On an unusually hot night early in July, a young man walked out of a bar. Although it wasn’t very late, the movement in the streets had diminished already and his steps echoed loudly, as though he was being purposefully noisy.
Two or three persons had crossed his path and were clearly avoiding the matted man. He grunted in frustration, his clouded blue-eyes unfocused as he staggered, breath smelling like alcohol. It didn’t matter to him. He could feel as the universe ran past him like a river, leaving him behind, as the darkness materialized and took the shape of his most frightening nightmares.
The man now looked more like a boy, the cars in the streets passing by as he stumbled and tripped aimlessly. The intoxication of the excessive alcohol in his blood was affecting his paranoia, even if nothing that any of the passersby could do provoked any real terror. His own lack of grip in this reality ate away the rest of conscience he had, as he drifted out of his own mind, fearfully evading anyone at any cost, wandering in his own thoughts as the night passed.
He didn’t know how he had ended in a dark alley. His eyebrows furrowed deep, bloodshot eyes scanning his surroundings, the unbearable stench invading his senses. An expression of disgust gleamed his expression, confusion clouding his intoxicated mind. It was hard to know how much time had passed as he crumbled down, his weak knees giving up on his own weight.
As the young man tried to regain his composure, the effect of the many drinks he had taken started to disappear. His teal colored eyes regained its light as he passed the fingers through his disheveled brown hair. However, he couldn’t avoid gritting his teeth as a buzzing headache was taking place on his head.
In a grim thought, he pondered that headaches had to be the worst kind of pain, as they disturbed the man at the core of his very being. Leaning against a wall, he raised his hand to massage his temples, in a futile attempt of easing the phantom agony that lingered. The taste of bile was in his mouth, as he laughed weakly, amused at his own misery. “It was really worth it?”
His teal-colored eyes watered, but there was such accumulated bitterness that, in spite of the phantom regret that crept beneath the mask of intoxication, he tried to keep his mind in check. At this point, he noticed that he didn’t even know where... “Wait a second…”.Panic tore through his aimless thoughts as he fumbled for his cell phone, his shaky legs sustaining his weight as he stood up in dismay. It wasn’t in his pockets, it wasn’t anywhere.
The curse word echoed in his sickly mind, as he searched through his jeans one last time. Nothing to be found. “Fuck”. His uneven breathing was all that he heard in response, as the night seemed to consume him. How much time had passed? He didn’t know and bitterly concluded that he could very well have passed out on this ditch and not even remember.
The sound of cars buzzing faintly through the street was very different from the mess that normally was the Manhattan streets. He swiftly concluded that it could only mean that it was already close to dawn. The man sighed slowly, trembling as he took his first step in trying to get back home, with a sinking heart and a nervous shame, thinking about how he would be very glad if he could breeze through the night without meeting none of his neighbors.
From the depths of the alley, the unmistakable sound of a body hitting the ground cut through the silence. Dread caused a chill to run down the man spine, as he froze in place. Up until now, he had not bothered to look what was down this dark and narrow ditch; nevertheless, the circumstances seemed to be asking for it.
Slowly trying to steady himself, the brown-haired man turned around, his weak legs trembling. Although his human altruism was louder than the pain, he could not help but ask himself why the fuck he didn’t stay home. The scene that unfolded just before his eyes was a terrifying one indeed.
A man that seemed to have dropped down the apartment just in front of him was lying down motionless. A curtain of blonde, almost silvery hair contrasted with the blood that tainted the ground and flowed endlessly from his head, brown skin bloodied and battered. A suicide, maybe? Uncertainty flashed the drunk man’s mind as a warning, his mind clouded with a persisting thought that something was off.
It didn’t stop his hands from glowing a bright blue light. He reached out for the fallen man, down on his knees. He muttered one last curse word, suddenly lucid and aware of his own lack of care. He tried to look where the head had hit the floor and once he found the wound, an open and deep cut… The blue shine in his hands grazed the strands of silky hair.
The man that before seemed lifeless grabbed the helping hand, extinguishing the light and forcing a groan of pain out of his helper's mouth. While the dead man used one elbow to rise up, his “savior” was paralyzed, shocked at the sudden recovery. As the fallen rose up his head, yellow sclera and red colored eyes glimmering, a late warning sign of the looming doom. Recognition sparked the drunken man’s mind, teal-colored eyes widening before a large, clawed hand covered his mouth.
