the brothers Way
Her eyes rolled to the back of her head. There was no sound. Everything had happened in a flash.
Brian was edging closer to me, his hand outstretched as if to cease any movement on my part. The guys were standing close behind him, their eyes wide.
The woman was small, shorter and much thinner than me, but her hands and fingers tightened with surprising strength around my shirt, and I stepped back, trying to pull away from her without causing too much alarm.
"Please," she gasped again, saliva mixed with blood starting to creep from her mouth. Her eyes were slipped so far back into her head that I could see was pure white in her eye sockets. No birds were chirping. No sound. The highway was empty and blue skies hovered over green trees. The air was calm. Blood dribbled down her chin as she struggled to take another breath.
"Someone," I whispered, letting my eyes dart to the trees she had come pelting out of, wondering if there could possibly be other people around. People she knew. People like her. People like Lincoln. "Someone please, help me. Get her."
Brian stepped forwards, cautiously. His hand was shaking nervously.
"Ma'am? Ma'am, are you alright? What happened?"
She was choking. Her hands tore at my shirt sporadically as she made gulping sounds deep in the back of her throat.
"Brian, Jesus, she's choking. We have to help her."
Brian came up next to me and tried to take the woman's hands, but she refused to relinquish her grip on me, seeming to not even notice him.
"You..." she gasped. Her cheeks were hollow and her hair was matted slightly from the blood in her mouth. "You. Bird. Help us. It burns. It's cold."
"Fuck, what happened to her?" Mikey asked, running a hand through his hair. He took a step forward, but didn't move from his spot, seeming fixed to the ground as Ray's fingers twitched nervous beside him. Brian turned to look at them pleadingly, before bring his gaze back to me as the woman made another choking noise.
But she had already moved, pressing herself fully against me with her hands tangled in my shirt. Her breathing was labored and her chest was rising and falling much quicker than normal. Her teeth were stained red with blood as she leaned up to whisper in my ear.
"Sing, bird. Sing."
She shuddered violently and collapsed against me, and I felt the warm liquid from her mouth pooling into my shirt. I looked at Brian helplessly, and he ran a hand across the back of his neck and bit his lip.
"Look, alright, just... just put her down and I'll call an ambulance. Is she...? Can you get a pulse?"
"She dead," I saw automatically, moving the dark blonde hair from her face and supporting her against one arm. Finally, Gerard made the first move and came to stand next to me, touching her face gently with one hand.
"What did she say to you?" he asked, running a thumb over the soft skin under her eyes.
I shifted her weight against my arm and let her head fall back gently. Mikey, Ray, and Bob were talking anxiously, but their voices jumbled together to form nothing more than static in the back of my mind. I gazed at her a moment before answering.
"She called me 'bird'," I said. Brian was already on the phone ("No, we don't know what happened. It looks like a disease or something.... Yes, she's dead.... We're just off Highway--"), and I tried to ignore him. My voice was surprisingly steady, and the tone was calm. It didn't even feel like me speaking. There was still no noise. "She told me to sing."
If Gerard found that odd, he didn't say anything. He withdrew his hand from her face and nodded, clearing his throat. "Maybe we should, um, check her pulse. Just to make sure."
My mind was skipping. Tearing itself in two. I wanted to turn and look at Gerard incredulously, ask him if he knew what he was saying; if he realized that this girl was dead. Dead and in my arms. That I had held her as she died -- didn't he understand that? Didn't /I/?
I looked around, blinking stupidly in the light. Ray, Mikey, and Bob had all now progressed their conversations to cell phones, speaking quietly and shooting each other worried glances as they relayed the situation to families and friends back home. It felt like Cell/. I wanted to tell them to get off the fucking phones or they'd turn out just like her. I wanted to tell myself that I read too much. I wanted to tell Gerard to stop fucking /staring at her (because she was fucking /dead/) and /run/. Just run.
But I didn't. I never did any of those things. I just played and made an ass of myself and laughed and ate whatever we had in the fridge and slept and got sick too much. That was my life. I was exactly the kind of person to be standing in the middle of the street, looking around like those morons that never bring a map, but never with a dead body. Even If it was an accident, or a disease, or a murder, whatever. It just didn't happen.
