Ok, the words just flowed today. I was going to stop, but figured I'd finish the chapter, and so here I am, chapter six. AKA, "Our vampires are different, and here's why."
Chapter Six - Falling Towards
Rachel Matthews was not one for flights of fancy. Many students believed she was, however. Many students, and staff, and parents of friends, and almost everyone did. While she may have appeared to be the typical empty headed cheerleader, she was not a person who gave into wild ideas.
That's not to say she wasn't often clueless, in the dark, or otherwise not in on the joke. Many times, she was just that. Ever since her family had moved to Kraftsbury, she had been known as the school's dumb blonde.
Some found her bluntness refreshing, although that was rare and tended to be limited to her closest friends. Others found it annoying. Most did, in fact. A few, most notably Brendan, thought her naivete to be somehow charming.
Still, she was a very down to Earth young woman. She didn't believe in crazy things, and had a very firm grasp on reality. Although some people could manipulate just what she thought reality was, that always proved more difficult than people would have thought by the way she looked and acted.
If someone had tried to convince her that vampires walked amongst the woodlands of Kraftsbury, she would have told that person they were crazy. Or that they were being mean to her, and treating her like some bimbo. She may even have mocked their claim, and said they must be out their dancing with the fairies and having tea with the banshee.
Rachel would have been the last person to ever believe such things were real. Alyson could have stood there with her fangs bared, and even then she would have been reluctant to believe in them.
All of this was why she never believed Kelly's claims of seeing auras, no matter how often she tried to convince her otherwise.
The day Marcus was found was much the same as any other. Rachel and Kelly went to their opening study class, now joined by Darien, who seemed ill at ease that day. Neither of the girls could blame him, as they were all worried about Marcus, including Rachel. She never would have admitted it out loud, but she did like him. It was just sometimes easier to tease and torment than it was to be nice.
Darien took his seat towards the front of the classroom, where he had sat the day before, and worked away at some homework. Kelly and Rachel stayed towards the back of the room, and found a computer to work on. Rachel said it was to keep a better eye on Darien from afar, and Kelly just wanted to be as far away from him as possible.
Rachel had a computer programming class that had some work due later that day. "Ugh, I hate this stuff so much," she griped to Kelly under her breath.
"Then why did you take the class?" asked Kelly.
"Everything's computers these days, I thought if I tried to learn some stuff, it might come in handy later. You know, when my looks start to fade."
"I don't get how you keep passing that class, either."
Rachel grinned as she logged into her school account, one of the few things she could do on a computer with her eyes closed. "I have a way cool tutor helping me out. He actually makes this stuff make sense."
"Oooh, Alex, right? He is pretty smart. He helped me with some of my math classes last year. And he's cute. You should so be checking him out more than Darien."
Rachel blushed, and was so shocked at the suggestion that she jabbed a long, pink nail inbetween two rows of keys on the keyboard, and bent it. She let out a yelp, and pulled her hand back, almost hitting Kelly in the process.
She shook the hand and winced in pain. She yelled at herself, in a voice unlike her usual tone. More than just anger, an indefinable shift in her voice took over as she chided herself. "Stupid! I don't know why I keep them so long, they're always getting in the way!"
When Rachel realised that all eyes were on her, she stopped, stared at the sea of faces looking back at her and smiled. The anger melted away. "Sorry, everyone! Just a computing mishap, won't happen again!"
In a more hushed tone, she spoke to Kelly. "And what do you mean by him being better suited than Darien? Darien is way hotter."
She noticed that the entire time they had been sitting there, Kelly was staring at Darien. She hadn't even turned away when Rachel got upset.
"Hello? Earth to Kelly." She snapped her fingers, and winced at the sting of pain that shot past her wrist when she did so.
Kelly startled, and blushed, at last pulling her gaze away from the young man in the trenchcoat. "What? Sorry?"
"Man, Kelly, you've either got it way bad for the guy, or I don't know what." Rachel smirked as she teased her best friend.
The brunette shook her head. "It's not that. It's the darkness."
"Again with this," sighed Rachel, slumping down into her chair at the all too familiar discussion coming up once again. "How many times do I have to tell you? I can't put it any simpler. Even I understand this. There. Are. No. Auras."
