Brothers of Chaos (The Unstoppable Titans Book 1) (6 page)

The two boys
stopped laughing immediately and watched the newcomer. They couldn’t tell if it
was a man or a woman, because the figure wore heavy clothes, even though it was
July and the sun was blazing.

“Stay here,”
Chris told Owen as he stood up. The figure took a step forward, then
immediately fell to the side, leaning against a brick wall.

The alley
was mostly covered in shadow, though there was a slice of sunlight that cut an
angle a quarter of the way in. The fallen figure was bathing in the light.

Owen slowly
stood and looked over the trashcans to see the figure better. He had no
intention of going near it, like Chris was doing.

“Oh, my
god,” Chris said as he stood over the figure.

“What is
it?” Owen asked.

“Hey, are
you okay?” Chris asked the stranger. “Did you get burned? Your face looks
burned.”

There was no
reply. Owen, seeing no immediate danger, walked up behind Chris. The young boy
saw what the old boy had been talking about. Owen could now tell the stranger
was a woman, though he couldn’t tell how old she was.

Her face was
red and severely cracked—it looked like she was suffering from very bad
sunburn. She was wearing what had once been a red sweat suit with a hooded
jacket, but the suit was so dirty it was brown in most places. The hood was
drawn over her head, but her face was exposed to the sun.

Both Owen
and Chris gasped as her face appeared to burn and crack even more before their
very eyes. The girl must have been severely sensitive to sunlight.

“Help me
drag her into the alley,” Chris said to Owen. They grabbed her arms and started
pulling the unfortunate girl into the shadows.

What
happened after that turned Owen and Chris into what they were today: monster
hunters. The girl turned out to be a vampire and she had attacked them once
they were out of the sun. Owen and Chris didn’t kill her that day, but instead
ran away, leaving her alone in the alley. The seed had been planted, however,
for they devoted their lives to fighting the creatures after that.

The alley
vampire showed up again later, when Owen and Chris had been sleeping in Chris’s
car under an overpass. Owen stabbed her in the heart with a pencil. He and
Chris learned these vampires were slightly more allergic to the sun than the
most fair-skinned humans, and the sun wasn’t much of a useful weapon.

As for the
Busters and Rejecters, Daniel said those would be the most effective tools in
their arsenal. When Owen once asked why those weapons in particular, Daniel
said, “Alyssa encouraged me to make them.”

*
 
*
 
*

Owen snapped
back to the present and realized his eyes were leaking. He wiped away the tears
and thought of something else, something he hadn’t thought of in years. His
family, together, before Mom left. He remembered how they all used to play in
the field that surrounded their home in Birch. Owen could feel a headache
coming on but ignored it.

He also
remembered an old man with white hair—Grandpa? Owen had been very young when
the old man passed away, so he barely remembered much about him. All he could
remember was that, at some point, the Walters family had been together and
happy.

The headache
increased drastically; it became so bad he forgot what he’d been thinking about
just then.

Oh, yeah, he
was thinking of Chris. Owen had to tell him something, right? He pulled out his
cell phone and dialed.

CHAPTER
7
 
 

Stephanie sat awake in her
hospital bed, subconsciously rubbing the bite mark on her neck. The nightmare
she’d had was still fresh in her mind. She had lost a considerable amount of
blood but did not require a transfusion. Her doctor had told her hours earlier
she would be able to go home the next day. Stephanie simply nodded, not really
listening.

When asked
for an emergency contact, she had picked her best friend Becky Simon. Stephanie
didn’t want to call any of her actual family members; she hadn’t spoken to her
parents in nearly ten years, back when she had been a “difficult” teenager.

No, there
was no need to involve them in her life now. Not after they had walked in on
her and Becky sharing a harmless cigarette. They’d kicked her out of the house
for that. Her life had been going perfectly fine until Eric…

Stephanie
started to shake suddenly; just thinking of him forced that nightmare back to
the front of her mind. She had met him at City Lights, her favorite downtown
club. He had seemed nice enough: He’d bought her a drink and didn’t come off as
desperate or forceful. He had been a perfect gentleman. And it had been her
idea to invite him back to her place, though she hadn’t planned on making out
with him or anything—that had been a completely unexpected surprise.

Then the two
of them had become animals.

And then,
once gaining control of themselves, they’d gone back to her room to watch some
TV. She had been pretty embarrassed she’d forgotten her self-control, though it
had been Eric who’d made the first move.

Now
Stephanie remembered what had happened after they’d gone back to her room. The
TV had only been on for a minute when he started kissing her again. She tried
to push him off playfully, but then he started getting forceful.

And then he
bit her.

Stephanie
still couldn’t believe what had happened. She tried to understand but found she
couldn’t. What she also couldn’t understand was where those two guys—both
wearing dark hoodies as if to hide in darkness—had come from. They had been in
her house, though she didn’t mind now, given the circumstances. But where had
they come from? Why had they been there in the first place? Stephanie hadn’t
thought to ask them these questions at the time because she had been in shock
and weak from blood loss.

