Gone From Daylight 05 - Mask of Shadows

Chapter 1

The air  around me seemed especially crisp that night. Especial quiet. It brought a feeling of sudden awkwardness to my every step. Maybe it was chasing Chad around half the city earlier that was making my body tingle this way. When I actually thought about it, it was pretty amazing that I was able to keep up. My body semmed to know exactly what to do, even when my mind was completely lost. I could feel my instincts growing so rapidly that they began kicking into gear before my mind could even give the command. Maybe that's what my 'mimic' ability does, maybe that's how it's supposed to work. I just let go and allow it to take over. Even while I was chasing Chad...it kept growing inside of me. The faster he ran, the faster I ran. The harder he fought, the harder I fought. I absorbed his strengths INTO me with every step, and he didn't even know it. I wonder exactly what the limits of such an incredibly rare extra would be.

Suddenly, as I moved forward...my heart began to beat fast, increasing from normal to hyperactive so fast that it almost took my breath away. It was like some srange warning signal that had suddenly been tripped off by an intruder. I slowed down a bit before reaching the fence of the graveyard, taking a bit of caution to look around as I did so. An icy wind blew right through me, and it caused the hairs on the back of my neck to prickle up. Something was wrong.

I quickly spun around to see if someone was following me, but all I saw were a few loose branches bending away from a nightly breeze. I took a few more seconds to scan through the darkness with my eyes at full glare, waiting to see if something would move. The graveyard seemed empty...but that didn't calm my senses any. I looked harder, straining my eyes as hard as I could, but the darkness around me remained perfectly still. I turned around and started walking towards the fence again, a bit more quickly this time. The LAST thing I need is to run into anymore scavengers or anything ELSE out at this time of night, especially since I was alone. I didn't trust my abilities THAT much. I kept pressing forward, and I felt it again, but closer this time. I could literally feel a presence behind me. I could feel it breathing, feel it's motion as it followed me eerily around the tombstones without making a single sound. It was almost as though a piece of the darkness itself had suddenly come to life and began moving on its own. It was all around me. Following me and surrounding me simultaneously. My caution was turning into fear, and I didn't dare look back as I began hurrying for the fence. I didn't DARE! Keep going Justin, the exit isn't that far away! Go! Go go GO! I sped up to a slight trot and was almost ready to break out into a full blown run when I accidently stepped into a small plot space where a tombstone monument was supposed to go. It caught the top of my foot as I lifted it to take another frantic step, and it threw me off balance. I stumbled forward and fell to the ground, but instead of getting right back up, I spun around instantly to see what it was behind me. I was gasping for air, my eyes wide, searching the darkness in a panic to find out what it was that had my senses blazing so frightfully. NOTHING! I couldn't see a damn thing! I kept looking. I HAD to be missing something. How can I be imagining all of this? How can something moving fast enough to follow me, not make any sound? I held my breath, and mentally strained my ears for even the SLIGHTEST bit of noise. A rustling leaf, a broken twig, a breath, a heartbeat...anything. My heat was beating so hard that it hurt, and I could feel my chest quivering with every breath I took. The wind around me got even colder, and the darkness seemed to be closing in on me from all sides. Ghost or no ghost...I had to get out of there! I was only two hours from dawn.

I slowly rose to my feet, still hoping to catch a glimpse of my 'company', and I lightly dusted myself off. Ok Justin...whatever it is, just let it go and keep walking. Just walk away...easy does it. I backed up a few more steps towards the fence, making sure that I didn't make a single sound as my feet touched the ground. And after taking a few more backwards paces, I turned to walk the rest of the way to the gate...

My eyes had hardly focused on him when the first strike hit my face! The second I turned to face forward, there was the blur of a shadowed figure towering over me, eyes blazing with a combination of colors. The figure brutally backhanded me before I could defend myself, and I felt myself become temporarily airborne as I flew back against the wall of a 'not so nearby' mauseleum! My knees gave way a bit, and I slid down to the ground in a daze. My eyes were still a bit fuzzy, and I felt a little blood trickle from the right side of my mouth. It had happened so fast. What the hell WAS that thing? I looked up from where I was sitting, the sting of a busted lip already fading away as my body healed the wound, and saw the figure just standing there. It was watching me. It didn't utter a single word, just stood silently as the cool wind blew around it, making the shadows surrounding it move gracefully like some dark tattered cape. The eyes swirled around in turmoil, colors of green and gold being drowned out by the dominating color of red. It was a spooky contrast to the rest of the creature's darkened appearance. I watched it, not knowing exactly what to do next. I stared at it, and it stared right back at me. As though it were waiting for something. That's when I began to wonder...if this thing was going to let me leave here without a fight.

