They say you should always trust your intuition. Like a guardian angel resting protectively upon your shoulder, your intuition is your subconcious' way of putting up an immediate red flag the moment you begin to have doubts. Or maybe it's really just God saying, "WARNING: Danger ahead. Advert from stupidity and turn around." So when he approached me with one of his infamous "magnificently bright ideas", Mr. Intuition smacked me so hard across the back of the head, it was a wonder I was still left standing. I didn't like the sound of it one bit as the words flowed easily from his mouth. In fact, I wanted to slap that animated grin clear off his face so quickly that I actually smiled, but I was so deeply disgusted with the fact that he assumed I would be willing to jump on board the bandwagon of his usually disastrous schemes, that I ended up standing there in a silent stupor. Honestly now, whatever gave him the idea to approach me and only me was baffling enough to begin with. I hate to say it, but he's never been the sharpest tool in the shed when it came to planning...well, planning whatever the heck trouble he always ended up getting into. If he wanted to shred every last bit of evidence of his sanity that he had left, then by all means, be my guest. I on the other hand planned to keep my sanity as long as possible, although after spending the last decade and a half of my life with him, I've struggled with that task more then a few times. Besides, this was more AJ and Brian's area of interest. Yet he still came to me.
"C'mon Kev!" he whined in his annoying nasily way that never failed to make my blood boil and the hair to stand up on the back of my neck. I knew that act though. God, I had spent more then enough time over the years perfecting the ability to detect whenever he was putting all of his energy into getting his own way, that I knew he couldn't fool anyone right then, much less me. Still, I watched as his eyebrows furled and his pouting expression intensified more then I cared to see. And obviously my refusal to answer wasn't doing him wonders because he crossed his arms over his chest and began to tap his foot impatiently. OK...we're how old again? "Kev! Kevvy!"
I shook my head adamently and stepped around him, searching for a quick and easy escape that would hopefully smack the point into his head that I wasn't interested. But he followed closely behind like a lost puppy. I almost expected him to start nipping at my heels and yelp for a Scooby Treat. Almost. Sighing, I stopped in my tracks and felt him collide with my back roughly. Of course; never the one to pay attention. "For the last time Nick, I'm not interested," I groaned as I turned around with a short glare. He stuck his bottom lip out pathetically and I reached up to rub at my temples. "No. Absolutely not."
"You're such a pussy!" he snickered and my glare tightened. Sometimes I wanted to squish him like a bug, and with his attention span that was no better than that of a gnat's, I was positive it wouldn't be too hard to do so. He snickered, certain that he had dumbfounded me with his childish statement and my show of silence was evidence that my resolve was cracking. Hardly. "What's wrong old man? Can't handle a little bit of fun every now and then? Kristin got your panties tied in that tight of a knot?"
Riiiiight...you go ahead and smile smartly kid, but you're looking at your future. I noticed a glint of light flash in his eyes as I stood there contemplating his stature and for a moment I stepped back in confusion. His face remained the same, as annoyingly innocent as before, but his eyes...his eyes were different. There was something about them that took me off guard, yet it captured me all the same. I couldn't move; I wasn't even sure if I was breathing. Then I blinked again, Nick's eyes were normal, and he was snapping his fingers in front of my face. "What?" I frowned.
He cocked an eyebrow at me and released a low chuckle. I on the other hand wasn't in the least bit humored. In fact, I'd be well humored if he turned around and walked out the front door, because the longer he stood there bothering me, the faster I could see my afternoon of peace and quiet during Mason's nap while Kristin was out go spiraling down the drain. I wasn't about to let him get in the way of me, the lazy boy recliner, and ESPN. "Did you say something?" I asked abruptly as I walked across the threshhold of the kitchen to retrieve a cold soda from the fridge. I paused, my hand gripping the silver handle, and glanced wearily back over my shoulder to where he still stood. His posture was definitely odd, and he instantly looked away when I peered back, fidgeting with the fraying hem of the white polo shirt he wore. "Nick?"
