Devon Rebel woke up on a Sunday completely unaware that it was his last to be alive. He yawned and stretched his arms to his sides as he rolled over to glance at his alarm clock. It wasn’t set of course, as Devon frequently slept in during the weekends if time and fate would allow. The clock glowed 8:32 AM.
He blinked, rubbed his eyes and looked again. He rarely woke up so early, but he felt wide awake. He flopped back down into bed, staring into the ceiling for a moment. He heard his dog whining lightly in his crate, a hallway and room away. Beau, his bulldog, knew he was awake.
Reflex took over, and Devon reached for his phone, which rested on his bedside table, a cord dropping down and ending at the plug-in the wall. He disconnected the charger and pressed the black oval button to turn the screen on.
Five missed calls and three texts awaited his attention. Devon smiled. He was always the charismatic one, the charmer. He had more friends than he could keep up with, but he liked it that way. He flipped through the calls and texts. Two missed calls from his sister, one from his friend Alan, two more from unknown numbers. A small digital four was super-scripted over an envelope representing his voice mail. He flicked away the phone menu with a light touch of his forefinger and brought up the texts.
Laura Rebel: Call me. Have to tell you about lst nght. DRAMA.
Alan Hand: Need to chat. I guess stuff came up. Call me?
Alan Hand: Seriously, call me. No matter the time. I’ll be up.
Devon flicked away the texts like he had the phone log a moment ago. He clicked a silver phone symbol to open up a new call. He saw the log of missed phone numbers listed in order: Unknown, Unknown, Laura Rebel, Alan Hand, Laura Rebel. He shifted his thumb to select Alan’s name and withheld it at the last-minute. He cleared the menu and put his phone down. Later, he told himself. I’ll deal with him later.
After launching into a morning routine involving a 45-minute shower, a quick walk for his dog and a scan of his Facebook (four new friend requests, all of which he accepted), Devon decided to find something to do with his day. He had been invited to a pool lounging cookout at a local apartment complex, but he waved it out of his mind. His already olive skin didn’t need additional wear and tear from the sunlight. The shower had woken him up and improved his mood, but he wasn’t ready to deal with people yet.
He threw on a small black t-shirt and headed outside to his car. Food was the only thing crossing his mind. After pulling out from his driveway, he scanned to the radio stations and found nothing to warrant his interest. He dialed his sister instead.
“Hello,” he stated as the click indicated she had picked up. “Do tell what trouble you got into oh wild one.” His voice was alive with teasing.
“Devon. O.M.G. We went to the club last night, and you’ll never believe what Tanya said! That bitch actually thinks she can get away with it!”
“Did she offend your honor?” He asked and then chuckled while she gasped, so excited to spill her story.
Devon turned right inside his apartment complex, towards the main street. He waited for the gate to open while his sister filled him on a rousing tale of her friend’ Tanya’s deceit in buying one of Laura’s male friends a drink. The gate sprang open, and Devon turned right again right about the part of the story where Laura squealed about Tanya making out with Travis in public.
“And then that Bitch…” she continued, but Devon wasn’t able to hear any more of the conversation. He head was smacked into the window, an air bag rising to buoy him again in the face. He heard the crinkle and rip of metal after the impact, like a movie with an off sound track. I can see your mouth moving, he thought randomly as he tried to lift his head. His vision was so glazed over, he couldn’t discern the figure standing in front of his car from the sunlight surrounding him.
He shook his head, pain shot through his right arm and right foot. He opened his eyes again to make out the man standing right in front of his car, which seemed so peculiar to Devon. The metal and bits of engine seemed to be wrapped around the man dressed from head-to-toe in heavy-duty winter gear.
Devon blinked again, only looking down long enough to check his right arm. A small trickle of blood fell from his shoulder. He trailed it to find a shard of his broken rear-view mirror sticking in his shoulder. Devon tried to wave away the groggy feeling washing through him. Adrenaline raced, and his heart raced faster. He thought it might beat right out of his chest.