If she ever
got the chance again, she would learn more about them.

*
 
*
 
*

Chris sat in
his car in the parking lot of San Sebastian Hospital, unable to actually go
inside the building. What good would it do? He just had to see her again. He
knew Stephanie had to be scared after the attack she had suffered. He felt
responsible for her situation.

He couldn’t
get her out of his mind. He wondered if it had anything to do with the fact the
same vampire had bitten them both, if they had some kind of psychic
connection—that’s how it always was in books and movies, right? If that was so,
such connection should have been severed the moment Eric was killed. This was
all guesswork, though; this was the first case Chris ever had to deal with. He
and Stephanie were the only two people he knew of to survive an attack.

But wait!
Eric and the others had to be cases of people who survived, too. Right? They
had become vampires (or whatever), after all, so not every victim had been
killed off. But how long would it take before Chris and Stephanie changed?

His cell
phone rang in his pocket. He answered.

“Hey. You
busy?” It was Owen.


Kinda
. What’s up?”

“I was just
thinking about heading to the river. I need to talk to you about something.
Think you can meet me there when you’re done?”

“Yeah, you
got it. Is it bad?”

“I’ll tell
you when you get here.”

Owen did
sound concerned, but Chris’s desire to see Stephanie didn’t lessen. He said
goodbye and hung up.

He hated
hospitals—they were so alien to him. He snuck a peek at Stephanie’s room number
on a chart at the nurses’ station and walked down the long hallway, glancing at
the rooms until he found hers.

She was
lying in her bed, staring at the window. The blinds were down, though. Chris
approached slowly, as not to scare her. He figured she’d be jumpy.

“Stephanie,”
he called gently.

She turned
around and quickly wiped tears from her face. Her eyes were red and swollen.

“Remember
me?” he asked.

She nodded.
Chris noticed a faint smile and her pale face suddenly started to fill with
color.

“Can I sit?”
he asked.

“I don’t
know.
Can
you?” She laughed.

“Ah, you got
me there.
May
I sit?”

She nodded
again. He grabbed a chair and sat at the end of her bed. He wanted to give her
space.

“My name is
Chris. I know you have a lot of questions as to what happened tonight, and I’m
afraid I don’t have all the answers, but I want to at least try to help you
understand.”

“I was
bitten by a vampire,” Stephanie said bluntly.

“Okay.” This
took him by surprise. “I guess you do understand more than I gave you credit
for.”

“It wasn’t
that hard to figure out. I meet a guy who thinks he’s a vampire. He bites me.
Not that difficult.”

There was
the rub. She didn’t realize Eric had actually been a vampire. How was Chris
going to break it to her?

“Stephanie,
there’s something you need to understand. Eric didn’t just think he was a
vampire. He was one.”

Stephanie
said nothing to this. What was there to say? Chris was expecting a slew of
questions, but she seemed unable to form any. He pressed on.

“My friend
and I weren’t there by coincidence. We were following you two. We knew what
Eric was; he attacked a girl hours before. Maybe even more we don’t know
about.”

Chris could
see this news sinking into Stephanie. The color from her face—the color he had
put there—was slowly disappearing again.

“But we got
him. He’s gone now. I promise.”

Stephanie
looked away. “Then why do I keep looking at the window, waiting for him to
crash through it? He doesn’t feel gone.”

Chris had
that same feeling. A sense of dread washed over him. He suddenly felt ill. He
felt the urge to leave, but stayed in his seat.

“I was
bitten by him, too,” he said.

Stephanie
turned back to face him. He pulled away the collar of his shirt and showed her
the puncture marks on his neck.

“You used me
as bait, didn’t you?” she suddenly asked after a horribly long silence.

“We didn’t
want to. We wanted to act sooner, but he was hard to find. We found out he was
at that nightclub, thanks to a friend, but then we lost sight of you two. Since
I knew who you were and that the vampire probably didn’t have a house, I
chanced going ahead to your house to wait. We’re just glad you showed up.”

“Who’s
‘we’?”

Chris
realized he was being vague. “My friend Owen. Actually, there are others.
There’s also Daniel and Alyssa. We all fight monsters like Eric. Real monsters.
They really do exist.”

Chris didn’t
realize he had raised his voice excitedly when he mentioned monsters. Stephanie
was gripping her covers tightly.

“I’m sorry.
I didn’t mean to scare you. I have monster issues.” He laughed.

“I think we
all do, now.” She lowered the covers a little. “What happened?”

Chris, who
had been looking at the floor with forced curiosity, looked back up. “It’s a
long, horrible story. It’s not really suitable for right now.”

He tried to
force a smile, but he could tell Stephanie wasn’t buying it.

“Well, you
know my story—hell, you’re part of it—so when you feel like telling me yours,
I’ll listen.”

“Thanks.
I’ll remember that.”

“You know, I
think I remember you from somewhere.”

Chris
narrowed his eyes comically, as if wondering what she meant. Stephanie laughed;
it was beautiful.

“We went to
high school together, didn’t we?” she asked.

