Selina awoke to the sound of clattering from down the hall. Stirring, she opened her deep blue eyes, rather confused as to where she was. She was quite used to bed-hopping to get by, but the feeling of confusion upon waking up in a new place never went away. After sitting up and rubbing her eyes, however, she remembered that she was still at Cooper's, borrowing his sofa bed.
Stumbling out of bed, she wandered down the hall, stifling a half-yawn. Upon reaching the living room, she turned left and into the kitchen, where Cooper stood with his back to her.
"Eggs?" he offered, turning to her and pushing his frying pan towards her. Recoiling in response, Selina hissed slightly and pointed to her teeth.
"Nightwalker, remember?" she said with scorn, her dark eyebrows furrowing. Cooper laughed.
"Sorry, don't really have any O Negative lying around," he snickered, placing the frying pan back on the stove, where it sizzled softly.
"Got any milk?" asked Selina as she marched over to Cooper's oversized fridge. Pulling it open, her mouth dropped slightly in surprise. Pulling the door the rest of the way open, she revealed hunks upon hunks of raw meat from a variety of animals. Selina cocked her head curiously at one particular bit of meat hanging from a hook.
"Jesus," she muttered, looking around the ice box. "You murdering people, Coop?"
"Nah," Cooper replied, digging through a nearby drawer for a fork. "My dad's a littleuh"
"Ted Nugent-y?" Selina asked, smirking. "Actually, you don't mind if I just lick up some of the blood pooling on the bottom?"
"Suuuure," Cooper replied, reacting quite appropriately to the question: with a look of utter disgust. "Um, maybe I'll just run to the Shop Rite and grab some milk?"
"If you think that's best," laughed Selina, still eyeing the congealed mass of blood at the bottom of the refrigerator. She licked her pale lips hungrily, and then shook her head, attempting to recompose herself. Blood had always been such a temptation. As long as it was still beneath skin, she had no issue, but once she could smell it on the air or actually see it flow, the hunger returned. It was a difficult life of restraint and focus.
"I do," said Cooper, shivering. At once he grabbed his keys off the kitchen counter and made for the front door. Hurriedly grabbing a light sweatshirt from the front closet, he gave one last look back at Selina, still slobbering over the fridge in the kitchen. Shaking his head in a sort of half-pity at her condition, he opened the door to step outside and yelped.
Lying before him was a sloppily-made reverse pentagram, painted on the concrete of Cooper's front porch in an all-too-familiar crimson fluid. A series of cryptic symbols encircled the pentagram, spelling out a phrase in some forgotten language.
Rushing to his aid, Selina slammed into Cooper's back, attempting to peer over his shivering shoulder. Her blue eyes immediately swelled with terrified tears as she beheld the sight. Lying about a meter behind the pentagram was the exsanguinated body of Toki, Cooper's family cat. Its fur was matted with dried blood, large slits across not only its throat, but also down its belly, revealing the feline's twisted intestines, which hung loosely out of the wound like a cluster of limp pink noodles. A swarm of assorted flies swam about the air around the corpse, while several cockroaches and beetles danced around the inside of the flesh, making the body appear to slither softly in the morning air. The distinct smell of decay and rotten fecal matter soiled the air. Cooper dry-heaved for a moment, bending over himself, thus giving Selina an even better view of the carnage.
"Oh, God" Selina gasped, covering her mouth not only for the purpose of shock, but also to prevent herself from gagging. In all her years of sucking the life from various creatures, she had never seen something slaughtered so maliciously. There was an evil in the air, and even Cooper couldn't deny that something had indeed found them.
"You cool to go on, dude?" asked Stephen as he closed the twin doors of the van. Bobby rolled his shoulders a bit and bent to touch his toes. It had been a few days since he had been released from the hospital.
"Should be fine," he replied. There was a certain determination in his eyes; a bravery in his voice.
