It wasn’t difficult at all for Payton to simply be drawn into the festivities going on around him once his new crew of fellow delinquents got involved.
Peyton couldn’t really explain it, but the whole gang had this strange way of making even the most mundane of situations seem like they were the party of the century, and he’d be missing out if he didn’t stand up and take part. The more he tried to work out why, the more elusive the answer became. They just seemed to be so liberated in their every thought and deed when compared to everybody else in this predictable hostel of common folk. Or everybody else, period, to be honest. 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. It gave him a private rush of adrenaline beneath the surface of his ‘devil may care’ exterior every time they encouraged him to express himself more honestly. Where most people examined Payton’s every move…his past and his present…his appearance and the carefully selected words of his restricted conversation…all these NEW kids did was encourage 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. Maybe categorize 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…this wild bunch of strangers just accepted him as he was, and channeled their energy into making 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 personality with a different perspective of life along for their very entertaining ride through their day to day celebration in these woods. They didn’t care about bullshit social politics or rumors or gossip. They just…they really made Payton feel comfortable. Even when they were being undeniably ‘crazy’ in public. 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 him with a much needed alternative to zombifying himself to fit in with the rest of the strangers in town.
And yet…his thoughts often wandered back to Bryce. For no other reason than a part of him missed his beauty. Short term memory couldn’t do him justice.
The small festival the teens 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 by the others, could also really attach himself to one or two specific people at any given time. He could really make someone feel worthy of his undivided attention when it happened. There was nothing more amazing than that, especially considering his good looks and exotic accent. Rocky rotated his particular focus from day to day, but once someone was in his favor…they stayed there in that limelight 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 really used to. Especially from another boy. Most boys, in his experience, have ‘boundary’ issues. Payton was used to being kept at arms length, even in a party atmosphere. “You aren’t drinking enough liquor, Payton! Bloody hell! Whatsa matter with you?” Rocky asked, his English accent seemed so thick to the people in this town. But he was hardly one to be considered approachable by a majority of the good hearted folks that lived there, so they just tried to overhear his flowered speech from a distance.
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 during his short stay in Juvie. Those supposedly hopeless boys who were just trouble for no other reason than they found it funny to see other people suffer through the aggravation caused by events that they put into motion. He just had that kind of persona. Rocky was slim in stature, but he had a firm, 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 naughty accent being associated with such a devious mind that made him so very 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 afar at all times. Close cut, strawberry blond hair, and wicked brown eyes that remained dark even on the sunniest of days. Whenever he was sure he wouldn’t get caught…Payton always glanced over to take another secretive peek at him. That little glance couldn’t hurt, right?
Payton moved over to get closer to him and obey his beckoning call. Cautiously, but quickly. “What? What is it? Hehehe!”
Rocky kept a flask on his waist at all times. A big one. It was more like a canteen full of some stomach churning concoction of his own making. He pulled it off of his hip and instantly, Payton began to shake his head in refusal. But Rocky persisted. “Come on, now. Quit being a puss. 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 out loud as they watched him surrender to the intense peer pressure and open his once tightened lips to let the alcohol rush in over his tongue. Luke warm liquid that burned like fire and cinnamon once it got past his tonsils. An instant blast of dizziness attacked his senses, his sinuses were pried open, and his stomach nearly cramped up 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! Believe it!” 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 bedazzling explosion of light. “Otto!!! Will you PLEASE 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 acceptable freaks. He was a bit more quiet and subdued than the others. Not shy, really…just a bit of an oddball that didn’t have anything of much importance to say most of the time. Conversations with him could be somewhat awkward at best compared to the others. But those piercing brown eyes of his spoke volumes without him having to waste the oxygen to speak. 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 only with this old Polaroid camera of his too. One that spit the pics out and gradually developed them 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 when a simple cell phone or digital camera would have been much more efficient. But Otto never changed the way he did things, and he never ever stopped taking pictures. He kept that camera around his neck at all times, half of those times with it practically glued to his face. A mask to filter his current reality and create an angle that everyone watching could accept and appreciate. His angle. It was Otto’s home as far as he was concerned. His self expression. His safety net. Such a strange boy. But he was one of us. So be it.
I embraced that.
Rocky turned back to Payton, and put his arm back over his shoulder. “Listen…we’ve got BIG plans for you this weekend. Ya hear? We need you to sneak away from your mum and spend some time with the rest of us primates! Trust me, you’re gonna love it! 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 quality 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 15 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 itself. 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 and keep it forever. Rocky’s face changed right in front of me, and this surge of sudden anger caused him to grumble and grit his teeth. His biceps flexed tight, and he quickly turned towards Otto to point a finger in his face. “WHAT did I just fucking SAY about that fuckery??? Huh??? You’re gonna fuck around and get BASHED tonight for being a right freak! You hear me boy?” Otto was silent, bashfully backing down from Rocky’s challenge at first. But as soon as Rocky turned his head to look at Payton again, Otto took another shameless picture, and snickered out loud to himself about it. This nearly caused Rocky to fly completely off the handle in some sort of bi-polar rage, and he started stomping his way towards Otto as though he was about to literally strangle him to death. “ONE more picture!!! You hear me, you dodgy bastard??? ONE more!!!”
