Springing Jack

The night was early. Fear had already begun to spread through the hospital ward. Jack was as calm as ever. Some of his fellow inmates paced nervously in the main hall.
Jack strolled across the room toward the water fountain. He passed by a young patient, Evan, who was rocking back and forth on a sofa. He was muttering something to himself in a hurried whisper.
“What’s the matter with you, boy?” Jack asked, as paused along the way. “You look like you’re about to split in half.”
With terror in his face, the young man looked up at Jack. He pulled his moppy hair away from his face with both of his hands in one strenuous motion.
“I feel like he’s coming tonight,”, Evan said. “He is going to come tonight and take another one of us.” Evan looked back down at his lap. His mess of hair flopped back down over his face.
“Who’s coming?”. Jack smiled. There had been two murders over the previous ten days. Jack knew this had rattled the ward. There are many things that can bring a mental hospital to a panic state. Two strange, grizzly, and unsolved killings is one of them.
“It’s… the b.. Boogyman.”, Evan said, trembling now as he spoke.
Jack gave a hearty laugh. Evan looked up at him, confused and insulted.
“Well, what would you call him?” Evan asked, “He broke in here twice, maybe more times. Gus is the only one that’s seen ’em. And what Gus saw was… “
“Yeah?”, asked Jack. “Whatd Gus see?”, he was still smiling.
“Well, you’ve heard”, Evan said. “A ghost, or maybe a demon. But whatever it was, it ain’t no human”.
“Yeah, I heard what Gus saw,” Jack said. “Look, lad, “ Jack continued,      “A place like this can get to your head, and.. You know that you’re in here because of your head. Heck, we all are! Ain’t it possible that all this is in everyone’s head?”
Evan didn’t reply. He gazed across the hall and started to whisper to himself, still rocking.
Jack left him and reached the water fountain. Looking up from it, he took in the whole situation in a sweeping glance. There were patients that shuffled, medicated, about the hall. There were some that stood by the windows, looking out nervously. Some sat on sofas, on chairs, even a few sat on the floor and on the tables. They pondered over puzzles, cards, dominos, and picture books. The rumors that passed throughout the hospital affected them all, sedated or not. They were rumors of the boogyman, the demon, the vampire.