"Good," said Stephen as the duo strolled toward the heavy back door of the Garden. The back wall of the building had been recently repainted, and now reflected a strange scene from Alice in Wonderland: the caterpillar smoking a hookah. Stephen laughed good-naturedly at the mural as he passed through the doorway with Bobby right behind him. The two rounded a corner in the hallway and soon arrived at their personal "dressing room:" a large renovated storage closet.
Upon their entering, Cooper looked up from his own reflection in the mirror. He looked very tired, still suffering the sleeplessness of his incident. Toki had been such a wonderful companion, and his loss had taken its effect on Cooper. He looked away from the mirror, hanging his head low to hide a couple of wasted tears. He sniffled quietly as Stephen and Bobby walked in, closing the heavy wooden door behind them.
"Are you okay to go on?" asked Stephen, patting Cooper on the shoulder comfortingly. Cooper nodded.
"Benjamin Cooper will not be so easily defeated," Cooper muttered, referring to himself in the third person. He had far too much pride to be taken down by the death of a family pet.
"Good," said Bobby dispassionately, his eyes cold and distant. This oddly dismissive statement brought an odd look from Stephen, who quickly attempted to forget about it.
"Anyway, where are Gregg and the A-man?" Stephen asked, changing the subject.
"Mingling," replied Cooper, looking back up at his reflection. "I guess they figured, get to know the fans, you know?"
"I gotcha," said Stephen.
While there may have been a social element inside the building, there was a dark silence outside. A single figure, moving silently between cars in the parking lot, was looking for one particular vehicle. Will, clad in little more than a pair of dirty bluejeans and a dark striped hoodie, sniffed his way down the lanes of parked cars. His sickly yellow eyes scanned the darkness, looking for any sign of the white van he was looking for.
Sighing desperately, he growled and sauntered his way out of the parking lot toward the building. Fearing he might have to find Loveless the hard way, Will took one last look around, his eyes coming to rest upon the alleyway. His lips parted, revealing his sharpened teeth as he smiled gleefully. One last possibility.
He quickly slipped into the alley, measuring his paces. The alley was most definitely big enough. Will continued, trudging his way down the passage with a distinct purpose in his stride. Finally, coming to rest in the bath of light from a nearby streetlamp, Will tittered to himself. There, standing plain, was the white van he was looking for.
Sniffing about, Will walked toward the vehicle, hoping to pick up the scent. One of his hands, tipped with thick, yellowed nails, reached deep into his pants pocket, removing a small bit of cloth. Victoria had told him that this bit of cotton cloth had once belonged to the boy she mentioned, Stephen Meyer. It was perfect for tracking him and his friends like animals. Quite a specialty of Will's.
Taking a big whiff of the cloth, Will exhaled with a sort of sick pleasure. He loved this more than anything in the world. And indeed, as he suspected, the scents adorning the cloth and the van were one and the same. "Oh, good," Will whispered to himself in the moonlight. "Very, very good."
Back inside, things had riled up. Taking the stage, Loveless ripped into their first song, "Haunted," with everyone doing their best. Of note was Cooper, who vibratoed nearly every long note. Even Alex had to admit, Cooper was going hard this evening, and no one could stop him. It was well worth impressing the crowd, as many of their fellow students from the high school were in attendance. But as Stephen roared off on the solo to their second song, he noticed something that disturbed him for a reason beyond his knowing: Victoria Lake, for once in their band's history, was not in attendance.
Stephen slowed, continuing the solo but dropping from a fortissimo to a piano. He was oddly discouraged. If nothing else, he used to be invigorated by the idea of scaring off the girl that creeped him out, but with no motivation, he had no energy. He finished the song with a whimper instead of a bang.
Their next song, "Argonauts on the Wave," went smoothly, aside from the ending. As the big crescendo arrived, Bobby began playing double-time. 8ths turned into 16ths, 16ths into 32nds, and the band into disarray. Bobby continued, forcing himself harder and harder, until it sounded as though he were hitting all the drums and cymbals at once. Alex, looking back at him with a dirty look, realized Bobby was drumming straight-faced. His eyes didn't move; only his arms and legs. It sounded as though a thousand drummers were soloing at once. Eventually, Bobby's solo died down, and Cooper jumped at the chance to save face. He leaped for the mic.
