Lost In Shadow: Chapter 1 Story Starter

“Lost In Shadow”
Chapter One:
“Reality’s Dream” – By Comicality

It began with the pounding of a severe headache, throbbing mercilessly behind my eyes. The harsh reality of a pulsating migraine that seemed to come out of nowhere at all. It hurt so badly that I could ‘taste’ the ache in the back of my throat. I felt like I was spinning wildly in place, but I knew somehow that I was laying still. Maybe it was the whole world that was spinning like this instead. Disorienting. Bewildering. Where am I? How did I get here? What’s going on?

I can’t make sense of things right away, but as my consciousness begins to return to me, I can hear the sounds of a fierce struggle coming from the other side of the room that I’m in. Grunts and gun shots, hand to hand combat, broken furniture and equipment. It is only then that I become somewhat aware of the cold concrete beneath me, my body stretched out from whatever impact I must have taken to give me this pain in my back and shoulders. I can feel a small pool of drool connecting my mouth to the floor, and while I want to get up, it hurts my brain to send the message to my muscles to move. It sounds like a full blown war is going on all around me, and I’m too worn out to even look up and see what’s happening.

Opening my eyes is like being reborn into the world from scratch. It stings, burns, and my headache seems to get infinitely worse as the first rays of light pass through my retinas for interpretation. It’s dark in the room, but I can clearly see a battle happening not more than 20 feet away from me. A blurry one, but I know conflict when I see it. I see a man, fighting for his very life, and doing a damn good job of it. Attacking him is a woman with long sharp blades fanned out from the end of her fingertips, and a man in a mask and cape…swinging a bo staff with the expertise of a well trained master. They are moving in on him, cornering him, taking multiple swipes at his defenses as he fights back with unbelievable speed. I can’t even tell who’s side I’m on. Or if I’m involved in this situation at all. As my eyes begin to focus a bit better, I see the dizzying movements of the scuffle before me. So fast! Agile, balanced, and powerful. They strike at one another so fiercely that their motions seem impossible…practically defying the laws of gravity. This isn’t right. This isn’t human. And it’s then that I remember…

They’re NOT human. And neither am I…

“EXILE!!! We need you in action!!!” The man in the mask shouts in the middle of battle. Exile? Is he talking to me? Is that who I am? Why does he need me? What can I do? Unngh…why can’t I think straight?

The fight continues, and I struggle to get my bearings on where I am. After rolling slightly to my side, my fingertips numb, I’m able to reach a hand up to feel a giant wet spot on the back of my head. A warm liquid flows freely from a gaping wound there, crawling over my fingers and sliding down over the back of my neck. I pull my hand away, and see…blood. My palm completely covered in crimson. My eyes try desperately to focus, and with a push, I feel my hands lift my face slowly from the ground. My knees carefully slide up underneath me, and I stop for a moment, as the sudden elevation from the floor makes my head pound with more severity. I look down at my hands…I’m ‘young’. I don’t remember being so young. It’s a strange sight, a child’s hands covered in blood. Ahhh…can’t focus. Gotta get to my feet.

“We’re WORKINGhere! Little help, ‘team leader’?!?!?!” The masked man addresses me again as their fight rages on. I look to the side as he leans way back to avoid an iron bar that was just swung at his face. His retaliation is swift, but their enemy dodges and blocks so efficiently that it looks almost ‘rehearsed’. Choreagraphed and practiced ahead of time. “Dammit, kid! GET IN HERE!!!” He needs MY help? How can I help them? Who are they fighting? What side am I on?

Suddenly, there’s a loud CRASH coming from the left of me, and I see a rather large white van come bursting through the wall! Concrete fragments fly everywhere in an explosive intrusion, and I’m showered with debris as I stumble backwards to lean on a stack of boxes for support. As I look back, I can vaguely make out the face of a monsterous looking creature with a bald head and pale white skin, jumping out of the driver’s side of the spinning van before it even screeches to a full stop. The creature’s arms are almost long enough for its knuckles to scrape the floor, and it easily clears the distance between itself and its comrades in just two and a half leaps. It is now three against one, as the monster joins into battle to assist the other two. The creature was unbelievably strong, brutally so. The masked man had a level of skill and precision that made him nearly impossible to hit. And the woman was a dizzying frenzy of speed and savagery. Together, they slashed and battered their target without pulling a single punch. Whoever it was that they were fighting against…he was no match for their combined might. His arms tired, his breath gave out, and they eventually wore him down until there was no more fight left in him. And as he gave his last few desperate swings at his attackers…I hear a blood curdling scream leap out of his throat…as a long silver blade penetrates his heart from behind. The victim howled in agony, accompanied by a loud hiss, his fangs dripping wet with saliva, his eyes open wide in horror at this, now fatal, injury. The masked man had run him completely through, and he twisted the blade sharply to make it hurt even worse. That’s it. That’s the endgame. The final blow. No vampire could survive that.

All goes quiet, as their target passes out from the pain, and is defeatedly dropped to the floor in a heap. I hear footsteps behind me, as the three warriors approach me. They were all vampires…just like me. But their crossovers must have happened later on in life. They appeared to be in their late teens, or early twenties. Much older than myself from the looks of it. Should I be scared? Should I run? Maybe…maybe they’re the ones who did this to me. Injured me and left me to bleed alone on this cold floor. Maybe I’m next.

“Exile?” The woman asks in a somewhat comforting tone. “Exile?” She says again…and I’m unable to answer, lost in a fog of confusion. “Adam?” Adam…the name rings a bell. Adam. That sounds familiar. That’s me. I can feel it. I slowly look over at her and meet her eyes. “Are you alright?”

“I…I don’t know.” I answer, hardly recognizing my own teenaged voice. “Wh-where am I?”

“You took quite a spill back there, kid. Seems our friend, Kristoff, was a bit more prepared for our attack than we thought. He got the jump on you pretty early.” The monsterous visage of the pale man in front of me spoke, and I was taken aback by his ghoulish looks. The pupils of his eyes were blood red, and his body seemed to be completely void of any hair at all. Not even eyebrows. His fangs were slightly twisted and stained a combination of yellow and black. His ears were like that of a goblin, and his high pronounced cheekbones pulled his lips back into a demonic sneer. But his speech…seemed as normal as anyone elses. In fact, his intelligent voice was the most soothing of the whole bunch.

“I don’t understand. I think…I mean…”

“You’re NOT getting a full credit on this one, halflife!” The masked man said angrily.

“Give it a rest, Tariq. Can’t you see the boy is hurt?” The lady answered.

“Hurt or not, he’s team leader. Get it? Team leader. THAT means…you leadthe team. Does it not?” He snarled. “I told you we shouldn’t have agreed to this. This kid is gonna get us all killed.”

