"Something different?" I asked. "What am I supposed to take from a statement like that?"
Colby lowered his eyes about as deep into the dirt below as I've ever seen. "Deacon...I ain't quite like you. Or nobody like you. Tucker or Ahote, either. We come off as….different. You understand?"
"Different, like how?" I asked, insulted by the fact the one boy I could never see a flaw in would tell me a lie about who or what he really was from the very beginning.
"Different like...you know...different." He said. "Listen, the reason that you probably ain't never seen me moving around town is because...we can't be out in the sunlight. Not like you can. The dawn comes up over the horizon, and it pushes us into a long sleep. We have to find places to avoid the light to keep from being burned by it. We ain't got no choice, Deke. It's just how we have to live."
I was trying my darnedest to work it all out in my head, but I can't say that I was truly grasping the concept of it all. Was Colby, like...an actual, regular, fella? Or was he some sort of an animal? I couldn't quite tell. And I couldn't quiet my mind enough to let him step any closer to me in that moment. Who is he? What is he? How am I supposed to ever cross his path again without looking at him in an odd manner? This ain't right. Nothing about this feels like it's supposed to feel.
"Deke?" He asked. "Can you please say something? Because the look on your face makes me think that you're still afraid."
Frowning slightly, with a fluttering of nervous jitters in my chest, I spoke up and asked, "Did...did y'all do that bad thing to Ms. Samson from the school house?"
Colby looked away from me. So did his two friends at the side of him. "Deke…"
"You DID do it! Didn't you?" I demanded to know the truth, and his avoiding gaze told me all that I needed to know.
"We didn't target her specifically, ok? We was getting thirsty. She was alone..."
"So y'all jumped on her and made her out to be some sort of sacrifice? Is that what y'all done?" I said, feeling the tears well up in my eyes over having been so easily deceived. "She ain't never done nothing to nobody."
"I know that." Colby said.
"So why did you kill her, then???" I sniffled.
With a deep breath, he replied, "Because we had to, Deacon. We...we need blood to survive. Human blood. There was no other way."
My breath was getting short, a sense of panic creeping all through me as I allowed myself to come to terms with what he was trying to tell me. "You...you kill people…?"
Tucker stepped forward and said, "It ain't no different than when your daddy breaks a chicken's neck toput some meat on your table!"
Colby tried to hush him up. "TUCKER! Let me handle this, will ya?"
"Don't you let this daylight boy make you feel bad for who you are." He said. "He lives his way, and we live ours. Can't see why we have to butt heads about it like a couple of stubborn goats."
"You MURDERED Ms. Samson!" I shouted.
"Yeah, we did. And her blood was just as sweet and fulfilling as any other." Tucker sneered, almost causing me to rush him and get to swing on that smug son of a bitch for his blatantly casual take on the whole situation. But Colby stopped me. He put his hand on my chest to calm me down from being so fired up, and as much as I hated to admit it...the relentless presentation of his natural beauty wouldn't allow my highly craved emotions to rest.
"Deacon...please, let me talk to you for a spell. I'll explain it all, I promise." Colby said. "And, if you decide to holler at me afterward and never talk to me again...I'll understand. Lord bless, I swear I will. Just...give me a chance to come clean with you before you make your choice. Alright?"
My whole body vibrating with terror, I said, "I don't know about this, Colby. This is more than I can handle right now."
"I understand. Truly, I do. But just give me a few moments of time to make my thoughts official to ya...and then you can accept or deny as you see fit. Can that be our deal? Between you and me?" He asked.
I was hesitant. Sure I was. But...Colby had me turned all sideways when it came to finally finding something that made me feel like I had a reason and a purpose for being, you know? That all of this excess love in my heart had finally gone and found a direction as to where to send it. And who to send it to. But...it was a lie. Wasn't it? The temptation of a demon, just like the ones the Bible talked about. It made me feel as though I was giving in to a profound weakness within me. As though I was willing to fall for the devil's trickery and embrace a wickedness that was never meant to be a part of my reality.
This is why boys don't love other boys. This is why I was so ‘wrong' in thinking that finding another fella so attractive, even one as pretty as Colby was, would simply be ok. It's not ok, is it? It's a product of demonic temptation, and I fell for it. The sucker that I am.
Lord almighty is gonna punish me good for letting my faith slip like I done. I felt like...I should be ashamed. I really did.
And yet, there was something so sincere in Colby's pleading for me to hear his side of the story...that I became curious as to whether or not he would be able to convince me that he was anything more than the monster that I expected him to be. What could he tell me to change my mind? What could he possibly say to prevent me from dismissing his murderous acts? I doubt that it could be much. But my intellectual curiosity remained, nonetheless.
Colby pulled me way over to the side, both of us walking a bit further into the woods while Ahote and Tucker stayed behind. Ahote seemed to be alright with it all, but Tucker was a bit more aggressive in his stare, wondering whether or not I was worthy of even knowing about them. I felt funny. Like I didn't belong here with the likes of them. But Colby did save me from the coyotes. And he ain't given me no call to think that he was dangerous. But...then again...most snakes bite without warning, don't they?
