written by Sylvia Leung
© copyright 1999

For the inspiration of Nancy Collinís Sonja Blue series and Dhampire: Stillborn (DC/Vertigo). Also, this is for the children of broken homes who hide the pain. Itís not the measure of an emotion that matters, but the presence of it.

"Nice night out, ain't it?"

Startled, the frail boy swiveled around precariously on his perch on the roof ledge of the seven-story building. The look he shot the stranger was one of agitated fear and long pondered determination. Long, greasy blonde bangs stumbled across his forehead, over his nose, and obscured his already imperfect vision. The chilled wind tugged his clothes around the lanky body and turned his skin numb. He had long since grown tired of shivering from the cold, but his frame shook with adrenaline, heroin, and nerves.

The stranger was familiar with the look and didnít step further from the fire escape railing on the other side of the rooftop. Wearing nothing but a thin cotton T-shirt with a bold "Nirvana" across his chest and a pair of corduroy shorts, the stranger felt the windís bite as well. He breathed in the scents it carried: faint body musk and old rain in the gutters, a lingering aroma of busy restaurant kitchens and hibernating trees. He let his shoulders slump as he slipped his empty hands into the pockets of his shorts.

"So jump," he said, casually, leaning on the metal bars that secured the small landing. The alleyway street lamps made the unnatural bleached orange of his hair glow, the roots a bright flame, the top of his head a crimson red. Preternatural, yet solid and undeniable, mirroring the obscene play.

"What?" The boy was surprised and started to waver, his raised arms swaying as he kept his balance on the eight-inch wide cement ledge. His vision blurred in and out of focus as the color spectrum danced before him from the rooftops around him to the bustling street below. The streetlights and strings of blinking colors from store windows illuminated upwards and bounced off the buildings, hitting the boyís eyes with an unnatural glare.

"Thatís what you want to do, right? So do it." From one pocket, he withdrew a cheap plastic dime store lighter and from the other he held a wrinkled pack of Marlboros. He deftly lipped a cigarette out and returned the rest to his cool pocket. The brief flare from the lighter settled into a wavering flame as he puffed, illuminating a face that was barely older than the boyís. "Donít let me hold you up."

The boy was caught off guard, having expected at least a reprimand if not physical force to get him off his perch. "GoodÖ Ďcause nothing would stop me anywayÖ" His breathing was shaky, evidence of a thundering heart and apprehensive tendencies. Every few seconds, his arms would waver with the air currents.

The stranger nodded, returning the lighter to his pocket and puffing out an experienced ring of smoke into the moonlit sky. "Nope," he replied in an off-handed manner. "Nothing will stop you except that sidewalk." With cigarette in hand, he rubbed his belly jocularly and took on an illiterate accent. "Good eatiní tonight, ma!"

The boy threw an angry glare at the stranger before returning his eyes to the mesmerizing waltz of the cars below. "That doesnít scare me. It wonít hurt."

"If you just crush your rib cage it sure willÖ maybe youíll break both your legs if you fall the regular wayÖ then youíll die off real slow." Amazingly, the stranger giggled. "Good thing is, though, I havenít seen someoneís guts bust out when they smash into the ground. Maybe youíll hit one of those damned Christmas trees with the lights and get impaled as well as electrocuted. Yeah, thatíd be awesome!"

"Shut up." There was a sour coating of horrified terror coloring the determination in his voice.

"You didnít say anything about shutting up when you told me not to stop you. Iím just stating things as they will beÖ er, I mean, can be." Sensing some weakness in him, the stranger walked cleverly to him and sat on the ledge a few feet from him while the boy was distracted.

An ambiance of jolly Yuletide carols flitted up to the pair on the rooftop, laughing in mockery of the real meaning of Christmas. Even at this late hour, procrastinating shoppers lined the isles, complaining at the prices of cheap plastic and sentiment. The season of giving was truly a season of necessary, insincere expenses.

He continued to smoke casually as he straddled the three-foot high ledge. He dangled a combat booted foot over the side of the building and toyed with the cigarette hanging from his lips with his tongue. He took one look at the boyís face and asked bluntly, "So how much smack did you do tonight?"

The boy breathed deeply to supply air into his lungs that felt weighed down by metal lining. He bit down on a hysterical titter. "A lot."

The stranger nodded knowingly, sucking in a deep drag. "Figured. Still, your smell canít be because of that. Nothing ever hides the smell." He angled his knee up to the height of his shoulder and rested his arm on it.

The boyís golden brown eyes that swam in a sea of veined pink looked at him in irritation. "My smell?" Involuntarily, he sniffed at the air as if he were pungent with the unnamed odor. His dilating nostril detected nothing untoward in the wind and he threw his abhorred eyes at the intruder. He toyed with the question of which of the two of them was hallucinating more.

The stranger met those eyes and pierced them with his own dark brown orbs. The strangerís eyes, though, did not come close to being as emotionally involved as the trembling boyís did. "Youíre special." He reported his fact with a surprised chortle. "Youíre a human stillÖ but you arenít. Not completely."

