And to celebrate, the second half of Chapter Three. I worked out and jotted down notes for the next few chapters, just rough bits, and I'm mildly frustrated with myself that the plot doesn't really kick off until chapter five. But I digress
"What should we do?" asked Alyson after Kelly had disappeared and Darien had been chastised by Brendan.
The dour countenance on Brendan's face had yet to disappear. Alyson had seen such a look many a time upon her own brother, and while there may have been a brief concern of Brendan wandering down a similar path, she knew Brendan's strength of character and spirit, and knew this was nothing more than a brief change.
"She's right," came a surprising declaration from Darien behind the others.
Alyson spun around, her scarlet tresses catching up a moment later and almost smacking her in the face from the speed at which she rotated. "What?"
Darien gestured to the person who wasn't there, in the direction she had gone. "She's right!"
"What do you mean?"
Beside the twins Brendan remained silent, but turned towards the pair of redheads, listening intently. He concealed just the barest hint of a smile.
"Kelly. Is right."
"Yes, I got that. Elaborate."
"Face it, Alyson. Our lives are pretty damned crazy." Alyson could tell her brother was thinking hard about what he was saying. Speaking was not his strongest quality. "Forget crazy, our lives are Charlie Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Arkham Asylum crazy."
Alyson chewed on her lower lip, which was never the smartest idea but even worse when one had fangs. Even in their retracted state, they were still sharper than most knives. When she broke skin and tasted her own blood, Alyson winced. Most blood tasted sweet to her, like she was drinking the finest cup of ambrosia, or the oldest, most well-aged wine.
But a vampire's blood tasted different. It wouldn't harm her, but it had no benefits either. It had already gone through her system and her vampiric biology had taken what it needed and converted the blood to something altogether different yet the same basic material. The process somehow altered even the flavour of the blood. The coppery taste she now craved more than she could ever tell her brother was long gone, and instead she tasted something more akin to vinegar. Not just any vinegar, but a highly concentrated concoction mixed with other flavours that she dared not put names to, and tempted to turn her stomach.
Alyson wondered if she could still throw up, but was in no hurry to find out.
More out of habit than desire, Alyson sucked on the wound, suffering through the taste filling her mouth and flowing down her throat. She did her best to present a stony faced reaction to her brother and Brendan, but figured the master of stone faces would see right through it.
It wasn't long before her vampiric metabolism kicked in and sealed the wound, stopping the acrid taste from consuming her senses.
"It is a bit of a madhouse, isn't it?" she said with great resignation.
"In fairness, death does turn things on their head, so it is understandable," gave an unusually consoling Darien.
"Maybe we should try being just regular teenagers for awhile. At least until the next pile of weird comes along."
Brendan decided to speak up at long last. "But can any of us be considered normal?"
Darien's hand inched into the air, and Alyson smacked it back down. "Being a vampire hunter is not normal, brother of mine."
"With all the hit vampire shows and movies these days, being a vampire is almost normal," Darien tried to say to lift his sister up.
She at least gave a smile. "Almost only counts in horseshoes."
"And hand grenades," added her brother.
"And nuclear weapons," finished Brendan.
The twins both took in his statement and let it rattle around their minds for a second before a unified, "You win," came out of their mouths.
Half ignoring them and half wanting to just go home, Brendan continued, "So, how about it? Just regular teenagers and high school students with high school teenagery problems for the next month? How does a nice, normal Thanksgiving at the Montrose house sound to you guys?"
Something flashed between the two, something that was more than a look. Brendan didn't know what was going on, but he had something that had not gone over well with either of them. It was just a brief moment, and they tried to act like it had not happened, but Brendan knew better.
"You don't know how good that sounds, Brendan," said Alyson. He sensed a but coming though. "But I think a month is asking for a bit much. I think we should start small, maybe a week."
"Or maybe just take it one day at a time," added her brother.
Alyson ignored her brother, and continued on. "I can only do so much normal, what with the whole vampire thing, anyways. How normal can I be when I'll be 16 for the rest of my unlife? Gods, it is going to make buying beer a bitch in four years."
Brendan nodded his understanding. "A fair point. But you can still act like one. Take tests, eat lunch, go on dates, go to dances."
"Oh yes, whatever would my life be like without the joy of crappy high school dances?"
The tension between the trio had abated considerably and even Brendan was warming up again. That dour look he was copying from Darien was disappearing fast. "But Alyson, those high school dances are an important rite of passage for all teenagers."
