I shouldn’t have come. I shouldn’t be there. These were the thoughts that ran through my head. It was cloudy this night, blocking the light from the moon and stars. It gave the park a darker, less forgiving feeling. I clung to the lamp-lit path like it was my only lifeline. Rune was late, although I shouldn’t have been surprised in the least.
It was Samantha’s fault that I was here. She told me that if I didn’t go and meet Rune in a dark secluded spot in the middle of the night that she’d kill me. It was alright; I could handle myself. I felt my pocket for the taser that I had brought, just in case. I felt my other pocket for the package Samantha had shoved onto me before sending me here. When I opened it up, it consisted of a ball gag and a lasso of rope. I really didn’t know what I was supposed to do with those. Samantha seriously worried me sometimes. Times like this reminded me that her previous boyfriend did mysteriously move to California without warning.
It had been two days since Rune had first asked me to meet him. He had asked again the next day, this time telling me he would explain the truth. It was curiosity that had dragged me out here. I picked now because there was no way I could convince my mom to let me leave the house for a few hours to meet a boy. I picked the park because it was familiar and roomy. Remembering the fight between Andrew and Rune, I suddenly found myself considerably less sure. Then again, with those abilities was I safe anywhere?
He had thought it amusing that I wanted to meet him in a park in the middle of the night. Had I thought the action through myself, I might have picked a more reasonable location. I shouldn’t have brought the taser, I should have brought a gun. Samantha had told me that I should bring my own protection. On second thought, I don’t think she was talking about a taser or the gun. I was so stupid. I shouldn’t have done this. A sudden howl pierced the night and I froze. Please Rune, get here soon.
I paced back and forth nervously, feeling the taser for the tenth time. I had gotten it for my fourteenth birthday. I hoped it was still charged. It was then that I began to hear the noise. It was a creaking and rustling noise coming from the forested area nearby. Oh no, what is it now?
“Rune, is that you?” I whispered quietly.
The sounds stopped. I took several steps forward. It was probably just an animal. No, it was an animal. It was an animal and I was going to prove it to myself. I could conquer my own fear. It was just some little animal. I remembered that the last little animal I ran into exploded into a giant monster. I couldn’t think about that right now. I was brave. I moved the bush aside and stepped into the forested terrain. Then I screamed.
Lying on the ground in front of me was the body of a young kid about my age. His body was torn in half. His legs were nowhere to be seen, but his torso and attached head laid right at my feet on the forest floor. Streaks of darkened blood stretched off into the distance as if he was dragged over here, or perhaps he crawled.
My hands covered my mouth. It was a horrifying scene, something that I had only witnessed in a horror movie. His eyes were closed, his breathing was nonexistent. It was only when I finally calmed down enough to look over the body that I realized I recognized this person. I didn’t know if that made things better or worse.
His name was Stephan. He was perhaps one of the nicest guys in school. I had had a crush on him. That wasn’t abnormal. A lot of people had a crush on Stephan, he was another member of the hawtness. His boyish good looks and pretty, petite face framed dazzling bluish, gray eyes. He wasn’t as muscular as Andrew or Rune, but he had a gentleness and kindness to his heart that neither of them could match. Someone had taken that away from him. Someone had killed him.
Rune. It had to have been Rune. I remembered him shooting purple flames of destruction. Andrew had said Rune had summoned it. I wasn’t the brightest girl, but I could at least piece two and two together. What did this mean, though? Was this some kind of message, a threat, or coincidence?
I moved close the dead body of the sweet boy I once knew. I didn’t know what else to do. I wasn’t going to meet with Rune. I was definitely not going to meet with Rune now. However, could I just leave him here? If I found someone, it would lead to a lot of questions. I could get into a lot of trouble. He was still very beautiful, at least from the waist up. I slapped myself, no, that was creepy Samantha talk. I turned back to the corpse of the boy.
“I am so sorry for what has happened to you. I think I know who did this, and I wish for the world I could undo it,” I shook, a small tear running down my face, “You know, I used to always think you were cute.”
Stephan’s eyes opened, “Really? Cute?”
