The beast was tearing at my back. It wasn’t as painful as I had imagined it would be. Perhaps, I was going into shock. I struggled on the ground, trying to throw it off me. I heard its jaws snapping in the air. It let out a harrowing sound sending chills down my spine. I clawed at the dirt. My fingers dug in deep, trying to pull myself away. I couldn’t move. The weight of the thing was pressing down on me too hard.
It took another swipe at my back. Searing pain ignited immediately. I wrestled a free leg up and pushed hard against the ground. The momentum pushed me forward and I twisted my body enough to knock the beast off of me.
I clumsily got to my feet. I was wobbly. It hurt to stand up. My back was on fire. It stung. Shockwaves flared throughout my entire body. The beast bounced back on its feet. It had taken two tranquilizer darts. One from Trevor. One from me. The thing was still raring to go.
It jumped at me but I dodged to my left. The razor sharp talons grazed my right arm. I turned around and the beast was back facing me again. It reminded me of a bull fight with the exception that I was not a matador and this was surely no bull. I took a few steps backward. I glanced to my left and saw Trevor had collapsed to the ground. As I turned back, the beast knocked into my left leg. I managed to stay on my feet as it ran past me.
I staggered. Every step I took brought out an involuntary cry of agony. I could feel blood trailing down the back of my leg. I managed to drag my bad leg along. The beast did not immediately rush at me, which both delighted and frightened me. Trevor lay unmoving on the ground. His back was to me. I knew I needed to get to the backpack. Two poison darts remained. They were my only hope.
Sensing movement behind me, I stopped and half turned to find the beast creeping closer. It didn’t make a sound as its eyes locked directly on me. Turning my back on it was probably not the best decision but I knew I had no chance facing off with it again. My legs felt weak. Time was running out. I had to get to the backpack or die. Or maybe both. But I had to try.
I passed Mayor Hayden. He lay on the ground, motionless. His eyes were closed. He was bleeding a wound in his gut. He probably never saw Trevor’s gun before it was too late. As I glanced at Trevor, I paused for a quick moment. He was not moving. I wanted to see what condition he was in but I had more pressing matters looming behind me.
I looked around the area. Unfortunately, I lost my flashlight in the struggle with the beast. At least, the moon provided all the illumination I needed. It took me a few moments but I finally located the backpack. Each agonizing step was taking its toll on me. The pain in my shoulder, back, and leg was growing unbearable. The pack lay a few feet away.
I dropped to the ground. My leg no longer was able to support me. I sat on my rear. The beast had lost interest in me. It was nudging its head against Hayden’s. If the beast hadn’t been such a hideous and terrifying monster, this scene would have been cute. I turned onto my stomach and crawled toward the backpack. The noise I made as I scooted along the ground was enough to alert all of the predatory animals nearby that dinner was ready. I slowed down and tried not to make too much noise. The last thing I wanted was to regain the interest of the beast.
I reached the backpack, straps in my grasp when I was jolted by a sharp, thundering pain in my other leg. I screamed. Its breathing was heavy and fast. It was excited. I fumbled with the latch of the backpack. Each movement I took, I felt teeth in my flesh. Digging deeper. I cried. I cursed. I hyperventilated. Gasping. Coughing. Spitting. I finally pulled out one of the poison darts.
It was bigger than an average throwing dart. I opened the metal casing, careful not to poke myself in the process. I moved to my side. The pain was unbearable. I looked over my shoulder and the beast stopped long enough to stare into my eyes. Drool and blood dripped from its mouth and nose. I tried to jab the dart at the beast but it was out of reach. Before the creature could continue feasting on succulent Noble flesh, I was able to flip myself over, forcing the beast to leap away.
I held the dart in my right hand and waited. The beast bared its teeth. It licked my blood off its lips as if trying to show me how decadent it was. The eyes, red as fire, bore down upon me. Minutes felt like an eternity. My arm was getting tired and I couldn’t keep it raised any longer. As soon as my arm began to drop, the beast lurched forward. I brought the dart up and hit it straight in the eye as it landed on top of me. I smelt its foul breath as I held back it’s snapping jaws inches away from my face.
