Chapter 97 - M.

Warm sunlight on your skin, is one of the most underrated feelings in the world. It isn’t a bad way to wake up in the morning. Sun creeping through the curtains and gently caressing your face. It doesn’t hurt that Destiny is sleeping gently next to me. I can’t blame her, she took down a troll, and took a beating in the process. Then we celebrated all night. The Wererats really know how to party. Drinks, food, celebrations. Vicki let me know I should check my bank account in a few weeks after they’ve had a chance to sell everything they took.  

I roll out of bed gently and look back at Destiny. I’ve slept over her apartment before, but this is the first time we shared a bed. We still haven’t had sex, but I can’t miss what I never had. Sometimes, I ask myself why I went back, or if I ever did. Maybe we just created something new. Training tother and hunting criminals used to be our intimate moments, even if they weren’t so intimate.  

Last night, I bandaged her wounds and learned some vampire first aide. We fell asleep cuddled together, just talking about the wild day we had. I like being the big spoon. I like sharing a bed with her. I could get used to this. For a moment the thought of her killing our relationship again worms into my head. I banish the thought, because love is murdered by our unfulfilled fantasies and intrusive insecurities.

I make my way from the bedroom to the balcony and just look down on the neighborhood. It’s a chilly fall day but standing in the sun provides the warmth needed. Nobody seems to be out yet, but stores are opening and every now and then a car drives by. Nothing wrong with a slow Saturday morning. Breakfast crosses my mind. A big breakfast for a job well done. Pancakes, maybe scrambled eggs with some peppers, can’t forget orange juice, and sausage. She prefers bacon, but bacon is trash, and I’m cooking so she’ll have to live. Blood, does she have blood, I check the fridge. Perfect, she can have that instead of orange juice, it’ll help her heal up faster.

After checking to make sure she’s still asleep I grab my jacket and out. I don’t bother driving, I just walk down to the corner store. I chuckle at the idea of me nursing her back to health and making breakfast this morning. Not too long ago I would have stayed up late playing video games or something, then slept until late in the afternoon.  

I try to cook quietly while Destiny still sleeps. Eventually the smell of pancakes gets her out of bed. Hair unwrapped and spread out in different directions, wearing a shirt way too big for her, hiding shorts that are way too small and she’s still just as beautiful as ever. The pancake almost burns as I watch her slink into a chair at the kitchen table, still half asleep.

“Pancakes smell good Bluebird,” she says through a haze.

“My secret ingredient,” I toss the last pancake into the pile.

“Is it love?”

“No, cinnamon. Most people mix it with the batter, but it’ll just burn if you do that. Gotta add it right before you flip, that way it only cooks for a minute or so,” I mastered cinnamon and pancakes at fifteen.

“You’re even nerdy about cooking? Oh, this isn’t bad,” she takes a big bite of the scrambled eggs.

“I don’t cook a lot, but when I do, I try to get it right,” I love cooking for other people.

“You were going to let me serve you crispy meatloaf, and you could cook? We could have pancakes every day.”

“I can make other stuff.”

“Great, from now on you cook and I’ll do the dishes.”

“Is this a normal thing now,” I stuff a bite of pancake in my mouth

“I hope it is.”

Chapter 96 - M.

“This is Bluebird and Icky Vicky checking in. Cameras are rolling, we’ve got access to your magic cams. We’re all set to start knocking out alarms and draining accounts,” Vicky radios in.

“The Fates ready to cut the strands,” Destiny calls back from one of the safehouses with her team.

“Rats ready for the new era of piracy,” Lynn radio backs.

“Alright, alarms down,” I inform Vicky.

“Team you are a go,” Vicky sends them off.

I let Vicky worry about emptying accounts, I’m not interested in cyber crime, not as a career move anyway. Instead I focus on monitoring the ongoing situation. The Fates, as they call themselves, or the attack team strike hard out the gate. They’ve employed wizards to put up shrouds keeping normal folks out while they go wild. I watch on one screen as a big Orc hired for the job crashes straight through the wall and starts fighting anything not dressed in our agreed Black with the ski masks. Not as uniform as the vampires’ attack, but same idea, hide our faces. Others take different routes, vanishing from sight entirely choosing to stealthily kill. They’re going after vampires first and foremost. So far the only people guaranteed dead were a few vampires. The view becomes useless as more light fills each screen. There’s a lot of ways to kill vampires, and they’re all being used to draw them out but the magic light attacks is to catch them off guard.  

“Hey Lynn, you’re going to want to break through the floor in front of the fire extinguisher on the East wall of the building. Straight cash hidden in the floor,” I give her some information as they clean out one of the key warehouses.  

“Good call, I would have gotten that back in my dad,” she punches a huge rat fist through the floor without transforming her entire body.

I didn’t know she could do that. Switching back to Destiny’s cam is useless, she’s moving way too fast for me to keep up. It seems like she’s prioritizing finding the chalice and leaving the fights to those hired to do the job. Get your money’s worth I guess.