I screamed, falling back out of the bushes onto the concrete pathway from which I had come. That was my mind playing tricks on me. It had to have been. No, I’m crazy; this is crazy. Another dream. That’s what it was, another dream. More bad mushrooms. I made mom throw out the last batch, but she must have lied to me. Damn cheapskate. I reached towards the bush, and a hand came out and grabbed mine. The hand was as cold as death. I screamed again pulling back until the hand let go.
The bushes began to shake and convulse as the torso of Stephan moved out of it. I did the only thing I could. I ran. I ran as hard as I could down the pathway. I wasn’t going to stop running, not until I was out of the park and in my own home. I’m not coming back here. No, that’s over with. I’m done with night time rendezvous and the hot boys I meet on them.
My body suddenly collided with a large, hard object and I went tumbling forward, the object moving forward with my momentum. I landed hard on top of someone, who groaned at the force. I looked up to see red hair framing a handsome face. Rune. For once, he looked both surprised and worried. The razor-sharp emotions seemingly focused on me.
“Are you alright? What happened?” He asked with concern in his voice.
This was the guy. He was responsible. He had to be. That look of concern and confusion was a trick. Next, he would rip me in half, and then turn me into a ‘minion’. That was it. I didn’t want to be a half torsoed bunny monster. I had to get away. I had to get away now. I stood up with haste.
“Seriously, has anyone hurt you?” Rune seemed angry, although not at me, but anyone who might hurt me.
“Get out of my way, I’m leaving,” I demanded.
Rune growled, “I knew we shouldn’t have met out here, too dangerous if anyone has touched you…”
Rune grabbed me on both arms, “Look, if anyone…”
I pulled the taser out of my pocket and jammed it into his side, flicking the switch on. His voice cut off as he convulsed several times before suddenly dropping to the ground. Oh god, what did I just do? I looked down at him. He didn’t move. I killed him. Now, I’m a murderer. Oh god, I killed him. I looked back down the path. Stephan was dead and Rune was dead. If I just dragged the body back to his, I could pull it off as a murder-suicide. Two beautiful lovers meeting in the night, one could no longer hold back their affections and rejected the other…. And… and… and that was crazy. Even if I did drag Rune’s dead body back there, Stephan would have crawled away. I’ll… I’ll just have to finish the job.
Wait. Do tasers even kill people? I kicked Rune’s body. It didn’t move. I went to my knees, feeling him. His skin was very warm to the touch. It was far warmer than a traditional person’s body should be. It was in contrast to the stark cold of Stephan’s hand. I pressed my ear up to his chest, listening. I let out a breath of relief. I could hear a heartbeat. Wait for a second, what was that other noise? I shifted my ear slightly and heard another beating sound. Two heartbeats, running in rhythm to each other. What in the hell?
I pulled my ear away as if burnt by his deliciously warm skin. He was alive, that was what mattered. At least I wasn’t leaving him like Stephan. That reminded me again of the half dead torso undoubtedly crawling after me. I couldn’t leave Rune here, could I? I bent over, trying to pick him up. It didn’t work out so well. Eventually, I settled for grabbing his feet and pulling. His body dragged along the concrete pretty smoothly.
He might have a rash come morning, but at least he’d be alive. My foot suddenly fell back and I caught myself. I looked behind and winced. That was right, there was a stairway here. Well, I guess I’d just have to be careful taking him down the stairs. I continued to pull. Thump. Thump. Thump. That was his head. So what? He might have a headache come morning, but at least he’d be alive.
Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. My grip slipped and I fell. I landed five steps down at the bottom of the stairway with a thud. Rune’s body followed closely behind, springing forward and landing on top of me. Great, I’m trapped under him. I twisted steadily trying to work my way out of from under his body. He was so warm and smelled so good. I checked to make sure he was still breathing. His breath smelled of cinnamon and spice. God, why did I smell him? I did still have the rope. I could tie him up and…
“What are you doing?” A familiar voice asked incredulously.
I looked over to my side and realized that Andrew was standing there. What the hell was he doing here? Was he following me? He had a look of shock and confusion on his face. When his eyes focused on Rune, a surge of anger tinged them.
“You fiend, get off her!” he exclaimed, running over and grabbing Rune, lifting him with relative ease.
He flung Rune to the side of the road, putting himself into the familiar combative stance. Rune flopped to the ground, although a light groan came out of his lips.