"No, no I didn't say anything," he stuttered, but it was almost like he was uncertain of it, despite the crooked, barely visible smirk his lips had curled into.
I shrugged; I could have sworn I had heard him mumbling something just under his breath as he looked away. I wouldn't put it past him because his sanity was questionable and he seemed to be becoming more fidgety as the seconds passed. Returning my attention back to the fridge, I reached in and grasped two cans of Pepsi before spinning around to present the small offering then send Nick on his way. I wasn't so rude that I would kick him out while he was deyhydrated. He was looking a little pale and the dark bags under his eyes made me wonder. But not even half way through the turn, I yelped and the cans slipped from my hands. I didn't even have time to count the half of a second it took for them to slam into the tops of my feet. I was already cursing. "Damnit Nick-"
His hand shot up to cover my mouth and I stared at him quizzically for an answer that would explain his sudden rash movement. It was beside me how quickly he'd snuck up behind me to begin with, but he seemed rather unphased by that fact. Instead he looked up at the ceiling briefly then back to me and pulled his hand away. "You'll wake Mason up," he answered simply, like I wasn't already aware of the fact that I had a sleeping toddler upstairs. Taking a step backwards, he bent at the knees and retrieved the fallen sodas before pressing one into my hand. "Sorry. If he's as cranky as you always are..." Nick started laughing.
I raised a brow at him, but after several moments of silence had passed and no further words were exchanged, I decided to drop the subject and listened carefully for any signs that my child was awake. I was at least relieved when that silence continued also and motioned for Nick to follow me into the livingroom. Not even a minute later I lowered myself into the welcoming lazy boy recliner, discarding the can of soda on the antique table stand that was perched at my side. oddly enough I was no longer thirsty, and I was sure the fact that Nick was once again standing against the wall on the opposite side of the room had something to do with it. He really had been acting out of the ordinary lately and the distancing aspect of his demeanor was a little unnerving. "You can sit ya know?" I called out to him, but his eyes, darker then usual, pierced back in my direction, unblinking. Ok, that was starting to creep me out a little. "Or hey, I have an idea...how about you just stand over there?"
"I think you really should reconsider my proposition Kevin," Nick commented lowly, allowing several moments to pass.
I looked away from the tv, perfectly ready to repeat my answer from before: NO. I had far outgrown the celebrating of such a mindless "holiday" and Mason was still young enough that it didn't disappointment me that I wouldn't be out galavanting around all night. Only I was surprised to find the spot on the wall Nick had been standing against now vacant. I sat up straighter, the irritation coursing through the blood in my veins in an angry torrent. "Would you stop doing that?!" I spat, spotting him close at my side. A little too close for comfort. I leaned away from him.
"Doing what?" he asked in return.
"This whole disappearing act and then-" I sighed, letting my voice drop as I shook my head. He watched me blankly; it was as if he was there physically but his mind was elsewhere. That wasn't horribly out of place when it came to him, but it was his eyes again. There was definitely something different about them, something unusual. Lifeless. Dull. Dark. I couldn't put my finger on it and I was starting to worry. "Nick, really? I'm just not interested in this scheme of yours and I don't understand why you keep persuing my agreeance on the matter."
In the split of a second he was in front of me, one hand gripping each arm rest. It happened so swiftly that I wouldn’t have had the chance to react, even if I had wanted to. Instead I continued to sit there waiting, trying to make sense of his behavior. Aware that he was known for his practical jokes, I was ready to attribute this to just that, but I still couldn’t get past his eyes. The way they appeared so vacant, how he didn’t blink once, and the pupils within the blue seemed to be growing larger and getting darker by the second. Even the breath he exhaled was cold. I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t.
Slowly he pulled away and straightened his posture as his lips curled into a satisfied grin. His eyes were light once more with a childish exuberance and he clapped in delight. “Geez,” he started to speak and I couldn’t help but tremble at the chilling tone of his voice. “I didn’t think you would agree to this so quickly. This is going to be awesome!”