I put my hands on the ground beneath me, and the second I did, the figure readied itself. It's feet digging into the ground for balance. I pushed downward with a little pressure in order to lift myself off of the ground. The figure's eyes flashed in a silent growl, and it took a step forward. Ok...I guess this little confrontation is just beginning then. I took a few deep breaths, and prayed that my abilities would kick in before this thing took another shot at me. I knew it would attack the second I got up, so instead of rising slowly, I decided to make a break for it instead. I hopped up off of the ground quickly and dashed off towards the fence, hoping that my sudden burst of energy would confuse the figure long enough to give me a little distance. But it was much too fast, and was standing in front of me before I could pass it. I tried to dart passed it by going around the other way, but its arm thrust out from behind its veil of shadows and grabbed me tightly by the wrist! Damn this thing was fast! I tried to yank my hand back, but it held me tight, and then pulled me in...only to strike me again across the face and send me spinning to the cold ground below. This time it didn't wait for me to get up, it began walking towards me. I tried to crawl away on my hands and knees, just trying to put enough distance between us so that I could get to my feet and find a way out of there. I scampered away helplessly, worried about how easily the figure was able to knock me down. And it was still pulling its punches from what I assumed. It glided across the ground so fast that there was no outrunning it. The figure reached out and grabbed me by the ankle, pulling it from under me and dragging me back to lay at the creature's feet on my stomach. I looked up at the domineering sight of my attacker, and it reached out a hand to grab me by the throat. That's when I felt my own hand automatically lash out to grab it by the wrist and prevent it from reaching me. Ahhhh....there it is. My abilities began to flare up all on their own, and I could feel an extra strong dose of adrenaline flood into my bloodstream. I felt my strength increasing, my speed, my reflexes. Whatever was happening to me, one thing was for sure...if this thing wanted a fight, it was about to GET one!

I spun around, pulling the figure forward while getting back on my feet, then pushed it off of me. I saw it's clawed hand reach out for my face, but this time, my back muscles instantly contracted, quickly pulling me back far enough for it to miss me. I saw it's other hand reach out for my midsection, and my arm shot down to block it before it could hit it's target. It made a few more attempts to strike at my stomach, and I blocked each one easily. Then it began switching back and forth from high attacks and low attacks, attempting to throw me off rhythm by confusing me. No luck, my arms were just as fast if not faster than his, as they defended me with a vengence. Ouch! However, even though I was able to block, this thing must have had skin of STEEL! Every punch was like being hit with an iron pipe. Strength like that is usually accompanied by a fit of unbelievable rage. But not from THIS thing....it remained calm, concentrated, focused. It hadn't even BEGUN to fight yet!

A flurry of kicks attacked me on both sides, but even though I couldn't even SEE the kicks coming, I was able to predict where they were going to land somehow, and I dodged and prevented every last one of them from hitting their mark. The figure lunged forward and I spun out of the way, finally getting my opening to reach the outer fence of the graveyard. I ran towards it as fast as I could while it was recovering, but the figure was STILL much too fast. It saw me fleeing the scene, took a single running jump, and leapt OVER my head to land in front of me again! The fight continued. God, the overall strength and speed of this thing was insane! And I began to worry that my abilities weren't going to be anywhere NEAR good enough to protect myself from this onslaught. Just as I thought it, the creature connected a harsh kick to my midsection, and sent me flying backwards 10 feet from where I was standing. I was a bit winded, but when it came closer to continue the attack, I flipped up to my feet. I tried to hit it, but it blocked my fist and hit me first with blinding speed. I tried again, but it grabbed my hands and pulled me downward to meet its knee as it rose up to smash into my chin. I felt my teeth rattle as I flew back to the ground again, tempted to just lay there, but it pressed forward even harder. I tried to kick it in the chest as it came near, but it grabbed my leg and spun me around, face first into a tree! Blood was now running out of my mouth generously, and I closed my eyes, holding onto the tree, hoping to get a second or two to clear my head. But the creature just pushed me harder into its rugged surface. I whimpered in pain as it pressed my face mercilessly against the tree bark with one hand on the back of my head, and began hitting me in the kidneys with the other hand! Again, and again, and again! Tears came to my eyes as I felt the bruises already beginning to swell and blister from the attack. Then...I got mad!

