That's all I could see before me as the dream began.
I know that Taryn always told me that vampire dreams were much more vivid, much more engaging, than human dreams...simply because my brain was taking in so much more information during my waking hours...
...But I was quickly learning to differentiate between my waking life and the super subconscious visions my mind was feeding me while I was lost in the world of my daily sleep cycle. A waking dream. An immediate interaction with the parts of myself that I might have been too frightened to tackle while I was awake, and thinking rationally.
I think most people are afraid to self reflect...because they're terrified that they're not going to like what they find once they look within. Monsters lurk in the depths of our souls. They hide behind the shadows that we never shine light upon.
I have a monster that lies within me.
Demons that I have yet to face.
If the Jeweler was right about anything at all...it was the idea that I didn't really know myself as well as I thought I did. I didn't have as much control as I wish I had. And when the pressure was on...and I was forced to make a spontaneous choice about what to do or how to do it...
...I had no idea what that choice was going to be. Or what misfortunes they could possibly bring along with them if I didn't keep them under control.
I'm constantly looking at every battle through a muddied filter of my current emotions...and that scares me. Because my emotions aren't stable. Not when it comes to my survival. Not when it comes to this world of darkness. And certainly not when it comes to Taryn.
I'd let the whole world BURN if it meant protecting the source of my love and happiness. Sacrifice would require no hesitation on my part. Because...as selfish as it sounds...
...I'd rather Taryn have to suffer living without me...than me having to suffer living without him.
How psychotic is that?
In the dream, I found myself standing in a barren wasteland, the ground beneath my feet was dusty, cracked, and dry. It stretched out as far as the eye could see in every direction. I could almost feel the heat of a desert sun bearing down on me from above, and it nearly caused me to break a sweat from its intensity.
I never felt so alone. So isolated.
And yet, my semi-conscious mind was drawn to look up at the fiery sky above me. Surreal paint strokes of orange and red and sunset colors that were slowly becoming forgotten memories...images only recognizable to human eyes, long gone. I could see the clouds slowly passing over me, a gentle wind rustling through the locks of my blond hair. It could almost be described as peaceful...were it not for the sense of dread I felt inside.
A few flashes of lightning streaked above, followed by the muffled boom of thunder. And I felt a certain 'calling' pulling me forward. A light. A sense of being that I had experienced before...but it just wasn't strong enough yet to show itself in a way that I could understand. What WAS it??? This light? This calling? This hidden awareness that I had yet to find within myself?
As I forced myself to concentrate harder, the clouds above began to swirl up and react to my determined focus. I wanted to know what this was. I needed to figure out what pieces of this puzzle I was missing. What was this foreign presence, and what was it trying to tell me?
I stared up into the clouds and I narrowed my eyes as I attempted to mentally FORCE the world around me to give me the answers I was so desperately looking for. And as the clouds began to spin, faster and faster, I witnessed flashes of gold becoming evident in their silent storm. Around and around it went...eventually forming a perfect circle overhead. A circle of gold. Blazing bright. What are you trying to tell me??? PLEASE...let me know!
Then...the sky seemed to darken. Really darken. Storm clouds began to swirl up and thicken until the light of the golden circle above could barely be seen at all. They tumbled and flashed with thunder and lightning, a cold wind blowing towards me as I attempted to stand my ground on the barren wasteland. I had to raise my arms up to cover my eyes from the dust and debris that began to rush towards me. I tried to look back up and reclaim my vision of the circle, but the storm was too fierce for me to see anything but a dull glow behind its turbulent black mass.
There was something attempting to break through. Something was trying to communicate. But...just as my mind was beginning to pick up on it, like a radio dial trying to locate a faint signal from beyond...that glowing presence was suddenly replaced by another presence entirely. Something much...much...more destructive.
As the winds died down, I was able to look at the vast, empty, landscape before me...and I could see the silhouette of another boy in the distance. It almost looked as if her were a full mile away from me, but I could see him clearly. He had his back turned at first...his head down. Then I saw a few reddish brown locks float up over his shoulders with an icy wind...just as he began to turn around to face me.
Even if he had been too far away from me for me to make out the details of his facial features...I'd never be able to forget those eyes. Their deep red radiance, their utter hatred...the pure evil in his gaze.
This is my dream. My world...
What as 'Rage' doing here?