Any boy that was less pretty would have been rejected in a heartbeat. But I'm supposing that it was my fancy towards him that really kept me stuck to him the way I was. I couldn't seem to let him go. Fear kept me shaking, and the idea of an unholy temptation made me shiver on the inside. But it was the feel of his hand grasping mine, the palm on palm contact, that kept me following him into the darkness of the woods around us. I kept telling myself that I shouldn't go...but I found myself going anyways. Funny how much power your heart and deepest cravings has over your daily senses.
"Deacon...I was gonna tell you about us eventually." Colby said. "I just...I didn't know how is all. You've gotta believe me."
Waiting for a moment, feeling my heart hurt on the inside, I said, "Are you going to hurt me now?"
"What? Hurt you?"
"Are you gonna do to me what you did to the people in town?" I asked, afraid of his answer.
"No! Lord, no!" He said, and tried to hug me, but I stepped back from him. "Deke...I wouldn't ever do anything to hurt you, ok? Not you." He seemed mighty insulted by my suspicions of his every intention towards me, and as the tears welled up in his eyes, I noticed that unfamiliar ‘glow' pouring through. Spookiest thing I ever did see, I tell ya. But I just looked away to keep from having it terrify me any more than it already had. "All I ever wanted was to come and talk to you every now and then. Spend some time. And maybe look you over when I got the feeling to do so. That's all. Everything else was strictly genuine."
"Were you gonna make a corpse out of me?" I sniffled, sadly.
"NO!!! I'd never do no such a thing!" He said. "Please don't be cross with me, Deke. I don't think I could bear it if you thought I'd prey upon you and your kinfolk for the sake of the thirst. That ain't who I am."
"But...you gotta prey on somebody." I said. "Why not me? Why the townsfolk? How am I supposed to know when it's my time to be a necessary snack for one of y'all in the middle of the night? Seems foolish to think it won't ever be me."
The hurt in Colby's defeated eyes was so exquisite that I found it hard to look at it directly. Was it a confirmation of my deepest fears...or a denial that set precedent between us on how utterly ridiculous that sounded to him?
Colby leaned back against a tree, and we both remained silent for a spell before he said, "Despite what you might think of me, I ain't no monster. K?"
Reluctantly...I told him, "I don't think you're a monster."
"Yes, you do."
"No...I just...I ain't quite sure how to figure out what you're telling me right now, Colby." I said. "Maybe this don't seem all that shocking to you, but...to me? To me, this feels like emotional dynamite. Pardon me if I feel the need to ask you to give me a minute to work it out in my head." Another long silence passed between us, but I found myself peeking up at his beauty again. Almost involuntarily. It's pretty darn difficult to avert your eyes from a face so smooth and sweet as the one that Colby been blessed with. Even now...I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of any source of evil being cloaked in such an attractive package as the one Colby had presented to me. I've been dreaming about this boy. I touched him. I let him touch me. And my heart won't let him go. I'm just too stuck on him to turn away now.
"I'm sorry, Deke." He whispered, a stray tear sliding down his cheek.
"Sorry? Sorry for what?"
"For what I am." He sniffled. "For what I do."
I suddenly felt bad for what I said to him. It probably wasn't the best of my moments in life. But what did he expect? Just dealing with the fact that I fancied another boy the way most people would fancy Sarah Cutler was enough to throw me into a whole new world that I couldn't quite navigate and understand without any help. That alone was almost too much for me to handle. And now this? Whatever this was?
"I'd be lying if I said that this didn't get my feathers all ruffled up..." I told him, and looked down at my feet as I added, "...But it don't change how I feel about you none."
With a touch of surprise, Colby raised his chin and asked, "Really? You don't want to be done with me?"
Peeking up myself, I said, "Done with you? Heck, I just found you." Which made him smile. And even in the dark, his smile brightened me up something awful on the inside. "You ain't no monster. Ok? I don't reckon you'd do anything to hurt anybody if you didn't have to."
Colby wiped his eyes on the back of his wrist. "Thank you. It means a lot, coming from you."
"But...still..." I said. "...You've gotta feed on people like me to get by. Don't you?"
It pained him to answer, but he nodded his head. "If I had any other way around it, Deke...I'd do that instead. You believe me when I tell you that, right?"
I hesitated, but tried to keep my class in tact. "I suppose you would." I said. "So...I reckon that this Gideon Priest fella...he's come to town searching for you and your friends then? You're the evil he's been hunting, one town to the next?"