“No, wait!” I shouted, moving between Rune and Andrew, “He’s unconscious.”
Andrew stopped in midstride, looking confused for a second. Before glancing down and noticing Rune’s closed eyes and rhythmic breathing.
“Unconscious? How did he become unconscious?”
“I tasered him.”
“I hit him with a taser,” I answered sheepishly, pulling out the small taser.
Andrew looked between the taser and Rune several times, and then suddenly broke into laughter. He slapped his knees, bent over laughing.
“You… you’re not going to hurt him, are you? I won’t let that happen.”
Andrew continued to laugh, although as his mirth finally settled down and he wiped a tear from his eye, he shook his head, “No, I won’t hurt him. If I defeated him now, it’d mean nothing.”
Andrew stopped as if realizing he had said too much. He lowered his head. His tone suddenly became serious.
“Why are you out here?”
“Rune promised to tell me about you,” I answered honestly. It felt wrong to lie to Andrew for some reason.
Andrew’s face went wooden, but he gave no inclination about how he felt about what I said, “And did he?”
I shook my head, “I tasered him first.”
Andrew nodded, his face still wooden, “That’s probably for the best. It’s getting late Jane, you probably should go home. I will take care of him. I promise I won’t hurt him. We can talk more at school tomorrow.”
Andrew turned, picking Rune up again. I pulled out my hand to stop him, but the motion knocked my pocket. The ball gag fell out and bounced, rolling up to Andrew’s feet. He looked down his feet and frowned at the sight, and then looked back up to me.
“You have a rope hanging from your pocket,” He said slowly.
I pushed the rope back in hastily, “It’s not what it looks like.”
Andrew raised an eyebrow, looking at the taser still in my hand, the ballgag and then the unconscious Rune. He shook his head and sighed. He nodded to me before moving down the path in the opposite direction I was heading.
“I thought Rune was the one I needed to worry about,” he muttered as he began to leave.
“I’d prefer if you explained to me what I saw that first night,” I responded.
Andrew stopped for a second, “In time, I might. I care too much about your safety to bring you into this kind of life. But if things keep going the way they are, I might not be able to help myself. Just stay away from us. All of us. It will keep you safe.”
Andrew continued to walk away. Another howl pierced the night. I turned around; maybe it was best if I just went home.
“So did you end up meeting Rune last night?” Samantha asked coyly.
“Kind of…” I responded, not quite sure how much I should trust Samantha with.
“And?” she demanded.
“Did you guys, you know, do stuff?”
“No, no I didn’t do stuff. He ended up unconscious.” I spouted out before I could stop myself, my face going red.
“Oh… so you DID do something. Did my supplies become useful?”
“No! No… god no.”
Samantha looked disappointed but continued to grill me with question after question. I was beginning to think she’d never stop when something at the door to the classroom caught her attention.
“What is he doing here, he doesn’t have any classes with us?” she asked breathily.
“Who?” I turned to see what she was looking at and couldn’t stop an involuntary gasp.
Stephan stood there, his body fully intact. He was looking around the room as if searching for something. When his eyes met mine, he smiled and began walking towards me. I began to panic. What was going on? He was dead! He was torn in half and he was dead! I had almost forgotten it in all my panic over Rune and Andrew, but I know I saw what I thought I saw.
He moved up to the pair of us, “Hello Samantha, Hello Jane; if you would be so kind as to forgive my intrusion. Jane, I would like to talk to you in private for a bit.”
I avoided meeting Samantha’s inevitable stare. It had already taken hours to convince her that Rune and Andrew were just a fluke. After a moment, I nodded and he held out his hand. If I took it, it’d lead to rumors, if I didn’t it would look rude. I sighed and took his hand. There was the sound of a gasp as he pulled me to my feet and led me out the door. That was probably Samantha. Tonight was going to be a long night with her on the phone.
It took me a second before I realized where he was taking me. It was a janitor’s closet. I pulled my hand away from his.
“Where are you taking me?” I asked the very obvious question. I wasn’t mentally prepared to be in the closet with a dead guy.
