Nicole Grey (foenix) wrote,
Nicole Grey
foenix

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Black River: Day Eleven

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And with that, I finish chapter four, and write a sentence I have been dying to write since I had this idea.  I could go into my ideas for this story, finally, and maybe I will, but I figure that would bore people probably as much as this story does. ;)

I wanted to reach this point of the story at about 1/3rd of the way through, but halfway to the goal isn't bad either.  This will probably still serve as the end of 'act one' in a usual structure.


Chapter Four - Bodies of Water

        Alyson and Darien made their way away from the school with the sun at their backs, the day ending much as it had begun.  The school fell back into the distance as they headed deeper into town.  Cars passed by them like they were any other people in town, taking no notice of them.  People wandered the sidewalks going about their own business, people of all stripes; young and old, black and white, tall and short.  For all intents and purposes, Kraftsbury was the same as any other small northern New England town.
        When a moment came where the twins were not near any other people, Alyson broke their silence.  "How was your first day, really?"  All the joy and cheer had left her voice as she got straight to business.  Her face had become a mirror of her brother's, making them truly look like twins for the first time all day.
        "It was strange," he responded.  "It's been so long since we've tried to be normal.  I don't know how well we did at blending in.  On the other hand, it felt good to get back to normalcy."
        "Yeah, it did.  I didn't think we would ever have a chance to feel that way again.  You were a little off-putting though, Darien.  In case you hadn't noticed."
        Her brother smiled.  "Oh, I noticed.  Some of it was even deliberate.  I thought it would be fun to try being the tall, dark stranger that wanders into town, oozing danger."
        "Maybe so, and it may impress the locals, but try not to overdo it.  We don't want to draw too much attention to ourselves.  We're supposed to just be another pair of students in the crowd.  We don't know who or what might be watching us."
        They had reached the stoplight in the center of town and crossed to the opposite side, and continued to head straight in their new direction.  They headed up South Hill, nearing their new home.
        "Oh, you mean I should blend in like the almost five foot tall slip of a girl nearing putting the school bully into the hospital?  That kind of blending in?"
        Alyson grunted.  "I don't need the attitude.  It was an unfortunate miscalculation.  Marcus is a good guy, and he didn't deserve to get hurt. And what I did was far more acceptable than you nearly putting the guy through a brick wall."
        "He touched you."
        "He touched...hair."
        Darien stopped.  Buildings had faded away to homes, and even those were becoming sparse, as the landscape changed rapidly from the urban jungle to more legitamite woods.  "He was going to hurt you."
        "He touched HAIR."  Alyson grabbed a clump of crimson locks in her hand, and peeled it away until only three strands were in her hand, just on the edge of visibility in the fading light.  "That much!  If he did anything else, I could have handled it anyways."
        "And would that have been more or less noticable than cracking his skull like a walnut against the bricks?  I just couldn't stand it if anything happened to you, after everything else."
        Alyson released her hair and continued up the hill.  "Point taken.  We just have to be careful in the future.  We came here for a reason, and I think I may know why."
        They passed between a pair of trees whose branches had grown just so that they formed an arched gateway over what looked like a road, but was in truth the driveway to their new home.
        "The stones?"
        Darien's sister nodded and stopped just past the gateway trees, and leaned against one of them.  "The stones."
        "I could feel them even before I saw them.  We've seen places of power before, but they've all been drained, or nearly so.  But this place..."  Darien faded off, at a loss for words.
        "I know.  You could almost taste it.  Even the others could sense it, and they're not particularly gifted in that area."
        "Except for Kelly."
        The redhead stood up at the mention of the cheerleader's name.  "I know!  I never thought we'd run across someone who might actually have the gift of sight.  And here, where we were drawn?  That can't be coincidence."
        "She didn't see anything around you."
        "Most people don't, big brother.  That doesn't quite prove anything.  But that place, all that power, it has to be what drew us here."
        "You should try and keep Marcus and the others away from there."
        "I'll try and figure out a way to keep them away and warn Marcus tomorrow.  But right now, let's get inside.  I'm dying of hunger."

***

        The bus ride back from the football team's away game was packed to the roof with energy.  They had won another one, and everyone was excited and celebrating.
        Almost everyone, at least.
        Kelly lay stretched out on a seat at the very rear, head resting against the side of the bus as she slept.  The only sound she made was a snore coming from deep within her.  Even with how loud it was, it was drowned out by the celebrating towards the front of the bus.
