that blasted thing away for ONE night?"
Payton didn't know Otto that well, but he was another member of their little clique of teenagers. He was a bit more quiet than the others. Not 'shy' really, just a bit of an oddball that didn't have much to say most of the time. Conversations with him could be somewhat awkward at best to the others. But those piercing brown eyes of his spoke volumes without him having to waste the oxygen. Especially when put up against the contrast of his golden hair. He was about 14 years old, and had this almost unhealthy fascination with taking pictures of everything in sight. And with this old Polaroid camera too. One that spit the pics out and they developed in your hands while you watched. Payton couldn't figure out why he did it that way, or how he was able to buy soooo much film to support his addiction. But Otto never stopped. He kept that camera around his neck and practically glued to his face. A mask to filter his reality...and create an angle that everyone could accept and appreciate. His angle. It was Otto's 'home'. His self expression. His safety net. Such a strange boy.
Rocky turned back to Payton, and put an arm over his shoulder. "Listen...we've got BIG plans for you this weekend. We need you to sneak away from your mum and spend some time with the rest of us. Trust me, you're gonna love this! It'll cure whatever ails ya."
"I...I don't know, Rocky. My mom kinda had this whole...'thing' planned for us to spend some time together this weekend..."
"I am totally gonna GAG if he says he would rather spend time with his MOM than partying with the rest of us." The girl's name was Natalia. A 16 year old lolita in the making. Long blond hair, and dark eye shadow applied in excess around her dark hazel eyes. She had the kind of tilt to her voice that made every word she spoke sound as though it was quoted from Satan's bible. There was a wickedness in her that she couldn't hide. Nor did she try to.
"Of COURSE not! You wouldn't say that, would you, Payton? It's gonna be a fucking mind trip, trust us! We're gonna give you something that you could really use. Something that'll make your bollocks turn flips in your sack!" Rocky asked, looking him right in the eyes as he pressed his forehead to his. And then....another big flash from Otto's camera, seeing an opportunity to freeze the moment. Rocky's face changed right in front of me, and this surge of anger caused him to grumble and grit his teeth. His biceps flexed in anger, and he quickly turned towards Otto to point a finger in his face. "WHAT did I just fucking SAY? Huh??? You're gonna fuck around and get BASHED tonight for being a freak! Hear me boy?" Otto was silent, backing down from Rocky's challenge at first. But as soon as Rocky turned his head, Otto took another picture, and snickered to himself. This nearly caused Rocky to fly completely off the handle and he started stomping his way towards Otto as though he was about to strangle him to death. "ONE more picture!!! You hear me, you dodgy bastard??? ONE more!!!"
Luckily, Murphy took more of a big brother role, and reached out to stop Rocky from jumping on him. "Hey hey hey, now...Rocky, calm down." Murphy said. "Otto...take a break with the flashes. Ok? Do it for us." Otto made no such promise. But for now, he lowered the camera and kept it at his side. "Payton, what Rocky's trying to say, in his own sweet and elegant way...is that we plan to have some very interesting 'adventures' in the next few days. Out here in these woods...just us. We want you to join us."
Payton looked at him sideways for a moment, again being overwhelmed by the strange feeling that they were being just a bit too welcoming for a group of mischievous kids that didn't know him from a hole in the ground. "I don't think I can. But...you know, I'll...I'll think about it." Payton answered, and there was an extremely uncomfortable silence that followed that statement. It brought a chill to him, even on this warm Summer night. It wasn't often that these kids heard the word 'no'. They didn't take to it too kindly.
Hearing a loud belch that was almost loud enough to blow Payton's hair up, he turned to see Bear standing right behind him. More like towering over him, actually. Bear was 18 years old and built like a cross between a grizzly and a charging bull on steroids. He looked as if he could turn a car over on its side with a single hand and an angry thought....easily. But despite his intimidating 6 foot, 1 inch, bulky frame and round belly...Bear could actually be somewhat of a gentle giant on most occasions. He was VERY protective of the entire bunch. But push his temper to a point of pissing him off...and it'll take ten circus strongmen and an elephant to pull him off of anyone causing his 'family' a moment's stress. That was a game that he didn't play, and wouldn't tolerate. He was certainly a force to be reckoned with. One that made sure that everyone would want to stay on his 'good' side at all times. "How long are we going to walk around this pathetic little bullshit 'celebration'? Huh? I wanna get into some evil tonight!" Bear said, crushing his beer can and tossing it recklessly over his shoulder.
Murphy turned to Payton, and gave him a grin as an idea popped into his head. "Well...it's Payton here that needs to be initiated into our private little 'club' here. Why don't we let him decide?"
"Me? What do I know?" Payton asked innocently.
"Absolutely nothing. And that's a plus. It's random...it's unpredictable...I like it."
"But...I don't know anything about this town, yet."
"You've only got four directions to choose from, Payton. North, South, East, West. Choose." Murphy said, his smile widening by the minute.