“Vicky, how’s it going on your end,” I ask.

“White collar crime is the future of this guild and I’m damn good at it,” she giggles knowing she’s doing something illegal. That’s a red flag.

“Hey Lynn, incoming from the North side of the building. Go ahead and move to the next spot,” I give her the update.

This is the part I really wanted to see, the one piece of the plan I couldn’t believe. All of the things they’re stealing from this location is right in the center of the main room. A scrawny looking mage throws his hands up and the cameras go black. When my view is clear again, they’re right in front of me with all of the stuff. They really had a teleportation spell, that’s incredible. The team here starts loading things into trucks right away as the mage teleports them to the next warehouse, on the other side of town to give them more time. I was told the teleportation guy was expensive, but he’s worth it.

“Alpha house clear,” one of the Mercs radios in.

“Any casualties,” I ask.

“Just a bunch of vamps. Once thrall died, but he tazed himself and had a heart attack. That’s just stupidity,” he doesn’t laugh as he gives me that information so I know he’s serious.  

“I guess we can’t do anything about that. Funds will be in your accounts this evening. Feel free to take anything you want, and be safe,” I didn’t want any deaths, but we can’t stop idiots.

“Charlie house here, we’re clear as well,” another Merc calls in.

“Good job, travel safe,” I feel like a truck drive on CB Radio, I used to love Smokey and The Bandit.

I switch over to Destiny’s camera, and the view is straight up at the ceiling. Shit, that’s bad, she isn’t moving. The only movement comes from her shallow breathing, but I can hear all kinds of chaos around her. A savage roar forces me to rip off my headset. Large hairy white arms come smashing down and ending her camera view.  

I recognize those arms, she’s against whatever that big thing was. I can’t get there to help, I’d only be in her way, but she can take that. I flip through other cameras trying to get a view of the scene. Finally, I land on a group of mercenaries and rats squaring off with the creature.

“Vicky, what the hell is that,” I can’t call it.

“That, is a troll, a half troll it looks like,” the excitement she had earlier is gone.  

A troll, haven’t seen one of those. It’s large and hairy along most of it’s body. Only wearing sneakers and the same track suit bottoms as the attack. It’s entire torso is covered in fur and while it stands straight up, the body looks more gorilla than man, almost like an albino ape. But the face, the face looks way more human. I can see why it might be half something else because I can’t imagine a human sleeping with a full-sized troll. Bullets hit but don’t seem to have any effects. Lightning bolts and flames seem to be more effective but not enough to bring it down.

Destiny’s camera is done but in the corner of another screen, I watch her roll over onto her hands and knees. I’m was hoping she would stay down and play dead, but I knew that wouldn’t happen. Another part of me hoped she was running away when she got up. I knew that wasn’t true when I spotted her smashing a display case and picking up a sword. For a moment it looked like she purposely cut her own hand. I realize that was the case when she runs her hand across the blade, seemingly leaving a trail of her own blood. She’s delusional from the beating.

One of the wizards blasts Destiny’s sword with a bolt of fire after she seemingly threatens her. Somehow the sword remains on fire and Destiny glances at it like the key to all of her problems. I remember Destiny telling me she wasn’t a weapons expert, and her sword work is proof. Still, the burning and bloody blade seems to be doing damage on the troll, or at least letting other people’s attacks do some damage.  

It’s still a long fight, but eventually the beast falls. Either from exhaustion or they finally managed to hurt it enough. The mages with them quickly work to cast some kind of spell over it. I’m not sure if they’re binding it or killing it.

“This Bravo House. We got the chalice and we did that shit,” Destiny radios in.

“Yeah,” is all I can say.

“You gotta teach me that thing with the fire sword,” Vicki chimes in.

Lynn and her team appear back in the warehouse, after a few minutes. Everything went smoothly this time around. If I hadn’t watch close to forty vampires die today, I might think things went too smoothly. Even if these folks are as heartless as Destiny claims, they wouldn’t sacrifice that many of their own. They probably lost hundreds of thralls too, all over the city, maybe country. I banish the thought of things going too smoothly and celebrate with the rest of those at the warehouse. I feel like I just won a championship, and champagne never tasted so good.

Chapter 95 - M.

I grab my backpack from the trunk as Destiny scouts the location for any possible attacks. We’re in a small war with the Morson house right now and we can’t afford to be caught slipping again. After last time, most people chose to flee. There’s a group of maybe ten of us meeting at an abandoned warehouse just outside the city today. We’re calling it a survivor's session, but we’re going to finish the job. We’ll probably need to hire some outside help since a lot of The Wererats fled to branches in other cities, not wanting more violence. Most of them can handle themselves in a fight, but like me, they’d rather deal with it other ways.