Kelly just sat there, her large, blue eyes pleading with Rachel to believe her. Seeing that tactic was going nowhere, she bunched up her face and sulked. "You're just too small-minded to be open to the possibility. If you can't see it, or feel it, or touch it, you just don't think its real."
"Well, duh. That's kinda the definition of real; things I can see and feel."
Kelly sat up in her chair and pointed triumphantly. "Ah ha! You can't see the air!"
Sticking out her tongue, Rachel retorted, and snatched the victory away from her friend. "But I can feel it when the wind blows by."
Returning to her sulk, Kelly rested her head against the long table the computers were set up on. "Aww, shoot. You're not as dumb as you look."
"Damn right," smiled Rachel, in her own moment of triumph.
"Real or not, it's getting worse."
Rachel's gaze shot to the screen. "What, my program?"
"No, you...you cheerleader! The darkness."
Kelly's mouth opened and closed a few times. Her tongue was frozen. Rachel may have been her closest friend, but there were times when Kelly was baffled by that. Her obliviousness, her simple-mindedness, her forgetfullness, all made Rachel a frustrating person to be with for extended periods of time. There were times when Kelly wanted to just get up and walk away, feeling like Rachel was the hardest person to talk to, and this was one of those times.
She somehow managed to bark out a scolding shout, and a hushed whisper all at the same time. "Yes the darkness!"
"What about it?"
Kelly took a deep breath to compose herself. "It's getting darker."
"How does darkness get darker?"
"I have no idea, but it just is. I think something bad is going to happen."
Rachel shrugged, as the bell rang to dismiss class. "If something bad happens, I'll start believing in your visions."
"Next you're gonna tell me you believe in vampires," teased Kelly, gathering up her books close to her chest.
"Yep! Auras and vampires, they'll be proven real by the end of the day, just you see!" The two girls giggled amongst themselves, although anyone listening could tell that their laughter hid nervousness just beneath the surface.
Darien's shadow passed over them, and Kelly visibly shivered. He gave them each a nod and continued on his way. Kelly fidgeted a moment and then ran up behind him, calling out his name.
He turned, looking at the small brunette with curiosity. "Darien, look, be careful. I've got a bad feeling"
It seemed as if Rachel might undercut her friend, but she decided to let the warning stand. What harm could it do, she figured.
He gave a brief nod and continued on his way, with the girls following close behind until they went their seperate ways.
They reuinted a couple classes later, when school was cancelled. Rachel was trying to find Brendan, but his history teacher didn't know what happened to him after he left the class. She stood outside the room on the second floor, just across from the guidance office. Through the frosted glass window, it looked like there was quite the commotion, but the hazy shadows glimpsed through the pane of glass revealed no answers.
Kelly rushed up to her from the floor below, asking if the other girl knew what was going on.
"I heard there was a bomb scare," replied Rachel.
"I don't see Brendan, or Darien, or anyone," said Kelly, showing clear concern. Even for the trenchcoated one with the doomed aura.
Rachel took another look around at the rest of the students confused and concerned about where to go next. "Let's head outside. We'll get a better view, and they'll be able to spot us better too out there."
Kelly followed and the first thing the girls saw outside was a police car. They shared a worried look at the sight, and saw more students gathering around it, sharing theories.
They stood and listened, not offering any theories of their own. Rachel wasn't one to gossip without at least some evidence to back her claims up, and she was clueless on this matter. Which may not have been a first, but for once she had nothing to base anything off of.
The principal soon exited the school building, and announced to the passel of students gathered around the steps that there would be a short assembly shortly to address their concerns.
Behind Principal Howard followed Brendan and the rest of their little group. Rachel spied her boyfriend and was wrapped around him in an instant. She was unware of how worried she had been, and surprised to discover it when she saw him.
It took him a moment to embrace her, and at the time she thought it was all shock, but looking back, Rachel would see it as the start of something more.
Brendan saw the confused, concerned looks on the girls' faces as they pleaded for answers. He shook his head, and rubbed his girlfriend's back. "The principal will explain it all in a sec. C'mon, lets get some seats."