        On the seat opposite the aisle sat Rachel, both still in their matching cheerleader uniforms in the school's colours.  Their white skirts were pleated, with the inside of the pleats being a dark maroon.  They each wore maroon turtlenecks that were possibly a size too small, underneath a white sleeveless top with KHS emblazened across their chests.
        Rachel was considering a nap herself when her boyfriend escaped the festivities and paid them a visit.  He had escaped most of his gear after the game, but he still had on a few of his pads, and the oversized jersey had been placed back on after removing the chest guard and shoulder pads, so he could at least be normal sized.
        "What happened to Kell?"
        "She zonked again, you know how she is.  There could be a nuclear war going on outside, and she'd find a few minutes to catch up on sleep."  Brendan shouldn't have been surprised to hear Rachel pronounce nuclear with an extra U.
        "You're looking a bit on the tired side too.  Anything wrong, babe?"
        She shook her head, sweaty strands of her once immaculate hair stuck to the sides of her face and brow.  She couldn't be bothered to fix it after a game, and no one cared.  And if they did, they understood.
        "Just feeling tired, and sitting back here, it's easy to let the mind wander."
        "Oh?  And where is it wandering too?"  Brendan squeezed himself onto the seat, forcing Rachel to slide across the dark green leathery fabric and closer to the cold metal wall of the bus.
        "Just thinking about the Montrose's, that's all."
        Brendan draped his arm over the back of the seat in front of them and turned more towards his girl.  "Do I have anything to worry about?"
        He trusted his girlfriend.  He said it half joking, but still voicing a serious concern.  Brendan doubted that she was going to up and leave him for the new guy, they'd been together for years, but while he wasn't jealous, he was human.  And thus suspicious.
        Rachel laughed at even the suggestion.  "Oh geeze no.  Darien's fascinating, but something about him bothers me.  I'm just flirting and making him feel welcome."
        A look of confusion washed over Brendan's face.  "Darien?  You were flirting with him?  I meant his sister.  I thought you two were totally threatening to hook up."
        Rachel covered her mouth with a hand to stifle a giggle before it escaped.  "Ew, no!  She is so not my type."
        The comatose girl next to them had begun to stir from the commotion.  She shifted just a little on the seat, her legs still stretched out across the emptiness next to her.  "Are we there yet?"
        Brendan spun around as best he could in the cramped space, and grabbed one of Kelly's sneakers.  "Not yet, you can sleep a little longer."
        "Nah, I'm good."  Despite her claim, a yawn forced its way in between the I'm and good.  "You really oughta cut the Montrose's some slack, Rachel."
        "That's funny coming from you miss I See Dead People."
        "I see auras, not...you know what, never mind.  My point stands.  You shouldn't jump all over Alyson just because she's new.  You were new too, just a few years ago, remember?  I know you're not THAT blonde."
        Rachel looked hurt.  "I was only teasing her.  I had to go through the same sort of thing.  It's just an initiation sorta thing, that's all.  I actually think she's pretty cool.  Besides, anyone related to Darien can't be all bad.  If it will make you two feel better, I'll apologise to her tomorrow."
        The two seemed satisfied with that.
        "Maybe I can even give her some fashion advice.  At least some basic ideas of matching colours."
        "What about Marcus," asked Brendan.
        "I don't think he'd look very good in skirts, but if you want me to try..."
        Brendan gave his girlfriend a playful swat on the shoulder, making her yelp in mock pain.  "That's not what I meant, and you know it.  I've been trying to get him out of his shell for years now, and having some cheerleaders be nice to him is a big help."
        "Ok, ok."  Rachel kissed Brendan on the cheek.  "Any friend of yours is at least an aquaintance of mine.  I'll apologise to him too.  As long as too many people don't see us together..."
        "Rachel..." chided Brendan.
        "Well, we don't have anything in common!  I said I'll apologise.  He is a nice guy though.  Happy?"
        "Ecstatic."

***

        The twins arrived to school early and saw some other students heading into the gym and cafeteria doors on the elementary building, so followed their lead.  The cafeteria was almost empty, and even most the tables had yet to be put back in place, and instead were folded up and stored along the wall full of windows that Brian had almost found a passage through the hard way.