He fumbled his left hand against the door handle, while once again looking upwards. He didn’t see the man in front of his car anymore. His left hand connected and he pulled the lever to release the door. With a small push, the door came right open, he was glad he wasn’t trapped or pinned inside. He just wanted to survey the damage.
Left foot first, followed by his left hand gripping the door for support. He scooped up his cell phone from the seat as he shifted from the car to the black gravel of the residential road. As his right foot and rest of his body made it out of the car, he glanced at his phone. Two missed calls. Laura and Alan. The voice mail number jumped to five.
Damn, he thought. Alan was all over his ass.
He realized he could walk without issue, and his only real injuries were the head bump and the small piece of mirror in his shoulder. He pulled the mirror out, his flesh screaming in fiery pain mixed with relief as the intruding shard made its way to the ground.
He walked to the front of the car to witness the devastation. His small two-door coup was silver-grey and only a few months old. He heart sank as he saw the damage to the front of the car. A man-sized hole was punched through almost to the interior cabin of the car. The twisted metal made an U-shape. He had have dreamed hitting the man. The damage resembled hitting a concrete pole or tower, not a flesh and blood man.
He bent down in front of the car to get a better look at the scene. His instinct told him to call the police, but another voice, one he tended to listen to more and more as he aged, told him to avoid the police and figure out someone who could help him get his car to the shop.
Right before he stood up, he went sailing back through the air, and landed hard on his back on the black pavement, an easy thirty feet from his car. The air was knocked out of him. His body sucked down air like it was about to vanish forever. He could hear sounds of someone nearby, a boot crunching on the asphalt.
His right hand was bleeding again, the force of the impact had cut a long curved mark on the upside of his palm. He used his left hand to prop up, his eyes wildly searching for what had happened. He thought a car had hit him. Irony popped into his head.
Just as fast as before, he was pinned down to the ground. A strong cold hand gripped his throat. He looked up to see the man in the winter gear standing over him. “Help me,” he winced outwards, his voice a view into his increasing injuries.
He thought he saw the man smile through the gear which covered every part of his face. The man continued to press down, not choking him, but not allowing him to move either.
“What do you want?” Devon wheezed. The air had found his lungs but fear had filled up the rest of his body. He could speak, but his voice quivered.
The lifted his free right hand and unzipped the long black cluster of fabric from around his mouth. Devon was shocked at how white the man’s skin was, how red his lips were. The man was smiling ear to ear.
“Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had a fresh meal?” the man asked. More of a rhetorical statement, Devon thought to himself. He had no idea what the man’s food and his pinned boy had to do with each other.
The man smiled again, this time showing a row of sharp teeth, canines in every spot. A savage-looking mouth for a savage-looking smile.
Devon thought about trying to fight the man off, but he could feel the strength just in the one hand gripped around his throat. He would be no match. He went for Survival Plan B and jerked his left hand towards his phone. He had just made contact and wrapped his fingers around the device when the man picked him up by his throat, one-handed.
Devon worked quickly with his fingers and clicked the proximity of where he thought he might find the phone icon. The man didn’t seem to notice or if he did, care, as he carried Devon back to his wrecked car. The man slammed Devon against the side of the car, loosening Devon’s grip. He heard the call phone clatter on the pavement as the man snickered again.
“You can call God if you want to, but no one is going to save you,” the man’s voice was an audible sneer. The coldness of it hit Devon like a punch in the gut.
The phone had connected, just not how Devon expected. He heard his voice mail playing from the speakers.
“Message One. Dev! You’re not going to believe what happened with Tonya last night. Call me when you wake up.” His sister’s voice took on an echo.
The man leaned in closer to Devon’s neck, smelling him. “I’m going to enjoy you,” the man said, this time no laughter to be found.”I like a little more fear in the blood. It turns up the acid. Makes you taste like citrus.”