Jack moved back towards the most crowded area of the hall. As he did, there was a flicker of the lights and then they went out. For a hushed and terrified moment, there was only darkness and silence in the ward. The battery-powered auxiliary lights came on and cast a hazy glow upon the central hall. And there, standing in the center of the hall, was a tall and dark figure. He appeared to be made of shadow, not like a ghost, not like a person, but as if a shadow had been liberated from the floor or a wall.
The room erupted in panic. The patients rushed away from the center of the room. It was like the way water splashes away from a large rock that crashes into a pond. All were scrambling away and screaming, except for one man, Jack, who stood where he was, curiously eyeing the dark specter.
Since the doors of the ward were locked, there was no measure of escape from the hall. Everyone fleeing the monster could only cling to the walls, yanking the door handles and screaming for help.
Amid the roar of confusion and terror, the figure looked around him and then turned two red eyes toward Jack. He tilted his head, as if curious, then started to walk towards him.
As he moved, he became more… solid, more human. He was a tall man, lean and wearing a hooded jacket that hung past his knees. He wore dark clothing and heavy boots, and he strode towards Jack with long steps. Jack smiled as he approached, stricken with curiosity.
The stranger stood in front Jack. And pulled the hood back over his head revealing a pale, taut face and long, coal-black hair. His eyes were a dull red now. His mouth was wide across his ashen face.
“Who are you?”, asked Jack.
“Who are you?”, asked the stranger. His voice was harsh and rough, like gravel.
“Well…. I’m Jack!” Jack said and thrust his hand out.
“Victor”, said the stranger, leaning back a bit. “I am Victor.” He accepted Jacks handshake, reaching out with a bone-white hand with sharp nails at the end of long fingers. His grip was firm and cold.
“How did you come to be in here?”, Victor asked.
Jack shrugged his shoulders.
“You mean, why am I a patient in a mental hospital?” Jack asked and chuckled. “I don’t know, I get around, I guess.” Victors wide mouth turned up at the corner of one side in a grim smile.
“I cannot help but take note of the fact that you do not seem to be afraid of me,” Victor said. “Indeed, you don’t seem put off in the least by my appearance.”
“I’m taking notice of a few things myself,” Jack replied, looking Victor up and down.
“Such as?”
“Such as… your eyes don’t blink.” He paused, “And..”
“And what?” Victor inquired.
“Aaaand your not breathing,” Jack said, “’cept when ya talk”.
Victors half smile grew, revealing sharp fangs protruding from both upper and lower lips.
The hospital hall had taken on a panicked quiet. The patients had stopped crying out for help. They huddled together around the walls of the edge of the room, clustered by the doors, watching Jack and Victor in the center of the hall.
“How would you like to come work for me?” Victor asked. Both were ignoring the crowd around the walls.
“Sure, beats being here, I’d wager,” Jack replied. “But, what whadja come here for?”
Victor’s grin grew even more.
“Of course.” He said, and looked about the room.
“Which of these wretched souls is Thomas Morley?”, Victor asked. “He is in here because he murdered three people.”
“Yeah, he’s a nasty one,” Jack said, “That’s him over there.” Jack pointed towards a large, balding man who was pressing himself against the door.
Victor started walking toward him, moving faster and faster. As he moved, his appearance blurred, becoming shadowy as before. Suddenly he appeared before Thomas, and stood, like a block of stone in front of him.Victor grabbed both of his shoulders. Thomas was immobile, staring at Victor in terror. Victors eyes flashed a burning red.
“Hello Tom.” Victor said. He tilted his head back and stretched his mouth open. As he did, sharp teeth were growing out longer. Tom let out a howling scream. His eyes were wide. Sweat was beading on his forehead. His entire body trembled violently.
Victor yanked the rigid body of Thomas toward him. He then tore a mass of flesh from Thomas’s shoulder close to his neck. Blood spurted out of the wound as if he had bitten into a garden hose. He spit the bite he had taken onto the floor and then buried his mouth into the wound.
The other patients scurried away, moving backwards. They were unable to take their eyes off of the horror transpiring before them.
Thomas’s head bobbed back and forth and his feet, now held just off the ground, were twitching. He was still held immobile as Victor drank him. The howling scream trailed off. His body went limp.Victor dropped him. He fell to the floor like a bag of sticks, dead. His head lolled over to one side showing a massive wound in his neck and shoulder, but most of the blood was gone. When Victor turned around, Jack was standing beside him.
“Whoa” Jack said, observing pile of person that once was Thomas. He was shaking his head. “What a mess! Do you do that often?”, Jack asked, and looked back up at Victor.
“We need to be on our way.”, Victor said. His ghastly white face was now splashed with blood around his mouth and dripped off of his chin.
“I can’t leave with you the way that I came in.” He continued, looking around. He stepped up to the front door and took a firm grip of the handle. With a single motion, he ripped the heavy metal door from its position, tearing off it’s hinges, and tossed it aside.
“Let’s go.” He said, looking back at Jack. And strode through the door.
“Cool.”, Said Jack. He stepped up to the door and turned around, looking at all of the patients who were still huddled together around the edge of the room. Some had crawled behind sofas and tables, some could only stand and stare. All were trembling.
“Later.” Jack said to all of them, and made a simple and dismissive kind of salute to them as he turned to leave.
Jack walked out of the hall and out of the building. As Jack often had done, he departed from one way of life to find another. And so, without ceremony, without care, he followed the vampire out into the night.

Taking Keegan

      Keegan played basketball for his small hometown. He was tall, thin, athletic, and a complete jerk. He was only popular because he lived in a small town, and was the main reason the local team won so many games. He was a self-absorbed bully. He had many friends, but no one really liked him.

     Tonight was a good night  on the court. Keegan scored many goals and led his team to a narrow, but glorious victory. It wasn’t just tonight. The Sunrise Valley Eagles were having a great season.

      As he walked out of the gym, surrounded by his teammates, a young man approached him. He seemed just a bit older than Keegan and about a foot shorter. His eyes were bright blue and seemed to shine of their own light from beneath his black and silver speckled hair.

     “Nice game.” The stranger said and smiled amicably.

     “Yeah”, Keegan replied, dismissively. “It was.” His friends laughed. Keegan kept his eyes on the stranger.

     “I was wondering if I might have a word with you,”, The stranger said.

     “What for?”, Keegan asked, rudely. “I gotta go somewhere.” People were filing out of the gym and getting into their cars. The defeated guest team were loading onto their schools bus.

    “I have something for you.” The stranger said.

     “Nah, forget it, chump,” Keegan replied and started walking towards his car.

     The stranger quickly stepped in from of him.

     “I assure you, it’s worth your time.”

     “Get the hell outta my way!” Keegan said, and started to physically push the young man away from him. As he did, his hands slammed into a person that felt like a brick wall. There was no budging or recoil.

     Keegan’s eyes widened in disbelief. His shoulders ached from the impact. His friends stood in a hushed wonder. They all took one step back.