I felt my mind switch over...my fists clenching, my anger solidifying into a whole new level of focus. Suddenly, none of the pain existed. It vanished from me completely, even as the figure kept hitting me, and was replaced by a growing sense of utter hatred. I thought back briefly to the life I lived before all of this. The abuse. The nights my father would hit me, when he would beat me until I couldn't take anymore, make me feel as though I had no defense, no soul...and I would LET him! I would grin and bare it! I had been the pacifist for too long! I curled up and let the whole world kick and punch and spit on me my entire life while I pretended that ignoring it would make it all go away! It HASN'T! Back then, I was a victim. But not now....now I had an option! I had the ability to FIGHT! I didn't HAVE to take the abuse anymore! I WON'T!!!

My energy levels suddenly hit an all new high, and my every muscle tensed up with rage! I growled out loud with a savagery that I didn't even know existed inside of me! And with that, I fought against the creatures strength and fiercly pushed myself off of that tree. While the figure was stunned, I was able to spin around, and deliver a harsh roundhouse kick to the creature's jaw! For the first time tonight...the figure fell. It hit the ground with a thud, but I wasn't finished yet. I charged towards it, and was able to get in a few more shots before it rolled to safety. the figure then popped up to its feet and struck back with a vengence. The two of us went blow for blow, each one more powerful than the last. It grabbed me by the arm and threw me over its shoulder. I flew almost ten to fifteen feet, but my body twisted in mid air and I landed on my feet, ready for more. I swung a leg around, knocking the creature off of it's feet, and stood ready for another attack. The figure wiped it's mouth, and slowly rose to it's feet. It looked as though it was getting a second wind of its own, but I wasn't running this time. I've been running and hiding all my life. Now it's time to show this piece of SHIT that I'm not as weak as it expects me to be. This is one fight I DON'T intend to lose!

The figure's eyes were swirling so fast now that it was almost dizzying to look at. My arms were burning up with tension, my fists dripping with sweat from being clenched so tightly. I stared right at it. Right THROUGH it. And my mind was filled with such anger, my body filled with such an energetic rush, that I could taste the anger in the back of my throat. A bitter taste that reminded me how hard I swore to fight to keep from EVER being helpless again! How I would never again be beaten, be hurt, be taken advantage of! Whatever this thing is...it was about to feel the built up frustration of a teenager that spent the last five years of his life in constant pain! "COME ON!!!" I shouted! The creature's silence was making me impatient. "Come on you son of a BITCH! COME GET SOME!!!

It moved like lightning, pouncing on me with a single leap, and I fought it tooth and nail. Every punch that I delivered was with such power that I felt my knuckles crack and pop against the surface of its skin. I grabbed it by the arm, and yanked it down harshly to pull it out o the socket! But it spun away from me, and with a slight contortion, it locked it right back into place. Then the figure switched its 'style' somehow...fighting with an entirely different set of moves. It was disorienting at first, as this style was made up of some very tricky attacks, but it seemed like my body eventually adapted to those as well. But then the moves changed again, to something totally different. And just when I had those moves figured out, it would switch them up AGAIN! This thing moved with such ease, such a fluid and graceful motion. The shadows enhanced the picture giving it a certain hostile beauty. It was poetry in motion. I kept trying to break through its defenses, but the constantly swirling arms kept grasping me by my wrists, elbows, and shoulders. My arms would get locked up in its clutching fingers, and it would spin me back and forth to the point where I couldn't even tell whether I was coming or going. It kept me off balance with finesse, but my rage kept me focused, and my instincts did the rest. I swung around and did my best to decapitate the bastard with every punch! It twisted my arm painfully behind my back. And, while holding me in an arm lock, it spoke for the first time.

"Your anger is a weakness. NOT a weapon."

