• The sky was gray with clouds. Rain splattered across my face as I ran home, my green overcoat and grey tank top stuck to my skin, which made the damn storm another reason to be unbearable.

    Halfway down the block, I couldn’t take anymore of it, so I took shelter behind the nearby Costco where I hid under a roof some homeless guy must’ve built next to a dumpster. I knew my parents would be mad at me for being late, but it wasn’t my fault that my best friend’s mom decided to leave me at the Regal Theatre. Not to mention that the walk from Rancho Del Rey to my house would take another two hours, plus the blistering rain would’ve slowed me down by another.

    As I rubbed my hands against my sleeves, a sudden rustling made me tense up. I didn’t want to go investigate because it might have been a mouse, or a mugger who might kidnap and molest me. Either way, I didn’t want to take any chances at this time of night.

    However, to my surprise, it was just a woman. She looked a bit around her twenties, and her cheeks were gaunt from under her dark hood, like she was ghost. Her grimy, black hair fell to her shoulders. The pale, lifeless glow of her eyes took aim at me, and I swore I felt my heart was ready to burst.

    I looked around the shelter; there was enough space for me to squeeze her in. I scooted until I was pressed against the dumpster and gestured the lady to sit next to me. At first, she hesitated, but soon realized what was happening and joined me under the roof.

    “T-Thank you. You are most kind,” she wheezed.

    “You’re welcome,” I replied casually, “I didn’t want to look like a douche bag and not share. That’d just been mean.”

    “The world is an unforgiving place. Such kindness is rare in this time we live in.”

    “Yeah.” I wiped my nose on my sleeve. s**t, I was catching a cold.

    After a long period of silence, the woman turned to me and it was like just being under the shelter recovered her health. I didn’t have a thing for the same sex, but she was really pretty. Her cheeks weren’t so gaunt anymore, but her skin was still somewhat pale. What frightened me about her was that a glowing ring of crimson framed her blue irises, making me want to back away.

    “You have shown to me that you are pure of heart, and I thank you. In return, I give you my Gift.” In a quick flash, she grasped my hand with such force that I thought she might break it. But that wasn’t all. In addition to the crushing of my palm came a white-hot burn that made me shriek with pain. All I could do was try to pull away and scream for help, but the woman held on tight and no one came to my rescue.

    When she finally let go of me, I fell back into a puddle. I examined my hand and was shocked frozen from what I saw. A simple picture of a cross was scorched black onto my palm; an ominous red aura emitted from it.

    “What the ******** is this?!” I screamed at her, throwing my hand in her direction.

    She showed no emotion, no regard for her actions, only staring down at me with her empty eyes.

    “It is the Mark of Apprenticeship. I shall take you as my student, and when you are ready, you will live the true life of immortality.”