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Matt Pessiliar sat on the curb behind the liquor store. He took a long drag on his cigarette, and then blew it above his head aloofly, watching the smoke drift in billowing swirls as it disappeared.
After a moment or two, he stood he up and tossed the cig on the pavement, outing it with his brown, leather combat boot, and it became another lifeless bit of nicotine and charred paper, like the dozens of others surrounding it.
Matt slipped back inside the dark, gloomy store where he worked and grabbed his leather pouch from the cash register, depositing his lighter and pack of camels inside with the other contents: a set of keys, his wallet, a wooden stake, and a crucifix. Locking the door behind him, he departed.
He hopped into his van and pushed aside the boxes of old, expired food, the beer bottles that comforted him in his times of need, and the wretched, sweat-stained scraps of clothing, masking beneath them a hidden pistol with silver bullets, wooden stakes, crucifixes, and assorted knives.
Matt turned the key and the engine roared to life as he tore out of the deserted parking lot.
He ripped down the bumpy, dirt road past the acres of desert, occasionally passing a tree or two, the limbs reaching down to him. The sky was dusk; purple, orange and grey covered the sky’s canvass in a dark, subtle mood.
Through the dark, he was able to make out a shape in the distance, standing on the side of the road, arm outstretched.
Matt slowed his vehicle to a complete stop in front of the hitchhiker. “Can I help you, Miss?” he smirked, leaning out the open car window, looking her up and down.
She smiled up at him with a child’s innocent stare. She looked about in her early twenties or late teens, nineteen at the least. She was as pale as the sky, her raven hair billowed behind her in the wind. She dressed in an almost Victorian era dress, pitch black as her hair. Her bright, golden, cat-like eyes stood out against the depressing black. She was so beautiful, almost inhuman.
She twisted a strand of her hair around her finger playfully, grinning like a Cheshire cat. “I was driving into town when my car broke down a few miles back… I was going to head to the repair shop, but…” She bit her lip. “It’s so far… and it looks like it’ll rain soon… I don’t know what I can do… unless…”
“I can give you a ride,” Matt answered instantly, perplexed by her almost hypnotic eyes. “A pretty little thing like you shouldn’t be out here alone at this time of night, who knows what’s lurking out there,”
He knew. He knew a lot better than most folks.
She perked up instantly, her amber eyes sparkling. “Really? Oh, my goodness, thank you so much!” she was already in the car before she finished her sentence.
She was even more amazing up close. Matt breathed in her lilac sent as he put the van in drive and started off again. He felt like he was drifting off in space, completely free of gravity’s pull, unaware of everything and more aware than he had ever been at the same time.
“So, where did you break down at?”
He turned and almost swerved off the road. The seat beside him lay empty and with a sick realization, the lilac smell disappeared suddenly as if it had never existed, replaced by the rancid odor of decay.
The vehicle swerved out of control and collapsed in the ditch along side the road. Glass shattered around him; He desperately shielded his eyes from the shards without much luck.
Once the chaos had come to a stand still, he slowly lifted his head and listened to the sudden silence- calm before the storm.
Before he had time to act or even think, he felt icy hands clutch around his throat, lifting him slowly upward toward the waiting lips of death…
All that was heard was his blood curdling scream, whistling of the wind, and the black birds as they cried out to the song of immortal evil.
Two days later…
Gerard listened to the screams of the parasite as it slowly materialized into ash. When he was finished, he retrieved his stake and wiped the dust from it as he sauntered home nonchalantly.
He went inside and slammed the door behind him with a shrill blast. His brother, Mikey, lay sprawled out on the worn-down couch, which was spilling cotton out of the various rips and tears that had developed over time, sagging under him like a criminal giving up and turning himself in.
Mikey looked up as the door slammed. He noticed the Stephen King book clasped between his sweat-soaked hands.
“Still reading that garbage, huh?” Gerard asked. “You know how freaked out you get when you read those.”
Mikey’s face flushed with embarrassment. “If I can handle what we do everyday, I think I can handle a little bit of fiction.”
