• A/n: Please forgive my incompetent writing ability. Thanks.

    ONE: Unfortunate Falling Outside the Norm

    I got a new job a week or two ago. Yes, I know. Great job, Emerson, you can finally stop sitting on your duff all day and do something useful. You can actually now afford your textbooks and comic book addiction!

    I work in a bookstore now. Bruno's Books. I just shelve books, deal with a few unfortunate souls, and make our customers pay for their books. It's not a bad job, by all means, and I do get a discount, which is a major plus considering how I can't quite keep my hands to myself when facing the graphic novel shelves.

    Did I mention I work graveyard? Yeah, it sucks. I'm so not a night person, and I only made through the first night through sheer willpower, God's sporadic kindness to me, and a perpetual mug of coffee at my side. In other words, it sucked, and I'm already ready to look for more help wanted signs.

    On the other hand, there's like no people to deal with at 3 in the morning. My people skills are like my cooking skills; they exist in my imagination. Well, so far, there's consistently been this one dude in a leather jacket that haunts the store all night. He's there when I start my shifts at midnight, and he always leaves a few hours before I do. He's a terrible customer; all he does is read books and looks at the back covers, but never buys anything. Roger likes him, though, so we never kick him out.

    Actually, he's not a bad guy. There's something that's just inherently odd about him. Like my uncle. He's actually quite polite. Makes me think of a vampire though, he's very pale and he's here ALL night on his own free will. Yeah.

    He's like a presence. Like the very existence of the universe depends on him haunting the bookstore at night like a ghost. He never buys anything, he's just. . .there.

    Until he bought something. No, that normally isn't particularly important, but he isn't normal, and in the grand scheme of things that action broke the boring but consistent cycle of my life.

    Yeah. That kinda pisses me off a bit.

    “Here,” he had said with a faint accent that I'd later wonder if it was Eastern European or not, placing a thick, hard cover in front of me. I, who had been in the middle of a rather riveting scene in my comic book, just grunted and rang it up.

    “Got a membership card?”

    “No, but I get a creepy weirdo discount.”

    I stopped in the middle of slipping the book into the bag to look at him grouchily. Like I said, no people skills. “What?”

    He merely raises his hands in surrender. “I'm kidding. Mostly.”

    “Uh, right. That'll be $15.67, please.”

    Weirdo was right. He took out an envelope and emptied it on the counter. It was full of crinkled one dollar bills and silver coins. Change? He painstakingly counted some out, and shoved them toward me. I counted them myself, and started to pull out his change, but he just grabbed his bag and made to leave.

    “Keep the change,” he said, folding the bag up around the book inside it, and stuffed it in an inner pocket.

    Nothing more to make my day like being three cents richer.

    He suddenly frown, looked at me, and sniffed. I was about to rudely ask what the heck was he on, but he just turned around quickly and ran off like I was a leper.

    Corrine, probably tired from taking out the romance novels and re-alphabetizing them, approached me with a curious look on her face. “Isn't that Artur?” she asked, watching him exit the store.


    She rolled her eyes, like I was supposed to know the name of a man I apparently scared off with my deodorant. “That guy who just bought a book.”

    I grunted. Why should I care about some weird jerk-wad when Iceman's life is on the line? “You seem to know him better than I do, so why ask?”

    “Maybe I'm just in shock; I've never seen him purchase anything before, that's all.”

    I only glare at her, my care over Iceman's fate overriding my care for “Artur” or whatever his name is. Corrine only shrugs and wanders off, probably to sort the sci fi books by spine color, so she can reorganize them by name again.

    If I could see the future, I'd be less interested in Iceman.


    Let me start off by saying that my only exposure to vampires was in comic books and TV. All I really knew was that they drank blood, and their reactions to the sun varied from sparkling to writhering around in agony and, ugh, melting.

    I didn't believe in vampires anyways, nor had an interest/fetish/whatever. Vampires were just a stock race on TV and comics.

