This is just a half-arsed story idea I'm fooling around with. Bad language and violence, as always.

Burn Shadow

1 -Black Holes and Revelations

As far as he could tell, his life as he knew it ended shortly after midnight on New Year's Eve.

Ramsey had never been to an actual "rave" before, as their time had come and gone while he was still in kindergarten. But some college guys decided to use an a warehouse to throw a New Year's Eve rave - sort of a retro thing, mainly a way to get drunk and score with high school girls - and then invited only friends and "friends of friends" by text messages only hours before it began. It was a new way to flash mob. Or maybe not; he'd never heard of it before, and really only came tagging along with Cass. It was helpful to know a girl whose brother was the jock king of the high school. Her brother Ethan was worshipped by so many people - kids and adults alike - that she got special treatment as a result. At least she was self-aware enough to hate it, even if she did take advantage of it occasionally.

She actually convinced him to come along. He'd turned eighteen two days ago, and that whole thing was ruined because he was still down with a cold. He'd recovered, mostly, although he still felt weirdly hot in the face, like he had a really localized fever. But at least he wasn't a walking snot factory anymore, and his sore throat - always a bitch - was gone.

Even before he got the cold that trashed his holidays, he was in an angry funk because he broke things off with Brett. Okay, admittedly, he wasn't out of the closet yet either - his step-dad would freak, and so would his mother probably; he had a feeling his claim that he was a bisexual (he really wasn't sure at this point if he was or wasn't; it was all kind of confusing) wouldn't go down well - but Brett crossed the line when he joined his boneheaded buddies in making fun of "fags". When he was one himself? Fucking hypocrite. He could tolerate a lot of things, but that was one thing he couldn't do. At least he didn't go to the same school as Brett; he didn't go to school at all. He'd graduated early, and while he was still living at home, he was working as a library assistant. He didn't make a lot of money, but he liked being surrounded by books, and the other librarians were actually pretty cool. Recently they'd hired a guy who was quite obviously gay, but kind of cute in his way. He'd talked to him a couple of times, but only in a casual way. He had to be what, almost a decade older than him? But it would be nice to talk to a guy who wasn't a complete dumbass.

Still, when Cass got the text about the party, he was with her at the Starbucks, having a green tea latte and listening to her bitch about her parents. Her favorite pastimes were, in order: bitching about her brother, bitching about her parents, bitching about her girlfriends (she wasn't exactly out, but she'd never been in the closet either; still, her parents still thought she was in a "tomboy phase", and Ethan would beat the shit out of anyone who suggested his sister was a dyke), and pretending to be a cutter. This was one terrible thing he was appalled by, and yet admired her for. She found a Halloween store that had very realistic stick on scars and latex wounds, and bought a ton of them she hid in her closet. She'd put them on occasionally, usually where people could see them "accidentally", and when pointed out, she'd either pretend - badly - that they were nothing, usually using lame excuses that no one would believe ("I was playing with an old straight razor"), or would fake cry and say things like, "I just want to feel something". Of course cutting was a real thing, and absolutely nothing to make fun of … but she just had such a dark sense of humor it wasn't meant maliciously, she only did it to shock certain people, who usually bought her spiel, hokey as it was. And, he had to admit, it was fucking hilarious. Cass's parents and his parents alike thought they were dating, and they did little to discourage this notion. Cass often referred to him as her "little beard". (Otherwise known as a goatee, which is why her nickname for him was Goat. It was also a play on Ram.)

Cass thought this would be the perfect thing, as she could find some new "girl toy" (she claimed not to be a "love 'em and leave 'em" type, but she seemed to be), and she was hoping he could find a new guy to get his mind off Brett, which he was still brooding about. Which he would deny, but the truth was … well, okay, maybe a little. But he was the first guy he'd ever kissed! It was weird … and kind of exciting, in a way that kissing girls usually wasn't. It might be nice to see if he could recreate that excitement with other guys. Maybe it was just something he had with Brett.