“Message Two. Devon! Oh shit, just call me.” Devon wished with all of his heart for what about to happen to not happen. His sister’s voice was like a beacon, one he couldn’t locate in the dark.
The man bent his neck down, baring his teeth. Devon squirmed with all of his might, trying to kick the man. His right foot connected, and it felt like he was kicking solid concrete.
“Message Three. Devon, it’s Alan. You have to call me. I’m not even mad about you standing me up last night. I had a dream about you. I think you’re in trouble.”
The pain was so intense, Devon nearly passed out on the spot. He felt every single fang pierce his skin at once. It was a fire that flared through his body immediately.
“Message Four. Be seeing you soon.” Devon recognized the man’s voice from the voice mail. Even through the pain, the messages seemed to wire directly into his brain. He thought they may be the only thing keeping him conscious.
The man inhaled, and Devon felt his body growing weaker. He knew the man was sucking the blood right out of his body. His left arm and leg went slack. He couldn’t move them. He couldn’t make a sound.
“Message Five. Devon, I’m worried about you. I had the dream again. I’m coming over there.”
The pain seemed to go on forever, unending and increasing in ferocity by the second. And it stopped. The man pulled back his head, blood running down his mouth and disappearing onto the black fabric of his coat. “You taste sour,” the man spat as much as spoke. “Your soul tastes sour.”
The man dropped Devon onto the ground, where he had no control over the sprawling position of his limbs. Devon felt his heart slow. The pain was so intense, his brain couldn’t focus on much of anything. He half-heard the man walk away, spitting as he stepped. “I usually like the evil ones,” the man said, loud enough to pierce the pain and Devon’s fading alertness. “But you taste Wrong.”
Devon wanted to move. To go somewhere other than a public street to die. He wondered where everyone else was at the moment. Why weren’t they saving him?
His last thought was of Alan. And regret.
Devon Rebel’s mind went to black. His body lurched, went rigid and his heart stopped. Devon Rebel died in the street in the middle of the day. Not realizing his story was far from over.
The minister launched into a rather impressive yet lengthy myriad of scripture, with his monotone voice amplified and echoed through a system of microphones and natural acoustic-driven architecture. Alan scanned the vaulted church ceiling. Intricate patterns and designs spread like a vine-overgrowth down from the apex to the multiple-stories tall stained glass windows.
Alan’s mind blurred between this reality and one in his mind. His perception shifted to when he first met Devon Rebel.
Their encounter was an accident. A fluke of fate.
Alan had always been reticent about letting people into his life. His past was full of familial and friend disappointments, and rather than wrack them up, he remained hyper-cautious and dodged the more intimate relationships romantic and platonic. Yet, all the while, he had amassed a large collection and network of friends, co-workers and acquaintances. Making friends never seemed to be a problem, though he never had the dreams of a social dynasty like Devon.
Devon. He could still see his face for the first time all those years ago. Alan was playing soccer at a local park near his family’s home. The grass was wet from that morning’s sprinklers. Pockets of moisture clung to his white soccer shorts and dampened his socks. He never minded the water. He felt most alive when he was running through a green field, manipulating the ball back and forth, the wind howling back at his speed. He propped the ball up into the air with his right foot, bounced his higher with his left knee and jumped into the air for a goal-scoring kick from the top of his left foot.
His foot connected with the ball, grass and water flying through the air in a slow-motion arc that played back through Alan’s mind. “Hey!” he heard called out from behind him. He lost focus, the ball went to the right of the goal as Alan landed hard on the wet ground.
“Hey!” the male voice yelled again, Alan knew it was closer. Though, his first thought was what a voice this mysterious person had. He could hear him clear across the field.
Alan stood up, rubbing the specs of dirt off his knees, ignoring the disappointment for missing his goal. He turned around to find the body attached to the voice. The sun blared from that direction. He cocked his head and squinted his eyes. His brown hair a mess of curls and swirls. Sweat dripped down his forehead.
