Chapter 11 – Revelations
The wooden stairs creaked under my feet as I made my way down. It was already approaching noon. Normally I’d already be up and about at the beginning of dawn, but today… today was special. I’d taken great care in choosing my clothes. Not that there was much to choose from – all of my regular clothes no longer fit me, and so I had to resort to borrowing a blouse and jeans from dad. It was a shame that your attire didn’t grow up with you. I was going to miss that shirt.
Then again, it was about time for a change.
Mom noticed me right when I turned the corner to the living room. She took one look at me and gasped, bringing her hands up to her mouth.
‘What’s wrong, mother?’ I asked playfully. ‘Do you no longer recognize your own child?’
‘My little boy,’ mom sniffled, her eyes getting misty. She wiped them with the back of her hand before looking back at me with a smile, and an expression in her eyes that could only be pride.
‘My little boy is all grown up. Just look at you. Chase, you look wonderful.’
I smiled at her. We were of the same height now – no, I was a bit taller, actually. The realization made my smile widen a bit more. It had taken a long time, but I could finally look at them like equals.
My dad turned around from the bookcase and walked towards me. He stopped about half a foot away, looking me up and down with a strict expression on his face.
Then the expression softened, and he gave a satisfied nod.
‘Not bad. You look like an adult, son. Old enough to get rid of that ridiculous hairstyle.’
‘Not in a million years, old man,’ I grinned at him. ‘I’m going to keep it like this until the day I die. Best get used to it.’
I playfully punched him in the shoulder. Dad let out a grumble, but there was a smile on his face. We hadn’t joked like this in a while. it felt good.
As we were talking, mom dissapeared upstairs for a couple of seconds. When she came back down, I could see her holding something in her hands. It only took me a split second to recognise what it was. She was clasping the last unopened letter from my biological parents. The one that I was supposed to read when I became an adult- the one that had been resting in the hallway drawer for many years now. Mom held it out, her eyes refusing to make contact with me. She seemed to be troubled by something.
‘I suppose it is time you read this, Chase,’ mom said reluctantly, her eyes fixed on the envelope. ‘I’m… sorry about hiding the others from you back then. This is what your parents wanted. We shouldn’t meddle-‘
‘Mom, stop,’ I said, cutting her off mid-sentence. By now, I had a pretty good idea of what it was that was bugging her. I went with my gut feelings, speaking as I looked her straight in the eyes.
‘You’re my mother, all right? They might be my biological parents, but you’re the one that raised me. I won’t forget that. Promise.’
Her expression changed. I could see a faint smile appear on her lips as her body relaxed.
‘…Thank you, son. It means a lot to hear you say that.’
I gave the both of them a good, long look. They had aged. Not much, but the passage of time had left its marks since I was a child. They’d always been there for me.
‘I’m going to look for them, mum,’ I said softly. ‘I’m going to find them, and I’ll introduce myself as their son. I’ll kick both of them in the behind for giving me up to another family- and then I’ll come straight back here. And I’m going to be selfish, so there better be some lasagna in the oven by the time I do.’
Mom chuckled, giving a single nod. I pulled her into a hug.
‘I’ll be back, all right?’
‘All right. Good luck, Chase.’
‘Remember to make a picture of the guy’s hairstyle, kid. I want proof that those hippie genes did not come from me.’
I let go of mum and pulled dad into a hug as well.
‘Love you, old man.’
‘Love you too, son. Be careful out there.’
In the light of the setting sun, I sat down on the dry park ground. The enitre walk here, that last letter had been burning in my back pocket. It wanted to be read. And I really, really wanted to read it. I felt like I was on the brink of completing a very large puzzle, and this letter was the final piece.
With shaking hands, I opened the last letter and spread it in my hands. I was greeted by the familiar handwriting of my mother. It was both calming and unsettling, as I knew that in these pages, her whole story would be revealed.
Suddenly I was thrown back in that moment, many years ago, when I did the same thing as a teenager. The words on the paper, dancing in front of my eyes. My heart racing in my chest. The realisation that with this, everything would be revealed.
Only this time, I was ready.
