Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Everything But You ~Echoes~

He was having that dream again. The one where he was a little boy lost in the woods. He rolled over and clutched at his pillow, knuckles white. His breathing grew shallow: in his dream, the creature in the forest—he couldn’t tell if it was a person or animal— drew closer and closer, stalking him. The thing made a noise low in its throat, a chuckle, maybe a snarl. His younger self just stood there, a basket of berries in hand.

Then the berries scattered onto the damp forest floor.

The scent of blood mingled with the fresh fragrance of the pine trees.

Cloud shot upright. He looked around the room as if to check for the creature. Sunlight streamed in through the window; traffic buzzed below, like the hum of mosquito. He gritted his teeth. He was no longer a child; he had no excuse to let nightmares get to him. This one had been plaguing him recently, but it would go away. They always did. Even so, it took a while for his heart to stop its frantic thudding.

The thing that scared him about the dream wasn’t the creature’s attack; it was the fact that his younger self had been smiling at it, unnaturally calm in the face of death. Cloud hated funerals, watching the news, anything where he saw people dying or dead. Maybe she was right: maybe he had been scarred after his experiences in Germany. For him to behave that way in this dream made no sense. He wasn’t sure why it bothered him so much, but it did.

He turned to the other side of the bed. Empty. If only she had been here. She was the one person he could confide in without feeling like a total idiot. He ran his hand along the bedspread, eyes softening. Already, the dream began to fade around the edges as reality blotted it out. No need to check the calendar: he knew what day it was.

He got to his feet and padded towards the kitchen, a smile on his face.


“I must have heard you wrong.” The black haired girl smiled at the guy at the customer service desk and he swallowed nervously, looking as if he wanted to make a break for it. “Did you just say that you can’t find my luggage?”

“Er, yeah.”

“That’s definitely what I needed after being next to a screaming baby all flight.”

“I’m sorry, miss. It’s probably been misplaced. We usually find them within thirty minutes.”

Sweat dripped from his earlobes as he babbled away. She tried not to fault the guy too much. It was stuffy in the airport, even with the air conditioning. And he wasn’t to blame for her missing suitcase. Even so, she really didn’t have the patience for this nonsense.

“Well, it’s hot pink,” she interrupted. “If that helps at all.”

“Oh, that’ll make it easier to spot, for sure.” He cleared his throat. “We’ll call you over the PA if—” at her sour look, he quickly amended, “when we find it. Absolutely no problem.”


“Did you have a nice time in Japan?”

“It’s a beautiful country.” She smiled, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. “I did the whole shopping extravaganza thing. But the natural attractions impressed me the most. The hot springs were heavenly.”

“I’ll have to visit. It’s funny, I’ve never been out of the city and I work at an airport!”

“Funny,” she agreed.

“You look so young,” he said suddenly. “You travelled alone?”

She stared at him. “I’m not sure that’s any of your business.”

“Of course not, my apologies.” He flushed a deep crimson. “It’s just, I could never travel by myself. So I have a sense of respect for people who take on the world like that. It’s like a real adventure.”

“I wasn’t alone,” she said curtly. “My friend just didn’t come back with me.”

He opened his mouth but she couldn’t handle talking to this man anymore. She mumbled something about waiting for the PA announcement and walked over to a room especially reserved for people who were waiting for their luggage. She leaned back in a plastic chair and stared up at the ceiling. Whoever thought that fluorescent lights were a good idea was horribly mistaken.

“This sucks,” a male voice muttered.

A softer voice chimed in: “There’s nothing we can do.”

She turned to see two young men take seats across from her. One of them was tall with raven hair. For some reason he was wearing sunglasses indoors. The other looked pissed off, his sandy blond hair sticking up in funny angles all over his head. He caught her looking at them and blinked.

“Shit. Is that Karelos?”

“Hey.” She couldn’t quite recall who they were. “It’s...you!”

The boy with the sunglasses laughed: the sound was oddly pleasing.

“She doesn’t remember us.”

“Whatever.” His friend slouched down. “You said we have to ‘keep a low profile’ anyway.”

“True. Perhaps I won’t have to do anything unnecessary.”

They exchanged a glance and the blond dropped his eyes first.

Karelos wasn’t paying much attention to their conversation. She still couldn’t place them, even though they both looked familiar. Normally she was good with faces, but she couldn’t attach names to these guys, which weirded her out a little. They knew who she was.

Her gaze drifted to the blond.

“What’s with the turtleneck?” She gestured at her tank top. “I’m melting in this.”

“Sorry for my lack of fashion sense.”

“Don’t mind him,” the raven haired boy said smoothly. “He’s grouchy most of the time. And now that they lost our luggage, all of his restraint has flown out the window.”

“No one can stay calm after spending a whole day on a plane.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Australia, I see. No tans?”

They were both oddly pale, the dark boy more so than the blond. But for whatever reason, maybe the harsh lighting, the blond looked a lot worse for wear than his friend did. He had deep purple circles beneath his eyes. Like he hadn’t slept in days.

