Lance is sitting at the table doing homework. He rubs his eyes and squints at the clock. It’s almost midnight. He sighs and continues. He does not want to be doing homework for his first few minutes as a sixteen-year-old. He wanted to do his work earlier, but his mom made him do the dishes after dinner. He checks to see how many problems he has left to do. He sighs as he doesn’t think he’ll be done in time. His vision is starting to swim from lack of sleep. Maybe he’d be able to work faster after some rest.
He starts to stand, but then the dog whimpers at his feet. She wants to go outside. Lance obliges reluctantly and goes to open the front door for her. She jumps up and down in excitement.
“I’m coming. I’m coming,” he hushes. The boy swings open the dog’s exit. He expected her to take care of business in the front yard and then paw at the door until Lance let her back in, but she bolts down the street as soon as the way is clear. Lance stares for a second, waiting for her to run back. When she is out of sight, he curses under his breath and slips on his shoes to step onto the porch.
“Alucard!” Lance yells. She barks, and he is able to locate her disappearing form in the darkness. He hesitates before running out into the street after her. He follows her for several blocks and around several corners, but she’s really gunning it. He almost catches up to her a few times when she’s smelling the air before she darts off in another direction. Lance isn’t sure how far he’s gone when he loses track of her.
“Alucard!” he tries again to call, catching his breath. He listens for any sign that she heard him, but he finds none. He looks up and down the street. All of the houses in this area are vaguely similar. He realizes he isn’t sure where he is. He reaches for his phone to look up directions when he remembers it’s sitting on the kitchen table.
“Shit,” he breathes. It’s cold, and he doesn’t have the energy to keep running and keep himself warm. Lance wraps his thin jacket around his thin torso. I guess I’ll wander around until I get back home, he thinks. He reaches again for his phone to tell his sister Allura he needs help finding the dog, but of course, his phone isn’t here. He has grown really dependent on that thing. Maybe dealing without it will be good for him. He puts his hands in his pockets and shuffles along.
The wind whistles eerily through the surrounding brush. Lance tells himself the rustling of the trees is just that. The crisp air nips gently at his nose and cheeks. He hugs his arms and quickens his pace a little. The light of the waxing moon is weirdly blue, painting the neighborhood like a dreamscape. It only adds to the spooky nature of the night. Then he hears howling. Is that Alucard? It doesn’t sound like her, but Lance hasn’t really heard her howl before. He tries to follow the noise. Something feels wrong, though. He doesn’t recognize the houses in this area at all.
There’s an unnatural susurrus somewhere behind him. He whips around to face the empty street. He could’ve sworn he heard footsteps. The air is suddenly colder, too. Lance keeps his head on a swivel as he marches on. His ears are freezing and he can see his breath in front of him. Christ, it’s only October. This isn’t right.
He hears a little yelp and stops. That was definitely a dog sound. When Lance turns, he notices an alley between two houses. It’s narrow and dark and seems to be a sort of drainage path for the street.
“Alucard?” he calls. He doesn’t see her down the path, but he heard something. It can’t hurt to check. He steps carefully into the darkness and wishes he had a flashlight. Lance curses himself again for not grabbing his phone. He stubs his toe on crumbling cement where the trail ends at a little creek running behind the houses. He grits his teeth at the pain, but it soon subsides.
He grabs a branch and uses it to balance as he jumps down from the concrete. He looks to his left, then to his right. “Alu- Oh my god.” In the little stream lies his dog. Her blood makes a slick mud between the brook and brush. Lance realizes he’s stepped in it. He pukes on himself before he can totally process what he’s seeing. “Oh god,” he whimpers. He kneels to try to fix her, wetting his jeans in the chill water. He pets what’s left of her muddy, bloody fur and tells her she’ll be okay. He doesn’t really register his surroundings. How can he when what was once Lance’s family dog has been torn to shreds with guts and intestines strewn about the little creek? He picks up her dismembered leg and tries to reattach it. It’s no use, but Lance doesn’t know that. He can’t think about that right now. He can’t think about how this might have happened, either, until it’s happening to him.
Someone picks him up and throws him into a tree; something; a beast. Lance falls helplessly into the mud. Then the thing is on him. It rips at his clothes and tears at his skin. The creature has a vaguely human face despite its big yellow eyes and horrible bloody fangs. A long pink tongue slips out to lick up the puke and tears on Lance’s face. Lance tries to push it away, but it grabs his wrist with a clawed hand and hisses. The beast presses its wet mouth against Lance’s shivering skin to sniff at his palm, then arm, then neck. It growls then and slashes his chest. Lance cries out.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, he scolds himself. His weariness is abruptly replaced by survival energy as adrenaline rushes through his veins. The creature laps at the fresh blood oozing from his chest. Lance tries to hastily crab walk away, but the monster hooks its claws into the flesh of his thighs through his pants and drags him back to it, eliciting another scream from Lance. Someone will hear him and come save him, right?
