Hearing Taryn trying to hide his sniffling from me on the other side of that bathroom door was breaking my heart. Tears continued to pour out of my eyes, rolling down my puffy cheeks in silence as I fought to hide my own sour emotions from him. I never meant to hurt him. I never meant for the shadows to dig so deeply into his painful past.
"I take it that you saw it all, then...didn't you?" Taryn sobbed softly.
"I didn't. I swear. I wasn't trying to pry into your thoughts. The shadows lock on to things sometimes and I don't have any control over what they do..." I said, turning my head and pressing my palm against the door. "I can't tell you how sorry I am, Taryn. I would never do anything to hurt you, you know that."
Taryn was quiet for a moment, then he said, "He never really touched me, Justin. Not like he wanted to."
"You don't have to..."
"No. I do." He replied. "My stepfather was a bastard. He thought he had me trapped and that he'd be able to 'take' what he wanted from me...but I wouldn't let him. I took my brother, Alec, and I got the hell out of there before he destroyed our lives forever." Taryn sniffled some more, but I gave him time to regain his composure, wishing that I could hold him in my arms. "I was so sure that I had everything under control. I mean, I planned for everything to go smoothly. To stay away from him and cause such a scandal and raise so many questions that my mother would have to believe me. She'd have to at LEAST be suspicious of what was going on in that house when her back was turned. But...everything started to go wrong. All at once. I didn't know what to do." He said. "The rain was so cold. We ran out of money in the first few days and we didn't have anywhere to sleep. When...when Trevor came along...he was one of the only people who was nice to us. One of the only people who gave enough of a shit to want to help us. And, like an idiot...I bought every lie he ever told me. Hook, line, and sinker. I didn't question his motives or think about his advances...I just followed behind him until it was too late to go back. I wanted to believe in him soooo badly..." He sighed.
Feeling a tremble in my chest, I asked, "...Did you love him?"
I was thankful to hear Taryn say, "I didn't know what love really was, Justin. He was cute. He seemed to like me. I'm thinking...maybe this is what I should have been looking for all along. But at the time, I didn't have any clue what real love was supposed to be. Every time I thought I knew I was either rejected or hated or manipulated by somebody who was looking for his own satisfaction instead of giving a shit about what they were doing to me. My needs and desires didn't matter to them. Now that I think back on it...they didn't even know me. They never took the time to get to know one personal thing about who I was. They were just predators. And I was too stupid to take notice and get away from the when I had the chance."
"It wasn't your fault that they took advantage of you." I said. "It's theirs. You trusted them because they 'tricked' you into trusting them. That's what predators do."
He whimpered, "Maybe. But when I think back on it...really focus on the kinds of things those shadows showed me tonight...I have to wonder if I wanted it. If my need to believe in something bigger than me made me deliberately shut down my own common sense so the illusion of being 'saved' from my old life would be more believable." I could hear Taryn moving, drawing his knees even further up under his chin. "Maybe Alec was right. Maybe I really did leave him behind ten years ago. Maybe I was being selfish in thinking that I could crossover and make everything all better for myself, and little Alec would just find a way to get by on his own. Some big brother I turned out to be, huh?"
"You did everything that you could, Taryn. Who expects you to be perfect and have all the answers in that kind of situation? How many teens at your age could do much better?" I said. "You were following your heart. Sometimes...that's all you can do."
Taryn paused again, and then softly told me, "You have no idea how much it hurts to think about this. How exhausting it is to think that...I made all the wrong choices in my life. Even if those choices ultimately led me to love you like I do." Then he asked, "Do you ever feel like that? Like...just one or two educated decisions could have changed your whole existence as you know it right now?"
I shrugged to myself. "Sometimes. Yeah."
"Can I ask you a question, Justy?"
With another sniffle, Taryn asked, "Am 'I' one of those decisions?"
"What? Awww, baby...no. No, you're the best decision I've ever made. Challenges and all. If we live to be one thousand years old, I'm still going to look back on the night I followed you back to the lot as one of the things I actually did right with my life. The life you allowed me to have by giving me a better path to follow than the one I was on."
