Authors: J.E. Shook
By J.E. Shook
Cover by Corey Harris
Thanks Whitney for helping edit
Candles were arranged neatly along the headboard, causing shadows to flicker across the walls and ceiling. The window drapes were billowing as the warm, night breeze flowed through from the outside. A man and woman were passionately kissing in the middle of the dim bedroom. After a couple more minutes, the man pulled back. With a look of deep sadness, he said, "Stop, Rachel. We must not go any further than this."
Rachel looked confused. "Why, my dear Reginald? We must express our feelings of love to one another."
The man turned and looked up, trying to shield his sadness. "I have a most dark secret, one that I have struggled to hide from you this entire time. If you ever discovered it, you would hate me forever."
The woman smiled. "There is nothing that can destroy my love for you. What is it that could make you believe such a thing?"
Reginald looked back at her and thought for a moment. "Will you swear to me that if my confession causes you fear or loathing against me, that you will kill me where I stand?"
Rachel nodded. "I will swear it, for I know there is nothing that could ever cause such feelings."
The man took a deep breath and began. "I am a vampire Rachel. I have lived in this world for over three hundred years, and I shall never die as mortal men may. I have hunted and I have tasted the blood of humans. I have roamed the night and caused fear to crawl into the hearts of the innocent. This is the face of true evil." He reached over and grabbed the bedpost. With little effort, he he broke off the top half of the post. He held it out to Rachel with the pointed, splintered end aimed towards his chest. "The legends are true. Impale this into my heart and I shall cease to exist in this world. If you cannot love me, then I wish to die."
Rachel stood there looking confused for a moment. She reached out and grabbed hold of the post. She took it from his hand and lightly tossed it across the room. Smiling, she said, "As I said, nothing will ever change how I feel about you. I love you, Reginald Baxter."
Reginald's face lit up. "And I you, Rachel Moon."
Rachel grabbed Reginald by the shoulders and gently pushed him backwards onto the bed. He fell back and bounced a couple of times before propping himself on his elbows. Smiling, he kept his eyes locked onto her.
"Now we shall truly show each other how much we love each other as I beep beep you tenderly," she said.
Reginald seemed surprised. "Wait, what did you say?"
"I said we would beep beep each other tenderly. With our beep beep."
"Something seems a little wrong here," Reginald muttered.
"No, everything's perfect," Rachel said, falling on top of him. With their faces inches apart, Rachel passionately whispered, "Now beep beep me."
Reginald shrugged and tilted his head up to meet her lips. Just as they were about make contact, Reginald felt an intense pain shoot through his head.
Reginald opened his eyes to find himself staring at the floor beneath him. He felt as if his head were throbbing and he was certain that he could still hear a beeping sound. He sighed and turned over to look at the room around him. The room was dark except for small slivers of light shining on the floor and walls that filtered in through the thick curtains of his window. He clumsily reached up and fumbled for his alarm clock, trying to turn off the horrible racket. He finally managed to find the right button, then buried his face in the crook of his arm.
"I don't want to get out tonight," he said, his voice muffled.
Before he allowed himself to fall back to sleep, he forced himself to finally get up from the floor. Reginald walked over to a light switch and flipped it, allowing the cramped apartment to be properly lit. Though it was lightly furnished, Reginald's apartment seemed almost full. The walls were covered by various posters and pictures, some of which were several decades old. Besides the bed, sofa, and television, the only other furniture he had were bookshelves lined along one wall. They were full of books, both new and old, while one bookshelf was full of trinkets and collectibles. The kitchen was connected to the living room by a counter and a doorway, allowing anyone in the kitchen to see inside the living room. Though it had a stove, refrigerator, and microwave, the kitchen looked unused.
Reginald walked over to the window and pulled the drapes to the side. The city of Ottowash was less crowded than many of the cities Reginald had lived in, which suited him perfectly. It was located on the border of the United States and Canada, he city was separated into two halves by the Soares River. It was cool there most of the year, though in the summer, the weather could be pleasant. At the moment, Reginald was enjoying the long winter nights. "Looks like it snowed some today," he muttered quietly to himself.
After another couple moments, he strolled to the refrigerator and opened it. "Hmmm, today is Tuesday. I guess I'll go with the orange." He reached in and pulled out an orange can. Reading the label, he said, "Vrooommm, the drink that revs you up." He chuckled dryly. "Not really, but it has to do the trick."
Popping the can, Reginald took a quick sip of the drink. With a contented sigh, he sat the can down on the counter and opened one of the cabinets. He pulled out a couple bottles of pills and took each one with a swig of his drink. He frowned as he looked inside one of them. "Hmm, guess I need to stop and get a refill soon," he said, turning it upside down and sitting it on the counter.