"I had a vampire try and sacrifice me to who knows what. I have had my fill of rites for a very long time."
Alyson's expression changed, becoming more serious and she spoke in a gentle, almost motherly manner to Brendan. "But that doesn't mean you can't be normal, Brendan. You've already done more than we could ever ask for. You helped us against Beadle. That's done. You should be done too. Get out while you still can. You have a girlfriend teetering on the brink of leaving you." Her eyes darted to her brother, having seen the growing attraction of Rachel to the mysterious bad boy everyone saw Darien as.
"If we need you, we know where you live."
Brendan's eyebrows shot up, "You really need to work on your uplifting speeches, A. It's 'we know where to find you.' What you said? A little creepy. And just a touch too vampiric."
The vampire shrugged. "Eh, maybe I meant it the way I said it. I may just need a snack and you're available."
"That's not funny!" shouted Brendan while trying his damnedest to not laugh.
"Bleah! Bleah!" Alyson reached her arms into the air and made claws out of her hands. Even with her arms outstretched into the air, she was still not as tall as either of the boys.
Darien was the first to crack, which was a surprise to all assembled. He looked at his sister and just about doubled over in laughter. She glared back at Darien with a hurt expression and her arms still dangling in the air. "You are the adorablest vampire ever, Alyson."
"Bleah?" she said, pleading for any respect. Which only made Darien laugh all the harder. She had seen him lighten up quite a bit in recent weeks, but it was still good to hear him laugh.
"A poodle is more threatening than you!"
"Isn't that your job?" said Darien through an ever increasing inability to breathe.
That comment mixed with Alyson's pout made even Brendan start to laugh. Once the boys were gone, it wasn't long before Alyson joined them. If they hadn't been so amused, they may have noticed the night sky lighting up in the distance from Kelly's light show, but the event went unnoticed by the trio.
Once they all caught their collective breaths and wiped the tears of laughter from their eyes, silence reigned over them. They had all needed the release. As much as they all felt things had returned to a baseline standard with Beadle dead and ash, the tension had not abated and only gotten worse. At long last they felt like they could put Halloween behind them.
"So," announced Brendan with all the authority and bravery he could muster, "thus endeth the very first meeting of Weirdaholics Annonymous?"
The Montroses both nodded their approval of the name. Alyson was the first of the twins to speak. "We should ask Kelly to join. It was her idea, after all."
Darien took his turn, "If she'll even speak to any of us ever again."
"I'm sure she will," concluded Brendan. "Can you blame her? You guys have put up with this all year. I've been sucked in for a few weeks. She just got dragged in kicking and screaming two days ago."
"It was more like bouncing and cheering."
"Which is exactly the problem. Remember, she thought this was fun. I think the gunshot disuaded her of that notion pretty quick. And the visions she had today didn't help none."
The comment had almost gone unnoticed when both of the Montroses blurted out, "WHAT visions??"
Brendan felt like he was all of a sudden underneath the bright lights of an interrogation from Alyson's eyes alone. He didn't want to know which one of them would be the bad cop.
"That uh...that never came up, did it?"
"No!" both of them again said together.
"One of us. One of us."
Brendan gave a mock scream and grabbed his head. "I give! I'll talk! Earlier today, Kelly was attacked by some visions that knocked her off her feet."
Alyson narrowed her eyes and glared at Brendan. He almost wished it was Darien giving him the third degree. "He's not telling us everything."
Brendan wondered if she was this disturbing before she was a vampire, or if there was added levels of creepiness now that she was at heart a predatory creature. "And um, I had visions too, but not the same type as she did. At about the same time."
The crimson haired girl pulled away from Brendan and her look softened. He could see the wheels turning inside her head. "Around 1:30?"
"Yeah, that was around...wait, how did you... You too??"
Alyson shook her head in denial. "Not visions, but something. It felt like someone was trying to tear my heart out. Through my little finger."
"Amazing," was all Brendan could say.
"Not visions, but something happened to all of us, yeah."
Brendan and Alyson both realised the statement and it was their turn to look at Darien in unison.
The only thing the lanky, young man did was shrug. "Sorry, no visions or heart attacks here. I did get a headache during chemistry though. I thought it was just stress, or because the problems we were working on were tough."
"Were they?" asked his sister.
Darien pushed back his own red hair that matched his sister in colour, if not in length. "Not really, no."
Alyson gave Brendan a look. "What do you think?"
"I think it counts. Same time. And he is, even by his own admission, the most normal out of all of us. Kelly thought Rachel had experienced something too, but she was being evasive. I was about to get it out of her, but that's what sparked our fight."