I would have been against it a couple of days ago, but Destiny and I stayed up chatting over the phone about it. She talked me through it. Killing vs murder, some meditation and got my head right, or close to where I was. It’s an ongoing process. I settled on killing being something that’s justified. Protecting yourself or another person, I killed people, but I didn’t murder anyone. Murder is killing, but with malicious intent. She wouldn’t tell me the total, but she keeps track of how many people’s she’s killed. She did tell me her first kill was in August of 2005, so she hasn’t exactly been a cold killer her entire life like I painted her as.  

This is actually the first time we’ve been together since the night she broke in. We’ve been taking it slow, trying to get to know each other for real. She’s been a lot more open with me, something I wanted the whole time. It’s been nice, but I’m still nervous about the idea that it won’t last. She convinced me to help with all of this again, promised I wouldn’t have to fight anymore. I agreed, because she helped me with the whole PTSD killing thing.  

Vicky rushes up and hugs me tightly as we walk into the warehouse. I’ve been talking with her too. She doesn’t want to leave the city because this is where her parents immigrated to, and they’ve built a nice life. I can see the anger in Destiny’s eyes, even if there’s nothing romantic going on with us. I break the hug, since Destiny has been honest about being hurt in the past.

“Hello Destiny,” Vicky greets her in a fake happiness.

“Vicky,” Destiny attempts to keep it cordial.

“Stop the pussy pinching and find some seats,” Lynn walks past with none of her usual joy.

It seems like just the battle-hardened rats stuck around. The ones who steal through force or hope there’s a fight along the way. I’m told the group started as violent pirates way back in the day. They were cursed and turned to rats by a witch they had stolen from. I don’t know how true that is, but it sounds as plausible as anything else I’ve heard lately. Also makes sense that some of them still look like they could have been pirates. That’s a personal choice, I’m just glad about fifteen of them stuck around.

“We got our asses handed to us. They caught us off guard, and fucked us hard. We took some of them with us, but we got a job to do still. We said we’d steal this damn cup, and we’re going to do it for sure now. Any questions,” Lynn starts her speech.

“When do we get revenge,” one of the pirate rats asks, garnering cheers from the others.

“We’re gonna hire some mercs, and hit them hard,” another pirate.

“You’ll get your revenge, but that ain’t the plan,” Lynn puts a stop to it.  

“Then what’s the plan,” someone calls out to her.

“I don’t know. That’s why we’re here.”

Whispers echo through the warehouse as discussions start in the sparse crowd. Most of it is about how they got screwed taking a job from Destiny, I got Mercer killed and Lynn has lost her touch. I won’t lie, it hurts; mostly because they’re right.

“I’ve got a plan,” Destiny speaks up, her hearing is way better than mine, she’s not bothered by the comments.

“Speak on it girl,” Lynn gives her the floor.

“We launch a three-pronged attack that needs to happen all at once. Team 1 will hit them digitally,” that’s probably me and Vicky. “Take any funds they can, cripple the alarm systems across the city for their warehouses. They don’t keep good stuff in the house. That’s where Team 2 comes in. Hit all of their businesses at once. They can’t send people to all of them. Invite any thief you know, their pay is what they take, and of course we take the bulk. Lastly Team 3, make the Chicago chapter of the Morson house extinct. We run the plan in broad daylight, hit their homes, blow the roofs off, light bombs. We’ll need to hire some folks for this, but it’ll keep us safe. If we wipe the vamps, we don’t have to worry about the thralls,” Destiny awaits an answer.

“I like it. Scratches the revenge itch for those who want it, makes us rich, shows we’ve still got plenty of power left in this city,” Vicky is the first to respond. The two share a hateful but respectful glance.

“I know most of you don’t like me, but this gets my vote,” I add when nobody else speaks up.

“Fuck it. Robbing, stealing, killing, it’ll be like the old Teamsters days,” Lynn has led an interesting life.

“Robbin’ stealin’ killin’,” some of the rats started chanting.

I joined in but, that wasn’t my kind of thing. I’m drafting myself to the tech squad, don’t want kill anyone else and I don’t really want to steal anything. Destiny will probably run the murder team, get her revenge. Lynn will probably be with the team of thieves. I’m just hoping we can come up with a plan for the big hairy one.

Lynn breaks the chants with a commanding growl, do rats growl? “Alright, enough with the damn chanting. Let’s get to work. We’re doing it sober. Let’s show these crusty ass vampires that The Wererats ain’t nothing to fuck with,”

Chapter 94 - M.


“You sure you don’t want to come out with us? You know we’re going to have a ton of fun,” Elias offers one last time.

“Nah, I’m just going to do some thinking.”

“You good bro? You’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately,” he plops down on the couch next to me.

“Not really, but it’s okay to not be good. Don’t worry about it.”

“I’m always here if you need to talk,” he cups his hand to his ear.

“Thank you, but I promise I’m okay.”

“If you change your mind, just let me know. You know I don’t judge anyone, except people who put pineapple on pizza.”