It was a slow confession, but Colby eventually nodded his head. "It wasn't us. They all suffered from the thirst of other folks like us, but not us specifically." He said. "Then again, when it comes to this level of hatred and revenge, it don't much matter who did what to who. Long as they've got somebody to take their anger out on. Anybody that looks like, acts like, talks like, walks like, the people they've got a grudge against...they figure their murderous intentions are justified. There's no reasoning with the likes of them once they get it in their heads that we're the enemy. So we run. We run and we hide. And we try to keep from being labeled as monsters and demons by staying in the shadows. But they'll never stop torturing us. Never." He moved forward, and lightly kissed me on the cheek. "If Gideon and his posse are here to wipe us out...then we may not be able to stay for much longer. Chances are, we'll have to find a chance to run. And hope that they don't find us gain in the next town over. But...while I'm here...I just want to say that you put my heart in a tussle and made this whole travel worth its weight in gold. Just you, Deke. I can't site another boy that's ever made me feel the way that you do. And that makes you special. To me? That makes you everything."
I felt myself blushing pretty hard, a smile crossing my face that I couldn't hide from him if I wanted to. I still felt like I was falling for some sort of devilish trick, though. It was everything that the church told me to look out for, and every last bit of this felt so right. It brought me pleasure where emptiness and pain and confusion once dwelled. "I ain't gonna lie, Colby...most times...you feel like everything to me too."
"Do I?" He giggled.
"Yep." I told him. "I don't mind being all upside down when it comes to being in your favor. I could spend the rest of my life being alongside you."
"Hehehe, I feel the same." He said. "After all...you're still the prettiest fella I've ever laid eyes upon. I'd like to keep you close...you know...if you'll have me."
Rolling my eyes, I said, "I reckon I've gotten too familiar with you to turn back now, right?"
"Hopefully so." He smiled. And then he leaned in to give me the sweetest kiss on the lips. The kind of kiss that erases all doubt over whether it was meant to be or not. I couldn't ever imagine that another boy's lips could be so soft. So sweet. I can't say that I've ever felt anything more comforting, more satisfying, than the gentle pressure of Colby's tender lips being pressed against my own. A few strands of his longish hair gently brushing up against my cheeks as our tongues met one another with an erotic twisting and tangling that left me breathless from the intimacy of their contact. Wow...he was an angel. A complete and total angel. I can barely keep standing!
Once we stopped kissing...we looked each other in the eyes, and I asked, "So...what comes next?"
He seemed a bit disturbed by the question, but answered it regardless. "Next? I'm supposin' that we've got to keep hidden until we can find another town to move on to. Some place where we can maybe shake Gideon Priest's scent on us. It's all we can do. He's never gonna stop hunting us. He blames us for all of the hardship that he's been through, and he can't let it go. We're in danger as long as he's here, seeking us out."
"But that ain't fair." I said. "You didn't do nothin' to him, personally."
"Don't matter." Colby said. "He's full of rage and fury...and it's got to go somewhere. Why not us? It's all he lives for. It's the only thing that gives him purpose. Even the most righteous of men ain't got no fight with a man with blind fury in his heart. It rides right past everything else, and he'll find us eventually. We can't stay here."
Getting misty eyed, I tried to keep my manhood in tact instead of giving in to my boyish emotions and crying openly in front of him. "Maybe...I can stall them. Keep them out of these woods. I don't want you to go, Colby. Can't you just...stay here. You know...with me?" I said, my chest now heaving a bit as I fought back the tears that were forcing themselves to the surface.
"Nothing would make me happier than making you that promise, Deke. Hand to God." He said. "But they won't ever let us be. They can't allow themselves to leave us alone. It just ain't in their nature."
"You can stay with me." I said. "My daddy can keep you right by my side. We can find a way to keep the sun off of you. We can...we can maybe make it so you don't have to prey on the townsfolk when you get hungry. I don't know...there's gotta be SOME way to keep you from having Priest and his thugs from riding out here and drawing guns on you!"
"Deacon…" Colby said, almost with a hint of pain in his voice. "...We're different. Ok? Me...Tucker...Ahote...there will never be a time when people like Gideon Priest will leave us alone. I've been around for a couple of lifetimes now, and that's one of the things that has never changed about humanity in general. Even you were scared when you found out what I was. That's not going to change. They won't let it change."
He placed his hand on my cheek, looking me in the eye as tears rolled down his cheeks. Apologizing for being different. "I don't want you to go..." I whispered, now feeling the first of my own tears escape my watery eyes. "You're the first boy to make me feel...normal."
"You were always normal. And don't you ever let anyone tell you otherwise. You hear me?" He said, and I nodded, giving him a tight hug as he held me tight for a moment, trembling as he tried to keep from crying in my desperate embrace. "Deacon...if we leave, and escape this town..." He paused for a moment, looking me in the eye. "...There's still a way that...you know..."
Confused, I asked, "What? Know what? What do you mean?"
Again, as more tears rolled out of his eyes, Colby adopted this really painful expression before saying what it was that he felt he needed to say. "There's...well...Deacon...there's still a way for us to be together. Probably for much longer than you could ever imagine. But...when we leave…" He paused again, briefly. And then said, "...You could always come with us. Or, you know...with me?"
"Come with you?" I asked. "Wait...what do you mean?"