The body showed up and introduced himself as Devon Rebel. He was almost as tall as Alan, but broader in the shoulders and chest. Alan thought he might be part Native American, with his jet-black hair and olive skin.
“Can I help you?” Alan asked after accepting and returning a handshake. It was then he noticed Devon Rebel wasn’t alone. Trailing behind him, trying to catch up was what Alan guessed to be an eight-year-old boy.
“I asked around, and they said you own this park,” Devon spoke so fast Alan had to strain to pay attention. “My nephew wants to know if he can practice here? He just started in a league. He kind of needs the practice.”
The nephew caught up with them in time to grimace at Devon’s comment. “I’m not that bad,” the boy said under his breath.
“We own the land, but the park is public,” Alan explained. He caught Devon’s eyes. They were darting from trees to posts to everything else behind Alan.
“Oh cool. You’re pretty good by the way,” he said, still not looking at Alan. “You think you could show him a few moves?”
The nephew’s face lit up at the request. Alan couldn’t say no.
They met every Saturday for a month. Alan liked the practice, and Devon’s nephew, Holland, soaked it up. Devon often sat on the sidelines, yelling encouragements every so often, but otherwise stayed on the phone, texting or talking to various friends.
And that, he knew was when Devon had wormed his way into his life. A simple request. Devon has insisted on paying Alan back by taking him out to grab a beer after the third weekend. Alan declined, but Devon persisted. He didn’t have that many friends in the city yet, he really wanted someone to show him around.
From there, the friendship grew. Through girlfriends, changing jobs, everything, they were pretty inseparable. Alan found they shared the same sense of humor. They liked the same girls. However, they were complete opposites in personality. Where Alan favored small gatherings and one-on-one conversation, Devon loved the raging parties. The bigger the better. Alan often thought Devon loved them so much because he could get completely lost in the crowd, absorbed by the overpowering music and endless options.
Alan was woken from his memory trip by a loud sob from Laura, Devon’s sister. She was two rows in front of him, with a small gathering of Devon’s family. Devon’s father sat on the right side of the church with his wife, while Laura sat by Devon’s mother and her fourth husband.
He was able to glean in a few seconds that the service was ending. They were moving on to the actual burial. He knew he’d have to race over to the cemetery to make sure everything was ready. He waited for a few people to stand up before he bolted to his car. He whispered to Holland, who sat next to him, that he was heading over to the cemetery right away, so he would see him there. He turned around and did the same to his family, who had joined him at the funeral. They nodded, their faces full of concern for Alan and tears for Devon.
Several people rose, so Alan took his cue and exited out a side door. He almost made it to his car when he heard his name in a smokey whisper behind him.
He turned around, recognizing the voice right away. He saw Theresa, Devon’s on-again/off-again girlfriend standing at the church door, staring right at him. “Where are you going?” her raspy voice tore through the night. Tears stained her face. Her waterproof mascara was no match for the sadness that weighed upon her this and in recent days.
“cemetery,” he called back. His voice wasn’t as strong as so many of his friends. He has to put a lot of energy into projecting past a few feet. “Make sure everything is ready.”
She strode over to him, her black dress tight against her body. She slung a red purse over her shoulder. She wasn’t seen anywhere without a touch of red. He let her progress and kept one hand on the door handle.
Theresa stopped a few feet from him. “Can I come with you?” she said more than asked. “All his family…” the tears began to well in her eyes again.
“Of course, get in.” He swung his door open and pushed the unlock button to allow her access to the passenger seat.
They drove in silence for the first few minutes. Alan was glad to get ahead of the procession. The idea of the extended parade of death seemed perverse to him. He wanted away from the idea of dying as quickly as he could flee. Theresa coughed.
“Thank you for what you did.” She was beginning a much longer narrative, Alan sensed. He stayed quiet. It was her time to talk.
“I know it must have been horrible for you to find him like that. But I’m not surprised it was you. If anyone would get him out of trouble, it was you. I bet you didn’t even flinch. You’re so composed.”