“Yeah,
Newville High.” Chris smiled. “A million years ago.”

Stephanie
laughed again. “Oh, my god. It’s all coming back to me now. I remember we had
Chemistry together. We were lab partners and everything.”

“Yeah,” said
Chris. “We accidentally made this gas that cleared out the whole room.”

“How did I
forget that?” She wasn’t laughing now; she seemed concerned now as she stared
off at space.

“You’ve
probably had a busy, interesting life. Why would you remember little old me?”

She looked
back at him now, a crooked smile on her face. “You saved my life tonight. I’ll
never forget you again.”

She reached
her hand out to him. He grinned as he took it into his own. They stayed that
way for a long time.

*
 
*
 
*

Owen stood,
watching Trident River rush by. He was only a few miles from the condo.
Although it was night, the river was still beautiful; the moon was shining off
of the water’s surface. The sound of it was tremendous. It almost made him
forget Chris still hadn’t shown up. Owen checked his watch. It was 2:33 a.m. He
couldn’t believe the day he’d had. First, they’d tracked the vampires to the
Trails, and then followed one to a night club, and then to Stephanie’s house.
That was several days of monster hunting in just a few hours.

He sat down
on the concrete slope just inches from the water. He wasn’t afraid of falling
in, but he was careful anyway. He and Chris used to come to this river a lot
when they’d first met. It was their little hangout when they needed to get away
from everything. Owen crawled closer to the rushing water, staring at his
reflection. It seemed more distorted than it should have been, as if there was
a small black object under the water directly where his face reflected back at
him.

“Here I am,”
a voice said from behind, “making it my life’s work to fight the evils of this
world, and yet, I’m contributing to teenage alcoholism.”

Owen spun
around, almost falling into the river. Chris was standing behind him, holding a
six-pack of beer. Owen crawled back up the concrete wall and grabbed the beer;
he and Chris sat down and both opened a can. It had been a while since Owen had
alcohol. It tasted fantastic. Alyssa always complained about the taste of beer,
but he couldn’t see why. She had to have her wine coolers.

“Where did
you get this?” Owen asked, holding up his can. “It’s after hours.”

“Stopped off
at a friend’s house and liberated it from him.” Chris winked.

Owen laughed
and nodded.

“What’s so
important?” Chris asked, hypnotized by the water. “You’re not thinking about
leaving us and starting a new life, are you?”

Owen knew
that was a joke. Since he had never finished high school, he had no diploma. He
didn’t even have a real driver’s license. Nevertheless, he was pretty happy
with his life as it was.

“I don’t
know what I was thinking when I said it—I guess I was afraid you’d be
disappointed in me—but I wasn’t entirely truthful when I said Eric was dealt
with properly.”

“You didn’t
bury the leftovers?”

“There were
no leftovers. I didn’t kill him—he escaped.”

Chris said
nothing. He didn’t even look at Owen. He continued to be hypnotized by the
river. He was quiet for so long, Owen started to worry. Then, Chris finally
said, “I know.”


Bullcrap
!”

“Really, I
know. I can feel him.”

“Yeah,
that’s not weird at all.” Owen smiled, nudging Chris’s shoulder.

“Watch your
mouth.” Chris nudged back.

“Yes, ma’am.”

They were
both laughing now. Then Chris became serious again.

“Stephanie
can feel him, too.”

“How do you
know that?”

Chris didn’t
answer right away, instead taking a swig of his beer. He looked like he was
thinking really hard. That river had him transfixed.

“I went to
see her before coming here,” he finally said.

“How is
she?”

“She’s
scared, but she’s holding up. She’s a lot tougher and smarter than most girls I
know.”

He took a
longer swig.

“You’re into
her, aren’t you?” Owen suddenly asked.

“You just now
figured that out?”

“That’s why
you acted the way you did at her house?” Owen asked, remembering the shivering
Chris had done when he saw Stephanie with Eric.

“We actually
went to high school together. She just barely remembered me. I had the biggest
crush on her. Still do.”

“Are you
going to tell her how you feel?”

Chris took
his final sip, and then crushed the can in his hand. “Maybe, but not now.”

Owen thought
about Chris’s last words for a moment. Owen himself had never been in love, but
he figured if he ever did finally meet the girl of his dreams, he’d tell her
immediately how he felt about her. He couldn’t understand why Chris was
refusing to take action. What was he afraid of?

Chris tossed
the can toward the river. It landed right on the edge of the water. Owen
started climbing down to it.

“First
you’re contributing to underage drinking, and now you’re littering.” He reached
for the can. “You’re totally going to hell—”

Something
burst out of the water and snapped at him. Water sprayed him in the face; he
jumped backward. Chris crawled down and grabbed Owen, pulling him back.

They both
watched in amazement as a small, dark creature began chewing on the beer can.
It had dark brown fur all over its body. Its face was short and squashed, its
legs and arms tiny. Its large yellow eyes glowed in the darkness like little
flashlights. Chris and Owen didn’t know what to do—they couldn’t move.

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