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The Number Twelve
The floorboards creaked with every step Jacoby took in the dark house. He paced in the living room, which was bare except for an old, musty couch, cardboard boxes used as tables, and twelve lit candles. The cub's pale face was illuminated by the tiny flames, his sunken eyes shadowed so that you'd never realize what a beautiful green they were. His gaze kept traveling from his boots shuffling on the ground to the scenery beyond the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of Charlie and Hunter.
Their kind weren't supposed to ever get cold, but Jacoby could feel the draft whipping around him. Slowly, he let his little arms wrap around his skinny torso, sadly aware of the goosebumps arising on the skin that wasn't covered with his black T-shirt. A sigh escaped his thin lips, the air appearing as white smoke like a ghost soon to disappear.
Jacoby moved to the window, where he knelt down, placing his small hands on the sill. His knobbly knees ached as they were pressed into the floor. His malnourished face reflected in the glass, the backdrop the dark, dank neighborhood. Distress and hope thrived in his young eyes as he awaited his brothers' return.
“Come on, guys,” Jacoby whispered. “Where are you?”
Hunter and Charlie hadn't been seen for two days and the poor cub was hungry. A rumble kept voicing itself inside Jacoby's hollow stomach; but his brothers couldn't have the knowledge that no one was there any longer to feed him. They were not yet old enough to have developed the skill of telepathy. How could they know what had happened?
As a horrifying stench reached his nostrils, he laid himself down in the corner. Jacoby buried his face in his arms, attempting to hide from the odor. It hung like a stain in the air, having moved with the draft from his mother's bedroom to the front of the house.
The event had only occurred yesterday and already the tantalizing smell of familial passing was beginning to fill the home. Jacoby had been all alone when it happened, and all alone ever since. With his eyes closed, the cub felt like he was in his mom's room again, holding her hand.
Jacoby had heard the screams coming from his mother's room. Hearing the calls of terror scared him, but he sprinted to her aid only to find that he could barely move past the door frame. What he saw made his skin crawl. His pet serpent, Zischen, was crawling all over the woman, its slender body seeming to devour her. Jacoby's mother was the spindle and the snake the thread. The cub forced his feet, which felt like lead, to move to her side, taking a hold of her hand. However, he could do nothing else, only stand there, watching Zischen's orange jaws open. Fangs, quite similar to those belonging to Jacoby and his subspecies, glistened with venom inside her gaping maw.
The woman's screams morphed into quick, fearful breaths as Zischen sank her fangs into the mother's neck. Then, it reared again, plunging into the other side, venom descending into her jugular. Now, Jacoby was finding it hard to breathe as he watched his mother's chest rise and fall less and less. His eyes grew wide, seeing his pet place ten more deep bites in various places on his mother's body.
When Zischen believed her mission had reached its expedient, she unraveled herself from her owner's cooling corpse. With a shivering hiss that lingered in the air, the orange snake slithered from the bed and onto the floor. Jacoby could hear the friction of the serpent's belly against the floorboards.
The cub continued to hold his mother's hand until it grew icy cold in his own. Being so young and attached to her, Jacoby found her passing difficult to grasp. He felt eerily vacant inside. He also couldn't understand Zischen's actions. She was his pet and had been since birth. She had always been loyal to the family, but especially to Jacoby. How could she kill his mother?
It is for this reason, this confusion over his pet's loyalty, that Jacoby started in his sleep. He had drifted off while attempting to suffocate the sick smell of death, but the gentle nudge of Zischen's snout against his cheek awoke him. Immediately, he drew back, fear filling him to the brim; what if the snake tried to bite him, too? Then, the serpent lay its head down, slowly blinking its eyes as if to say, “Don't worry. I won't harm you.” Jacoby grinned a little, still slightly nervous, as he scooted closer to his snake. He began to stroke Zischen, from the nape of her neck all the way down to the end of her tail. She was still young, and wasn't very big yet: only about two and half feet; when she was full grown she would be about five or six in length. As Jacoby ran his fingers along her smooth back, the apprehension melted off of him. It was as though the cub had been in a cold freezer and had just been let out into the warm summer air; of course, his species were not supposed to feel the tingle of weather, let alone be allowed out in the sun at such a young, tender age.