Alan’s mind flashed back to the scene of the crime. So much blood everywhere. He shuddered. He didn’t know what reaction she wanted, but knew she was digging for something. She wanted something from him. He kept his eyes on the road and avoided her gaze.
“I think he hated you as much as he loved you. I think he resented how well you knew him. He was so social, so… everywhere.” She used her hands to fan across the car. He knew what she meant.
“But you. You could take it or leave it. I don’t think he ever understood you. He was always chasing something, in life, in other people. You just were. Just untameable.” He heard the implication in her voice. He resented her inference she knew something Devon hadn’t.
“In the end, I think he would have been glad to be in your family’s cemetery though. All that in-fighting between his parents. No telling where they would have buried him. And besides, I think he thought of you as his brother. Good and bad.”
“I would’ve been if he ever let me,” Alan responded. And they remained silent until he pulled into his family’s cemetery.
Alan made sure the gates were unlocked, and the plot was ready. He gave the attendants a head’s up everyone was in transit. Theresa sat on a bench underneath a large Oak tree and watched him as he ran from one person to another, and arranged the rows of flowers and wreaths around the plot.
The burial went on without incident. Devon’s family kept hugging Alan. An endless array of thank yous and sobs. Alan wished he could turn invisible. The pain and suffering was more than he could process. Input, output. That’s how his mind worked. Action and reaction.
In the end, after everyone had left, Alan had stayed behind to watch the gravediggers pour the Earth back from where it came. He watched his friend’s coffin disappear underneath a mountain of brown. By the time they were done, the sun had set. The street lights filtered on, but darkness in the cemetery managed to prevail. Alan wasn’t afraid, this cemetery had been in his family for almost one hundred years. He grew up down the street from it. From every tombstone to the crypts, if there was a mystery withheld from him, it was hidden well.
He sat and stared at his friend’s new resting place. Thirty, maybe forty minutes passed. Everyone else was gone. The sun was gone, and Alan was plunged in darkness. He only then realized how tired he was. The emotional and physical requirements of the day had exhausted him.
He turned to leave, wanting to say goodbye but not knowing what to say. He’d come back tomorrow he told himself.
He was maybe two yards away when he heard a rustle behind him. He figured it was squirrels running down from the large trees that towered over the cemetery from all sides. He head it again, even louder. It was a frantic sound.
Alan turned his head back towards the grave. He almost fell over.
Staring back at him was the now paled face of his friend, Devon. A head floating in a mound of Earth.
Alan swiveled the rest of his body around on the spot. His mouth dropped open, and he froze in place. His deceased friend, Devon Rebel, was staring at him from his own grave.
“Are you going to help me out or just start at me all night?” Devon or (Alan rationalized) Devon’s dead head called out to him. Alan shivered at his voice. It was dry and cold. Like talking to a statue.
Alan took a small step forward. His heart raced in his chest. He stared in disbelief. Devon’s once olive skin had been sucked of all color. His eyes were dark black, though his hair retained its jet black sheen.
“Devon?” Alan muttered.
“Who the hell else would I be?” Devon said as he pulled both his arms out of the dirt. He was starting to push himself completely out of the ground. Dirt and grass decorated his burial suit.
“Zombie?” Alan managed to get out. Fear clenched his chest. A tight fist of fear. And just as fast, he pushed the fear away. Calm logic set in. His friend must have been buried alive. Alan ran over to him, cautious but alert.
“We need to get you help,” Alan said as he grabbed Devon’s right arm. “You were somehow alive. Buried alive.” Alan released his friend’s arm and jarred himself back. Devon was ice-cold and smelled like death. His arm felt like solid steel in Alan’s grip.
Devon seemed to recognize the look in Alan’s eyes as he finished pulling his second leg out of the ground. He spoke slowly as he brushed off some of the dirt from his pant legs. “I think you’ve figured it out. Though, you were always too smart for you own good.”