Gerard sighed as he thought of his slayer life. Everyday, he risked his life for the city of New Jersey against vampires, protecting them from the immortal that craved for their blood.
He looked at the pile of books that Mikey had abandoned on the counter… Interview with the Vampire, New Moon, The Vampire Lestat, Twilight, The Parasite… and he secretly wished that these were the only place they existed, in fiction. He wished he didn’t have to protect them all from vampires, that he didn’t have to be on edge every second of his life… he just wanted to be like any normal seventeen year old boy… he wanted to go to the prom, and stress about tests, worry about girls and all the rest of the drama, argue with his parents about trivial things like curfew…
Gerard sulked as he thought of his parents. There’s no use thinking of ‘what ifs’, they’re gone now, and there’s nothing either of us can do.
He watched Mikey as he rolled off the couch into the abyss of books and food wrappers and wondered what he was thinking. Mikey had always been the more adventurous one, the optimist of the family. It seemed like he enjoyed what they did. He saw the vamps as new challenges, not so much as a burden. He wondered how he could always find something to make himself or the people around him smile, no matter how grim the situation.
Gerard wished he had his brother’s courage.
Mikey stood up and brushed the crumbs from the couch and set the book down on the table with a thud, stretched, and walked into the kitchen. He grabbed a beer from the fridge and plopped down in the wooden chair across from Gerard.
“Ray been by yet?”
“I saw him earlier on my way to work, but not since.” Gerard answered him, thinking of their fellow slayer. “I think he’s at the bar with Frank, keeping an eye on Matt.”
Their friend Matt was going through… well, I guess you could say, a rough time. He had no house and lived out of his van, and all the money he made at his job at the liquor store was spent on the bar. Working around the substance didn’t help his addiction, but after he was arrested for drunk driving a few years back, there were limited choices in jobs.
Matt wasn’t like the rest of them. Even though Mikey didn’t seem upset about stalking vampires all throughout his life, it didn’t even compare to Matt. He loved to kill them, in a sick, masochistic way. He got a disturbing pleasure out of their pain. He was sloping downhill and becoming more and more depressed by the day, and they worried about him constantly.
Mikey seemed to be reading his mind. “Don’t worry,” he said. “They’ll keep an eye on him.”
Gerard sighed. “Yeah, you’re right. I guess I shouldn’t be so paranoid all the time.”
He got up from the table and slumped into his room, plopping himself down on the bed. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow.
As the last of the setting sun peeked the last of it’s embers over the horizon, Frank roared down the desolate highway, the heavy metal that blasted breaking the serenity. He propped the steering wheel between his knees, popped the lid of his Heineken and swigged vigorously.
“Pick your poisons,” he muttered as he tossed the empty can of chew out the window.
In no more than a few seconds time, he heard a siren behind him. He glanced at the dirt and dust splattered side mirror and cursed under his breath.
“You gotta be kiddin’ me,” Frank whispered to himself as he pulled over to the side of the road. The cop followed in suit.
Frank pushed the bottles under the seat and put on his best innocent smile. The cop slowly descended towards his car, gazing at the ground as he walked, his face hidden by his russet-colored sheriff’s hat, the kind they wore in older movies, which matched his uniform. He looked more like a park ranger than an officer, until you saw the gun in his holster.
He rapped his knuckles against the grime-covered window. Frank quickly unrolled it and raised his hand to shield his eyes from the blinding beam of light from the flashlight that was burning down on him like a spotlight. Frank felt like he was a criminal in an interrogation room.
“Can I help you, Officer?” Frank asked innocently. The cop didn’t speak, just continued to shine the light upon him. He was unable to see his eyes in the dim light, but he felt as if they were burning holes into his flesh.
He suddenly felt uneasy. His hand slid down the crack between the seats, grasping his stake in his hands, but did not raise it any further. “Is there a problem, Officer?” Frank held his ground.
“Well, if there’s no problem, then, I guess I’ll-“
The parasite let out a blood chilling roar of anger and bashed in the window with his bare hands, sending glass shattering in every direction, but he was already gone.