I took a deep breath, calming myself. My eyes drifted to the beginning of the letter. The very first sentence.
I started reading.
My name is Raven Adams.
And I lost myself.
As my eyes went over the letters on the page, the memories came flooding over me like a tidal wave. Memories that were not my own. A sharp pain shot through the back of my skull, but then faded as the sheer force of emotions drowned out everything else.
I saw her big brothers and sisters, felt the bond that they had. The playful jests, the pranks between siblings. I felt the love that they had for each other.
I felt the agony, the panic as their pained screams turned her blood to ice. Smelled the dust in the old closet, her only protection from those creatures. The metallic smell of blood drifting in from the other room.
The cold need for revenge.
The presence of Yurick, Tybalt and Derek by her side as they infiltrated the house on that fateful night.
I gazed back, suddenly noticing the likeness between the two. They both had the exact same eyes, a strange, orange glow that reminded me of a dancing fire. The shape of their mouths and ears were identical. And the way the oldest one was protecting the little one left no room for doubt.
Those two were siblings.
Slowly, day by day, I gained a little more of the children’s trust. With every game that they learned, their behaviour became a little more natural. With every discovery that Selene made, her eyes started to sparkle more and Nikola rose in pride at every game he mastered.
With every passing day, I felt my own mental wall, that I’d put up to protect myself from my childhood memories, disappear. With every game, I connected more with the two who resembled my siblings so much.
With every passing hour, I opened my heart to them more. And I loved every minute of it.
‘I’m sorry, sweetheart. I’m not your mommy. But… if you have a real mommy out there somewhere, I’ll do whatever I can to find her.’
More memory flashes. I could no longer distinguish between Raven’s feelings and my own. The wood he hurled struck my arm, leaving a gaping gash.
‘YOU PROMISED YOU WOULD KEEP HER SAFE!’ Nikola screamed, his voice almost unrecognizable. ‘YOU PROMISED YOU WOULD LOOK AFTER US!’
My head… was bursting…
‘The tainted souls that come back need life energy,’ Nikola whispered, his eyes widening a fraction. ‘It takes whole lives… whole lives just to get all the energy they need. But not with her. She never runs out…’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Because she never runs out… They can make more vampires cross over, and more, and more…’
‘I should have done this at the very moment when I first saw them. I should have gotten rid of them both right in that house. Then everything would still be normal. Then you wouldn’t have been possessed.’
‘We’re not possessed, you idiot! Put the gun down!’
‘You’re going after these children because that is the only solution that you can come up with. In your mind, killing them will solve everything. But that is where you’re wrong, Hao. I know that this is really difficult. But I want you to think about the possibility that they are the ones that we need to protect, instead of having to protect others against them. They’re just children, Hao. Whatever they might become in the future doesn’t matter.’
‘How can you be so sure? How can you know that they won’t turn against you the minute that you’re no longer of value to them? Raven, how can you trust those two?’
A silence fell. Looking directly at Hao, I waited a few seconds before finally opening my mouth. When I spoke, it came straight from my heart.
‘Because I can tell who the real monsters are.’
‘Ready for what?!’
‘Nikola, did you press the button? Okay, everyone, take off your seatbelts and move to the door! This thing is going to blow up in twenty seconds!’
‘Pull Nikola and Selene out with you! On the count of three, we’ll jump!’
‘What the fudge do you mean we’ll-‘
‘What do you mean?’
‘Think about it. If we get away now, they’ll think we’ll have died in that explosion. With that amount of force, they wouldn’t be able to find a body anyway. It’s the perfect setup for someone to disappear.’
‘By faking our deaths?’ I gasped. But nonetheless, I was impressed. Yurick was right. If they thought that we’d all died, there would be no reason to hunt down Nikola and Selene anymore. By killing them… we’d be able to set them free. Literally.
‘I promise. We’ll go far, far away from here… to where no one can find us. If there’s a place like that… then that’s where we’ll go.’
‘I’ll make sure to keep the vampires off your trail,’ I said. ‘For as long as I can. I won’t be able to hold them off forever… but maybe just long enough to let you disappear for good.’
‘Thank you, Rawen.’