The truth of the simple statement drew a quick breath from the boyís lungs. With that breath into the night air followed the boyís precious balance. He wavered on his feet, flailing his arms wildly into the air. The stranger quickly angled forward, planted one foot squarely behind the ledge of the rooftop, and grabbed the boyís hand in a deathgrip.

The tenacity with which the boyís hand latched onto his own told the stranger the boy didnít want to die that night.

Taking advantage of the boyís disordered state of mind, the stranger pulled the boyís hand with all his strength and sent him sprawling onto the rooftop. The boy took a second to readjust to his surroundings and looked up to the stranger.

"Why the fuck do you give a shit about me anyway?" He inhaled through his nose, emitting a clogged liquid sound. "Why do you know about me?"

The stranger flicked the butt of his cigarette off the ledge, watching it flutter to the lights below. The upward direction of the light cast mysterious shadows across his features. "I can smell it from you. You have two different scents, like wearing perfume and deodorant at the same time." He squinted and pursed his lips, trying to describe the sensation adequately. "It doesnít blend at all, but you can smell both of them at the same time. Itís really rather odd."

The boy stopped in mid-wipe of his nose with the back of his hand as he sat up. His eyes widened slightly. "Youíre one of them." He backed away on his buttocks, using his legs and arms for leverage. The short ledge stopped his body and he was close to cowering.

The stranger grinned. "No, my man, you are one of us."

"Iím not!" the boy bellowed with adolescent lungs and outraged horror. "Iím not one of you!" His voice cracked and he controlled a shudder as he inhaled sharply. Reduced to a whisper. "Iím not human either."

The stranger narrowed his eyes. "Then what are you?"

"I thinkÖ I think Iím a monster."

"Donít make a sound."

The boy nodded like the lost sheep he was and heard, more than watched, the stranger take a jangling key chain from his jacket pocket and unlocked the back door to the large house. The walk had been shortened by a bus ride, where the stranger generously provided the boy with a copper-plated token.

The neighborhood was indistinguishable in its ruin. The streets were disordered with cigarette butts, decaying bubble gum, and overflowing garbage receptacles. Stray dogs and cats hid in the shadows between houses, protecting their ill-fed young from fellow mongrels. Streetlights droned high above the street, more likely burnt out than illuminating a sickly yellow glow. The sound of stereos and televisions cranked too high were beginning to die down when the two boys approached a wire-fenced house.

A dog barked in the yard next door as the stranger opened the latch to the side gate. As he led the boy to the backyard, the noise made the boy jump. The stranger unlocked the backdoor after swinging open the screen frame. The interior of the room was dimly lit with the filtered glare from the floodlight in the backyard. He let go of the door as soon as the boy stepped in and it slammed jarringly back into the rickety frame. The boy caught his breath in surprise.

There was a faint rustle upstairs in the bedroom as more than one person mumbled in the dark. The deeper, male voice didnít sound too happy and the female voice consoled it. "ÖThat you, Marq?" the female called. Her voice had been roughly aged and a band of steely displeasure was in it.

The stranger sighed wearily and the boy blinked at such a normal name. "Yeah, ma," he called back with immediate impatience at the parental intrusion.

Marq stood silently tense as his mother approached them from a doorway to the side of the kitchen. Rollers gathered irregularly on her head as she tied a worn out wrapper firmly around her expanded waist. The wrapper and nightgown hung stiffly on her old, sagging body and her eyes had sunken behind folds of wrinkled skin. There was no softness to her expression as she pursed her mouth with displeasure. The boy slinked himself silently behind the solid wood counter in the middle of the kitchen.

She squinted at him in the glow of the neighborís floodlights across the fence through a window. Straight long shadows flowed into the unkempt kitchen, over a stained, cheap metal dining table and a dingy sink. It cut her boyís face in half, leaving one glowing fierce eye. "Where have you been?"

"Out." The odor of cigarettes wafted from his breath and clothes. He wore them rebelliously, having taken no care to bury the odor with breath mints or massive amounts of cologne.

The excess skin around her jowls vibrated with rage. A red flush began to rise from the loud green bathrobe wrapped around her neck. In the darkness, it looked like a light shadow of purple was creeping across her face. "Donít get fresh with me! Itís obvious that you hadnít returned straight home from school. Where have you been?"

Marq had turned away from her, looking into the refrigerator just to make her angry. "When the hell did you start cariní?" he threw behind his back, the painful truth masked in a smartass voice.

The resonance of the slap across his cheek registered before the sensation did. The force of her hand pushing his shoulder had made him spin into the kitchen counter, knocking his hip painfully against the tile. Marq eloquently tossed his hair back away from his face and adjusted his jaw within his mouth slowly. The flat of her hand had caught the bottom of his cheek and a red stain had already begun to appear. Since she had spun him into her arch of force, the impact had been magnified.