It stared in confusion at the empty, glass-covered seat, and screeched and collapsed to the ground in a fit of pure hatred as Frank plunged the stake through him from behind. Within moments, all that was left was ash.
“Newborns… they always try the same move,” he muttered as he kicked at the pile of dust. Taking one last look at it, he slammed the trunk, regained his position behind the wheel, and drove off without looking back.
Ray sipped at his coffee casually, pretending to be interested in the newspaper in front of him as he watched the waitress take a deep breath and saunter timidly past him, a serving tray covered with an assortment of rare steaks and other meats. She placed it carefully in front of the obese, putrid-smelling man. He immediately began ripping it apart with his teeth.
The waitress, clutching her notepad in front of her like a bible, trying not to breath in the gut retching odor, asked apprehensively, “W-will this be all for you?”
He waved her off, still devouring the savory, blood ridden animal tissue that beckoned to him with anger. The waitress, jumping out of the way as he threw another plate against the wall, ran back to kitchen, her stomach heaving.
“Now’s the time,” Ray muttered under his breath, laying the newspaper aside.
The waitress slipped out of the bathroom in the back, her face pale. Someone had to kick him out, and it had to be her.
The check clutched in hand, she stepped into the dining room and gasped in confusion. The room was completely empty, and all that was left were the piles of broken dirty dishes and a mysterious pile of ashes on the floor.
Frank pulled over to the side of the road, panic rushing through him like ice. He hopped from the truck to survey the damage of the pitiful looking compaction of glass and metal all crunched and dented like a can of soda squeezed too hard.
“Matt? Matt!” he called out as he hopped out of the truck, running to the scene.
He recognized the scent immediately. It was the stench of death and decaying flesh, still fresh, from no more than an hour ago.
Prying open the demolished door, Frank began to dig through the ruins of the van, and realized the trail of blood leading from the busted back doors, trailing out into the fields, the tall grass stained with the drag marks leading away from the road.
Cursing, he leapt out and bent down towards the blood. It seemed neither human nor immortal… something in between.
“Matt,” he whispered. “Don’t tell me they’ve got you, too,”
Frank’s mind drifted to his memory of the last time a slayer had been turned… he remembered the screams of agony, the fear, and the scarring screams of Gerard as he did what no one else could do…
He was jogged out of the memory by the roar of a car engine coming his way. Looking up, he recognized Ray, and ran out into the road, hoping the headlights would be enough to give him away.
Slamming on the brakes, Ray stopped just in time, and hopped out of the car and descended toward him.
“What were you thinking?” he demanded. Then he gaped in awe at Matt’s van, a pathetic compaction of crunched metal.
“They got him,” Frank whispered incredulously. Ray didn’t move.
“N-no,” he said. “They couldn’t have… you know what happened last time, when… you know…”
Sullen, Frank nodded and began to move towards the wrecked vehicle, Ray following behind him.
“Where do you think they went?” He asked.
Frank pondered. “Somewhere dark… somewhere safe… somewhere the change could occur without being seen… and the newborns,” he paused, “always go to the place they first think of, always somewhere obvious.”
“You mean the liquor store?”
Frank nodded. “Let’s go,”
Ray got inside the convertible and turned the key. A low rumble, then nothing. He tried again. Same result.
He popped the hood and surveyed the cause. Various wires lay in half before him, and lifting one to examine it, it appeared to have been severed by teeth, bite marks laced up and down it.
Shivers ran down his spine. He turned to Frank.
“They were here,” he said. “The whole time we were talking, they were here, listening…”
Frank went completely cold, fear coursing through him, yet he didn’t move a muscle or show any signs of fright. “Hop in,” he finally whispered, and they left, leaving the crushed van that was once Matt’s home behind.
Gerard was running through the woods, the dark, wispy, dying trees looming out as if they were reaching to grab him. He could hear Mikey calling his name, but he didn’t look back.