The once fallen man was already up on his feet, with no signal of sustaining damage besides the blood that tainted his blond, silky hair. The drunkard tried to set himself free, utter confusion pained his eyes, but the claws hold the sides of his face tightly as he was forced to stand up. Blood was running down the damaged temple, but he didn’t seem to care, red eyes focused on the restrained man in front of him.
Survivor’s instinct kicked in and a desperate struggle to set himself free from the tight grip that suppressed any call for help started. The drunk man kicked the V under his attacker’s ribs, where the sternum ends. The assaulter gasped, lungs suddenly paralyzed, as he doubled forward. If there was any chance of escaping, that was it, the trapped man thought, working himself out in a panicked frenzy. Legs and arms tried to slip from the grip. His hands started glowing again, a deep blue dwindling through the darkness.
The claws dug deep into the skin of his face, the teal-colored eyes begging an obvious, yet unspoken question. The predatory, unwavering red orbs against the sickly yellow shining his own response as the remaining hand of the attacker closed in a fist and landed a hard punch on his gut, quieting down the struggle. The brown-haired man trembled, hearing his own gasp muffled against the strong palm, as blood dripped from his cheeks where the nails had made shallow and stinging cuts. His eyes watered once more and he started blinking fast, hopelessly trying to waver the dread that crawled up his spine. The hand that had sunken deep into his gut now slowly retreated to run through the blonde disheveled hair, one untamed strand hanging loosely. The unnatural eyes of the predator shone through the night, the mouth distorted into an odd smile, white fangs glimmering as if they were the last pitiful laugh of a wretched fate.
Allura regrets ever going to that place. Her mind tried to focus on the passing cars and trees that she could see passing by quickly. It was already late, the night almost turning into day, but the impending break of dawn didn’t faze her in the slightest. Actually, she wasn’t even certain if it was the rush of events or if it was the liquor fading away, but the lingering thought that she wasn’t going to sleep tonight wasn’t so impossible. At very least it was Friday, so she would have some time to deal with this migraine.
As the number of cars diminished, Allura tried to focus on the trees, the shadowy trunks that seemed so frightening under the faint light, and not on the headache.
The voice, faint and kind, made Allura blink in surprise on her own distraction. She turned to face the motorist, her old friend, Hunk. She suddenly felt a trace of guilt. It was obvious that he was nervous, glancing at her direction with a careful worry in his eyes. His dark brown eyes were torn between looking at the street before him and at his friend on the side. She didn’t like this look of concern in his face, so she said, trying to not let her own problems show.
She failed. Not that it was her lack of control in the voice, but something inside the Samoan knew when something was wrong. The car slowed down, as Hunk glanced that trees that were so common uptown. Allura could swear she heard his heart clenching, just before he kindly spoke to her, as gentle as a feather, with such a tiny voice. “Look, I know your day was crappy and we all thought that everything was going to be all right... But it wasn’t...” His head hanging low in defeat. “It isn’t your fault, Allura.”
She had to give him that. He was an amazing friend and she couldn’t just let he is so worried about her. However, Allura also couldn’t fool herself thinking she could just say everything that was going through her head.
“Hunk, I know, it’s all right, maybe I just need a bit of a break.”
And, if she couldn’t fool herself, she wasn’t capable of fooling Hunk. Nevertheless, she tried anyway. To her relief, he quieted, focusing on the street in front of him.
But the silence didn’t help calm her thoughts. A trace of guilt instilled inside of her. Was quieting him down the best action? She wasn’t that certain anymore. Pondering about today’s events wasn’t going to help either, however silencing the unending flow of ideas that were swarming her mind didn’t seem like a sensible answer.
So, just like before, quiet she remained, letting her own thoughts fill the void inside her mind, as Hunk silently drove her back home.
If there was one thing that humans seemed to fear at such a primal level was the dark. Darkness was the host of every child’s nightmare, the unrelenting hunter that hid the vilest of beasts. The night was when the predators came out of their lairs, lurking in the shadows, seeking a breach for the attack. Such a primitive thought, some would say.
Despite his undeniable state as an offspring of the night, Lotor couldn’t avoid a cautious weariness of the dark. This was not because he was cowardly or meek, although his fellow “brothers” would easily say it was because of the weak, watery blood in his veins. When he was a mere child, these words could cut deep into his dwindling soul, however, after so many years, the threating effect was a mere faint thought in the depths of his minds. Quite contrary to this “popular’’ belief, his fear hardly came from the dark itself, but more from the ones that hid underneath it better than he did.
