Alfred remembered the first time he had seen one of them. Thirteen years old (but almost fourteen). It was the summer before high school, the beginning of his rise to popularity in school.
June second, the day after his brother's birthday. Matthew was a year younger than him, his birthday three days before Alfred's. They were only half-brothers, Matthew's mother was pregnant barely months after Alfred's gave birth. Their father always refused to tell the story.
It was the day after Matthew's birthday, and they were going out to the barn about a kilometer behind their old house.
After some breakthrough or other Matthew's mother had made, they had moved to an admittedly nicer house nearer to the small Vermont town they had always lived in, and the brothers were happy to never go back to the house.
But they still went to the barn sometimes.
Crickets were chirping and the heat was overwhelming even at sunset. Lavender pink dusted the sky, churning with gold and orange that blanketed the earth, before melting into a star-spotted black and blue. They laughed and hollered through the farmland, reaching the barn panting and sweaty from the run.
"Yeah, Al?" Matthew answered, longish blonde hair sticking to his neck with sweat. A lone strand of hair that looped into a curl bobbed in the gentle breeze.
Alfred smiled, gazing at the wind-torn red structure. "How long's it been since we've been here?" he whispered, the nostalgia masking his normally exuberant personality.
"Years... not since we lived here, eh?" Matthew glanced at his brother, a warm smile resting on his face.
Alfred nodded eagerly, hoping that perhaps after the years the barn would hold new adventures, just like every other time they visited.
The door creaked when it opened. The hinges were old and rusty, white paint chipping and falling at the slightest nudge.
Inside it was dark, musty, like any forgotten barn on the edge of a forgotten river behind forgotten fields. A dank, moldy odor with hints of iron and sulfur stood out among the many scents, and both boys curled their noses in disgust.
Alfred turned to face his brother, seeing an identical expression of disgust. "Has it always smelled this bad?"
Matthew shook his head, barely visible as the last hints of purple and gold disappeared over the horizon. He was all too visible a second later when Alfred turned on the flashlight he had brought. "Christ, Al! It's in my eyes!"
"Sorry sorry!" The flashlight was directed at the ground, before into the barn, revealing an old ladder and bushels of green-tinted hay. Alfred ran toward the ladder, motioning for his brother to follow. "I think I see something near the bottom of the stairs," he whispered, leaning down to inspect it.
A flash of gold.
Alfred spun, shining the light beneath the bunk, trying to find what had flashed blue. Matthew behind him had started climbing up the ladder, murmuring something about the hole in the ceiling. Alfred nodded, despite the fact that his brother couldn't see him. He continued searching, finally coming upon a hole in the wall. It must have been where the flash came from. He peered through the hole, seeing blurred shapes.
It was a strange scene, one he both understood and couldn't comprehend at the same time. But no matter what the figures- for there was most definitely two, were doing, he felt an undeniable shudder race up his spine, and he shivered, desperately hoping they hadn't seen him.
And then one turned.
To face him.
Alfred shot away from the wall, brought his back to the ladder, and continued shuddering at the feeling the bright gold eyes had given him. He knew they were yellow, but he had gotten an uncontrollable feeling of red from them.
The universal acknowledgement of danger, a bright red warning flashed through his eyes.
"Matthew!" he called up to his brother, who swung his head over the ledge.
"What?" There was a hint of irritation in his voice, as if Alfred had interrupted him from an important duty.
"We have to go. Now."
Matthew rolled his eyes, but hoisted himself onto the ladder. He slid down to the bottom rung, miraculously avoiding blisters, before jumping off. Or at least trying to. "Al..."
"What, we gotta go!"
Matthew looked up at him, "I'm... stuck."
Alfred's eyes widened, but he ran back to his brother, seeing his shoelaces tangled into the old nails and wood splinters of the ladder.
"Fuckin' hoser!" Matthew grunted, struggling to pull his leg out from the rung of the ladder.
Alfred looked up from where he was untying his shoelace. "I know what that means now! And don't get mad at me, I'm trying to help you!"
Matthew rolled his eyes, "I wasn't talking to you, Al. Calm down." He groaned as his calf muscle stung from the position he was in. "Hurry up!"
"I'm going as fast as I can!" Alfred stuck a tongue out of his mouth, biting down hard enough to draw blood as he finally managed to untangle the pesky lace. "Got it!"
Matthew sprung out, crying out in pain as he put weight on his foot. Alfred turned, already reaching the door. "Mattie! You okay?"
He grimaced and nodded, reapplying pressure until he felt the pain somewhat numbed. "Yeah, I'm fine. Keep running!"
Alfred nodded, throwing another glance into the empty barn before slamming the door shut behind his brother.
It was never opened again.
5 years later
Alfred hated the taste of alcohol, but he loved the atmosphere of a bar. It was an affliction. He had gotten a fake ID more as a rite of passage than from necessity when he turned sixteen. He had been nursing, or rather savoring, a scotch for over an hour as regulars mingled in and stragglers traipsed out.
Alfred looked up to see an albino looking down at him. He smiled and shook his head. "Your eyes, they're... interesting."
The bartender laughed, a strange hissing sound, before replying, "I'll take that as a compliment." (Alfred had no way of knowing the man took everything as a compliment.
"Not everyone would, but you make it work." Alfred replied with a grin.
"Kesesese, what can I say, I'm unique."
Alfred chuckled, before raising his glass and spinning to face the rest of the bar. "To being unique!" The rest of the bar cheered, and several beers were raised and a lot of liquid was sloshed, and Alfred felt his brother sidle into the seat next to him.
"Making strange cheers again, eh?"
Alfred laughed, winking in agreement. (He was weird like that. Mattie had long since gotten used to a wink being a confirmation not a contradiction.) The bartender turned to face the newcomer, recognition flashing across his face. "Birdie!"
"Mattie? You know him?"
Matthew restrained from rolling his eyes, waiting for the glass of impending inebriation. "I've told you about him. Gilbert, remember?"
Alfred turned and gave a cheery smile to the albino. "Hey Gil! I'm Al, Mattie's brother from another mother!"
Gil released his unusual laugh again, "Yeah, Mattie told me about you. He also told me you would say that."
"He says that literally every time he introduces me."
Alfred chuckled in embarrassment, rubbing the back of his neck. He glanced up at him again, a dangerous glint in his eye. "I'd be careful though Gil, with eyes like that," he smile.
"Someone might mistake you for a vampire."