Rachel didn't let her boyfriend go the entire time. At least one arm was around him the entire time. When the principal broke the news of Marcus's demise, she gripped him even tighter.
She shot a look at Kelly, and she was staring back at Rachel. No words needed to be spoken. Rachel may not believe in auras, she may not have any idea what her friend saw, but she now believed that she saw something. The coincidence was too large to ignore, or at least not give more thought to. Rachel's world changed that morning, and it was only beginning its metamorphosis.
After the assembly, all the students filed out. Some of them thought about how it should have been lunchtime as they passed through the foyer shared by the gym and the cafeteria, but they all exited the building and into the cool autumn air outside.
Rachel was ready to go home so she could process all this, or maybe just slip into a catatonic state of shock, when the body was brought out.
Once it was laying there, she was even more eager to depart. If she had moved just one second sooner, she never would have glanced down when the sheet was ripped off the young man she was never very nice towards.
As she stared down at the pale, lifeless corpse, the boy who would sing no more, the student who had given up his last bit of lunch money, she saw his neck, and thought of Kelly's words earlier that day, what seemed a lifetime ago.
She may not believe in auras yet, but those marks, coupled with what they had said earlier in jest. If there was anything else that could make such marks, she might have given it no mind, but with vampires in her thoughts, and now the wounds on the neck, she found herself giving voice to what several students feared, no matter how absurd it sounded.
Brendan went stiff when he heard the word, and Rachel hugged him close. "Didn't mean to spook you, Bren. Just being silly. I really want to go home now."
It was too late though, the idea gripped the minds of the students, and by the end of the day, the talk of vampires invading Kraftsbury was prevalent amongst the teen population. Sensible people, adults, school staff, and others tried to put the notion out of their heads, but the kids were spooked.
The principal and police on the scene dispersed the group, sending everyone home. They did their best to contain any outlandish ideas of vampires, but the more they spoke out, the more some believed.
None of children wanted to leave their homes that night, which made some parents count their blessings for that at least. None of them wanted to go out after sunset less than Brendan Franks. But he ha made a date, and he knew vampires were now real. In fact, his date was with one of them.
He wanted to tell Rachel what he had seen, but once she had blurted out that word, almost causing a panic, he knew it was best to let it go. Brendan didn't think she'd truly believe him even if he did tell her.
The situation at least gave him an excuse to call off their own date they had planned for earlier. Rachel was more than willing to stay home that night, even though she was desperate to spend it with her boyfriend as well. Spending time trying to fake being happy and act like their friend wasn't gone was not something either of them wanted to do, so Rachel agreed to give Brendan his space. Many plans were cancelled that night, all over town.
Even without the threat of vampires, parents were still cautious. There was something out there that had killed a student, and while a bloodsucking monster was beyond the usual suspects, it didn't change the fact that someone or something was out there. Brendan's parents urged him to stay in, but he talked them into it. It took him over 45 minutes of begging and cajoling, but they relented when he said he was helping some new students get up to speed on their school work, and they had a big project they were behind on.
Once he escaped from his parents clutches at last, Brendan got into his cherry-red truck and laid the backpack he took with him to sell the lie down on the grey fabric seat next to him. His mother made the universal sign of holding a her hand up to her head with the thumb and pinkie extended to tell him to call her. He smiled and waved, then backed out onto the road.
Kraftsbury was a small town, just qualifying to be considered as such by the people who keep track of such things. Even without the murder scare, the streets were empty of cars at an early time of night, and that night was no different. Once the sun went down, the streets rolled up and everyone retired for the evening. A few bars remained open, and some of the local restaurants, but for the most part, it became a ghost town from sundown to sunrise.
Brendan had the streets to himself. Most of the cars he saw were parked alongside the main drag, and the only moving vehicle he encountered was a patrol car. He couldn't see inside the vehicle, but wondered if it was the same officer that had come to the school.
Small clusters of people still wandered the streets; some were on their way to their cars after a dinner out, others were making runs to the convenience stores littering main street, while still more were just aimlessly walking with no evident goal. Brendan recognised a few fellow students as he drove, and even waved to a few. They all recognised the local sports hero in his trademark truck. The accolades meant nothing to Brendan, and if he didn't see them every day of his life, he would not even remember who most of the people adoring him were.