He kicks his legs to try to get free. His pants come down and he manages to turn and scramble a few feet before the beast pins him down again. It forces him on his hands and knees and bites his shoulder so hard Lance thinks his arm might come off. He screams again, shrill and desperate.
He tries to elbow off the beast, but it’s no use, is it? How could he even try to fight back? The monster is about the same size as him, but much faster and much stronger.
“Help me!” Lance screams as loud as he can. The only thing he can do for himself now is hope to be rescued. “Somebody! Please help me!” The monster snarls against Lance’s skin and he begins to cry. It hurts. It hurts so much. He can feel himself weakening with blood loss. His body falls forward, but the monster keeps a hold of his hips. He can’t move his right arm, but he uses his left to claw uselessly at the ground. He sobs, powerless, into the mud.
The beast roars behind him, getting chunks of flesh and saliva all over Lance. Its furry body presses up against him. Lance realizes by their closeness the beast is a he. Lance then realizes with horror he is preparing to mount. The boy’s attempts to escape grow more desperate, but they are futile nonetheless. The creature growls softly— almost like a purr. Then he pushes himself inside of the petrified boy beneath him. Lance wails loudly at the unwelcome sensation.
He wants to fight back, but what can he do? He can feel his life slipping away as the monster fucks his limp body like a rabid animal. All he can do now is choke on his blood and tears. He screams from pain, rather than for help. His cries lose timbre successively as his voice fails him.
The creature gnaws at Lance’s ear, not stopping or slowing his thrusts. Then he moves down to Lance’s neck. Lance finds the action revoltingly intimate before the monster sinks his teeth into the boy’s throat. He panics, fearing the beast to be an Altean. Lance doesn’t want to become a mindless slave for this thing. He can’t imagine doing something as horrible as drinking the blood of another living being. He would rather die than become one of those monsters.
Wait. What is he thinking? He doesn’t even believe in Alteans. The creature on him isn’t sucking his blood anyway. It’s just ripping and tearing. Maybe Lance will die.
The monster bites harder and Lance is forced out of his thoughts. His head swims from lack of oxygen. The beast is getting sloppy too, thrusting wildly and drooling lazily with Lance in his mouth. He shudders. The beast holds Lance and buries his nails into his soft abdomen. Lance is barely conscious enough to react. A feeble moan passes his throat. He can see his own blood run down the creek. This is it, he thinks. He’s really going to die. The monster releases Lance after cumming inside him and his body falls with a squelch into the red mud. The creature howls. Then he’s gone.
Lance is left shivering feircely. The water of the creek is so cold, but it does nothing to numb his pain. He wonders if he even wants someone to find him at this point. What could they do to save him? He wishes he didn’t let the dog out in the first place. Now she’s dead. And now Lance is going to die too. He didn’t tell anyone he was leaving. His mom and sister are probably still sound asleep.
He weeps weakly into the earth until his frail body goes still. Blue moonlight peaks through the trees and creeps over Lance’s paling skin. The fear and despair he feels over his death are great, but at least he can’t feel the pain anymore.
-- -- --
Alluna comes downstairs as the sun rises. When she sees the mess her son left on the table, she mumbles to herself about how he is just like his father; he never gives up. She hopes he got enough sleep last night, though. It may be his birthday, but he still has to go to school. His alarm is going off on his phone. She thinks it strange that he forgot it. That thing is almost never out of his hand. She turns off the sound with a sigh.
Her daughter Allura comes into the kitchen, rubbing her eyes.
“Good morning, baby,” Alluna smiles. “Do you mind waking up your brother? He left his phone down here last night.”
Allura nods and turns around to go back upstairs.
Alluna considers what she is going to say to Lance when she sees him. She could scold him for leaving his school work all over the table, she could hug him and wish him a happy birthday, or she could tell him everything. She shakes her head, causing her bun to come loose. She fixes her hair as she walks around the house looking for the dog to let outside.
“Alucard,” she calls gently. She must’ve walked the whole house three times before she gives up.
“Mom,” Allura appears suddenly. “Lance isn’t in his room. And I checked the bathrooms and closets too. He isn’t here.”
A cool breeze winds its way through the house. Alluna notices the front door is cracked open and she closes it. Then she opens it and steps outside.
“Mom,” Allura repeats.
“Where is the dog?”
“The dog. Alucard isn’t here. Where is she?” She’s panicking.
“Mom,” Allura calms. “What about Lance?”
Alluna fights back tears. She has a bad feeling about this. “Maybe he walked to school this morning?”
“He would tell us. Besides, his stuff is still here.”
“Maybe he just took a walk.” Alluna comes back in. “HIs shoes are gone! Surely he just-”
“I’m calling him,” Allura says, taking out her phone.
“He left his phone here,” Alluna frets.
“Then I’m calling the police!”
Alluna stops her daughter. “No. Don’t get them involved. Let’s look on our own, okay?”