Cass decided they should go back to her house and "dress appropriately", which he took with the right amount of trepidation. Cass was into a butch look - the only dresses she owned were ones her mother bought for her, and she never wore them - but she liked to try and "flame him up" (her term), which he hated. But she knew that dressing him "too fruity" might get him unwanted attention from the "muscle heads" (jocks) who would show, so they stuck to very basic outfits: boots (his biker boots he picked up at the Goodwill, hers Army boots she picked up at St. Vincent DePaul's), jeans, weird t-shirts (his showing animated toast running away from an angry toaster; hers was just a variety of swirls of different colored glitter paint, a shirt she made herself over the summer), and matching fluorescent colored plastic bracelet that glowed in the dark, and would last for a few hours. They both wore three in a row: yellow, blue, and pink. She'd brushed some temporary neon blue dye through his hair, while she put bright green streaks in her bristly hair, although she'd cut it so short it was actually hard to see the color variation. She wore an oversized olive drab Army jacket (it went with the boots), while he went with a black leather jacket that looked like it had been dragged behind a motorcycle at some point in its life, but which he loved with a passion that confused his mother. They both looked oddly '80's, save for the florescent bracelets: she looked like she was in a punk band, and he looked like he was a slightly confused metalhead. But what the hell, why not? The final touch was matching jewelry, little silver lightning bolt shaped studs. She wore hers in her nose, while he wore his on his earlobe.

They took her car, a piece of shit Honda they called "the Scrote", and after lying to both their parental units over the phone (he was supposedly doing extra work for the library; she was supposedly sleeping over at her friend Carmen's house), and she drove them out to a warehouse in a really shitty part of town, near the old docks. But because it was New Year's Eve the streets, which would normally be deserted save for the questionable characters who plied their illegal trades here, were teeming with revelers, mostly drunk or on their way there, with some guys throwing firecrackers at passing cars. Luckily, they didn't throw one at the Scrote, which was good, as it sometimes leaked oil, and Ramsey was afraid it might catch on fire or blow up.

There was almost no parking for blocks around, including illegal parking places, which were studiously ignored by everyone. They found one two blocks away in a Park 'N' Ride lot, which normally you paid for, but no one was, and they didn't bother either.

It was clear and cold; Ram shuddered inside his leather jacket and watched his breath plume out before him, wishing he wore warmer clothes as they walked down to the warehouse, mostly ignored by the clots of drunken partiers on their way to other parties or attempting, with varying degrees of failure, to find where they parked their cars. They saw other kids, but mostly jock types and frat types with baseball caps turned backwards and football jerseys, or as Cass called them, the date rapist line up.

Cass reached over and grabbed his pendant, tucking it beneath his t-shirt. "You never know about some of these idiots, Goat," she explained, with a sardonic grimace. "Better keep it hidden."

That was probably a good idea, although it wasn't expensive by any means. It wasn't even a proper necklace; it was just a thin leather cord holding a small, odd pendant. It was either a silver skeletal hand holding a small crystal, or a bird's talon holding a crystal - he and Cass had argued about it, and neither were sure. It could have gone either way. All he really knew was it was the only thing he had of his dad.

His mom never talked about him, and gotten rid of just about everything connected to him after he left, which was when he was two or three. According to his grandma, his dad just disappeared one day, just up and left, with no explanation, and no one heard from him ever again. Supposedly his mom had filed a missing persons report, but no one ever found him, and she eventually decided he'd just run out on her and him. By the time she married his step-dad, Brian, all traces that his dad had ever existed were gone.

Except for this necklace. The weird thing was he only found it a couple of years ago, when he was looking through some old boxes in the garage. It was in a yellowed envelope with his name written on it in unfamiliar handwriting. Inside he found a rather generic birthday card signed "Love, Dad", and there was the necklace in a tiny blue velvet pouch. The weird thing was the envelope didn't have an address on it, so it wasn't mailed, but why would he leave behind a birthday card with a necklace in it for a two year old? It didn't make a lot of sense, but he didn't ask his mom, because he knew she'd probably have ripped up the card and thrown it all away.