     “Whatcha want?” Keegan said. His voice was not as confident, but he couldn’t afford to lose face among his peers.

     “I’m Nivek”. The stranger said, and smiled. “And I have something to discuss with you, but only you.”

     Keegan looked around at his friends. They were still a bit stunned.

     “Beat it!”, he said.

     His friends shuffled away. Some shrugged their shoulders and others looked concerned.

     “This way,” Nivek said, and then he turned and started walking away from Keegan, away from the parking lot lights.

     His friends watched as a confused Keegan followed Nivek into the darkness.

     It was the last time Keegan would be seen in Sunrise Valley.

Adopting Wade

    Wade should have been cautious on his walk home this warm summer’s night. There were rumors about folks going missing lately. Since he didn’t know anyone who had disappeared, he didn’t  give it much thought. It didn’t seem that real to him.

    Wade was from a poor family, very poor. His T-shirt was washed out. His hand-me-down pants didn’t quite reach his worn shoes. His whole life had been spent here. He had always been the poor kid. He was likable in his school, but not popular. No one had anything against him, but no one had anything for him either. He wasn’t gifted in any class subject and he wasn’t athletic. He had acne and oily, unkept hair.  Everyone knew that his mother received checks from the government for their livelihood, and his father was nowhere to be found. He had friends, but no best friend, and to the girls, he was invisible. He had often wondered that if some tragedy ever befell him, would anyone notice? And really, would it be so bad?

    He had been to a party that had been thrown by one of the popular boys in his class. He had been invited because the host was a nice guy, but Wade knew that he was the oddball there. Everyone was nice enough to him, but he knew that he did not fit in, didn’t belong.

    And so, Wade left the party to walk home. There would have been cautious objections and offers for rides had he announced his departure, but he didn’t. He quietly slipped out the door and made his way into the foggy night. This was not a very large town, so the walk from this  neighborhood to the poorer area of town was only a couple of miles.

    He walked alone on a street lightly illuminated by street lamps that offered as much light as possible in this thick fog.  Nighttime in this town was all but silent. The only sounds about were the chirps of crickets, his own padding footsteps on the sidewalks, and the occasional buzz of a streetlamp overhead.

    As he approached the street that he lived on, he thought that he heard the sound of footsteps behind him. They were less hurried than his own but seemed to keep up with him, possibly following him.

    He turned around but saw no one.

    As he turned onto his own street, he quickened his pace a bit. Again, he heard footsteps behind him, more distant this time. He could see his house at the end of the street. The porch light was on. It was always on.

   He was only a block from his home when noticed that he could no longer hear anyone else on the street. He breathed a sigh of relief but continued at a brisk pace.

    At last he arrived. He stood before his house and looked all around behind him down the dimly illuminated street he had just traveled, and it was empty, save for a few old cars parked along the street.

   He would use the back door to the house, as always, to avoid waking up his mother. She always fell asleep on the couch while watching late night TV on an old set.

    He stepped softly around to the back of his house, and there, sitting on the steps, was a young man in dark clothes.

    Wade froze where he stood.

    “Hello Wade.” The stranger said, standing up. His voice was smooth and pleasant. “Don’t be afraid”.

    “Who are you?”, Wade squeaked out. He was beyond unsettled, his knees felt weak. His hands trembled. He had an overwhelming urge to run, to just bolt out and run as fast as he could.

    “I’m Nivek, and I’m here to help you.” The stranger said and slowly, and gingerly started to move toward Wade.

    As he came closer, Wade saw a young man with high elfin features and bright blue eyes. His hair was thick and cropped short and tousled. It was black and even though he appeared only a year or two older than Wade, there were streaks of silver salted in. He wore a strange, wide dark shirt, like the ones he had seen in all of those late night kung-fu movies.

   Nivek was very handsome and there was a gentleness in his eyes, but there was something unnerving in his smile.

    “You can relax.” He said gently as he approached. “I’m only here because I have something to give you,” He moved with a grace and a precision that seemed other-worldly.

    “W… What?”, Wade asked. “What do you want to give me?”. He took a step back.

    “Something that will change you. Make you powerful. You see, I have chosen you, Wade. I have chosen you for something…special. I am here to give you a new life.”

    “How are you going to do that?” Wade asked, a little bolder now.

    Nivek let out a quiet, carefree chuckle.

    “Ok, now don’t freak out,” Nivek started, “but all of this starts with the fact that I’m a vampire.” He smiled.

    “Really? A vampire?” Wade was walking slowly backward. This person was obviously crazy, but was he dangerous?

    “Heh heh, ok..” Wade started. He was trying to summon boldness, but found it desperately far away.