Gerard was still studying her face -- her beautifully tanned face with the dirty blonde hair -- and I turned to him, throat dry and eyes unseeing, to question the verity of what he had asked me.
"You want to check her pulse?"
Gerard met my eyes. He looked calm, but his face was paler than normal and his skin felt cold to the touch when his hand brushed against my arm. His blood was shaking and churning against his veins; I could feel it.
"Um. Yeah. Just, you know, to make sure."
"She's dead, Gerard. I can't feel her. She's just a body. There's no life. We don't need to check her pulse."
I wondered how my voice could be so steady while his shook with the terror I was so sure I felt. My heart was hammering in my chest, but I had taken on the demeanor of the air around me; quiet, soft, harsh, punctuating. Her body was starting to weigh me down, the little rings that made her belt cutting into my fingers. There was a cry in the back of my throat that kept sliding lower and lower into my chest.
"What's up with you?" Gerard asked, watching me intently. "Are you okay? Frank, it's alright. It was just an accident, okay? The ambulance will be here--"
"They're on their way," Brian interrupted, snapping his phone shut and hesitating before pulling it back out again and pressing a speed dial. He turned away from us as he spoke to the person on the other line. His hand was shaking as he passed it through his short hair.
"See?" Gerard told me again, placing a hand on my shoulder gently. His voice seemed distant. From behind a veil. "It's alright."
I wasn't paying attention. Her neck was hidden by choppy layers of hair, and I couldn't see through it. Trying to ignore the drying blood that covered her mouth and chin, I let my fingers touch her collarbone gently (/"clavicle..."/), and start to move the hair away from her neck.
Gerard grabbed my wrist suddenly, and it shocked me that I was able to feel his very fingerprints against the bones protruding from my skin. (/"Scaphoid...Lunate..."/)
"Frank, don't. Not like that."
I wanted to curse him and kiss him for being able to read me just like a fucking book (ironic?), but I knew he was right, that I shouldn't be doing this, but I couldn't help it. That boy. He plagued my dreams. My thoughts. My life. My nightmares.
"Frank," he tried again, while I shifted her weight, buying time. "Don't. You don't really think that--"
"No," I answered. "Just like you don't."
Whether Gerard recognized my sarcasm was questionable (though I'm sure he did), as he said nothing, only shifted gingerly from foot to foot beside me, biting his lip as I moved the hair from her neck.
And then promptly dropped her body to the ground. It hit the road with a soft 'smack' and her head lolled to the side, another dribble of blood flowing from the corner of her pretty dry lips. The others looked up at the sound, their heads raised in curiosity and shock as I stood there over her body, staring vacantly.
"Frank?" someone asked. I didn't know who. Gerard was tugging on my sleeve.
"Come on. Frank. Come on."
Mikey stood up suddenly, and Gerard's head whipped to the right, studying the trees that had attracted his brother's attention. I felt more than I heard the movement against the leaves. The snap and the crackle, so light I was sure I had imagined. Each step he took echoed through my head, and every breath he took (how could I hear those?) rotted my stomach and sent wave after wave of dizziness and nausea through my body. Someone on this side of the street spoke to him, calling across the lanes.
"Hey, kid, are you alright?"
It was my turn to pull on Gerard. I didn't trust this. That cry in my throat was starting to choke me as I watched the boy step onto the street. I couldn't take my eyes away from him, but I could feel the woman's body against my feet, the cut against her neck gaping up at me as though to mock my horror.
What's so frightening? it asked me. She asked me. It's just a boy. Are you afraid of your own fear, Frank? Is that why you run?
"Run..." I muttered under my breath.
Gerard leaned closer to me. "What?"
"Run," I repeated, watching as the boy, dressed in pricey jeans and a white "Anti-Flag" shirt, raised his hand and bent his fingers in a pleasant greeting. His smirk actually reached the corners of his eyes, which were hidden behind dark, stylish sunglasses. This wasn't Lincoln. That thought scared me more than I thought it possibly could. This wasn't Lincoln, but I knew that before I had even laid eyes on the new boy. The shivers ran down my spine as he met my eyes behind those dark, dark glasses. His smirk widened.