“Don’t mind him.” The young lady said. “Are you feeling ok?” She reached out to touch my forehead and I jumped away from her.

“Who are you? What are we doing here?” I asked, and they all gave me a strange look.

“What do you mean?” The creature asked me. “Are you saying that you don’t remember our mission here?”

“WHAT mission??? I don’t remember ANYTHING! What the hell is going on?”

They looked at one another briefly, and I saw the masked man give himself a sarcastic chuckle. “Hehehe, great. This is just fucking great.”

It was then that the creature looked at me closely, its eyes examining me with boyish fascination and just a touch of confusion. Then, it tilted its head and simply said….”Intriguing development.”

The next thing I knew, we were all packed up into the van and heading back to…wherever it was that sent us out here. How I got there or involved in any of this chaos, I can’t say. But as I sat in silence in the back of the van, with the young lady nursing my wound with a cold cloth and some ice, I figured that they could at least be trusted long enough to get myself some answers. I think I must have blacked out a few times, because I had some lapses in time between actually getting into the van, and being on the road. Luckily, the lady made sure to keep me awake as best as she could. I attempted to connect the missing pieces that had obviously been scattered when I was…’attacked’. Trying to somehow trace my steps back far enough to fill in the gaps and find out what I was doing here. But….the more I tried to think, the more my head hurt. I couldn’t zero in on any major details no matter how hard I tried. After a half hour, I just wanted to sleep. Just for a little while. I’ll struggle to figure things out later.

Everything went black as my eyes sealed themselves shut. I could feel myself being pulled into a slumber beyond my will, and eventually let myself drift off with the current. My body felt at ease, relaxed, free from tension. My mind, however, refused to remain still. It was frantically working out a million equations at once, trying to figure out what had happened. What was real and what wasn’t. What it had forgotten, what it could remember clearly, and how they were connected. It was an alien feeling…having a sense of ‘self’ without knowing exactly who you are. There were huge gaps in areas of my life that had been wiped out completely. And I couldn’t be sure if they’d be gone forever or not.

My mind took me to a dream like scenario, where things were hazy, but oh so real. Was this a memory? Or just a dream? My body was too relaxed to struggle its way back to consciousness, so I just let the mental imagery play out however it wanted to. I just wanted to watch. I was stretched out in this large, dimly lit, basement. Apparently…very comfortable. And there were other teens around. Teens…like me. There were maybe four or five of them, vampires as well, and even though my mind couldn’t quite recognize them…my emotions felt a certain connectionto them all. It was almost like…having a ‘family’. Would they be there waiting for me when this van finally got to its destination? Maybe they could help me find myself again. I vaguely remember them calling me by name. Adam. I’ve got to remember that. My name is Adam.

There was also somebody else there in my vision. An older couple, actually. A man and a woman, that looked to be….maybe 70 years old. Maybe even older. Not vampires…but humans. Why were theythere? Were they food? No. Not food. I know, because the same affection I felt for the other young vampires in the room…I felt for them as well.

Just as the images were beginning to sink in, I saw a sudden flash of a horrible vision pass in front of my eyes. A split second of a scream, and a small splash of blood. It shocked me at first, as it interrupted what I thought was a pleasant memory, but it came and went so fast that it was hard to acknowledge it. Then….I had another terrifying flash. And another. And another. Different vampires, different ages, different locations. Screaming. Howling in pain. Begging for their lives with tears in their eyes. More flashes, now rapidly filling my dream until all of that comfort and affection was drowned out by the murderous illusions before me. Long metal spikes, ripping through flesh, and muscle, and scraping bone as it pierced the hearts of my targets. Wait….’targets’? MYtargets? Blood…giant gushing splashes of blood. So warm that wisps of steam rose from my arms and chest as they became decorated with their crimson hopes of survival. They were dead, and they didn’t even know it yet. But I did. I appear to be very efficient at my ‘job’.

“Wakey wakey, handsome! Nap time is over!” Came a voice, jerking me out of my dream and back into reality with a jolt. The door of the van I was riding in noisily slid open, and an ice cold wind seemed to rush in to take a hold of my whole body. I looked up to see the masked man looking down on me. “Come on! MOVE IT! We ain’t got all day!”

I struggled a bit to scoot myself off of the back of the van, and the young lady took my hand to help me. I looked into her eyes, her optrix contacts glowing a mix of green and blue. Her short hair was just long enough to blow with a slight gust of wind, and her slim fingers were the first pleasant sensation that I had felt since waking up a while ago. My head was still pounding, but not as badly as before. Still, I was a bit disoriented as I tried to stand on my own two feet. It felt like I was 50 feet tall, swaying back and forth off balance like a stack of dishes in a high wind. The goblin like creature that I had seen before offered me his shoulder to lean on, but I hesitated. His skin was like leather, thick and tough, and his face seemed so chalky white and unnaturally grimaced. His nightmarish appearance was hard to get past, even with the intelligence of his speech and manner. Finally, unable to walk on my own, I leaned across his shoulder, and he helped me all the way out. I looked at my surroundings, and we appeared to be in some kind of suburban forrest preserve of some sort. The van was parked outside behind some kind of small shack, and I assummed that that’s where we were going to.

The masked man didn’t bother to help me at all. He simply stepped out of the van without saying a word, grabbed a duffel bag of our ‘equipment’, and began walking forward, leaving us behind. His disposition was a grumpy one, but it might have been my fault. Considering he seems to blame me for whatever it was that happened tonight. I couldn’t quite tell why his face was covered up that way, hidden by a thin nylon layer of dark navy blue material, except for his eyes…which were covered by a thick pair of black sun-visor glasses. His athletic form was a proud one, and his walk carried with it an air of arrogance. As my eyes followed him forward, I saw him walk into the small fixture and put the bag on the floor next to him. It hardly looked big enough for us to all fit in. Especially the big creature holding me up on his shoulders. But they dragged me ever closer, and it looked like they were going to try anyway.

“Don’t worry, Exile. We’ll get you patched up in no time.” The lady said. Exile….no…my name is Adam. I’ve got to remember ‘Adam’. I feel betterwhen she calls me Adam.

We all squeezed ourselves into the shack, shoulder to shoulder, and I was propped up against the back wall as the masked man closed the door behind us. “What…what are we doing in here?” I asked, now standing face to face with them in the tiny confined area.

“Geez…you really DIDtake a pounding back there, didn’t you?” She answered, and at that very moment, I saw a few flashes of light come from the ceiling above us, and heard the door lock shut in front of us. I watched in amazement as the floor dettached from the walls of the shack and lowered the four of us down like some kind of secret elevator. My eyes widened with fascination, and I watched anxiously as we took a three minute ride down into an underground facility. It wasn’t HUGE, but it was big enough to impress me. About the size of an airplane hangar, maybe a bit bigger. Arrrgh! Why can’t I remember this??? What the hell was I DOING here???

