They had left for the show an hour ago. So much can happen in an hour; an evening, even. This is what Selina kept reminding herself as she glanced out the back window of Gregg's kitchen as the sun set. She was preparing to go out not to follow the band, of course, but to find some hapless animal for her nightly meal. Gregg would be home too late for her to coerce him into letting her take a nibble, and she was already growing hungry by the minute. She zipped up her gray hoodie and made for the back door, being sure to close and lock it behind her. She didn't have a key, but there were always ways of making it back inside. She was welcome here, but to what extent, she couldn't be sure. Gregg was as much an enigma to her as she was to him.
As she strode casually onto the back porch, she spotted Liz, her pale form, standing plainly in the center of the backyard, head facing the sky. From her angle, Selina couldn't tell what exactly Liz was doing, but her curiosity soon got the better of her, and she leapt over the railing and floated lazily over to the sky-watcher.
"What are you doing?" Selina asked casually, approaching from the rear.
"The weather and I are at odds," came the quiet, almost off-the-cuff response from Liz, who didn't even turn to look at Selina.
"It's been giving me grief," Liz explained, smiling to herself. "I have these things."
"Things? What things?"
"These marks," Liz said blankly, then turned to face Selina, her hands darting across the freckles forming across the bridge of her nose. Selina gave a weak laugh, not sure if she was being serious.
"You mean freckles?" Selina chuckled.
"Is that what they are?" asked Liz, clueless. "Are they contagious?"
Selina froze, unable to comprehend. Was Liz just messing with her, as Selina herself often did with Gregg in a sort of flirtatious ribbing, or was she genuinely this lost? Had all that time alone, being the personal walkie-talkie of the damned and dead frazzled her brain? Then, it struck Selina rather suddenly.
"You haven't been outside in a long time, have you?" Selina asked, a hint of concern in her voice.
"Outside wasn't a word I knew before yesterday," Liz said, no sign of any emotion coming forth from her. "I very much like the... grass, is it?"
She motioned toward her bare feet, which crunched loudly on the frosted ground. Selina flinched at the thought of walking barefoot in November. The ground was slowly getting colder with the setting sun. The warmth from the day was slowly giving way to the frost of the night that she knew so well. It never really bothered her. With no pumping heart, she didn't feel cold much anymore. She was cold to the touch; lost were the days of bloodflow; of a pulse to tell her she was still alive. Warmth was a lost virtue. For a moment, Selina looked down at Liz's frozen bare feet, trying to make sense of it all. Liz was taking in all the sensations she could.
"I like the feelings," Liz said, cracking a weak smile. "The feel of the earth. No more broken tile. There are things out here. I..."
"Liz, how long were you in that school?" asked Selina rather suddenly, breaking off Liz's random train of thought. The girl paused for a moment, her face blank as a slate. It was apparent that she was attempting to stir up the memories of her life, but at the same time, this effort seemed to hurt her. She cringed for an instant, and then sighed.
"A long time," Liz answered. "As long as I can remember."
"Why were you there?"
"I was put there."
"By who? For what reason?"
"Who... who..." Liz muttered, tapping her temple with her index fingers, trying to conjure up the faces. The face. One face. One man.
"Him." She said, looking back up to the sky. "My, the stars... right, stars is the right word? The stars are beautiful tonight. And every night."
Selina sighed and followed Liz's gaze up to the stars. They hung in the infinite expanse, staring back down on them as the sun finally disappeared behind the clouds. Their cold, cosmic indifference burned Selina somewhere deep beneath her skin. Out there, somewhere, there was something lurking. Something in the future and somewhere in her past. The stars were just another reminder of a thousand years of misadventure. She could point out the spots of inky black sky where stars had once been; the ones that had burned out in her lifetime.
"Him..." Selina echoed Liz's words under her breath, tracking the fog that emerged from her breath. Slowly, it dissipated in the night air. She gave a final sigh and turned to walk away.
"You uh, clearly have some things to think about," she said, floating up back towards the porch on the second story, bypassing the need to take the stairs.
"Many things," Liz agreed, nodding but not looking away from the starry night sky. She smiled to herself a warm, almost blissful smile. To her, everything was in its right place. Selina wished she could feel that same comfort. Maybe someday.