Honestly he didn't know why he kept it - it wasn't like he liked his dad; the fucking bastard ran out on him - but the necklace made him feel better for some reason. When his mom asked about it, he said it was a gift from Cass.

You could hear the music within several hundred feet of the warehouse, and as soon as they walked in, the sound hit them square in the chest, almost sending them flying back out the door. Considering the music was coming from a laptop plugged into a set of speakers, it was especially impressive.

The warehouse was also more crowded than he thought. It was almost wall to wall people, with just enough room to dance in the center of the place, although along the walls the crowds clotted thick, especially around the kegs. He and Cass already had an agreement: if they got separated, they'd meet back at the Scrote. But he didn't expect to get separated right away. She indicated she was going to go get a drink, and she was swallowed up by the crowd almost immediately. The glowing bracelets didn't help one bit. He could have stayed where he was and waited for her, but it was impossible. The people were shoving and pushing like this was Times Square.

He didn't drink alcohol - he had nothing against it, he just thought it tasted terrible - and he managed to swim through the crowd to one side of the room, where some girls had bottles of what looked like Vitamin Water. He shouted at them a bit - you couldn't talk at this volume - and discovered the blonde one who looked fifteen went to some Christian school he'd never heard of, and her dark haired friend, who wore such thick makeup she looked about twenty five, had just gotten over an infection from a bad belly button piercing that had left her briefly hospitalized. (Supposedly this explained why they weren't drinking beer … or so he assumed. He had no idea why they were telling him these things.)

He got a Vitamin Water from them, though, and gratefully gulped it down. The cold breezes coming from outside confirmed there was no heater in this place, but there were so many people crammed in here it seemed almost excessively warm. He was already sweating, and he hadn't done anything but jostle his way through the crowds.

The water tasted kind of funny, but he didn't recognize the brand, and figured that was just how the stuff tasted. He started to feel a little dizzy, so he sat on a crate and watched the crowd pulsing around him, the living heart of some gigantic beast.

It was here that time first got away from him.

It was like an editor with ADD suddenly started working on his life. He was just sitting there, feeling weird but good, and then suddenly he found himself dancing in the middle of the crowd with no memory of ever getting up. He had no idea who he was dancing with, but with this kind of music, hard, electronic, and pulsing, throbbing like phantom hearts through the concrete floor, it actually didn't matter. He thought he was dancing with this Asian girl with pink hair and this black haired guy who'd lost his shirt at the same time, or at least it seemed that way. The sweat was pouring down his body, making his t-shirt cling to him like a wet sheet, and he realized why the guy took off his shirt.

When the music abruptly segued into a quieter bit, he stopped and stumbled, and was caught by the black haired guy before he could faceplant on the concrete. "You okay?" he shouted.

Ram was pretty sure he answered, but he had no idea what he said; it was gibberish to his own ears. The guy looked at him curiously, as if trying to determine whether he was speaking English or not, and Ram noticed he had eyes the exact same color brown as the leather seats in his mom's car. Did that mean something?

The guy helped him over to the crates, escorting him like security, but he didn't seem to be. He asked somebody for some water, water without something in it. Ram wondered what was in the water that bothered the guy. Fluoride? Maybe he was allergic to aspartame.

He got some water but gave it to him, telling him to drink it, and Ram did, because he was pretty thirsty. How long had he been dancing? He intended to ask the guy if he knew, but he found himself unable to fix on the thought. Instead he watched a bead of sweat run down the guy's chest, which was lean but nicely defined, most of the hair shaved or waxed off. He didn't have six pack abs, but Ram thought those were overrated; he liked flat stomachs better, mainly because he admired them. Perfectly flat stomachs seemed somehow wrong, and yet he found them alluring. This guy had one of those; he also had an outie belly button, which he wasn't crazy about, but who cared? He didn't realize he had touched the bead of sweat and trailed his finger down his stomach, echoing its trail, until he belatedly noticed he was doing it, and he stopped, his hand only reacting twenty seconds after his brain sent out the message. He was pretty sure he said he was sorry, but he wasn't sure.