A slightly older gentleman came to greet us when the elevator doors opened. He was about 35, I guess, with a moustache and reddish brown hair. He had one of those friendly faces that invited you to think of him as a friend on first sight. He stood a bit taller than me, but not by much. “How did it go?”

“Take a look for yourself.” The masked man sneered as he walked out of the elevator first. As his eyes connected with mine, the gentleman looked concerned about the wound on my head.

“Exile? Jesus…what happened?” He asked.

“Our target got the drop on us before we could take him out. It’s like he was waitingfor us. Exile took some pretty hard blows.” The lady told him.

“Has the target been destroyed?”

The creature pulled out a folder with a few photos, some paperwork, and the metalic spike that was driven through the vampire’s heart back in the warehouse. It was sealed in a plastic bag, and a small vile was contained inside, containing a small blood sample taken from the spike itself. “Target, Jason Kristoff, terminated on June 19th, at 2:34 AM.” He said, handing the evidence over for inspection. “A bit more difficult than we expected, but all in all…a success.”

“Hmmmm….” The moustached gentleman moved closer to me, lifting up a few locks of my dark brown hair, now stained and stuck together with blood. Then he felt the even bigger wound in the back of my head, whispering, “Damn, boy…” He lightly traced the wound with his finger before letting my hair flop back down again. “Get him into the infirmary. Let Dr. Colby take a look at him.” The man took one last look at me, gently touching the bruises on my cheeks. “And here I thought you were damn near untouchable, kid.”

“I’m sorry…but…who are you?” I said quietly.

A look of confusion crossed his face. “It’s ME. Dutch.” The name didn’t really spark anything, and he looked over at the other two. “Explanation?”

“Um, yeeeaahhh…he’s having a bit of…difficultyremembering a few things right now. But, I’m sure he’s gonna be fine.” The lady got an even more serious look from this ‘Dutch’ guy, and she had to reassure him. “It’s probably just an injury induced trauma. It won’t last.”

“You were supposed to go in as a TEAM. How is it that HE’S injured, and the rest of you are fine?”

“It’s NOT our fault! I toldyou, we were ambushed…” She argued back.

The slight raise in volume of their voices shot through me like a nail, and I just wanted to get away from all this craziness and rest for a bit. “Listen…my head is killing me. I think I just need to sit down for a little bit. Ok?” I said, bringing an end to their conflict before it even began. Everything was spinning so fast, it hurt just to think. Just to speak. It was like having a vice around my brain, squeezing until it was ready to burst.

Dutch stopped for a moment, then gave a frustrated sigh while taking another look at my wounds. “Definitely get Dr. Colby to see him, pronto. And don’tlet Katrina know about his memory loss. At least not yet. Let’s find out what’s wrong with him first. The last thing we need is for her and her ‘lackey’ to catch wind of this.” He said, and watched carefully as they carried me off to another end of the room.

The entire facility was buzzing with the sounds of machinery and bright flourescent lights, everything alive with a mechanical precision. The gleaming white tile beneath my feet became painful to look at, and I was forced to shut my eyes while they guided me to a room in the corner of the area. They sat me down on what looked like a doctors bed, and leaned me up against the wall. “‘Freak’…get him some pillows.” The lady said, and I saw the pale ugly creature beside me do what he could to make me comfortable.

I stared at him for a second, and then mumbled, “Freak?” Hoping that he would respond.

“Yes?” Sure enough…it was a name that he was willing to answer to, and without offense.

“Thanks.” I told him, and a wide smile spead across his demonic lips.

“Sure thing, chief. You just get some rest. We’ll see to it that Dr. Colby comes to check you out as soon as possible.” He patted me on the shoulder, the skin on his hands almost as rough as croccidile skin, and left the room.

“Do you need anything else, Adam?” The lady asked. Just hearing her voice seemed to give me some comfort. And I felt at ease almost instantly.

Adam…she called me Adam. “I’m fine….um…uh…”

“Widow.” She told me. Then, thinking about it a bit more, she ditched the codename entirely. “Rachael.” She smiled, a small set of dimples showing on the sides of her cheeks, and I couldn’t help but smile back. To see her with a grin made her look so much younger than her 19 years. She had short feather-soft hair, dyed green to match her eyes. And a slim an dainty build to her that would never give you reason to suspect that she was as infinitely dangerous as she really was. How Rachael was able to maintain such a sweetened presence after the murderous fever that I had witnessed earlier tonight, is a mystery. I was just thankful to be on her ‘brighter’ side. She lightly touched my arm, “I’ll dim the lights for you a bit. I’m sure they’re wrecking havoc on your headache.”

“Thank you, Rachael.” I said, and she almost seemed infatuated with the idea of me calling her by her real name. I suppose it gave her the same relief as her calling me Adam did. She turned the lights down a bit, and then left the room as well, giving me a moment of silence at last. There was a lingering affection for her in the back of my mind, my emotions trying to work through a fog of mixed up memories and lost information. But it wasn’t love. Not in the normal sense. I couldn’t quite tell what it was. I couldn’t figure out anything at all.

I leaned my head back against the wall for a moment, and closed my eyes. I felt like so much of myself was in tact, perfectly so. I felt like I knew who I was and what I was doing…but…for some strange reason, everything that I’ve experienced since I woke up on that cold concrete floor has been a confusing mystery to me. Nothing matched. It was like being uncontrollably submerged in a nightmare against my will. Something so real, so detailed, that I was beginning to wonder if the person I thought I was….ever existed at all.

As my mind flipped through soft images of a forgotten childhood, I struggled to focus more on the teenagers that entered my mind back in the van. Them and the old couple. Even though the images were distorted and backwards at best, it was the most pleasing series of memories that my brain would allow me to have. There was a giant basement for all of us…and laughs…and games where we teased and wrestled with one another. Delightful moments that seemed so oddly parallel to a world of darkness. I could also see a huge theater. A movie house of some sort, with a gigantic screen and huge thick red curtains that opened and closed before each feature film. We were there…in the balcony watching. The old couple was running the projector. And beneath us…an entire crowd of humans, enjoying old black and white movies in the darkness of the theater. It was so real. The images were beginning to clear up, and I mentally began to ‘push’ through the haze to see if I could recognize something important. ANYTHING to enhance this image and find out what it means. Or if it’s even real. But the harder I pushed, the more the memories began to warp and fade away, vanishing like bubbles in a handfull of soapsuds. I couldn’t hold on to it.

But…as I fought to keep the comforting thoughts in my head…the ‘other’ images returned. The screams. The tears. And a growing lake of blood beneath my feet as I saw my own hands stabbing downward to pierce the hearts of those that I could only guess were my enemies. But, if they were my enemies…then why didn’t Ifeelanything? Why didn’t I care? There was no anger, no satisfaction, no release from emotional anguish….no previous connection to these other vampires at all. Just a blank expression, and the methodical collection of ‘evidence’ as proof of what I had done. Was I one of them? Was I one of the people from that van? ‘Exile’…’team leader’…’targets’? The fight. I was supposed to help in the fight.