"Donít you dare talk to me like that, Marq. Iím your mother, for Godís sake!" She was more indignant than hurt. Not one roller was disturbed from their purpose in her salt and pepper hair.

"Like that ever meant anything," he mumbled, his cockiness dimmed slightly. He stood before her, his eyes aimed beyond her shoulder, rather than at her eyes moments before. Confrontation didnít seem to be his forte either.

"Go to your room. Youíre grounded for two months!" The boy found it difficult to picture her with much influence on Marq. Apparently, she was used to bossing people around because, like many bullies, she felt inferior in some way. Whatever authority she had once had on her son had long gone with threats and unnecessary restrictions.

He ignored her by habit and made way for the refrigerator that hummed cantankerously in its niche between wall cabinets. He opened the door with a loud suction and the faint light illuminated the red mark across his jaw. "Iím going to eat first," he said, no question inflected in his voice. His brown eyes shone a cold glow of amber as he scanned for easily accessed foodstuffs in the garish light of the refrigerator.

His disobedience and lack of fear angered her even more. She stood her ground stiffly, stomping a fuzzy slippered foot on the kitchen tiles to little effect. "You are still grounded. Starting as of this moment. No more phone, no more going out, and especially none of my drugs, you hear me? Nothing for a month!" she threatened. To the boy, her threats seemed trivial to what the stranger really was. More than likely - if the scary bed time stories were true - the stranger would outlive his mother by at least a century.

The boy was taken by surprise at how casual she sounded about it, like he was raiding her candy or cookie jar. In a way, he was, the boy supposed. He realized slowly that the stranger was already older than his mother in many aspects. Their worlds were different as well as their perceptions of their relationship. She imagined herself armed with parental authority, he saw her as just another pale worm in the sun.

"Whatever," the stranger answered apathetically, giving all signs that the conversation was over, as far as he was concerned. Not only did he ignore her, but her punishment as well. Unspoken was the fact that Marq did whatever he wanted under her roof as she abided by the law to take care of her underage offspring.

His mother was at a loss as to how to reign in her son and did not like her station at all. Her footing of authority having been swept from under her, she carried her large self up the stairs with as much dignity as her brittle bones could muster. "And get the fuck to sleep!" she hissed as a desperate attempt to get in the last word.

The stranger slipped his jacket from his shoulders and stuck his hand from the baggy sleeve to flick up his middle finger in the general direction of her bed. Once he heard her door slam emphatically, he turned to the boy still huddled where he had first stumbled and collapsed. His eyes were open wide once more, but now they were filled with awe.

"Come on," he ordered with no inflection in his voice. If he had paid attention to his guest, he would have been amused. He was irritated not because she had struck him, but the squealing pig attitude she fronted. With every time she screamed at him, the less he listened.

Automatically, the boy followed Marq as the stranger shut the refrigerator, its use as a prop over. The boy was struck by his tenacity against his mother. He would have never talked to his own mother like that or disobeyed her dictums.

Marq led him to the front of the house, taking the boy past dusty wooden cabinets of tacky, brightly painted glass pitchers and dishes, worn out furniture, and dingy, garage sale lamps. The boy took all this in, trying not to be disgusted by the plain trailer trash that was represented. Marq seemed to be the perfect, jaded product of such atmosphere, at least that was what the boy always saw on television talk shows.

The staircase lead straight up into the hallway, Marqís room being the first one they encountered. On the door hung a precisely drawn black biohazard on brown paper. It was cut into a circle and burned along the edges. Marq opened the locked door with a key and entered a very small room painted black. Posters of industrial bands as well as underground alternative lined the walls, often times overlapping each other. The light erupted in a glare to both of them as Marq flipped the wall switch. The bulbs buzzed in their bare sockets on the cracked ceiling and Marq quickly turned the lights off.

"We donít need that anyway." He walked across the room, around the bed, and pulled up the blinds. Dim light found its way into the inky room and the boyís eyes adjusted quickly.

Marq tied the end of the blind cord to a hook in the wall and walked to the wall closet. He took out an old comforter, bundled up a ripped-up sweater, and threw them at the boy. He caught them on reflex, having had his attention held by the various horror posters on the wall.

"You can sleep on the floor where you find room," the stranger said, taking off his Nirvana shirt and throwing it in the direction of a corner. He slipped off his shoes and socks, throwing back the mismatched pile of covers from his bed.

"Wonít your family find me here?" the boy asked in a small voice, surprised that the stranger had stripped in front of him. What had been left of that rooftop bravery abandoned him then, leaving him as another homeless, penniless runaway. Kindness from strangers only happened in old black and white movies.

"They learned long ago not to come into my room." His voice was muffled as he buried his body for warmth. "Not after I tried to kill them with my knife."

"So how old are you, exactly?"

The stranger took a drag from his cigarette slowly. "Old enough, kid. Old enough to know the rules I need to know."