After a few hard fought moments, its body went limp. The jaws stopped moving and I could no longer feel its breath against my face. I pushed it off me and it tumbled to the ground. I lay there for a moment, looking up at the stars. It never felt so good to see those twinkling lights. The stars started circling above me as if they were performing a recital. I tried to lift my head but it was too heavy. Now the ground was moving. Shaking. Spinning. Then the lights above blinked out all at once.
Becky wiped the tears from my cheek. She held me close and told me it was going to be alright. I didn’t believe her. Nothing was going to be alright again. Everything was changing. She was my best friend, my confidant, and my strength. She told me that I had to go but she needed to stay behind. I had to be strong, she said.
She sat with me, holding my hand. She reminded me of the time we went hiking in the hills and she had slipped off the trail. She slid half way down, skinning her knees, but found a way to hold on to a loose tree root that sprouted out of the ground. I had come down like Superman and guided her down the rest of the way. She said that I was so brave in that moment that she knew I could face anything.
I told her that I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay. She smoothed out my hair and said that we don’t always get what we want, but must make the best out of what we get. My mother and I left that night. Leaving my father in his drunken stupor and Becky, to make sure he didn’t hurt himself. My mom resisted forcing Becky to go but she thought that after a week, Becky, would have decided to leave and join them in Los Angeles. Becky never left my father’s side. She felt an obligation, I suppose.
My eyes blinked open. I lay there for a moment, still smelling Becky’s scent. In moments of deep despair, my mind takes me to places I don’t often go. I rarely think about the day my mom and I left. It was a memory I would just as much forget. It was a painful reminder of all that Becky and I had missed.
I must have only been out a few minutes. The stars still glittered the sky. I moved my leg a little. It hurt but it was manageable. Attempting to get onto my knees, a heavy growl brought me to a stop. I was sure the beast was dead. My body couldn’t sustain another showdown with it.
“Relax…it’s just me. How…bad are…you?”
Trevor was sitting up. His voice was feeble. He took small breaths between words and looked to be in a considerable amount of pain. I was not much better in the pain department. My body felt like it had been run over by a truck a couple of times over. I was able to get to my feet but had to steady myself to keep from collapsing. My legs felt weak.
The sky was turning lighter. The stars were waning and the sun would be up soon. I limped over to Trevor, who was now on his feet. His face was pale and his eyes distant. If death was determined to enter one of our homes, it looked like Trevor’s door was wide open.
“If we make it to the cave, will they be able to help us?”
Trevor looked over his shoulder at the mountain wall behind us. I followed his gaze. The cave wasn’t opened. It was our only hope. Trevor would never make it down the trail and into town. He had lost too much blood.
“We need…to get closer,” he said.
I gave one quick glance back. The beast was still laying on its side. Motionless. I looked back to Trevor, who was also watching the beast.
“That thing should have…killed you. But…it…did not.”
He was right. I didn’t know what my overall condition was. It wasn’t much better than Trevor’s. I don’t know why I was still alive but was thankful that I was.
I sat down for a moment and pulled the backpack around. I dug in it and removed some cloth bandages. I wrapped the bandage around my leg. Blood soaked through the white fibers almost immediately. I stood up and looked at my leg. It would have to do. I turned to Trevor and offered him the last few bandages. He shook his head and pointed up the trail. I tossed everything back into the backpack and slung it over my shoulder.
We headed up the slight incline to the mountain wall. I hoped that all we had to do was stand in front and it would magically open. I never believed in magic before but because of the last few days, even the thought of Santa Claus’s existence wasn’t that far-fetched of an idea.
We reached the top and I put a hand on the rugged mountain wall. It was solid. Perhaps there was a button to push or a special spell that Trevor had to recite to grant us access to the other side. I waited. Like I said before, I hated to wait.
“Something…is wrong. It should be open.”
Before I could react, Trevor collapsed to the ground. I bent down. His breathing was shallow. I looked at his stomach. Blood soaked through the bandages. His eyes rolled up into his head.
“Trevor, stay with me. Tell me what to do. How do I open it?”
I was shaking. My breathing was fast and shallow. I looked at me and then back at him. His face felt cold to the touch.