"I hated to see you hurting so much." He said. "I wanted to know why. I didn't want to invade your privacy, but...what little I saw in your memories...it was more than enough. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't want you with me."
"Yeah..." He said. "I guess we both had a rough time. You know...before being reborn."
Bad dreams aside, when I thought back to my life in daylight again...I realized that Taryn was right about how much it hurts. How much it drains the energy right out of you. It's easy to ignore the questions and deny the regrets over what 'could have been' when you're so distant from it's daily influence. But...how long will I be able to pretend that part of my life never happened? How long will I be able to reject the notion that my abuse and my neglect and every hardship that I've ever been through isn't an essential building block of who I am as a person? In fact...I'm not really sure who I would be without the tremendous pain I've had to endure growing up.
Would I be 'me' at all?
"I used to feel so alone..." I said, leaning my head back against the door. "When everything first started...I couldn't understand why my father hated me so much. Why the kids at school hated me so much. What was so damaged and so unlovable about me, you know? Sometimes, I think people go out to hurt people on purpose just to keep from feeling alone in their own misery. It's not fair. They have no idea what they do to people like me. People who just want to matter. People who would be there for other people if they weren't too stubborn and angry to ask for it." I felt a little choked up, but didn't want it to affect the sound of my voice. "He hurt me, Taryn. My father made every single day of my life a living hell. I screamed and I cried and I suppressed all the pain that I could with the hopes that I'd someday find somebody who could possibly find anything at all to love about me. When I started walking to the end of Navy Pier, night after night...I was convinced that it would never happen. Everybody is so wrapped up in their narcissistic bubble that they never stop to think how much just ONE friendly comment from them could change somebody's life forever. Deep down, I was hoping my suicide would punish them all...and teach them to be better. Show them what they've done, and what they refused to do...when they had the chance to be good people, they decided to be selfish, and whine about their own lives instead." More tears bled from my eyes. "I swear...more painful than being abused was the proven fact that so few people were willing to care. That hurt more than anything."
"I remember that feeling..." Taryn said. "Like...nobody can be bothered. Not when it comes to your pain. But, the second they want your help, they get mad, and selfish, and entitled. They won't lift a finger to help me out, but they'll hammer me down if I'm not 'on call' like a paramedic or something."
"And then they yell at you and say you're only thinking about yourself. Like...who else should I be thinking about? You? You're thinking about yourself and you need my help?"
"I KNOW, right?" He said.
A brief pause passed between us, our hearts weaving our emotions together the way they always had before. And I said, "If I knew how, Taryn...I would have been there for you. I would have saved you. You and you're little brother."
Taryn cried a bit more, but said, "I don't know if you could, Justin. Sometimes, it's just not meant to be. As big as your heart is...you can't save everybody, babe. You just can't."
"I know..." I said. "But I screamed for help and I had nobody, Taryn. Nobody. All I wanted was for somebody to listen. Somebody to offer a shoulder to lean on. But I was ignored. People were too busy, too lazy, or simply didn't care about me at all. I didn't have anybody to save me. Or even make an attempt to acknowledge the intense suffering that I was going through. They watched me being tortured...and didn't take five minutes out of their day to make my life feel as though it had any value at all. It hurt, Taryn. It hurt soooooo much." I sniffled some more, my quivering voice turning to sobs of torment and regret. "I never want to be one of those people. I never want to turn my head when it comes to somebody else being in pain. I can't stand it! And I know that I can't save everybody...but I would seriously LOATHE myself if I didn't at least try. If I didn't make an effort. How can I look myself in the mirror when I know that I could have spent a few minutes doing the right thing for somebody else...and chose not to? What kind of person would I be when I can't even be bothered to care about the people who have brought meaning and joy to my life? It takes so little, Taryn. So little." I said, "It makes me sick to my stomach to think that I'd ever become one of those people who left me to suffer and die inside without so much as a word in my defense. I won't become one of them. I swear on everything that I hold dear...I'll never become one of those people. Never."
I heard some shuffling on the other side of the door as Taryn worked to stand up. Immediately, I got to my own two feet and faced the door.