Ram looked up and noticed the guy's hair, which was damp with sweat, but still looked like velvet. He reached up and touched it, weaving his fingers through the hot silky strands, and he wasn't sure if he'd pulled him towards him or the guy just did it himself, but the guy was kissing him then, his lips warm and dry, the skin of his body slick and hot. It felt good; really, really good. Better than Brett.

The bad editor was back. He had no idea how long they made out, he only knew that it felt like he was melting into this guy; like he was wax and collapsing under the heat and pressure. His skin was made of nothing but nerves, and he was feathers stroked gently across his skin. Embarrassingly, he was still a virgin, which Cass often teased him about, as he was always a little freaked out by the prospect of getting naked in front of someone else. (Okay, so he had body issues. He probably wasn't the only one.) But right now, he wanted this guy to take him somewhere - anywhere; hell, he'd settle for behind the building - and fuck his brains out. He was so turned on he was finding it hard to breathe. He wanted to feel like this forever.

The guy finally grabbed him by the shoulders and held him away from him, panting to try and catch his breath. "Kid, how old are you?"

That struck him as funny somehow. "I'm eighteen. Jeeze." He knew he looked young for his age, he got carded a couple of weeks ago at an R rated movie, and he had no idea anyone got carded for that anymore, but he didn't want this guy to think he was robbing the cradle.

The guy's look was skeptical, though. "How much did you take? Did you take it, or were you dosed?"

What was he saying? It was definitely English, but the word order seemed wrong. "What?"

The guy rolled his eyes. "Dosed. Did you come here with someone? A friend?"

Why wasn't he making sense? "Cass."

"Great. How would I recognize her?"

Yeah, the editor must have cut something out, because he was definitely missing something. "She's a Latina dyke with a buzz cut and an Army jacket, wearing a lightning bolt shaped stud in her nose, like this." He touched his earlobe, and it sent a toe curling shudder of pleasure through him. Oh wow, that wasn't normal, was it? Is that what he meant by being dosed?

"Okay. Stay here until we get back. Understand?"

Ram nodded, smiling, and then grabbed his head, wanting to feel his feathery hair again, and kissed him hard, his tongue parting his warm lips. He could kiss him forever.

The guy responded momentarily, but then he broke away and fixed him with a stern look. "Stay here." He then disappeared into the crowd.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw someone staring at him, and he looked to see who it was. He met the eyes of his step-sister Sara, and felt a cold shock like an icicle stab through him. He'd just fully focused on her face before she was lost in the shifting sea of people.

Oh holy shit! It was a hallucination, wasn't it? He wasn't feeling right. He had been drugged, hadn't he? He must have. What would Sara be doing here? He had no problem with Sara, but for some reason he and she had never really gotten along. She was going to tell their parents he was here and not working on scanning books … oh no. Worse: she was going to tell them she saw him making out with a man.

Ram knew he should panic, but it felt distant somehow, scattered, and that's when he decided he'd been drugged. Was there something in the water? He had to get home before Sara. He didn't know what he was going to do, but maybe he could talk her out of ratting on him.

He staggered and swam through the crowd towards the door, and once he got outside, the cold air hit him hard, and caused a wave of pleasure that made him pause for a moment to let it wash over him. Whatever drug this was, it was great.

He headed up the dark streets, figuring out where the Scrote was parked, but still not sure how he could keep Sara from outing him. What about bribery? Would that work?

He found the Scrote on his first try, but he suddenly realized that he didn't have any keys to the car. Goddamn it. Ram sat on the hood and rubbed his head, wondering what that guy's name was. If he was going to catch hell because of him, he should know his name.

