Long Gone Day - Part One
“So much blood I’m starting to drown…”
He sat on a wooden stool in an unfamiliar bar, spinning the thin red straw in his fourth, and likely last, Jack and Coke. Glancing across the square-shaped bar to his right, the grunge cover band had played through about a dozen songs and was likely near the end of their set. He had shown up early, not to see them but rather a lady he had met online. She was considerably late, but even if she stood him up, he didn’t regret paying the cover charge. The music was good. It seeped into his soul making him feel connected with everyone else in the room through the muddy beat of the bass and drums.
The singer was a thin, unimposing Asian guy, with long, straight black hair that hung down to his waist. But his voice… damn. He belted out lyrics with such power that everyone in the place was enthralled. When they started their set, conversations stopped in mid-sentence. People set down their drinks. He was that good. Wearing faded blue-jeans and an unbuttoned red flannel, he firmly held the chords on his bass guitar, while his slender fingers stroked the thick strings with perfect rhythm.
Beating the skins with a tribal approach that satisfied the most primal needs of the spirit, the drummer was quite the opposite of the vocalist. He was a tall man with chiseled arms and wide shoulders that whittled down to a toned waist. He wore black jeans and no shirt as he sat behind the drumset, his blood-red hair wet with sweat, sticking to the sides of his long face and as he tossed his head around.
But it was the guitarist the intrigued Michael the most.
She was a petite young woman, with beautiful golden-blond locks styled in perfect ringlets that bobbed and bounced against her thin shoulders as she played, never losing their curl. She wore a dress that was reminiscent of something a doll would wear, a knee-length red plaid dress with black lace trim and a black petticoat underneath. She played her guitar with effortless precision, and she had a dreamy look on her face as if she was in a trance. Despite her skills, she seemed to be a backdrop to the other members, coming to the forefront only when she needed to play a solo. And she kept that dazed look on her face for most of the performance, except the few times Michael thought she was staring at him.
Which of course had to be his own wishful thinking.
She was beautiful and talented, and there is no way she would be looking at a low-class joe like him, even in his brand new, buttoned-up black dress shirt and faded jeans. He’d spent his week’s paycheck on them for this date, but underneath, he was still his poor, futureless self.
He had driven an hour in his beat-up truck just to get here from his side of town. He tried calling his date when he first took a seat at the bar, to let her know he’d arrived, and she responded she was almost there, but that was an hour ago, and other calls to her went unanswered. Did something happen? He’d only known her online for a month, so he couldn’t say he was really sure if this was even legit. He always told the truth about himself on the dating website, and sometimes that would lead to things like this. Perhaps a friend had talked her out of going after looking over his profile, but better for them to know he worked construction, never graduated, and doesn’t come from money, than to lie about it and have it come back to bite him later. He’d seen that happen with his friends, and it was always a mess.
Baby blue eyes looking back down at his drink, he stirred the ice around a bit more. The band had finished up their set and were breaking down equipment as the sound system kicked in with a mix of similar music. Michael looked down at his phone again. Still nothing.
When he looked up, he was suddenly staring into a pretty pair of green eyes. It startled him, how silently she appeared.
“Who are you waiting for?” she asked curiously in a sing-song voice.
“I was meeting someone for a first date,” Michael replied, running a hand nervously through his short, shaggy black hair. “But I think I’ve been stood up.”
“Stood up?” she pondered, unfamiliar with the word.
“It means she’s not going to show up,” Michael explained. He thought of himself as a pretty handsome guy, but women in this town wanted more than that. They wanted a way out of poverty. He felt embarrassed telling this amazing person about his failure.
“Sounds like it’s her loss,” the guitarist replied. “You’re pretty, and you have an honest heart. What more could a girl want?”
Michael was speechless.
Did she just tell him he was pretty? And more importantly, did that mean he was someone that a person like her could want? A shy, warm smile spread across his lips.
“And you have a joyous smile,” she added, exchanging his expression with a beautifully bright one of her own.
“Thank you,” he said, accepting the compliment. “Hearing that from someone as lovely and talented as you really cheers me up, no matter how the rest of the night goes. I’m Michael by the way.”
Just then, the red-headed drummer shouted what must have been her name from stage-side.
“Be right there,” she waved back with a little bounce in her step. Turning back to Michael, she took his hand and shook it. An odd gesture in a situation like this, but he shook it back. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Michael. Perhaps we’ll meet again if the fates allow.”
And with that, she skipped away, leaving the warmth of her hand to fade against his skin.
His bulky cell phone rang in his shirt pocket. It was his date.
“Soooo sorry I’m late. I’m here now. Had to park in back because the place was packed.”
“I’ll come out to meet you,” he replied.
Sliding the bartender a tip across the counter, he hurried outside to meet up. He still planned on dinner, and there were a few late-night spots he researched just in case. Hands in his front jean pockets, Michael rounded the back of the bar into a group of men he hadn’t seen before.
“And here he is!” one of the three said excitedly, draping his arm around Michael’s shoulder.
Looking around, Michael didn’t see any sign of his date.