The twins both rubbed their chins, and Alyson spoke. "It sounds like there's something going on. Not sure what it was, but I don't think we can say it was conincidence."
Darien lifted his arm and pushed the cuff of his long trenchcoat out of the way, revealing the wristwatch on his left arm. "You guys realise your moratorium on weirdness lasted a whopping 15 seconds?"
Alyson harumphed and crossed her arms. "No one said it would be easy. We'll start tomorrow, that's all. I told you guys a month would be pushing it. Besides, if we had a month of normality, what would Jason write about?"
"How can we strive for normalcy if we have this mystery hanging over us?" inquired Brendan, asking what he felt was a very pertinent question.
Alyson walked up to him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Leave the weirdness to me. If anyone should break the pact, it should be the vampire, right? You fix things with Rachel. That's more important than visions."
He gave a nod, and Brendan found he was looking forward to trying to get things back on track with Rachel. They had hit a rough patch, and while he may question where their relationship is going, he yet had some hope it would survive.
Brendan wasn't going to say anything, but he was glad neither of the twins had thought to ask him about what he had seen.
"Well, speaking of normal," he said before either of them could think to do just that, "I have really got to get home and get my homework done. Fighting vampires tends to not be an acceptable excuse for late papers."
"It so should be though," said Darien.
Alyson nodded her approval of the notion. "I know, right? We should totally start a petition. It can be the 'dog ate my homework' of the 21st Century."
"Wouldn't that be 'my printer failed'?" asked Brendan.
"That is so 1995," Alyson scoffed in return.
Brendan grinned. He didn't know how long it would last, but their vow made everything feel lighter. Getting so many things off his chest helped as well; Rachel, Kelly, the vampires, his duplicity...everything was weighing upon him these days, and if the Montroses gave him leave to sort things out, well that was for the good of all.
"Stay normal, kids. Down with the bizarre!" Brendan thrust his fist into the sky.
Alyson gave him a thumbs up, and Darien just smiled. Then the two of them turned their backs on him and went in the same direction as Kelly. But instead of turning right at the end of the gym and towards the forest, the pair instead headed left towards the main road.
Brendan stood alone in the parking lot, save for the few cars that were still there. Not that they were much company, but it was a nice reminder that there were people nearby. That and the rythmic thrumming of the vaccuum cleaners he could hear even through brick walls and closed windows gave him an odd sense of comfort. What was more normal than abandoned cars and the sound of cleaning crews?
A lot of things, pondered Brendan, but there was a lot that was less normal. Two such things just left his field of view.
The lone figure stood there for quite some time. He found a large pebble that was closer to being classified a stone and nudged it around with his foot. Brendan had a lot to think about, and a lot of things he wasn't telling a lot of people. The secrets were like a pressure cooker that had gone forgotten by its chef. Brendan knew if he didn't pay attention and deal with things on numerous fronts, it was all going to explode in his face.
And he just knew it was all going to happen at the same time, and at the worst possible time. Telling the twins about the visions he and Kelly had experienced was just one such blunder. At least that had turned out well enough.
Brendan thought about standing there and waiting for Kelly to return. He knew she would have to come back at some point. He knew if they just took some time, the worst of the rough patches between them could be smoothed out. She may want to distance herself from the new reality she found herself in, but Brendan knew that Alyson was right; it couldn't last. Not forever. Brendan had to wonder if they would ever realise normal again, and what normal was for them now. For Alyson, this was normal. For Darien too, to some extent. Even Brendan was becoming more and more comfortable with this new existence. He still had his questions, but at least he had his goals.
Right then, Brendan's only goal was to get out of the cold. Everything else could wait until morning. Almost everything, at least. Homework wasn't something he could sit on that long.
Brendan checked the doors to Kelly's car and found them unlocked. Not the brightest thing to do, but it wasn't like he always remembered to lock his own doors. There was not much crime in Kraftsbury, but it was far from perfect. The murders by Beadle were the most crime the town had seen in years, outside of the rising threat of parking violations and jaywalkers.
With one of the doors open, Brendan gathered up Kelly's books and piled them up as neat as he could on her seat. Before closing up the car, he grabbed a pen sitting in one of the cup holders and scrawled a quick note for her to call Brendan as soon as she could.
Satisfied with his good deed, and a very normal deed it was, Brendan shut the door with its familiar creaking and latching shut. But not before he locked the doors.