That only made the frustration burn even hotter inside of my mind. Almost bringing tears of hatred to my eyes. I kicked backwards, knowing that the figure would move back far enough for me to get my arm free. Once I snaked it out of its grasp, I twisted around and jumped up, kicking it square in the face with all of my might. The figure spun a 360* and landed on it's face, stunned at my strength. I then flipped over, trying to stomp on it hard before it could get off of the ground, but it rolled out of the way and kicked me behind my legs, knocking me to my knees. It stood up, dropped a hard kick down onto my shoulder blade, and then brought the same kick around again to hit me in the face. I saw the figure shaking its head, as though it wan't impressed by anything I had done so far. And I charged towards it at top speed! I tried attack again, but it flipped me over onto the ground effortlessly. I hope it wasn't thinking that it could stop me. Because no matter how many times it hit me, I refused to give in. I refused to let this thing beat me. I'm STRONGER than this! I KNOW I am! I screamed out loud and charged again, but this time, the figure flipped me up on top of one of the family monuments, about 4 feet off of the ground. It was clutching at my throat until I couldn't breathe, and my arms were starting to feel the fatigue of fighting this hard for so long. I grabbed his hand and used my other arm to hit the creature behind the elbow, almost breaking its arm. It released its grip on me and I did a handspring back to my feet. The creature spun its leg around to kick me down onto my back again, but I flipped out of the way, spinning to the ground and landing behind it. I elbowed it in the back harshly and delivered a few hard punches to its ribs before kicking it clear over the monument I was laying on. I moved around to attack again, and saw the figure use a quick fancy motion to wrap my arms together and lock them against my chest. Then it pinned me up against a nearby tree with its leg outstretched.

"Ugh....Fuck you!!!" I shouted.

"Lose the anger Justin. It won't help you in any fight that really matters." It said, it's voice hypnotically calm for all the fighting it was doing.

"What the hell ARE you???" I screamed, but it extended its kick further and raised it's leg, still pinning me against the tree and now lifting me off of my feet.

"You're still not concentrating."

I thrust my leg forward to kick the figue in the chest, and I dropped to the ground. I attacked with a fury, but it blocked every shot, only to pin me against he same tree again,same as before. I pushed his leg away, but its other leg connected to my stomach just seconds later. It seemed to get faster with every attack, and why the fuck did it keep switching styles on me??? Now it was like a combination of styles thrown together all at once. I tried to keep up, but this thing was getting much too good for me.

I CAN'T lose! I HAVE to keep fighting! "Keep PUSHING me asshole!!! Come ON! Is THAT all you've got???" I struck out harder and harder, and the figure kept dodging my blows, not even blocking me anymore. I was beginning to tire out, and the creature was using my strength against me. But I couldn't seem to calm down, I couldn't let go. Pow! The figure caught me off guard while I was thinking, and I felt an uncountable number of hits spray to different parts of my body in rapid succession. It hit me again right in the mouth, and before I could even fall over on my own, he sent me flying backwards with another spin kick to my chest! I gasped for air, clutching my chest in pain.

I stumbled to my feet, and tried to kick at its face, but it spun low and swept my feet from underneath me. I got up to hit it again, but it twisted my arm and sent me right back to the ground. I was breathing hard, my lungs burning with fatigue, my heart pounding as though it were about to explode. I looked to my right and saw a shovel within my reach. I grabbed it and began swinging wildly at the shadowed attacker, but it was always a step ahead of me, moving out of the way easily each time. I kept swinging helplessly, hoping that just one blow would connect, just one. But the figure grabbed the end of the shovel, and kicked me while still holding onto the end. I feel next to a pair of hedge clippers and started attacking in a fury with those as well, with no effect. The creature grabbed my arm and flipped me to the ground yet again. In desperation, I threw the hedge clippers directly at him, and then watched in amazement as the figure caught them in mid air, and quietly lay them down at its feet. I was almost too weak to move, certainly too weak to keep up the fight. But as soon as I saw the shadow moving closer to me for another strike, as though it were completely under my control this time, I felt my defenses swirling and tightening up inside of me. That mental blast of energy that happened on accident a few times before, but not this time. This time it balled itself up like a fist and stood waiting as though it were only waiting for me to pick a target. As though it was telling me, 'ready when you are, captain.' I held both sides of my head and concentrated on the figure in front of me. And with nothing more than a simple shift of thought, the energy burst forward from my mind and poured out of me in buckets! I DID it! I wanted it to happen, and it actually WORKED! The figure was pushed backwards almost 20 feet from where it was standing, and fell to its knees as the screams inside of my mind were transfered to him at full volume in surround sound!

