The glint of dawn shines onto a camping site surrounded by trees. On the ground, bodies lay unconscious, their clothing stained with large, red splatters. Ghastly neck wounds mark the lifeless teenagers, all except for one.A boy dressed in a dark denim jacket, flare jeans, and a black shirt, neck gash is far less severe. His brown skin sprinkled with blood, his sharp jaws dirtied with mud, and his long, black hair drips red. The boy’s light brown eyes open, staring across a campsite holding a burning fire.
The sun is not yet risen and casts the environment in an ashy blue. Kota’s eyes shift to his side at the dead bodies floating in puddles of crimson. NO…THIS CAN’T BE REAL! He roars internally and kicks away, scooting across the bare ground, scared. He hyperventilates. WHAT HAPPENED? Kota’s sight goes to a pile of beers and pizza boxes near the fire. We were just having a good time. How did it come to this?? These are my friends dead on the ground. DEAD!! Reality slams at his heart, causing Kota to sob in streaming tears. He crawls to the body of a girl; her short hair with green streaks, leather dress, and spiky boots are bloodstained. Kota’s gaze falls to the gruesome gash on her neck as he realizes all of his friends have the same wound he does. WHY CAN’T I REMEMBER LAST NIGHT?!!!
A dim sunrise rays over the forest, glowing the lower half of the trees circling the campground. Kota’s ears twitch, his hands fly to them fast, feeling the movement repeat. What is that? White noise fills his eardrums, ringing loudly. His sight jets to the sun as an impending doom shivers his bones. Get away from the sun! Kota stumbles to his feet, startled by the inner voice that isn’t his. Its tone is frantic and much darker. None of this makes sense, his clueless mind replies to the voice. GET AWAY FROM THE SUN!! The warning comes again, now desperate. IT’S GOING TO KILL YOU!! Kota squints at the low-hanging sun in the distance, near the pocket of the sky, feeling his legs back paddle. The ball of dim light rises slowly.
A survival instinct runs him off into the woods, panicked and fearful of the sun. His high boots crunch on twigs and jump over boulders with fantastic range and speed. The sunrise buzzes behind him, morphing from dim to sunburst orange. Kota increases his pace from it, his joints fluctuating as if not connected to any bones, as he flees with an unnatural motion. The blood that stains his face and hair intensifies in smell, developing to a mouth-watering, throat-burning tease. Kota attempts to taste it, his finger wipes across his jacket, collecting the fluid. NO, RUN!!! The intuition returns with a growl. He peers over his shoulder at the sun, mortified enough to fight the thirst.
Kota’s skin particles flare up as if little fires are growing from within. Next, peeling and reddening occur. The boy yells as smoke rises from his body, his feet blurring as his skin steams. His sight enhances, zooming in on a hill with a crevice below it. The sunrises fully as he dives the air, soaring towards the hill. Flames catch his boots as he reaches the shaded gap. Quickly he pats away the fire with his hands, extinguishing his shoes and observing his palms, which are blackened. To his amazement, the burnt skin heals, sealing away the second-degree burn. Under the hill, Kota eyes the sun as it pillars lines of light through branches and bustles in high volume. A dawning question rattles his mind as he views the elevating sun, now a bright ball nearly over the treetops. What am I?
When night falls, Kota walks a street lit by orange lights, his holey, charred shoes stepping a cracked sidewalk. He nears a small ranch house on a compact street. A silent street it usually is, but now it bursts with the ongoings of the inside of houses. A microwave whirls, a news report booms, and snoring neighbors sound as if right inside his head. Kota climbs up the stairs of the ranch, a white paneled house, reaching for the knob. As he goes for it, his hand meets a forcefield. NO…I NEED TO GET INSIDE; LET ME INSIDE! “DYANI! Open the door!!” Kota yells drastically, his light tone darkly rooted in strain. He tries the knob again, with no luck. Footsteps from beyond the door approach, pounding like a hammer. Kota covers his ears and winces. The chain and the main lock click before the door opens. A young woman stands in the doorway; her hair is dark and short, her skin bronze, and her features strong. “Where have you been? Mom and dad are out looking for you!” Dyani takes a good look at his face and clothes. “ARE YOU OKAY? THAT’S BLOOD!” She exclaims.
“I don’t know what’s happening...”
Her hand drops from the knob as she eases a few inches closer to the door’s threshold. “You’re scaring me.”
“I need help, but I can’t come in.” Her brother cries. “HELP ME!!”
“I will; come on, we’ll figure this out.” Her voice shakes.
“I can’t.” His hand reaches out to her, going a few inches only to snag forcefully. He tries to place his shoe past the door frame; it too meets an invisible barrier.