The knob twisted slowly...and there he was...the most important boy in my life. The center of my world. His eyes were glowing brightly through his optrix, his cheeks red...his head lowered. Normally, his long reddish brown locks would glide forward to protect his sad expression from the rest of the world...but he had cut it all off for the evening, so he was completely exposed. Wow...even his pain is beautiful.
"We certainly make for a depressing love story, don't we?" Taryn said with a subtle smirk.
"I don't know. Maybe when we reach the end...we can just edit this part out." I said, and Taryn and I stepped towards one another to hold our bodies close together...a quiet moment to cry on the other's shoulder...to feel love in its purest form.
"Sometimes...you're the only thing in this whole world that makes any sense at all, Justin." I just held him in my arms as his tears soaked into my shirt. "Don't ever leave me here alone..."
"I won't, Taryn. I promise."
We turned the TV off for the rest of the night, and just lay side by side in bed together. My hand caressed the side of his face, and his hand did the same to mine. Our eyes held an intimate contact as my thumb brushed back and forth across the smoothness of his skin. Taryn gave me a warm smile, and although the craving was there for a deep kiss from his soft pink lips...I resisted. We just wanted to stay connected. Just like this. For as long as time and fate would allow.
The dawn soon came to claim us. It always does. Taryn and I did all we could to fight it...but his body soon to began to drop in temperature, and his eyes eventually closed as he succumbed to the irresistible power of daylight. I used my last waking moments to finally kiss him on the lips, whispering, "I love you, Taryn..." Before being pulled into the darkness myself.
To think, we had been through so much, my boyfriend and I...and yet, our love for one another has given us the opportunity to start over. To wipe the slate clean, and rebuild our sense of hope and trust in the world. Things can be different. Things can be better from this moment on. I had almost forgotten what 'hope' felt like. It's a great sensation. One that I don't ever hope to lose again.
There was...this strange feeling beneath me. Something that felt like sand and rocks. I noticed it before even opening my eyes. Where was I? What was going on here?
Feeling sluggish and weak, I put my hands down in the dirt beneath me and got up on my knees. I had to brush the sand off of the side of my face and rub my eyes before I could see clearly. Lost. I was completely lost. A vast terrain of canyons and desert, rock formations of nearly impossible shape. And the sky...almost looking as though it was on fire...dark clouds dyed furious shades of orange and red from the setting sun on the horizon. As still and tranquil as the atmosphere was around me, I still felt a level of hostility in its presentation. A sense of menace that swirled around me, unashamed of its appearance.
When vampires dare to dream...they'd better be prepared for the inner demons they unleash.
I stood up all the way, and I stared up at the sky above as a shape began to make an appearance in the clouds. A circle. Golden. Glowing. I stared at it as it became more clear but...I still couldn't understand what kind of power it had over me. Why do I feel like I should understand what it symbolizes? Why can't I figure it out?
The ring flashed with a bright light, almost as if to coax me towards some sort of answer. And I said, "I don't know what that means! Help me to understand!" But it just kept glowing brighter and brighter until, eventually, the golden ring shattered like glass and showered down upon me while I attempted to protect myself.
Then...I heard singing.
A soft, boyish, voice broke the silence with his haunting tone. "Ring around the rosie..." When I turned towards the sound...my eyes sprung wide as I saw another boy standing in the dessert with me. His face was partially covered with burns, his body slightly battered and mangled, covered in dirt...his reddish brown hair dipped in blood. But once I saw that sinister grin spread across his lips, beneath a set of blazing red eyes...I knew exactly who it was. Alec was still alive.
"I think I prefer 'Rage'." He said. "The name suits me." He began walking a circle around me in the dream, his right hand outstretched, dropping ashes to the ground to create a ring around me. "Ring around the rosie...a pocketful of posies...ashes, ashes...we all fall down..." At this moment, the last of the ashes were emptied from his hand, and he was left holding a cross on a chain. Dylan's cross. "Ahhhh, alas poor Dylan. I never got to know thee. Hehehe!" It hurt. Every moment of enjoyment that he got out of murdering Dylan in front of us truly caused my heart to ache.