The screams in my head got louder and louder all of the sudden, and I felt a growing pressure on top of my chest. The rapid montage of images got to be so violent, so increasingly disgusting and full of savagery, that I struggled to be free of them. They haunted me, violently crying out in agony as they vengefully showed me what I had done to them. Refusing to let me wake. Refusing to let me ignore. My head began to throb and pound madly, and just when I couldn’t take anymore, I felt a tiny thumb pry my right eye open and shine a light into it.

I jumped up with a sudden jolt, and before I even knew what I was doing, I had taken the small flashlight out of my eyes and thrown it across the room, wrapping my hand around the throat of whoever it was that was in front of me. I could feel my fingers squeeze, almost beyond my control, and then tried to come to my senses. The neck beneath my fingertips was smooth. So smooth. And small. Way too small. My eyes fluttered open all the way and I fought to focus. In front of me, prying my fingers away from his neck, was a young boy. Eight, maybe nine years of age at the most. With short blond hair, a pair of thin wire rimmed glasses, and a small button nose usually reserved for cute and cuddly cartoon characters. “Do you mind?” He said, his tiny voice almost girlish in its youth, with an extremely faint hint of a boyish lisp. I instantly let go of his throat as realized that I was now laying down on my back, and he was straddling my chest. “Thank you.” He said calmly, rubbing the sore spot on his neck from where I had manhandled him.

“What the hell are you doing?” I said.

“I’m TRYING to figure out how bad off you are. Which is pretty hard to do with you squirming about and mumbling in your sleep.” He said, his brown eyes dull with a seriousness that I’d think was impossible for a boy his age. “Now, if you think you can calm down for a few seconds, I’ll just walk waaaaayover there and get my flashlight back so I can finish. Provided that you didn’t BREAK it, that is.” The boy swung his leg over my chest and stepped down onto a little footstool near the bed. He was wearing a labcoat that looked way too big for him, and the ‘tail’ of it was dragging on the floor behind him like an oversized bathrobe. He picked up the flashlight, testing it out to make sure it worked, and walked back over to stand on the footstool again.

As soon he put his hand up to my face, I backed away from it. “What are you doing? Knock it off.”

“Exile…please, don’t make this difficult. Just sit there and be a good boy, and maybe when this is all over I’ll give you a freakin’ lollipop, ok?” He reached for me again, and I swatted his hand away.

“Don’t you have somebody else to play with, junior?” I said. “I’m not really in the mood for this right now.”

“Are YOU gonna let me do this, or am I gonna have to tranquilize your ass???” He yelled in frustration. But with the voice of a nine year old, it was about as intimidating as a sack of jellybeans.

Just then, I saw Widow…Rachael…walking in to see what was going on. “What’s with all the shouting?”

“Rachael, can you PLEASE get this kid the hell out of here? I just wanna rest and he wants to play doctor.”

“‘KID’? Did YOU just call me a fucking ‘kid’??? Did HE just call me a ‘kid’? Call me a ‘kid’, again, tough guy! Come on…do it! I DARE ya!” The little pup was throwing such a tantrum that I thought he was going to spin himself into a nap.

“Wait, wait…hold on…” She said, putting a hand on the boy’s shoulder to relax him a bit. “…There’s obviously been some misunderstandng here.”

“THANK YOU!” I said. “I wake up, and he’s sitting on my chest with a damn flashlight in my eyes.”

“Adam…THIS…is Dr. Colby. He’s supposed to be taking a look at your injuries. Remember?” She said, and I stopped in mid sentence. I looked over at the little boy again, his small face twisted up in a proud little scowl, and couldn’t believe my eyes.

“I CAN’T be expected to work like this. If he’s gonna be a problem, then I say we anesthize the shit out of him until he has no CHOICE but to sit still!” The boy pouted. “I’ve got better things to do, you know?”

“I know, Doctor. I know. Just…make sure there’s no permanent damage, ok? Please?” She asked. “Katrina is going to want a full report in an hour and we’re going to need something ‘positive’ to tell her about this whole situation…”

“Well then you better tell your little ‘comrade’ here to show me some goddamn respect, and let me do my job before sunrise.”

“Ok. It’s ok. No problems. We’re all fine here. Right, Adam?” She looked at me, trying to change the expression on my face from confusion to one of fake normalcy. “Right, Adam?”

“Um…yeah. Sure.” I said, but it didn’t seem to be good enough. “Sure thing…Doctor.” I added, a hint of sarcasm in my voice. With a roll of his big brown eyes, he moved back over to me and stood up on his footstool, taking the flashlight to my eyes again and roughly grabbing the back of my head. “Ahhh! Take it easy!”

Quiet! Ya big baby.” He said.

How in the hell can this midget be my doctor? “OWWW!!! Jesus!” I winced again as he touched the most sensitive spot on my head.

“Hold still! I’m not gonna tell you again!” He said, and examined me closer, as though he wanted to hurt me on purpose. For a pint sized doctor, his bedside manner left a LOT to be desired. A few moments went by in silence, and he then turned off his little light and stepped down. “Alright…how much do you remember from before the accident?”

I hesitated. I still couldn’t believe I was talking to this kid like some kind of an adult. “I don’t…I don’t remember anything. Nothing at all.”

“You don’t recognize this place, or any of the faces you’ve seen here tonight?” He asked, grabbing a clipboard and jotting down a few notes as he adjusted his glasses on his nose.

“No. Not at all.”

“Have you experienced dizziness, nausea, loss of balance…?”

“All of the above, yes.” I said. He took a few quiet seconds to write down everything on his little worksheet, and then asked me…

“Have you had any dreams, or flashbacks? Anything important that might mean something to you?”

“A couple, yeah. I keep…having visions of this big theater, you know? A theater, and these…other vampires. It’s not really clear, it’s just…” I stopped as I saw the look on their faces change. Dr. Colby and Rachael exchanged a concerned silence between them, and then looked back at me. They didn’t really address it.

“Go on.” He said, waiting with pen in hand. “Is there anything else?”

Something about the vibe in that room had changed. Darkened. It was a completely different feeling from what it was when we first started, and the sudden shift warned me not to go too deep into what I was thinking lately. “No…no, that’s it.” I told them. “So…am I totally screwed up in the head, or what?”