“If you guys did anything to hurt her…” he threatened. He was good in a fight, had to be coming from his rough, poor neighborhood.
There was a man on either side of him now, as well as one at his back, and they walked him across the back parking lot into the alleyway of a couple of businesses that were long closed.
“How typical,” one of the men sneered, amused by the words.
“Listen here,” the one behind him started, “There’s no girl. Never was. Just us.”
“What do you mean?” Michael asked, not quite understanding what was happening.
The man to his right grabbed Michael’s wallet from his pocket, taking his $200 in cash and dropping the rest to the damp, oily ground. Michael tried to grab his wrist to stop him, but the man was abnormally strong.
“There is no girl,” he repeated, dragging out the words as if slowing. “But you’re too uneducated to pick up on that. What kind of girl would want to meet you anyway? You barely make enough money to take care of yourself, and you’re never going to be anything but a dirty human putting a strain on the planet.”
Then in a split second, he cocked his arm back and punched Michael square in the jaw.
Michael’s head snapped back, and the rest of his body followed suit, landing with a skid on the wet concrete. He’d never been punched so hard in his life and there was a weird vibration in his skull. Getting up slowly, he raised his fists.
“Are you kidding me?” the man who had punched him laughed out loud, astonished at Michael’s lack of fear. “You really have no idea you’re going to die here, do you?”
Michael didn’t flinch at the words, remaining at the ready with his fists up in a boxer’s stance.
There were two seconds of pure stillness, and then the man who had punched him lunged forward with fangs exposed.
Michael couldn’t react.
He was knocked down instantly by the force of his attacker. Trying to scream, to give an outlet for the pain that ripped through him, he could only gasp with his open, dumbstruck mouth as the air was knocked out of his lungs. The weight of the man straddling him felt like solid stone, cold and immobile. No part of him felt of the warm, spongy sensation of flesh and bone. Fingers like steel gripped Michael’s arms, bruising both his skin and the muscle underneath. Another fist decimated his jaw, and the side of his face grew warm and sticky with blood. His kicking feet were quickly locked down by another set of iron-like hands. After a few shallow panicked gasps for air, he opened his mouth trying to scream, but it was forcefully engulfed by the depraved kiss of the monster that dominated him. He struggled with all his might, but could only feel the rupture of his muscles from his own frantic, mad convulsions as tears flooded his wide blue eyes.
Then came the maddening agony.
He felt sharp teeth sinking into his tongue, grinding the muscle apart little by little like a knife through a cheap piece of overcooked meat. He couldn’t call out, couldn’t trash in pain. He wanted to die, right this second, before having to feel any more of this. Hot blood started to fill his mouth, burning his throat as he tried to breathe. He was painfully drowning in his own blood. And in his mind, he pleaded for it to all end.
Loading gear into their RV, Terrant froze. Maseo as well.
“What is it?” Gwen asked, worried. The boys clearly sensed the physical attack.
“Blood,” Maseo answered her, eyes narrowing.
“I can hear the struggle,” she said after sharpening her attention in the direction they were both looking. Her eyes focused on something her companions couldn’t see, and then her expression turned to one of heartbreak. She bit her lower lip and took off running.
“Gwen… wait!” Terrant shouted after her as he and Maseo left the gear and made chase.
She moved faster than her bandmates, which was in itself no small feat, and found three vampires attacking the pretty man from the bar. He was in complete misery, moments from death, and there was blood everywhere. Without thinking twice, she dropped her hands to her sides and then opened her palms to the three vampires. Rays like bright, golden bullets streamed from fingertips, showering into their skin. It wasn’t real sunlight, but the sting was more than enough to get their undivided attention. In a panic, they sprung up from their prey and raced off down the alley.
Gwen dropped down to her knees into the puddle of Michael’s blood, unphased as it splashed onto her dress and slicked her perfect skin. Cradling his head in her arms, her kind, green eyes fixated on his, trying to force a calming magic into him. He was so terrified and in shock. Tears streamed down his already wet face, mixing with the blood that was still pumping up from his mouth as he tried to breath through it.
There was no way he was going to make it.
“You have to save him,” Gwen spoke to Maseo who had just appeared behind her. When she turned her head and looked up at Terrant, her green eyes burned assertively. “Terrant. Get them.”
Terrant glanced at Maseo, who nodded in approval and then charged off down the alley after the vampires.
“Maseo, please,” Gwen’s eyes softened as she begged. “I will take care of him, I promise, just don’t let him die. He’s too pretty and rare.”
Maseo knelt down and placed his hand on Michael’s chin, turning his head from the left to the right as he looked him over. The man was still sobbing uncontrollably, losing blood by the second. If Maseo hadn’t been a vampire of the old blood, he would have felt tempted to partake, but unlike most of his kind, he had control over his need. Opening Michael’s mouth, he quickly realized what they had done. They had bitten off most of his tongue. He would certainly bleed to death if nothing was done.