I got back on my feet to take him out before he had a chance to regain his advantage, but the blast took a lot more out of me than I thought. The world spun around me, the ground seemed to tilt and sway, and I toppled over onto my side. I was unable to get enough equilibrium to stand or even sit up straight. That's when I heard the figure laughing. Actually LAUGHING! What the hell was going ON here?

"Hehehe! Marvelous. Absolutely magnificent." He said.

"W-w-what?" I lazily rolled over to look at the dark form rise up again, and walk over to me.

"You are even stronger than I had expected. With time and guidance, you will be able to take on the best of us." The figure extended his hand to me, and...confused...I took it. He helped me to my feet, and brushed some of the dirt and grass off of my back.

"You...you tried to kill me."

"Oh no, Justin. If I wanted to kill you, you would have been dead long before now." It was almost as if he were smiling at me from behind the shadows. I couldn't see it, but I could sense it somehow.

"How do you know my name? How did you know I was going to be here?"

"My, aren't we the inquisitive one? Actually, Justin....I believe it was YOU, who was looking for ME." I gazed up at the dark demon standing in front of me, and my mind finally put two and two together.

"Comicality?" I whispered. Partly out of awe, partially out of fear.

The figure bowed his head like a gentleman, and that sense of a smile returned. It was HIM! I froze...not knowing what to say next. Wow...he was standing right in front of me. And...I just got finished swinging a shovel at him! Aw shit! "I'm...I'm sorry about..." I started.

"Don't be. You defended yourself. That's exactly what I wanted you to do. For someone just recently born into darkness, you have already gathered a great deal of control over your newfound abilities. I must say, I'm impressed."

I was nervous, trembling, and I got down on one knee and lowered my eyes to the ground. "Comicality...sir? I have a request. I would like to ask you..." But he stopped me.

"First of all, stand up."


"Sigh...I see my reputation preceeds me." He lifted me back onto my feet again. "Don't let the mystery or the rumors fool you, Justin. I am not to be worshipped. I am a friend...if you'll have me." I blushed slightly from my gesture and stood upright. "You're wondering how I found you, am I right?"

"For starters. Yeah."

He lifted up my sleeve, and lightly tapped the markings underneath. "It was the band on your arm. Much more than a decoration, I assure you. This is a very special marking indeed. Representing a vampire...born out of love."

"I don't...I don't understand." I said.

"It is extremely rare to find these markings, Justin. More unusual than you would think, considerig the size of our rapidly growing society. Many of us are born out of greed, out of lust, or are lured into it with the promise of power and immortality. But love? Love is a very uncommon circumstance indeed. It's been faked many times, very believably in some cases. But if the love isn't real, then the bands won't work. Your's did."

"But why were you looking for me? Why did you seek me out?"

Comicality raised his head and quoted, "...And there will be a coming, a vampire born out of love. One who will be chosen to bring a new perspective to our ailing world." He looked at me, almost with a sense of pride. "The scriptures told me you would come."

"That could be anybody. Why me?" I asked. "I'm sure there are some other vampires out there born out of love too."

"Oh believe me, there are. And I have been seeking them out as well. One by one. There were some very powerful opponents among the few that I've seen, but none the likes of the fight that you put up. Your past personal history has given you great strength." "So why can't it be one of the others? How do you know that you don't have the wrong guy?" I was desperate. Please don't make me different. I don't WANT to be different, or special, or important to anybody. I just want to live. I just want to be me without having the world crushing down on me.

"Because Justin...out of all of the others, you were the only one to find me." He quoted another scripture, "The searcher will seek out many candidates, but true faith will bring the chosen to his domain. And together they will walk the path to Vampire Dawn." I remembered that concept, Vampire Dawn, from when I last spoke with Pan.

"What is it?"

He looked into my eyes, and merely replied, "You are not ready. Anything that I could tell you about it, would be conceptually out of your reach until you have learned to control your abilities. And that will take time. How can you walk the path, if you don't even know what the path is? With training, you will learn."

"Training? What do you mean training? Training for what?" I asked, but Comicality was already walking away from me.

"Not tonight. Another time. When we meet again."

"When is THAT gonna be?"

He turned, his cape of shadows swirling around him protectively, "Whenever our paths cross again. When you need me, trust your instincts. They'll lead you right to me. Every time."