“I put pineapple on pizza.”

“I don’t judge you, because you’re my brother. I judge the rest with my mighty gavel of justice,” he laughs as his phone vibrates signaling his ride has come.

“Well, I’ll see you later,” I hop up to close the door behind him.

“Can I have a hug,” he pauses just outside the door.

“Sure,” I know the hug is more for me than him.

“You can hold on as long as you want,” he assures me.

“Alright, that’s enough,” I break after what seems like a few minutes.

“You know I give good hugs. You feel better already,” Elias puts his hand on my shoulder. “Stop being so hard on yourself. We all need other people to help carry our burdens.”

“Thanks bro.”

“You’re welcome, I love you,” and just like that he’s sprinting down the hall. “Say it back dickhead,” he calls from the elevator.

“I love you too moss head,” I yell back because our neighbors heard it already.

He waves before disappearing into the elevator. What can I say? He’s like an emotional savant. The hug really did help me feel a little better. It didn’t solve all of my problems, but it did make me feel a little better. Think a little clearer. Magic caused all of this, I’m pretty sure it could be a solution as well. I log onto the Occult web and begin my search.

It doesn’t take long before I find some crystals that let you wipe your memory. The problem is they wipe all of your memories, not just one event. There are a few wizards with offices in the city that claim they can wipe traumatic events. The problem is they all look like creeps and sell courses on how you can start a business wiping traumatic events. I have to assume, they all bought the same course at some point, and just want to creep through memories. I suppose I can just get a therapist and have a head start on that trip to Arkham Asylum.

Footsteps distract me from my search. I creep over to the kitchen as silently as possible, making sure my own footsteps aren’t heard. I grab a kitchen knife, not the best weapon available to me. I know I can summon my normal blades, and magic helped my shoulder heal flawlessly. Still, I’m not trying to summon them. I’m just trying to defend my apartment. I’m not sure how someone could have gotten up this high without being noticed, maybe they’ve been hiding for a while and made a mistake.

Slowly I move through the apartment checking each room. Bathroom, clear, laundry, clear, Elias’ room, clear. The last spot is my bedroom. With all the crap I’ve been through lately, I can’t help but wonder if someone has come to get me. Some vampire wanting revenge, some kid saying I killed their parents, Wererats blaming me for Mercer’s death or someone trying to finish everyone off after the mall thing. I really went from zero enemies to an entire list in less than a year. I ease the door open and spot a shadow sitting on the edge of my bed.

“Hands up,” it obliges. I flick the light switch.

“Surprise,” Destiny feigns excitement.

“Why are you here,” I cut to the chase. I need to be firm with her so I can move on.

“I just realized I’ve never seen your bedroom before. It’s really neat. You’re a lot cleaner than I thought you would be. You know, men have this reputation of being dirty,” she’s just talking with no point. “You could be kind of sloppy sometimes, like when you cook, there would always be a mess, but you did clean up after yourself, and your clothes are always very neat. Coordinated colors, different belts to match the primary colors of your outfits. Blue, I should have known blue would be your favorite color,” and she’s out of steam.

“Why did you come here?”

“Just checking in,” she smiles.

“I’m an adult. I don’t need you to check in on me.”

“Maybe I’m the one who needs to be checked in on,” she suddenly can’t look me in the eye.

“You’ve spent the last few weeks telling me to get out of your life, but now you’re breaking into my home because you want me to check in on you?”

“It sounds crazy when you say it that way.”

“Every moment of our relationship that you never considered a relationship has been crazy,” I catch the irritation in my voice and try to cool my temper. I sit the kitchen knife on my dresser to show I’m not hostile.

“I see where you’re coming from,” she nods to herself.

“What do you want from me? Every time I try to embrace you, I get pushed away. Yet you won’t let me have anything else in my life without you. You keep dragging me deeper into the world you live in and any time I try to claw myself back to reality here you come, breaking in and dragging me back,” I throw my arms in the air so she knows I’m done.

“I took my shoes off when I came in, you’ve got carpets. I didn’t want to mess them up.”

“But, what, do you,” I point at her, “want, from me,” I point to myself.

She sits there silently, “I want you in my life,” she yells out when she can see my frustration.

“No, you don’t. You’ve shown that over and over again. I was just too dumb to see it.”

“Love is hard for me. I’m all messed up. PTSD and all that shit. I’ve been left and abandoned so many times before that I’ve been trying to push you away, before you can leave,” she forces the words out so fast my ears have trouble keeping up.


“What do you mean?”