Stephan looked confused, but after a moment he seemed to understand, “Oh, I’m sorry, I mean nothing by it. It just seemed like the safest place we could talk without being overheard. The class is in session right now. It’s only luck that you have Study hall and I have Independent Studies during the same period. No one will see us, and more importantly, no one would hear us.”
“Hear us talk about what?” I stubbornly asked.
“I feel I owe you an explanation after last night.”
My eyes widened; it felt surprising to have someone so honest and open with me after all, the secrecy Rune and Andrew had afforded me up until now. Finally a gentleman. I vaguely wondered if he was single. However, I don’t date dead guys. They had ice cold skin, vacant stares, and they just lie there, who would be attracted to that? Samantha would tell me that they were stiff in all the right places. I involuntarily shivered. It didn’t matter either way. If he was willing to tell me the truth, maybe it would shed light on the other two. My curiosity got the better of me, and before I realized it, I was six feet into a closet with my former crush.
Stephan sat in a chair right next to me. The closet wasn’t exactly roomy with boxes in every spare space. He ended up far closer to me than expected. His breath brushed across my cheek. He smelled of flowers. I shook my head, not allowing myself to become distracted. His shoulder pressed up against mine, and I could feel his skin was still ice cold.
“Now, the reason I brought you here; you said something last night…”
A blush shot across my face.
Stephan picked up on it, “No, I didn’t mean when you called me cute. I mean, I appreciate that you think I am cute. I think you are too, I mean…” Suddenly it was Stephan’s turn to blush.
It looked cute on his very white tan-less skin. He had just said I was cute. Why was that the information I took away from this?
“I am sorry, I meant you said you know who did… that to me.”
“That?” suddenly I realized what he meant.
“Right, my manners, you probably want me to explain that first. I don’t think there is any point in sugar coating this. I think you probably have guessed by now that I am dead.”
“Yes, but please rest assure, I was already dead before that thing attacked me.”
The calmness and sincerity in Stephan’s voice was at odds with what he was saying. I stared at him blankly, my mind seemingly numb to the words.
“I’m sorry, it’s kind of a strange story. When I was very young, I ended up drowning in a river. My parents were very heartbroken over it. As they cried over my cold corpse, an old man happened to walk by. He offered my parents the chance to see me alive again. My parents never told me what the man wanted in return, but it turned out he was a necromancer who brought me back to life… or at least an undead state.”
Stephan reached out and grabbed my hand, pressing it against his chest, “As you can see, I have no heartbeat. I can heal any wound. I’m basically immortal as long as my brain isn’t damaged. As you can see, I also still age, but for all intended purposes I am dead.”
“Alright, that explains why you’re here, but what about last night?”
“Well, being undead, I never sleep. I’ve found that staying out at night; you encounter some dangerous and strange individuals.”
I could understand that statement, I’ve certainly started to meet some weird ones.
“Can you make a fiery sword appear, or throw purple fireballs?” I asked abruptly.
Stephan blinked, “No… I can’t do anything like that. I mean, I can talk to spirits and stuff, but that’s about it. ”
I sighed, well so much for helping figure out who they were.
“Anyway, I ended up deciding that I could use my gifts to help people. So I kind of patrol the night, making sure people are safe. Lately, I’ve been on the trail of some kind of large beast that has been haunting the park. It got the jump on me last night. Ran off with my legs. Took me almost the entire night to find them. I saw the thing’s shadow again after I ran into you and managed to follow it to my legs. It had buried them. But I don’t even know what it is I’m hunting, that’s why when you said you knew, I thought you could help me solve the case.”
I shook my head, “It couldn’t be what I thought it was. He was out the rest of the night; it couldn’t have been his shadow you saw.”
“His?” Stephan asked with curiosity.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know who it was that took your legs,” I responded; that was a sentence I never saw myself saying.
“That is a shame. Well, let me know if you hear anything, will you? You are the first person I have ever trusted my secrets with; I’d be appreciative if you kept those secrets.”
“I will; I promise.”
“Good, well, the next period will be starting soon, let us get out of here.”
Stephan reached for the door at the same time I did. The crowded store room being a little too small for both of us to stand together. I fell forward and my hand rested on his chest. He let out a small smile and apology and then opened the door. I turned to leave with him and stopped dead. Two people were standing right at the doorway, Rune and Andrew.