Dr. Colby put down his clipboard and said, “Luckily for you, you were screwed up in the head long before this happened. But your motor skills seem to be in tact. You’re walking and talking just fine. And from the way you jumpedon me when you woke up, I’d say that your hand eye coordination is pretty functional.” He pushed his glasses up again, after constantly having them fall down on his litle snub nose. “After a few sleep cycles, your outer wounds should heal up fine. But I’m going to give you a few antibiotics anyway to prevent any infection in the next few hours before your hibernation period. A nasty virus could put you out of commission for weeks. And we need you back in the field as soon as possible. We’ve got a quota to keep, and as much as I hate to admit it…you’re one of the best weapons we’ve got out there.”

“What about his memory, Doctor?” Rachael asked.

“Sighhh….well, that’s a tricky one. Physically he checks out fine. He took a nasty blow to the head, but it’s not enough to cause this type of selective memory loss. I’d say he’s suffering from some sort of severe emotionaltrauma. And I don’t think he got it from this particular assignment either.” The boy said. “It goes back before the accident. So whatever it is he’s been suppressing and bottling up during his time with us…it looks like it’s trying to take ‘center stage’ in orer to force him to deal with it. And frankly, I don’t know how good, bad, or ugly, that emotional outburst is gonna be when it happens. So hopefully it’ll come slowly over time. You might wanna send him to get a psyche evaluation to find out what the malfunction is, just in case.”

“Who’s my psychiatrist? A six year old girl with a teddy bear?” I smirked.

“Cute. Real cute. Keep it up, ‘head case’.” He replied.

“Listen…am I gonna get my memory back or not?” I asked.

“Perhaps. Perhaps not. And even if you do, there’s no telling when that’ll happen. It could be a couple of days…it could be a couple of months. It could come back little by little, or you could wake up one morning with total recall of everything. It’s nearly impossible to say right now. But whatever ‘issues’ you’ve got that caused you to wipe out certain parts of your memory like this, you’re gonna have to confront them one way or the other before you can even think of getting back to normal.” The kid turned to Rachael and said, “I reccommend a few days of reality immersion. Get him familiar with things again, see if it sparks something. Other than that, it’s just a matter of getting some rest until those scars heal. There’s nothing else I can do for him.” And with that, he packed up his little kit of goodies and grabbed his clipboard to leave. But before opening the door, he said, “You know…to be totally honest…I hope you NEVER get your memory back. I always thought of you as somewhat of a prick.” He scoffed. “See if you can remember THAT tomorrow.”

The door closed behind him, and Rachael came to sit at my side on the hospital bed. “How are you feeling?” She asked.

“Like shit. But believe me, it’s a step up from how I felt a few hours ago.” I answered.

“Well, relax for a bit, and I’ll have Dutch take you to your quarters in a couple of minutes. Ok? Maybe something in there will help to jog your memory.”

“Sure. Thanks.” I said, laying back to rest my head against the wall for a while longer. I felt Rachael take my hand for a moment, and opened my eyes. She looked at me as though…as though she were waiting for me to protest. As though she were testing me to see if I’d object to her affection. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.” She said, and she let go of my hand as she stood on her feet. “Get well soon, ok? I’ll see you tomorrow night.” And I watched as she left the room. Strange. What exactly do I mean to her? What does she mean to me? I just wish this made sense. The pieces of the puzzle just aren’t fitting together like they’re supposed to. At least not yet. All I’ve got are a jumble of mixed up emotions with no rhyme or reason…and strange visions of a past that, for all I can tell, might not even exist. I just wish I had some kind of ‘center’ again. Just something to let me know what I’m doing here.

The throbbing ache in my head was comforted by the stable feel of the wall behind me. My feet hung over the side of the bed, and my eyes closed softly to enjoy the silence. I might have lost focus for a moment or two, but I soon heard a light knocking at the door. I don’t know if I had been resting for a few minutes, or a few hours. Time seemed so strangely unimportant right now.

“Come in.” I said, and I saw Dutch walk in quietly. “Dutch, right?”

“You got it. The doctor check you out?” He asked, his voice a bit gruff and hazy, a nearly vanished Houston accent lacing his every word.

“Yeah. It appears that I’m a-ok….with the exception of the fact that I have no idea who I am right now.” I grunted, leaning forward.

“Don’t worry, we’ll take care of that in time. Right now, I wanna get you out of here and back to your quarters. We’re going to keep this little ‘illness’ of yours quiet for as long as we can. Got it?”

“Is there any particular reason why?”

“Let’s just say that we’re not exactly a pack of cub scouts in this place. The people we work for aren’t too forgiving when it comes to one of their ‘products’ being temporarily broken.” He said. “We do a lot of dirt around here…some of it on record, and some of it below the radar. What we know could do a lot of damage if it got out. There really isn’t room for any of us to make a mistake. So if they think for a second that you can’t be effective, useful, or trustworthy, they’ll have to get ridof you. And I’m NOT talking ‘pink slips’, kid.”

He helped me up to my feet, and offered me his shoulder. “That’s alright, I can walk on my own.”

“Suit yourself. Follow me, I’ll get you settled for the night.”

Dutch led me outside into the rest of the complex, and it looked even bigger than it did before. There were small trucks moving back and forth, carrying boxes marked with numeric code, and workers of all sorts moving back and forth like elves in a toy shop before the Christmas rush. A few folks turned to look at me, their eyes connecting with mine as though they knew me. But I didn’t stare for too long. I merely tried to straighten up and walk as though I belonged there. As though everything were fine. I could only hope that it was working, because deep down, the paraonia I felt in this place was eating me alive. That’s when, Dutch’s hand reached out and touched my shoulder. Walking toward us were three other vampires, much more well dressed than anyone else in this place, and they were approaching fast with their determined stroll. The first two were in front, but the third…hidden in back a little bit. I felt my emotions tense up immediately, my breath catching in my throat, my back straightening itself like a soldier. But beyond that….there was something else. Something that made me weak in the stomach. A slight jittery sensation washed over me, and despite my obedient posture, I was an unstable mess on the inside. What could possibly cause such a conflict of emotion in such a short period of time?

“Remember kid, as far as they know…you’re right as rain. If they ask you how everything went, just tell them that the mission was successful, and the target has been silenced.” Dutch whispered to me as we got closer to them. “And always refer to her as ‘Mistress’. Got it?”

“I think so.” I said nervously.

“Don’t think…just relax.” He warned me. “Keep it short and sweet. You’re not usually one for a lot of talking.”

The first two vampires approached me. One was a female vampire, dressed in a long black dress, with black hair down to her shoulders, and dark lashes that gave her eyes a wicked gleam with her first smile in my direction. She was slim, but shapely, about 25 years of age, wearing dark red lipstick and obsidian earrings. Her pale skin was smooth and rich, unblemished and unscarred. But the vibe that I got from her was so cold….icecold. Katrina. Mistress Katrina.