"You're not real..." I whispered.
"Oh, I can assure you that I am very real, Justin. And very much alive." He sneered. "You know, I will have to come clean and admit that I underestimated you the last time we met. I wasn't prepared for the wealth of power that you possessed at the hospital. But...I had a lot more time to think now. Time to truly look at who and what I am. What I have to gain. What I plan to do to you and your friends."
"You leave them alone!"
"We are way past leaving them alone, Justin. No no no, we're linked, you and I. Bonded in shadow. Connected through pain." Alec held both of his hands up, and I saw a swirl of infinitely black shadows swirling around his open palms. "You know, I didn't quite understand it at first...this Beast of shadows. But since we've gotten to know one another a little better...I'm thinking of keeping it around. It feeds off of the hurt inside. It causes the anger to burn with a purpose that I've never felt before. The feeling is sooooo addictive." He closed his eyes as an almost sexual thrill passed through him, the shadows becoming more turbulent by the second. "I actually embrace the horror of it all, Justin. I let it in...and I let it out. I don't hide from it or deny the power it holds over me. So...while we may both share the imprint of the Beast, I have to say...I think it likes me better." Rage stepped closer, and I tensed up, ready to fight if I had to. But he just giggled at my attempt to defend myself in a dream. "Slow down there, pretty boy. You'll get your shot. Sooner than later. You see, I've picked up a bunch of new 'tricks' since you've seen me last. And I can't wait to show you every last one of them." His eyes glowed even brighter as he leaned closer. "You think I don't know my brother's pain when I feel it? When the shadows feel it? Eventually, I'm going to find you both...and that's when the real fun begins."
"Why are you doing this? What do you want?" I snarled.
"I decided that you fascinate me, Justin. I see you struggling so hard to keep from being me. But you won't make it. You can't stop it." He said. "Madness never asks for an invitation...it just rolls right in. You'll see." With that, he began to walk away from me, the shadows slowly covering him up from head to toe. "I'm going to make you hurt, Justin. I'm going to surround you with more pain than your wounded heart can handle. I want you to feel how I feel. I want you to know what it's like to be powerless. What it's like to die inside over and over and OVER again! I want you to know that the only thing keeping you alive is your ability to detach from everything that makes life worth living! I'm going to push you over the edge, Justin. I'm going to make you see what you truly are." Then he turned to face me again from a distance. "You think you're all powerful but you're not. Sweet little Dylan won't be the last of your friends to die. You still have people that you love and care about. And I am going to take them from you, one by one by one, until you bring my brother to grovel at my feet. And only then...will you be worthy of the power your suffering has given you."
My fists tightened. My teeth, grinding together as my eyes blazed a bright red and my fangs extended down from my upper gums. The adrenaline shooting through my veins had me shaking with soooooo much anger. "If you come anywhere near me or my family...I swear to God, I'll rip you apart..."
This only caused Rage to smile. "You realize...in order to defeat me...you'll have to become me, right? Either way, Taryn is doomed. But don't worry, we'll work that out the next time I see you, Justin." He said, the shadows now covering his face as well. "I'll be looking forward to it. Me...and my new 'friend' here!" All of a sudden, his jaw was unhinged and a loud roar escaped his throat as a set of dark wings lashed out on either side of him and a small set of horns sprouted up on his forehead. The demonic shriek caused the very ground beneath my feet to shake, the rock formations crumbling down into the dirt, just seconds before Rage flapped his black wings and charged directly at me!
And then...I woke up in bed next to Taryn. In fact, it was the raising of the mechanical blinds that reminded me where I was in The Jeweler's living quarters. I could still feel the hatred inside...pressuring me. Pushing me. Trying to change me into something I'm not.
But does it take more strength to hold back...or to give in? Something tells me that it's a choice that I'm going to have to make in the near future. And when I do, I'd better know what the hell I'm doing.
Forum timezone: GMT-6|
VF Version: 3.00b, ConfDB:
VoyForums(tm) is a Free Service from Voyager Info-Systems.
Copyright © 1998-2017 Voyager Info-Systems. All Rights Reserved.