        Darien was in his usual black, but had put on a thick green sweatshirt on over his shirt when they stepped outside and could see their breath.
        His sister also dressed for warmth, but just as mismatched as before.  Her skirt matched Darien's sweatshirt, and her legs were covered in thick black tights that kept the cold at bay.  She had on a heavy turtleneck in bright red that would have driven any bull to charge.
        They picked a spot at one of the few tables set up, and just sat and watched other students come in and grab a hot breakfast that looked somewhere between edible and roadkill.
        It wasn't long before Brendan and the girls entered the room.  Rachel wore black slacks for the cooler weather outside, and a burgandy sweater with short sleeves and a thick collar that draped over her shoulders.
        Brendan took a seat opposite Darien, and smoothed out his khakis as he sat down.  He unzipped his vasity jacket, shivering despite the warmth of the room.
        Kelly took a seat as far from the twins as she could without seeming rude.  She liked the people, but she was still wary of them.  She thumped the top of the table with her bookbag and unzipped her yellow hoodie.  She had on a simple purple tshirt on underneath, tucked into her jeans.
        The blonde sighed and stared at Alyson as she sat down opposite her.  "So, who let the Christmas elf out early?"
        "Rachel..."  Brendan poked her in the side, making her squeak and jump.
        "Ok, fine!  Geeze."  Her mouth opened and closed, as she tried to find the words, despite having practiced this all morning.  "Alyson, look, I'm totally sorry I've been a right bitch to you since you got here.  I had no reason for it, and you're actually not that bad, and kinda tolerable."
        Alyson took a quick sip from a soda bottle the exact match of what she had the day before.  "Eh, don't worry about it.  I'm the new kid, you gotta mark your territory.  You didn't mean anything by it."
        "Exactly!"
        "So, we're cool?"
        "Totally cool.  You should come with Kelly and me to the mall this weekend, we can get you some real clothes."
        "Oh, the horror.  I'll pass for now."  Alyson grinned across the table at her new...friend seemed too strong a word.  "Christmas elf, that was pretty clever, by the way."
        "Yeah?  See, you can take a joke.  You're not so bad.  But there's one all important question you must answer correctly; what do you think of Johnny Depp?"
        "Oh my god, he was so hot in Pirates.  Did you see Ninth Gate?"
        Kelly scooted over a few seats to be next to Rachel, "Oh my god, the glasses, and the goatee in that..."
        "I know!" shouted out Rachel and Alyson in unison, causing all three girls to burst out laughing, drawing looks from the few students nearby.
        Brendan and Darien exchanged glances while the trio of girls gossipped.  "I've created a monster, haven't I?" the football player asked.
        Darien only chuckled and took out a book to read for a class.
        The girls' chattering started to thin, and Alyson looked around.  "Speaking of marking territory," she said.  "Has anyone seen Marcus this morning?  I thought he'd be here already."
        Rachel just shrugged off the question.  "You're new, but you should have already noticed.  Marcus is never on time, he's always late.  You'll be lucky if he shows up to chorus on time."
        "Ok, if you say so."
        "Yeah!  He does this all the time.  Brendan buys him a watch every year for his birthday as a gag gift.  I've never seen him wear a single one.  He'll turn up eventually, probably when you least expect it."
        Alyson nodded, accepting that, but with great reluctance.  It may well turn out that he was just running late, but she still suspected that something was wrong.  She was not one to ignore her instincts, however as much as she wanted to go searching for their friend, she still had classes to deal with.  After stressing to her brother how important it was to get into a routine of normalcy, it would be too hypocritical to go off and skip out on school.
        The others all seemed to be appeased by Rachel's explanation.  Alsyon had noticed his tendency the other day to be late in just the few short hours she had known him.  But still her mind wouldn't let it go.
        She remained silent and watched the entryway to the cafeteria until the bell rang to start yet another school day.  The others were talking about something that went in one of her ears and out the other.  Alyson picked up her things and was the last one out, lagging behind the rest.
        Darien glanced back at his sister, and only saw her usual smile.  He shared his own back at her, and they both went towards their respective classes.
        Alyson stood alone in the parking lot as students moved around her.  The sky was overcast, thick clouds making the drab, dreary almost autumn morning seem all that much darker.  She looked around, trying to tell if anything was out of place, but nothing struck her.  She was too new to the school, and if anything was amiss, she never would have caught it, unless it was obvious enough for even the blind to see.
