I banged desperately at the giant door in front of me with tears flooding and cascading down from my tired eyes!
Please open up! PLEASE!!!
This was our last hope. Our very last chance at finding sanctuary as the sun began to slowly brighten over the horizon, and I felt my temperature rising to dangerous levels. A fever began to heat me up until my skin began to blister, small wisps of smoke rising up from my neck, arms, and my slim shoulders. If the other vampires in this particular sanctuary had already fallen into their sleep cycles....if they had no human guards to tend to the entrance while they slumbered during the day...then no one would be here to open the door. And me...and my chosen mate, Glenn...we're done for.
I took one last demoralizing knock at the door to the old wax museum on the edge of town. I had been told by a friend in darkness that they were willing to help vampires like us. I was told that they had plenty of space if a wandering traveler ever came seeking shelter. So where are they? Why won't they let me in? Oh God, please let me in! It's almost too late!
Glenn was weighing soooo heavy on my shoulders. He was still unconscious. Still suffering through the second week of his crossover, not yet finished with the changes going on in his body. We had a solid place to live when I bit him, but an unfortunate blaze in the building compromised our secure habitat and made it impossible for us to stay there without being found out. Firemen, police, investigators...they'd be swarming all over the area until they were able to figure out what happened. I wasn't given much opportunity to come up with a decent game plan, instead, I took what few possessions of ours that I could carry, worked up the strength to hoist him up from his bed, and tried to practically 'drag' him through the city until we arrived on this very doorstep. It might not have been the best plan in the world, but it was all I had to work with. I was just sort of counting on a sense of 'hope' to carry me the rest of the way through this.
When I first met him, Glenn was wandering around an old boy scout camp ground in the suburbs, looking for a warm place to sleep. Booted from his house for daring to come out to his parents and big sister. It hurt him. Deeply. I could feel it the second I caught sight of him in the distance. And I had no way to help him with that.
I knew that I was attracted to him. I knew that I wanted him for my very own. But I never once expected to fall in love. I certainly didn't expect him to feel the same way about me, much less offer me his life in exchange for an eternity spent in darkness. Looking at him now, his sandy blond hair cut so perfect, his light green eyes hidden behind the veil of a comatose sleep, his ruby lips parted slightly with no breath passing through them, yet quivering gently as his body tried to adapt to the transformation he was going through...I can see why I was so enchanted by his beauty. His humanity. His sweet persona. In all my 23 years in darkness as a 15 year old boy...I had never known such a beautiful soul. That's why our eternity bands worked. To act as a display of our true love. To bond us together forever as one lone spirit separated by flesh. He loved me. He trusted me. How could I let him burn to death in the dawn's merciless rays without him ever knowing the beauty of the night. Please! Don't let my promise of a better life for him go to waste. PLEASE!!! OPEN THIS DOOR!!!
Finally, as my desperation was beginning to turn to panic, I heard locks being undone at the door. My excitement reached a full fevered pitch as I saw a metal piece slide open, and the eye of a young boy peeking out through the slit in the door. "Yes?" He said sleepily.
"PLEASE, you have to help us! We need sanctuary!" I pleaded. "My name is Julian, this is my boyfriend, Glenn. He's still in the middle of his crossover. We had nowhere else to go."
The boy looked us over a bit, his eyes squinting as he tried to analyze our intentions. I knew that sanctuaries had to be secure, that arriving unannounced was likely to get you turned away as quickly as they could slam the door...but I was running out of ideas. And if this boy decided that we weren't welcome...then we would BOTH be left to burn.
"Hold on a sec." He said, then moved away from the door. "DAD!" He shouted, calling out to an older man who eventually came to the entrance rubbing his eyes.
"Yes? How can I help you?" He said. His voice was gruff and hazy, and he had stubble on his face that looked like it had begun to grow on him before his own crossover made it a permanent feature on his square jawed appearance.
"We...we need help. It's almost dawn, and we just need a place to stay for a while." I said, hoisting Glenn up higher on my shoulder. He was getting so heavy. So heavy. "Please? I'm begging you! We're gonna die out here if we don't find shelter soon."