    So when I stupidly had walked into a dark, empty alleyway on my way home since I got off work early (you'd think I'd know better, but nooo) and got accosted by some weirdo freak with canines and looking like he had a drug withdrawal, I naturally had verbal diarrhea:

    “Wow. You need help, man.”

    Naturally, he seemed to think I was funny. He backed me into a wall (and boy did he smell), chuckling. He twitched madly, eyes darting up and down my form like I happened to be a particularly delicious piece of lamb.

    He had a tongue ring too. Don't those hurt?

    “You look like a tasty morsel.” He grinned, and it stretched his face into horrible proportions. “Very tasty. . .”

    I panicked. “Cannibalism leads to weird, brain-eating diseases!”

    He just laughed.

    “Just—just go away!” I cried, and tried to give him a the hardest push I could muster away from me. He only caught me arms in one sweep with with only one hand. He pushed by arms against my chest hard and knocking the wind out of me, effectively pinning me to a wall. With his other hand, he forcefully pulled my head to the side, revealing. . .my jugular?

    Oh Jesus Christ in heaven, I thought desperately. Please tell this is a joke.

    He opened his mouth wide open, revealing terribly sharp looking canines. And he went for my neck.

    The next few moments were a blur, and I had no clue what was happening. All I knew was that my throat was sore, probably from loud shriek I heard but don't remember producing, and that someone had literally ripped the weirdo freak off me. I don't know how, but all I know was that he somehow ended up crashing into the opposite wall, and that someone was holding me up against the wall against the will of my legs on my shoulder.

    “Get off my territory,” someone said, but I didn't know who. His voice was vaguely familiar, but my brain wasn't processing anything at all, and I was busy looking at the weirdo freak's now malformed and bleeding head in nauseated horror.

    When I say 'now malformed', I'm saying that his skull look cracked, and slightly smashed from the upper right side where he hit the wall. It was bleeding profusely, getting in his eyes and nose. But he just grinned.

    “Make me, a*****e.”

    The other person let out a feral growl, and let me drop to me hands and knees as he approached the weirdo freak. I watched in horror as the other person's familiar silhouette grabbed the weirdo freak's jacket in the front and lifted him off the ground.

    “Get. Out,” he snarled, slamming the weirdo freak hard into the wall, and there was a loud crack. My stomach churned, and there was a horrible aftertaste in my mouth.

    He's gonna kill him.

    When the weirdo freak just laughed again, a horrible hyena-like laugh, the other weirdo just tore off his head like he was a Barbie doll. I couldn't see very well in the dim light, but I could tell that blood was everywhere, and from his neck stump he bled like mad.

    My mind was reeling, but not necessarily putting together coherent thoughts. All I could think about was how the distant light reflected off the sporadic, fresh and wet blood spots on the ground and walls, the absolutely awful smell of something rotting, and the fact that someone's head got ripped off.

    “It's—it's you!”

    His voice barely registered in my mind, but his face did. Artur kneeled in front of me, grabbing me by the shoulders, and I vaguely thought he looked like he just found out that there was a peanut butter recall – again.

    “Don't you know not to walk around alone in the dark, fool?” he hissed.

    “I—“ I looked at his scowling face, then my gaze fluttered to the weirdo freak's twitching corpse. Artur immobilized the weirdo freak by ripping his head off. Oh God. “--I think I'm gonna hurl.”

    Before I knew it, he had me leaning over a smelly garbage can where I sadly departed with my half digested Subway sandwich. It absolutely ranked, but it wasn't the smell of a rotting person, so I was more than content to endure with it.

    When my stomach was empty, I stayed hunched over the garbage can for several more moments.

    Artur spoke hesitantly. “. . .hey?”

    “You just killed someone.” Saying it out loud didn't make it seem any less surreal and horrifying. I tightened my grip on the garbage can's rim, and locked my knees so I would collapse.