A tiny smirk crawled up the side of his face, as he looked upon me with murderous intent. Even at such a long distance, I could feel him loathing me with every fiber of his being. The very horror of what must be constantly running through his irreversibly troubled mind was enough to raise the hairs on the back of my neck. I could never understand his level of perpetual torment. It ran deeper than anything that I have ever known before. We might have been the same age...but the life he lived was tainted by more suffering and despair than even I could relate to. Me...a child of abuse and bullying and depression. It almost makes me wonder...if things had been any different...
...If I was forced to deal with the kind of hurt and shame that he had been forced to deal with in his adolescent life...
...I could be standing where he is right now. Full of a 'rage' all my own.
"Justin?" Came a voice from the right of me. I turned my head to see my beloved Taryn standing in the distance as well. Tears in his eyes. Distressed and alone...equally far away from both Alec and I in this wasteland.
The moment he spoke, Alec turned his burning red eyes in his direction...fangs drawn...fists clenched. And with an ear piercing shriek that nearly shook the ground beneath my feet, Alec began to run towards Taryn as fast as he could. His anger pushing him with an intense adrenaline high as his nails grew long and sharp, a cloud of dust being kicked up from his rapid approach.
I knew that Alec would rip him apart the second he got his hands on him! So I began to run towards Taryn myself! As fast as my feet would carry me. Taryn was sooooo far away from us, but I had to get to him first. I *HAD* to!!!
Alec and I kept pushing ourselves to run faster and faster, each of us trying to to reach the target before the other could stop us. And despite all of my efforts, all of my extras, all of my desperation and focus...Alec was MUCH angrier than I was! He burned that inner hatred as fuel, and I watched as the connected shadows of the dreaded 'Beast' gave him an extra boost. Feeding off of his aggression. Tapping into the limitless reserve of his unapologetic madness.
His giant, black, wings spread out from his shoulders, increasing his speed until his feet were lifted off of the ground. Alec took flight, his claws outstretched, closing the gap between him and his brother much faster than I could manage on foot. And that's when it happened...
That's when my desperation took control, and I welcomed the same beastly shadows to take over my body as well. I gave into the raw power of it all. The rush! The FURY! It burned at first...but I was able to bear it just long enough for the shadows to crawl up over my arms as well. My body was consumed with the screams and the pain that surrounded me...both of us drawing from the same demonic source until the almost limitless energy became torn in an aggressive tug-of-war between us. I could feel myself getting faster...stronger. He was NOT going to hurt my Taryn! I won't allow it!
We raced forward...and the more the darkness seeped into my very soul...the more powerful I became. The violence of it all was intoxicating. I immediately became curious as to just how much power I had...how much destruction I could cause. I could destroy Alec, here and now...and I'd never have to worry about him again. Taryn would be safe. We would all be safe. And Dylan's death will have been avenged...like it deserved to be.
I felt my fists tighten up into a ball as we got closer and closer to Taryn, and I prepared myself to make the decision to rip 'Rage' apart, once and for all. Enough is enough. He's never going to stop unless I stop him. So that's exactly what I'm going to do.
I know that Comicality told me to restrain the powers within me, that The Jeweler told me to control them...but, truth be told...
I know exactly what I'm doing now. I've never felt more in control in my life.
The shadows seemed to scream and hiss even louder, my wings and tail riping through the wind with a terrifying shriek of their own. I closed the gap between Taryn and myself just seconds before Alec was able to get a hold of him...and the golden circle in the sky up above began to shine so brightly that I had to squint to keep it from blinding me completely! It actually broke through the dark clouds of the storm and illuminated the entire wasteland surrounding us.
But...was it a blessing it was giving me? Or was it a warning?
At that moment, Alec rammed himself into me at full speed, nearly cutting me in half...and with a bright flash of light and a roar of thunder above...my eyes sprung open in the bed and I forced myself to sit straight up in order to catch my breath.
It took a few seconds for my vision to focus again. It still felt a little blurry, bright spots from the glow of the sky halo from the dream. My pulse began to slow down. My breathing steadied. My body was still a bit cold from my sleep cycle, my body temperature still trying to return to normal. Well...'vampire normal', anyway. And when I didn't see Taryn laying next to me in bed, I looked around the room, relieved to hear the sound of the shower running in the bathroom. Everything seemed right with the world again. But for how long? Alec isn't gone. I can feel him. Whatever parts of the Beast that I have still swimming around inside of me...Alec is connected to them too. How long will it be before he finds a way to track down the other half of himself. I probably never should have fought him in the first place. How to you defeat an enemy that gets stronger the more you feed him with your conflict, and your anger, and your pain? If anything, I might only end up making things worse.
