And those stars--dreadful. Billions of them, littered across the heavens as if a gigantic piece of black paper had been wrapped around the earth, points of light shining through countless pinpricks. Added together, they gave out more light than the moon could ever hope to reflect. It was a good thing that they were so far away.
Michael Simons hated the stars.
But he hated the moon more.
The only good thing he could think about the moon was that it created shadows. Big, black, eerie shadows, strewn across the landscape of the hemisphere. Michael took refuge in this fact. Whenever his anger arose as a result of the moon and stars, he forced himself to think about the shadows. It was a small comfort, but he made do.
The city was Nightshade. Michael liked the name. It was Friday, November 12th.
Now, he was on his way home in his scrap heap of a car, just taking side streets, not speeding, and hating the moon and stars with all his soul. The Old Clunker, as he called it, had been his for two years. It was a two door, and that suited Michael just fine--he was the only one who drove it. He had bought it with what little money he had saved for college. He had done it on a whim. He had scratched college off his list of things to do and bought Old Clunker. Needless to say, his parents had been deeply disappointed, but he had been in a rebellious stage at that time, and still to this day. But he figured it was his life, he had been nineteen at the time and wanted to do whatever he pleased, authority and logical thinking be hanged. Eventually he had moved out. That had been a year ago. It had been hard at first. Many times he had been tempted to throw in the towel and to go back to his parents. But even when he had been forced to live out of Old Clunker for lack of money, he was too stubborn to show how wrong he might have been. No, he wasn't the type to do that. So he continued on. He worked odd jobs, and eventually he was able to rent an apartment. It wasn't much of one, and it was located in an area of the city that made him lock the doors and bar the windows. But it was his. He had done it without help, from his parents, or from anybody else.
He hadn't talked to his parents in almost a year. He hung up on them every time they had called. He tore up their letters without even reading them. Eventually, both forms of communication had stopped. And that suited him just fine. He didn't need them. He had a job and a home, and a girlfriend soon if there was any justice in the world. He was twenty-one, but had yet to take advantage of the allowances being that old brought.
He was almost home. Just a couple more minutes. Four miles to the cemetery. Turn right. Two blocks to Willow Street. Turn left. One block to the Maple Street Apartment complex. Second driveway. Fifth parking space to the right. Thirty-two steps to apartment 105. A hot shower, pop a TV dinner, maybe The Simpsons, then bed. It was all so simple.
Michael looked up ahead. The road was clear--no other cars on the road. Nothing unusual about that was there? It was dark. People wanted to be home after dark, in the comfort of their homes. So did Michael.
Then Old Clunker's headlights lit up something in front of him. A figure off in the distance. Somebody walking home. As he approached the figure he could make out some details. It was a girl. Her back was to him. She was wearing simple shorts and a shirt. They were black. Her legs and arms reflected the glare of Old Clunker's beams, but the rest of her seemed to blend in with the night despite the fact that Old Clunker's beams were hitting her full on. She didn't turn or give any indication that she had heard Old Clunker. He was almost to her. He could now see she had long black hair which hung down over her shoulders, but it too seemed to want to meld in with the dark.
As he overtook her, he couldn't help but turn his head, trying to catch a glance at her face. He caught only a glimpse, and what he did see was bathed in the reddish hue of Old Clunker's taillights. But he did see that she had closed her eyes to shield them from the bright light of the car. He turned his eyes back to the road in front of him. He shifted his eyes to the rearview mirror, attempting another look at the girl.
She was gone.
Michael slammed on the brakes in an involuntary reaction of shock. Old Clunker locked his wheels and skidded to a stop in the middle of the road. How could she have disappeared? He whirled around, looking through the back window.
And there was the girl, walking forward at the same speed she had been before. Nothing had changed. She was looking straight ahead, not at Old Clunker, but through him.
Michael couldn't keep himself from staring. As she came closer, her eyes shifted to Michael. He didn't see how he could tell she was looking at him because it was so dark and she was at least forty feet away, but he knew she was. For the briefest moment possible, their eyes met, merging, communing.
The words had flashed through his mind so fast he was hardly aware that he had thought them. It was insane to think of a rhyme like that at a time like this. And there was something wrong with it. He hadn't come up with the right words. Wasn't it supposed to be starlight, star bright? Not twilight, twilight. What kind of sense did that make? It certainly didn't fit in with the rhyme. He wondered what had made him think of it like that.
Old Clunker shut off. Michael saw his hand on the key. It was in the off position, but he couldn't remember turning it. The headlights were also off. He didn't recall doing that either. He shut his eyes from the confusion. His mind was telling him how things were supposed to be, but his senses were telling him otherwise.