Devon’s voice took on a wolfish quality. The aggression was palpable in the air. Alan took several more steps backwards. “Vampire,” he mouthed more than spoke.
“Ding ding ding, and we have a winner!” Devon stood up and gave Alan a hungry look. “Want to be on too? You’re certainly pale enough.”
“Pass,” Alan said without even thinking. His mind was alive with tactics and methods for how to leave the cemetery alive. He mind flew back to his great-grandfather’s large walk-in crypt maybe three-hundred yards away. He had to buy himself time to get there.
“How did this happen?”
Devon laughed, a humorless laugh. “I was attacked on the side of the road in the middle of broad daylight. A stranger ripped me from my car and drained me dry, while I listened to your voice message about a damn dream.” Devon shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Alan surmised he wasn’t completely steady yet.
“We need to get you help,” Alan threw out there, as he continued to step backwards. He counted his steps. “Maybe someone can cure whatever happened to you.”
Devon stopped shifting and curled his right hand into a fist. “The only thing I care about right now is drinking you dry.”
A bomb of adrenaline went off through his body. He knew it was now or never. He looked right past Devon and shouted, “Theresa! Run!” He saw Devon flinch and turn, and Alan took off for the tomb as fast as his legs would move.
Alan refused to turn around as he slammed into the door of his great-grandfather’s crypt. Large stone letters read “Hereupon lies Gaston Hand”. Alan pulled the door open and jumped into the crypt. He turned to pull the door shut behind him, and it wouldn’t budge. He saw Devon’s pearl-white hand gripped around the stone.
Devon appeared in the doorway, a smile stamped across his face. “I’ve heard fear makes you taste like citrus.” His voice bounced off the small crypt.
Alan glanced around for a weapon, anything to use to fend off his imminent death. Nothing caught his attention, so he retreated as far back into the tomb as he could, his back against the far wall. Moonlight lit the floor of the crypt where Devon stood.
“I’m your best friend!” Alan shouted. “Don’t kill me!”
His former friend didn’t speak. He moved his right foot forward, attempting to step through the crypt door. A look of frustration washed over Devon’s face. He froze. His foot wouldn’t go past the threshold of the crypt. He pulled the second door open and tried again. No progress. He tried thrashing his arms through, but he was blocked by an invisible barrier.
“What are you doing?” Devon accused. “Stop! I’m HUNGRY!”
Realization dawned on Alan. Some myths were true. Vampires couldn’t come in uninvited. It wasn’t his house, but he owned the land, which were a few dots Alan put together in his mind. “You need an invitation. And you’re not about to get one.”
Devon snarled even louder. He slammed the left door of the crypt so hard, Alan thought it might shatter, but the stone held.
“This is just like you!” Devon roared. “Throwing up complications into everything!”
“I’m so sorry you can’t eat me. I’ll do better next time, promise.”
“No! You always get your way. Why can’t I get what I want? I want to rip your throat out!”
Alan sat down Indian style on the ground. He felt his pocket and realized he had dropped his cell phone in the escape. He hoped other myths were true and Devon wouldn’t be able to survive the sunlight. “I can’t help you there. I’m rather fond of my throat.”
“If I can’t eat you, I’ll eat your family.” And a second later, Devon vanished from view.
Panic leaked into Alan’s body replacing the adrenaline present only moments before. He had no way of telling them. No way of warning them. Alan stood up but remained in his spot, his back still pressed against the windowless wall. He weighed his options. He knew it could be a trap, an easy way for Devon to lure him out into exposure. On the other hand, he tossed around the idea that Devon was hungry and changed enough to actually attack his family. He could slip out, grab his cell phone and run back into the crypt.
Another idea popped into his head. An idea he had with which he had no foundation or parameters. Something inside of him told him to pray. Alan hadn’t grown up religious, so he had on the vaguest notions of even how to approach it. He closed his eyes and gave himself to the idea. He imagined extending his physical presence outward, reaching for some invisible border between Earth and Heaven.
