• Chapter III: Final


    “WHAT’S GOING on?” Julie asked as she looked back and forth between Vincent and me.
    My heart must have been racing a hundred miles an hour as it beat the inside of my chest to a pulp. I forced myself off the wall as I swallowed the knot in my throat.

    “N-nothing,” I stuttered.
    Vincent was still staring at me with a warning expression on his face.

    What was that a minute ago? It seemed at that moment that he was going to attack me, but maybe I overreacted. Still, something in my gut screamed at me to get away from him. It was almost instinct for me to slam into the wall. But looking back on it, Vincent didn't really appear dangerous. His face had shown no sign of ill intentions, so why had I felt so vulnerable?

    “Nothing? Then what are you guys talking about out here?” Julie asked once more.
    Vincent placed his hands in his pockets and smiled charmingly. “We were just talking about the race. I was making sure she was okay.”

    Anyone could've seen the blood rush to Julie's face as she blushed. I guess I couldn't blame her. Vincent's smile could melt any woman's heart...possibly even a few men's.

    “Oh, r-really?” she laughed nervously as she scratched her head.
    Rolling my eyes, I said, “Ju, don't you have work to do?”

    “We don't have any customers,” she said wounded. “Besides...you're the manager. Shouldn't you be inside working?”
    “Being the manager means I'm entitled to do whatever I want.”

    “Whatever,” she said as she shifted her weight to the other leg. “So, Vincent. You know we're throwing Kida a little birthday party tomorrow at my place.” She winked at me, and I quickly shot her an inquiring look.

    “Really,” he asked interested.
    “Yup. You’re welcome to come!”
    “Uh…” I breathed, giving an obvious hint of disapproval.
    “I'd love to,” Vincent began, until he noticed my expression. “That is...if Kida doesn't mind.”

    “Kida?” Julie asked. How could she put me on the spot like that?
    “Fine,” I finally gave in.
    “Great, then I'll see you tomorrow,” he said as he started to walk off.

    “Yeah...see ya!” Julie waved enthusiastically. All I could do was shake my head. Obviously Julie had lost her mind. But if that were the case, where did that leave me?

    “AM I giving you a ride home tonight?” Julie asked as I locked the door. The keys nearly fell out of my hand as a gust of wind rushed past.

    “No. I'm meeting my aunt at some cafe a couple of blocks down for dinner,” I said as I pulled my jacket tighter around me.

    Frowning, Julie shuffled in her purse. “Are you sure, Kida,” she replied warily. “It's really dark. I don't think it's safe for you to walk alone at this time of night.”

    Although I did feel a bit of apprehension, I decided to decline the ride. “Nah,” I said confidently. “I walk there all the time, and it's not that far away. I'll call you right when I get there.”

    Another gust of wind nearly blew us both off the sidewalk. Julie looked at me uneasily. “Okay. Just promise to call me when you get there.”
    “Don't worry. I will.”

    She made sure to give me an anxious look as she drove past, and I almost stopped her. There was something about tonight that caused my stomach to twist in foreboding knots. The clouds completely covered the sky, so there was absolutely no light to guide me. And the occasional street light only created an even more portentous atmosphere.

    Since it had stormed earlier, it was incredibly windy, and the streets were a little wet from the rains. I could still smell the moisture in the air.

    From the get-go, I had this restless feeling in my gut that something wasn't right, but my mind just convinced me that I was paranoid. But after walking for about five minutes, the feeling intensified, and my senses suddenly heightened. I could hear every little noise that surrounded me. The hairs on my neck stood uneasily on end, and that's when I heard the footsteps. Or at least I thought I heard footsteps. Goose-bumps covered my arms as I felt this sudden prickle of fear.

    Someone was following me.
    As this suspicion began to sink in my chest, I started walking much faster. Then I heard a distinct footstep from behind, and when I looked back and saw no one there, I felt my body begin sprinting quickly down the sidewalk like I was some kind of bomb that had been set off. The only thought running through my head was run, run, run.

    Trembling with fear, I ran about as fast as I had during the race toward the cafe. It was so close.
    A strange figure appeared in front of me out of nowhere, and my body jerked backward.

    With a terrified scream, I turned and began to run the other way, and in spite of my worst fears, I could feel the stranger at my heals. Any moment now, he would grab hold of me and—I didn't even want to think of what would happen next.

    My heart beat wildly in my chest. My breaths came in short, burning bursts. How much longer could I last? In this cold weather, my body would soon begin to slow down, but with all the adrenaline pumping through my veins, I could push myself over the limit.

