I’ve never gone from my parent’s apartment to mine so fast before. In minutes, I’d changed from my work clothes to casual, made three phone calls, and jogged back to my parent’s apartment to get my brother’s car keys. I promised Momma I’d eat when I got back and dashed out to the car.
My first call had been to Crystal but she didn’t answer her phone. Then to her parent’s house only to have her father tell me she wasn’t there. Don’t ask me how, but I’d already known she wouldn’t be. I tried the only place I could think of that she might be, the deli down the street I’d told her about but hadn’t had a chance to take her to. As expected, not there, either.
I got in the car and forced myself to drive carefully. Tim didn’t need a wrecked car and I didn’t need another trip to the ER. But it was a struggle. I knew full well she’d gone to the grave – knew it like I knew my own name – but why? I had that vaguely disquieting feeling again – the one where it seems I know something but I don’t want to know I know it. Yeah, it sounds stupid but I had the gut feeling that when I understood life would never be the same. I wasn’t sure I was ready for that but at the same time, I couldn’t let it go.
I parked at the funeral home and hiked up to the grave site. The tiny roads are so rutted that they’d damage Tim’s suspension and my pocketbook. Not that I cared, it was just habit to not wreck my brother’s stuff. That, and I was suddenly not quite as eager to get there. I knew what I’d find and with each step, I was less sure I wanted to find it.
It didn’t matter, really. I had to know why she’d come here, now, in the dark. The moonless night and the haphazard lighting should have made finding the grave a hopeless task but I knew where the split oak was – Tim and I had climbed it during Mrs J’s funeral and I never forgot the hooping we got for it. I could always find that tree.
Tonight was no exception. I saw it in the distance. As I got closer, I could make out a figure perched on one of the headstones in the hazy light of the street light from the tiny road. Slender and graceful, I knew that figure on sight.
I was about twenty yards away when she turned and hopped off the headstone. She met me halfway, carrying what at first looked like an oversized baseball bat in the gloom. As we met, I realized it was a three foot long sword that looked like something out of Excalibur. She had it propped over her shoulder casually, as if it were just a handbag or something. She had on a little, white jacket over her black shirt which was tucked neatly into her jeans. Even in the dark, carrying a huge sword, she was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen. It made it hard to be mad at her, but not that hard.
"What are you doing here?" I demanded.
She looked at me with a kind of patient exasperation, "If you knew I’d be here – and you obviously did – then you know why."
I glared at her, wondering how she knew that. "Obviously?"
She glanced at her watch, "It’s 7:30. Why else would you follow me out here at this time of night?"
She had me there, "Fine, but that doesn’t mean I know why."
"Yes, it does. You just don’t want to – no one does when they first emerge."
It was hard to say which of us was making less sense right then. I decided it was her, "What? Emerge?"
She gave a little sigh, "Jack, go home. Tomorrow I’ll come over and explain it all but tonight just go home."
I shook my head, "No, not until you tell me why."
She looked at the sky, "You know why – it’s instinctive."
Something about the way she said it made me blurt out the first stupid thing that came into my head, "You’re waiting for him to come out, aren’t you?" I shocked myself with my own stupidity. That was the dumbest thing I’d ever said in my life.
"I’m waiting to see if he does, yes. I’m hoping not. Now, go home. You don’t want to be here if it happens."
I just stared at her, trying to make the world make sense again. Did she just agree with me? Yeah, so she’s crazy, too. Crazier still, I knew she was right. I didn’t want to see if anything happened. But sanity prevailed – nothing was going to happen. Dead people stay dead. Mr J was dead and gone; he wouldn’t be climbing out of his grave tonight or any night. That was crazy.
"You’re nuts." I told her.
She didn’t bat an eye, "You’re emerging. It’s a scary time for us. I know. But don’t be an idiot about it. You fought off five ghouls and four pseudo-modern werewolves yesterday. You’re past the denial point."
"I was there when you told your family, remember? I admit, I had to check to see if they were vampires or ghouls but they were obviously creatures. You said yourself they didn’t look human to you. You stabbed one in the heart – would you have done that thinking they were human?"
My head was spinning. "Emerging?" I asked.