The boy chewed on that for a while, filing another question for later, but persisted on his original request. "How old are you? Your parents donít know, so how do youÖ you knowÖ"

The stranger looked at him with a slightly annoyed expression. "I what? Go out, get blood, come back at odd hours?"

The boy was getting as close to exasperated as he would get with Marqís riddles. "How do you go about being a vampire? What is a vampire? What does a vampire do besides kill people and suck their blood?"

Marq sighed out a thin cloud of smoke like a chimney. The room awaited activity, seeming to doze in the late afternoon. They have both awakened late, neither bothering to wake the other up in the laconic calm. The sun shone an angry orange through Marqís blinds, beating against the plastic with what was left of the dayís heat. "You really donít know anything, do you?" he eventually said, more than asked.

The boy glared at him, pricked at his disdainful tone. "I was just told about vampires being real last night, hours before you found me. Of course I donít know!"

Marq smirked. "Just donít think the movies about vampires are true. They can never get us really right for a good plot. We donít always kill people."

Sarcastically, the boy responded, "Only sometimes, right?"

He smiled at a poster of a fierce monster dripping with blood and guts. "Right."

The boy didnít feel any better, but continued with his questioning. "How did you get created?"

The stranger sobered up and scrutinized him for a long time with a sealed expression. The boy swallowed uneasily, but the buzz from two joints finally kicked in and lent him courage. "Who made you?"

"Before I answer those, assuming that I will, what the hell is your name, boy?"

"I have to know these things if Iím to get out there. I need to find myself, Marq."

"Using my name isnít as powerful as you think it is, boy. You answer me first. You owe me more, but Iíll just get that little thing first." The strangerís patience for naïveté was growing thin. "The fuckís your name?"

"Coló" The boy stopped, surprised that the bullying command had struck the nerve to obey. "My old classmates called me Metro." At the strangerís questioning look, he explain, "I had to take the bus since junior high to and from school everyday. It was a big laugh."

"So why are you using it now?"

"I donít feel like using my old name. I donít feel like the same person anymore." The boy looked away. "I think I hate my name," he said in a lowered voice.

Marq shrugged and closed his eyes, leaning against the side of his bed as he sat on the floor. He took his time answering the question his new student posed, watching as the sunset turned his black walls a dark crimson. The light slashed at his posters with blades of white fire. Senses were so much more enriching with vampirism.

"I donít know how I was created. Is it like getting AIDS? Did I use a dirty needle? Or was it my tattoo?" He scoffed from his nose. "Maybe I drank the wrong personís soda. I donít know, kid. I donít have all the answers, as much as youíd like me to." He took a puff from his cigarette. "Anyways, it doesnít matter. I got it now and thereís no changing it. Whatever."

Metro blinked, astounded. "You donít care?"

"Why would I?" Marq opened an eye and looked at the boy appraisingly. " ĎDo I feel like Iím special?í Everyoneís special in their own way and who knows how many out there are vampires. Iím not somethiní new. ĎDonít I get to do all this cool shit?í No, I donít. I cut myself and drink whenever Iím thirsty for that kinda stuff. ĎSpecial powers?í I guess I can see in the dark better, but other than that, I donít think I have any fancy-assed powers. None of this vampire shit makes me more or less than the jackass that I am."

"ButÖ donít a lot of people wanna be vampires?" he persisted, his ardency pushing aside his good grammar.

Marq withheld a sigh for patience. "Big whupty shit. If the people who want it get to be vampires, good for them. If they just run around pretending to be some kinda Dracula, more power to Ďem. Whatís it matter to me? I donít give a shit about them as long as they donít fuck with me."

"Do you care about anything?" Metro wondered aloud, the upstanding boy in his personality appalled by Marqís attitude and language.

Marq grinned as he took the cigarette from his mouth. He paused for a moment, musing. "Now that you ask, no, I donít give a shit for much anymore. I just want to have a good time while I can, I guess. Canít be a kid forever."

"What if you do turn out to be a kid forever?"

Marq smiled. "At least Iím gonna like it. Better than gettingí old and senile."

"How did you know you were a vampire?" The boy frowned, the first hint of skepticism pervading his mannerisms. "For sure?"

Marq shrugged his shoulders, starting up another cigarette with a cheap plastic lighter. "First time I wanted meat extra raw, cooked just long enough to be safe. First time it hurt my skin to go out into the sun. Pretty telling signs, of course, butÖ I didnít know where to get information so I just waited it all out."

"ThenÖ how did you know about the Ďrulesí?" Metro became indignant. "You said ó"

"I said nothing," Marq interrupted sharply. "You just assumed yer shit. Like I was saying, I let it all pass, but kept my eyes open. If it had happened to me, there had to have been other people out there who were like me and kept it hidden. When I could open my eyes to daylight, I could see better what I had missed.

"In some clubs, you get the freaks who pretend, then the real vampires. I just looked for the quiet, non-confrontational people who hid away from the dance floor and spotlight. Even those in the dance floor were vampires. No one can really tell, you just have to watch one until they slip up."