“Nothing…to do. They still…sense danger.”
Danger? What danger? I had taken care of the beast and Trevor had taken care of…then it hit me. I got to my feet and awkwardly limped to the edge of the trail. I could barely put any weight on my leg. About thirty feet away, I saw the beast where I left him. A little farther down was the mayor. But he wasn’t. He was gone. I had seemed him lying on the ground. Trevor had shot him. He was dead. I was sure of it.
I turned back to Trevor but stopped immediately. Mayor Hayden was standing over him, holding a gun. The gun I had given Trevor. The muzzle was pointed down at Trevor.
“So, this is the entrance to my world? Open it. Tell them to open it. There is much I need to show them. It will save you.”
He was bleeding from his stomach but didn’t seem hindered by the injury. Perhaps being a half-fledged vampire came with certain perks.
“I can’t open it. I don’t know how. As long as you are here, it won’t open.”
“That’s a shame. I am not the enemy, you know. This world. Your world. Has so much to offer. Here, I can be king. You don’t know what it’s like on the other side. The power my kind has. We could control the world over here. Over there, we are not so special.”
“I don’t know what your kind is. I just want my sister back. I don’t really care what you do.”
“Charlie. You could become like me. There is a lot of fight in you. Not typical of people from your side.”
“I’ve seen Star Wars. If you are trying to get me to go to the dark side, well, it’s not going to happen. If you leave, it will open and I can talk to them. Negotiate for you. Maybe get you a face to face with them.”
It took every ounce of strength to keep on my feet. My legs wobbled. My vision blurred. At any moment, I was afraid I was going to pass out. I took a deep breath and stared into the eyes of death.
“You joke around like his life doesn’t depend on your actions. I have a right to return to my home. Open up the damn portal. Now.”
He began screaming crazily. He turned away from Trevor and pounded his fist on the rigid mountain wall. His fist was hitting so hard, splotches of blood sprayed on its surface. I didn’t know what to do. I left the tranquilizer gun down the trail. The only weapon close was in the hand of the maniac. I had to do something.
The sun was peeking just over the horizon. Its pinkish splash was inching toward us. I wish vampires feared sunlight as much as they did in the movies but that appeared to be another myth my world invented. Just my luck. If there was going to be a protector, it had to be me. Sorry world.
I slung the backpack around and dropped it at my feet. There was one poison dart left. I glimpsed up but Hayden remained with his back to me. I bent down and unfastened to latch. I reached in and pulled out the last dart. When I looked up again, Trevor was on his feet. He was wobbly. He looked at my hand and then turned toward Hayden. He staggered toward him. I understood.
With the dart, shed from its metal casing, firmly in hand, I began to approach from the other side. The two of us. Badly hurt. Bleeding. Going into battle for the last time. Trevor was almost on him. I moved slowly, avoiding to put pressure on my leg. As I neared Harden, he stopped shouting. His bloodied hand came to a halt. The sun had betrayed me by casting my approaching shadow on the wall beside him.
He turned and raised the gun at me. His face was contorted with rage. He had a wild, predatory look in his eyes. I stood five feet from him. The muzzle of the gun loomed largely. Before I could react, Trevor crashed into him. Hayden’s head hit the mountain with enough force to split open a melon. Trevor grabbed his neck and rammed his head again.
I moved forward, raising my hand with the tip of the dart ready to strike. They tumbled to the ground. Hayden was beneath him. I was ready to strike but with the fear of stabbing Trevor, I stopped. They rolled on the ground. Trevor hit him in the throat. Then the nose. Hayden rammed the butt of the gun on the side of Trevor’s head. I stepped back to avoid getting tangled up with them and lose my balance.
Hayden rolled on top of Trevor. I stepped closer. Arm raised high. Trevor still held him by the throat. Without delay, I slammed the dart directly into his spine. He arched his back and let out an anguished, blood-curdling scream. I stumbled backward, leaving the dart stuck in his back. They continued to struggle. Hayden moved his arm toward Trevor. Hayden screamed. Trevor screamed. The gun went off. Trevor’s arm fell to the ground. I heard a gasp. Then Hayden slumped on top of him. They both fell silent.