The man at her side was maybe a few years younger, but his features were a bit more aged than hers. He was skinny to the point of almost being cartoonish in his emaciated appearance, with a slightly elongated face. It looked as though his hair might have been thinning when he crossed over, but he made it just in time. His arms and legs looked unnaturally long, and his ribs seemed wider than his waistline. He had bags under his eyes, and a deep voice that rattled in his chest when he spoke, a dark English accent evident in his speech. He was wearing, what looked like a black robe. The ‘male’ version of the attire the lady next to him was sporting. And fingernails painted black, at the end of long skinny fingers that more closely resembled ‘talons’ than anything else. When they stopped to talk to me, I felt a strange angry sensation roll through me, and fought to keep it from showing on my face.

“Exile…my finest, up and coming, hunter…I see that you made it back safely.” Katrina said.

“Yes.” I said stoicly, but thought about what Dutch told me in the awkward pause following my reply. “Yes, Mistress.”

“I trust that you didn’t run into any…’problems’, during your assignment this evening.” She asked, and I felt my stomach muscles begin to constrict even worse. Whoever she was, this woman really rubbed me the wrong way.

“No, Mistress. None at all.”

The man next to her was looking me over, suspiciously analyzing me without any shame at all. “You seem injured.” He said, his deep voice weasel-like in its delivery.

“It’s just a nasty bump on the head. He’s taken a few lumps before, it’s no big deal.” Dutch answered. “I’m going to get him to his quarters, and let him get some peace before the big sleep takes him for the night.”

“And Kristoff?” She asked, looking deep into my eyes. It was almost as if she could tell that something was wrong. That I wasn’t myself.

There was a silence, and I looked over to see Dutch waiting for me to deliver my ‘line’. “Kristoff…yes. The uh…the mission was successful. The target has been silenced.” I said.

She kept her eye on me for a moment longer, a slow nod following. “Good. Very good.” She ‘scanned’ me for a few seconds before turning her attention to Dutch. “The report?”

Thankfully Dutch took over from there, handing her the folder. “The target was located about a week ago at this location. Information was given to us through our contacts on the street in that area. Kristoff was seen coming and going in many of the underground clubs in that area, but had no identifiable vampires with him. I believe that we were able to stop him before he was able to spread any classified information to the outside.” Dutch delivered his report while handing the blood samples and evidence of our attack over to the woman in black. Meanwhile, my attention was suddenly pulled away from the discussion to see the third vampire that had approached us. The other two had dominated their position so immediately that I didn’t even have a chance to see him at first. He was different…this third vampire among them. Very different indeed.

His eyes met mine briefly, with an eagerness, mixed with a touch of caution. He couldn’t have been more than 14 from the looks of him. Then again, judging by looks, I wouldn’t be more han 15 years old either. The difference, however, was in his very scent. New. Fresh. A sapling halflife, just crossed over. Wow…you could almost tastehis humanity. He still had the scent of ‘life’ all over him, many of his original blood cells were still there, containing that magical essence that made a young vampire so incredibly unique. My senses were drawn to him first, but it was my eyesight that held my gaze. He was BEYOND beautiful, in every sense of the word. He was stunning to behold, almost intimidating. He had the shiniest golden blond hair, that would glimmer with brilliance, even in this darkened corridor. And it hung sweetly down just below his soft blue eyes in thin silky bangs that gently grazed his long eyelashes as he blinked bashfully in my direction. Those few seconds of peeking out from behind the other two vampires, were the most exciting of my life as I could recall.

“Is that to be taken as a ‘no’, Exile?” The squirrely man on the left asked me, and I realized that I wasn’t paying attention.

“I’m sorry?” I asked, hoping he would repeat the question without asking why I was so distracted.

“I said…your wound looks severe. Are we to think that you will be out of ‘play’ for a while?” He sneered.

“No. No, I’m ok. Dr….Colby, says that I should be healing rather quickly. A few sleep cycles, not much more.” I told them.

“You see? The boy is fine. He’s a trooper, this kid. I told ya.” Dutch assured them, trying to drag me away from them before any more questions were asked.

“I see.” Said Katrina. Then she traced my line of sight back to the beautiful boy behind her. “Orion…why don’t you go back to our quarters and draw me a bath? I would like to celebrateExile’s victory this evening before bed.” She smiled, and the boy answered her.

“Yes, Mistress.” His voice was as angelic as the rest of him. I couldn’t understand why, but the ‘pull’ I felt in his direction was stronger than anything I’ve ever known. It was this emotional ‘yank’ that kept me fixated on his every move, and thoughts of kissing his delicate lips flooded my mind. Effectively drowning out everything else.

“Mmmmm, that’s a good boy.” She said, and then leaned over to give him a long wet lick on his cheek. Did he…’belong’ to her? Their blood signatures, from the smell of it, were very similar indeed. Was she….his sire? “I trust that you have other things to do, so I’ll leave you to it.” Katrina told me. “I DO hope you will be taking good care of that bump on the head, Exile. Field work can be very dangerous, even for you. I would hate for something to….happento you that we couldn’t fix.” I saw the most mischievous smile spread slowly across her thin lips, and felt my fist clench up secretly behind my back, my teeth gritted together in response. The comment angered and disgusted me. Something about it moved me to the point of wanting to leap forward and rip that smug grin right off of her face! But what was it? Was it because of the boy? No…more than that. Something sinister. She set me up. I can FEEL it. In fact, I was pretty certain that she didn’t expect me to come back from tonight’s mission at all.

“We’ll take good care of him, Mistress. By the weekend, he’ll be good as new.” Dutch assured her. And patted me on the back, giving me the signal to move forward.

“Bye…” The boy said to me, his adorably charming face still peeking out from the dominant forces in front of him. His beauty was paralyzing, but as Katrina and her right hand servant watched me closely…especially when it came to my interaction with the boy…I kept my emotions invisible.

I nodded at the boy, not showing any real affection, and walked forward with Dutch. “Goodbye, Mistress.” I said, and we began to walk our seperate ways.

As I turned to look back, the boy was trailing behind the other two, catching a few infatuated glances back at me. I couldn’t keep my eyes forward. I had to keep looking back. Meeting his eyes. Feeling his youthful ‘life essence’ filling whatever unknown void I had in the center of my heart. He enchanted me without hardly saying anything at all, and I could easily feel the closeness, and the distance, that existed between us. The boy looked back at me, his gorgeous blue eyes containing a hint of sadness, even when the rest of his face didn’t, and I almost stopped in midstep to go back for him.

“Orion!” Katrina called out, and she waited for the boy to catch up, taking his arm the moment he stood at her side. I’m really going to have to get a grip on myself at some point beore I make trouble that I don’t need.

Dutch and I continued to walk side by side for a while, and a grin broke out on his face. “Heh…it’s good to see that the littlebrain wasn’t damaged in the fight.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, come on, buddy boy. Who do you think you’re fooling? If you ask me, the few things that you NEED to forget about seem to be right there in the front of your brain.” He said, but when he saw the confused look on my face, he decided to elabrate. “The BOY, stupid. Orion.”