She nodded sympathetically. "You’re coming into your full power – that’s what it means to emerge. There’s a lot you need to know but not now – you absolutely should not be here."
"You think Mr J is a ghoul?" I barely managed to utter the sentence, it sounded so insane.
Crystal shook her head, "No, I think he might become a vampire. This is the first new moon since the death so if so, this is the night he’ll emerge. But not all exposures are successful – he might not. Either way, leave this to me. I’ll tell you later if you really want to know but do yourself, and him, a favor and don’t try to see for yourself."
I’m standing in a graveyard with the girl I want to be mine who is toting a sword bigger than a ball bat and we’re talking about ghouls and vampires. I grew up in weirdness but this is beyond the pale. And yet, a part of my soul was screaming for me to listen to her. My brain was screaming for me to prove her wrong. The rest of me just stood there in numb shock.
Then something changed, I got a feeling up my spine like the one in the parking lot. Something was approaching but not from Mr J’s grave.
Crystal grabbed my hand, "Relax. It feels different, right? Not like a threat. He’s a white and he’s with me."
She nodded, "Settle down, he’s coming. Don’t attack him – he’s a lot more dangerous than those pseudo-moderns and besides, he’s on our side."
I was still processing the idea that we had a side when something stepped from the gloom into the flicker of the street light. It was a dog – a wolf really. A really, really big wolf – the thing was taller than the Welsh ponies they have every year at the fair. It was impossibly big. Worse, its eye glowed a blood red as it slowly approached.
Crystal was still talking, not that I’d heard a word. "…so you have to understand."
I caught that much and stopped my self from assuring her that I did not have to understand any of this.I just watched as the wolf walked up beside her.
It stopped and I realized that this really was different. I didn’t feel the need to attack this thing or even to prepare. This thing that could probably eat me in a couple bites didn’t seem to be a threat, unlike the shadow thing I’d seen the night of Mr J’s death.
Crystal held onto my had but spoke to it, "Hi Tres."
"Good evening, Mistress Crystal. This is the new master?"
It’s impossible to describe the booming, grainy voice that came from that wolf’s mouth. I decided that if this was a dream, it was one I was never telling anyone about.
"Yes," Crystal replied, "This is Jack. Jack, this is Tresmayne."
Tresmayne bowed his head in greeting, "Good evening, Master Jack. You must have many questions. Come, let us take a walk and let Mistress Crystal return to her duty. It may be that I can answer some of your concerns."
I didn’t budge. I only had one question, no matter how crazy it sounded, "What am I?"
"Come, and I shall explain." He replied and began to walk up the hill
Crystal released my hand and turned to go back to the grave. I was numb but I turned to follow the huge wolf, half wondering if I was insane for believing this or for following this thing. I figured that if feeling ever returned, I’d decide then.
Once over the top of the hill where I could no longer see Crystal or the split oak, Tresmayne began to speak, "You are a slayer, a True Slayer, to be specific. You are one born to maintain control of the forces that create creatures like myself but more importantly, you are one born to protect the people of our world. Slayers come in many types but you are one of the special ones. You are a True Slayer."
We walked for hours. I asked questions but I mostly remember his answers. Things began to fall into place. The weird way I would know things I couldn’t possibly know; the times I had been faster and stronger than I should have been; heck, the mere fact that I was talking to a pony sized wolf and not freaking out – all the weird things about me now made sense.
None of the weird things that had been happening made sense but I saved those questions for Crystal. As for all the stuff he told me, I’ll tell you all about it another time. For now, there are two things you need to know.
In the pre-dawn hour, Crystal joined us at the crest of the ridge. I didn’t even remember coming back here. The first thing I noticed was that her blade was sparkling clean. I found that comforting.
She smiled warmly, understanding my unspoken question, "It was a quiet night."
I nodded, understanding her cryptic answer. Mr J had been spared that indignity. I silently thanked God.
Tresmayne said his good byes and departed. I’d known he was about to – after all, werewolves don’t come out in the daytime. I gave Crystal my arm and we started back to the parking lot. I had been up all night which meant that today was gonna be rough, but for once it didn’t concern me. I felt pretty alright for the moment.
The other thing you need to know is that my name is Jack Henry Scarlotti and I am a True Slayer.