“I’m done with this Destiny. You can’t even apologize for treating me like trash.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No, you aren’t. We’ve been through this twice now. You treat me like trash, we break up. Then I apologize, and you take me back, because I’m too dumb to see it’s you with the issue. Wait, we can’t break up because you don’t believe we’ve ever been together anyway. I just run your errands, act as bait, work as your digital assistant. You see why I feel used in our relationship? There’s nothing in it for me. I get nothing from being with you, except pain. So don’t come in here telling me you’re sorry if you don’t mean it,” I’m not sure where I’m finding these words, but I mean them. “You said it’s hard for you to love because of things in your past, right? Well what does any of that have to do with me? I never cheated on you, put a hand on you, even yelled at you before you broke in tonight. Either we’re going to be together, and you’re going to stop carrying all this extra baggage around or we’re just not going to be near each other. If you haven’t got the message, I want you, not your baggage, because it’s getting in the way.”

We just stare at each other for the next few minutes. I’ve said what I need to say, and she has to accept it or move on. I don’t know what’s going through her mind, but she hasn’t killed me yet so I guess she’s considering it. She stands up and walks to the window, still not saying anything. In a blink she’s standing in front of me again.

I can feel the heat from her nostrils touching hitting my face. I close my eyes bracing for the punch I know is coming, but it never comes. I open my eyes and she’s still standing there without saying anything. We would often sit together in silence, just enjoying each other’s company, but the silence was menacing now. She slams her lips against mine and I give in right away. Our tongues dance and I need a deep breath when we finally stop.

“I really am sorry. If you call me, I’ll be better,” she slips her shoes on and sits on the edge of the window.

“You can use the door,” I start to lead her through the house.

“Have a good night Bluebird,” she heads out.

“Bluebird,” I ask in confusion.

“Because you always wear blue and you’re a caged bird.”

“Caged bird?”

“Because you can be free, you just don’t know how yet.”

“Alright. Have a good night,” I hate when she starts talking in vampire mumbo jumbo.

“Bye,” she heads down the same hallway Elias did an hour ago.

Chapter 93 - M.

My legs dangle freely over the ledge of the roof. Not too long ago I wouldn’t be sitting on a ledge like this because I was afraid. This is the same club I met Destiny at. It only seemed right to come here and try digesting everything that happened in the last few days. I’ve never contemplated suicide before, no matter how bad things got, and things were worse than ever this time around. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I guess that my be my saving grace, a pessimistic optimist. I always feel like things will get better if I just work hard enough, but there’s no way to work hard.

After the battle, I witnessed my first Ogres, they were massive, like giants. Bigger than anything I’d ever seen, but mentally they were savages. We all moved to the top level and treated the wounded. Everyone else, well the Ogres just ate them. The entire bodies, just scarfed them down. When it was all done the group of mages, wizards, whatever cast some kind of spell on them. They just followed orders and got into the back of a massive semi-truck and drove off. I didn’t bother asking anyone, because this whole Elder Scrolls chapter of my life is done. I assume the reason we never find bodies of magical creatures is there are Ogre clean up crews around the city.

I tried to turn myself in. I’ve killed six vampires that nobody will be looking for, but I killed a human. I killed a person. Something like that massive battle couldn’t be covered up, someone would be asking questions. Instead the news covered it as a massive battle between different gangs in the city. There were minor injuries, but no deaths, police are investigating. The whole thing just, got covered up. Nobody knows I killed this person, and I can’t even confess because there’s no evidence. I just have to carry this…this, this pain with me forever.

All of this is her fault. I was just head over heels in love with her. Madly in love just means I was hopelessly blind, silly and dense to everything around me. I let her mess my whole life up. I’ve been missing days at work and ducking out early; now I’m on thin ice with the boss. I was willing to sacrifice everything for her, die for her. I put myself in these stupid situations. She didn’t mess my life up, I did that to myself and what do I have to show for it?

Thirteen showers in the past four days and I still can’t wash this blood off of my hands. I still see it, the blood and brains on my blades. No number of showers will wash this blood from my hands. I could swim through Lake Michigan and still, this blood will not come clean. It is almost as if I have become the blood, it is part of me, and I am part of it. I understand that war is bloody business but my eyes were not ready to witness such horrors. I can’t believe I called this a war, that’s the same kind of nonsense that they were all speaking when seeking revenge. Revenge brings nothing but more violence.

This whole thing feels like I’ve been living someone else’s life this entire time I’ve been with her. I don’t even feel at home in my own home. I just can’t find any traces of who I was before. Despite that I don’t know if I can be without her in some way. My world has been altered to the point I can’t function the way I used to. I can’t pretend magic doesn’t exist, my mailwoman isn’t an Elf, there’s an entire internet for this crap. As much pain and confusion as this has brought me, I don’t know if I can go back to a normal life again.

She’s just so damned hard to love. She rebukes any attempts at affection I try to make. Then she’ll turn around and pretend that I’m hers to own, like a pet. Does she want me in her life or not? She can tell me why I’m trash in the parking lot, then give Vicky death stares for having the nerve to share a drink with her. What the hell is wrong with her? I can’t read her, and any time I think I can she just changes the code on me. I need to just, separate from her and never go near her again.