    “. . .no. Just immobilized him. I still need to stake him.”

    I wasn't sure what I was thinking, or if I was thinking at all. All I knew was that, dead or not, weirdo freak's head was freaking off his shoulders and this. . .this creature holding my shoulder—

    “Don't touch me!” I cried, spinning around and pushing him away and scrambling back into the wall. He didn't fight back, but just looked at me with some expression I currently didn't have the brainpower to decipher. I was against the wall, but slid down into a fetal position, legs pulled up as close I could to me.


    “Stay away!” The corpse stench was back full force. I tried smothering my nose with my hands. All I could think about was that this. . .this murderer was only a few feet in front of me. And the weirdo freak. The weirdo freak was dead.

    I cried.


    If my memory of my “rescue” was vague, it was nothing compared to my trip back to Bruno's Books. I think I must've passed out, all I could really recall was the sudden bright light in the store's interior and Corrine's frantic expression.

    My first coherent thought was when I found myself curled up on the bench in the employee's break room, with some bundle of cloth for a makeshift pillow and a large leather jacket over me like a blanket. My manager, Roger, was pouring hot water from the water dispenser into a cup of instant ramen.

    He caught me sitting up in a daze, pushing the jacket into my lap. He gave me a worried look. “You alright Emerson?”

    I blinked at him. Oh, right. Emerson was my name. “Uh. Yeah. I'm fine. Just. . .just fine.”

    I don't think he believed me. He just nodded slowly, and set the cup of ramen on the table, a fork keeping the paper cover closed. He picked up the makeshift pillow, and put it in his lap as he sat down next to me.

    “You sure? Artur said you nearly mugged.”

    Artur. The guy who ripped a person's head off. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, and a sense of dread washed over me as I sat up straighter. “He. . .is he here?”

    “No. He left an hour ago.”

    Thank you Jesus. I allowed myself to slump back in my seat.

    I don't think Roger noticed. “He seemed to be a bit worried when he brought you here. I can't believe some people, really. Mugging girls! Do you want to go the police?”

    That's right! Tell the police I was nearly eaten by vampires! By God that's brilliant! I held back a snort, and shook my head instead. “No. It won't make much of difference, I didn't really see him. I just want to go home.”

    Roger paused, but finally nodded. “Alright. Want some ramen first?”

    Lingering thoughts on the events earlier pretty much wiped out my appetite. I shook my head and got up, stuffing the jacket in the side of the bench. “No, I'm fine. I need to finish my homework before class anyways.”

    Roger just shook his head at me, and got up so he mess up my already ruined hair. “Don't over exert yourself kid.”

    I just stuck out my tongue at him.

    Corrine came running in, and stopped and sighed in relief when she saw me. “Emerson! You're alright!” She came up to me and gave me a hug, which I thought was really brave because I didn't exactly smell like flowers right then.

    “. . .yeah. I'm going home now.”

    “Well I'm off now. And I'm walking you. Don't bother to argue, because I'll just stalk you anyways.”

    That's Corrine. I was actually kinda touched. In a weird sort of way.

    “Fine. Let me go use the restroom first.”


    With that, I made my arduous trek to the restroom. It was a small bathroom, with only two stalls, one regular sized and the other for handicaps. The lights were a bit dim and had this horrible fluorescent effect on colour. It made me look ghastly, even with my dark skin.

    Not that I wouldn't look horrible anyways. My coat and pants were dirty and wrinkled, my eyes were bloodshot, and I looked like I hadn't slept in a week. My hair was the worst. It's naturally frizzy and poofy, a humble gift from my late Dad, and I always kept it back in a bun because I was too lazy to braid it or get it straightened. But now it was half not in a bun, sticking up and tangled.

    Good thing I moved away from home a few months ago. Mom would be horrified.

    Come to think of it, so would Jerral. Oops. I hope he would in bed or work now.