"Slip up? What do you mean?"

"Sometimes, vampires are so confident that people donít know what they are, they lose track of things. Like, maybe someone always wears their fangs and dives into their all-meat dinner a little too joyfully. Of the new ones go out into the sun without their sunglasses and they grimace like theyíre hurt. Becoming a vampire is a hard road, thereís a lot of pain involved, but you donít Ďdieí like what everyone says. You just change."

Marq nodded to him as a gesture for attention. "What about you? It doesnít look like you went through that stuff. You were on that ledge, going to kill yourself because you are - in your words - a monster. You meant vampires, I thought, but then you said you werenít. Whatís up with that?"

"I was bornÖ half-vampire, half-human, as my mom told me. She died earlier yesterday." To Metro, it seemed like a lifetime ago. "She told me in the hospital that I had to take care of myself. No one else lived in my family and I never knew who my father was. She just never mentioned him or answered me when I asked. He was just a sperm donor, a hot love affair, I guess.

"When I was a kid, Iíd always want to kill myself, even when I had a lot of friends or was relatively happy. My mom loved me, never really pressured me to get great grades, but I did it anyway to make her happy. I was a top kid, never got into trouble. The teachers liked me and I was just starting to catch the eyes of girls. But Iíd always go home and cut myself or put my head underwater in the sink for thatÖ adrenaline high when I almost pass out. I kept my scars hidden from my mom, but she stepped into the bathroom once when I was drowning and freaked out. She didnít talk about it later, but she would always look at me differentÖ I think she was afraid of me, more than what I was doing."

Metro shifted in the cocoon of blankets he was in on the floor. Talking about his life to a virtual stranger was unsettling, but this stranger was the only person left for him in this world. This stranger, and his anger. "Anyway, in the hospital, she told me about the guy who fathered me. She didnítí mention his name, didnít say anything about him at all, really. He was a vampire, which is apparently where I got it. But Iím not a full vampire or a full human. She doesnít know what I am and neither do I. Iím beginning to wonder whether I should care."

Marq turned to him and faced him fully, stabbing his cigarette out on a thick slab of a metallic ashtray on his dresser. "Have you felt any changes, yet?"

Metro frowned and shook his head slowly. "I donít feel any different than usualÖ"

Marq nodded. "Maybe thatís because youíve been part vampire all your life. Just because you suddenly know it doesnít mean anything would change."

The boy sighed. "So now what do I do? I ran away from the hospital before they could place me anywhere, I donít think Iíd want to go back to school anymore, and I have no one to take care of me."

The stranger actually laughed. The sound was that of a realistic man who enjoyed what little life gave him, short, and to the point of expressing quick humor. "Who says you need to be taken care of? Youíre free from your parents, free from schoolÖ all you need to live is money, and you can work at odd jobs. No one ever checks those forms or signatures." Marq slid him a sly look. "Then again, who really wants to work?"

Metro looked at him with wonder. "Youíre going to let me stay?"

The stranger only shrugged and rose from his bed to eat an informal dinner.

The season of spending money was not yet over. The retail chains denied it a quick death in the name of feeding consumer demand.

The four-story mall was a sentient hard mass of flowing, minuscule people. Its wide arteries of walkways were stuffed with weary bodies and slick shopping bags. A huge ant farm made of glass with mall employees stocking shelves as if storing for a winter shortage.

The two boys were descending in the transparent bubble of an elevator, watching the milling crowds underneath them. Marq began to laugh, at first quietly, but soon transformed into full-blown guffaws from his belly. The other people in the elevator shifted uneasily, their normative, polite silence shaken apart. Marq heard the rustle of their clothes and the bumps of their bodies, and his laugh changed into the crowing of a madman. If there had been room to jump and act like a monkey, he would have done so.

Suddenly, he doubled over in an extra violent chortle and grabbed onto the arm of a woman loaded with shopping bags. She bit back a scream and dropped one of her bags. Marq tittered and screamed mockingly back at the woman. Metro acknowledged that the boyscout in him wanted to pick it up and offer it to her, but the Metro that had studied Marq asserted a contemptuous distance from the situation. The next stop the elevator approached, the people emptied out, unconcerned if it was their intended floor.

Metro watched and admired Marq even more. Marq was still grinning like a jackal at the audience waiting outside as he smashed his shoulder against the buttons for higher levels, which closed the doors automatically. Together, they rummaged through the womanís dropped parcel for plunder with the mentality of vultures.

Metro was shivering from the rush. He looked around and spotted a purse someone had dropped in the hustle. He bit his lip for a second, then picked up the handbag, rifling through it for a wallet. The niggling voice of consciousness had started to dim to a neglected droning. "Man, youíre crazy!"

"I know! I am!" he admitted without remorse. "I just wanted to scare Ďem shitless!"