There it was again, rushing through his brain so fast and all wrong. He wanted to put his hands over his ears as if that would prevent the rhyme from streaking through his thoughts. He opened his eyes slowly, praying that whatever it was that was wrong was not wrong anymore.
The girl was standing beside the car, on the passenger side, silent.
Michael's gut reaction was to wake Old Clunker up and floor it on out of there, but her eyes stopped him. Actually, he couldn't quite see her eyes, but he thought that perhaps he did for a second, and that held him back. It was a few seconds before he found he could speak.
"D-Do you need a ride?" he asked weakly.
She was just standing there facing him, unmoving. Her body was relaxed, but her mind appeared to be focused elsewhere. She was not carrying anything. Then she shivered slightly, almost imperceptibly. The night was cold, and she was not wearing appropriate attire for the chill.
"Yes," the girl said softly, leaning down a few inches to look in the window. Her voice was soft and low.
Michael reached over with a trembling hand and unlocked the door. He wondered what he was doing giving a ride to a strange girl at this time of night. It wasn't late, but it was dark, and nice girls didn't walk by the road after dark. That was what separated the nice girls from the bad ones. So why was he helping her?
The door opened, and the girl stepped in, closing the door with a sense of finality Michael thought. She sat, looking forward, her hands clasped together in her lap, her legs together. Very frail and thin, vulnerable in fact. Michael could see a bit of her profile, but her black hair hid most of it. What he could see was her forehead descending from her hairline down to her eyebrows, the way her nose sloped, turning up slightly, her chin curved nicely back.
"Where do you need to go?" Michael asked, breaking the silence, hoping she didn't need to go far.
"Are you going this way?" the girl asked, pointing through the windshield. Her face was still hidden by her hair.
"Thanks," she said, cutting him off even though he had barely heard her.
Michael woke Old Clunker and pulled out onto the road. His mind was working fast now, and his heart beat out a faster than normal rhythm. He felt nervous, not knowing what to say, to do. But the girl alleviated the tenseness of the situation by staying silent, and Michael's discomfort lessened after a minute.
Only half a mile to the cemetery now. Ten more minutes till home sweet home. No, make that eight minutes. The moon was hidden behind some clouds and Michael felt he could make better time without its depressing presence. Most of the stars were blocked out too. That would help.
"You cold?" Michael asked. It was a lame question and the answer to it was obvious, but he had always been nervous around members of the opposite sex, and he couldn't think of anything else to say.
"No." The girl shivered as she said it. He looked over at her, but her face was hidden still.
"Nice night though," Michael said. Stupid.
"But the moon is hidden." She had said it with emotion.
Michael turned at her mention of the moon, and the feeling with which she had mentioned it. She was looking at him. For the first time, he could look at her face though it was mostly covered in shadows. But for a moment, the moon peeked from behind clouds, and he saw her face clearly. She was beautiful, almost with an unearthly perfection, there was no doubt about that. Her skin was pale, he could see that plainly in the moonlight. Her eyes were dark, thin eyebrows curving down mysteriously above them. Her lips were full, but pale like her skin. Her hair hung straight down on the right side of her face, wavy only at the ends, a little past her shoulder. Her hair on the left side was pulled back behind her ear. She wore a single earring, a small golden dagger that hung down from an inch of chain. Michael saw a drop of blood dripping off of the dagger's tip. Blinking, he saw that it was gone. Moonlight playing tricks no doubt.
"The moon?" Michael managed at last, still looking at her and her at him.
"Yes," she said, her lips barely moving, "and the stars, they're hidden too."
Michael cringed at her mention of the stars.
She saw his reaction. "You don't like the stars? Do you not ever wish upon them?"
He had to shut his eyes. That time there had been pain. It shot through his body, then was gone.
"No," she said, looking with what seemed to be a knowledge of his thoughts, "you never do, do you?"
It was clear to Michael that he couldn't control his thoughts. He thought about stopping the car, but he didn't, couldn't.
"You wish what?" she asked.
"What do you wish?" she asked again, her voice enticing him to answer..
"I-I don't kn-know," he stuttered dumbly.
Michael thought he could feel her hand on his shoulder, but he was wearing a jacket and his senses were off, so he wasn't sure. Had he said those words so she could hear? He didn't think he had. They had only been thoughts. How could she have heard? He shut his eyes again, then opened them quickly.
He was driving on the wrong side of the road.
Michael guided Old Clunker over to the proper side of the road, slowing just a few miles an hour. The cemetery was off to the right. They were passing a sign that said NIGHTSHADE CITY CEMETERY. It wasn't the only cemetery in Nightshade, but it was the nicest, and morbidly, the most popular. Michael liked most cemeteries, and especially this one. It was a morbid obsession, but Michael didn't care.
"What was that?" Michael asked. The girl had said something.