        She saw one of her fellow sopranos crossing the far end of the parking lot, and called out to her.
        "Crystal!"  Alyson was pretty sure that was her name.
        "Hey, Alyson!  Hurry up!"  The girl jerked her head full of brown hair towards the door.
        "Have you seen Marcus?"
        She shook her head.  "Not since yesterday."
        Alyson only replied with a quiet murmur and followed Crystal into the small hallway besides the chorus room.
        The entire class passed by with the girls singing their songs without the lone boy amongst their ranks.  Alyson did her duty and sang with the rest of them, but even the teacher noticed a lack of passion.  Not to mention a lack of a student.
        It was Alyson's turn to be asked if she's seen Marcus, as class let out.  She told Mrs. Gerald that she hadn't seen him since yesterday.
        "He's usually late, but he never misses a class.  He hasn't been sick for years, that I can recall."  The teahcer looked over a piece of paper and jotted down a quick note on it, before handing it to Alyson.  "Would you bring the attendance to the office for me?  I need to take care of some things."
        "Sure," she said, and took the slip of paper.
        The office was on the way to the library, and was the first door on that same floor Alyson passed.  It was no trouble at all to swing in and drop off the slip of paper.
        When she entered the room, she was greeted by the guidance counselor, who was on the opposite side of a dividing wall, to keep the students seperate from the staff.  A pile of brown boxes was stacked up on the left side of the wall/desk, deliveries that had yet to be sorted through.
        "Good morning, Alyson.  How's your new school treating you?" she was asked.
        "Well, aside from a giant ape man trying to mistake me for a banana, not so bad."
        The faculty member made a face, and bit her lip.  "Yes, that's a rather unfortunate way to start out.  At least it ended well for everyone, except Brian's knee.  But that will heal."  She shuffled some papers she was signing and when she was satisfied, she set them aside.  "Is there anything I can help you with?"
        "I was just dropping off the attendance list for chorus.  What should I do with it?"  Alyson looked around for other staff members, craning her neck.
        "I'll take that.  The secretary isn't in yet."  Miss Ferris took the paper from Alyson's hand, and glanced down at it.  "Marcus?  That's weird."
        Alyson nodded, and was at a loss for words.
        "Thanks for bringing this by.  I'll give his mother a call and see if everything is ok."
        The second bell rang for classes to begin, and Alyson jumped, startled.  "You should hurry.  I'll let you know if I find out anything."
        "Thanks, Miss Ferris."
        Alyson exited the office and continued on to the library, and explained Marcus's absence as best she could.  She found a chair off in a far corner, and sat down in it.  All of her homework was done the night before, and she had nothing to take her mind off things.  After an eternity of five minutes, she stood up and entered the stacks, trying to find a book to read.  Another five minutes passed and she returned to her seat empty handed.
        Once she realised her fingers were drumming out a beat on the table, she stood up once more and went to the main desk.
        "Would it be ok if I went to the office to try and call Marcus?  I want to see if he's ok," pleaded Alyson.
        The librarian considered it and let Alyson go.  She left her bag behind, and walked calmly out the door.  Once she was in the hallway and heading towards the office, her feet picked up their pace.  She headed right past the office, down the stairs, and into the overcast outdoors.
        Alyson doubled back along the school, passing between the two buildings once more.  She looked up at the last set of windows on the second floor, where she knew Darien was sitting.  She had made sure to not pass by the door like she had before, and made it look like she was really going to the office for Ms. Campbell's benefit.
        She hooked a right turn and took off at a run for the woods.  When she passed the open windows of some of the elementary classrooms, she didn't slow down like she had yesterday.
        Her run only slowed when she hit the forest to avoid taking a spill by tripping over something.
        Alyson only came to a stop when she reached the top of the hill that surrounded the circle of stones.
        Nothing seemed amiss at first glance.  There was nothing wrong there that anyone would have seen.  Still, something was wrong.  Alyson could sense it, and she knew what it was.
        She examined the ground, crouching down atop the hill.  If there had been any tracks made for her to follow, they were long gone.  The slashes in the leaves their skidding had made yesterday had been covered up over night, and any other tracks would have followed suit.  Even the spots her footfalls had made kicking up leaves as she had run out there were already starting to settle back into obscurity.