I should have broken up with her so long ago, or not tried to get her back. But I was just attracted. She’s beautiful, but that wasn’t it. No, I was attracted to the danger, the strangeness of it all. It was new, exciting, and I reached for it, and I got burnt. Nothing but PTSD and a trip to the mental hospital when my therapist doesn’t believe the stories I tell.

No, none of that is my problem. My problem is the same thing it has always been. I’m afraid, of everything. I don’t want people to see the real me, so I just do what they expect. I’m afraid of just being me. I was the big brother, and I would hide behind Elias, because I was afraid. Now, I’m just afraid that I’ve gone so far I can’t go back to who I used to be. The thing is, I was afraid then too. I’m afraid of the future, I’m afraid of the past. I’m afraid of the past and I don’t know why. I’m not okay, and I afraid that it might be okay.

If I’m going to make it through this, I need to change. I need to make a promise. I won’t be afraid anymore. No, fear is good, it keeps us honest. No, I promise myself that if I don’t like something, I’ll change it. I promise I’ll always just be me, that’s all I can be. I promise I’ll accept things I can’t change, but only after I try. Yeah, I can do that.

Chapter 92 - M.

“Want a beer? You look like you could use one,” Vicky offers me one.

I initially decline but spot Destiny and decide to have one, “sure.”

“How you holdin’ up,” she asks between small sips.

“Like crap,” an honest answer.

“Well, you should feel like crap.”

“Okay, maybe I’ll just be leaving after all,” I could have gotten that from Destiny.

“No," she grabs my arm. “What I mean is, that you’re still good inside. You’ve still got a nice shiny aura around you. For gods’ sake, you watched a man die, then you killed a vamp. I know they’re dead, but they’re still people, or were. That’s two people.”

“Thanks. Do you have an Irish accent?”

“Slight, my parents are from Ireland, it comes out when I’m excited. If you laugh, I’ll have a tree spirit haunt you.”

“Nah, it’s kind of cute.”

“Careful now, your old half dead ball and chain might want a piece of my skin. I don’t want to give it to her,” she finishes her beer and stands. “But if you ever want to get in touch with your spirit, call me. I’ll show you that you’re still a good man,” Vicky salutes and walks away.

Wait, does she like me? I kind of like her too. We’re both into computers, she can show me some really cool stuff. I didn’t even know about the Occult Web until she told me. A whole dark web, but for magic users and the supernatural. Crazy. I strap on my backpack and consider calling her later. Maybe she likes to play video games too.  

In an instant, my whole world turns black and the only thing I can hear is the ringing in my ears penetrated only by a distant fire alarm. Something warm and wet lands on my face causing me to open up my eyes. I realize the chaos going on around me. Someone is attacking the Wererats, masks, big knives, guns, magic, anything that looks deadly. The attackers were masked but some were vampires without a doubt, others seemed mostly human but there were a few odd shapes here and there. A whip snaps violently in the air with no sound, drawing blood from a Wererat in the distance. That’s when I realize it was blood that dropped on my face. I didn’t get time to digest what I was witnessing before the whip was speeding towards me.

All the training with Destiny didn’t prepare me to dodge a whip. The whip slapped across my chest before I could get out of the way. The whip didn’t even cut through my shirt, but I could feel every inch of it pushing the air out of my chest. I couldn’t even scream out in pain. I had only registered the pain of the first lash before the second came. This time across my back. I tried to summon my blades to fight back but the pain was too much for me to concentrate. All that training was worthless because I couldn’t take a hit.

Fuck training, on my hands and knees I just launched my body sideways at my attacker's feet. I managed to catch them off guard, losing their balance and coming to the floor with me. I just started to pound at the mask on their face as they tried pushing me away. Forgetting how to throw a punch I just pounded on them like a baby wanting more food until they stopped fighting.

Feeling my chest and back caused instant pain as I recognized the raised welts across my body. Standing up brought horror as my senses started to flood back at once. They hadn’t just attacked The Wererats. They attacked the entire mall. A hole had been blasted through the wall opening up the den into the entire mall. Fighting was taking place throughout and things were not going well.

I need to get out of here is all I could think as I broke into a full sprint. Almost as if blindsided by a truck I’m tossed aside and ragdoll to the floor. Standing above me in the same black jumpsuit and white ski mask as everyone else was the most gargantuan being I have ever recognized. That’s either a roided out human or an orc thrall, judging by the club, orc.  

I’m fast enough to dodge a club, and even land some counter punches to the ribs. Punches that did absolutely nothing. It isn’t long before a frying pan sized hand knocks me back. Well, time to run. I can beat him in a foot race. I waste no time heading towards another exit with Big Angry behind me. I only turn when I hear the screams of someone behind me. I turn to realize it was no longer giving chase, instead it was actually pulling the arm off of one of The Wererats.