"How did you find this place?" He asked.
"I don't have TIME to answer questions! PLEASE! Let us in, and I'll answer all the questions you have tomorrow! I promise!" I felt the sun's rays bring the temperature in my blood to a boiling point, my flesh beginning to sizzle as I fought hard to hold on to my consciousness. My eyes were beginning to roll back, and the big sleep was beginning to cut off my air supply. My limbs were getting stiff, my body heat escaping in huge waves, my mouth going dry. "PLEASE???" I squealed, my vocal chords closing up on me.
"This is not a sanctuary. It's a museum. There's a legal shelter for runaway teens about nine blocks from here. They'll take care of you. And they won't ask questions." The man said.
"NO!!! We can't MAKE IT nine blocks!" I shouted.
"I'm sorry. There's no refuge here."
"Don't leave us out here to DIE like this!!! PLEASE!!! JESUS...just let us stay until tomorrow night and then we'll go!!! I swear!!!" I began to cry, but my tears were cut off as the sun began to rise over the horizon and my body's functions began shutting down, one by one. I got extremely nauseous, and my eyes dried out as my flesh began to burn and flakes of ash began to float peacefully down towards the concrete beneath my feet. Unable to stand, I dropped Glenn to the ground, and didn't even have a chance to break his fall before I, too, was being weighed down to the steps. My knees buckled, and my lips burned as I fell back, my head slamming down hard onto the cement. The last thing I saw, as a small flame emerged from my outstretched hand, my fingers turning red, and then black, with the sunburn...was the museum door...
My eyes shot open the following evening, and I found myself covered with a blanket on top of an old mattress. My very first thought was to check the room around me and see if Glenn was still sleeping peacefully by my side. Funny thing...wanting to check for your lover's well being before figuring out if you're dead or alive. I just remember that mental struggle coming second.
Glenn wasn't in the room with me, and I instantly hopped up off of the mattress to hurry towards the door of the small room I was in. I reached out for the handle, and was taken aback by the appearance of my hand. It was slightly scarred, a few blisters and a some charred spots on my knuckles and fingers. It wasn't horribly disfigured...but it was different. It didn't look like my hand at all. I guess I had....'ruined' it.
From what I hear, vampire sunburns never heal. Never. Which means...if it's true, that is...that this charred flesh was mine now. For all eternity. And it would never be the same again. A small sacrifice, as long as Glen was safe.
I pulled on the door, but it was locked. I pulled harder and harder, knocking at the door, and then pounding it lightly with my fist to get some attention. "Hello???" I said. "Is anybody out there? Let me out! It's locked!"
I kicked and banged away at the door for a few more minutes before actually hearing some movement on the other side. I could hear the jingling of metal keys, and remained quiet as a few locks were opened. "Stand away from the door." Came a male voice from the other side.
"No. Stand all the way against the back wall, fold your arms behind you, and call to us from there." He said.
"Just do it! Now!" The voice was angry. Demanding. And I really had no choice. So I did as I was told, and waited at the back of the room.
"O-o-ok..." I said. And the door opened. In walked a small, angry looking man. No more than four and a half feet tall, if even that. A dwarf that looked to be in his forties, with steel blue eyes and a short mop of dark brown hair with streaks of gray in it.
"What are you doing here? Huh? Speak up!" He grumbled.
"I...I came here for shelter...I just..."
"WHY??? Who the fuck told you about this place? Huh? Who told you this was a shelter? Huh? HUH???" He moved forward, patting me down and checking for...I dunno...a weapon, I guess?
"A f-f-friend of mine told me about you guys. His name was Kazuhiko...he stayed here with you once. Years ago. He said...."
"I don't KNOW any Kazuhiko, boy!" He said still checking my pockets.
"I swear, he was here! He told me about this place, and said that it might be a good spot to find shelter if I ever got caught out at dawn and it was an emergency."
"I'm warning you...if I find a single heart piercing weapon on you, we're tossing you and your crossover boyfriend out on the street! Daylight or NO daylight! Got it?"
