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The wind that blew against the back of Skeagan’s bare neck was bitterly cold. The sturdy, dark-haired young man could not tell, however. From birth, he had been unable to feel either hot or cold. No one in his family could. It was sort of a family trait, one of many that set them apart from other people in the small town of Swansboro, NC were they lived. Set them apart from most other people in the world, actually.
Sometimes this thought bugged him. Being different created a sort of canyon between you and everyone else. And no matter how awesome those things that made you different were, you were still separated from people by them. And that canyon of separation could look awfully big and dark.
Skeagan’s mind was on neither his occasional feelings of loneliness nor the temperature of the air rushing past his face. He was too busy sniffing out his older brother’s trail. His nose wrinkled as he sniffed at a passing tree. His thick eyebrows came down over his blue eyes as he concentrated on the different odors he encountered. Fox. Bear. Wild turkey. But no scent of his brother. The scent of bear surprised him a little. All the bears should have been in hibernation before now. It had to be old… Still, it smelled awfully strong.
Suddenly, he jerked to a stop. From 50 mph to a standstill did not faze him at all. In a quick motion, he squatted down and sniffed close to the base of the tree. Then he yanked his face back, making a disgusted face. Yes, his brother had been here. And drinking, too. Standing up and brushing his pant legs off in one smooth motion, Skeagan looked around. The scent of his brother would be easy to follow now.
Less than a minute later, Skeagan found himself outside a night club. The pink, neon sign depicted the figure of a lady kicking her leg into the air, then bringing it back down. Over and over she repeated the motion. Skeagan rolled his eyes. What his brother found intriguing about these types of places was beyond him. He was 14, and he had seen some girls he thought were cute… but this, this was just degrading. He did not need to be warned away from places like this, they held no interest to him.
He approached the dark-tinted front door, but heard a commotion on the other side. It was thrust open suddenly and two men with closely cropped hair stumbled out. They would have ran straight into Skeagan, but he was no longer there. In fact, the parking lot appeared empty except for these two drunk marines. They made their way up the street, holding onto each other so as not to fall over.
In the shadows to the left of the front door, the teen shook his head as he watched them leave. Alcohol: another vice that he could not understand the popularity of. It smelled awful and turned one into a stumbling idiot. Yet, here he was outside of an establishment that dealt exclusively in hos and booze. Why? The question was rhetorical, because the reason was happening so often lately. For the sake of his brother. And on the nights when Logan was especially gross and difficult, and Skeagan would just have soon left him in his own vomit on the sidewalk, the reason changed. On those nights, he did it for the sake of his family. He had first went out after Logan so that his parents—who always gave everything for the happiness and protection of their children—would not have to be confronted with the shame of their eldest son.
Instead of going inside, Skeagan decided to check the area surrounding the building. He slipped silently from shadow to shadow, becoming a shadow himself. Only a creature natural to the dark can walk as he walked. At the back of the building, a lone light shone dimly over a closed, metal door. Near this, he found the rusty ladder to the roof. This gave him the great idea to wait for his brother above. In half a second, he was crouched on the edge of the roof, looking down at the front parking lot. And now, he thought, to wait.
A couple of hours passed. He may have dozed off. Looking around, he gathered his senses. Noise was coming from the back of the building. Muted voices spoke tauntingly. Turning, he was suddenly crouched at the back of the building. The scene below him, lit disparagingly by the yellow, 60 watt bulb over the back door, would have been frightening to the average freshman kid. But perhaps not in the same way it was for Skeagan. He more than felt a vague fear; he understood the gravity of the situation.
Two teens—older than Skeagan—were backing out towards the edge of the light’s perimeter. Just coming out the door, now suddenly stalking the boys in formation, five leather-clad men crouched. Their fingers were bent like claws, and their mouths forming smiling snarls.
“Give us the boy, Logan,” the leader of the Leathers hissed. The yellow light bounced off his outstretched hands as if they were as shiny as his slick leather jacket.
Skeagan looked again towards the teens. One had curly brown hair and was tall and lean. His walk was like a ballerina with a stubbed toe—clumsy but with an underlying grace. The other boy had flaming red hair and seemed to be shaking with fright. His back was pressed up against the taller teen in a stance that was an odd cross between giving and seeking protection.
Skeagan had straightened. He turned his mind towards his brother, letting him know of his presence and outlining a plan. The thoughts sent back as an answer were rather fuzzy and slightly garbled, but Skeagan had grown accustomed to deciphering Logan’s drunk thoughts.
When the two teens on the ground reached the edge of the bulb’s light, they stopped moving. The leather-clad hunters also stopped. In that moment, Skeagan uttered a prayer and leapt forward. He sailed through the air, hands outstretched like claws. His black trench coat flew out like giant bat’s wings. He gave an unearthly hiss-snarl, his full lips pulled back to reveal shiny white teeth. The canines glinted sharply in the dull light. The figures on the ground looked up in surprise.
In an instant, the two teens disappeared. Almost silently, Skeagan pounced on the leader, his fingers gripping the shoulders and his boots meeting the small of the back. Their was a crunch, and even before the Leather had touched the ground, the dark youth was gone, leaping forward into the shadows of the city.
To be continued...