Vampire Games (Chapter Thirty-two)

Fang.

My best friend. Perhaps even more than a friend. My mentor. His advice had been crucial. His guidance had been invaluable. It was safe to say that I might have – just might have – gone batshit crazy without his help.

No pun intended.

That he had stalked me and fallen in love with me were different matters entirely. That he had been a friend when I needed a friend the most was what I would always remember.

I was sitting across from him now in his small, one-bedroom apartment located at the edge of Fullerton, in a shabby complex where the great Philip K. Dick had once lived. Fang was lying on his couch in the fetal position, shaking violently. I was certain that he was not aware of me.

I was certain, in fact, that he was dying.

According to Fang, this was the very complex where Dick – the author of Blade Runner , Total Recall, and Minority Report, to name a few of his more popular titles – had his reality-shattering religious and visionary experiences.

Except now, as I watched Fang curl tighter into the fetal position, I knew there was nothing religious or visionary going on here. What I was seeing was a man suffering horribly.

I knew the feeling; it wasn't nice.

What was going on here, I knew, was death. His body wasn't just changing into something out-of-this world. It was dying, pure and simple. And Fang wasn't just dying, I knew. He was being…

Replaced.

Something else would inhabit him. Something dark and sinister – and looking for a foothold into this world.

Jesus.

The energy around Fang was interesting, to say the least. The deep black halo that surrounded him was infused with particles of light. I had never seen that before. I was witnessing something extraordinary.

I had only been to Fang's apartment once, months ago. Back then, I was still on the fence with Fang, still open to the possibility of romance. He had served drinks and we had sat on this very same couch. He had played music and I knew his intention was to seduce me. There were some benefits to reading the guy's thoughts, after all. But we never got very far. From the moment he put his arm around me, I had known that this was wrong. I had stood and told him that I was sorry but I had to leave.

Fang had looked mortally wounded, but had given me a sweet kiss on the cheek and told me to drive safely.

And now I was back, and watching him writhe and sweat and pant on the couch. That is, until I heard the sound at the door.

Detective Hanner of the Fullerton Police Department was standing in the entrance, watching me carefully. How she got in without me hearing her was disturbing. We stared at each other some more. My shoulders tensed. I was ready to move quickly if I had to.

But I didn't have to. She nodded to me after a moment, then turned and quietly shut the door. Once done, she tossed her coat over the back of a dining chair and walked toward me. Her eyes didn't exactly glow, not like Kingsley's, but I could see what appeared to be tiny flickers of flames just behind her pupils.

"Good evening, Samantha Moon," she said evenly. When she spoke to me alone, she always spoke differently, reverting to a slightly formal way of speech, tinged with a hint of an Eastern European accent. Perhaps it was her natural dialect from wherever it was she hailed.

My inner alarm began ringing. I watched her carefully, aware that there was also movement in the shadows to my right. The movement, I knew, was not from a physical form. Something had, I was certain, materialized within the shadows. A shadow within a shadow. My alarm grew louder. Now I saw it from the corner of my eye, creeping away from the far wall.

A living shadow.

Hanner, as far as I could tell, was unaware of the shadow. Or chose not to acknowledge it. "I would strongly advise you, sister," she said, "that you not disrupt the changing."

Outside of a creepy book that had once called out to me, I had never been referred to as sister before. I didn't like it. It made my skin crawl. It made me feel less than human.

More than human, hissed a voice in my head. Always more than human.

And now I did turn – in time to see something step away from the wall. No, peel away from the wall like a pitch-black sticker. Although still dark as night, the two-dimensional shadow fleshed out, so to speak, into something three-dimensional, into something with depth and substance.

The entity soon stood before me, in the center of Fang's living room, rising and falling gently on ethereal tides that I neither felt nor saw. It was tall, a foot or so taller than me. But narrow. Its shoulders were nearly non-existent. Shadowy hands ended in curved, shadowy claws that opened and closed below its narrow hips. It stopped before me and I knew it was regarding me.

You spoke to me, I thought.

Yesss, the entity hissed, and I saw that its head tilted slightly to one side. Black mist swirled around it, rising up from Fang's carpet. You are a sssister of the night, Sssamantha Moon. You would do well to never forget that.

I knew that most supernatural entities did not have access to my thoughts, unless said entity was old enough or powerful enough, as was the case with Captain Jack last year.

And now, of course, this entity.

Can she see you? I asked it, indicating Hanner in my mind.

The entity paused only briefly before words appeared in my thoughts. No, child. Only you can.

Why?

There was another pause, this one much longer. That remains to be ssseen.

What do you mean? I asked. I sensed the thing before me was eager to move forward, to join its new host.

You are very, very sssensitive, Sssamantha Moon. Yesss, I am eager to claim my host.

I had another psychic hit, one that came to me with crystal clarity. You have been dead a long time.

The creature rose and fell silently. A very long time, Sssamantha Moon. Too long.

But you were once alive, I thought, as the hits continued. Once human.

Very astute, child. And now I will be alive again. Just as my brother isss alive again in you.

But why? I thought. I don't understand.

It isss the way, came the reply. The only way.

With that, the shadow slipped past me. Hanner was stroking Fang's hair, unaware of the approaching shadow behind her.

"No!" I shouted.

But as I spoke those words and as Hanner whipped her head up to look at me, the shadow poured forth into Fang, into the region of his heart. Fang gasped, his chest arched up. His eyelids fluttered wildly, and the dark halo I had seen around him, the halo once speckled with light, winked out of existence.

And with it, something else.

Fang's presence in my mind.

He was gone.

Forever.