Maseo hadn’t turned anyone before. He was against that sort of thing. His strong blood would allow this new vampire the perk of not needing to feed very often, and their lifestyle would definitely make the adjustment easy, increasing his chances of survival, but that would mean another companion, and they didn’t even know who this guy was.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, Gwen,” Maseo protested. “We know nothing about this guy. I refuse.”
“Maseo,” Gwen narrowed her eyes commandingly, “I invoke my right of primogeniture. You will do it.”
Maseo shuddered. She’d never invoked her birthright before. When he was entrusted to watch over the hypersensitive fae by her own people, he was specifically instructed to accommodate any requests long as they didn’t break any laws, human or otherwise. But this… this was unexpected and went against his principles. Although she was his friend, and he trusted her, she was still fae, which meant he needed to be careful with who would be responsible for this stray pup.
“Give me your word that you will care for him throughout his days, Gwen,” Maseo demanded. “He will NOT be my burden. Ever.”
“You have my word Maseo,” she responded. “I absolve you of all responsibility. Any judgment and all hardships of this decision will be mine alone to bear.”
“Even when it comes to my clan?” Maseo narrowed his eyes, reminding her. “He will carry the blood of my clan and therefore will be of my clan, as well as your House.”
“Fine then,” Maseo sighed, surrendering. “Let’s get this over with.”
Maseo rolled up the sleeve on his red flannel shirt and used the thumbnail on his opposite hand to make a two-inch slice into his forearm. As the blood beaded upon his skin, he had Gwen turn Michael’s head to the side causing the blood Michael had collected in his mouth to spill out all over the fabric of Gwen’s skirt. Righting his head again, Maseo laid his forearm against Michael’s mouth and let his own blood drip in. Blood to blood was required for this to work. Normally it would be done via a transfusion and not in this crude, barbaric fashion, but Maseo was certain that the large wound on what remained of Michael’s tongue would suffice, and time was of the essence.
Michael was still gasping for breath, swallowing the vampire’s blood without realizing it. The burning was stronger at first, and he thrashed his feet around from the fire in his throat, but then it started to sooth the torment. He felt his eyelids grow heavy from exhaustion as the pain faded slowly away from his entire body. He felt light. Was this death? He was sleepy. The last thing he remembered was seeing the face of an angel.
“There,” Maseo said standing up. “He’ll be asleep for a while now while his body adapts.”
“Thank you,” Gwen said looking up at him with tears in her eyes. “I will never forget this debt.”
“You don’t even know this guy,” Maseo scolded, but his voice was softer than before. “I’m not sure why you even requested this. He’s a complete stranger.”
“He’s rare, Maseo,” she said, trying to elaborate. “I am not sure how to explain it to someone like you, but I will try. His heart dances like a twinkling star. It pulses like the energy our music makes. He is like a sparkling gemstone that…”
“Enough, I get it,” Maseo chuckled, raising his hand to make her stop. “You like him a lot. Although I don’t know how much he’s going to twinkle for you now that he’s died.
“It doesn’t matter. He is mine. I made a promise.”
Just then Terrant returned back to them. He stopped a few feet from where Gwen sat on the ground, Michael’s head still in her lap.
Crossing his strong arms, he slowly approached.
“Gwen, what did you do?” he asked as if catching a child who had just broken something expensive.
“Me? Why do you assume it’s me?”
“Because I’m sure Maseo didn’t suddenly want a new drinking buddy.”
“What’s done is done,” Maseo interrupted. “Let’s take the koinu inside.”
“Koinu?” Terrant asked.
“It means puppy,” Maseo explained.
Terrant lifted Michael easily, tossing him over his shoulder and they walked to the RV.
“They were young ones,” Terrant revealed under his breath to Maseo and Gwen as they walked back to their transportation. “Confessed to doing this trick countless times to humans they considered trash that no one would miss. I got the names of their makers, then I killed them. Oh, and I also painted the Mark of Culling in their blood on the wall near their bodies. Let their sires clean up the mess. Assholes.”
Maseo nodded approvingly as they unlocked the RV and stepped inside. Terrant carried Michael’s unconscious body to the very back and laid him down on the queen-size bed, while Maseo went to the fridge and removed a black beer bottle that disguised the blood inside. Twisting the cap off, he guzzled down the whole bottle within seconds as Gwen took the seat across from him.
“Are you okay?” she asked sincerely, her voice merely a whisper while placing her small pale hand on the same arm where he’d cut himself. The wound was already mostly healed.
Leaning his head back against the leather seat, he blindly set the bottle on the nearby table.
“I’ll be fine,” he answered breathlessly. “It just took more out of me than I was expecting.”
Walking past them, Terrant took his seat in front of the wheel and started the engine. After a few moments of letting the RV warm up a bit, it rolled out of the bar’s parking lot and headed for the highway.
“You should get some sleep though,” Maseo recommended. “It’s a bit of a drive to the next gig and we’ve got about four hours until daylight.”
“Okay,” Gwen replied, standing and making her way to the back where Michael slept. “Wake me when you need me to take over.”
Saying nothing in response, Maseo just waved her off and closed his eyes. He was tired, and only had one question on his mind.
What have I just done?