Reginald walked over to the television and turned it on. He flipped through several channels while slowly milking his drink. "I can't believe I waste good electricity on this mess," he said, sighing and shaking his head. "Sports, infomercials, old sitcoms, and news. What's the real point?" Finally he settled it on the local news for the night. He stood and watched it until he had finished his drink. "I suppose I better get to it, if I'm going to," he said, easily crumpling the can until it was flattened. Tossing the can into a cardboard box of other cans, he walked from the living room into the bathroom.
Reginald turned on the water in the tub until it was scalding hot before stepping into his shower. Quickly he showered and dried off. He took a towel and wiped the condensation from the mirror before he grabbed his toothbrush and began brushing his teeth. After a couple passes over his teeth, he pushed his fangs down and gently rubbed his brush over them. Then he took in a huge mouthful of mouthwash and gargled for several seconds before spitting it out in the sink.
For a moment he stood there and stared at his reflection. "You're not that bad a looking guy," he muttered, running his hand through his dark hair. He leaned forward and eyeballed himself with his sharp green eyes. "Fall deeply for me, my dear. Be mine forever." He stepped back and shook his head ruefully. "You're pathetic, Reginald. That wouldn't work even if you did possess some of the mind-altering powers some do." He flexed his arms, causing his biceps to bulge out somewhat from his scrawny arms. "You're the man," he said with forced enthusiasm. "You're the man." He pointed at his reflection. "Yeah, I can't fail tonight when I make my advance. No way I will fail." He gave himself one last rueful look before walking from the room.
Reginald walked to the closet in the living room and opened it up. He sighed as he looked at the contents. The closet was packed with clothes. Several were identical sets that he wore to work, a few more were normal everyday clothes, and the rest were from past decades that he felt compelled to keep close by. Grudgingly, he took out one of his work uniforms and began to dress. The shirt was composed of blue and green stripes, while the pants were black. He put on a gray cap, then put his wallet, cell phone, and name badge into his pocket. He reached out and grabbed a red and blue flanneled jacket that was draped over the counter and put it on. With one last sigh, he glanced around the room and left the apartment.
As he was locking the door, he noticed a note taped to the door. He reached up and roughly pulled it from the door. The corner of his mouth twitched as he read it. "You have become very good at avoiding me, Mr. Baxter, but the rent is still due. If I do not have a check by tomorrow, you will be evicted. This IS your final notice."
Reginald crumpled the note up and stuck it in his pocket. 'My paycheck will be in the bank by morning, so I'll stop and get a money order in the morning after work. I wish he would be a bit more patient.'
Reginald walked down the eight flights of stairs until he reached the lobby. He nodded to a couple as they were coming in the doors. They barely acted like they saw him, though the man came close to bumping him. He shook his head as he watched them board the elevator. "No respect these days," he muttered under his breath. "I think I'll move to the country the next time I relocate."
He reached up and pulled his hat down tighter as he stepped out into the cold, night air.
The night was cold as Reginald walked along the sidewalk. A few pedestrians were making their way from one place to another, bundled up warmly against the chill weather. He smiled as he continued to make his way. 'Sometimes it feels like it's just me here,' he thought.
He soon found himself nearing a fast food place called Captain Burger. 'No one coming in or out,' he thought, continuing to walk. 'No surprise there.' He paused in front of the window and looked at the poster. It showed a soldier with a burger for a head saluting the viewer. The caption at the top read, 'Prices so good you can't help but salute with pride.' Every time Reginald saw or heard the phrase, he had to resist groaning. 'Truly a blessing we haven't been shut down.'
Reginald pushed the door open and walked in. The burger joint was warmer than the outside with the ovens going, but Reginald had to force himself not to shiver. 'There's nothing different tonight than any other night,' he thought to himself. 'Just act the same as you always do.'
He looked around the dining area. The tables and floor were all spotless to where you could almost see your reflection in. The room was dim, with several florescent bulbs flickering. They had been waiting for weeks for someone to bring in some new ones to replace them. Reginald saw a lone customer sitting in the corner, hunched over the remains of his meal. He instantly knew that it was Travis, a homeless man who often came in to get out of the cold nights. Mr Davis always complained every time he came in, but he always fed him, even the nights that he had no money.
"Evening, Reggie," Mr Davis said, standing behind the register with a thick stack of papers piled in front of him. Despite having a white head of hair and several wrinkles, Joshua Davis was only in his forties. He spent much of his time complaining about expenses and life in general, but Reginald respected him for the most part. He didn't envy his position in the least, and believed that he was a good boss.
"Good evening, Mr Davis," Reginald replied, nodding. "Are you watching the register tonight?"