"Should I expect a nicer 'greeting' next time?" I shouted after him, still feeling the sting of the bruises he put on me.

"Next time...why don't you try fighting with your mind? Not with your fists. Anyone can be angry, Justin. Anyone can shout and shake their fists at what they believe is the problem. It takes no effort to make an ass of yourself. If you want to win...you'll have to beat your enemy on a level they can't reach with hatred. You'll have to tap into the one resource that they don't have access to."

"And what's that?"

"Intellect. The most effective form of combat." I couldn't let him get away just yet. I ran to catch up and began walking beside him.

"So what did you want me to do? TALK you out of kicking my ass???"

"You allowed your emotions to control you without any thought as to your actions. You have strength, power, speed, determination...all good traits I'm sure. But your instincts aren't everything, Justin. You can't depend on them to save you without any sort of discipline. Had I been an actual attacker, you would have been dead and gone in the first three minutes."

"Somehow I doubt that. I'm not exactly a wuss, you know?"

"No, you're not. But you are still just a beginner. During that entire fight, as fierce as it was, you had absolutely no idea what you were doing. No control. No direction. No restraint. You felt something, and you allowed your rage to guide your fists in my direction. You never even questioned who I was, or what I wanted from you. You didn't attempt to see through your enemies eyes. My motives, my abilities, my skill...all blind spots to you. You just felt the anger and lashed out at the target causing you the most harm at the moment." He said as he continued to walk through the cemetary, me following behind him like a loyal puppy.

"You were HITTING me! What the heck was I SUPPOSED to do?"

"You were supposed to THINK, Justin! NOT just act on whatever knee-jerk reaction that compelled you to fight. You were so completely convinced that you were 'right' about everything that you were doing, that you just didn't give a damn about what you were getting yourself into. 'Passion is wasted when blinded by one's ego.' Vampire scriptures, book 14. So many conflicts in life, and half of them are battles that don't even have to be fought. Not if we use our brains and figure out the situation first before throwing such a childish tantrum."

"Hey! I'm sorry, ok, but when people start knocking me around and generally pissing me off, I have a tendency to protect myself with whatever force is necessary." I said in my defense.

Comicality stopped and pushed his finger into my chest. "And what if it had been Taryn? Hmmm? What if it had been someone you really cared about? They piss you off, you follow your first instincts, and the next thing you know you've really hurt somebody. You react like some spoiled brat and threw a full blown hissy fit for no explainable reason at all. What then? Are you going to say, 'Sorry, I didn't mean it?' Will that sad excuse for an apology make up for the damage you've done?" He stopped for a second to look me square in the eye, and then continued. "Sigh...you need control. Patience. Restraint. Your skills are very good, I'll give you credit for that. But not every enemy you face can be beaten in a blind rage. You have to think, THEN act. And act with caution, reserve, and focus. Otherwise, you're just swinging wildly at nothing. And not every adversary you meet will be as forgiving as I was."

Comicality turned to start walking again, saying, "You still have much to learn. I sense a lot of aggression still left in you. Anger, guilt, pain...it doesn't go away. You carry it with you into your crossover. You can't expect the situations around you to remain peaceful, if you yourself are not at peace inside. Do you understand?"

"I'm...I'm trying."

"If you can calm yourself enough to act rationally, you will be an almost invinceable opponent. That will take time."

"I want to learn. Teach me what you know." He didn't say anything, just continued to walk. "Please? I want to learn how to fight the way you do."

"First...you learn how to think. THEN you learn how to fight. But I guarantee you, once you learn the first lesson, there's almost never a need for the second. Hopefully, in time, you'll come to understand that."

"What do you want me to do?" I asked, eager to absorb some kind of new wisdom out of all this.

"I want you to go home. Dawn is quickly approaching. I suggest you hurry." Dammit, he was right. I had to get back to the lot top speed. "The elders are watching the progress of newbloods very carefully these days. So I suggest that you keep your abilities as low key as possible. If they consider you a possible threat, even for a minute, they will come looking for you. Our society's sense of 'law and order' is not as merciful as it is in everyday life." He walked away from me, the darkness providing him with a shroud that hid his every feature from me. But then, the shadowed form of Comicality said something that caught me as a bit strange. "They'll be looking for you. It's not often that you're out of their sight." What was that supposed to mean? "We will meet again soon, mimic."