“You didn't do it on purpose Zischen, did you?” he asked, while he was really only trying to convince himself. “Of course you didn't. It was just an accident, wasn't it? Just a mistake.”
Jacoby's hand was becoming tired just as his eyes were drooping and his stomach was groaning. With stumbling, sleepy feet, he made his way over to the couch where he laid down. His eyes drifted shut and, as he awaited for dreams to come and take him away, he heard the sound of Zischen making her way out of the room. Once again, the smell of his mother's corpse wafted up his nose and his stomach quivered with something other than hunger. It had been so long since Jacoby had eaten or drank. He hoped desperately that when he woke in the morning, Hunter and Charlie would have returned with fresh meat for him to share with them. However, he also knew that if they didn't return soon, he might be forced to use his mother's body as nourishment.
When Jacoby awoke again, it was very early in the morning, and he could feel something wrap around his thin torso. With his eyes now open, he saw that Zischen was spindled around him, looking away from him, staring at the door. She began to hiss at what seemed to be nothing and the cub was starting to get scared. It seemed as though his pet was going crazy. But, then, he watched the doorknob turn and the door was thrown open, swinging against the wall. A loud bang reverberated along the walls and the house shook, causing the flames emanating from the candles to flicker.
Terrified, he drew himself together into a tight ball, under the common misconception that this would protect him from whatever it was that was coming into his home. The snake slithered from her owner's torso up to his neck, which she wrapped herself loosely around three or four times, making it look like he was wearing an absurdly large necklace. Jacoby could only shudder, trying to muffle his minuscule cry, as he heard the snake hiss so close to his ear he could feel its tongue flick back into her mouth.
He looked up, finding recognition and the need to obey the older boy's words. His eyes landed on Charlie's face, strong and pale, with dark eyes hidden under bushy eyebrows. Dirty, matted black hair hung on his head like a mop, and grime was clinging to his skin as though it was scared to let go. He wasn't wearing a shirt, but his jeans were ripped at the knee and his boots seemed to have been completely submersed in a lake of mud. Jacoby didn't even want to think about the red stains that were sprinkled on some patches of his body.
“What's that smell?” barked Hunter, the eldest brother. He was as strong as a werewolf, but he didn't look it. He was a good three inches shorter than Charlie and he wore tennis shoes instead of boots, though his jeans were also ripped as though he had been greatly battled. The cub couldn't help noticing that the bottoms of his sneakers were dripping with blood. It was dark blood... vampire blood.
Thoughts were spinning through Jacoby's mind like a whirlwind as Zischen uncoiled herself from his neck, slithering onto the floor.
“I said, what's that that smell!” Hunter bellowed at his younger brother.
But how could he answer him? How do you tell someone that your mom is dead in the next room? So he simply gazed up at his brother in fear and disappointment. He had been hoping desperately for a meal, but all they had brought was rage.
“Answer us, Jacoby!” screamed Charlie.
“He's not saying nothing,” mumbled Hunter. “I'm gonna go find out for myself.” He brushed past Charlie and into the hallway. Jacoby could hear his footsteps as he entered his mother's room. Then there was nothing but silence and Jacoby could only imagine his brother staring at the corpse laying on the bed with wide eyes. “Charlie! Bring him in here!” he yelled after several minutes of silence, his voice cracking slightly. It had become an awkward staring match between the two brother's left behind in the living room.
“Come on,” Charlie said gruffly, gesturing the cub into the hall. When Jacoby didn't make a move, he grabbed his shoulder and shoved him forward, keeping pace behind him as they made their way into their mother's bedroom.
“S-stop,” Jacoby stuttered. He didn't want to go. He didn't want to see his mother again, lifeless and cold. He didn't want to see Hunter's fury or be the victim of his wrath. And he was so, so hungry. “Stop,” he said again, trying to keep Charlie from leading him forward. The stench was becoming overbearing.
“Stop what?” he questioned. “Whatever you did, Jacoby, you're gonna regret it.” His nose scrunched up in disgust at the smell.
“Charlie!” Hunter howled.
“I'm coming! I'm coming!” he screamed back at his predecessor.
