Disclaimer: I do not own the World of Darkness, I just spend a lot of time residing there. This is a work of fiction posted not for profit, but for the enjoyment of myself and others. The characters are fictional, and any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental
A/N: I'd like to start at saying this is my first attempt at fanfiction. I'm not going to make excuses about a simple fact; I failed english twice and when I did pass, it was just barely. Always been more of a math guy. I'm doing the best I can, but I promise nothing spectacular. Anyways, I found myself with a story gnawing at the back of my mind, and since it was robbing me of sleep I figured I'd better do something about it. So, here it is. I hope you enjoy reading it, and feel free to review if it tickles your fancy.
Chapter 1: Running
'Dead or insane...' The words of the man echoed through my head as I woke from my slumber. Though it was restless and fitful, I was not really inclined to wake up. I'd been getting precious little of it as it was. But, it was too late to return to the world of slumber. My right hand moved to rub at my eyes, trying to remove the lingering grogginess, only for me to be reminded I had fallen asleep with my glasses on again. Not a surprise, as the gears in my head started to turn. The scenery passing by the window helped speed the process. The Greyhound bus rumbled down the highway, heading north into Colorado. I remembered now. I was running, trying to leave it all behind me. A voice in my head mocked me, told me I could never really escape it. A wry smirk crossed my lips. "What has been seen, cannot be unseen..." I muttered quietly to myself, drawing a sharp snore from the pot-bellied man next to me. Another factor in why my sleep was anything but restful. My eyes shifted again towards the window, watching the scenery.
I could see my reflection, transparent, ephemeral, even ghostly as it hovered constantly over the landscape that passed by outside the bus. The first rays of the morning light were beginning to filter over the horizon. I could tell by the grey sky, as I was facing the wrong direction to actually see them. It seemed oddly appropriate; trying to judge how long the darkness would continue to last by light I couldn't actually see. My musings were interrupted as my gaze came once again to settle on the ghostly reflection of my face. The first thing I noticed were my eyes, dark brown, peering out from behind my glasses, and they seemed to have gotten darker recently, almost like all the life had been slowly drained from me, leaving me just a shell of a man. The dark rings that had appeared in recent days was not helping the illusion. The eyes were sunken deep in a skull that, if I hadn't seen it in the mirror every morning, I may not have been convinced it was mine. Before where I had a little bit of baby-fat on my cheeks, and a healthy blush, recently those cheeks had turned sunken and hollow, and the skin had turned a sickly pale, framed by lank black hair that hung limply around it, a far cry different from the erratic, frizzy hair I used to have to wrestle with daily. My right hand reached out slowly, hesitantly, almost as if I was afraid to touch my reflection, as if it would irrevocably verify what I was looking at. I already knew, but the hesitance was still there. I finally shook my head, dropping my hand and averting my gaze.
My eyes fell to the floor between my feet, in front of my seat. A beat-up black backpack sat there, obvious restitchings were done, as well as quick fixes with duct tape, and a zipper that was jury-rigged with a paperclip so I could open it. That backpack held my weapons in the war I was trying so desperately to leave behind. 'Just a precaution... Just in case...' I told myself. But I knew. I knew I would never be able to truly escape it. I wanted to, God did I want to. I wanted to just close my eyes, cover my head with a blanket like when I was a small child afraid of the dark, and return to the blissful existence I had once known, the existence I could never return to. I regretfully tugged the zipper, opening the backpack.
Inside were the tools of my trade, my weapons. No, there were no knives, no guns, or bullets or explosives. Those were not my weapons. I reached in a shaky hand, closing it around an old book, bound in black leather with pages that were beginning to yellow. Below that was another book, appearing a good deal newer, the title proudly announcing it to be the most complete resource book on paranormal activities, investigations, and beings. More books were tucked away inside the old, battered backpack. I hated them. All of them. They served as constant reminders to what I had to face, what I had survived... Painful memories. But they were my power, or rather, the knowledge they contained was. And none of them was more prized, more despised, than a creased green notebook, the color of the cover fading with age and use, the pages frayed around the edges, and the pages covered in the scribblings and sketches that looked to be done by a madman. They were my notes. As my eyes moved along the pages, the voice rose to the surface again, 'Dead or insane...'