On stage, Cooper became another person. The moment those lights hit, and the crowd went quiet, he was no longer the bold, levelheaded member of the band. He was the leader; the rockstar. With each note of Loveless's "Time To Kill", he felt an energy flow through his very veins; strike at his very core. To his left, Alex held strong with his burning power chords, creating a dynamic with Stephen, who roared off on some sick licks, dazzling the scenester girls at the front of the pit. Stephen could see their eyes light up, knowing for this one moment, in this very light, he was a beast an idol for them. He imagined for a few moments what their sexual techniques were, but this fled his mind once Gregg stepped on his Big Muff distortion, leading them into a cacophony of a breakdown, signaling the end of the song's brutal progression.
Gavin had been so kind as to stand in for drums while Bobby was MIA or, according to the Ganton police, legally missing. The report had been filed a few weeks back, but there had been no search. In a small New Jersey town like Ganton, they figured it was simply another case of a disillusioned kid running off to the big city. But each one of the members of the band knew the truth. Bobby was out in the wilderness, maybe in some abandoned structure, being used by forces unknown for some nefarious purpose to plot their downfall. This skill, this burning flame that fueled their music, was all due to the unfortunate incident they had suffered months earlier in the thick black woods of the Pine Barrens. Gavin, luckily, was unaware of what had transpired, but a thick sweat of frustration began to form on his forehead as he realized he couldn't keep up with the rest of the band. They were so quick; so full of life an ironic sense, being so nefariously close to death at any moment. But at this instant, none of them worried. Nothing otherworldly would bother to attack them on stage. This was their cathedral; their stage sanctuary.
As they rolled into one song after another, Gavin became more visibly upset that he was being upstaged in this manner. Stephen could see the brewing annoyance in Gavin's wrinkled forehead, and smiled, knowing this was a sort of karmatic balance for how he had abandoned the band for greater heights in college. Midway through their final song, Stephen tore down a pentatonic riff at almost inhuman speed, overcoming even Gavin's valiant attempts to match him with fills. But by the end of the number, it became clear: Gavin was the lesser, and Stephen ate it right up a delicious buffet of "see what you gave up?"
As they packed up that evening outside the venue the Brick House, Gavin didn't bother helping with anything other than his own drumset. He quickly loaded the toms into the back of the white van, which was still scarred from Will's claw marks from the debacle that had occurred outside their previous performance at The Garden. He sat in silence, watching from the curb and smoking a cigarette as the rest of the band loaded up their materials. Cooper could hear him audibly growl, but paid it no mind. Gavin was just getting his come-uppance, just as Stephen would have wanted.
As the last amps were loaded into the van, the band felt a sort of inner peace. They had played their show with elegance and grace; there had been no mishaps, and they had stolen the show. In Alex's case, he had stolen much more than the show. He was glad to show off the tiny slips of paper with the numbers of numerous fangirls to the others, a wicked grin upon his stubbled face. They all stood there for a while outside the van, watching as the club shut down and the cars of bar-goers slipped off into the night, their headlights eventually disappearing into the cool dark of the evening. Cooper managed to let off a smile at the others, but noticed Gregg didn't reciprocate.
"Just worried about the girls back home," Gregg admitted, shrugging to himself. "Who knows what they're up to. I get the feeling Selina isn't much into the idea of Liz living with us."
"She'll get over it," Alex assured him, giving a reassuring pat on the back. "Besides, you're living the dream. Two girls in your house, all to yourself. It's like a harem anime!"
Gregg rolled his eyes at this notion.
"Oh, come on, dude," Alex laughed, "we all know you're getting a little on the side from your freaky vampire chick."
"Not... exactly," Gregg replied, covering the two pin-prick marks on his neck with his pale, veiny hand. "She just kind of... never mind."
"No, I wanna know!" Alex clapped gleefully. "Does she bite in all the right places?"
"You're gross," Gregg sighed, pushing away the thought. Selina was more into mind games with him than anything else flirting one moment, pushing him away the next. It was all a grand game of chess, and Selina was the Bobby Fisher of it all. She knew every move he made, and knew exactly how to counter him. And in a way, that was exactly what he had been looking for. A battle of wits, but for what ends, he didn't really know. She had simply showed up on his doorstep one night, claiming to have lived in his house at some point in the past. He had to question what her true motive was for clinging to him, or maybe the house itself. Memories?