Luckily, Murphy took more of a big brother role among the rest of us, and reached out to stop Rocky from jumping on the smaller boy. “Hey hey hey, now Rocky, calm down.” Murphy said. “Otto…take a break with the flashes. Will you? Do it for the sake of keeping the peace.” Otto made no such promise. But for now, he lowered the camera and let it hang around his neck. “Payton, what Rocky’s trying to say, in his own sweet and elegant way…is that we plan to have some very interesting adventures over 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 nervously. 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 if someone dared him to see if he could pull it off. 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 refused to 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 real evil tonight! Let’s BAIL!” Bear said, crushing his empty 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 tonight. 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 really don’t know shit about this town yet. Nothing.”
“You’ve only got four directions to choose from, Kid.” Murphy said, his smile widening by the minute. “North, South, East, West. Dirt, trees, more dirt, and a little lake. Choose.”
“Are you being serious right now, or…?” Payton had to ask. This misfit band of boys and girls weren’t the most stable kids he had ever met. That was for sure. But Murphy’s dark, mischievous, 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 surrounding them. 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 choice!” 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 assholes go find Reggie and Anoki in this mess of a so-called 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 Payton standing together. Rocky was unfortunately close enough to be sucker punched by the flash himself, and flared up in an infuriating tantrum that startled me a bit. “You little FUCKER!!!”
“Let him be, Rocky! Chillax.” Murphy commanded, watching as Otto smiled wickedly and skipped off to go look for the others before he got himself into real trouble. Funny thing is, Otto wasn’t big enough to really take on much of anybody if it came down to balling his tiny fists up and protecting himself. And yet, he didn’t seem to be afraid of anybody, no matter HOW much bigger they were in comparison. Payton noticed him actually getting a kick out of chastising Rocky the way that he did. He hoped that Otto was fast on his feet, because Rocky could pound him into the dirt without much effort at all.
Murphy hugged Payton around the middle to bring him closer. Almost uncomfortably so. Payton’s attractions were always much more under control when he wasn’t in direct contact with boys like that. 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 blatant, almost arrogant, sex appeal practically calling out to him just from being within eyesight. It was almost as if he couldn’t resist the urge to reach out and touch them. Their natural aura was soooo intensely 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. I’ll show you. You’ll see.” Murphy grinned, and gave Payton a gentle noogie on the top of his head while he tried to ignore the fact that Murphy’s scent was so clean and sweet that it began to arouse him. 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.” He said. 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 ever seen any of them go much longer than a few consecutive minutes without pressing SOMETHING up against their lips.
“Thatta boy! Put some hair on your stoneys, 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 of obscenely deep swallows for himself before handing it over. Payton watched as Murphy then turned the flask upside down and took a few big, loud, gulps of his own from the container. A feat that Payton could NEVER do without hurling all over himself back home. Then…while he was drinking, purely by accident, Murphy 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 snarled.
“So sorry. Very sorry.”
“Blah, blah, blah! Sorry, sorry, blah blah! Whatever! Look at my fucking SHIRT!” Murphy sneered, 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 in their behavior. Whenever there was any sort of aggression directed at one of them…they all seemed to immediately line 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 the call. Not a 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 the boys intimidated him with their over the top bully tactics. “Why don’t you go back to the party, Charlie? Go back and stay the hell away from the rest of us. You HEAR me?” Murphy growled, staring him in the face. And…with his head down, Charlie turned to hurry away from the trouble he had gotten himself into and head back to the festival. Rocky stepped in front of him to block his passage at first…but Murphy gave him the nod to let him pass. Charlie was willing to hurry off with out any further fuss, but Rocky cleared his throat, and then hocked up a nasty ball of disgusting mucus to SPIT on the back of Charlie’s neck! Causing him to whimper and cry, wiping it off with his bare hands and just trying to get away from them as fast as he could. It was just so MEAN! Payton couldn’t believe that Rocky actually found it FUNNY, doing what he did. And suddenly…that feeling of acceptance and brotherhood among this group of misfits was suddenly ruined. Tainted by a random act of unprovoked cruelty.
Payton might have gotten himself into trouble more than a few times in the past, sure…but he wasn’t heartless. Not like they were.
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 never hurt anybody.”
“He OFFENDS me with his very presence. His weakness offends ALL of us.” Murphy said, his evil eyes now accompanied with a mischievous smile. “He doesn’t belong here with the rest of us. And I think it’s time that we do something to get rid of that brain damaged freak.”
Payton was speechless. Beyond insulted. “Why??? Don’t mess with Charlie! He’s just a kid. Just like we are.”
Rocky laughed at the idea, and Murphy turned his attention back to Payton. “No…he’s NOT like we are. That boy is a DEFECT in this town. A blemish on our record. A despicable weed in our garden of Eden that needs to be plucked out of the ground and burned before it can do any more harm to the rest of us.”
Payton wrinkled his forehead, almost ashamed to be a part of this conversation. It was one of those times when he truly wondered why he continued to be lured into their nighttime games when he knew they had a much darker side to them.
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 townspeople 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 soon. 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 psyche. “…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 maybe it’s true LOVE! They only work for the mushy romantic boys, you know?” Bryce gave Fletcher a harsh 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. Their friend, Jayzon, came hopping out of the shadows with a grin on his face. Jayzon was about 15 years old, and a real ‘boy next door’ kind of cutie. Long blond spikes sprouting up from the top of his head, killer smile, and blue eyes that seemed to glow in the dark, even through his professionally made 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 since we’ve been back. You should play the field a bit more. At least until you’ve seen all the available eye candy out there.”
for you to gobble on
“I’m NOT thinking about siring anybody and having them crossover. 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 eight 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 human member of this small town their blood. Their essence. And inevitably…their life.
The shadows will be done…