"I think you succeeded," Metro admitted dryly. His breath caught in his throat like he had been running, and he realized that the adrenaline of doing something forbidden was coursing through his veins. It had become a familiar rush during the past weeks. Stealing things from stores from candy to compact discs and videos, his marks had slowly risen in value. He had been taken to a strip club and made deals with Marqís drug providers. This week, it was stealing from people and scaring them as much as possible.

He had never felt so alive.

What he had been doing was completely deviant to what his mother had taught him. He had always "been good"; studying to get good grades, kept in every adultís good graces, and walked away from a fight. He had been raised to respect others in order to receive respect, obey the laws that applied to him, and always keep his morals with his heart.

Now he felt his heart darkening and he did not mind at all. Perhaps he had not been tired of being the white knight, but after tasting how easy it was to steal, to lie, and to con people, he liked it. He preferred it to the burden of always watching his actions and controlling his desires. For once in his life since he was a very small child, he felt completely free.

Once the elevator doors opened again, the two boys rushed out the door, scattering the waiting group of college Goths like a flock of crows. This time, both of them laughed hysterically as the gathering hissed at the boys with fake fangs. Neither of the boys knew if the crowd were genuine vampires or cared. The game of the afternoon was too fun to disrupt with petty hierarchy.

The boys darted between and around crowds, crowing and howling like banshees. Old ladies put their wrinkled claws to their chests while young girls squealed in outrage as both of them copped blatant feels on their skirts and blouses. Their only whim was to create chaos and theyíre only goal was to succeed.

By the time they reached the parking structure adjacent to the mall, they were both panting and feeling invincible. No adult had chased after them, yelled at them, or tried to stop them. They neither questioned nor cared as they exhausted the last of their strength in reaching the far end of the deserted floor. A brilliant red sky loomed over them, the sun licking the bottom of sparse cloud cover, cajoling them to bleed crimson.

The massive storage compartment for automobiles dwarfed the surrounding small business buildings. A nearby used car lot gleamed patches of clouds back into Metroís eyes, making him pull down the pair of dark sunglasses he had shoplifted earlier. The air was still moist from the sprinkling they had in the morning and traffic was a blunted lull on the main street below.

"I feel like some blood tonight," Marq announced into the comfortable silence. His eyes were on the clouds above as he lay down on the wide concrete ledge of the edifice. His arms cushioned his head and his feet dangled on either side of the ledge, lazily swinging over the oblivious pedestrians below.

His partner turned to him, confidence making his motions slow and sensual. "Yeah?" He fished a folded packet of marijuana from his pocket and proceeded to roll up a joint in a small flap of paper.

"Yeah, I do." Marq took a deep breath from his mouth, kept it there for a long moment, then exhaled from his nose. "Itís been a while."

Metro lowered a single eyebrow in distraction as he licked the paper. "I thought your old lady cooked you a steak the other night."

Marq smiled, baring the two upper fangs he wore only for special occasions. "I meant human blood. I think itís about time you tasted it."

Metroís body recalled its stooped, subservient stance from another night on another rooftop. He quickly placed his joint in his mouth and fumbled with the small plastic lighter in his pocket to light it. "Iím not sure Iím all cool with killing someone, Marq."

It was Marq who quirked a brow this time and moved his head to look at his friend. "Who said anything about killing someone?" he asked, scorning his student. "Donít you remember what I told you? We donít do that stupid movie shit."

"Then how are you gonna get the blood?" By that time, Metro had inhaled two breaths of smoke and had begun to relax. Most of the time, when Metroís conscience plagued him, he lit into a drug to silence the voice. Metro wanted to kill what was left of his former life: who he had been, his mother, and the secret she told him on her deathbed surrounded by circuited sensors and cold white colors.

Ironically, Metro was following on the path of this young vampire. Although Marq was essentially his age, he was a father figure to Metro, to guide him through any decisions he had difficulty making. Marqís voice was that of a wastrel, an asshole without a cause. But he was Metroís teacher when he needed a mentor and confidant when he needed a brother. At least that was how the system worked out.

Marq raised up his hips in response and pulled out a folded piece of paper form the back pocket of his jeans. With a snap of his hand, the paper unfolded and Marq presented Metro with a fancy colored replication of red ink on black glossy paper. It was an invitation to a newly opened club. The invitation didnít say much, only the title of the club, the words "admit one", and a date. Metro assumed that it was to restrict people using the invitation on a different night. He was confused as to the need for such control, but it didnít disturb him much. New clubs often had strange rules.

Metro looked at Marq, who had already lit a cigarette lying down and was puffing on it absently, the inhalation of toxic carcinogens keeping the rush of excitement. "The Dark Renaissance. Spooky, huh?"

"I thought you wanted to get some blood," Metro asked more than said, his mind dulled by the narcotic.

Marq only looked at his new friend with an expression of pity. "The owner is a vampire, I hear. A very powerful one in the Ďcommunityí."

Metro frowned at him. His words emerged from his mouth distorted from the joint hanging from his lips. "Where do you get this shit, man? Ten to one this guyís a loser trying to pretend like heís a vamp."