    My life was in danger.
    Once again, I was able to quickly change directions as the figure jumped ahead of me. It seemed as if he materialized out of nowhere. How was that even possible?

    Taking a turn left, I quickly came to the conclusion that I was lost. This realization consumed me with hopelessness, and I began to panic. Despite my greatest efforts, I couldn't stop the wall of blurry tears from blocking my vision. The world at that moment seemed like an unknown place. Like a nightmare. A nightmare that I couldn't wake myself up from.

    Was this really happening?
    I felt a jab of pain in my arm and screamed in horror as I saw the stranger with a hand on me. At that moment everything seemed to go into slow motion. Even the stranger looked like he was moving at me much too slowly. I used my other hand to claw him in the face, and an inhuman growl escaped from his lips.

    My body was slammed onto the ground with such force that I slid several feet and hit my head on the wall. In a state of dizziness and confusion, I tried to pull myself up, but the stranger grabbed the collar of my jacket and pinned me against the wall.

    That's when I got a look at his face.
    He had black eyes and skin that was unnaturally wrinkly, but he didn't appear old. Veins protruded from his forehead and neck, and his breath smelled like rotten eggs and death. I tried to scream but was shocked when nothing came out. Come to think of it, I couldn't even move. My body was completely paralyzed.

    What's going on? Despondency consumed me as the creature laughed hoarsely and wrapped its cold fingers around my neck.

    Suddenly, something that felt like two sharp needles prickled my skin, and I had the sense that my life was literally being sucked out of me. It was the worst feeling in the world. The feeling that someone was ripping the life right from your hands, and there was absolutely nothing you could do about it.

    But something changed at that moment. The pain in my neck numbed significantly, and my body was actually reacting well to the pain.

    There was a very strange sensation in my neck, like the feeling you get when your legs or feet go numb. And it played very closely to the line of pleasure.
    I could see the world spinning around me, and an unnatural high suddenly consumed my senses with a pleasant, non-sickening dizziness.

    It wasn't until I opened my eyes that I realized I'd kept them closed the whole time. What I saw caused a sense of dread to form deep within.

    He was biting me! My shoulder involuntarily twitched at the now noticeable tingle on my neck. What was this? Suddenly, a loud scream could be heard somewhere in the distance, and I was shocked to discover that it was me.

    My mind began to cloud, and I was on the brink of unconsciousness when the creature jerked from my body with significant force. I felt myself drop consequently to the ground after I'd lost that support.

    As I lay there on the asphalt, I felt the blood rush back to my limbs. I could move again. I scrambled clumsily to my feet but was forced to grasp the wall when my legs went a little numb. When I looked down, I noticed a pool of blood at my feet and realized that it was my own blood. My shirt was completely soaked at the collar. A helpless noise protruded from my quivering lips.

    “Go!” A nostalgic voice shouted from the dark alley. My body shot upright, but still, I couldn't move.
    “Go home now!”

    I couldn't help but feel like I'd heard that voice before. From the darkness, I could hear loud growls and bodies slamming together and against walls.

    “I said go!” he shouted more demandingly, and he didn't have to ask again.
    I ran as fast as I could toward the cafe and didn't spare another glance backward. My entire body ached by the time I reached the cafe, and I'd never been more happy to see my aunt standing by the front cash register. I flung the door open, still breathing heavily, and limped past my aunt, making sure to cover the blood with my coat.

    “Kida,” she asked suspiciously. “Are you okay?”
    “Yeah,” I said in a desperate attempt to sound at least a little relaxed. But the truth was I was completely hysterical. “I just have to go to the bathroom.”

    “Okay…Hey! What did you to do your—” I slammed the bathroom door shut a little too hard, and threw myself over the sink, bile creeping up my throat.

    My mind still hadn't pieced together everything that had happened..
    I was attacked…by…something. And he was biting me! No. He must have stabbed me. Yes...that's what happened.

    I lifted my collar and winced at the amount of blood. I began to heap a bunch of paper towels together compulsively and wash the blood off my shirt and my skin. The shirt was stained, but that's not what was most shocking.

    As I observed my neck and shoulder, I didn't see not one wound...cut...or protrusion. On the verge of hyperventilating, I pulled my shirt off and began to search my neck for any signs of a wound, but there was nothing there.

    It was clean.
    Completely unharmed.

    With some reluctance, I began to dig through those awful memories. There was no doubt in my mind that that stranger, in whatever way, caused me to bleed this much blood.

    I felt the…pain.
    This just wasn't possible. But then again, nothing about this night seemed possible. And for some reason...

    I had the feeling that nothing would ever be the same again.

    Chapter 4