He spoke internally, prayed for protection for his family. And the strangest idea formed in his mind. He asked Heaven to trap Devon in the cemetery. To create an impassable border. When he was done, a few moments later, he released the feeling and looked back outside the crypt. He made a second decision.
He edged his right foot a step forward. His body shook with fear. He had never seen death as such an inevitability. It was living and talking in the form of his friend. He took another step forward, regaining some strength of will. He had decided his fate for better or worse. He was two steps away from the door when a roar threw him off balance, sailing backwards into the stone coffin of his ancestor. His head missed the corner by an inch, but his shoulder wasn’t so lucky. He felt his skin rip through his shirt. A warm and wet sensation slipped down his arm. He pulled himself back up using the coffin for leverage.
Devon appeared in the doorway as soon as Alan recovered his balance. His face was steeled and furious. “What did you? How did you do it?” Devon’s eyes were wild. He beat a fist against the stone door.
“I think I trapped you.”
“Damnit! You would do that.” Devon continued to thrash about.
Anger flared up inside Alan. It came on so strong, he didn’t know he was capable of such instant temper. His blood vessels hummed with it. “Cut the shit Devon! Stop whining like a big Mama’s boy bitch baby.”
Devon stopped thrashing with a fist mid-air. “What did you say?” The shock was evident.
“Stop whining like an undead bitch. You’re stuck. You’re out there crying about how you can’t mass murder me or my family. I’m stuck in a crypt waiting for you to find a way to murder me. You, who was supposed to be one of my best friends.”
Some of the fight must have left Devon, because he let himself fall into a sitting position. “So that’s it,” Devon growled, “You want to sit here and psych away the night.”
“That or kill you before you kill me.”
Devon laughed. It was cold and austere. A marbled laugh. “You always did have a bite to you.” Devon chomped the air, flashing a row of canine-like teeth.
“I’ve always had my own mind, you mean.”
“You always thought you did. But you’re a second tier character. A recurring, not a series regular.”
“I never wanted the spotlight like you. I wasn’t trying to amass an army of subjects.”
Devon smirked. The moonlight struck his eyes, and Alan saw the darkest reddish hue. Devon’s eyes weren’t black, they were filled with blood.
“You couldn’t handle the spotlight,” Devon mocked him. “You’ve never been as funny or charming as me.”
“I never wanted to be. Why is it such a competition? Even dead, you’re still trying to one up me.”
“You wouldn’t fall into line! I gave you chance after chance. You were too busy being that damn blank slate that you are. You barely even register emotions. You probably fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow. You don’t have a damn complex thought in your head.”
Alan shifted back to the floor. He let his legs stretch out in front of him and leaned back against the coffin. “You’d rather me be just like you? Over-thinking everything? Coming up with my own rationale reasons for the completely irrational behavior? Why don’t you try to regulate every thought in my head? Treat everyone with callous disregard? Only care about my own wishes? Why did you even force your way into my life?”
Devon’s face froze. Alan could tell a memory was replaying behind Devon’s eyes.
“You served a purpose.”
The insult stung, but Alan knew Devon had intended it that way.
“I buried you today,” he looked down at his feet while he spoke. He couldn’t look Devon in the face. “I dreamed you would die, and you died. I found your ruined boy ripped apart on the side of the road. I had to bury my friend today, and now this twisted version of him is sitting here taunting me.”
“Ooooh, did I make you all sad? Newsflash Alan, I’m still Devon. I have all my memories tied up in my head. I’m just improved. Whose the bitch baby now? Ohhh, I had to bury my friend! Oh no, I saw his body on the road.”
Alan fought back the rising tide within him. The rage evaporated as fast as it had appeared. He was left empty and worn. Every piece of him felt frayed. Sadness threatened to fill the void, a steadfast, life changing sadness. One he feared he’d never recover from if he let it inside. He looked up at Devon. His friend was so changed and yet so familiar. He looked hard into Devon’s bloodied eyes, and he saw a reflection of himself.