Marq shook his head, then stopped as the hardness of the cement pressed against the contours of his skull. "I know this guy. Iíve heard about him from the more underground circles. Heís for real. Iíve also heard that heís as ancient as a vampire can get in LA. Heís been around."

Metro still looked skeptical, gazing beyond the buildings to the bright, furious sunset. "Iíll believe it when I see it."

Marq smiled with a corner of his mouth as he watched his innocent friend. "As you wish."

The boy shrunk at the sight of the establishment and the line of guests outside.

"Itís packed!"

"Of course it is," Marq replied calmly, his pale face transformed to a sickly white by Goth makeup. "This place has a little reputation already."

Metroís eyes shifted nervously from the right and left of the building they hid behind. The streets were teaming with Goths, motorcycle thugs, and street gangs. All of them didnít seem to be getting along with each other very well. "I Ö donít think we can get in."

"Stop being such a pussy, dude." His repressive frown amplified by the ferocious black snaking designs above his eyebrows and at his temples. His face had been transformed to some kind of masked used in ancient ceremonies. "Youíll never get around being afraid of every fucking thing."

Marq stepped out into the open, his walk seemed to demand respect. Metro followed him, noticing that almost everyone there looked at his challenge and scoffed on it. Their motions were like Marqís, liquid and powerful, as they brought a cigarette to their mouths or draped an arm over someoneís shoulders.

Metro watched as they looked over them with lazy, assessing eyes, then turning back to their groups. There was talk and he wondered if they were the subjects and what kind of words were being said. In any case, they didnít give a reaction alone and left the two for the bouncer to handle.

He swung his eyes to the men at the door and blinked, as they didnít seem as muscular as he would have expected. They had the uniform of black silk shirts that hung loose from slim shoulders. Their black jeans were either baggy or tight, according to tastes and an assortment of metal adorned them either as earrings and other piercing or chains hanging from their belts and pockets. They didnít seem particularly strong, but Metro had seen Marq move things that were beyond his weight around his house. This deception of appearances seemed standard.

Metro let Marq lead the way up to the steps, elbowing past punks that begged and sluts that cajoled. He made an effort to move gracefully, as if pondering every motion before his body acted. This didnít go unnoticed by the guards and they had their eyes upon him long before he produced his invitation.

They looked at the invitation skeptically, then looked back at Marq. He smiled without humor and mouthed something Metro couldnít catch. It didnít sound too English, the only words he understood was the name "Damien Frette".

The guards turned their gaze onto Metro and he couldnít control a nervous swallow of saliva. The man had red contacts in his eyes that glowed from the light behind him and it took a few moments for Metro to realize that.

"Dhampire," Marq muttered under his breath. "He is what I need to talk to Frette about."

The guard tweaked an eyebrow upward, then gestured them towards the open door. Marq practically sashayed in, while Metro kept a mere step behind him. Once past the door, the world was all aglow with black lights and abstract people. Metro fought the urge to lay a hand on Marqís shoulder to anchor him to reality.

People milled in droves, pushing and laughing with obscenely white teeth that glowed in the light. The music was the slow, pounding bass of Nine Inch Nails, as suggestive as the large television screen playing a porno flick. The floor vibrated under his feet from the music and the mindless dancing bodies. The air was hot and stank of stale sweat and blood, of cigarette and marijuana smoke. It was all the signs of a successful club.

Metro looked forward to see Marq facing him and yelling something he couldnít hear. Metro put his hands over his ears and Marq gestured for Metro to continue following him. Several young girls watched the two as they passed, a few even brushed their hands over Metroís shoulders, buttocks, crotch, and chest. It was an experience Metro had never had, these soft warm hands touching him, and he soon became rock hard. He turned swiftly to try and see these

Embarrassed, he followed Marq to a secluded booth in a corner behind the speakers and blushed blindly in the red light. Marq grinned at him knowingly.

"Donít worry, my man, you can fuck Ďem all till you go blind later," Marq yelled, barely heard in the booth. "Right now, weíre gonna try the underground stuff."

Metroís heart beat faster at the thought of losing his virginity with several girls at once and it took a long moment to register what his compatriot had said. "What?"

"Weíre gonna do exploriní, dude!" Marq shook his head at his friend, sighing at his single-mindedness. The tent in front of his pants was somewhat hard to ignore.

"Where?" Metro looked around at the chaotic revelry around him and felt the overwhelming need to join in, to lose himself in the masses.

Marq grabbed Metroís wrist and pulled him near the entrance. With his special eyesight, he could see the outline of a hidden door in the wall that had no knob or handle to open. Frowning, Marq looked around the ceiling of the open dance floor, seeming to look through the mirrors along the top of the walls and the ceiling.

Without a word, Marq put a hand midway of the door and nudged at the steel surface with his fingertips. A niche appeared a flap of steel caving in like a mail slot, admitting Marqís fingers through. He pulled and the door swung open slowly on oiled hinges, its heaviness making Marq exert effort.