"I don't HAVE any weapons! Look...our habitat was destroyed last night. We were staying in the basement of an old building, not that far South from here. The apartment next door had some kind of gas explosion in the middle of the night and the flames bled over onto our building. It's still standing, but the place is going to be crawling with cops and firemen for the next couple of days. We couldn't just stay there. If they found us sleeping there during the day and exposed us to sunlight, we'd be toast in a matter of seconds. We had nowhere else to go....so we came here." I said.
The little man looked at me with a scowl for a moment, and then backed up a few steps. "Ok...he's clean. Don't know if I'm buying his story though." He said. But not to me. It was directed towards the door, and a dark figure suddenly appeared in the doorway. It was the man from last night. Tall and slim, about 35 years old from the looks of him. Dark hair, dark eyes, dark expression on his face. He approached me with caution, as if waiting for me to suddenly go wild and attack him without warning. I had no way to set his paranoia at ease, but was hoping he'd be open to at least hearing my side of this story.
"You said that your name was Julian. Julian what?" The man asked me.
It took me a second to remember my last name. After 23 years in darkness, things like last names, addresses, social security numbers, and all of that government created, identity tracking, bullshit...they all seem to fade away into nothingness. Hell, I think Clinton was still President the last time anyone had asked me. "Ummm...Lomax. Julian Lomax." I answered, not really remembering the importance of such things.
The man turned to the dwarf and said, "Run that name through the system and see what you come up with. And be thorough. I want names, pics, date of crossover, whether or not he's still supposed to be alive, last known location...everything. Make sure you search through The Long Dark Foundation database as well. If our boy here isn't who he says he is, I want to be aware of it. Pronto."
"Got it, boss." The little man said, and walked off to complete his task.
He stared at me in silence, as though the intimidation would somehow cause me to give up another identity altogether. I didn't have one to give him. I was telling the truth after all. "Um...sir? Where is Glenn?"
"Glenn?" He asked.
"The boy that I came in with. He's in a very vulnerable part of his crossover. I...I just wanna make sure that he's ok."
The man paused for a second, then leaned back against the wall and crossed his arms. His suspicion still lingering, even if his hard stare had softened a bit. "He's resting in one of our other compartments. I wrapped him in warm blankets, and left him in a room with no lights. Away from the noise. The boy will be very sensitive to all outside influences during the crossover phase. It won't be painless, but it should bring him some comfort for the time being." He looked me over as I let out a huge sigh of relief, knowing that my baby was safe. Then he asked, "Is it real?"
"Is what real?"
"The eternity band on your arm. Is it a genuine print?"
I looked down, viewing the intricate pattern with a little smile. "Yeah. It's real. We're in love." I said, blushing slightly.
"Your's is the first authentic band I've seen since I crossed over myself. It's a special thing to have. Very rare these days. Don't take it for granted." He told me.
"I don't." I said.
"My name is Jeremiah. This private sanctuary is my work in progress. We are still building on it, little by little, my son and I. But we hope that it will do some good in the near future. For...lost travelers, such as yourself."
"Your son? Was he the one at the door last night?"
"Yes. That is my son, Jason. Still human, and he's going to stay that way. Do you understand?" He said, and I nodded. "I look forward to the day when the boy grows even older than me, and can no longer race me around the block at night. Hehehe, a boy of thirteen knows nothing of growing old." He grinned to himself. And for the first time, I saw him let his guard down a little. "You have to understand that a place like this is highly forbidden to outsiders and strangers. Harboring renegade vampires can be a dangerous business. We have to keep ourselves alert for any kind of malicious infiltration."
"Yeah....I understand." I told him.
"This facility is small, but we pride ourselves on being very safe here. We house over 45 vampires in this place, and newcomers can be a highly stressful situation for us all. Especially when they show up unannounced, claiming an emergency."
"Have they done anything....wicked....or..."