“We were there for business, not pleasure,” Sunglasses Boy said.


He was perfectly nice, but something about him just seemed...wrong. Karelos felt vulnerable all of a sudden, alone in the waiting room with these two. She was probably just being paranoid. But the panic continued to thrum inside her, as if a switch had been flicked. She wanted that loser from customer service to call her over the PA, but it remained silent.

“My name’s Faust.” He nodded at the blond. “This is Erik.”

“Faust?” She mulled the names over. “Doesn’t ring a bell.”

She could feel his gaze piercing her, even from behind the sunglasses.


She shook her head. “I’ve got to use the ladies.”

There was no way she was coming back here. She tried to be nonchalant as she got to her feet and walked towards the door. This was ridiculous, really. It wasn’t like she was in danger or anything.

A hand landed on her shoulder. She tried to shrug him off but he merely clamped down more tightly. Turning, she found herself looking into bright violet eyes. Erik remained seated, but his brow was wrinkled with confusion. He didn’t seem to have any idea what was going on either.

“Stay for a while,” Faust invited.

“Excuse me?”

“I’m sorry if this isn’t to your liking.” He smile held no hint of remorse. “But I need you.”

“For what?”

She found it difficult to concentrate. There was something about his eyes that made her feel slightly numb. Her mind began to drift. Karelos struggled to stay alert, but the more she looked into his eyes, the more she felt as if she were in a dream. If only she could break her gaze. But that was impossible.

“Good,” he said softly. “Don’t resist. You’re with me now.”

Her stomach churned. The room began to tilt as if she were on the teacups at the fair.



“Hey,” Erik said sharply. “What are you doing?”

Faust closed his eyes, shielding those burning irises, and she slumped into his arms. Erik got his feet, but Faust had already crossed the room before he could take a single step. He held the girl, his old classmate, in his arms with utmost care.

“You heard me. I need her.”

Erik took a step back. “I thought you needed to keep a low profile.”

“You’re scared. But I want to finally show my true self to you.”


“Erik.” Violet eyes bored into him. “Aren’t you sweltering in that turtleneck?”

“Yeah, but—”

“Then why are wearing it?”He sighed. “Because I made you do it.” At Erik’s blank look he laughed a little. “There’s something on your neck that would give me away. And the thing is, not everyone can satisfy me.”

Erik licked his lips. “Are you saying you were using me as food?”

“If it helps,” he said, “I do like you as a person.”

Erik remembered how tired he had been these last few months, how drained. How he had been walking around in a fog. How the days all blurred into one another. All he knew was that he and Faust were travelling the world, and that had been fine with him, because he had nowhere else to go. Maybe he had known, somewhere deep down, what Faust was keeping him around for. But he had thought...he had thought...that they were friends.

“Are you all right, Erik?”

“No.” He smiled bitterly. “I guess my life ends here, huh.”


He nodded at Karelos. “Fresh meat. You don’t need me anymore.”

“Quite the contrary. She’s not my type.”

“Then let her go.”

“Everyone has someone they report to, Erik,” he said patiently, as if he were talking to a tiny child. “My boss, if you like, requested this particular girl. I’m going to drop her off and then we can continue on our way.”

“Who says I’m coming?”

Faust looked a little upset. ”I would never hurt you.”

“I feel pretty fucking hurt that you’ve been leeching off me.”

“You know I can make you do anything I want.”

“I know.”

Karelos stirred in Faust’s arms, letting out a small sigh. The young men glanced at her. Faust pressed his fingertips to her forehead and she fell silent. Erik watched all of this, wishing he had never met the boy, wishing he could somehow save the girl from her fate. Their eyes met, purple and blue; Faust’s seemed to be imploring with him. Erik had never seen his calm and collected friend look at him like that before.

“All right,” Faust said suddenly. “You’re free to leave.”

Erik wasn’t sure he had heard correctly. “What?”

“I’ve been keeping you captive for too long already.”

“Wow, a vampire with morals.”

“Hardly.” Faust’s voice was cold. “I’d snap your neck right now but my hands are full.”

Erik looked down, feeling ashamed for a reason he didn’t understand. When he looked up again, both vampire and girl were gone. Just then, the door to the room opened. A balding man with glasses poked his head in.

“Miss Karelos Wilder? It seems our PA system has been tampered with, so...” he trailed off when he saw Erik was alone. “Oh! I thought a young lady was in here. Where did she go?”

“I just got here.”

He couldn’t help lying; that was Erik Wolfe for you, loyal to a fault.


Cloud arrived at the airport. Instead of seeing the girl he loved, instead of pulling her close and breathing in her sweet scent, instead of feeling happy again, all he got was an apology. Sorry, we can't find your girlfriend, but she's around somewhere, don't worry.

A man handed him her pink suitcase.

He stared at it with unseeing eyes.

People greeted each other all around him, oblivious to his despair.