The way he expressed his excitement caused my blood to run cold and the temperature in the room to seemingly drop rapidly. I didn’t understand what he was talking about. I hadn’t agreed to anything. In fact, I had very clearly told him no and yet, as I started to respond, my mind became jumbled and I was surprised by the words that flowed easily from my mouth. “You need to have a little more faith in me Nicky. Contrary to popular belief, I do know how to have fun. Besides, it’ll be nice to get away for a while. Kristin will be able to manage while I’m gone.”
“You’re making the right decision, Kev,” Nick nodded, wringing his hands together in anticipation. “I need to go now. There is a lot that must be prepared. I will call you when the time comes.”
“Wait-” I started, jumping from my seat as he reached the front door in a flash. He held up his hand and I fell silent.
“Don’t worry Kev. This will be a night you will never forget.” Then like that, he disappeared out the door, just as quickly as he had appeared in the first place.
As if Nick’s flawless way of getting me to agree to go with him on this little “adventure” of his wasn’t enough of a warning the first time, I should have known for sure that something was certainly wrong when I started to realize that we had bypassed the exit highlighted on the map I had been gripping since shortly after we had backed out of my driveway. Nick’s driving was becoming erratic and the speed at which he drove was peaking at numbers that even I wouldn’t dare venture to reach. “Nick, I think we missed the exit,” I spoke with uncertainty. My words seemed to fly through one ear and out the other; he didn’t flinch. It was like he didn’t know I was in the car with him. That in itself was unnerving enough. I looked to the speedometer and watched the thin needle raise more. “Jesus Nick, would you slow down!?”
His fingers coiled around the leather binding of the steering wheel tighter and he glanced briefly in my direction. “We’re on a schedule Kevin. Slowing down is out of the question,” he answered simply and turned back to watch the road with a vacant expression.
Must I reiterate that the kid has a horrible knack for making stupid decisions? This just happened to be one of them. I couldn’t help but glare at him. “I don’t know whatever the Hell schedule you keep mumbling about, but with the way you’re driving, it’s not going to do us much good if we end up dying before we get there,” I snapped in returned. He laughed as I pulled the protection of the seat belt closer to my chest. I on the other hand wasn’t finding it all that funny. “And this is a laughing matter because?”
Nick’s laughter faded and he sighed, the slightest bit of irritation laced through his breathing. “Relax.”
Yeah, like that was going to happen. Not when the speedometer’s needle was a mere five notches away from hitting triple digits. I almost started praying at that moment to see the flashing red and blue lights that I had been looking out for since we had merged onto the deserted stretch of highway. At the rate we were going, I would have much rather spent the night in a cold jail cell as opposed to minutes in a reckless death box with a psychotic maniac who had control of the wheel. Taking a deep breath I sank back into my seat and clenched then unclenched my fists before calmly speaking. “You missed the exit about two miles back.”
“Change of plans,” Nick shrugged in his annoying nonchalant way, but there was no denying the smirk that lit his face. That’s when I noticed the vehicle was reducing in speed and he whipped us onto an unsteady looking off ramp that immediately ran into a narrow dirt and gravel road. “Found it.”
‘Found it?!’ I thought with disbelief as I was jolted and my back slammed down into seat. I was highly unimpressed, but more so I wasn’t too fond of the road we were slowly inching along. Not with the way the highway was disappearing behind us, or the dense looming of trees just ahead. This was becoming by far ridiculous, but there was no sense in trying to tell him that. I chanced a glance in his direction, only to find him glued to the steering wheel, his dark eyes wide with anticipation. He even licked at his lips the way a small child would in the middle of the world’s largest candy store. Hmmm, sudden case of the chapped lips? I rolled my eyes towards his immature exterior and sighed. “Where exactly are we-”
“We’ll be there shortly,” he interrupted.
“Where is there exactly?”
“Why are you asking so many questions?”
“Because you’re bothering me. That’s why.”
“I haven’t been talking.”
“My point exactly.”