"RUN!" I yelled, startling Gerard as I took off towards Mikey, who was furthest away, and grabbing his arm, trying to urge him into the van. My heart was pounding and my eyes darted wildly between Mikey and the kid as I pulled against Mikey's arm, ignoring his questioning protests. For a horrible, terrifying second, I was afraid that he'd try and throw me off and I'd be left alone. Crazy. They'd leave me here.
But another hand grabbed Mikey's shoulder and he turned, staring at his brother with confused, honey-brown eyes, but when Gerard pushed him gently towards the van with panicked eyes, Mikey followed his brothers instructions and climbed into the van hastily without question.
"Brian!" Gerard yelled at our manager, who had been watching the scene with an open mouth and absent eyes. "Brian, let's go!"
Ray and Bob tumbled in after Mikey, and I followed as Gerard shoved me quickly and hurriedly behind them, waiting for Brian to snap out of it and get behind the wheel before climbing in the back seat with me, slamming the door. His eyes were fixed on the boy the entire time. His flawless skin. His pale, haunting smirk, his lithe frame, his mussed up black hair. It was captivating, but I knew Gerard. I knew his actions and his reactions and his entire body. He was afraid.
Brian fumbled with the keys before jamming them into the ignition, shifting gears and stepping down on the gas. My mind was jumping from one thought to the other and wondered momentarily whether he knew what Gerard and I did, or if he was just caught up in the moment.
The van sped away in the direction that we had come, and I flipped around to stare out the back window, Gerard mimicking my actions and placing a hand on my back. The boy paid no mind to us, and as his figure got smaller and smaller, I saw him walk to the middle of the street and bend down to touch the woman's face, his grace and stability clearly obvious as he moved effortlessly with the air.
Brian broke the silent tension as he pulled onto the highway at 70 plus miles per hour and let out a loud, noisy breath.
"Frank, I think we'd all like to know just what the fuck is going on."
Many scholars, vampirologists, and vampire hunters alike believe that vampirism is a kind of "supernatural disease", for which there is no known cure. It has been long theorized that the vampire's bite deposits a kind of enzyme found in the vampire's saliva into the bloodstream of its victim. If the vampire draws too much blood to cause its victim to expire, the enzyme triggers a metabolic change in the victim's body, beginning with the production of a strange dark-green liquid called "ichor" within the victim's bloodstream. In about three days, there is enough ichor to nourish the victim's body the way that blood once did. If the "host-vampire" is not properly destroyed within this three-day period, the victim will return to "life" as a vampire.
If the victim's blood loss is not significant enough to cause death, the victim will show signs of progressed anemia due to the effects of the enzyme in his/her bloodstream, but will not die. Until the enzyme has fully metabolized, the victim will be weak and sickly -as well as being susceptible to the hypnotic commands (whether conveyed verbally or telepathically) by the vampire that attacked him/her. The victim will almost always develop a perverse, often amorous attraction toward the vampire that bit him/her as well. The victim may be spared the horrible fate of becoming a vampire (and returning to normal) if the host-vampire is properly destroyed before the enzyme metabolizes itself -claiming the victim as a vampire. Likewise, should the victim suffer more attacks from the vampire-host during this time, the metabolizing process will be expedited, causing the victim to "turn" at a much quicker rate.
From The Fiendish Field Guide
"No, that's the thing. It wasn't a bite mark."
"But she was acting so strange. A little slice couldn't have done that. Make her all...you know, delusional."
We had come to terms with the situation outside of a gas station 26 miles from the attack (we had hesitated using that word, but "accident" didn't seem to fit the picture properly). I had told them every detail I could remember of my first encounter with Lincoln, and what he had said to me. I replayed the woman's last words to them as we sat in the van against the curb after filling up both tanks with gas using all of Ray's per diems. They sat and listened to me -- and Gerard -- recount our experiences with... whatever these kids were.
What had just happened was by far the most confusing incident (attack? Accident?) that we had gone through, and we were trying to keep the rationality just over the border without sinking into insanity.