He stopped when he reached a familiar clearing, and realizing he had gone through here three times, he let out a scream of outrage and lunged at a poor, blameless thorn bush, ripping it from its roots in disparity and hurling it into the oblivion of the lifeless trees and overgrown shrubbery.
“Gerard,” an eerily familiar honey-filled voice whispered to him from behind.
He spun around, a stake clutched in his sweat-soaked hands. He stared incredulously at the mystic being before him. “Mom?”
She smiled and took a step toward him, her raven hair tamed in a perfect straightness at her shoulders, not a hair out of place.
“He’s fine, he’s with the others. Let’s go,”
Gerard started toward her, but then stopped. Her clothing that had hours ago been torn and muddy and blood-stained was now perfectly spotless as if the person wearing them had not just been running for their life through the woods. The scrapes and scars that had been left upon her complexion were absent as if nothing had harmed her.
This being was not his mother.
“Where’s Dad?” He demanded.
“He’s fine, he’s with the others. Let’s go,” She looked into his eyes and Gerard felt his insides fill with mush. Of course this was his mother, she was the same perfect woman who had raised him all his life.
He descended toward her, giving into what he wanted to see.
“Gerard! Don’t go with her!”
He turned. “Dad?”
“Don’t listen to her!” his father screamed. “It’s not your mother!”
Gerard spun towards the woman. Of course it’s not her, he thought. How could I have been so stupid?
He plunged his stake her chest, her screams rippling through the night.
Gerard woke up on the floor of his room in a tangle of sheets, drenched with sweat. As soon as his heartbeat had returned to normal, he stood up and fell back onto the bed. How many times had he had this dream since his parents died? He couldn’t even begin to count how many occasions he had been shaken awake by Mikey from his restless nightmares. Every time, all he could remember about the night played like a movie before his eyes, but the rest was lost somewhere in the corners of his mind.
When Mikey, Frank, and Ray had found him the next morning, passed out in the middle of the woods, he could scarcely remember anything. Bits and pieces eventually came back to him, but how his parents died remained a mystery, only leaving behind two mutilated corpses with no answers.
He stumbled down the hallway and peered into Mikey’s room. His brother was sprawled out on his bed asleep, a novel still clutched in his hand and many others littered on the floor, their spines creased to the point where they were falling apart.
As Gerard left him to rest and went to the kitchen to make some coffee, the phone rang, breaking the groggy silence with a chill of foreboding.
He picked up the receiver and propped it against his shoulder casually as he spooned in coffee grounds into the pot, the plastic cold against his cheek.
Gerard set down the bag of coffee grounds. “Hello?”
Still no answer, just the eerie silence.
He reached to hang up, but just seconds before he could, a voice crackled omnisciently from the receiver.
“Do you know where your friends are?”
Gerard tensed, every muscle in his body locking in place.
Slowly, he placed it once again at his ear. “W-what?” he asked, unsure if he had even heard it or if it was all just a hallucination. The voice spoke again, proving to be much too real to be non-existent.
The deep, strangely familiar voice on the other line laughed. “Let’s hope you do, because there’s not much time left,”
Gerard’s brow furrowed, the feeling of unease drenching his insides like concrete, making him feel as if something was weighing him down.
“Bob?” The words slipped from his throat almost involuntarily.
There was a brief pause, and then the sound of the dial tone filled his ear.
His mind was spinning, and it was as if the floor was disappearing beneath him. The receiver slipped from his sweat-soaked hands and clattered to the floor. Thoughts whirled in his mind like liquid fire, all melting and converging into one blurred haze.
The next thing he knew, he was driving down the dirt highway, unsure of where he was going or what he was doing.
Ahead, he saw a crashed vehicle in the middle of the road. Recognizing it immediately, he leapt from the car to Frank and Ray’s aide.
He kneeled down to Ray, who lay strewn next to the car in the middle of the road. He didn’t need to check his pulse, for it was quite apparent he was already dead.
“Oh, Ray,” he whispered. “What did they do to you?”
He heard a grunt from the other side of the car. He bolted up to find Frank lying half under the car.