Mr Davis sighed. "It seems that I am. Rachel has yet to show up, so I've got no clue if she'll be here tonight." He looked down at his watch. "At least I've knocked off about six dollars of payroll so far. Maybe that will be the thing that will keep us in business."
"We're going to make it just fine, sir," Reginald replied. He felt a small bubble of relief mixed with disappointment. 'There will always be another day,' he thought to himself for the millionth time in his lifetime. "And I figure Rachel just forgot to set her alarm or something."
"Yeah, unless the killer got her," came a voice from the kitchen.
Reginald stepped inside the kitchen and gave Hector a stern look. "That's nothing to joke about."
Hector was the night shift cook. He always had a small black and white TV propped up on the counter so he could watch old monster movies while he occasionally checked on the food underneath the heat lamps. He was a larger than average man, making him look natural in a kitchen setting. "It's not a joke, it's just something that's possible. I'm not saying that is what I think happened, and you all should know I don't want it to happen, but it is something we should consider."
"I don't know," Mr Davis said, shrugging. "She's been late many times, and she has missed work before. I doubt there's anything to worry about."
"Exactly," Reginald agreed. "This is just like her. Plus, what are the odds of someone we know becoming a victim. The city is huge."
"As likely as any of the people who knew the other ten victims. The ones accounted for. The sicko might be killing off the homeless or tourists that haven't been found yet."
Rachel's safety had already come to mind since the fourth victim was discovered, but he had kept his worries in check. Hector's words did little to help his concerns. "Like I said, she's likely alright. I mean, I'm certain she's alright. Right?" He turned towards Mr Davis.
"Yes, I'm sure of it," Mr Davis said, forcing a smile. "I will call her in a couple hours to let her know how worried you are, if she doesn't show up before."
Hector shrugged. "I hope you're right."
Easing away from the uncomfortable topic, Reginald asked, "Will I be on drive-thru duty tonight, Mr Davis?"
"Oh, um, yes," Mr Davis responded, focusing his mind to the topic at hand. "That's right, Reggie." He looked back at his watch. "Can you do me small favor?"
"Sure," Reginald said.
"Can you wait until ten after to clock in?" Mr Davis asked. "David had extra cashiers stay on this afternoon during his shift, and we need the hours back."
"Sure thing, sir," Reginald replied, smiling. 'Though I could use every penny,' he thought to himself.
"Thanks, thanks," Mr Davis said, patting him on the back. "We could get you better hours if only you could work in the daytime. Have you thought of moving your other arrangements around?"
"I would if I could sir, but I'm afraid I have other responsibilities to deal with that would keep me from doing just that."
Mr Davis frowned. "I hate to hear that." As Reginald turned, he stopped him. "On second thought, go ahead. I'll send Garret home early in the morning."
"Are you sure?" Reginald asked.
Mr Davis nodded.
Reginald walked towards the corner of the kitchen where the back offices were. He smiled as he noticed Hector already absorbed in an old zombie movie. 'In a way, I love how slow this place feels. Everything is too fast these days,' he thought. Stepping into the break room, he saw Garret sitting at on of the tables with his cell phone out. As he was putting his coat up, he heard Garret slam his hand down on the table.
"Team didn't do well?" Reginald asked.
"That's an understatement," Garret answered, scratching his head. "Some nights we can make shots, and other nights they just shoot bricks. Makes me angry. Plus I had five dollars riding on that game."
"You will make it back up eventually," Reginald assured him, resisting a frown. From his experience, he had been far more unlucky than lucky, but he knew he was an exception to that rule.
Garret shrugged. "Yeah, I know," he said, looking back down at his phone. "I can still come out even if I win the other game."
"Best of luck," Reginald said, clocking in.
As he was about to walk back out, Garret asked, "How does it look out there?"
"Still clean," Reginald answered. "You can wait a while before making another pass."
"Cool," Garret said, putting his feet up in another chair and leaning back.
Reginald walked out into the kitchen. Hector was quickly flipping the food as commercials were playing on the television. Mr Davis had a couple of papers hanging on the string normally used to hang orders. He was carefully comparing them and occasionally making notes on a notepad. 'I wonder what cuts are going to be made,' Reginald thought as he took his place at the drive-thru window.
The night was as slow as he expected. Staring out at the lot behind them, he revisited many of the places and people he had encountered before in his life. 'Things could be different,' he thought. 'But would I be any happier? I wish I knew.' He smiled as a memory came to him. 'What fools we were back then, when we were younger.' Slowly the smile disappeared. 'Maybe I should have said yes.' He stayed lost in his thoughts for the next hour.
He jerked as he realized his phone was buzzing from his pocket. He pulled it out and looked at the screen. 'Really?' he thought to himself. 'I don't really feel like talking to him right now.' He cleared his throat and said, "Mr Davis, permission to receive a phone call?"