“Please,” Jacoby begged. “Don't make me go...”
“Stop groveling,” Charlie growled. “No wonder Dad left after you were born,” he mumbled, stopping in front of their mother's door. Jacoby could see Hunter's bulky shadow cast across the floor, black and menacing.
“Please,” Jacoby whispered.
“Shut up!” Charlie bulldozed him into the bedroom.
“Look what he's done!” said Hunter, pointing towards the bed. Jacoby didn't dare look at where he was pointing, but saw Charlie's mouth drop, exposing his lethal fangs. He was absolutely speechless. “And you wanted to keep him,” he said, his snarl directed at Charlie. “He's nothing but trouble.”
Still, Charlie remained speechless. Sensing that something terrible was coming, Jacoby let out a cry that only a child could utter before making a run for it. His feet burned with the force he pressed upon them, but he kept at it anyway. He was halfway down the hallway before Hunter even noticed that he was gone.
“Hey! Get back here, you little runt!” he cried. “Charlie, go after him!”
Jacoby could hear his brothers sprinting after him, pounding away on the wooden floors. His heart was hammering in his chest, so loud that he was sure the older boys were capable of hearing it. The front door was in his sight, its silver doorknob sparkling like never before. Jacoby was so close to grasping it, turning the cool metal in his hands and escaping to a freedom he had never known.
“Where do you think you're going, little man?” A set of strong arms wrapped around his abdomen, forcing him to come to a halt. “You wanna go out and play?” Hunter's voice was harsh against Jacoby's ear and his breath stank as the cub's heart sank.
“Do you have any idea what you did, Jacoby?” Charlie asked from behind Hunter.
“But it wasn't my fault,” the cub cried. “I didn't kill her, I swear.”
“Then who was it?” Hunter whispered threateningly.
“Zischen did it! It was the snake.”
“Don't you lie to to us!” barked Charlie. “Don't you dare!”
“But it was! I saw!” he screamed, struggling against his brother's hold.
“Shut up! You're not our brother anymore,” Hunter said. “As far as I'm concerned, it's me and Charlie. We have no baby brother.”
“Let me go,” Jacoby squirmed, tears streaming down his face. “Let me go!” He turned as much as he could to look at Charlie who had always seemed to favor him over Hunter. “Charlie! Make him stop!”
The brother stepped closer so that the three of them were all hunched together. A flame coming from a red candle made the dark blood on Charlie's clothing and skin shimmer. Jacoby shivered, not wanting to think what his brothers had been out doing... why there was vampire blood splattered across them like decoration. “You know what, Hunt?” he quipped, ignoring Jacoby's plea and placing a friendly hand on Hunter's shoulder.
“What's that, Charlie?” the elder asked, glancing up at him. Jacoby could see his cool gray eyes illuminate in the light of the flame, though they appeared to be empty of entity. A wave of trepidation washed over the cub at the sight.
Charlie moved closer, his arm now draped over Hunter's shoulders. Hunter let go of Jacoby and the two of them backed him up against the wall. He was finding it hard to breathe, feeling locked in. “We never had dessert. And I'm feeling kind of hungry right about now.”
“Yeah, me too,” Hunter agreed, grinning smugly and maliciously. He glanced at Jacoby and licked his lips. “What about you, Jacoby? Are you hungry?”
“No?” Charlie answered for him, stepping closer, so close that the little cub's nose was almost touching his elder's belly-button. “Then I guess you won't mind if he we take a bite,” he whispered, picking up his baby brother by the arms and pinning him against the door.
“Considering all the bites you left on Mom, this seems like fair payback,” Hunter said, stepping closer, exhaling a salty breath onto Jacoby's face. The cub's eyes glued to his older brother's face, scarred and worn. He was so scared and he didn't even notice that Charlie had moved to place his mouth on his neck until it was too late. The warmth of his lips was pressed against his flesh, followed by the sharp pang of his razor sharp teeth, then the feeling of his own dark blood dribbling up through the punctures and down his neck. Hunter let out an excited cry before attacking his youngest brother as well, his fangs sinking their poison into his body. The last thing Jacoby felt before he blacked out was Hunter's teeth ripping off his flesh like a savage.