“Him? Oh…I was just…”

“Save it. Ok? I know. Widow knows, Freak knows, we ALL know. What you needto worry about is Katrina knowing. It’s no secret that Orion is her prize possession. She turned him herself, and she’s not known for her ‘patience’ in situations that deal with anybody else putting their hands on him.”

I straightened up and cleared my throat. “I wasn’t doing anything…”

“You were LOOKING. And to somone like her that’s an insult of the worst kind.” Dutch told me, and then pulled me aside. “Look, I know you’re having problems with remembering certain things, but if you need to keep just ONE thing in mind, it’s this…the boy is off limits. Got it?” I didn’t answer at first, sighing at how ridiculous it sounded for him to even be warning me. It’s not like I lacked self control. Still, he persisted. “GOT IT???”

“Ok. Alright. Off limits, I got it. Geez…” I said.

“I’m not playing here, kid. You promised me a long time ago that it would be business only in this place, and that you’d stay away from anything that would get Katrina’s claws out concerning the rest of us. But ever since that boy has been here for the past month or so, you’ve been doing emotional backflips over him, and don’t think we haven’t noticed.” Dutch’s voice softened a bit, and he put a hand on my shoulder. “There are other boys out there for you, Exile. Just as cute and sweet as Orion…but ‘available’. You get my meaning? If you start anything up with Katrina’s golden boy she’ll have both you AND him murdered without even blinking an eye. She’s a goddamn Mafia PRINCESS for crying out loud! There won’t be ANYWHERE for you to hide, even if you run!”

“It was a mistake! That’s all. I don’t even know who that boy IS!” I replied.

“GOOD! And that’s how it’s going to stay!”

“Fine, whatever. I was just…he’s cute…I was taking a peek.”

“Don’t even do THAT much! Just pretend he’s not even there! If he looks at you, you turn away. Do you understand?” He stopped walking and turned me to look him in the eye. “TELL ME you understand!” “OK!!! I said I would ignore him already, what do you want from me?” I replied.

“I want you to stay alive. These aren’t ‘forgiving’ people that we’re dealing with. I don’t want to have be the one to get the order to put you down if she decides that you’re a threat to her ‘comfort’. Make no mistake…even though the Elders are looking out for your best interests, she WILL put out an underground licensed contract on you. And once you’re dead, she can make up any story she ikes about how it happened. So you leave her loverboy alone and stick to what you do best. You got me?”

“Yeah. I got you.” I said the words, but although I couldn’t remember that boy at all, it hurt my feelings to agree to such a restriction. Keep myself away from him? I didn’t even know where to find him if I WANTED to be close to him. And yet…the emotion was there. It was THERE. I could feel it, like a hollow drum in my chest, waiting to be filled up with something special. A liquid sensation so powerful, that it turned the night into day, and healed my every wound with no further effort than it took to see his smile.

“Good. Now these are your private quarters here. Lay down for the night and rest that noggin’ of yours. Tomorrow evening, we’ll see if we can expand on what you know….and what you NEED to know.” Dutch said, and opened a sliding door for me. Then he came close and gave me a tight hug. “It’s good to see that you’re still kicking, boy.”

“Thanks.” I said. And he let me go, giving me a casual salute before leaving me to spend some time alone with my thoughts. What little I had left. I hope that something comes back to me soon. This place is so damn strange without the needed reference to the faces and knowledge I need to know where I am, who to talk to, or even who I could trust. Something feels so wrong here, and I can’t tell what it is. It’s like every alarm in my body is going off at once, and I can’t assosciate the bells and whistles with anything concrete enough to react accordingly. Maybe I just need some sleep. The doctor said that I might have a complete recall of everything tomorrow, right? Maybe I’ll get lucky. Maybe tomorrow…this confusion will be forgotten, and I’ll be back to myself again. Only time will tell.

I turned to look around at the room I was standing in. My room. You would think that the very sight of my own possessions would spark some kind of connection to the world I had recently lost sight of. But it didn’t. In fact, everything looked just as alien in that room as the rest of this place. There was a bed in the corner, just a mattress and a dirty old pillow, along with a ratty looking blanket that appeare to have been kicked off onto the floor. There was a desk covered in papers and old photographs, and I moved closer to investigate. But there was nothing ‘personal’ about the contents. It was just…work. Photographs of vampires that I didn’t recognize, old buildings and possible vampire habitats, and pages on top of pages of stats and calculations. Data printouts. where to find them, where to find their friends and family, suspected crimes, possible weaknesses…all wrapped up with this ice cold vampire hunter protocol meant to make their very existence as flat and as unimportant as possible when matched up with the Elder’s order. Whatever it was that I could find out about myself here…I’d rather not know.

I continued to look around, and saw a collection of DVDs sitting on a shelf above a flat screen color tv attached to the wall. I looked closer at the titles, and they all appeared to be pornography. Young boys, all of them. Jesus…there had to be, like, 50 of them. With names like ‘Little Sailor Boys’, ‘Little Boy Blew’, ‘Johnny Appleseed’, and ‘Locker Room Cock Jockey’. The pics on the outside of the box were about as explicit as they possibly could be, and most of the videos were actual vampire porn. Gorgeous boys my age, with the experience of a veteran porn star. I didn’t know I was so into this stuff. Maybe later I’ll…um…’review’ a couple of these. Just to see if they bring anything back, of course.

My closet was near empty, with just enough clothes to get through the week, and three pair of shoes. Everything looked to be more functionalthan stylish, however. I guess I wasn’t really one for showing off my sense of fashion either. Sighhh…what does any of this mean? How could I be so damn lost in my own life?

I felt a yawn building in the back of my throat, and stretched my arms up as it left me. The dawn must be approaching, and the big sleep was coming to claim me for the rest of the day. I peeled off my clothes and kicked off my shoes, climbing into bed and pulling the old blanket over on top of me before turning off the light. It was when I lay on my back, my hands behind my head, that I noticed something written in bright red glow-in-the-dark paint on the ceiling. I let my eyes focus on it briefly, and saw that it was a quote. It said…

“I fear if my demons leave me, that my angels may take flight as well.”

The idea rattled around in my head for a short time, the concept attempting to take hold as the irrational thoughts of sleep swept in to take me over. And soon, my eyes closed, and my body went cold. I suppose I’ll have to think about it more tomorrow.