        Alyson walked along the ridgeline, like she was tethered to the standing stone and was swinging like a pendulum.  It was exactly as they had left it last night  Or to be more accurate, it was exactly as they had found it last night.  It was too exact.  It looked as if the location had been reset to a default state, and washed clean of anything that had happened in the intervening 15 hours.
        She tried to cast her thoughts back to her first sighting of this spot exactly a day ago.  She wasn't sure, but she thought even then it was exactly the same.  If she had been looking for anything weird, she may have noticed the similarities when they returned there after school, but she had missed it.
        Several sticks she remembered noticing were in the same spots they had been in, and that defied logic.  She knew she had kicked at least one of them out of the way.  Even so, animals would have come by, the wind would have moved things.  Other students must have come by in the past day as well.  Any number of things that would have shifted things from how she first saw them.  It was all just too perfect.  Things were way beyond the realm of coincidence, but still she wasn't sure it was anything more than just that.
        She clambored down the hill, and as she drew near the center of the stones, she felt a chill run through her body.  She leaned over and brushed away some of the leaves, making a dark brown circle of dirt in the center of everything, like a giant eye staring up at the trees.  Nothing seemed amiss about the ground beneath the covering, and still no tracks.  None at all.  Not a single impression was stuck in the dirt.  Again she thought it could just be coincidence, but it was all too weird.
        Wandering around the stones, she grabbed the stick she remembered kicking the day before, and carried it clear across to the other side of the circle, and placed it atop one of the boulders.
        Once she was done with that, Alyson moved closer to the monolith, and walked past it to the other side, standing beside the river.  Something had caught her attention, and she followed her instincts closer to the Black River.
        She looked to the opposite bank, then to the river itself.  The water looked cold and uninviting as it bubbled and swirled around stones that jutted out through the surface like grey icebergs.
        Alyson found a series of stones that made a path across the waterway that weren't spaced too far apart, and began hopping from one to the next.  It was low enough that she could have waded across and gotten nothing more than her ankles wet, but that was more than she cared for, and had no spare set of clothes ready and dry.
        She picked her way across with care, often ending up standing on one foot as she navigated to the next stone.
        When she had crossed the river, she did not even give a slight look back.  Instead, she continued onward, following the unseen trail deeper into the woods.
        As she continued forward, the world behind became less and less real.  It was easy to forget about it once she was surrounded by the forest.  It would be so easy to get lost.  Was that what happened to Marcus, she wondered?
        Just then, her foot caught on something, and she looked down, expecting to have kicked at a heavy log while she was lost in thought.
        What she saw instead was the last thing she wanted to see, and exactly what she came looking for.
        Laying atop a bed of leaves was Marcus's prone body.  He wore the exact same clothes Alyson had last seen him in.  The only difference was that they were stained red down the front.  The boy's skin was pale, and his eyes stared up at Alyson accusingly, as if to say, "This is your fault.  You never should have left me alone."
        Not only was the skin pale, but it was sickly so, almost white, and it was also moist from having laid out in the elements for the entire night.  It glistened in the brief moments of sunlight that broke through so many layers of branches, leaves, and clouds above their heads.  Bits of frost from the plummeting temperatures overnight still stuck in his hair, caked with blood and dirt.
        Alyson crouched beside her friend, not needing to check for a pulse.  She reached out, and closed Marcus's eyes, no longer able to stand that accusatory, empty stare eminating from them.       
        As she did so, the head shifted just the faintest bit as leaves underneath shifted and settled.  It lolled to one side, and Alyson saw something anyone familiar with enough movies would recognise.  Or at least think of one thing in particular when they saw them.
        In Marcus's neck were twin puncture wounds, side by side along his aorta.  Alyson reached out and touched the flesh near the wounds, and a drop of blood broke through the scab that had formed before death.  That was probably the last drop of blood inside him.
        "Shit," was all she could force out of her throat, and even that was naught but a whisper.
        She knelt there for awhile, not wanting to leave Marcus's side, but she knew she'd have to, at some point.
        Alyson was so lost in thought, that she was taken off guard when a voice called out her name.
        "I said, Alyson!  Is that you?!"
        She jumped and spun around, shouting out, "I didn't do it!"  She came to a stop in an attack stance, not sure what to expect.  How long had she been there?  How long had they been calling her name?
        Just making its way across the river was the black figure of her brother.  Once she registered who it was coming closer, she relaxed her stance, and her hands lowered to her sides.