“Stop joking around!” His sister grabs him by the arm and tugs him towards the doorway. His body meets an immovable obstacle, slamming against the door as if it’s glass. Kota grunts at the impact and frees himself from his sister’s hold. Dyani releases his arm, shocked. “What...?” She tries to pull him inside again, losing against an unseeable force.
Kota scans the archway in doom. This is my home. I belong here. I was born here, and I can’t step inside. Home is what I need right now. I HAVE TO GET INSIDE! “Help me...please!” He falls to his knees, his shoulders jerking as he sobs.
Dyani passes the archway to console her little brother; she kneels and wraps her arms around him. Then immediately hisses and breaks the embrace. “YOU’RE FREEZING!!!”
“I don’t know what’s happening.”
She covers her mouth with her hands as Kota bawls his eyes out. “I…don’t know what to do…Kota, what’s wrong with you?” He places his hands over his ears as a motorcycle races down the street, shouting in discomfort as his eardrums throb painfully. Dyani backs away, running inside and banging the door shut. She rests her back against it, holding her chest. “WHAT THE HELL?!!” The screaming comes to an end when the bike is far in the distance. Dyani cracks the door open to see that her brother is gone. “Kota…” She mutters unevenly, peeking out at a dead street.
Dyani closes the door again, going to a dim kitchen with red and blue rose wallpaper. On the wall, a green phone hangs. She brings it to her ear, dialing 911. Dyani paces, her hands trembling at her sides as the line rings with a dated bell tone. The front door opens. Dyani drops the phone and hurries to it. A man and woman in their forties survey her despairingly. Matto, her father, is tall and short-haired, and her mother, Odina, is of average height with back-length hair.
“Has your brother come back?” Odina interrogates, her long face grimacing.
Matto’s chest heaves. “Please say yes.”
“He did...but something is wrong with him.” Their daughter twiddles her thumbs, her neck showing jolting veins.
“What do you mean?” Her father’s chiseled face tenses. A gate swings from beyond the back door. Dyani steps away from it as her mother nears it. “Dyani? Tell us.” Matto presses his daughter for information.
Dyani clutches her fingers through her hair. “Kota isn’t okay. He’s ice-cold and can’t come into the house.”
Matto stares at the back door as his wife opens it to find no one within a concreted backyard. “Whatever game this is, end it now.”
“He needs to be inside; it’s freezing.” Their mom exits the back door, where a moon beams down on the brick backyard. While clutching her coat to her chest, she nears an opened side gate. Kota sits outside it, his head hung low. “Kota…?” Odina nears her son as the wind blows heavily, flowing her thick hair above her head. This movement exposes the veins of her neck. Kota’s head straightens like a whip at the smell of copper. “Honey, come inside and tell us where you’ve been.”
He stands and turns towards her, eyeing the veins of her neck with red eyes. I NEED BLOOD! Kota’s mind chants ominously as his mother steps closer and offers a hand. Odina notices his demon eyeballs and freezes in place. Kota looks to her neck, where the blood in her veins swoosh and chitter. “BLOOD!!” He screeches, his mouth opening to reveal sharp teeth which reflect the moonlight. His mom screams, dropping her hand. Matto speeds out of the backdoor in protective mode.
“No, don’t go out!” Dyani yells, horrified.
Matto observes his son’s eyes and teeth when close enough. His father’s mouth drops in disbelief. “No...it can’t be.” A chilled whisper escapes him.
A growl from Kota follows. Their son’s mouth extends abnormally in width, exposing rows of canine teeth. He charges at his parents, ready to kill…ready to feed. Matto pushes his wife behind him and makes an arrow symbol using his hands. Much like an archer, he aims at his son. Stinging attacks Kota’s skin, burning it like acid. He drops to the ground like a ton of bricks. An animalistic screech comes from him as he squirms in agony. Matto grabs his wife and rushes her to the backdoor. “NOO!!” She protests.
Dyani grabs her mother by the arm, who tries to wiggle free, but fails. Odina is pulled inside, away from the craziness. Matto backs away to the door, maintaining the hand symbol as he does. Startled, he watches Kota bellow on the ground. When he fights to stand up, that’s when his father hurries inside and closes the door.
Kota flees to a riverside, where he has no reflection within its swelling water. The boy runs his fingers across spiky teeth. He feels the long lengths mold into curved points at the ends. The entirety of his eyeballs are red, and his throat burns. Kota’s fingers trace to his eyelids, sensing an odd liquid floating within them. He quivers in terror and lets out a heart-wrenching howl. I TRIED TO KILL MY PARENTS! WHY DID I DO THAT? I NEED THEIR HELP!! MY DAD WARDED ME OFF LIKE AN ANIMAL. MY MOM…AND MY SISTER ARE TERRIFIED OF ME. MY FAMILY…MY BLOOD! Kota digs his hands into soggy dirt, shaking uncontrollably. Who will help me if they won’t? Tears stream in heaps from his devilish eyes. Who?