    “No, indeed, look” Nivek smiled a cheerful grin, showing a row of teeth with pointed tips. The canines were long and curved, like those of a dog.

    Wade scrambled back a couple of steps.

    “That’s um…. some nice work you’ve got done there. Look, I really need to get inside, I don’t know what you want from me, but I need to go.” Wade turned and started walking back around to toward the front of the house.

    “Maybe we can meet tomorrow,” Wade said and turned to make for his front door.

    “Wait.” He heard from behind him. “Wait… WAIT!” and suddenly there was a blur about him and he found Nivik standing before him.

    “Wait.” He said softly, holding up his hand.

    Wade stood, trembling, panicked, unable to move. Nivek reached out a hand to him, in a gesture of friendship.

    Wade stared, wide-eyed, at the Nivek’s hand, the fingernails were long and sharp, the skin was pale. He put his arms up in front of him in a desperate defensive action.

    “Look, there’s no need at all to be alarmed,” Nivek said. “I can make you like me… powerful… immortal.”

    He reached with both hands now and gently, but firmly, pulled Wades arms down and away from his face. His grip was strong and cold. He pulled Wade closer to him.

    Wade was locked in Nivek’s gaze, partly because what he  seemed to offer was alluring. Wade felt the temptation to yield as an almost overwhelming pull. He was also locked because he was just too terrified for his body to move. He allowed himself to be drawn closer to this strange figure he had just met.

    Nivek nodded, as if he understood Wades turmoil.

    “It’s ok, Wade… It’s ok.” He said. He pulled Wade to him in an awkward embrace. Wade was stiff and trembling now, his eyes wide, his breath almost panting.

    Nivek slid his hand behind Wades hair and tilted his head to the side. Wade felt a sharp sting as Nivek bit into his neck and held him there strongly. Wade thought it was rather like the way a lion holds the neck of a gazelle when it brings down its prey.

    Wade felt the warmth of his own blood filtering down his collar, and soaking the top of his shirt. Even though his body was still frozen, his mind was racing.  In mixed unbelief, confusion, and raw fear, he tried to reconcile what was happening to him.

    “How can this be?” He thought. “Why can’t I fight this? What is going to happen to me?”.

    Wade began to feel his strength and awareness slipping away.  His knees folded, but Nivek held him up. Wade knew that his pulse was weakening, that his breathing was shallowing, that that Nivek was drinking his life from him. His world faded to black.

Is this the end?

    Before he slipped away, Wade felt a cool wave gently, and slowly pass through him. It started from where the wound was in his neck, and spread out in lines, like the roots of a tree throughout his body. It was pleasant on this hot summers night.

    Nivek released him, and eased him to the ground so that he sat, leaning against his house.

    Wade began to feel strength returning to him. He clenched his hand into a fist and released it again. He became conscious of a new sensation passing through him. It felt like a rush of strength, and euphoria, like that of a drug. This wasn’t the end at all. He took a deep breath and let it out. His eyes snapped open.

    There, in front of him, was Nivek, still smiling a compassionate smile. Wade quickly got to his feet to meet him.

    “What happened?”, Wade said, excitedly. “I feel…. I’m different.

    Nivek grinned widely, fully revealing sharp teeth and fangs. This time, Wade was not afraid. He was exhilarated.

    “Am I a vampire?”, Wade asked, wondering how he could even be asking such a question.

    Nivek gave a soft chuckle.

    “No, you’re not a vampire.” He said in his velvet voice. “But you are different now.”

    “Oh.” Wade said, trying to make sense of everything.

    “Now is the time for you to make a choice.”, Nivek said. “I have much to give you, and much to show you, but…”, he paused, his grin fading. “You must come with me.”

    Wade understood what Nivek meant. If he left with Nivek, he would not return, ever.

   “Come with you.” He repeated.

    “Yes, I have a place for you.” Nivek said. “You must choose, and you must choose now.”

    Hesitate though he did, there really was no decision for Wade to make.  He was terrified of Nivek, yet strangely drawn to him. The sensation that Nivek’s bite had left him with was still rushing strongly through his veins. There was little to cling to from his former life. As he watched Nivek, the memories of his life up until this point were getting cloudy. Like they were events that took place long ago, and far away.

    “I’m coming with you.” Wade said confidently.

    “Splendid!” Nivek said, and threw his arm around his shoulder like they were old friends. “Right this way”.

    Nivek lead Wade down the dark street and away from his home, away from his mother, away from his town, away from his life.

    Wade was aware of a kind of awakening in his senses. He was able to hear better, see better, and he felt powerful for the first time in his life.  He did not know what lay before him, but he knew that he would need to be bitten again.