Brendan took one last look around the paved canyon between its twin brick walls. Nothing stirred between the two mesas of schools, save for a chill wind. Even the vaccuums had stopped. Brendan presumed the crews had all gone on break or were moving between rooms, all at the same time.
He took a deep breath of the cold air and felt it chill his lungs. Brendan zipped up his jacket and shivered. The cold wasn't quite affecting him, but being all alone in the not quite dark gave him more of a chill than the wind ever could.
Brendan's footsteps scuffed along the dusty cement, grit crunching between the treads of his sneakers. The sound almost echoed in the enclosed, empty space. It made Brendan feel all that much more alone.
Climbing up into the cab of his truck, Brendan shut the door and sealed himself off from the outside world. The sound was even louder than Kelly's car door given the heft of his truck, but the more modern vehicle Brendan sat in had much less character than Kelly's older model.
He may have been wrapped up inside his truck at long last, but Brendan still felt the cold. There was no difference between the outside air and inside after the truck had sat there all day long. If the truck retained any extra heat from the waning sun, trapped inside where it could not escape once the moon had arisen, there was no way Brendan could tell.
To alleviate the situation, Brendan turned his car's engine over, and flipped on the heater. The rumble of the heater forcing air into the cab drowned out any other sounds the football star may have heard. The air coming out was cold at first, and that just made Brendan all the more chilled, but it soon warmed up.
He thought of turning on the radio, but Brendan just sat there and waited for warmth to come to him before driving home alone.
Which made him all the more surprised when he heard a voice next to him. "You've forgotten something."
Brendan thought he had dozed off, and maybe he had, but he sure felt awake. He sat up straight in his seat and backed against the driver's side door and tried to phase through it and out the other side.
There was very little space inside the truck for anyone else to be, so his eyes went straight to the one spot they could sit; the passanger's sider of the long cushioned seat. At first Brendan thought he was just seeing his reflection in the glass opposite him, even with it's incredible level of sharpness and clarity.
So Brendan sat in his truck, backed up as far as he could get, and staring at a mirror image of himself. In the dark, it looked more like him than it had before, but Brendan soon recognised the face of his near doppleganger from his repeated mindscape encounters.
Once he realised who it was, as much as he knew who this stranger with his face was, Brendan became less tense. Not by much, but he peeled his back off the cab door.
"Can I help you?" Brendan asked with more than a hint of sarcasm. Closer to two hints.
"I can help you," said his very own twin. Whom Brendan was realising looked far more like him than Darien looked like Alyson.
Brendan stared in response to the mind games. This was so not what he needed right now. Or ever, but now was all the worse. "You can start by dialing back the crypticness."
The physical reflection smiled a smile Brendan found all too familiar, and that made it all the more alien. "Now, where would be the fun in that?"
"There would be less face punching?"
"I sometimes forget we can be prone to violence."
"Only when we are annoyed. Now, explain."
The other Brendan gave a heavy sigh and visibly sulked. "Fine, fine. I said you've forgotten something."
Brendan was starting to get frustrated. Actually, he had left frustrated about three exits back. "Yes, I got that part. Mind telling me what I've forgotten?"
If he didn't start getting straight answers, Brendan was pretty sure he was going to reach across the cab and strangle himself. He fought off the ponderings of whether that would be murder or suicide.
"Why should I ask Terry, when you're sitting right here?"
Now, it was the reflection's turn to look exasperated. "No, I meant, you've forgotten, I told you to ask Terry."
Recognition lit up Brendan's face, and the look of realisation made his other half smile. "Oh! Oh geeze, I did. Sorry."
Brendan stopped and turned his ire right back up again. "No wait, I'm not sorry! That doesn't explain a thing! Ask Terry what? Where are they? WHO are they? I know like, five Terrys!"
"Look, I've already said too much. I'm risking things just by being here. You need to find out all this stuff on your own, I can only nudge you. And this is more like a renudge, so it's probably ok. Just don't tell anyone."
Brendan considered the list of people he could tell about seeing someone who looked almost like himself, but wasn't him, and was a cryptic bastard.
"Don't worry, Brendan. This will all make sense someday."
Brendan was dubious, to say the least. "Really? Will it really ALL make sense?"
"Well, no," responded the other. "Not really. Well, maybe? No. Probably not. But enough of it will. Just remember; don't forget."
"I hate you so much."
"If I can figure out which Terry you're talking about!"