Gregg's train of thought was disrupted by the sudden, ear-splitting sound of a single gunshot. The five of them ducked for cover, moving behind the van. Cooper dropped to the ground and rolled underneath the vehicle. His militaristic instincts, brought on by his veteran father, jumped into effect. He began to assess the situation from beneath the metallic guts of the van, and noticed the bullet had fired right into the left rear tire of the van, as the air slowly trickled out. Cursing, he ordered everyone to get in the van.
The others moved into action as another gunshot rang out from the darkness surrounding them, each piling into the van aside from Cooper, still huddled beneath the vehicle, and Gavin, who was nowhere to be seen.
"Gavin!" Cooper cried out into the night air, but there came no response aside from another gunshot. Cooper's ears went into scanning mode, trying to pinpoint the source of the gunfire. It wasn't until another bullet ricocheted off the pavement just in front of him, sending bits of concrete into his face. He didn't even flinch aside from closing his eyes to avoid the debris flinging into his eyes. The trajectory. He knew exactly where the shots were coming from. Quickly, Cooper looked to the roof of the two-story club they had just played, and in the inky black, he could barely make out a humanoid figure standing defiantly at the edge of the several-decades-old Brick House. Cooper cursed aloud, and rolled for the side of the van facing away from the building.
Inside the van, Stephen moved for the driver's seat, but immediately let out a string of vulgar words when he realized the car keys were in Cooper's jeans pocket. Ducking down to avoid another bullet, which this time shattered the driver's side mirror, he could hear his pulse echoing in his ears. From the back, Alex had done a simple head count and, upon realizing Cooper and Gavin were still out in the line of fire, he peeked his head slowly up to peer out the back windows of the van. He could barely make out the form of Gavin, leaning against the edge of the nearby alleyway, just out of the gunman on the roof's line of fire. Another two bullet shots echoed in the night, striking the side of the van. Alex leapt back down, but then rose again to peer back out at his old friend. Gavin's shadowy figure had disappeared from the alley.
"Come on," Solomon grumbled, reloading his six-shooter carefully, keeping an eye on the van below. There was no escape for them now. This would be his redemption; the final objective to save his own soul from the fiery pits that waited deep below the earth. As he chambered the final round, he heard a creaking sound from somewhere to his left. He turned, raising the gun to find a young man standing at the edge of the building, having just ascended the fire escape.
"The hell are you?" Solomon asked, but the boy just took a step closer. Solomon pulled back the hammer on the gun.
"Name's Gavin. But you won't remember that once you're in hell," the boy replied, a fury in his face, which had curled into a horrific snarl. In one quick movement, Gavin raised his right hand, and almost immediately, without provocation, it burst into flame. Solomon stumbled backward, surprised at the sudden explosion of hellfire from the boy's phalanges. To Solomon's knowledge, he knew of only one reason why this boy could conjure the fires without harm. His eyes bulged out in terror, and he raised his pistol once more, aiming for right between Gavin's eyes. But Gavin could only laugh. It was a deep, cold laugh, backed by the chorus of a thousand screams in the night.
"I know your story, Solomon," Gavin cackled, walking closer. In a nervous knee-jerk reaction, Solomon let off a round, which landed right on its mark: right between Gavin's eyes. For a moment, Gavin looked genuinely surprised, but that look of shock was quickly replaced with a confident smile. To Solomon's complete horror, he watched as the bullet that had lodged itself in Gavin's skull slowly reversed its course, parting back through the skin of the boy's forehead, healing the wound in the process. Upon exiting the boy's flesh, the bullet clattered uselessly to the ground in front of him. Gavin could only smirk.
"No, we'll be having none of that," said Gavin as he marched forward and blasted the gun from Solomon's hand with a burst of fire from his outstretched finger. The hunter could only gasp as Gavin took hold of his skull with one huge hand, like palming a basketball. Solomon fell to his knees in disbelief, Gavin's fingers still wrapped around his head.
"They're mine," Gavin said simply. Then, in a horrific display, Solomon felt a heat building from the inside of his head, like a migraine headache slowly working its way from the center of his brain outward. He could only scream as fire exploded from every orifice on his face, shooting from his eyes, nose, ears, and mouth, still stretched in a horrified scream as his brain was vaporized in an instant.
As Solomon the hunter's lifeless corpse fell to the ground atop the rooftop, Gavin's face finally fell into a sort of relief. This night was over now. He slowly made his way back down the ladder and crawled into the van. When they asked what happened, he remained quiet before simply stating the shooter ran off.
Now they were all his... in due time.