"Um...are you...being serious right now, or...?" Payton had to ask. The misfit band of boys and girls weren't the most stable kids on the block. That was for sure. But Murphy's dark smile was contagious, even as he refused to answer Payton's question. "Sighhh...well..." Payton looked around at the roads on either side of them, seeing them disappear into darkness in all directions as they traveled from the main street celebration, and vanished into the woods and mountains. Then...looking up at the night sky, he said, "Well...why don't we just follow the full moon? It's the only light we're going to have to go by anyway beyond a certain point, right?" Payton shrugged his shoulders as another uncomfortable moment of silence passed. And then all of the others looked at one another and burst out laughing in unison.
At first, Payton thought that maybe he had said something wrong. Something 'stupid'. This wave of humiliation began to creep over both of his shoulders as Murphy waved his hand to quiet the others. "Ok, folks...we had a chuckle about it, yes. But, I for one...think that young Payton here has made an EXCELLENT suggestion." Murphy used his fingers to lift Payton's eyes from his shoes to look at the rest of the group in front of him. "We'll follow the moon tonight. Following the moon...is what we do." Murphy told him, and then looked over his shoulder. "One of you lovely people go find Reggie and Anoki in this mess of a party, and tell them that we're going to find ourselves another special 'activity' for the evening. It's about time our new recruit got to know us a little bit better. Don't ya think?"
Natalia and Otto took the job without question, but before leaving, Otto snapped one more super bright picture of Murphy and I standing together. Rocky was unfortunately close enough to be sucker punched by the flash himself, and angrily stomped on the ground. "You little FUCKER!!!"
"Let him be, Rocky. Chillax." Murphy commanded, watching as Otto smiled wickedly and skipped off to look for the others. He slipped an arm over Payton's shoulder to bring him closer. Almost uncomfortably so. Payton's attractions were always much more under control when he wasn't in direct contact with them. Especially with this particular bunch. There was something about them that enchanted him beyond reason. In fact, that was how he met Rocky and Murphy in the first place. Sneaking peeks at them as they walked through town...their apparent beauty practically calling out to him. It was almost as if he couldn't resist the urge to touch them. Their very presence was soooo sexual in nature. Not because of anything that they DID...but because of what they WERE. "We're going to have soooo much fun, you and I." Murphy grinned, and gave Payton a noogie on the top of his head while he tried to ignore the fact that Murphy's scent was so clean and sweet. His skin was soft...and warm. And Murphy's smile could cause your heart to skip beats if he caught you off guard with it. "Rocky...Payton's throat is dry again." Rocky was quick to grab his flask and unscrew the top as he approached. Payton began to cringe, as he knew the pressure of not drinking was probably worse than the stinging taste of the drink itself. Sure enough, seconds later, Rocky was holding Payton's nose and pouring another healthy dose of pure poison into his open mouth. At least two and a half swallows worth. Payton was no stranger to alcohol, but his drinking wasn't as uninhibited as theirs was. They never stopped. Payton doubted that he had seen any of them go much longer than a few consecutive minutes without pressing SOMETHING up against their lips.
"Thatta boy!" Rocky said, and slapped Payton hard on the back, causing him to cough and gasp for air. "Follow the moon, eh? I like the way this boy thinks."
Murphy reached for the flask next, but Rocky swiftly pulled it back to take a couple swallows for himself before handing it over. Payton watched as Murphy then turned the flask upside down and took big loud gulps from the container. A feat that Payton could NEVER do without hurling all over himself. Then...while he was drinking, purely by accident, he was bumped rather hard from behind. Someone ran into him and it caused his arm to move, spilling some alcohol on his face and his shirt.
"Excuse me. I'm sorry. Very sorry." Came a voice from behind him, and there was a tall boy standing there, maybe about 17 years old and a bit on the chubby side. Charlie Haynes. He was what the townspeople would call 'a little bit off'. Charlie had a mental disability that pretty much kept him in the mind state of a child. Mildly mentally retarded, but certainly not a danger to anybody. Himself included. Still...just from the look on Murphy's face, Payton could see an instant problem beginning to reach its boiling point.
"Watch where you're going, you fucking retard!" Murphy sneered.
"So sorry. Very sorry."
"Blah, blah, blah! Sorry, sorry, blah blah! Whatever! Look at my fucking SHIRT!" Murphy said, and he actually gave Charlie a bit of a shove. Something that Payton thought was totally unnecessary. "How many times...has one of us had to tell you to watch where the hell you're going??? Huh? How many times?"
"I'm sorry. So sorry." Charlie was being sincere, but Murphy stared at him with eyes of pure hatred. And the strange thing is, from the very second that Charlie bumped him, it was as if Rocky, Bear, and Celeste all stopped everything that they were doing and turned to stand united against him. It was something that Payton had noticed a few times before, whenever there was any sort of aggression directed at someone or a group of people...they all lined up like soldiers ready for war. There was this unspoken bond between them that was instantly transmitted at a moment's notice. And not a single one of them ever hesitated to answer. Not one.