        "What are you doing out here?  Aren't you supposed to be in calc..."  Darien's voice fell away when he saw what was upon the ground behind his sister.
        "Oh, shit."
        "Yeah.  What are you doing out here?"
        "I had some free time third period, since the teacher was out, and I snuck out, said I had to throw up. I thought I'd come out here and see what I could see, maybe find a trace of Marcus, something to follow."
        Alyson nodded.  "I had the same idea.  It's third period?  Crap..."
        "I think we have more important things to worry about, Alyson.  Do you have any idea what happened?"  Darien was surprised at how detached he was.  He may have just met Marcus, but it was still a human life taken before him.  But instead of showing emotion, he found himself going into an investigative mindset.  Darien wasn't sure he liked what that said about him.
        "There may be a theory or two."
        "Oh?  What do you have in mind?"  Just then, he saw the twin punctures along the young man's neck.  "Oh.  Did you...?"
        "I didn't do anything.  I just closed his eyes.  He desrved that much, at least for now."
        Darien pushed his fingers through his hair, and just stood there, staring down at Marcus's prone body.  His grey eyes moved all over it, looking for anything that might be a clue.
        "We're going to have to tell people about this," Alyson said.
        Her brother responded with a single, "Yep."
        "We can't just leave him here."
        "Nope."
        "There's going to be a lot of questions."
        "Yep."
        "Stop that."
        "Nope."
        Alyson bit her lip, and pinched the bridge of her nose.  She did not think this was the appropriate time for jokes.  However, she knew it was his way of coping.  Any other time, and his dark sense of humour would have been fine for her, but not over this body.
        Her brother saw the look on her face.  "Sorry.  But I think this cinches it.  We are in the right place.  Out of everywhere we could have gone, and this is what we find a few days after arrival?  That's too much coincidence for my tastes, sis."
        "There seems to be a lot of that going around today," she said.  "The marks, and so close to the circle of stones.  We're definitely on the right track."
        "Right track for what?"  The new voice behind them made them both jump, a rarity for either of them.
        The twins spun around as one, and stopped in matching stances, with their left arms outstretched and right hands pulled back in a fist.
        Their hands dropped soon after they saw who it was just making their way across the river.  How neither of them had heard the limping, dragging, and splashing of Brian's hurt leg, they couldn't answer.
        Both of the bully's legs were soaked up past the ankle, with some lines of water soaked into his faded jeans almost to the knee.  He had not been subtle about his crossing of the river.
        He was not alone.  Two other young men, of the same rough height and size of Darien were with him.  One of them wore a flannel shirt that was mostly red, that had the sleeves ripped off, showing a grey and white speckled long sleeve shirt underneath.  The other wore a plain black t-shirt showing off thick, muscled arms.  The latter looked like he had escaped from a 50's greaser movie.
        "Looks like I was on the right track to find you two, when I saw the moose come out this way, huh?"  Brian grinned.  His confidence at having the upper hand, and strength in numbers radiated from the giant smile on his face.
        "Brian, this really is not the time or place," pleaded Alyson.
        The leader of the gang stared down Alyson, not at all threatened by her.  "This is really the perfect time and place.  No walls for ya to use on me, no one's gonna hear either of ya scream out here.  Seems good to me.  Jim, Mike, get the girl."
        Brian's two associates lumbered towards their target.  Alyson refused to back away, and instead stood her ground, grey eyes burning with anger.  They grabbed her, each one taking an arm.  Their hands wrapped around her slender limbs with ease, each one almost engulfing her upper arm with ease.
        They tried to drag her away, but she followed, not offering any resistance, and watched Brian advance on her brother.  The three newcomers were so engrossed in Brian's revenge, that none of them had noticed there was another there with them, although Marcus would not be offering up any assistance to anyone, anytime soon.
        "The two a' yous humiliated me, yesterday.  Ya probably thought that was the end of that, but I really can't have two losers come in out of nowhere and mess up a good thing I got going.  So it looks like your brother here has volunteered to be an example to the rest of the school, for me."
        Brian punctuated his point by pulling a red and chrome lozenge shape out of his pocket.  He plucked a blade out from the familiar Swiss Army knife shape, and brandished it towards Darien.  Traces of sunlight through the trees glinted off the metal blade.
        Darien stood his ground, not showing even an ounce of stress.  His face was calm, and cold.  Not a bead of sweat glistened on his face.  He may as well have been waiting for the bus, rather than staring down a knife-wielding student.