The acidic burn of stomach acid scratches my throat, and the bitter taste of half-digested food fills my mouth as I puke right in the middle of a fight for life and death. I’m not sure if the tears come because of the lasting pain from my injuries, the puke or the hopelessness of my situation.

I don’t get the time to think as my shoulder is filled with an intense burning sensation that brings me to the ground. The pain is too much to take my hand off the wound and see what it was. I realize I’m shot as a short man, who had removed his mask, stood over me with a gun in his hand aimed at my head. Mom is going to be disappointed. You would think she was Heather B the way she would yell for people to put the Glocks down at those rallies; still her oldest son is now a victim of gun violence.  

More blood lands on my face as a hand burst through his chest and he screamed out in clutches of death. As his body fell to the side, I realized it was Destiny who had saved me. She just stood there, covered in blood amidst the chaos. With everything going on she still found the time to look at me with anger, disgust, regret, I couldn’t really tell. I’ve never been great at reading facial expressions, but this one was difficult, complicated even.

“Stop lying around like a big pussy. Run, or die. Just hurry up and leave my life like always,” Destiny yelled at me over the fire alarm sound.

She took off at that crazy vampire speed, I lost track of her. Every now and then I would spot one of our attackers randomly dying or sent flying and would know it was her. She was taking out most of them while some of The Wererats were trying to take on the big one without much luck. Everyone was doing their part. Except me, I was running. Just like when I was a kid and Elias would fight my battles for me.  

I focus for just a moment and gain access to my magic pocket. I toss in my bloody hoody and backpack that contains my laptop which is probably in a thousand pieces. I feel the handle of my blade materialize in my right hand. It all takes a few seconds to transpire.  

I spot a vampire drinking the blood of a fallen Wererate, no doubt drinking to heal an injury. I don’t hesitate in the run up or even as I lift the blade with my good arm. But before I can drop it, I hesitate. I think about Mercer, and the vampire I killed before. Vicky said I was still good but I didn’t feel it anymore. The vampire realized what was happening and moved to the side. Faster than a regular person, but not the super speed Destiny moved with. I slipped in the blood and fell with nothing to break my fall but the body of the dead Wererat. For a moment I looked into his dead eyes and saw terror still there. I rolled over and swung at the vampire’s neck. He didn’t turn into dust either, just cold black blood silently dripping across the blade again. I stood and noticed the vampire’s leg was broken. That’s why I was able to get him by surprise.

I hear what sounds like a thunder clap that draws my attention. Off in the distance I’m witnessing as the big arm ripper from earlier is clashing with what appears to be a giant version of Jerry from the old Tom and Jerry cartoons. That’s when I remember Lynn is a were rat, an actual were rat. I thought she would be small, but she’s huge. She uses her claws to keep distance between them before diving in with her teeth. There’s no scream as she bites into the arm but there’s pain as it tries to fight her off. When she’s finally knocked away the arm of the jumpsuit is gone and mangled mess of blood, bone and white fur remain. Okay, so that isn’t an Orc and a werewolf wouldn’t need a club. What the hell is that?

A lot of attention has been drawn away from the battle. Most Wererats and thralls have stopped fighting to nurse their injuries and watch as Lynn takes on giant fur thing. The vampires are mostly being kept busy while fighting Destiny. She’s got the advantage on them in skill and ability, but they have the numbers. Still, there’s a few skirmishes taking place.

I do what I can, act as a distraction. I can’t fight at all in this condition, but I can be enough of a pain in the ass that the Wererats can get a few shots in. It isn’t long before I have four maybe five of them following me and picking off any of our loan attackers. Slowly we’re evening the field after the sneak attack.  

I slam my blade down onto the skull of another vampire feasting on a Wererat who was screaming out in pain. At least, I thought it was a vampire, until the warm red blood sprays and the bright brain matter sticks to my blade as the body falls to the ground.

“Good kill mate,” one of The Wererats says as they move on.

Six, I’ve killed six vampires total, most were on their way out or were surprise attacks. But, just like that, I had killed my first human. I’m a murderer now, and didn’t even think twice about attacking. Is it self-defense? No, I wasn’t being attacked. But I saved someone else, she would have been saved by one of the others. I’m a killer. What do I do with the body? The vampires dispose of themselves. How do I get rid of a human body? Do I dump it in a river?

A gurgled screeching sound brings me back to the fight. Lynn had just been sent crashing through the fountain. The mermaids spitting water had all ceased to exist and now a giant, but shrinking rat sat in their place. Soon there was no rat, just Lynn, naked and still willing to fight. A series of small explosions drew everyone’s attention upward. The opaque skylight had been cracked and was beginning to shatter into millions of tiny pieces and fall to the ground.

“Retreat,” one of our attackers yelled as they rushed for the doors.