He stopped at the one light in the center of town, and once it turned green he turned left up South Hill, and towards the old Boxer home. The town fell away and became more rural, and Brendan felt a chill run through him. The cold, the dark of night, the endless trees closing in on all sides made him think that whatever had killed Marcus was out there watching and waiting. If it wanted, it could drag him out into the woods as well to die alone and frozen.
Something passed into the high headlights of his truck, and Brendan slammed on the breaks, causing the tires to squeal into the quiet night. He came short of hitting his head on the steering wheel, and grabbed his seatbelt and clicked it on. Standing in the spotbeams on the road was a small brown and white bunny rabbit. It stared back at Brendan, and stood up on its hind legs, as its nose twitched and sniffed at the air.
Seconds passed and it continued to stare, until Brendan laid on the horn. The rabbit didn't stick around for very long from the noise, and disappeared back into the woods it had come from.
Brendan shifted the truck back into gear and drove the last half mile or so he needed to go. He had heard about a lot of the stuff that had gone on at the Boxer house, before the family disappeared. No one ever knew what really happened up there, and the house had been abandoned for some time. It had become the local haunted house of legend. And now Brendan found himself heading right up its driveway to talk with a vampire about a mysterious killing.
"And yet," he pondered out loud to his empty cab, "I somehow feel more at home, and the world makes more sense than it has in a long time."
His truck rolled to a stop, much gentler than when it had been interupted by the rabbit, and turned it off. He jumped out and slammed the door, and made his way towards the porch.
In the shadows of the eves, he could see a form sitting on the porch, watching him. In the darkness, he thought he had caught Darien on the porch. The form stood, and leaned into the light streaming out from the windows. It still looked like Darien, but much older, and the red hair was more akin to the ever so slightly younger Montrose sibling.
"You must be Brendan," the older man called out. He even sounded like Darien. Or at least some version of Darien that was still able to find happiness in the world. "I'm Darien and Alyson's father, Peter."
Brendan took the hand that Peter outstretched, and gave it a firm shake. He noted that the elder Montrose's grip was cold, but thought nothing of it as he had been sitting outside.
"Thank you, sir. I assume your kids are in?"
The front door opened with a creak -
"Of course it does," thought Brendan.
- and Alyson herself stepped out.
"We were just waiting for you to get here," she smiled, and Brendan stepped past her and into the foyer. Stairs followed the wall on his right, and turned continuing up the wall ahead of him and into the second floor. On his left was a door into the living room, where he could see the real Darien sitting and waiting.
They all gathered and took up seats upon twin couches, one on each wall that wasn't taken up by a large bay window to the left of those entering the room.
Brendan sat on the couch nearest the door he passed through, and the twins sat opposite him, each of them taking an armrest and sitting like they were matching bookends. Or as much as those two could match.
The three sat in silence, the only sound the ticking of a grandfather clock tucked away in the corner on the other side of the door next to Brendan. He didn't know if the twins were waiting for him to say something first, or if they didn't even know where to start. The twins thought much the same, as they all stared at each other across the gulf of tan carpeting between them.
Brendan didn't know how long they sat their waiting, but it lasted until the clock struck eight o'clock, startling the lot of them with the chimes. The noise broke the tension that filled the room, and once they all realised what had scared them, they all had a good laugh, including Darien.
Now that the trio was at ease, Brendan took the chance to get the ball rolling.
"I have so many questions," he said.
Darien leaned forward, "We may not have all the answers."
"But you said..."
"We're still pretty new at this ourselves," replied Alyson.
Brendan considered this for a few seconds before continuing. "Ok, so you're a vampire," he said, pointing at Alyson.
He still found it hard to believe, in spite of everything he had seen. "A real, honest to goodness grrr!" he made a face and clawed at the air with his hands, "vampire?"
"As real as we can figure any vampire would be."
"How correct are all the stories, movies?"
The twins glanced at each other as if to consider this via some telepathic twin communication, which at that point Brendan would not have put past them having.
Alyson made an uncertain face before responding, looking up at the ceiling as she chose careful words. "About 50/50, I guess?"