The water rocked against the shore, as he observed a tiny boat cut clean its way through. The Galra had seen that same scene countless times, yet it never failed to impress him. The noise, the smack against the rocks was a constant in his head now, as his perceptive ears decided to focus on it rather than the distant sound of cars crossing.
Once the boat safely docked on another island, Lotor sighed slowly, his dark blue eyes glancing the sky above. New York didn’t have many stars, so, unfortunately, the looming ceiling of the earth looked like a puddle of dark ink. The grass beneath his bare feet tingled his senses, as he started to pace around almost instinctively, lowering his gaze to the crashing water so close of him. The noise of the waves against the shore became stronger and stronger, as he let the wind whip his body, making him shiver slightly. The shudder, however, even with the gale raging against his unprotected body, didn’t take him out of his own thoughts.
Some time passed, his chin resting in his hand, eyes glancing down to the mantle of vegetation that covered the soil. A wild strand of hair insisted on staying in front of his face, an almost white blondish colored strand that annoyed him to no end. It didn’t take long until he finally stopped walking, closing his eyes, brow furrowed as he let out a defeated sigh that the wind carried away.
Out of nowhere, his body changed, as he shrunk into himself, skin and bone untangling from each other. A vague groan escaped his throat, sweat dripping from his brow. Pain is your teacher. Skin melting and merging, the yellow glimmer of his eyes was a mere slit, the almost violet hue of his eyes clouded, his mouth distorted in pain. It only took a moment before he took flight.
Lotor, the Dhampir prince, had turned into a bat.
Allura was restless.
The minutes passed by so slowly in that tense atmosphere, she almost couldn’t control herself any longer. It was such a mess of emotions inside her head.
She wanted to talk to Hunk. She wanted to quiet herself down. She wanted to crumble in her bed. She wanted to run, take a stroll or some physical exercise. She wanted to try to understand her father’s old notes.
These thoughts formed a whirlwind in her brain, incoherent enough that even if she did decide on one of them, the storm inside her wouldn’t subside. Anxiety kicked in her in the form of those vague ideas and restlessness, so she started fidgeting with her fingers, cracking one by one.
Hunk spared her a worried glance that she caught right away. Allura suddenly felt like a bucket of ice had dropped in her head, pulling her back to reality. He was doing a favor to her taking her back home and yet she had said almost nothing all ride. Not only that, but he probably had been worrying about her all this time. So, she said, almost in a whisper:
He understood. A soft, innocent smile traced his face as his eyes regained a bit of light. She couldn’t avoid smiling a bit too. His happiness was contagious, she guessed. And her intuition was telling her that he comprehended everything she was trying to convey.
The passing minutes weren’t that tense anymore. However, that slight easiness didn’t erase a throbbing migraine that permeated her head and she quietly hoped that she could just sleep the rest of the night in peace.
Lotor hated having to change neighborhoods.
He had been at every corner of New York at this point of his long life; however, he still couldn’t get used on having to change identities every time. His rational brain told him it was a necessary evil and so he had to quiet down the thoughts. Which didn’t make Lotor any more patient with his own situation.
The wind was merciless against his poorly covered body. Fur helped, he thought grimly, but a gale was enough to make his fatigue-ridden body weaken. Nonetheless, he kept flying above the lights, above everything in the direction of the Hudson River. At the very least, he had an easy reference point to guide him or he would have got lost on his way back home more often.
Which didn’t make the blinding lights that permeated the streets any easier on his eyes.
He flapped his wings, yet he felt a bit clumsy and tired. It was frustrating. This form was surprisingly tiring to maintain and the gleam wasn’t making it any easier for him, straining his patience and fatigued mind.
At some point, he saw his own apartment complex. Finally. Number 204, windows open despite the lack of anyone else in the house. However, he couldn’t relax just yet.
Entering the apartment was a crucial step of every night. That one time that an old woman fainted from catching him transforming back from her house across the street wasn’t going to repeat itself, but he knew there could always be an absentminded freak walking around in the night to catch him off guard.
Carefully, he found himself a power line where he could hang for a little while, to guarantee there wasn’t any unexpected witness to his transformation. And so he did. Once he was hanging upside down, he just needed to wait a few minutes, catching his breath.
Minutes passed until he reached the conclusion it was calm enough to enter the house. He stretched his wings slightly, almost releasing his toes from the line, just as soon as the lights of a car hit his sensitive eyes. His toes gripped the power line in response, retreating his wings carefully while waiting for them to go away.