As sunlight filtered in screams of vampires began to fill the mall. I had seen enough dead vampires now to believe it was a joke about some turning to dust in the sunlight. I guess I had never seen any in the sun before because they were starting to explode with a tiny popping sound. First those that were already dead. Then those who couldn’t get through the sealed doors. Slowly one by one the screams stopped as each vampire was left as nothing more than ashes to sweep up. Many of the thralls dropped, likely they belonged to the dead vampires.

Some managed to flee after the big monster broke through one of the doors, the others were left unconscious where they were. Any other time the sun washing over me would be a real mood booster, but today it had done nothing but illuminate what we had done in the dark. Nearly every inch of the mall showed some kind of damage, from smudged walls to shattered glass, small fires and the blood; there was so much blood. Then there was me, wishing for a shower that I knew could wash away the blood, sweat, tears and even brain matter that now stuck to my body. But a shower could never wash away what I had done here today.

Chapter 91 - M.

They told me Mercer would be okay thanks to some kind of magic. I know it’s a lie, I saw his intestines through a peephole in his stomach. There is absolutely no way he could have survived that. Besides, we left him behind. I know they’re just trying to calm my nerves, but it won’t work. I know what I saw, I remember everything from it. The smell, the feel, the sounds, everything is tattooed on my brain with permanent ink. 

I just want to leave here. They won’t let me, I can’t blame them, my hands haven’t stopped shaking since that night. Elias calls to check in on me every now and then but he has no clue of what really happened to me. I can’t even remember what lie I told him. Pretty sure he thinks I’m just staying with Destiny and that couldn’t be further from the truth. She looked at me a few times, but every time she did it was nothing but pity in her eyes. Not empathy, or sorrow, it just looked like she was disgusted, but took pity on me. Maybe because we still didn’t get that damned cup she’s chasing after. I watched a man die, and I killed a vampire, but all she can think about is revenge. 

I watched Mercer die, looked his corpse right in the eyes. I didn’t see any fear, or anger. I didn’t even see his face at peace. I saw shock, as if he was sure it couldn’t happen to him. But it did, and I didn’t do anything to try stopping it. I’m just as bad as the murder. I’ve never felt anyone else’s blood and I still feel like I’m covered in it. I’ve had showers and baths but I can’t get it off me. I still feel the warm splatter of Mercer’s blood across my face. I still smell the stench of that cold vampire blood soaking through the flesh of my fingers and into my bones. I can’t shake it. They keep coming by to tell me the first kill is the hardest.

I once told Destiny that I wanted us to spend forever together. In response she told me that humans don’t live forever, so I should adjust my expectations. She was right, even if it took all of this happening for me to realize it. I was nothing to her but a play thing. I got played and I guess I deserved that for putting so much faith into us. I really thought we might be together forever, but I guess I was just fun to play with until her real goals were in front of her. 

“We need to strike back, a few well-placed light grenades could take out a lot of them,” one of the Wererats drunkenly slurs to another at the bar.

“I say we just rip the fucking house apart in the middle of the day. Watch them burn and scurry,” the second responds.

“I want to kill them myself,” a third joins in.

Again, I try to make my way out of their little clubhouse of doom and gloom. There’s nothing in here for me anymore, I guess there never was. Nobody is around to stop me this time, they’re all having a vigil for Mercer, I wasn’t invited. I’ve heard the whispers. The people who don’t lie to me about him being alive blame me for his death. There really isn’t any in-between on the subject, at least nobody wants revenge on me. I suppose killing the vampire was enough to spare me that, but not enough that everyone wants to keep me around.

I make it to the parking lot and Destiny is there smoking a cigarette. I don’t know how to feel when I see her. Rage washes over me, but so does Sadness. I’m not sure if I’m feeling betrayal, resentfulness, maybe even revulsion.

“What’s going on killer,” Destiny laughs as she spots me.

I usually like her good-natured teasing, but this isn’t that; this is just hurtful. It’s strange how I used to love that about her, now I hate it. Has she always been so mean spirited? Is this what it feels like when you don’t love someone anymore? I want to respond with some witty comment of my own, fight back, but I can’t find it. I just keep walking to my car. Her laughter cuts deep as I realize I don’t have my keys. They’re back inside, with my backpack. It’s like my head is spinning lately, I just can’t get it together.

“Wish I knew you were an asshole when I met you,” I mumble as I walk past her.

In an instant she’s in front of me, “who the fuck do you think you are?”

“Go away,” I try to step around her.

“You kill one vampire, and suddenly you think you’re hot shit,” she asks.

“You’re heartless. Did you know that,” has she always just been a bully?

“Vampire, comes with the territory.”

“I don’t get why you act like I did something to hurt you.”

“Maybe you did,” she walks away.

What the fuck is she talking about? I don’t want to be a mass murderer to get revenge on some vampires I don’t even know? That hurt her? This is stupid. I don’t get it, I don’t know how Elias does this all the time. I just need to get my keys and my bag, then I’m done with this world forever. I’ll go back to making websites for creepy detectives.