"Just having your blood drank, does not make you a vampire?"
"Just drinking the blood of a vampire, also doesn't change you?"
"Yes and no."
"Elaborate," offered Brendan.
Darien, looking every bit the way he had when Brendan had first seen him, and without a trace of what had happened almost 12 hours ago, picked up the ball and ran with it. "Just drinking the blood does nothing, but it is an important step. Once you drink the blood, the..." He stopped and turned up his nose. "For lack of a better word, the infection is inside you, inside your own blood. But you're still human."
"Until you die," Brendan finished.
"Right. Once you die, it's like the vampire infection reboots your body's operating system with a brand new set of software."
"Hardly, but that's the general idea, I guess," said Alyson.
"But what if you don't die? At least, not right away. What if I shot Darien right now? Would be turn?"
"First of all, thanks so much." Darien glared. "Second, it depends on a number of factors. The infection can't seem to sustain itself for long without a true host body, and it dies off, and is filtered from the human blood over time. The more you drink, the longer that will take."
Brendan nodded, acting as if he understood all of what was being said, and on some level he did, but his mind was not the most willing partner in processing the information.
"If you had accidentally ingested a drop of Alyson's blood right now, I could probably snap your neck pretty quick, and you'd be really dead."
It was Brendan's turn. "Gee, thanks."
"Just returning the favour, B. But me, hmm. I drank so much this morning, to fix my wounds and everything else...if you managed to drop me right now? I may still change. That much blood, it takes time to filter out." Darien grinned. "So, on days like today, I have to be extra careful crossing the street."
Alyson leaned over and punched her brother in the shoulder. Brendan was fascinated at how much like normal siblings they seemed, even knowing they were pretty far from Normalsville.
"Ok, so that's her. What the heck are you?" Brendan asked, moving his finger to Darien.
"He's just this guy, you know?" said Alyson.
"Seriously," begged Brendan.
"No, seriously. Darien's just a regular guy."
"I'm a little more than that."
"Ah ha! I knew it!" said Brendan.
"Not in the way you think, Brendan. I'm human, 100%. I was never turned like my sister, and I'm not some other creature. But I am trained."
Brendan looked confused, "Trained?"
"After what happened to Alyson, I wanted to make sure it wouldn't happen to anyone else. So I followed some rumours of these people, other survivors, and I found one who was considered a master, and begged him to train me. I already had my karate training from when I was a kid, so he had a solid basis to form up on. He taught me everything I know, and since then, I've hunted the murderous beasts wherever I found them."
"And he trained you too?" Brendan turned back to Alyson.
"No, if she had gone anywhere near the master trainer, she'd already be dust. They're not as accepting of the darkkin as some others."
Brendan was about to open his mouth, and Alyson interupted the unspoken question. "It's what the sentient factions of supernatural creatures sometimes refer to themselves as. Vampires, werewolves, elves, even the tricksters. They're all children of the darkness, and no longer apart of the light world inhabited by mundanes."
Brendan continued, "You were trained, and turned into a hunter, a slayer of vampires?" He couldn't help but smile.
Darien's face fell and he buried it in his hands. "I knew that was going to come out at some point. As you can guess, I choose not to call myself a vampire slayer."
"Can't say as I blame you, you don't look much like a girl," Brendan grinned with each jab.
"Shut up! I get this from fangface all the time."
Alyson got in on the fun, "Oh you be quiet, Buffy."
"Quit it, I know how to kill you."
His sister flashed the barest hint of fangs at Darien. "And I know how to kill you."
"And that would just prove Conrad right, wouldn't it?"
"Conrad?" asked Brendan.
Darien answered, "That was the name of the master sl...master hunter that trained me. He never gave me any other name, just Conrad. I don't know if it was a first name, or last name."
Brendan nodded, and forged ahead. "So the trainer, this Conrad, wouldn't go near Alyson. He thought she was evil. Does that mean she actually is evil? Does she have a soul?"
Alyson gave a heavy sigh and rolled her eyes. "I knew this was coming."
"You can't blame him for asking," her brother said.
"No. I am most absolutely not evil. Not in the slightest. Do I have a soul? Do YOU?"