Thick silence enveloped the car at that moment and I resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t be getting any suitable answers out of him anytime soon. Fifteen minutes passed by as we wove deeper into the trees when we finally came to an abrupt stop and I peered out cautiously through the tinted windshield. Wonderful, just freaking wonderful. As if something that had been pulled directly out of a cheesy horror flick, I immediately noticed the old Victorian style house looming threateningly directly in front of us. It’s once white outer walls were stained with black grime. Several window shutters barely hung on from broken latches and the windows were boarded over. The short stair case leading up to the rickety porch looked unreliable and I could already tell that there were several boards missing. My heart dropped into the pit of my stomach as I fumbled to unlatch the seat belt and move from the car, but my hands weren’t cooperating. “Son of a bitch,” I mumbled through clenched teeth and yanked on the device, finally pulling it apart.
Pushing the passenger door open slowly, I stepped into the chill of the night air and surveyed my surroundings again. Thick trees lined the landscape on all sides, which if you asked me was less then comforting, especially when the road we arrived upon faded into the brush somewhere behind us. ‘No escape…’ echoed in my mind and I shivered before I could stop it. This wasn’t exactly what I had imagined. “Listen Nick, I don’t-” I started to speak when I realized he was no longer in the car. My voice dropped and I scanned the area but he was no where in sight. Something did not feel right. I twisted on my heels in a complete circle and stared wearily back up at the house. “Something is not right here…” I mumbled and barely heard the crunching of gravel behind me before a blunt object connected roughly with the back of my head. The ground came at me fast, my knees buckling and allowing a hazy glimpse of Nick’s satisfied face as I welcomed a thicker darkness to envelope me.
How long I was unconscious I could not give a positive account for, although there were two things I realized immediately upon my groggy awakening. One, my head was pounding something so aweful that I started to wish that I could fall back into comforting depths of being unconscious, but with the agonizing fire of pain that was spreading from the back of my skull, around the front, and down my neck, I somehow knew that wouldn't be happening. Whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, I couldn't decide because the second thing I immediately noticed was the unnatural chill surrounding me. I was no longer outside, that much I was sure of. From the instinctive feeling of things, I was almost positive I was inside that creepy house, one of the last things I remembered seeing before I hit the ground. Only now the cold seemed so different, the temperature unusual, the chill deadly. I groaned, struggling to open my eyes.
"Well it's about time he fucking wakes up!"
Somewhere to the right of me, at least I think it was to the right, I heard a raspy male's voice snarl with annoyance into the silence. I strained to hear it further. It sounded so familiar, but my mind was clouded and the only thing I could pick up was the sound of slowly pacing foot steps. The sound was like a sledgehammer against my aching skull and I sucked in a rattling breath.
"You need to have patience..." A more serene male spoke seconds later.
"Patience?! Damnit, I'm hungry!"
"We're all hungry, but try to understand. It's better this way. If we've waited this long, then we can wait a little more."
A low guttaral growl pierced my ear drums a short while after and I could sense someone circling around me nearby, the heat of their stare never once breaking the contact with the sensitivity of my rattled nerves. "We should have been able to eat the moment Nick dragged him in," the first one spoke, clearing displaying his displeasure in his tone alone.
That's when my senses kicked into overdrive and images began to flash through my mind with a dizzying speed. "Nick!" I choked out, although my voice hardly projected and it made my head feel like it was splitting apart. My heart hammered wildly against my ribcage and I tried to move, tried to chase away the numbness in each of my limbs, but I was suddenly very aware of the fact that I couldn't move an inch. For the most part I could tell I was upright. The worst part of knowing this was the fact that my hands were secured tightly at my wrists behind my back with bristly rope and my legs were fastened to the bottom posts of the chair I was seated in with the same material.
"Open your eyes Kev," the second voice spoke directly to me and it was at that moment that the recognition clicked into place. "Open your eyes. That's it. Just a little more."