I wasn't really reading the notes. Reading on a vehicle always caused me to suffer motion sickness. Something I've come to view as a kind of embarrassing secret. No, it was just to distract my gaze, keep it away from my reflection. Besides, I already knew what the notes said. They were mine after all. But it kept my eyes busy, and allowed me to think about other things. Or try to. Or possibly try not to, once I remembered I really didn't have much left that was worth thinking about. A sudden sound of roaring and gunfire drew my attention to my right, the notebook slipping from my suddenly numb fingers. After a moment, I found the source of the noise; one of the other passengers, a teenage female had produced a laptop from her backpack and was watching some random werewolf movie. I found myself angry not just at my jumpy behavior, but at how people had been led to just casually disregard serious threats.
Sure, I know it sounds crazy. Who believes in werewolves right? What else; vampires, the boogeyman? Those are just stories told to children. Yeah, I tried to rationalize it myself at first. But when you have seen what I've seen, when you've come face to face with what is actually hiding in the shadows, lurking in the back alleys, waiting, watching, manipulating... Your worldview changes in a hurry. and not for the better.
I picked my notebook up from the floor, returning it and the leather bound book back into the well worn backpack. Leaning back in my seat, I sighed and closed my eyes. I knew sleep would not come. And I did not try to coax it. I wished it would come, I prayed it would come and grant me the rest I needed. That afterwards, I could wake up in my bed and realize this was all some sick, horrible dream. A delusion of a fevered mind perhaps. But I also knew I was not lucky enough to have that happen.
The hiss of the air brakes of the bus pulled me from my drifting mental state, and back to reality. My eyes parted slowly, and I was aware that the night had retreated under the assault from the orange-red rays of the sun, the sky overhead a cheerful blue, streaked with the brilliant colors of sunrise. And yet, I could not find it within myself to enjoy it. It seemed hollow, an odd facade, designed only to grant an illusion of security and peace as it pierced through the night's darkness. But I knew that the shadows were always there, the things they hid still lurking. The sunrise didn't offer safety and hope. It was merely a momentary reprieve from the encroaching night.
The next thing I noticed was the fast food place the bus had stopped at. We were still a good two hours away from the designated stop, but it was time for breakfast. I sighed and pushed myself to my feet. I really hated fast food breakfasts. That much grease in the morning couldn't be good for you. But, the rumbling in my stomach, reminding me I hadn't eaten since leaving Louisiana, left no room for argument. As they say, hunger is the best seasoning. I reached down to pick up my backpack with my right hand, slinging it over my shoulder. The angle was awkward, but my left arm hung limp and lifeless at my side, so not many people asked why I made things harder for myself. Not that many people noticed me anyways. I seemed to be blessed with the gift to be easily overlooked. The ironic part is, I'm not being sarcastic.
I was the last one to shuffle off the bus, my pack slung over my shoulder, my head down. The way I moved would have been appropriate for someone pushing sixty maybe. The sad part was, I was only about twenty-seven. I just felt a lot older. I pushed the door open to the restaurant, looking at the line in front of me. The one that consisted of the other twenty-three passengers from the bus. I huffed a sigh and leaned against the wall to wait my turn.
Just when I was sure I was about to black out from hunger, one of the women at the counter turned to look at me with a professional smile. You know, the kind that doesn't hide the disgust in their eyes. I suppose I couldn't blame her. I knew I looked horrid, my t-shirt was dirty, my jeans were ragged, and I hadn't bathed in almost a week. I could only blame two days of that on the bus ride. I shuffled forward, my head still down, and muttered my order. My voice carried enough to be heard, but I found it was odd when I listened to it. Like I wasn't talking too someone, but more in a general direction, figuring if it was important to anyone, someone would hear. Nothing fancy, just a few of their cheap breakfast sandwiches.
She rung it up, and I fished out my wallet, pulling a few dollar bills from the folded piece of worn and faded leather. As I did, a folded piece of paper came with them. My eyes fell upon the familiar scrap, old, worn, and having spent so long folded up that the creases were extremely fragile. Nothing about it's appearance now gave away what it really was. But I knew. It was a death certificate. And the name of the deceased was the same name that was printed on my Louisiana state ID: James Douglas. Another reminder of what I was trying to leave behind, but like the books, like my notes, I found myself unwilling and unable to just get rid of it. With a subtle shift of my thumb, I pushed it back into my wallet as I removed the bills to pay for what would have to pass as breakfast.
The food was edible, but not much else. The eggs had the consistency of rubber, the biscuit was dry, but at least the sausage and cheese, mass produced though they might be, were something I had gotten used to over the past few years. I was in the process of choking down my second sandwich when I found my mind wandering, almost like it was trying to remind me of how all this started. I was not exactly thrilled with the prospect of being reminded, but it was not about to let me off that easy. I may not be dead yet, but I wasn't sure how much longer I could avoid going insane.