"You can let me off here."
In front of a cemetery in the middle of the night! Michael wanted to say. But he didn't. Michael let Old Clunker slow to a halt off to the side of the road.
The girl opened the door and leaned to get out.
"Wait," Michael said, "you didn't tell me your name."
He watched as the girl seemingly ignored him, getting out of the car and closing the door. She took a step forward, then halted, turning toward Michael, leaning down, her hand resting on the door. Somehow the window had been rolled down. Michael didn't recall seeing her do that.
He reached out and touched her hand. He didn't know what made him do it, it was an instinctual reaction to something. He touched her gently with the palm of his hand, covering her small hand with his, which was slightly bigger. Her skin was soft beneath his fingers, but cold as if chilled by the night air.
He lifted his hand, breaking contact.
Her lips moved, forming a single soft word, "Twilight."
It echoed in his mind, over and over and over.
Then she was gone, walking away. Michael closed his eyes, trying to clear his thoughts from the meaningless flood of words that bombarded them. When he opened his eyes, Twilight was not within sight. What a curious name. Twilight.
He guided Old Clunker back onto the street, cutting off a lone car that happened by. Michael didn't even notice.
And it wasn't till he arrived at home and was
about to take a shower that he noticed that the palm of his hand was covered
It was night. He was driving home by the same route he had taken the day before. He had briefly considered taking a different one, but he ultimately did not, could not.
There had been no cut. On his hand that is. No scrape, no wound, no reason for his palm to look like a painter had wiped a brush soaked with red paint across it. The blood had washed off easy enough, but it had been real. He hadn't seen any on Twilight, but then again it had been dark. Still, he thought he would have seen any had there been. But obviously there had been, and he had not seen it. That was only logical. Must have been the moonlight deceiving his eyes.
He drove on, mentally rehearsing the path he would take to get home. Home was where he wanted to be at that moment. And soon he would be. That accursed moon was out again. There were clouds, but they were avoiding the moon with all their might.
He was only a mile from the cemetery when he saw her this time.
But he wasn't going to pick her up. Not this time.
Would those thoughts never stop? They were an endless chant. He told himself that he would just drive on past her, right past her at fifty-two miles per hour and right straight home. He told himself that was what he was going to do. And by gosh, he was going to. But he didn't, he just couldn't bring himself to. Instead, he stopped, pulling up beside her. She was standing exactly as she had before, but this time she simply opened the door and got in, closing the door. He pulled Old Clunker back onto the road.
"I knew you would come," Twilight said. Her clothes were the same as the day before, but she no longer looked frail and weak. She sat differently, as if in control of all of her surroundings.
"How?" Michael asked a bit weakly. She was sitting closer to him than she had the previous night. He tried not to sweat.
"Stars?" Accursed stars! Michael felt queasy.
"I wished upon them."
"What do you wish?" Twilight asked, emphasis on the "you."
"I-I." Michael felt faint. He didn't know if this was a replay of Friday night, or if he was losing his mind, or both. But one look at Twilight, and he felt better. He felt her presence keeping him from the edge of the abyss.
"Michael." She said it softly, but he had heard it as if she had yelled into his ear.
He felt the light weight of her hand on his shoulder. He was wearing the same jacket as before, but he saw her hand this time, so he knew it was there.
"Yes?" he asked.
"Take me into the cemetery. Please." She had whispered that last word right into his ear.
He turned his head. She was completely in the passenger seat, but looking at him, bathing him in her quiet beauty. But he knew he had heard her whisper in his ear, felt her warm breath on his cheek. How had she moved away so quickly and silently? A glance at her eyes erased all questions from his mind.
The cemetery was just ahead now. There was the sign, and the front gate just beyond it. Michael knew the gate would be locked, but he didn't slow as he headed up the paved road, speeding toward it with abandon. The gate flew off its rusty hinges as Old Clunker plowed onward, barely slowing with the impact. The left side of the gate flew unbelievably far, landing among the tombstones closest to the path, knocking one of them over, and cracking two others. But Michael hardly noticed. He brought Old Clunker to a halt at the top of a rise. From there one could see the entire expanse of the cemetery, tombstones scattered in neat rows across the hillside.
Michael let out a deep breath, turning to Twilight. The moonlight lit up half of her face, but obscured the other half in shadow. Her face didn't seem as pale as before, but her hair was just as dark, black as the night sky without any moon or stars.
Michael got out of the car. He knew that was what he was supposed to do. He shut the door, locking it unconsciously, the turned to walk around to open the door for Twilight.
But she was right next to him, close.
He could feel every inch of distance between them. The air pulsed with energy. He noticed that she was only an inch shorter than him. But when had she walked over to this side of the car? He hadn't seen or heard her move. Again her gaze put all questions from his mind.