‘We’ll protect you. I promise. As soon as Selene and me are big enough… we’ll go after him. We’ll stop the curse from spreading. We will. We’ll protect you… and what’s inside of you.’
‘I want,’ I whispered, my voice coarse from holding back a new tear wave, ‘for this child to grow up nothing like I have. I want it to have a normal childhood, in a safe home. I want it to be happy and grow up to be an amazing person. I want it to be able to come running home after a day’s school and have his parents wait behind the front door. I want them to be there for him, always. That’s the kind of life that he deserves. But you know that it can’t have that with you… or with me.’
‘We would have been amazing parents,’ Tybalt sniffed. ‘Don’t you think?’
‘Yes. I know we would have.’
‘Now you grow up healthy, you hear me? Be a good boy, and listen to your parents over here. You’ll be just fine. And don’t be lonely, okay? Just know that we did this for you. Everything we did… we did for you, my son,’ he said, fresh tears rolling down his cheeks. ‘I’m Tybalt. I’m your daddy. Did you know? You might forget us, but I’ll never forget that I’m your daddy. I’ll never… ever forget you, Chase.’
Slowly, painfully slowly, I knelt down on the porch and placed the baby next to the door. A single, enveloped letter was put next to his sleeping figure. I let my hand linger on his blanket for as long as I could, before finally pulling away. Tybalt and I kept standing there for a long time, side by side. We stared down on our son, printing every inch of his perfect little face into our memories. Neither of us wanted to leave. Neither of us wanted to move.
‘We should go,’ Tybalt finally said. I nodded, not being able to say anything. He then took my hand and gently guided me away, off the wooden porch and back to the driveway. As he stepped into the car and drove it back out into the street, I looked back at my son one more time.
‘We love you, Chase,’ I whispered. ‘Goodbye…’
The memories ended. Slowly, painfully slowly, I became aware of my own body again. The ground underneath me. The soft automn breeze against my skin.
The tears on my face.
‘I remember you,’ I mumbled. ‘I don’t know why, but… I remember you.’
My hands were shaking uncontrollably as I picked up the letter. There was a final page of instructions, together with an address. It was in my father’s – Tybalt’s – handwriting.
Chase – you now know what kind of world we live in. Both your mother and me will understand if you do not wish to risk being a part of that. Know that we love you no matter what choice you make.
But if you’re ready to meet us, go to this address. It is the home of Hao’s sister, Meena, in the northern Kusne mountains. She is the only one that knows we are still alive. She will know how to track down our location.
If it is your desire, I know that you will find us. I will be waiting for the day where we can finally meet.
Your father, Tybalt
I grabbed the page with the adress, burning the instructions into my mind as I folded the paper. The Kusne mountains- that was close to Shang Simla, on the other side of the planet. It would take at least a day or two by plane- and another day to get from Appaloosa Plains to Bridgeport, where the airport was.
I stood up, brushing the dirt off my pants. This was going to be quite the journey. I had to prepare. Pack a suitcase, buy a plane ticket- all those things. It filled me with determination. I had a lead- a clear, easy-to-follow lead, that would guide me right to them. If I went home to make preparations now, i could leave as early as first thing in the morning. The thought made a smile appear on my face.
It was time to leave.
The sun was about to fade behind the horizon when I found my way home. On the other side of town, the darkness of night was already creeping in. I could hear the cicadas around me, chirping loudly as the day came to an end.
As I walked through the gates, something in our front yard caught my attention.
There was a man sitting on our bench.
I did not know him. And in Appaloosa Plains, everyone knew everyone. But not this guy. This was a stranger, and yet he had walked into our yard and sat down like he knew exactly who lived here.
As I walked closer, I noticed his body language. The man was slumped over, head resting heavily in his hands in a display of weariness and exhaustion. Looking at him made me feel very uneasy.
There was… something familiar about him…
The man noticed my approach and lifted his head from his hands. The very second we locked eyes, a familiar sharp pain shot through the back of my skull. Another one of my mother’s memories flashed before my eyes. Gun drawn, hands shaking. Eyes full of pain and regret… and desperation.
‘Hello, Chase. I’ve been waiting for you.’