It was getting dark. Shafts of red sunset spilled through the long windows on the west side of the room and onto the carpet where Amelia and Katie sat giggling like children. Bruce and Hannah were nowhere in sight; they had disappeared upstairs minutes before this time. Joe and Philip were preoccupied with watching 'Pulp Fiction' on the large screen. Sam would join them, but, as leaned against the wall beside a window, his thoughts were elsewhere.
Amelia sat a few feet away on the floor. He did not look directly at her, for he did not want another awkward confrontation like that which they had experienced the same morning, but instead gazed unfocused at the wall opposite him.
Her face had been swimming around inside his head ever since they had met. He could not understand why. There was nothing particularly extraordinary in mistaking someone for someone else, but for an apparently unknown reason the incident kept pressing on his mind like an itch in a hard-to-reach place; those dark eyes, scrupulously scanning his face like he were an animal in a cage; the way they seemed to show fear as well as curiosity; how enchanting they were. Sam had apologised, had he not? Or if he had not, had he any reason to? That moment when she had turned around, and Sam saw a face that was not Catherine's, it felt to him as if a sword had been driven to the hilt into his heart. He had felt so sure that his sister had returned to him. But then, Sam wondered, why was he standing there and thinking about Amelia instead of Catherine, if the whole thing was about his sister? Why on earth was he having thoughts about a woman whom he barely knew, instead of the sister he had loved for years?
(is it really about Catherine?)
He blinked and shook his head. He did not want to go down that trail of thoughts. It would only lead him to dark places and guilty imaginings. He did not want that. Not so early in their
Friendship. What on earth was he thinking? Why was he having these thoughts? Why was it painful to look at Amelia, even if he was having such thoughts? He needed to get out of the place. His head hurt him as a result of all that had happened that day, and decided he could do with some fresh air. Sam straightened from his post and took a few steps forwards. The girls looked up at him expectantly.
'Er, I'm going for a walk,' he muttered. He turned around to head for the doors when Amelia's voice caught him in his tracks.
'Are you kidding me?'
Sam turned again to face her. Those dark eyes were boring into his.
'Supposing you're seen? You'll expose us all! Worse – what if they see you?'
'I won't go far,' he replied. 'I'll keep to the shadows.'
'But that's even more -,'
'Oh, come on, he's a big boy,' Katie interjected. 'He can take care of himself.'
Amelia rounded on her. 'How can you say that?' she hissed.
'Well, you know what we're all now capable of,' Katie said simply, and shrugged.
Amelia gave no immediate response, so Sam assumed he'd gotten his way. Without another word he turned around and headed for the doors. This southwest corner of the room was darker, and the iron push bar glimmered wickedly up at him in the glow from the chandelier, which was slowly coming on. He paused, resting his fingers upon the cold metal, then pushed.
A cool breeze greeted him and lifted slightly his sandy fringe. Ahead of him, between two large industrial buildings, he saw the horizon decorated with the dying sun, which was scarlet, and bubbled with navy clouds. As if the colour was draining from the sky, above the red there was purple; indigo; violet; then a fathomable dark blue which stretched forever above his head and dispersed a billion silver stars like confetti. It was simply beautiful. He always loved to go out at twilight, and cared neither who knew it nor how 'uncool' it was. The serenity really did help to clear his head.
After a few moments of gazing at the sky, Sam now stared dully at the road. Where would he go? Now that the door behind him was closed again and the silence complete, everything became so frightening and sharp. Supposing he was seen? To whom could he turn? The road stretched out to the left and to the right of him like a river of darkness. If he was not careful he would surely be recognised, and then whoever saw him would most definitely contact the police or his parents. A momentary bubble of anger shot through him. I am eighteen years old; not a child.
But then, there were others of whom he had to be aware. Those men from the hospital, masquerading as doctors and nurses. Who are they? He wondered. Are they really vampires? The notion was ridiculous in his mind, yet when he tried to voice it, something stopped him. We have powers: is that not ridiculous? How is it possible?
Is any of this even real?
Yes, he decided. He and his peers had supernatural gifts, and it was for a reason. What was the reason? And also, what would happen tomorrow, and the day after that? Would they be able to return to their parents' houses or be forced to live forever as the invisible; the shadows of society, of whom no one knows; forced to breathe quietly the air that had been breathed by the children who remained with their parents; forced to live in the forgotten part of town, where squalid men took their non-prescribed medication, and where women in fancy but cheap clothes made their living in the cars of strangers?
The number of questions swarming in his mind was too great so he tried to clear it. Just for the time being, he was going to walk around the block, and it was as simple as that. He set off left in the direction of north where the main road which they had had to intersect ended and a roundabout was situated. It was quite a large roundabout with a diameter of roughly one hundred feet, but it had to be of such proportion because of its proximity to the town centre and to the major motorways that departed the city. It consisted of an array of colourful flowerbeds on a bank of concrete and grass that faced west, towards the centre of town, the main road of which fast gave way to towering office blocks, clubs and department stores. In the opposite direction the town steeped upwards on the road where lay two public hospitals. Sam and the others had been in neither of these, for there was a private hospital to which they had been sent, located on the other side of the city.
This particular part of town Sam knew very well because he lived less than half an hour's walk away, so he gladly decided to go for a stroll around the perimeter of the roundabout. He did so in well under five minutes. He paused on the corner of the road on whose opposite side was the factory and let out a sigh.
He could cross the road and return to the new abode, but what then? What if he and the others had exaggerated the whole thing? They had been at a hospital, after all. What if they had just been given very strong drugs, and it was those which made them think the men were something unnatural? It would make sense. What if no one was out to harm them? What if these powers were not even real, and again it was all an effect caused by the drugs they may have taken?
Sam's mind went fuzzy again, but it was a nauseating fuzziness, as shock and realisation crashed over him like a tidal wave. Their parents would be worried sick. The police would be out looking for them; they had injured several members of staff at the hospital in their bid to escape it. The whole thing was a joke. He and his acquaintances had sought shelter in a musty, disused old warehouse. None of them had any powers. It had all been in their imagination. Why had not he nor any of the others realised it before?
Just as he was about to sprint across the road and re-enter the factory to summon the others, a hair-raising scream rent the cold night air.
Sam stood stock-still, trepidation immobilising his body. He was sure he had just heard someone scream. What ought he to do? Panic and logic were battling for supremacy in his head, and he tried to clear it. His instincts told him he should run and contact the police, get hold of a telephone… but he knew he could not; the police would still be searching for him. And here he stood, in the open.
(WHY THE FUCK DID I HAVE TO GO OUTSIDE?)
Someone may have been hurt. Or worse; someone may be dying. Not too far away, though, from the sound of the scream; Sam judged it came from the uphill road where the hospitals were. If he deliberated much longer, time would run out. Action needed to be taken, then and there.
With a fleeting glance over his shoulder at the large, black silhouette of the old factory, Sam began to sprint across the roundabout in the direction whence the scream came.
A/N: Now review please! Watch this space for Chapter 18, which will be up in a much shorter time than this chapter was (shuffles guiltily), and it'll be a very exhilerating chapter!