Authors: Jerry Hart
will,” Daniel offered. “Besides, this place is so awesome and I want to see the
rest of it.” Chances were good the two vampires they were looking for were on
the first floor. Let Owen and Chris handle them; Daniel wanted to check out the
rest of this architectural masterpiece.
climbed the rope ladder and immediately noticed two guys with their backs to
him, kissing a girl on her face and neck. This wasn’t the first time Daniel had
walked in on a threesome, but he felt embarrassed nevertheless.
then he noticed something. The girl’s face and neck were covered with blood.
Her mouth was open like she wanted to scream, but no sound came out.
no! Those were the two vampires the monster hunters were looking for. They had
to be. And sure enough, they were dressed oddly. Both were wearing shiny
gold-colored shirts, but one was wearing purple jeans and the other red. No one
in their right mind would think these were a good look.
started going down the rope ladder when one of the boys turned around and
looked him straight in the eyes.
blood on the boy’s face was that much redder compared to his pale skin. His
eyes were wide and animalistic. They almost seemed yellowish and bright, but
Daniel couldn’t tell for sure from where he stood.
other boy turned, too. He had blood in his blond hair as well as all over his
face. How these two were planning to get away from this place unnoticed was
unclear to Daniel. Sure, it was dark, but someone was bound to notice a dead
body and two guys covered in blood.
was clear was Daniel needed to tell Chris and Owen. Now. He began climbing down
the ladder when the two monsters lunged at him. Daniel screamed as he involuntarily
let go of the rungs and fell. But he didn’t fall onto the first floor; he fell
it and headed straight for the
right arm got tangled up in the ladder and he came to a jarring halt a few feet
off the ground. That didn’t last long, though, as the arm slipped out, and he
fell the rest of the way, landing on that very arm. He screamed again when he
felt it snap.
was already on his way down to him, but Owen was headed up to the second floor.
With all the attention on Daniel, no one noticed a figure leap from the top
floor into the field farther out a moment later, no one except Daniel. Despite
the pain, he saw it.
had killed one of the vampires, but the other escaped. The girl was now safe
but in dire pain. The three young men took her to the car and drove her to the
hospital. While there, Daniel got his arm taken care of. The girl told the
police about the attack, and that these three young men had saved her life. She
wouldn’t be the first.
The arcade wasn’t packed
tonight; it never was nowadays. Les Huntington was actually happy about this.
With the advancement in videogame technology, nobody had to leave his or her
homes to experience top-of-the-line gaming. Les himself refused to buy
next-generation game systems; it just wasn’t the same as sticking quarter after
quarter into these beasts until the end of the game was reached, and in his
hand was a big bag full of fun-money.
found his favorite game,
at the far end of the arcade … but some red-haired kid was already playing it.
pushed his glasses back, set the bag of quarters down on the pinball machine
and stood there,
watching. The redhead was pretty good. He was already battling
in the final stage. That was an impressive feat.
Les wondered how long it had taken this guy to master the game. It had taken
Les a month.
was a beast of a videogame
villain, the hardest Les had ever encountered. On the game screen, he was a
measly seven inches while the hero
, with his
long black hair and square jaw, was four. Had
been in the real world, standing next to Les and this redhead, he would have
towered over them both.
really good at this,” said Les.
redhead turned to him. He didn’t stop playing the game, though—he was playing
without watching. That impressed and scared Les.
about to kill you,” said Les.
the redhead moved the joystick quickly to the left and pressed a button. The
swung his little sword, which
served as the final blow to poor monstrous
long did it take you to master this game?” Les asked.
is my first time playing,” said the redhead, still looking at him.
didn’t believe that for a second, though his stomach started to turn with
jealousy. This was the hardest game in the whole arcade and Les was a
self-proclaimed gaming genius. It required an incredible amount of skill. There
was no way some kid could just come in and master it on his first try. Les
looked this new guy up and down. He was tall and appeared to be at least
seventeen, shoulder-length red hair, pale skin with freckles, and rather
sickly-looking, like he was just getting over a bug. Les had a whole year on
him, age-wise. That extra time meant more experience, in life and in
videogames. Or so Les believed.
telling me,” Les said, “you beat this whole game on your first try?”
the redhead replied simply.
helps if you have a killer instinct.”
didn’t know what to say to that. He just stared at the stranger for a moment.
He looked harmless.
I’m sure I could
probably take him in a fight,
Les thought to himself. “Do you have a killer
stranger didn’t answer. He had a curious look on his face, as if he were thinking
hard about the question. Then, he said, “No.”
good. Killing isn’t cool, man.”
dad used to say it was okay to kill. Some people deserve it.”
your dad the devil or something?” Les asked with a snort.
stranger didn’t answer. He just smiled and turned back to the game.
tell me you’re playing again,” Les protested. “I was hoping to play.”
stranger stepped away from the game. “Do you have a killer instinct?” he asked.
thought it wasn’t required to play.”
not talking about the game,” the stranger said. He was looking past him,
though, toward the entrance of the arcade. Les turned around and saw three guys
walking toward them. One of them was African American and well built, and his
name was Curtis Merriman. The other two guys were David Hernandez and Marco
Garcia. They were all wearing videogame-related shirts—geeks, but still
Les,” said Curtis.
smiled back but didn’t say anything. He was not racist by any stretch of the
imagination, but he had this annoying reputation for being one. He was fairly
certain where it all started: a joke gone awry.
Curtis. How are things?” Les asked nervously.
said Curtis. He noticed the redhead. “Uh-oh, it looks like someone’s
’ your game.”
no, I’m letting him play. It’s not a big deal.”
your name?” Curtis asked the redhead, offering his hand to shake.
stranger took Curtis’s hand and said, “Michael.”