"I make it my policy not to ask questions. Not if they were sent here, as most of them were. They were often recommended by close personal friends and contacts, and we were given proper notice of their arrival. You and your friend, on the other hand, could be a security risk. So you are both on lockdown until we can get some more information from our files. I don't mean to be rude, of course. But this is necessary in order to protect the vast majority of our guests here. You understand?" Jeremiah asked.
"Good. In that case, I'll leave you to your thoughts. When you and your friend have both been cleared and debriefed on the house rules, we'll allow you to join the general population. Until then, there is a small stack of books in the corner over there if you get bored. Pen and paper if you get creative. But I should let you know, right now, that any attempts to leave this room will be seen as a hostile act by the staff employed at this sanctuary. Attempt to escape...and you will be slayed, no questions asked. Guaranteed. Do I make myself clear?"
He was dead serious. I could see it in his eyes. So I slowly nodded my head in agreement, and he turned to leave me in the room alone. That's when the waiting game began.
I didn't bother picking up any of the books that were left in the room with me. I was a bit too distracted to get lost in some weird story anyway at that point. I just wanted to sit in a corner and think about how crazy I was to finally approach the boy of my dreams for the first time, and really tell him who I was for the first time. I laid it all on the line and decided that I really wanted him to love me for me, and not just the polished bits of myself that I allowed him to see while keeping him at arm's length. Glenn was so very special to me. It's funny how some of my earliest memories of him have kind of blurred into this vague kaleidoscope of sweet kisses and random giggles when I try to recall them with any detail, but the emotion attached remains the same. I love him. With my whole heart. And I always will. No further discussion or explanation needed.
It wasn't just a few minutes that I had to wait. It wasn't even a few hours. In fact, the dawn had come and gone twice since I had been locked up in that one tiny room without seeing or hearing from anybody, and I was beginning to go a little stir crazy when I finally heard a sound on the other side of the door again. Little clicks and scratches at the lock. And then, it opened, and the same boy from last night was standing there in the doorway. "HI!" He said with a smile. He was undoubtedly human. Undoubtedly thirteen. Just happy to be wandering around in the dark, from the looks of it. "I picked the lock. I thought you might be bored. I'd be bored if I had to stay in here this long all by myself."
"You have no idea." I told him, sitting up on my mattress. "Does this mean I can go?"
"Nah, not yet. If I let you out now, they'll think you tried to get away. That's when they get really mean." He said.
"They didn't send you here?"
"Nope! I told you, I picked the lock!" He grinned proudly. "I practice on all the locks in the place. I know how to get into almost every single one. Some are hard though."
"Oh. Well...thanks for the company. I was going nuts in here by myself." I said.
"I'm Jason, by the way. My dad's gonna teach me to run this place in the daytime. It's gonna be so sick!" His light blue eyes glistened with excitement just talking about it, and his blond mop swayed with his every movement. He reminds me a lot of myself when I was that age. "So, who was that you came in here with? Is he your vampire crossover friend?"
"He's my boyfriend, yes."
The boy got a hint of a sour look on his face. "Ohh...I thought...whe you said 'boyfriend' last night, I didn't think you meant an actual boyfriend." He said. "Soooo...you're one of those guys that's into kissing other guys, huh?"
I have to admit, the honesty in his facial expression was funny, not to mention refreshing. "Hehehe, yeah, I guess you could put it that way." I told him, and then got an idea. "Listen...you wouldn't happen to know where they're keeping him, would you? He's still stuck in his crossover, but he's gonna wake up any day now. It can be a very painful and confusing adjustment if you're going through it all alone. I just....I wanna be there with him when he wakes up."
"Hmmm...I don't know where he is. But I bet ya I can find out. What's his name?"
"Glenn. Your father said he put him in a room with no lights, and away from the noise. It should be some place pretty quiet."
"I can check! I'll see what I can find, and then I'll..." But before he could finish his sentence, the door was opened wide to my 'prison', and the boy's father was standing there with a stern look on his face.
"Jason...go to bed."
"Dad, I was just..."