"So...does this mean...I'm chosen?" I asked.

"We're ALL chosen, Justin. Many of us just don't realize it." He replied.

"Is that why you ripped the others to shreds?" It was bold, but I had to know why. He was obviously powerful enough to do it physically, but I didn't see how it fit into his philosophy at all.

With one last gust of wind, scattering the shadows and fading him out of my sight, he whispered..."It wasn't me." And then he was gone. As though he simply became a part of the darkness again. He had given me some things to think about, but more importantly was the need to get out of here before daylight burns me to a crisp. I took off running, and made it to the lot just as the first ribbons of sunlight crept over the horizon. My body began to shut down as I entered the junkyard, and I almost fell asleep outside of the van where Taryn and I slept. I opened the door, to tired to even get undressed, and inside, he was waiting. Looking beautiful as always. Untouchably so.

"Where did you go tonight?" He asked sleepily, but I was so incredibly exhausted that I just wanted to sleep.

"Yawn...dude, can it wat until tonight. I'm about to pass out here."

"Um...yeah. Yeah, sure." He said in an uncomfortable tone. Then I crawled into bed by his side, and wrapped my arms around him, feeling his sweet kiss touch down on my forehead as we both drifted off to sleep.

I'm not exactly sure how the dream started that night, or what caused it. I suppose that no matter how deeply you supress whatever feelings are haunting you, they all rise to the surface eventually. But these feelings, were ones that were better kept locked away.

I was standing outside of a large black church in the middle of the city. The walls looked as though they were made of smooth black obsidian, and yet, even at night, they glowed with a compelling radiance. The doors opened on their own as I walked in, and inside it was completely empty. It was lit only by the flickering flames of the many candles around the room, and below the altar, I saw the shadow of a large cross spreading out on the floor. But...no actual cross behind it. I watched it dance on the floor with the glow of the candlelight. It swayed eerily back and forth, and I couldn't take my eyes off of it. That's when it began to grow slowly in size. I looked up to see if the light source behind it was moving or something, but there was no actual 'cross' to begin with. I looked back down again, and watched the shadow snake it's way closer to me. And closer. And closer still. Then, and it moved in front of the first pew, I saw the side of it sink into the shadow, as though it were being devoured by it. Then another pew, and another. The shadow was eating everything in its path, and it was growing faster with every object that got sucked into its void. Not only that...but it was heading right for me.

It sped up, now causing the pews to loudly rattle and fall into what seemed like a bottomless hole. I backed up a few steps, and the cross began spreading faster, now chasing me as it came forward! I ran towards the door and pulled hard to open it, but it had locked me in. I panicked and began pulling on the handle even harder, but it wouldn't give way. That's when the door suddenly bent inwards, pushing me backwards onto the floor, and almost into the void. I got up as fast as I could and ran to one side of the church. But the shadow of the cross followed me. It bent and twisted like a giant black serpent to follow me. It began sucking in candles, the urn containing the holy water, and anything else in its path. My only salvation were the confessional booths off to the side. My only place to hide. I ran right for them, but the shadow wanted to stop me. Long ebony tentacles reached out for me, tightly coiling themselves around my leg and snaking up to my thighs quickly. I held on to the edge of the confessional door for dear life, screaming! But as the cross got closer, the darkness within seemed to silence me. It took my breath away and pulled at me with an unimaginable force. I did all I could to help myself up, to escape its clutches, and just when I thought I couldn't hold on any longer, I felt a hand grab me by the wrist and harshly pull me up into the confessional with ease.

I shut the door behind me, and looked around the tiny booth to see who had helped me, but there was no one else there. Was I safe? Or would the shadow envelop the entire booth with me inside? I was too scared to open the door and look. I trembled, holding my breath so that I could hear if anything was happening outside. I stood ready to run, even if I didn't know where to go. I stood perfectly still while the silence enveloped me with suspense, and just when I was ready to relax, something startled me. "Hey, Justin." Came a voice from the other side of the booth. I couldn't see a face through the little holes, but I knew that voice. It was unmistakable.

"R-R-Richie? Richie, is that you?" I whispered, afraid that too much noise would alert the crucifix's shadow to my location.