Brendan again tried to speak, but Alyson continued, "We don't know, do we? But let's say humans do have souls. Does that stop you from doing evil things? Charles Manson? Hitler? Jack the Ripper? They were pretty evil people by most accounts, but they were also very human. Soul or not, is indifferent. Evil is a choice. You may have a predilection for it, but it's a choice. You choose to kill, you choose to not kill. And I choose not to. I'm exactly the same person I always have been, I just happened to stop living for a few minutes, and have a few extra tricks up my sleeve now. But Alyson wasn't a killer two years ago, and I'm not one now. People just think vampire and automatically think evil. True, in most cases they're right, but there are a few normal ones out there."
"The exception to the rule, though," sighed Darien.
Brendan stared for a few seconds after she stopped, just to make sure she wasn't going to get going again.
Once he was certain she was done, he tried again. "But you drink blood?"
"I don't have to. Small amounts keep me going. I tend to stick with animals, but we sometimes find blood banks that are open to our plight. In a real pinch, a raw package of steak or hamburger will keep me going until I can find something more substaintial. A good sized rat will keep me going for a few weeks."
"Ok, that's disgusting."
"You should be the one eating them."
Darien made a face. "You should be the one watching them be eaten."
"There are cravings, yes. Most vampires give into them, because it's easier. It's more fun, too. Revelling in the power, lording it over helpless mortals? Most vamps don't want to fight it, and enjoy the chance to be the bully for a change."
Brendan considered, "Or they were one in life."
"Right. But the cravings are managable, if the vampire wants to. It's like the alcoholism from hell. Literally. It does make us stronger to feed off of humans, but the effects are negligible."
Brendan rubbed his eyes and glanced at the clock. They'd been talking for over an hour. And still there were so many questions.
"Love it. Love Italian food."
"Drinkable, but people look at you funny if you try."
"So, crosses are probably out as well?"
"You got it. Unless we're talking a giant sized one used as a bludgeon."
"Useless, unless you stab it into the brain."
Brendan recalled what he heard about the fight with Brian. "So if the Lion had stabbed you with the tree branch..."
Darien nodded. "I'd actually be dead. But a real vamp wouldn't. Ain't life a bitch?"
"Ok, here's the biggie, and it has been bugging the hell out of me all day." He leaned in, as if they were about to discuss state secrets and someone might overhear.
"Sunlight. How in the hell does Alyson walk around all day long and not, you know, burst into flames?"
Alyson smiled. "Ever read Dracula? The original?"
Brendan shook his head.
"Sunlight didn't kill classical vamps in the literature. That was a purely Hollywood invention for dramatic purposes. Let me tell you, I was ecstatic to discover that. I am so not a night person." She yawned for effect.
"It does bother me, so I try and keep my exposure to a minimum, or else I get grumpy. It's like a light allergic reaction. I want to sneeze when the sun comes out. But for the most part, like the cravings, it's manageable. Give me a good rainy day any time, though. Most vamps don't like the annoyance though, so they stick to the typical creatures of the night schtick. I'm more than happy to maintain my human routines, since I can."
"Is there anything else?" asked the football player.
"Fire is effective."
Darien nodded. "Fire is effective against everything. Fire good."
"Silver is, as well, if you stab us or shoot us with it. The element acts as a counteragent to the infection, I think. No one really knows for sure."
"When did all this happen to you? When was she bitten?"
"A little over the year ago." She touched her neck, not realising she was doing so, fingering the spot where she had been bled out before it was replaced with the infected blood of her maker. "Just after we turned sixteen."
"Do your parents know about Alyson?" Brendan had been wondering that since he pulled up to the door.
Alyson seemed to hesitate a moment, and Darien was quick to jump in with a response. "Of course they do, that would be a tough thing to hide from them."
"And now for the biggie," Brendan started. "Why are you here?"
"That should be obvious," said Darien.
"I have a few ideas, but it would be nice to know what would bring a vampire and a hunter into the middle of nowhere, Vermont."
Alyson leaned forward, and her eyes turned red, and her face transformed into its bestial state. "I'm looking for the monster that did this to me, I'm going to find him, and I'm going to show him just how effective fire is against a vampire."