On that list of people that Brendan had compiled in his mind of people he could confide in about his doppleganger, Rachel was the last name on said list. Rachel was more likely to not even have made the list, thought Brendan.
And with that, Brendan shot up in his chair and woke up. He looked over at the now empty passenger seat and just shook his head. He didn't know how long he had been out of it, but the truck was quite warm when he startled himself awake.
Brendan looked up to the roof of the cab, and shouted out loud for anyone to hear that may have been listening, and could only hope that the one he wanted to hear it could do just that. "Never, ever do that while I'm driving!!"
He leaned forward and crossed his arms atop the large, grey steering wheel, resting his head atop them.
"I swear vengeance upon the Montrose family for all this weird ass shit my life has become, I really do."
Brendan threw his car into reverse and with a lurch the behemoth pulled out of the parking spot. It lurched again as it pulled forward and the transmission locked into place.
As he drove, he checked his cellphone for messages, hoping that one would have appeared from Rachel or Kelly, although he doubted seeing one from the latter since he just left her car. Nothing waited for him on the glowing screen, and Brendan returned his attention to the road in front of him.
The lights along the street grew fewer and furhter between as he drove farther from the center of Kraftsbury. By the time he reached the turn off for the road to his home, there were no street lights at all, save for the one at the very corner. Even that was soon forgotten in the distance as Brendan's truck struggled its way up the steep hill.
Halfway up the hill, and a good quarter mile away from any signs of civilisation, the truck's lights flickered and the engine coughed. It coughed several more times before all noises ceased coming from it. All noises, every last one. The last thing Brendan heard from his truck was a clattering sound like wooden, toy blocks being tossed in a coffee can.
He had been sure that he had enough gas to get home and back, but Brendan supposed that his enforced nap had taken longer than he might have at first suspected. He gave the fuel gauge a tap, as if that would have some magical effect on his truck and get it working again.
As was to be expected, the car remained un responsive. Brendan had been fortunate enough to at least reach a point where the steep hill began to level out. The truck had just enough momentum to coast to a stop on a sandy patch of land where the town often kept a number of trucks in a small fenced off area. At least he wouldn't be in anyone's way on the small side road.
Brendan also breathed a sigh of relief that he wasn't all that far from home. The truck dying on him was more of a pain in the ass than anything else. The biggest difficulty he would have was that this would cut into his free time.
"Oh, the horror," he mumbled to no one as he grabbed his bookbag and hefted the weight over his shoulder. The weight had become ever less noticable as the past month had gone on, and whatever was happening to him made him stronger and stronger. Even so, he still could feel the weight, and wondered how he had ever carried it around when he was 100% normal.
Brendan laid his brow upon the cold, red metal of the side of his truck. A long day was just getting longer. If he had an actual seizure that day, he likely would not have been walking him at all, so he had that little bright spot to hold onto.
"Best to just get this over with," he whispered, and began his trek. The road again began to incline past the truck yard and the journey became ever more difficult. It was nothing Brendan hadn't done 100 times before, but it was rare when he was in a worse mood than he was at that moment.
If Kelly had thought her trip to the standing stones had been dark, she at least could create light. Brendan had nothing, nothing but the stars, mere pin pricks of light above him, and the moon which was already starting to set early. The twilight sky of darkened hues shone still, the glittering jewels in its firmament giving Brendan more than enough light to see the road ahead of him.
Yet it was not as clear as Brendan would have liked it to be. When the moon disappeared over the western horizon, he would be able to make out the road, and the shadows, but little else. Only brief points of light from inside the few homes that dotted the mountainside broke up the black.
Brendan's eyes lit on fire as a car came over another crest in the road ahead of him, and shone its headlights right into his face. He was quick to move further onto the shoulder, his feet crunching the gravel that had accumulated there over the years.
He remained off the side of the road as he walked on, figuring it for the best, in case other cars came along. Not that they did. He hoped if one was going the right away, he could get a ride. Not that they would be.
But he hoped.
He should have been hoping for other things, but Brendan never would have started hoping to not find what he found.
Five minutes after the car had passed him and left the darkness to engulf him once more, Brendan's foot kicked something solid. He thought it was a log at first, but it felt wrong. The moment he thought it, he knew he was wrong.
Brendan leaned down to move what he thought was a log, but did not believe it for a second, out of his way. The second his hand touched the soft form, his worst fears were confirmed. Soft, still warm, covered in fabric, and something else he could only fear was blood. It was a body.
He knew then there was no escape. The horror had entered his life, and it would never go away. Not without leaving a body at his feet.