Once the door was open, Marq slipped in and Metro followed. Hurriedly, they both pulled the door closed, using a handle that extended from the sides of the door. When the door closed, their ears popped, indicating that the circulation wasnít as great as the outside. The corridor was quite cool, though, telling of a lesser population.

"What is this?"

Marq looked at Metro as they proceeded down the dark, featureless hallway. "The backstage, the restricted area." He looked forward, carefully stepping around littered objects that casted shadows he didnít trust. "In clubs owned by vampires, there is always an area where vampires can go to pay for blood and other pleasures exclusive to our kind. Usually, there are doors like the one we just opened: hidden and heavy. Only vampires with their strength can open them with a medium amount of difficulty."

Metro frowned. "That door wasnít so heavy."

The stranger chuckled. "You just donít notice it when you have the blood. Vampires have been known to break people without knowing it."

"Canít a group of people pull that door?" He asked the question out of skepticism, his eyes focused on a red light coming from the end of the hallway.

"Even a group of people wouldnít spot the door," Marq said factually as they reached the end of the hallway where the light shone down. "Besides, whoíd care about that when they could have sex right on the dance floor?"

The door had a heavy latch device on almost a third of its surface where it locked. Marq kneeled and braced his shoulder under the outcropping of the latch. Slowly, he strained to push it up, but only after Metro helped him did he get the steel door unlocked.

"Damn, thatís a lotta shit to put up," Metro huffed a complaint. The door swung open to reveal a long flight of stairs that spiraled into a warm light.

Marq nodded, swinging the door back with less effort. The latch sprung back into its groove, locking into place. "Itís for security, both from inside and without. Who knows who will bust in here and kill all of us."

Metroís eyes went wide as they made their way down the narrow steps. "You mean thatís happened before?"

Marq chuckled. "Everythingís happened before, my man."

They reached the bottom and it was another corridor, but it had doors flanking the walls and a few people milling about. Doors swung open here and there, a couple was heavily groping each other under clothing, leaning against the doorjamb. The various people there glanced at Marq, sniffed him delicately as he passed and turned back tot heir own business. A few sniffed Metro as well, but sneezed afterwards. A titter ran along the hallway and they left him alone.

Metro frowned, but followed Marq without question. Meanwhile, Marq smiled at the few young people that touched him as he went by. For the pretty ladies, he licked his fangs and grinned slyly. To the entire world, he was a master pimp.

"Where are we going?" Metro finally whispered when they reached the other end of the hallway. From his estimation, they had made a big "Z" from the first steel door they had encountered.

The door in front of him was steel, just as those before it were, but the opening mechanism wasnít as complex. It was a large bolt, opened by a keyed lock. Marq produced something long, irregular, and metal from his pocket and started undoing the lock. "Weíre still exploring. Having fun?"

Metro turned hi back to Marq, keeping an eye out for anyone who would stop them. "Well, I guess I am, butÖ"

"What the fuck?"

Metro turned at the baffled exclamation from Marq and took in with his eyes what his mind could not comprehend. The room was a glowing red, the monotone broken by flashing buttons on various computer consoles littered around the large, cold room. Oblong containers of people lined a wall, suspended in a pink fluid that didnít bubble or move. The room stank of dried blood and preserving chemicals, making the boy gag on reflex.

In the far corner, there was a young girl, a little older than they were haunched over a console on her lap. Wires surrounded her and the glow of the screen reflected on her large glasses. At the sound of their voices, she looked up, the glow of the computer screen casting a blue tinge to her expressionless face. After a moment of assessment, she turned back to her work.

Before either of the boys could react or say anything though, a hand pulled them around sharply by their shoulders. They faced the face of Adonis and the cold cruelty of an age-old vampire dressed in severe black. His black hair obscured the outline of his face, but his eyes glowed a cold green.

"What are you doing in here?" he addressed Marq, seeming to know him. "You arenít supposed to be in here, Marq."

The stranger recovered first, but Metro had the scare of his life. The smell of this vampire was strong, as potent as ammonia and equally as repulsive. His response was instinctive, as it was genetic as he lunged at Damien, snarling and extending his fingers out like claws.

Equally as fast, Frette identified what the boy was and raised a fist from his side and knocked him on the ear, flinging the boy against a wall and knocking him unconscious. He glared down at Marq and bared a fang.

"Do not bring that boy here again. You are no longer welcome in this place." With that unexplained banishment, the man left them.



Author's note:
November 1998 to March 1, 1999. Just to make noise, this story takes place in the year 1994, when I was in the eighth grade, my two sisterhearts Vanessa and Hannah in the seventh. The birth year of what would become the Windryders, Chronicle One and the year that I had really woken up and finally began to really live. The positive mirror to this chapter of darkness for Marq and Metro.


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Coven of Angels copyright (©) 1999 Sylvia Leung. All rights reserved.