It was then he noticed that there was a light coming from something nearby, and after looking for it, he realized it was his necklace. The crystal was glowing a kind of sickly purple, a dark light that still gave off enough illumination to be confusing.

Was it the drugs, a hallucination? There was no way it could be glowing. It didn't do that. He closed a hand over it, making the light disappear, but he could almost … feel it. It wasn't heat exactly, just a weird prickly sensation.

Okay, it was the drugs. It had to be. He figured that out when he was attacked.

It was a guy he hadn't seen until he was grabbed by the arm and yanked off the hood of the car. The guy, one of the date rape line up in a Stamford sweatshirt and a backwards turned baseball hat, was making a strange growling noise deep in his throat, and his eyes were all white, like the pupils had been removed, or his eyes had rolled up in the back of his head. "What the fuck is wrong with you?" Ram exclaimed, shoving him away from him. He used enough force that he stumbled and fell on his ass on the cold asphalt as the Stamford guy ratcheted up the almost mechanical noise he was making.

The guy held out his arms, as if hugging a very fat invisible person, and something cut through his arms and sprung out of them. They were large ivory blades half the length of his reach, like the bones in his arms had suddenly turned into weapons, and he was still growling/rasping, his eyes rolled up into his head, his blood splashing on the pavement. There was something moving in his throat, the skin stretching and roiling … as if something was trying to come out. Something was wearing him like a cheap suit and was now trying to rip him off, discard him like a bad Halloween costume. Blood was now leaking through his stomach as something started tearing through it, the fabric ripping with a sound that was like a ragged purr.

This wasn't happening - he was having a bad trip and this wasn't happening.

"What the fuck ..?" Cass exclaimed, and the Stamford guy turned at the noise. Cass was standing at the edge of the parking lot, with the shirtless guy standing beside her.

The Stamford guy advanced towards them, and Ram felt something come loose inside his chest. All the warmth in him seemed to cause a head rush, and he screamed, "Leave them alone!" Something wanted to leave him, something wanted out. It wasn't a sensation like he wanted to vomit, but it was the only thing he could equate it to.

The Stamford guy looked back at him, and Ram suddenly felt hot, dry heat in his hands. For no reason he understood, he held them out, and tried to will this strange heat outwards. He didn't need his hands at all, it was just a way of focusing his direction. He said something - something fell out of his mouth, syllables he didn't exactly recognize, and he screamed in rage and fear as he saw this bright flash of light accompanied by a sudden draining sensation, like he'd just vomited up his life force.

When the shadow negatives left by the flash faded from his eyes, he saw the guy - thing; shell; whatever he was - was gone. All he left was a stain on the pavement, and a small pile of ash. His pendant was now glowing red for some reason, light through a glass of claret. What the fuck was this?

Cass was staring at him in wide eyed disbelief. "Did you do that?" she asked. The shirtless guy, for his part, wasn't reacting at all. Shock?

Ram just stared at the dark spot on the asphalt, wondering what the fuck had just happened. He still felt drugged, but now he also felt exhausted, like he couldn't stand up under his own power on a bet.

That's when he noticed the shadows across the street moving.

It happened very fast. The shadows seemed to spasm, and then coalesce into a dark figure standing against the brick wall of a closed down drugstore. He wasn't sure he saw what he saw, until the person stepped out of the shadows. She looked like she was dragging the shadows behind her in a long train; she was clad by darkness and barely visible through it; he could only see bright eyes that glowed moon white and teeth like icicles. "You don't look like much, but obviously you're your father's son."

Cass and the shirtless guy looked sharply at her, and Cass, who still hadn't recovered from the mantis guy - or whatever the fuck he was - gaped at her in slack jawed shock. "Who the fuck are you now? Is this some kinda "Punk'd" thing?"

The woman's glowing eyes barely glanced at her, and when they did, it was in a manner so coldly dismissive that Ram got pissed off. "This doesn't concern you, mortal. Now come with me, boy, if you want to live through the night."