        "You really don't want to do this, Brian."  Not a hint of a any quiver in his voice.  Darien could not have been calmer.
        "Oh, but I really, really do, Darien."  Brian spat out the name like just having it in his mouth was poison.  "And when I'm done with you, I think I'm going to have some fun with your sister.  How does that sound?  Does that get ya going?  Does that piss ya off?"
        Brian's answer came in the form of a familiar grip around his throat.  Darien had almost flown from where he stood to where Brian was.  The two holding his sister had only blinked and he had moved. 
        The bully choked out a laugh despite the fact that his windpipe was being crushed.  His target had rushed in so fast, he had forgotten the knife in Brian's hand, and it still seemed forgotten as the blade was plunged into his shoulder.
        Darien didn't make a sound, or even show any sign of reaction on his face, but he did release his grip on Brian.  He stumbled back a few steps and rubbed his neck, with a triumphant smile on his face.
        The stabbed man looked at his shoulder, as if he didn't understand what the knife was doing there.  Darien reached up with his other hand, and plucked it out, spraying blood from the wound and the knife as it was torn from his body.
        A single, solitary, emotionless, "Ow" was all he said, as the knife fell to the leafy ground at their feet, and bounced into the river at Brian's back with a splash.
        "What the fuck are you, man??" asked Brian, shocked at how ineffectual the knife had been.
        "Pissed."
        Darien lunged at his assailant, and Brian managed to sidestep at the last possible moment.  Darien almost went head first into the river, but caught himself and spun around, his long jacket fluttering in the wind.
        Once again Darien lunged at Brian, and again he moved out of the way.  This time though, he grabbed the back of Darien's trenchcoat, and shoved him, adding to his already considerable momentum.
        He lost his balance, and careened forward.  Brian kept Darien from falling, and kept shoving him the extra foot or so until the male Montrose's face connected with a nearby tree.
        Alyson struggled with her captors, but her attempts were half-hearted, and more to not stand there doing nothing while her brother was tossed around.       
        Brian pushed his advantage, much as he pushed Darien's head against the tree, embedding the pattern of the bark into the man's cheek.
        "How's that feel, huh?  How do you like it?"
        His victim managed a derisive snort.  "It feels good.  Could you maybe go a little lower?  I've got an itch."
        Brian growled and pulled Darien's head back, but was quick to smash it right back up against the side of the tree.
        The lone female in the forest let out a hiss at the sight, and the two men holding her could feel her tense up in their hands.  The two of them shared a concerned look, but she seemed well in hand, for now.
        Darien's laughter abated after his head hit the tree, much to Brian's pleasure.
        "Yeah, not so funny is it now, huh?  Got that damned smirk off your face.  Now, what am I gonna do with you?"
        With at last having a moment to pause and consider since arriving out in the forest, Brian stopped and looked around.  He smiled at his comrades, and smiled even more at the concerned look on Alyson's face.  He blew her a kiss and kept right on grinning.
        In his moment of calm triumph, his gaze landed on what he had been too busy to see up until that point; Marcus's body.
        Brian stammered, trying to find the words through his confusion and rather limited vocabulary.  "What is...  Is that...  Holy crap, did the two of you rumble Boyd?  What, you wanted to save him for yourselves, or something?"
        He realised that made no sense, and took a more serious look at the body, not laying more than two feet away from him.
        "Shit, he's dead!  What did you two do??"
        Brian's eyes caught the puncture wounds in his neck, and even one such as he, with his lazy attitude towards education, and any real intelligence could imagine what could have done such a thing.
        "He was bitten?  What the hell are you, Darien?  Some kinda vampire freak?"
        Darien pushed out his words, muffled from the tree deforming his cheek.  "What if I said yes?"
        "Wouldn't change a thing.  I mean, what are you gonna do, sparkle at me?  I still got you right where I want you."
        Brian reached up and broke a branch off the tree, weilding it like a dagger.  The rough splinters and shards at the end held towards Darien's back.
        "Gives me a few creative ideas to take care of you, though.  Real permanent-like, too."
        He considered the weapon in his hand, and how soon his troubles could be over, if he was right.  As absurd as it may have sounded, Brian did see a certain logic to the events, in his dull mind.  Although he did have at least the rudimentary intelligence to think that he could be wrong, and if he did proceed with trying to stake Darien, things could go very wrong.  Brian was pretty sure vampires didn't exist, despite what the movies and television said.
