Introduction: This story has existed in one form or another pretty much since Mr. Ramos released the last issue of Crimson. I released the prologue to this story as a stand alone, with the thought that I wasn't going to get around to polishing the rest up for some time (if ever). Due to the recent loss of my laptop, all the other things I was working on are gone. Yet I needed something to occupy my mind while waiting for Dell to return my current obsessions. My solution was to start beating this story into shape.
I know the prologue isn't much, but stick around for the first chapter. I think you'll like it.
Priscilla Elder curled her little hands into tight fists and tried to contain her excitement. Her brother was alive. She tugged her pink jacket and scanned the crowd in the park for her mom and dad. Where were they? They had to hear this. She had to tell them.
"Priscilla Elder, you know better," her mom said. Then she was enveloped in the warm clean scent of her father and lifted into his arms.
"Mommy, Daddy, where were you? I have to tell you..."
"Pris, listen to me," her daddy said. "You scared your mom and me. You can't ever wander off like that, especially in the park. Now, are you ready to go home?"
Pris grinned from ear to ear and hugged her daddy tight. "But you have to let me tell you about Alex." Her mom's smile faded and the color drained out of her face. "I saw him, and he's okay. He wanted me to tell you guys what happened, and that he's coming home, and that he loves us all and misses us and he's sorry we were worried and sad."
Her daddy shushed her gently, keeping an eye on his pale strained wife. "Do you remember the talk we had? Just because Alex is gone, it doesn't mean we have to stop thinking about him, but you have to be able to tell when you're imagining and what's real."
Pris tried not to cry. Her daddy looked so sad and serious. She couldn't hold onto the tears that started streaking down her face. She knew what was real. "But Daddy, it was him. I saw Alex. He hugged me. It smelled like him and felt like him." Pris twisted and squirmed until her dad let her down.
"Pris." Her mom's voice cracked. "Please don't."
Pris rubbed her eyes with her fists and shook her head. "I promised him I'd tell you. Will you let me? Please?"
George Elder really looked in his baby's perfect earnest blue eyes. They were so much like her brother's. Whatever she was trying to say, she believed it. He took his wife's hand and exchanged what was supposed to a secret smile. "Let's listen to what she needs to say, just this once."
Priscilla saw the look her parents exchanged. They were worried about her, and they probably didn't believe a word she'd said. Pris nodded at a park bench and tried to look grown-up and convincing. "Just sit down and listen, okay?" Standing inside the warm glow of a single street lamp, Pris waited for her parents to settle onto the bench.
Now or never, time to tell them what her brother told her. Believe me. "Alex is okay. Daddy, Alex wanted me to tell you he was sorry about the fight you guys had. He said you were right and that he wished he never left the house that night. He's never been more sorry about anything than leaving the house that night." Pris pushed her hair behind her ears and tried to judge whether her parents were listening, or believing her story. "Some really bad people attacked Alex and his friends in the park. Alex and his friends, they all ran away in different directions. Nobody got away though, not even Alex and he runs real fast. The bad people hurt them, but somebody stopped them from hurting Alex as bad as they hurt his friends."
"Someone saved Alex?" George Elder asked gently. "Why didn't Alex come home then?"
Priscilla looked up into her Daddy's eyes and shook her head. "I don't understand what he told me really. Alex said Eckimus saved him, sort of. The bad people were sick and they made Alex really sick too. I don't know what vampire means though? I don't understand why he wouldn't come home after he got sick? We could have taken care of him. I tried to get him to come here and come home but he wouldn't. He said it wasn't safe." Pris's explanation trailed off. She tried to gauge whether her parents had heard her, and believed her. Her mommy was crying, and her dad was just sitting so still. They don't believe me. Pris felt a wave of sobs building in her chest.
"Alex made me practice this part. He made me go over the words so I wouldn't mix it up. Alex said he met some angels and demons, monsters and innocents, enemies and friends. He said he was there when darkness fell over the city, and the dragons were freed. He was there when the darkness lost, and all the vampires were cured, except one..." Pris wiped her running nose and the line of tears off her cheek. "When the guy Eckimus saved Alex, he made him different. So everybody got cured but him. And he still won't come home." Pris could hardly speak she was so caught up in her tears. "He told me to tell you guys that he was going to find his own way home, and that he loves you."
"No, baby," her mom said. She wiped at her eyes and shook her head sadly. "No."
George pushed aside his first inclination toward rationalism. He and his family had seen New York taken by dragons, swarmed by demons, and eclipsed into complete darkness. He couldn't reassure his baby girl that monsters and vampires didn't exist, because he'd seen them. His baby had seen them too. George felt as if someone had punched him in the stomach. If dragons and vampires were real, why couldn't Pris's story be true. Could Alex be one of the monsters, one of the demons? Could his son be a vampire? George dropped down to his knees and met his daughter at eye level. "Where did you see Alex? Will he come back to talk to you again? I want to help him."
"George, you can't believe this," Cynthia said. She clutched at the little silver cross dangling around her neck. "Our baby boy is not a vampire."
"What's a vampire?" Pris asked. "Alex wouldn't tell me. He just said it was like being real sick. Is it catching? Is that why he wouldn't come home?"
George didn't know what to say at first. "That's right. It's catching Pris, and Alex didn't want to accidentally make anybody else sick." Thoughts about what Alex must have done to survive, what he must have seen and experienced, chilled George. Even if he could find Alex, could he help? Maybe the church could do something? Or maybe medicine? "If he's out there, we'll find him Pris. We'll help Alex."
"Really Daddy?" Pris asked.
"I can't sit here and listen to this anymore," Cynthia said. She came jerkily to her feet and took a couple of halting steps toward home. In the shadows, too far away to be distinct... "Alex? Alex! George I saw..."
"You saw him?" George came to his wife's side and strained to see into the shadows.
"No, it wasn't him. I don't know what I saw." Cynthia wrapped her hand tighter around her cross. "I don't know."
George supported his wife on the short walk home, he held his little girl's hand, and he watched the shadows for a son, for a monster.