“Frank!” he ran and collapsed at his side. “It’s okay, I’m here,”
Frank shook his head, blood spurting out of his mouth. He made an attempt to say something.
“Save your energy, buddy, I’ll get you out,”
“N-no,” he uttered.
Gerard looked down.
“Don’t give up on me now, Frank!”
He grabbed Gerard by the shirt collar.
“M-Mikey,” he whispered. “Save Mikey,”
With that, the collar slipped from his grasp and Frank lay still on the pavement.
“No,” he whispered. “No!”
He stood up and looked into the void of darkness above him, throwing his hands in the air, and he screamed.
Running to the car, he only had one thing on his mind.
Mikey lay transfixed on the torn-up couch, his fingers turning the pages involuntarily every couple of minutes. The harsh slamming of the front door ripped him from his hypnotic state of being, shivers tearing down his spine like someone’s frozen fingers. A draft glazed the room in ice-soaked air, leaving with it a heavy feeling of dread upon Mikey.
“Gerard?” he called uncertainly.
C’mon, Mikey, he asserted himself, how many times have you made a fool of yourself because of that overactive imagination?
Standing up with faulty courage, he kept his mind fixed on rational thoughts and descended towards the kitchen.
“Gerard, whatever you’re doing, it’s not funny,”
There was a cackle of thunder and a burst of lightening, stealing away the lights with it.
Footsteps thundered behind him. He spun around, but whoever it was was nowhere to be seen.
Fear clenched at his throat and filled his entire body, freezing his joints and locking them into place. Mikey’s mind whirled and he wondered if he could even remember how to move. The sound of his own breathing brought him back to sanity and he spun around to find himself face to face with the vampire that he had once cared for like a brother.
“I always told you that your imagination would be the death of you,” Matt stated nonchalantly as he thumbed through the novel Mikey had abandoned moments before on the ruins of the couch.
Mikey struggled to speak, but all that came out were pitiful choked gasps for air.
“You know, Ann Rice didn’t do her research very well, or at least not with reliable sources,” he said as he scanned the page thoughtfully. “We can enter wherever we please, whenever we please, invited or not.” He tossed the book over his shoulder and surveyed the room. “I guess my invitation to your little pity party got lost in the mail, did it not?” he picked up a spilled bottle of beer, glanced at the label, then chugged the last of it down in one fluid motion.
Mikey backed towards the door, panic seizing his throat with frozen hands.
“Does it bother sometimes, Mikey,” Matt pondered, “that you always seem to be living in the shadow of your older brother?”
Nausea flooded his senses. “W-what?”
“Oh, don’t act like you haven’t noticed it, Mikey! We all have. Gerard has always taken the spotlight away from you, always stealing all the credit, playing the role of the favorite child…” He laid his chilly hands on Mikey’s shoulders. “Your parents always did love him more… such a shame, such a shame… that’s why you read, isn’t it? You are not content with the reality that you were born into, so you escape by turning yourself into a different person every night when you pick up a book, you become the protagonist you always wished you could be,”
Mikey felt tears well up in his eyes. “It’s not his fault!” he choked. “It’s mine for not being the perfect child that they always wanted,”
Matt put his finger to Mikey’s lips and turned him to stare into his dark, chocolate drenched eyes. “Listen to me, Mikey dear, it is his fault. It was supposed to be you who was the great one, and he stole that away from you.” He pulled him closer. “I think it’s time you took your rightful place, don’t you?”
Mikey’s brow furrowed, his complexion hazed in wonder and awe. “but how?”
Matt leaned into him, his lips inched from his ear. “Join me,”
His eyes closed in submission.
Matt laughed and leaned his tingling lips towards his throat.
“If you want him, you’ll have to kill me first!”
Matt spun around. Mikey’s eyes fluttered open in confusion. “Gerard?”
“Nobody hurts my brother,” Gerard descended swiftly towards them, a stake clenched in his hand.
Matt’s eyes danced excitedly around the room. “See, Mikey? There’s the one who’s been keeping you from you destiny,” a sneer formed over his cold, undead lips. “Kill him,”
Mikey stepped forward hazily.