        Not wanting to risk any murder charges that might crop up if he was wrong, Brian tossed the improvised stake aside, and it clattered to the ground beside Marcus.
        "Naw, that would be too easy, too quick.  Don't you agree, Darien?  I think it would be much more fun to call the cops, and have them see what we found out here.  I bet they'd have a lot to ask you two.  That might be the better revenge, get you two locked up for what you did to Marcus."
        Brian liked the sound of his plan, and pulled out his cellphone with his free hand.  He held it up into the air and cursed.  "Damn, no signal.  I guess this just ain't your lucky day."
        Through the haze of his brain being rattled against the tree, Darien wondered why the cops being unreachable was a bad thing.
        He didn't have to wait long for an answer.
        "See, I can't just leave you two here while I go drop a dime on the two of you."  Brian pressed Darien's head harder against the bark, keeping him focused but addled.
        Darien winced, and forced himself to say, "That means you'll be letting us go, right?  No harm, no foul?  We're all good?"
        "Sorry, vampire, we ain't good."  Brian pulled his victim away from the tree, and threw him to the ground.  Darien's head bounced off a rock buried underneath the leaves with a loud crack that almost echoed like a gunshot in the silence of the woods.
        If not for the rock, things may have gone a very different way.  Darien could have taken Brian easily on a good day.  Today though, he was distracted, his sister had been threatened, and he had been stupid.  All three things were bad on their own, but all at once, they were almost catastrophic.  Once Brian had released him, the tide would have turned soon to Darien's favour, but instead his head landed on a rock in the exact wrong spot.
        The world around him dimmed, almost to blackness.  In the darkness he saw explosions of light as his scrambled brains tried to struggle to stay with it.  He never felt the young man climb atop his body, he didn't even register the first punch to his cheek that had already been softened by the trees.  All it felt like to him was more blackness and white hot explosions.
        Each succesive punch only served to make things worse.  Darien was lost, swimming in the murky depths of his own head, as things grew ever more darker.  He was unable to even lift an arm and fight back.  Darien didn't even know he should fight back.  His thoughts were so disjointed, and all he could think of doing was going to sleep.
        He fought against that urge, a primal instinct knowing if that happened, he may not wake up again.  The sky had withered down to pinpricks of light, the darkness swirling to take him down into their depths, but if he went with it, what would happen to his sister?  That thought alone gave him the strength to stay, if not quite manage any resistence.
        Alyson stood and watched as her brother's face was transformed into a bloody pulp.  A rising growl eminated from her, causing her captors to share another look, more concerned this time.  But she was only a girl, so all they did was tighten their grip.
        Her brother struggled, and his hand reached up, clawing at Brian's jacket.  The effort was as ineffectual as poking at a steel door with a feather.  Darien was too weak, too far gone, and the best he could manage was raking his fingers along the fabric, nails sliding across the slick nylon of the thin coat, the rasping sound echoing Darien's own breath.
        At last, Brian stopped, his fists bloody and cut, and Darien not looking any better.  He wiped away a stream of sweat from his forehead, but left a smear of blood across it instead, like warpaint on a Native American.
        His breathing was heavy from the exertion, and his speech was broken with gasping breaths.  "That should teach ya.  You ain't gonna be a problem any more.  But maybe I should give you a few more to remember me by, and make sure I don't have to worry about you ever again."
        "Darien isn't the one you need to worry about."  Brian almost didn't hear the words coming from Alyson, he was so wrapped up in his victory.  Still, the audacity of them caught his attention.
        "Excuse me?" he asked, disbelieving that either Montrose could muster any sort of retaliation.
        "Darien isn't the one you need to worry about," she repeated.
        Brian wanted to laugh so hard at a threat coming from such a slip of a girl, even if she had gotten in one luck shot.
        "Oh yeah, and why would that be?"
        He turned and looked at her, and every ounce of victory and bravery drained from his soul as he saw a transformed Alyson.  Her mouth was drawn into a wide grin, revealing a pair of long fangs that had not been there before, and red eyes that matched her hair.  Even the shape of her face had changed, becoming more monstrous and angular, her brow becoming almost naturally furrowed in a vicious, animalistic glare.
        "Because," she growled through her teeth.  "Darien's not the vampire."
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