’ Les here is really defensive about his game. Won’t let
anybody play it when he’s in the house.
patted Les on his considerable belly.
depends on the person,” Les said.
left eye twitched. Les noticed this and became more nervous. “I mean, if the
person sucks at it, then yeah, I have a problem. But this guy just beat it on
his first try.”
that right?” Curtis asked Michael.
you ever known Les to lie?” Michael asked.
but I’ve known him to do other things.”
knew this moment would come. There was no way he would ever live that joke down.
must be a regular videogame ninja, huh?” David asked. Les had forgotten about
the other two guys with Curtis.
never played a videogame before today,” Michael replied.
and his friends laughed. They were responding the way Les would have if he
hadn’t been overtaken by a jealous rage first. Anger was almost always
first response. Curtis and his pals suddenly became
antsy, and Les was determined to leave and let the stranger deal with them.
Most of all, he was willing to leave his precious
neglected this week. He couldn’t explain his obsession
with the game—he loved it more than someone should love an inanimate object.
more than anything, he wanted to get the hell out of there. The atmosphere had
grabbed his bag of quarters off the pinball machine. “Well, guys, I think I
’. Busy day tomorrow.”
you didn’t play your game,” Curtis said.
won’t kill me; I play it so much. Plus, I live right down the street, so I can
play it anytime.”
nodded with a smile. Les wasn’t sure if the smile was sincere or sarcastic.
Curtis wasn’t a bad guy; Les knew that. But Les had made a mistake in his
presence that had tarnished their brief friendship severely. If anything,
Curtis was being surprisingly civil about the whole situation. Nevertheless,
Les was uncomfortable being around him. Why did this stranger—this Michael—have
to ruin his schedule? If he hadn’t been there, Les could have been playing
when Curtis came in. He would’ve
been too wrapped up in the game to notice, and if Curtis had come over, Les
could’ve used the game as an excuse not to talk.
as the situation was, he was exposed to the elements, so to speak. His only
escape was to leave. With his quarters in hand, he made his way past Curtis and
his friends. That’s when the unexpected happened.
said, “Les, is this the guy you said is darker than the night sky?”
stopped dead in his place. He had never said anything remotely like that. What
was this guy’s problem? He turned around, sure he was going to meet Curtis’s
fist, but he was pleasantly surprised. Instead, Curtis wasn’t even looking at
him. He was looking at Michael.
really say that?” Curtis asked.
said nothing. Les detected a subtle grin on his face, though. This guy seemed
to like causing trouble.
preferred to keep his own nose clean. “Curtis, I never said that. I just met
nodded, keeping his eyes on Michael. “I believe you, Les.” He stepped closer to
Michael. “You guys just met, right?”
you expect me to believe in the short time you two have known each other, I
just happened to come up in your conversation?” Michael didn’t answer. Curtis
backed away. “Les, you might want to pick your friends better.”
and David began to leave. Marco, on the other hand, stayed behind. Curtis
noticed and said, “You
stick around a minute.”
and David stood there for a moment, apparently contemplating whether or not to
get Marco to go with them. He and Michael stared each other down. Neither of
them blinked. Les wasn’t sure what to do next. He felt a fight coming on (Marco
had a reputation for being a bully), and even though Marco was beefier than
Michael, Les had an odd feeling the latter was more than he appeared to be.
Marco, we don’t have time for this crap,” Curtis said heatedly. “He’s not worth
think he is,” said Marco.
you get your butt whooped, don’t come crying to me.”
looked at Curtis and laughed. “I think I can handle this.”
what’s up with you and that chick Alyssa?” Curtis asked David distractedly as
they turned to leave. He slapped
belly with the
back of his hand as he walked past. A friendly pat, perhaps? Les could tell
Curtis was furious with Marco, though.
don’t know. I haven’t seen her in a while. We’re friends and all, but I’m still
waiting for the day when she finally invites me to her place. I haven’t seen it
followed them out of the arcade. This wasn’t the first time he had heard of
Alyssa, though he’d never met her. He found it curious that David didn’t know
where this Alyssa girl lived, considering they were practically best friends.
Either way, it didn’t involve Les, so he wasn’t going to dwell on it. He glanced
back at Marco and Michael. They were talking. About what, Les wasn’t sure. And
he didn’t want to stick around to find out.
and Michael continued staring at each other after everyone left. The arcade was
empty save for one cashier behind the front counter. He was leaning back in his
chair, dozing. Michael eyed the clerk, his head turned in that direction.
do this or what?” asked Marco.
held up a hand to hush the boy. Marco wondered what he was doing. He looked
like he was checking for any stray customers.
alone, bud,” Marco said. “Besides the guy behind the counter. Unless you want
to go outside.”
slowly turned to face him. “I’m going to give you a choice. You can either
apologize to me, or you can choose to let me kill you right here, right now.”
tilted his head to the side in confusion. “Apologize for what?”
wasting my time.”
“That’s not much of a choice,” Marco said to
the only one you get. Choose carefully.”
chuckled. “How about I choose to beat you down?”
wasn’t one of the choices.”
then, I guess I choose to let you try and kill me.”
stood there for another moment, and then suddenly walked over to the cashier.
are you doing?”
rid of any witnesses,” said Michael as he slowly wheeled the cashier into a
backroom behind the counter. Marco was leaning against a pinball machine,
feeling uneasy, when the redhead returned.
stood across from him now, his hands at his sides, palms up. “I’ll let you
throw the first punch.”