I scooted back a bit to put some pillows behind me and lean against the headboard. My thoughts seemed so scattered. So...weird. It was a difficult task, trying to untangle them all.
But as my waking consciousness wove itself back into reality, I was reminded of the vision I saw just before going to sleep. A silhouette...standing silently at the foot of my bed. Was it really Richie? Was I already asleep, dreaming, and just didn't know it? Maybe I imagined it. Or maybe...it was, like...a 'sign' or something. Is Richie in danger? Is something going wrong with his crossover? Jeremy told me that he was doing fine. I don't think I've ever seen Jeremy excited about much of anything before...but he seemed to take great interest in Richie.
Then again...so did Trevor.
And that just can't be a good thing.
I heard the shower shut off, and Taryn was stepping out of the tub to dry off and everything, so I attempted to put on a decent mask of normality so as not to worry him too much. Taryn tries to hide it sometimes, but I can tell that he's a bit uneasy about what we're doing here, and how it may affect me going forward. I keep the 'supposed' truth from him in an attempt to maybe avoid the tragedy that the vampire scriptures keeps trying to make me believe is so inevitable. The last thing I'd ever want to do is put the idea in his head that he would have to sacrifice himself for the greater good, or for me and my purpose here in darkness. I just feel like I'd be giving him license to throw his life away when he really didn't have to.
I can protect him!
I KNOW I CAN!!!
And, just like in the dream...I may have to tap into some truly dark places within me to do...but wouldn't that be worth it? Wouldn't the promise of Taryn's eternal love be worthy of me losing my control every now and then...if just for a little while?
The bathroom door opened, subtle wisps of steam flowing out of it as a very relaxed teen boy came stepping out of the room, drying his hair. His enchanting body, naked for a few brief moments until he saw me sitting up and wrapped the towel around his waist. Hehehe, even after all the time we've spent together, Taryn's modesty remains a chuckle-worthy part of his personality.
"Hey." He grinned. "You're awake. You slept late today. I'm used to you getting up way before I do."
"Yeah..." I said, smiling at him. His wet hair sweeping across his forehead. The fragrance of scented soap and shampoo filling my nostrils as he approached the bed.
He sat down beside me, and we shared a sweet kiss on the lips, so happy to be together once again. "You feeling ok?" Taryn asked. I guess he saw a bit of conflict in my eyes. From the dream, from my confrontation with Alec, from...everything. In the short amount of time that we've been boyfriends, I had become an open book to him. He could always tell when something was on my mind.
"I'm ok." I said. "I think...I think I'm just trying to process everything, and I feel like I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes."
"I can't imagine you being slow on much of anything. Hehehe!" He said. I gave him a 'polite' smile in response, but he could see the fraudulent display of it right away, and leaned over to kiss my lips, bringing a genuine light to my patronizing expression. He then scooted down in the bed and got under the covers to snuggle up next to me. "You can talk to me, you know? I'm right here."
"I know." I said.
"So...?" He replied. "Maybe...before this 'Jeweler' guy sends somebody up here to snatch you away from me for the rest of the evening...we can just, you know...talk. I kinda miss talking to you. Just babbling for hours and hours at the lot...no need to get out of bed? It was fun."
With a smirk, I held Taryn close and gave him a kiss on the lips. "It was fun for me too."
I took a hold of Taryn's towel and pulled it off of him, tossing it on the floor beside the bed. "Hey!" He giggled! But I mashed my lips against his again before he was able to protest. His body was so smooth and so soft to the touch. Every inch of him was a sensory addiction that I found hard to resist...troubled mind or not.
"I love you." I said. The words were so involuntary at this point that I hardly found any surprise in having them burst forth from my lips anymore. It had just become a habit. A part of my daily routine.
With a giggle, Taryn rolled his naked body on top of me and gently rubbed his nose against mine. "I love you too, baby." He moaned, and as both of my hands roamed over the sensual curve of his pert, young, mounds...pulling him into me as our tongues mingled with an erotic fever, I knew that I'd never be able to let him go.
Living without my sweet Taryn was no longer an option. Not ever.
But...Taryn did eventually roll off of me before we got into something too hot and heavy to stop before reaching another one of our intense, 'perpetually virgin', climaxes...and I saw him look around and reach for the remote control for the TV in our room.