Internally, my intuition warned me against doing so, although as if on command I found myself peering through tiny slits that revealed an atmosphere I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams. The room was small in the shape of a square. Through the hazy light of the multiple candles that kept the area dimly lit, I could make out the structure of a single door. The only way out and it was blocked by a figure hidden just within the shadows. A gentle hand grasped my shoulder and I jolted before straining to turn my head and saw who I had suspected the voice belonged to. It didn't extinguish my fears in the least. "Howie?"
"How is your head feeling?" he asked sincerely as he lowered himself to my level, his hand never moving.
"What is going on Howie?" I demanded weakly.
Howie smiled sadly, but there was a certain lack of emotions within his usually soft features. "I had hoped that Nick would take it easy on you when he brought you here so that we could make this as comfortable for you as possible," he answered, disregarding my question. I heard a humored laugh echo near the door, and as much as I tried otherwise, my eyes remained locked on Howie's face. "I'm sorry if he hurt you really bad. You need to understand, this is his first hunt and he's a tad bit excited."
"Not to mention extremely hungry," AJ hissed as he stepped into my line of sight. The first voice I had heard.
"As we all are," Howie agreed, glaring sharply in his direction.
"What the Hell is going on?" I demanded and was pleased to find that my voice projected louder this time. "Why am I tied to this damn chair?"
Howie sighed as he rose back to his feet and paced quietly in front of me. "Relax cuz or you'll only make this worse for yourself," another familiar voice caught my attention.
"Brian?" I gasped as he drew near, his face void of expression. I watched him in disbelief as he crossed his arms steadily over his chest and stared back. His appearance was horrific; his skin was deathly pale, the bags under his eyes were unmistakeable, his short hair was dry and brittle, and the black clothing he wore hung loosely on his frail frame. He looked nothing like the person I was related to, and yet his voice told me different, despite the malice I heard. Infact, they all looked the same. Sick and dying. "Damnit Brian, this isn't funny! Untie me right now!"
"I'm afraid I can't do that Kev," he answered simply and his lips pressed into a thin smug line.
My heart sank as Brian spoke such simple words. I looked quickly between the four of them when Nick joined the group and found myself rearing backwards in disgust as the tremors raced the length of my spine. "What the Hell has gotten into you guys?! This joke isn't funny! Untie me now! I'm going home!"
"You're not going anywhere," AJ smirked.
"I suppose you deserve an explanation," Howie said and moved to stand behind me. He lowered himself again, his hands on my shoulder, and his cool breath tickling at the skin on the back of my neck. "You see Kevin," he continued, tightening his grip to the point that I temporarily forgot about the blinding pain in my head. "It should have never gotten to this point, but you caused it to happen when you left. You could have joined us and become like we are, but you disrupted the plan when you left the group. Now we have no other choice but to take drastic measures. The hunger has become too much for us to withstand."
"Howie's right cuz," Brian nodded grimly. He remained rigidly planted where he stood, unblinking, emotionless. "Having you combined with us, we could have been unstoppable, but you broke that bond and now we have waited long enough to feast. It is by your blood alone that we will be able to gain back the strength we need to hunt and rise to the power we were destined to receive. There's no other way."
I struggled against the bindings that held me in place. "You're talking nonsense!" I yelled hoarsely. "You don't know what the Hell you are saying!"
AJ was near my face in seconds, baring his gleaming teeth in the glow of the candles. I gasped when I saw the sharpened canines extending below his teeth in deadly points. "We're talking about being vampires in need dumbass," he hissed. Threatening me with a deep growl and backing away, he glared vehemently in Howie's direction. "This is getting rediculous Howie. He's really starting to piss me off!"
"It is time then," Howie answered after a short hesitation, his voice sending chills to my inner core. I struggled further against the ropes, begging my cousin silently to stop this charade and help me, but he stood as still as ever. "I believe Nick should get the honor of the first bite. After all, he did provide us with dinner tonight."
"Please dear God, don't do this!" I begged them aloud as Nick licked hungrily at his lips and prepared to lunge. I sucked in a deep breath of air, giving one last desperate attempt to free myself.
Then Nick rushed at me and a startling screamed escaped my lips.