They set out immediately, calling frantically for their dog up and down the neighborhood. They can’t very well yell for Lance directly, as that might cause unwanted attention. Lance’s sixteenth birthday comes and goes. The school calls that night to report Allura and Lance’s unexcused absences.
On the next day, they go door to door, asking neighbors if they’ve seen the dog or the boy. They are not comforted when several neighbors tell them they haven’t seen their own pets in the last two days.
On the third day, they finally call the police and report Lance missing. They ask the police to keep it as quiet as possible, but to do whatever they can to find him.
Throughout the week, the cops call to report their findings, which isn’t much. Alluna and Allura don’t stop looking, but they’re starting to lose faith.
It isn’t until the eighth day, October thirtieth, that someone knocks on their door. Alluna opens it slowly, holding her breath in hopes of it being her boy. Instead, she finds a lanky police officer looking at his shoes.
“Um, Mrs. McClain?” the officer asks.
“I am she,” Alluna replies nervously. She can’t seem to breathe properly. Something is wrong.
“It’s about your son,” the young policeman supplies. Why won’t he meet her gaze?
“Where is he?” she asks desperately, looking around the officer and into the night for her baby.
“He’s at the station, but-”
“Take me to him,” Alluna commands.
The officer gulps and nods.
“I’m coming too,” Allura states, getting into the car with her mother. Both women are on edge as they approach the county police station.
“McClain?” an older officer asks when they open the heavy glass doors. They nod frantically. “Right this way.”
Alluna takes her daughter by the hand. “I’m going to kill that boy if he doesn’t have a good explanation for this,” she says to calm her nerves.
The older man stops. “Did no one tell you why you’re here?”
She swallows. “I’m here to see my son. My Lance.”
The officer frowns. “Ma’am, you’ve been called to identify the body.”
Alluna freezes. She and Allura share a look of horrified disbelief.
The man clears his throat. “He’s in here,” he says quietly, pushing open a wide steel door. There is an unbearable stillness within the little room. The officer gestures for the women to enter. When they finally make their way in, the man pulls back the white sheet situated over the body lying on a steel table in the middle of the room.
Alluna steps closer.
His skin is nearly blue where it’s still intact. Big purple gashes mar his scrawny form. His face, thank god, is unscathed. However, it’s not Lance. How can it be? Lance is always smiling. Lance is always laughing. Lance is so warm and bright. How can the cold, naked body lying on this frigid metal slab be the same beautiful child?
Alluna raises a shaking hand and runs it through his hair. She drops her forehead on his and weeps onto his eyes. He would have woken by now if he was going to at all. It’s hopeless. He’s gone.
Allura, perhaps as some coping mechanism, keeps her wits about her. “Where did you find him?” she questions the officer who is awkwardly hovering in the room.
“His body was found in the creek. About a mile and a half away from your home.”
“Another team found him a few hours ago while following a trail of unclaimed animal corpses.”
“But when did he die?”
The officer exhales. “He was in the mud, so it’s hard to say. We suspect his body was left there after his death, but it’s possible he could have died there. Most of his clothes were torn and discarded in the area; pants around his ankles. It’s unclear whether he was raped before or after passing. We place time of death to be around the time you last reported seeing him.”
Allura fights back tears of her own. How could the cop so bluntly say her brother was raped and murdered? She forces her mind to stop presenting her with gruesome images. “What day?”
“Did he die on the twenty-second or the twenty-third?” Allura stresses.
“I’m not sure why that matt-”
“Was he fifteen or sixteen when he died? I need to know,” Allura begs. “He’s my brother. Please, I need to know.”
The officer gives a sorry shrug of his shoulders.
Allura slides down the wall with her eyes closed. This can’t be real. She takes a deep, shaky breath and swallows her tears. Think, Allura. Think. When she opens her eyes, she sees a little square panel on the ceiling. “What is that?” she asks, pointing to the square.
“It’s a skylight, miss.”
Of course. “Open it,” she demands. The man looks at her, confused. She must find some reason an ordinary human would accept. “Please, open it so God might look upon my brother.”
The policeman shifts uncomfortably. “I’m not sure that’s-”
“Do it! Lest you keep him from salvation!” Allura has never studied Christianity, so she hopes she’s spewing somewhat of the right nonsense. She must’ve been on track because the officer moves to the door to hit a switch. The panel raises slowly and tilts out of the way. Allura tugs back her mother so the light of the full moon can reach him. She prays silently for this to work.
“I’ll give you some space,” the officer mumbles as he exits.
Allura and Alluna ignore him.
“Is the sheet in the way?” Allura asks.
Alluna frowns. “Oh, mija. We’re too late,” she cries.
“No!” Allura steps forward to draw back the white blanket. She grabs the corner and just as she begins to pull, Lance bolts upright.
Wide slitted eyes fill with tears as— past little, fanged teeth— Lance takes the first breath of his second life.