The trigger was pulled. Like a bomb going off, destroying a dam within himself he didn’t even know existed. Alan felt the first effects run down his cheeks. As soon as he tasted the salt of his tears, they flooded downward. Huge loud sobs came out of him. His moan bounced off the stone walls, amplifying within the small space. His body shook with the pressure of it all. He was lost in an ocean of sadness. The last week poured out of him and into the night.
Devon remained silent. Alan expected a taunt or jab. He knew in the back of his mind Devon had never seen him cry before. The riptide lasted another thirty minutes before Alan exhausted himself to the point of passing out. His body resembled crumpled clothes thrown in a corner because the laundry basket was full.
Alan stirred. His neck and back ached from sleeping on the stone surface.
He heard Devon’s voice. Was it all a dream? Did he just have a horrible nightmare?
Alan looked up to see the vampire formerly known as his friend Devon standing at the threshold to the crypt. The nighttime seemed weak, and Alan recognized the beginning moments of sunset.
“I’m scared Alan.”
Devon’s voice almost sounded human. The sinister growl had fled with the coming of the sunlight.
“It’s better this way,” Alan told his friend. “You don’t want to be a killer. You don’t want to live forever.”
Devon shook his head. His black hair flailing around his head. “I don’t want to die again.”
Alan experienced a pang of sympathy for his friend. He was void of words.
A ray of sunlight peered through the horizon. It hit Devon’s hand, starting an instant fire. Devon shrieked in pain. “Invite me in Alan! I can hide in here! Invite me in.” Devon wailed as he tried to put the fire that consumed his hand out. “Let me in!”
For a few seconds, Alan considered it. Devon seemed muted and tame compared to the creature trying to kill him only a few hours before. He would do anything for his friends, but a force he didn’t recognize refused to let him speak the words. “I can’t,” he said instead. “I have to save you from yourself.”
Another batch of sunlight shot through the cemetery, this time catching one of Devon’s ears. The white flesh of Devon’s ear smoked and sparked until there was only ash. A third, even large batch of sunlight found its way to the crypt. This one went for Devon’s chest, soaking right through his shirt.
Alan saw a hole burning through the coat and Devon wailed like an animal caught in a trap. “It burns!” he cried, thrashing to and fro, frantic in his movements. Alan stepped closer, watching his friend die for a second time.
Devon stopped thrashing and collapsed on the ground. Blood ran down his face, and his entire body smoldered. “Promise me something?”
Alan found himself nodding. “Of course.”
“Kill the bastard who did this to me.”
“I promise.” Alan knew this to be true. He promised with something larger than words.
“I remember one thing before I died,” Devon croaked out as his right arm blew away, black ash floating in the wind. “I remember regret. I remembered that I’m sorry.”
Alan knew the tears were back when he saw one splash on the stone floor. “For what?” he asked Devon. “What do you have to regret?”
Devon’s body was almost gone. Most of it was a thick black ash. The sunlight crept upwards, full beams beating down upon Devon’s writhing former body.
“For trying to tame you,” he muttered. “For not being a person.”
Those were the last words spoken by Devon Rebel, human and vampire. The ashy remains blew up into the sky and dissipated on the wind.
Alan walked into the sunlight, letting its beams wash over his face and dry his tears. He looked at the scorched Earth that used to be his friend. “You were a person, Devon,” he said to no one. “You were one of my favorite people.”
Alan closed the doors to his Great-Grandfather’s tomb. He wondered for a few minutes if he had gone insane, but the black scorch on the ground seemed to be obtrusive proof. He walked to Devon’s grave, smoothing the ground where Devon had emerged. No use in letting the word out, he thought. No reason to scare everyone else.
Alan Hand walked out of the cemetery, worn and frayed but renewed with a purpose he never knew existed. Alan had scores to settle and promises to keep. Out of the ashes and into life, he thought as the cemetery gate closed behind him.