A dark-skinned woman got out of the car, her steps light and quick-paced as she gave whoever was driving a short goodbye and rushed inside. A quick look on her and Lotor recognized her vaguely as his neighbor. Maybe she was the one who lived just above him and that was especially noisy or the just below that had three dogs. He wasn’t particularly sure and not particularly willing to dwell on it for much longer.
Time was running out for Lotor. The sun was rising in the sky and he knew very well how much it hurt getting burned without adequate protection. If the woman was still in the door, she probably wasn’t going to look into his apartment, he reasoned, as his wings stretched and he released his toes from the tight grip.
Had he taken a single second more to set his toes free, he would have been in some terrible trouble, as his wings touched two of the lines.
Once, a long time ago, Lotor had been without protection in the sunlight. As a hybrid, he thought there was a vague chance the sun was harmless to him. Not only it wasn’t, but the pain lingered for years before finally subsiding, a phantom regret that had hurt almost as much as when his father discovered his adventure.
However, even that hadn’t prepared him for the violence that was a shock of that magnitude. His limbs moved violently and the smoke of his skin burning invaded his senses. He felt like his whole body had just flicked off and on in a second as if some unholy force pumped life back into his soul.
His motionless body fell in the sidewalk.
Allura turned to the loud zapping noise that thundered through the night, raising her arm in a defensive position out of pure instinct. The blunt sound of the tiny body hitting the concrete startled her. Her thoughts had now shifted from the terrible evening to this unexpected event.
The torrid smell of burned flesh invaded her senses as she approached the motionless creature. Her teal-colored eyes watered, disgusted at the smoke exhaled by the body, but that didn’t stop her. “A bat,” she muttered slowly, going down on her knees. It was a strange bat, not that she was any bat specialist, but it indeed looked like some sort of flying fox. No, it is too small to be one. Also, they aren’t natives to the USA, so why would one be here, also those fangs don’t belong to any fruit eater, that’s for sure. She thought about it for a short while, incapable of pointing out exactly what she was looking at. Then, Allura reached her hand but quickly came to a halt.
It was irradiating heat.
Allura withdrew her hand, watching intently the animal. Must be dead … She had heard that electrocution wasn’t an uncommon cause of death to those animals, however, it was still heartbreaking. Such a fitting ending for this night. She stayed there for a while, as if paying respects, some bitter thoughts lingering in her mind. The sun rose on the horizon, daylight bathing the sidewalk and shining through the night. She was prepared to get up until a movement caught her eyes.
The body moved.
The bat’s eyes flicked open, in a desperation as the light bathed them both. Its tiny, fragile limbs struggled weakly, dragging its body away aimlessly. Trying to take flight.
A pained whimper echoed through Allura’s soul, weakening her resolve.
Her hands moved without taking notice, embracing the tiny animal with her fingers, taking the utmost care to avoid touching the blackened wings.
Oddly, its body wasn’t that hot anymore.
Allura got up and stepped inside, her mind wandering off without much care for what was actually happening in front of her eyes. She pushed the elevator button, just hoping no one would see what she was doing. A soft noise chimed through the silence, as the elevator’s doors opened.
Once inside, she lowered her gaze to the tiny fighter in her hands, surprise knocked the air out of her lungs, her eyes widening in the scene developing in front of her.
Her hands were glowing.
A pink glow was steaming from her hands, enveloping the tiny animal. It seemed frightened, but it didn’t struggle against the light. The blackened wings suddenly seemed less scorched. The bat glared right in her eyes, making her hesitate.
She really wanted to scream.
What the actual fu–
Her line of thought halted in its way, as the glow subsided as quickly as it had appeared. However, the bat didn’t stop glaring right into her soul. It was unsettling to see those dark eyes looked at her expectantly. She always had thought domestic animals had a way of making expressions very humanlike, however, she had seen those kinds of expressions the most in loved, whose owners were quite vocal, dogs and cats. Not in a bat.
Yet here it was, this weird creature cradled in her hands frightening her to the core with an oddly human expression encaged inside its eyes.
The elevator jingled, opening to reveal the number 301.
Allura stepped outside, her trembling hands still holding onto the strangely quiet animal. Her mind was a restless mess. A certain numbness settled in her hands as if they were dormant. Anxiety suddenly kicked in her mind. Hard.