What I had that night might have just been a dream, but it felt more like a memory. It had become so hard to disguinsh between the two all of the sudden. But I remember standing in a room with twelve other vampires, hunters like myself, and a large man with an eye patch apparently training us. “Exile!” He barked at me. “Step forward!” I did as I was told, and he called out another one of my ‘classmates’. “Prime! Front and center!” We stood at opposite ends of the mat, and our eyes connected tightly from across the room. We were both dressed in tight black spandex, with black gloves and boots. But he was bigger than me, older. He looked to have been in his 20’s when he crossed over. I can still feel the tremble in my chest. The uncertainty. But not a single one of those doubts were allowed to reach the surface. My face was fixed, my eyes locked, my fists balled up tight and firm, my feet positioned perfectly beneath me. I was ready. Then, the man with the eye patch told us, “The fight is not over until your opponent is unable to continue. Begin!”

With that command, we moved in slowly. Every step, calculated and measured. Every movement giving way to over 100 different strikes, blocks, and dodges, if the need presented itself. And then, in between, our hands touched…and the sparring began. Prime’s fist reached out with a flash, and struck me right across the face. If my reflexes weren’t fast enough to let it roll off to the side, he could have easily broken my jaw! Without having time to think, I struck out with both fists blazing, attempting to get a shot in somewhere, ANYWHERE! Prime was fast! DAMN fast! Somwhere in my attack, I left my legs unprotected, and he was quick to take advantage of the opening. He spun down low to kick my legs from under me, sending me falling back on my shoulders. He kicked out a leg to hurt me while I was down, but I was quick enough to catch his foot and toss him to the ground. We both popped up onto our feet again and took our stances, our stare locking onto one another again. I could feel the pain in my back, legs, and face already…but tried to ignore it. Mentally trying to numb it until I had completed my objective. That is what they teach us here, afterall.

I saw Prime’s feet swivel around in my direction, but by the time I had caught sight of his motion, it was already too late. His swift roundhouse kick connected to my face and sent me spinning back to the floor. I rolled out of the way the second I touched down, and flipped to my feet again. He charged me from the right, and my feet left the floor, jumping high enough step down on his shoulder and flip over him. I then moved in to elbow him in the back and flipped him over my shoulder. But much to my surprise, Prime landed on his feet. He struck out at me again, and our arms and legs twisted and banged against each other with a fury. I took small hits off of him here and there, occassionally hitting an arm, or a shoulder, or a leg. Sometimes I could get a small shot in at his chest, or his neck, but none of it did any real damage. The shots that HE was able to get in, however…were downright brutal. My ribs ached, my stomach muscles cramped, my back, my arms, my face…it was getting hard to ignore the pain. It was taking over. I needed to get out of this deadlock and get some space before I tire out.

I spun inward to avoid one of Prime’s kicks and jumped up to land both of my feet square in the center of his chest. The blow knocked him backwards, and it was the first time his feet had left the match the entire time. When he got back up, he was pissed. “Fucking halflife TRASH!!!” Before I knew it, he was attacking me with more strength than I was prepared for. Trying to block one of his kicks was like banging my forearms against the edge of a brick! And I couldn’t keep it up for long. The strikes happened so fast and so hard that I found myself nearly turtling up to protect myself from the assault. I caught punches to my back, my side, my collarbone…and just when I was reaching the end of my ability to defend myself, Prime set his foot in the middle of my chest, and flipped up and backwards with his other foot making a crash collision with my chin! My teeth rattled, and a splash of blood came rushing out of my mouth as my neck snapped back and the force of the blow arched my back on my way to the mat. It felt like I’d never stop falling, until at last, I hit the ground with a thud, and Prime landed gracefully on his feet.

Then, as if to add insult to injury, Prime jumped into the air, raising his feet high, and then brought them down on BOTH of my kneecaps! Breaking them instantly! I cried out in horror as my young body was overwhelmed with pain, and I rolled onto my stomach, crying uncontrollably loud into the mat.

“MATCH!” The man with the eye patch said. “Winner…PRIME!” The cheers and applause of the others were drowned out by the sound of my own tears as I used every mental technique that I could think of to try to take away some of the pain. But there was no ignoring the damage done. My legs were cracked and broken, I couldn’t even move. It hurt so much that I was trembling beyond control, and I felt my body begin to go into shock. The trainer stood over me for a moment, and said, “Verydisappointing for your first sparring match, Exile. I expected more from you, boy.” Then he signaled two men with a stretcher to come and get me off of the floor to carry me to the infirmary. The last thing I remembered was Prime’s smiling face as my vision blurred with tears of agony. He was so satisfied at having beaten me. The others hardly paid me any attention at all. They already had their hero.

I was slowly waking up from my dream, but as I began to regain consciousness, I sensed another presence in the room around me. I didn’t open my eyes yet, and pretended to stay asleep. It was more an instinct than a willing action, but my training had kicked in automatically, and continued to follow the intruder’s slow movements towards me. I could hear them, feel them, sense them. And when they got close enough to touch me, whoever it was stopped in his tracks. As though they were watching me. It was then that I decided to speak first before reaching out a hand to choke the life from the person next to me. If it turned out to be Dr. Colby again, I doubt he’d tolerate another misplaced outburst.

“I know you’re in here.” I said calmly. “Should I be worried?” I heard a light gasp, and the other presence covered his mouth. “I’ll take that as a no.”

“I’m sorry…” That voice. I remembered that voice. And while it was soothing to the ear, it caused chaos in my heart.

I sat up and opened both of my eyes. There he was. The boy I had seen with Katrina the night before. This time, he was close, and I was able to let my gaze linger on his perfection for a much more satisfying glance than I had been given before. His skin was like warm buttermilk, creamy and soft, with an almost invisibly natural blush. His lips were full, but small. kissable in a way that tugged at your soul just from looking at them. And his eyes, while curtained on both sides by blond hair that would shine like spun gold, were definitely my favorite feature. They were the purest shade of blue, as close to the real thing as vampire optrix could hope to produce. And even though the specs were of the highest quality, some of his glow would penetrate anyway. Then again, maybe it was just his total aura that made him shine so brightly. He was so young in his crossover, a newblood. I doubt his fangs had even dropped yet, and if they had, it would have only been for a week or two. I doubted he had even had his first hunt. The teen was almost as tall as I was, maybe an inch or two shorter, but his slim frame made his arms and legs appear longer than they were. And his shoulders were broad, but thin, joining in the middle at the nape of a smooth and slender neck. The boy defined an innocent sexuality that radiated from his every pore whether he wanted it to or not, and despite my loss of memory, my emotions knew exactly who he was, and what he meant to me. I know…because it made me weak inside just to be near him.

“What are you doing?” I asked. It was one of the few words that I’d be able to say while having him watch me like that.

“I was….watching you sleep.” He said, gently biting his bottom lip. “I hope that doesn’t sound creepy.”

“No…I mean….what are you doing HERE?”

“I snuck in.” He said, with a little crooked smile sliding up his left cheek. “I KNOW you’re gonna be mad and all…but don’t worry. She doesn’t know that

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