“Don’t listen to him! He’s using you! I would never do anything to hurt you!”
“He lies!” Matt pushed him forward. “He’s always wanted to kill you, the same way he killed your parents!”
Silence fell in twenty-ton bricks broken only by the cackling of thunder in the distance.
Gerard stood perplexed. “What did you say?”
“Oh, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten it so quickly, Gerard!” Matt moved forward. “Don’t you remember what you did?” he paused. “Think harder,”
A veil was ripped from his mind and the memories came flooding back like a tsunami, drowning what was left of his sanity.
“Don’t you remember how you stabbed your own mother? Not once, but three times! What a wonderful job she did of raising you,”
“No,” Gerard screamed. “No!”
“By the time you realized she was human, it was too late to save her,” Matt laughed.
Mikey stared at him. “How do you know all this?” he demanded.
Matt sneered. “I was there with you all along. I took the form of your father to get you to kill your mother, and then left as soon as I saw him coming. Poor guy never knew what hit him when you gutted him...” he paused as if in admiration of his deeds. “I did a pretty good job all these years, didn’t I? You never suspected a thing. I lived off the blood of newborns and created an army right under your noses.” He stepped forward. “And once you two are gone, I can rein my army of darkness upon the humans… you are, after all, the last of the slayers.”
Mikey backed away. “You sick, twisted-“
Gerard leapt at the parasite, hatred and fry controlling him like a string puppet. He held the stake to his throat.
“Mikey,” he commanded. “Get out now. I don’t want you to see this,”
As he fled for the door, the vamp knocked Gerard to the ground like he was weightless and followed in pursuit of his prey. Mikey did not see the porch steps in the darkness and tumbled below to the foot of the steps, his leg bending in an unnatural position and cracking like a pretzel stick.
Matt laughed manically and moved in for the kill.
Gerard stepped between them. “I thought I told you if you wanted him, you had to kill me first,”
The wind was knocked from his body as the vampire struck.
Matt was too strong for him. He had him pinned, his fangs bared, inches from his neck.
Where’s my stake? Gerard thought anxiously as he groped around for it. He glanced around and saw it a few feet away from him, just out of reach.
Come on, Come on, He thought as he reached in disparity. Just a little more… yes! He had it.
He raised the stake over Matt, about to stab.
“Do it, Gerard!” Mikey called. “Kill him! Now’s your only chance!”
Gerard stared into the hungry vampire’s hungry eyes, Matt’s eyes, staring back at him.
“I can’t do it,” he said, tears streaming down his face. “He was my friend. I can’t kill him.”
Gerard closed his eyes, the vicious parasite snarling above him, let his arms drop to the ground, and waited for the pain to come.
A screech ripped from Matt’s throat, a sound of piercing agony.
Gerard opened his eyes to see smoke rising from Matt as he disinigrated, his flesh melting off his bones into ash. He pushed him off and backed away.
Mikey smiled and looked up from where he lay. “Ah, that’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” he whispered.
It was the sunrise.
Gerard looked sadly down at what was left of Matt, his tears landing on the damp ground.
It was over.
It was all over.
Gerard sat on the end of Mikey’s hospital bed a week later. His brother was badly injured, but he was okay.
“You know,” said Mikey. “You didn’t have to save me,”
Gerard looked at him solemnly. “I did. I love you, Mikey.”
“But you risked your own life to protect me,”
“And look at what a good job I’ve done of it,” he joked, looking sadly at down at his hurt brother.
They were silent for a moment.
“When you were born, I promised Mom and Dad that I’d never let anything hurt you,” Gerard finally said, looking down at the linoleum in remembrance.
Mikey smiled. “They would be proud of you, Gerard.”
He looked at his brother and tumbled off the hospital bed, backing away.
“You- You’re-“ he stuttered.
Mikey’s fanged smile grew. “That’s right, dear brother,” he said. “Matt turned me.”
Gerard didn’t move.
“Now it’s your turn,”
Mikey leapt from the hospital bed and sunk his cold fangs into his brother’s throat.