"Now!" He said louder, and the boy immediately hurried to the door, giving me a shy wave to say goodbye on his way out. Then, his hardened eyes turned themselves on me. "I'm only going to say this one time, so I suggest you pay attention. You are to have no further contact with my son until you have been cleared for release within this facility. Is that understood?"
"I wasn't trying to..."
"I'm not going to lie to you, Mr. Lomax, the mystery surrounding your sudden appearance here worries me. Out of the six sources we've reached out to in order to get information on who you really are...four of them have never heard of you. And the other two...can't be found." He said, with a dark tone creeping into his voice. He pulled up a chair, spun it around and sat in it backwards, spreading his legs out and staring at me face to face. "I find these events to be more disturbing than encouraging."
"Listen, I don't know who you talked to, but I AM who I say I am! I'm just a halflife from the street looking for a place to stay! I swear to you, I haven't come to hurt anybody! Just please....let me out of here! I wanna see my boyfriend!"
"I'm afraid that's not possible."
"You CAN'T just fucking hold me hostage!!!" I shouted.
"Considering your current position, Mr. Lomax...I'd say that we can." He replied calmly.
"What the hell do you want from me???"
"I want the truth. And I want a variety of sources to back up that truth with personally witnessed accounts that can convince me you're not fudging any of the facts."
"Well how long is that gonna take?"
"As long as necessary, Mr. Lomax. Until then, you'll just have to wait here and behave yourself until further notice." He said, and stood up again, pushing the chair back into the corner.
"Please...PLEASE...just let me see my boyfriend. Just, let me look at him and see how he's doing."
"No. That is not possible."
"I can't even look at him for five minutes?"
"No. I'm afraid not." He said plainly.
"What the fuck is your PROBLEM??? I've been locked in this damn room for three DAYS! I came to you for help, and all you do is trap me in here against my will, threaten to hurt me if I try to leave, and split me up from the boy I love? What kinda fucked up place is this?"
"Please don't flatter yourself into believing that I care one bit about how you view me or this establishment. Don't think that raising your voice is going to open that locked door any faster, or will bully me into feeling any sympathy for your situation. The reality is as follows...you came knocking on our door, Mr. Lomax. No identification, no warning, no recommendation from any other vampire that we know. Our sources from the surrounding area, the ones who know everything about the inhabitants of this region, have either never heard of you, or they've turned up missing. We checked out your story about the fire and your previous residence, and it seems that you were telling the truth about that part. But current police reports have listed it as an attempted 'arson'. Which could mean one of two things...either you and your boyfriend were the unfortunate victims of someone else's bad karma...or you yourself set that fire deliberately to set the stage for your little theatrical performance here."
"Oh for God's sake, do you honestly think that I have the time to set up some elaborate plot just to get in here? Honestly, that's just fucking ridiculous! You're wasting your time."
"Perhaps I am. But until we're sure, I suggest you make yourself very comfortable where you are. You just might be here for a while." He said, and headed towards the door.
"So that's it? You're just gonna turn your back on me and lock me in here for another few days?"
"That's exactly what I intend to do, Mr. Lomax. You can scream about it, you can cry about it...you can throw a full blown tantrum if you think it'll help you to pass the time. But make no mistake...as of right now, I don't believe a word coming out of your mouth, and I can't find a single vampire out there to give me a reason why I should. So you'll sit right here in this room until the stars burn out if that's what it takes. You don't have an alternative. There will be no negotiations. You'll sit here whether you like it or not. And that goes for your boyfriend too."
"This is insane!"
"Believe me, there isn't a single part of this process that was created with your 'comfort' in mind. We are thorough because we have to be. It is the only way to keep our patrons safe."
"I'm telling you that this is a MISTAKE, you heartless son of a bitch!!!"
"If it is...then you'll get my most humble apologies later. Let's just hope that your story checks out." He stepped outside the door, and began to close it back. "If you'd like, I can bring you another selection of books to read."
"Screw your books!" I yelled.
"Suit yourself." He said, and he locked the door behind him.
The silence seemed to close in on me from all sides almost immediately. Why can't I see my Glenn? What are they doing to him? And...more than anything...what are they so afraid of?