I took it from him before he could turn anything on, and I tossed it across the room. "Hahaha! Justy! What are you doing?"
"No TV tonight! What happened to us just talking for a while?"
"We can talk while the TV is on."
"What IS it with you and the television all of a sudden, dude?"
Taryn blushed, "Awww, c'mon! I haven't had any real TV access for over a decade now! I'm just...I wanna enjoy this while it lasts!" I playfully snuggled my face into the side of his neck, causing Taryn to wiggle and kick in a ticklish reaction! "Ahhhh! Quit it! Hehehe! I'm being serious! I mean...our own room? A ton of channels to watch? Sunproofed windows for the daylight? Warm showers? And not, like...the semi-warm showers at the church by the lot, but...actual HOT water? This place is awesome! I might as well get all I can out of it while we're here, right?"
He seemed so happy. So cheerful about it. But...I couldn't help but to notice the longing that came along with it.
"While we're here..." I said softly.
Not missing a beat, Taryn said, "Well...yeah. I mean...we're gonna be going home eventually, right?"
I didn't mean to hesitate...but I did. 'Home'. He was right. Even with all of the luxuries and the praise and worship that I could find right here in The Jeweler's skyrise...it still wasn't home. Something was missing. Hell, everything was missing.
"Yeah..." I said. "....Home."
Taryn was staring up at the ceiling, his youthful exuberance beaming with the bright radiance of his smile, and he said, "I've been trying my hardest to send Doc or Bryson a mental message to let them know that we're alright here, but I don't know if it got through to them or not. The extra-canceling technology in this place is so confusing sometimes. I don't know if they didn't hear me...or if they just can't answer me. Either way, I just hope that they know were ok."
Feeling my heart sink a little bit, I said, "You....you miss being at the lot. Don't you?"
Taryn looked me in the eye, and asked, "Don't you?"
His eyes were hopeful. Almost intimidating in their gaze. I haven't been away from the normal comforts of life as long as he has, but I have to admit that I felt more at home in a dirty old car lot full of rusted metal and loyal friends than I ever did in this big city luxury habitat. So I said, "Yeah...maybe just a little."
The admission made Taryn smile, sighing to himself as he laid his head back on the pillow. "Right now, Rain would probably be trying to find a new way to hurt herself, and Gyro would just now be getting himself all dressed up to go out to the nearest dance club. Kid would be all cuddled up under Max while he tried to push him away, hehehe, and Jun would be heading out to find a quiet place to meditate for the evening." He said. Then..."This would be about the time when Dylan would just be crawling out of Dion's truck with the biggest smile on his face and..." He stopped himself. The hint of sadness falling down upon us both like a ton of bricks. "...Well...you know...everything just felt like home." He paused for a moment, and then mumbled, "It's amazing how much a dirty old car wreckage lot would feel more like home than...than all of this. You know?"
I was reminded of what Dylan told me, back in that laundromat when we last had a chance to speak to one another candidly about...well...the future. I thought about how he and Dion had decided to get a place of their own. A chance to build a brand new life for themselves outside of the lot, where they could just be happy together and spend the next few centuries enjoying the intimate embrace of true love itself.
And then I thought about what Taryn and I were doing here in this place...this supposed 'paradise' of normality...and how much Taryn would never be happy here without the rest of his family to keep him sane. Abandoned junkyard or not.
How could I ever admit to not feeling the same way?
"Maybe we can go back for a while and pay everybody a visit." I said. "Just to say hi, and to let them know that we're alright."
"REALLY???" Taryn beamed with a giant smile. "I mean...just for tonight! I wanna catch up on everything that I missed while we were gone!"
"Sure! I think I want to go visit too. I miss the rest of our family." I giggled, kissing his lips again.
"Well...I mean, is that ok? Can we just...'go'? Will the Jeweler be mad at you, or...?"
And I told him, "MAD at me? Hehehe! We're not prisoners in this place. We can come and go as we please. I'm the 'chosen one', remember?" That seemed to make him SO happy! I was suddenly smothered with kisses, and he threw the covers back, hopping out of bed with his bouncy ass cheeks in full view as he raced over to grab some clothes out of the drawer and closet.
I'm not sure if I was really ready to face the other members of the lot just yet after all that has happened...but if it makes my boyfriend happy...how can I say no?
I mean...it's not like we're hostages here....