    After finishing my business, I went back to the break room, where Corrine had her purse and coat on. Roger was probably on the floor. She frowned at me. “You look like crap.”

    I couldn't argue with that. “Yeah, well, I was. . .” I paused, trying to think of what Roger said earlier. “. . .mugged. Remember?”

    Corrine shook her head. She grabbed the jacket off the bench and pulled it over my shoulders. It was way too big for me.

    “I don't want to wear it,” I complained.

    She just nodded, and poked my arms through the sleeves.

    “I hate you.”

    She let out a small “hmm” before she zipped up the jacket. “Well, there, you look significantly less homeless.”

    “But still a little?”

    “No! . . .well, maybe just a little.”

    I rolled my eyes. “Let me go home now and I'll fix that.”

    She just laughed and mussed my hair, before she led outside. The sun was peeking over the edges of the tall buildings. Artur must've left just before sunrise.
    I live in a small, two bedroom flat with my best friend and cousin Jerral. It was the cheapest we could find that was actually looked like it was inhabitable, but it doesn't say much. It was one big, interconnected grey building, and the lawn was barely kept mowed. It didn't have a pool, but considering the level of hygiene their appearances suggest on some of my neighbors, it didn't really hurt my feelings.

    I lived in room 105, which meant the first floor, fifth door down the side. We had a quaint little white door just like everyone else's, except we had a single dirt smudge near the bottom.

    We thrive on being different.

    After making sure Corrine finally buggered off, I inserted my key into the lock. Then I paused to make a quick prayer to God asking that Jerral was either asleep or gone somewhere. I unlocked the door and opened it.

    It was dark, which was a good sign. And quiet. Jerral's shoes was missing, but sometimes swaggered around the house in them. A quick checked showed that he was gone, and with a pleased feeling I gathered my stuff for a nice long bath and left the jacket on my bed.

    I've always liked bubble baths, mostly because I could easily lay there and ponder about my day. Which I did.

    Okay, first off, I was approached by this guy. Who thought he was some kind of. . .vampire? He tried to eat me, in any case. And then Artur. . .

    I sat up and reached out to grab the garbage can and put it by the tub. This whole thing was making me nauseated. But I just witnessed a murder!

    But. . .did that mean he was gonna come for me! I could put him jail! Though considering how easy he pulled that head, I'd feel a little sorry for the cops going to arrest him. They'd sooner need a SWAT team.

    I slouched deeper into the tub, as far as I could go without drowning myself. I was in so much trouble. God this sucked. . .like a vampire. Haha. (I' m so lame, I know.)

    I paused. Artur had all the makings of a vampire. He was pale, pretty much nocturnal, seemed odd, and freaking ripped a person's head off. With his bare hands. Normal people can't do it; at least, I certainly can't. Sure vampires probably didn't exist, but still. . .

    Oh God, I was gonna get hunted down by a some crazed psycho who could possibly be a vampire because I witnessed him murder someone!

    Though if you ask me, if he wanted to get rid of me, he should've done that instead of taking back to Bruno's Books. But, say that he is a vampire. Wouldn't he rather eat me?

    Both miserable but slightly curious, I got out of the tub, dried, and dressed. I pulled my semi wet hair back into a quick ponytail as I entered my room, where the jacket was. On my bed.
    Now that I really look at it, it was a black leather jacket. It actually looked kinda familiar. Didn't Artur have one?

    A horrified realization hit me. I was harboring a killer's jacket. He gave me his jacket. It's touching my bed. My bed. I grabbed it and bolted out of my apartment to the large garbage dump several yards away, and just tossed it in there.

    There. I felt slightly guilty for throwing away someone else's possession, but he's some kind of psycho so he doesn't count. Not really. Even if I was feeling a bit. . .guilty. But it was gone so that was that.

    I swaggered off, making a note to scrub my hands clean with a brush, and to bleach my sheets and blankets, all while ignoring the awful feeling I had.