Mr Davis sighed and shook his head. "Of course. I know you know when it would interfere with work. Quit asking."
"Thank you, sir," he said, pressing the answer button. "Hello."
The deep voice boomed from the other side. "Reginald, my old friend, it has been far too long. Why haven't you called?"
"I haven't known a good time to call, Michael," Reginald answered. "You do have quite the new job."
Michael laughed, causing Reginald to smile. "Yes, well. It is harder than I thought. We both know you could be here helping."
Reginald frowned. "I know, I know, but we both know I'm not the right man for the job. My father is doing a good job. He is far wiser and stronger than I am."
"I disagree," Michael responded. "I picked the right man for the job the first time. This is the era where we need those capable of adapting leading the masses, not those who are slow to change. You and I have seen so many changes in our relatively short lives than those who lived in earlier millennia. We've witnessed a very disconnected world become very connected. The rails have stretched into the distance, to be replaced by roads with planes flying overhead. We have even touched the moon and reached out our hands towards the stars. I know when I was a child, I never would have imagined these sorts of miracles. I never would have imagined talking with my dear friend over a thousand miles away through these things here. We are living in amazing times, my friend, but many don't see it that way."
"It didn't take you long to get to the progress speech, but I suppose you have a point there," Reginald said.
"Have you ever seen your father try to use a cell phone? It is one of the funniest things I have ever seen. I truly respect Anthony, but I struggle to keep from laughing every time I see him get confused. He's finally learned how to use a computer, but he still calls me whenever he has problems. He's too proud to say it's him. He always blames the technology for not being right."
Reginald grunted. "That sounds like him."
"When was the last time you two spoke?"
"One hundred and four years ago," Reginald replied without hesitation.
After a moment of silence, Michael said, "You should keep in touch with him more often."
"He is the one who lost interest in me. He never really cared for the idea of having a son. It was mostly Mother who convinced him to turn me, so when he saw no use in me, he just chose to ignore me. I am glad that he still cares for you though."
"You know I didn't mean for him to like me more, right?"
"I know. You don't even have to ask," Reginald answered, looking up. "He seeks out strength. There is no doubting that you are the one of us who was truly superior. In a fight, we know who would win."
Michael laughed. "Is that what you think? I bet you could beat me in a one-on-one fight. You discredit yourself too harshly. I do not deny my strength, but you don't know yours. We might have to put that to the test sometime."
Reginald laughed out loud. "That's something I wouldn't dare test now, Mr President. The secret service would have me down before I could lay another punch."
"True," Michael said, chuckling. "Still that's something we'll have to test when this is over. Let's say that you, me, and Corey get back together when we go back in for new IDs. We grew up together. There's no need for us to stay apart."
Reginald hesitated. "That does sound like fun," he finally said.
"How is Corey these days?" Michael asked.
"Umm, I don't know," Reginald asked, startled by the question. "Why do you ask?"
"Because you should know. He is the chief of police there. I'm sure you speak every so often."
"Not really," Reginald admitted. "He has settled down and has two kids now. You know that, I'm sure. The little time that his job allows him to have is spent with his family. He should be with them as long as he can. There can be time for us to be friends in another lifetime. But the last time I spoke to him, he seemed well. Just tired."
"Really," Michael pondered. "I hate to hear that. I will make sure to call him tomorrow and see if there's anything I can do to help him."
"Thanks," Reginald said. "That would be nice."
"You call him too. You don't have a right to think like that. I'm sure he has room for you as well. If nothing else, you could tutor his kids. We all know you are the wisest of the group."
"There's no point in you hiding yourself away flipping burgers for fifty years."
"Actually I usually don't do the burger flipping," Reginald said. "I do a bit of this and that."
"That is not the point," Michael said, his voice getting sharper. "We both know you have far more potential than that. Start doing something grand. All three of us spoke of dreams to accomplish when we were young. I've worked hard and made one of those happen. Corey has made him into something as well. You know, forget grand. Whether you would admit it or not, I can tell you are not happy. Stop doing something that makes you miserable, and do something that makes you happy. Alright?"
"I'm happy enough," Reginald said, trying to sound confident.
"Okay," Michael said, sighing irritatedly. "Just think about it."
"I will," Reginald answered.
Reginald heard some other voices on the other side of the phone. "Reginald, a meeting just came up. I have to let you go. Let's not let so much time pass before we speak again."
"Is that an order, sir?"
Michael laughed. "No, but don't tempt me. Goodbye, old friend."
"Bye, Michael," Reginald said, ending the call. Smiling, he put his phone back in his pocket. He was surprised that he was feeling better after speaking to his friend. 'Maybe I really should have called him sooner,' he thought to himself.