"But...I thought that was their, you know, thing," Ray said, placing two fingers over his neck to represent fangs. "Biting on the neck."
"Of course it's their thing, Ray, they're fucking lunatics," Mikey shot, placing his phone up to his ear for the fourteenth time since three miles down the road. He was trying to get hold of Alicia, and after leaving seven different voicemails, each getting progressively more panicked and earnest, he had fallen into a rather emotional imbalance.
We were trying our best to ignore his outbursts, despite how disturbing it was for us. Mikey was our rock, and he was crumbling.
"What we need to decide, right here and now, is whether this is for real," I said quietly, looking down and refusing to meet anyone's eyes.
Gerard shifted next to me, balancing his weight on his elbows on the seat in front of us. "Okay, let's look at this from what we know: first thing, they're out in daylight. If that doesn't prove something, I don't know what else you'd--"
"God, are you people even listening to yourselves?" Mikey broke out again, snapping his phone shut with such a force that the loud noise echoed through the silence in the van. "You're crazy. Fucking vampires, give me a fucking /break./"
Gerard reached towards his brother with soft words, "Mikey, look. It's alright. She's fine, okay? She's probably just--"
But Mikey eluded his grasp--
"Get away from me! This is all your fucking fault, Gerard!" Mikey spat, glaring at his brother with such ferocity that I flinched away. "All your shit with 'oh, I'd rather be a vampire then dead,' and your fucking songs and make up and /theatrics./"
Gerard stared. I looked away. Mikey let out a growl of frustration and eyed his brother menacingly.
"Don't you see what you've put into their heads? People are dying, Gerard, and you're encouraging it!"
The air hung thick with deadly tension after Mikey had shut his mouth, and the few seconds of silence lay active, reading for a strike back, but Gerard had sense enough to not argue. I couldn't tell if he was hurt or angered or affected at all by his brother's words, but he showed no emotion except care as he reached out to touch Mikey's shoulder.
"Mikes, listen. It's okay, alright? We'll call the authorities, and we'll figure something out--"
But when Gerard's hand placed itself on Mikey's bony, jacket clad arm, Mikey shrunk away and glowered at his brother with fiery eyes.
"Don't touch me, you fucking fag!"
And the silence followed like an eruption of smoke, clouding everyone's visions of each other and themselves. A film covered our perception of our relationships the moment Mikey turned away from his brother and shot such venom from the same mouth that praised Gerard everyday and spoke the silent words of his appreciation and pride in his brother. I had never seen two people love each other more than Mikey and Gerard, and though the bond would always be there between them, the connection had suddenly been broken. Sliced. Set aflame. And at the moment, Mikey -- with his back to Gerard and his face to the window as he clutched his phone with shaking hands -- didn't seem keen on reconnecting it.
Gerard held his hand in that position for a moment, before realizing it and dropping it to his side, swallowing thickly at his brother's back.
Brian broke the silence by starting the engine again. "We're going to the nearest town," he said, keeping his eyesight astray from the rearview mirror. "We'll find help there."
And he pulled onto the empty street, where a forest green sign declared a small town was only 14 miles away; little pictures on the side marked the assurance of food, hotels, and telephones. I sank back into the seat next to Gerard, watching as Ray glanced over at Mikey nervously; I felt bad for him, having to sit next to Mikey in the mood he was in, but Bob had slipped into the front seat next to Brian after we had gotten gas, and there was no way I was letting Gerard out of reaching distance.
I looked to my right, finding Gerard sitting motionless against the back of the seat, staring out of the blur of colours that was the window. His raven hair was disheveled from running his hands through it so much and his eyes were glassy. I reached over and tried to pull him against me, but he tensed up, most likely remembering Mikey's words, but when I ran my hand soothingly across his back, he gave up and relaxed into me, arms folded tight against his chest. I let him fall against my chest as he shut his eyes tightly, ashamed of the small streaks that fell down his cheeks as he did so.
I kissed the top of his head before resting the side of my face against it, staring out the window with unseeing eyes as he shook silently beneath me.