"Uh, as you can see, we're a little proggy tonight," Cooper announced, laughing nervously. "Anyway, we're Loveless, and uh, this next one's a little long, but I think you'll know it if you like older rock."
Back outside, Will leaned against the van, checking his nails. They were as sharp and yellowish as usual, but he had such an odd feeling tonight. It probably had something to do with the full moon, but he still worried. Being as sick as he was, it was difficult to control his urges. And right about now, he wanted to tear something apart. But that would have to wait.
Will stooped lower, leering down the alley. From across the parking lot, another figure was slowly making their way toward the alley. By the time the figure had reached the streetlight at the beginning of the alley, Will was already crouched and ready to strike. But when the figure stopped, Will knew immediately who it was.
"Ah, Solomon," said Will, straightening at the sight of him, "I knew you'd show your ugly mug here."
"And I knew you'd be here, mutt," said the smiling Solomon, reaching into his open coat.
"Watch it, ya salty bastard," Will muttered, snarling a bit. A small fleck of foam shot from his mouth.
Withdrawing his hand from his jacket, Solomon brandished a brand-new 9mm pistol. He chuckled warmly, aiming it between the eyes of Will.
"You know, I was pretty pissed when you took my good ol' "
"You mean this?" asked Will condescendingly, pulling the aforementioned silver revolver from the rear of his waistband. He dangled it loosely on his index finger, watching as it shined in the dim light.
"You son of a"
"Oh, don't worry, Sol," continued Will, smiling smugly, "I didn't hurt it or nothin'. In fact, I kept er clean for you."
Having stated it, Will reared back and spat on the barrel of the pistol. Laughing at the pained look on Solomon's face, he began to rub in the saliva with the palm of his hand.
"Give it back," ordered Solomon, aiming his new pistol at Will's head once more.
"What're the odds that you could find silver bullets?" asked Will, changing the subject. "Or even fire them from a standard pistol?"
"What the hell are you getting at?" asked Solomon in return, his trigger finger shaking.
"Silver's harder than lead. It would damage the barrel of your standard 9mm," said Will, smiling once more, "you'd either have to get a pretty expensive pistol, or one made of silver. Which leads me to believe the obvious. You can lower the toy now."
Solomon's eyes dropped, and he grimaced. Will had indeed called his bluff. He lowered the spraypainted toy pistol and dropped it at his feet.
"Alright, you got me," admitted Solomon, reaching back into his coat pocket. "But I always bring an alternative."
His hand returned, grasping what appeared to be a large, shiny nail. It was about the size of Will's head, and ended in a lethal-looking sharp point.
"You know what this area of Jersey is famous for, besides raising hicks? Mining. Back when the first few towns were coming into their own, they started mining companies. And they didn't just find coal. They found a nice little thing called silver. But what would a small town mining company want with silver? So they fashioned it into something needed for the growing trend of transportation. So they made the silver into railroad spikes. Ain't that just something?"
Will gasped slightly as Solomon tightened his grip on the spike and swung it around a bit in a stabbing motion. But Will's surprise turned to utter glee as he looked up, remembering the full moon. His yellowed teeth gnashed the air, thirsty for Solomon's vital fluids.
"Looks like you chose the wrong night, Sol." Said Will, his voice deepening.
"Why are you even here, Will?" asked Solomon, his voice trembling slightly at his realization of the full moon.
"I have a bit of a blood oath to fulfill," replied Will, his eyes now glowing a soft maroon. "I can't let you touch those guys."
As Will allowed his cursed transformation to occur, a new sound echoed in the night. It was the sound of chaotic suspense; chords of discontent. A middle eastern symphony emerged from inside the Garden, dancing through the air. Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir."
"Oh, good," snickered the ever-growing Will, "at least we have a good soundtrack for this."