I tried peeking through the holes to see him, but I moved back when I suddenly heard a hiss...followed by a low gurgling sound. As though he were gargling some thick syrup in the back of his throat. Then, Richie's voice came back to him, clear as day. "Yeah. It's me. I missed you sooo much. I was hoping you'd be around to hear the great news!" He said excitedly.

"What great news?"

"Can't you tell? I'm all better now! Is that great?"

I paused for a moment, "All better? I don't...I don't understand."

"Vampire scriptures, Book 4, verse 8...'And it was an angel of darkness that showed my withered body the light. With a serpents bite, I was given peace, and my body was healed.' He saved me, Justin. He saved me from my illness. He took me away from allll my pain." His voice seemed as though it was become distorted the more he spoke, until it almost sounded like not one voice, but two or three. "Now we can be friends again, right? Just like the good old days. Just you and me." I listened closely to his words, but something was different. Something was so completely off in the way he spoke..

"Richie...how did you get here? Who saved you?" I asked.

"My best friend...in the whooooooole world." He said, and that's when he pressed his face against the tiny grate between us. It was horribly scarred, rotted away with decay and disease. The skin was peeling from it as though he were melting right in front of my eyes. Maggots writhed in between his teeth and underneath his flesh. I could hear the buzzing of a thousand flies filling his side of the booth, and with a sickening cough, a combination of blood and mucus came oozing through the screen. "Save me, Justin. Save me...." He hissed, and a pool of blood began to coat the floor of the confessional. I lifted my feet to keep from stepping in it, but it was rising fast. "That's what friends are for, Justin. Two halves of a whole, buds for life, remember?" I saw snakes violently swimming back and forth in the puddle, occassionally jumping up in an attempt to bite at my legs and ankles. I tried to get up as high as I could by pressing my feet and shoulders against the opposite ends of the booth, but there was no where for me to go. If I went back outside, the cross would swallow me alive. The crimson pool kept rising at an alarming rate, and the snakes were now circling my knees.

"RICHIE! Richie, PLEASE! Stop this!" The pool flooded the small booth even faster, and it was now up to my waist and rising fast. I felt snakes slithering their way up my shirt, and biting savagely at my chest, neck, and shoulders! "Richie!" But he didn't answer. His decayed body was already covered in blood. The gushing liquid rose up over my chest and was now covering my face. I wanted to scream, but one of the snakes was using its head to try and force it's way into my mouth! It tried with great determination, but I remained tight lipped for as long as I could. The blood was up to my eyes, and the snake used the last of its strength to pry its head between my clamped lips! I clenched my teeth, but it was no use, it was already inside, quickly squirming its way to my tonsils and beyond! I felt it working its way down my throat, into my STOMACH! I began to gag and choke as it's tail thrashed wildly on its way down, and I felt it BITE me from inside! Again, and again, and AGAIN! As the last of the snake's tail crawled into my mouth I let out a final scream, drowned out by the ocean of blood surrounding me!

"AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!" I literally leapt out of the bed and to the other side of the van! "SHIT!!! SHIT SHIT SHIT!!! UGH! OH GOD!!!" I was almost nauseous, still twitching and convulsing from such a realistic and morbid nightmare. I was covered in sweat, and breathing so hard that I had to keep one hand on my chest to keep my lungs from inflating to the point where they pop like balloons. Vampire dreams are awesome, but I pray that no one ever has to live with our nightmares. Like I said, some parts of the soul should stay buried.

Even through all of my screaming and shouting, Taryn was still fast asleep. I must have been brought out of my daytime slumber a bit early. Something had forced me awake, and I doubt I would be able to sleep again after what I just went through. I looked over at the clock and it was only 4:30 in the afternoon. Sigh...that means I've still got hours until anyone wakes up, or until I can go outside. Mental note: the next time Kid scores us some 'free finances', tell them to get a few BOOKS or something for occassions like this.

I sat down at the edge of the bed, afraid to lay back and even TEMPT myself to fall back into another dream, and put my head in my hands. I wiped the sweat off of my face as best as I could, and waited for my breathing to return to normal. My heartbeat was throbbing and pounding so hard that I could feel it pulse throughout my entire body. And once I got my body to calm down a bit, flashes of my dream hit me time and time again in bright colors. I felt a few tears drop from my eyes, and in a soft gentle sob, I whispered..."I'm sorry, Richie. I'm so so sorry."