"Walk with me," she said. Michael could feel her lips moving when she said it.
He followed her through the tombstones. The night was cool, and the grassy ground was slick with the cold. Michael could see that she was leading him to a particular grave. He wondered why briefly, but was cut off by the barrage.
Twilight stopped before a grave with an unusually large gravestone. Michael was about to kneel down to look at the inscription when Twilight stopped him. She had taken his hand in hers. Again her hand was soft, yet not warm. Cold even. But he enjoyed the contact.
"What do you wish?" she asked, bearing him down with her gaze.
An undescribable searing pain wrenched its way through his body, then passed even quicker than it had come. Michael let go of her hand involuntarily. He looked up. The moon was still out. That had to be the cause of his pain. He raised a fist, the hand Twilight had held, shaking it at the moon.
Crimson droplets of blood flew off his hand. He brought his hand down, opening his palm. There was a thick layer of blood on his palm, but he could feel no cut. Where did the blood come from?
Suddenly, he was dizzy, knees trembling, legs weak. He fell to the ground on his knees, feeling the wet grass under his skin. He was kneeling on the grave, the headstone a couple of inches in front of his head. His arms also felt weak. Twilight was still standing next to him. He looked up at her hand, the one he had been holding. Her hand bore no blood, it was clean, washed white in the moonlight. His vision blurred for a second, then his arms gave out and he fell forward, his head slamming into the headstone.
He had only blacked out for a second. He realized that he was on his back. Twilight was above him, kneeling at his side, leaning over, her hair almost touching his face. He noticed the moon was behind her head.
"What happened?" Michael asked.
"You fell," Twilight replied, bringing her face closer. "You fell, and I saved you."
Michael knew it was true.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"I am Twilight." Her face was even closer.
Michael knew that also was true.
"Your Twilight," she finished. Closer still.
Then their lips touched, wonderfully. Michael closed his eyes, feeling her mouth, warm against his. He reached up, feeling her hair between his fingers, heedless of the blood on his hands. He could feel the warmth of her closeness. It warmed him against the cold of the night. He felt something down the side of his face, like a teardrop rolling off his cheek, but slower than a tear would have fallen. Michael opened his eyes. He hadn't meant to, but he had done it nevertheless. Twilight's eyes were shut, focusing on the kiss. He looked past her, to the sky. The moon had moved and its light hit him full in the face. He saw Twilight open her eyes. There was darkness and mystery within them.
All at once Michael couldn't breathe through his nose. He tried to break the kiss, but Twilight held him fast, her lips hard against his, suffocating. Her hands came up to his face, holding it on either side. They were cold at first, then slick against his skin, almost as if there were water on his skin. Then there was liquid filling his mouth, gagging him, pouring down his throat. Still, Twilight did not break the kiss. Finally, Twilight was forced to release her grip as Michael's body convulsed, liquid spewing forth from his mouth and throat. Michael coughed repeatedly, violently. Still on his back, he looked at Twilight in the moonlight.
Her face was splattered with blood, and her hair was speckled with red. Blood he had spit on her, his blood. He knew that it was not hers. It was everywhere. On his hands, on his face, and in his mouth. Everywhere that she had touched him.
Everywhere she had touched him.
Twilight laughed, mocking him. She was silhouetted against the moon, but somehow, it was shining through her eyes.
Twilight smiled. "It's too late to wish. Your Twilight is near. And I am it."
A single drop of blood flowed down her forehead, over an eyebrow, onto her eyelid, down her cheek, off her chin and onto his neck. He felt it burning his skin as if it were acid. She leaned close. Michael couldn't move.
"W-What are you?" Michael asked.
The horror known as Twilight smiled, beautifully. "We have no name, but some call us the Leeches."
"T-There are more of you?" He felt that there weren't.
Twilight only smiled again at that.
"I-I," he said, his mind unable to come up with words.
Twilight smiled, her blood drenched lips whispering, "I love you too."
She grabbed his head in her blood drenched hands, pressing her mouth once again to his. He felt it like before, but now he could only feel terror at her touch. He was powerless to stop her. Blood gushed now, from his mouth, from his cheeks, his forehead--anywhere she physically touched him. The blood ran down his face, into and through his hair, and down onto the grave, seeping into the damp ground. She continued to draw the blood from his body, slowly. She would savor these moments.
Weakened, he watched the moon and stars. The moon was brighter than ever for a moment. In that moment, he hated it more than he ever had. And the stars too.
But then the stars faded. Michael felt happy about that. And then the moon started to dim. At first it turned red, but that was just blood running over his eyelid. Eventually, the moon winked out, and was black. Along with everything else. Soon, there was no more blood to draw.
But Twilight was satisfied.