Payton saw Rocky shove poor Charlie from behind with a giggle, and he and Murphy surrounded him, staring him down as the boy cringed and his hands began to shake a bit as they intimidated him with their anger. "Why don't you go back to the party, Charlie. Go back and stay the hell away from us. You HEAR me?" Murphy said, staring him in the face. And...with his head down, Charlie turned to hurry away from the trouble he had gotten himself into. Rocky stepped in front of him to block his passage...but Murphy gave him the nod to let him pass. Charlie walked away with his head down, but Rocky cleared his throat, and then hocked up a nasty ball of mucus and actually SPIT it onto the back of Charlie's neck, causing him to run away, wiping it off with his bare hands and just trying to stay away from them. Payton couldn't believe that Rocky actually found that FUNNY. And suddenly...that feeling of acceptance and brotherhood among this group of misfits was suddenly ruined. Payton might have gotten into trouble a few times, sure...but he wasn't heartless. Not like they were.
Murphy stepped forward, giving Charlie a threatening and bitter stare as he moved back into the heart of the party. Unmoving....silent...Murphy seemed to have his wheels turning. That couldn't be good.
Payton had to speak. "You know...he didn't deserve that. Charlie doesn't hurt anybody."
"He OFFENDS me with his very presence. He offends ALL of us." Murphy said, his evil eyes now accompanied with a mischievous smile. "He doesn't belong here. And I think it's time that we get rid of that freak."
Payton was amazed. Insulted. "Why? Don't mess with him, he's just a kid like we are."
Rocky laughed at the idea, and Murphy turned his attention to Payton. "No...NOT like we are. That boy is a DEFECT in this town. A blemish on our record. A disgusting weed in out garden that needs to be plucked out of the ground and burned before it can do any more harm."
Payton wrinkled his forehead, almost ashamed to be a part of this. It was one of those times when he truly wondered why he continued to be lured into the nighttime games. He shouldn't be around this. Not at all.
Rocky spoke up and said, "C'mon, man. Let's forget about the mental reject and refill on some 'happy juice' in this flask before we take off for the woods."
"Right. Go for it, we'll stay here." Murphy said quietly...but then he focused his eyes on the crowd of people again...staring a hole right through Charlie's back. There was such a sense of disgust on his face. Such a feeling of resentment. Payton couldn't understand it at all. And that's when Murphy quietly said to himself, "Yeah...we'll take care of him. I'm tired of even looking at him. We'll see. We'll see....."
While Payton and his newfound friends were submitting themselves to the festivities taking place in the light...Bryce and Fletcher, instead....had found their place just outside the perimeter of that illumination. Finding more comfort in the silence and solitude...of darkness.
"Bryce? What are you thinking about?" Fletcher asked as he and his vampire companion walked down the other side of the hill to meet up with their friends.
"Who was that boy? The one you were talking to?"
"Nobody. I mean...I don't know. He said he just moved here not long ago." Bryce answered.
Fletcher, ever the inquisitive one, gave Bryce a short pause before bashfully asking him, "Do you like him?"
"What???" Bryce snapped back. "I...NO. I don't even know him."
"Well, I mean...he seems like he's your 'type' and all, you know?"
"How do you know what my 'type' is? I don't even know if *I* know what my type is yet."
But Fletcher just giggled. "Yes you DO. You go all bonkers and stuff when it comes to those silent brooding boys. The really cute, dark haired, bad boy image makes you wet, hehehe! You know it does."
Bryce tried to keep it together, but he let a smile spread out on his face regardless as he looked over at his best friend. "Hehehe....yeah, he was pretty cute, though, wasn't he?" He chuckled. "He's...sighhh...he's human though. And he's got some...'baggage' that he's carrying around with him..." Bryce felt a slight sensation of disappointment throbbing in his chest as he thought about....the 'things' he saw in Payton's mind. The awful things that he had weighing heavily on his backside. "...Everybody's not cut out to be one of us. You know?"
"One of us??? Really? I was just talking about you getting some butt action going! Hehehe, I didn't think you were talking an eternal relationship, here!" Fletcher teased playfully. "Maybe you can get some eternity bands and test them out. See if it's true LOVE!" Bryce gave Fletcher a pinch on the side of his abdomen, and he yelped out loud with a grin.
"Did somebody say relationship???" Came a voice from the dark woods beside them, and their new friend, Jayzon, came hopping out of the shadows. Jayzon was about 15 years old, and a real 'boy next door' kinda cutie. Long blond spikes on his head, a killer smile, and blue eyes that seemed to glow in the dark, even through his optrix. He had brown eyes when he was still in daylight, but since he had to wear optrix anyway to hide his natural glow...he figured why not change it up a little? "You thinking about siring somebody ALREADY? I mean...I know that there's a lot of cute guys around here...but it's only been a few weeks. You should play the field a bit more. At least until you've seen all the available eye candy out there."
"I'm NOT thinking of siring anybody. Fletcher's just being weird." Bryce said, giving Fletcher a look to silently tell him to stop talking so much around the others.
"Good. Because Elijah likes to know that stuff ahead of time. Room is limited, you know." Jayzon walked with the two boys to meet the others. There were 8 vampires all together in this particular nest...and they had some dark activities of their own to get into tonight. Activities that would eventually cost some lone member of this small town....their blood. Their essence. And inevitably...their life.