Her restless mind was desperate in its efforts of brushing off the thought that Allura had just witnessed her hands glowing. Of course, it was because of the headache, it just didn’t make sense to think otherwise. Now that she thought about it, the elevator always had some strange lighting. The lamps often flickered and turned out weird. Once she had entered the elevator and she was greeted with some weird yellow light. Later the handyman explained it was just a change in the lamps. It must have been something of that sort.
She wandered off to her apartment. 304. She held onto the bat carefully with one hand, sparing it a glance before stumbling her through the purse to find her keys. The creature was bearing an odd look on her face, but it didn’t complain of being so easily handled. She finally found her keys buried in her purse. It took three tries before she could finally open the door.
As Allura entered, the adrenaline subsiding to the head-splitting migraine she had before, her mind cleared, revealing the terrible decisions she had been making until now. Why did she pick up the bat?
To anyone sane, everything about her decisions seemed like a bad idea. The heat should have lingered in the bat’s body enough so pick it up would burn her skin. The animal could be infected, the animal could have struggled against her grip and the animal could have bitten her.
However, distressed persons have the uncanny ability to fool themselves. She tried to convince herself that it wasn’t that bad of an idea. She was a veterinary. Sure, Allura had handled nothing but domestic animals for three years, but it’s not like it was impossible for her. Also, the worst the bat could do was bite her and she had to get vaccinated against rabies before, it wasn’t that horrible. The bat was surely going to die had she left it alone, so it must not have been that terrible.
As she tried to convince herself, closing the door and handling the bat with both hands now, Allura walked towards her bedroom. Her four hamsters squeaked, seemingly delighted with her appearance, moving around in their cage. She permitted herself a weak smile. How could she blame the bat for having such expression when her own odd animals managed to do the same?
Then the thought hit her like a truck. Fine, she could deal with saving the bat. What now? She couldn’t just free it. Such uncanny animal must belong to a zoo or something. If not, then some bat organization would make a better job tending to its wounds than her. However, how could she explain what happened? This bat should be dead, but whatever she had done to it apparently saved the animal. Allura was avoiding the idea that the glow was the reason why the bat had survived, however it didn’t escape her that it seemed like a more plausible explanation to living animal in her hands than that he had just survived the shock.
Allura picked up one her towels in the closet and cradled the bat around it. She expected some sort of struggle. It was a wild animal, so its reaction shouldn’t have been just passively looked inside her soul and let her do it. But it did exactly that, unnerving the woman to the core.
She was trying to remember some emergency care for the bat, however, the incessant pain in her head was making it harder than she initially thought. Instead, while holding the calm animal, she went to the living room and picked up a big yet old cage, which once had fostered a pair of parakeets. Rest in peace, Tobias Wainwright, and Sophie Beckmann, but someone else needs it more right now. The woman had been planning to throw it in the trash for a long time, but at that moment, she was glad for her procrastination.
Allura put the thought aside, picking the cage up and some blankets from her closet. It was probably going to be a pain washing it later, but she was helping this creature, so how could she resist? She covered the top and bottom, before opening the cage and releasing the bat inside.
Once safe, it crawled out of the shirt, settling itself with its toes gripping the fabric. Sighing in relief, Allura whispered, a tiny secret between her and the animal.
Allura could swear she saw the animal nodding, staring at her with weariness.
Giggling at the impossible thought, she left the animal by itself, before looking through the window. The sun was bright outside, the cars crossing quickly the street like in any normal Saturday morning. She closed the curtains. Allura was still feeling that migraine, so no beautiful daybreak for her. She was already preparing to sleep the rest of the morning peacefully.
She went to the bathroom and took a quick bath to try to clean her thoughts. Finally, with her body enveloped by the hot water and the steam, the migraine started to subside. She tiptoed out of the shower, feeling less stressed after all, and curling her body in a white towel.
Going back to her room, the alarm clock on the nightstand marked it was 5:27 AM. A sigh slipped through her lips, as she mused about how waking up any earlier than 10 AM seemed impossible now. Stretching her arms, she quickly got rid of the towel, falling in the bed and curling up in the sheets. Allura whispered a goodnight to the hamsters, but before drifting off to a deep slumber, she glanced at the bat's cage, where the tiny creature seemed impassive.
"Goodnight for you too"
Allura wasn't sure if she was already dreaming or not, but a faint whisper of a smooth husky voice carried by the wind answered her, as she succumbed to the fatigue.