Real Monsters


"You know," the strangely hollow voice called out from the near absolute darkness. "The only people that come here this time of night are people that want to hurt someone, or people that want to be hurt. So I wonder; which are you?"

Franklin Stanley Jr. looked up from his seat on the park fountain where he had been crying, his back and neck causing him pain as he scanned the area for the unseen person that had suddenly joined him. It hurt him greatly to crane his neck as he searched the dark surroundings, the after effects of his father's fist and booted feet still plaguing him. A small, almost frail boy of ten, he wasn't really physically equipped to take the kind of punishment his father dealt out on the many occasions that he was either drunk or just having a bad day. Somehow, though, he always managed. Bones would break, skin would scar, but somehow he would always survive to be struck another day.

Lucky him.

"Both sound bad, so I guess neither." Franklin answered, trying to keep the fear out of his voice while still peering into the dense thick shadows that surrounded him. Light was a precious commodity in the park and it seemed to be swallowed up by the dark at a steady pace. The park lamps grew dimmer and dimmer and the light of the full silver moon he had observed in the sky as he was sneaking out of his house appeared to be losing the brightness it had once been giving off. "Who are you? Where are you?"

The hidden person laughed, a laugh that sounded unusual to Franklin and made him shiver despite it being a typical hot southern night. "I don't know, kid…are you sure you want to see me? Didn't your parents ever tell you not to talk to strangers? Aren't you afraid of monsters getting you?"

Franklin sniffled, determined not to start crying again, not in front of some unknown person that was laughing at him. He would not cry, no matter how bad it still hurt…both the physical pain his father caused and the emotional kind his mother caused when she didn't come to his rescue. Yet again.

"There's no such thing as real monsters…and my parents don't care. They wouldn't care even if I was dead." The boy said quietly, the hard truth of his statement stinging him even more.

"Really now…I find that hard to believe." The voice said, a lot closer this time. Franklin whirled around to face his right and there, less then a foot away, was the unknown man. He was positive that the man had been no where near him mere seconds ago, but some how there he was, right beside him.

Now that the stranger was close enough, Franklin could make him out…sort of. Arms folded over his chest, the man stood next to him looking out into the pools of darkness that surrounded them, not sparing Franklin a glance. He was dressed in a dark colored long coat that came to his ankles and had an over-sized hood on it that was drawn up, concealing his face from view. It was crazy, Franklin thought, but he could almost swear that the steamy summer night air had suddenly dropped in temperature severely now that the man was near him. He began to rub his arms a bit in an unconscious response to the sudden chill, and winced as he rubbed over some of the many sore spots on his body.

"Well, it's true. They don't care…no one does!" Franklin felt himself getting angry at his situation that night. First he had taken his father's drunken anger over something that was beyond the child's control while his mother took the opportunity to avoid her share of the violence. Now there was some weird man that seemed to want nothing more then to tease him and laugh at him.

As if on cue, the man did laugh again and then looked up and spread his arms wide. "You're absolutely right, kid. No one cares. Not a single solitary soul. You're on your own in this life, and in some cases beyond. The question, my boy," he stated, pausing to reach down and lay a hand on Franklin's shoulder. "Is what do you plan on doing about it?"

His shoulder hurt in the man's ice like grasp, but Franklin pushed the pain aside to focus on what the stranger was saying. "What…what do you mean? I'm a kid! What can I do?"

The man finally turned to look down at Franklin, and the boy briefly thought to run until he realized he was unable to move at all. The shadows were deep in the confines of the hood of the long coat and didn't show his face much, but Franklin could make out two things perfectly. The first were small red orbs that seemed to float in pools of black ink where he thought the man's eyes should be, the two angry looking lights seemingly fixated on him. The second thing which he noticed was his teeth, the extreme whiteness, length and sharpness of them. They kind of reminded Franklin of his dog's teeth, the one he had before his father beat it to death after his football team lost. The man's teeth definitely reminded him of the dog's fangs, except that somehow the man's seemed even more scary, especially when he smiled.

"First, let me ask you a question. All right?" the man said, grinning all too sharply at the boy.

"O...OK. What?"

"How did you get hurt?"

Franklin blinked in surprise. "What? How…?"

The man just grinned more. "Just because it's dark, kid, doesn't mean I can't see. In fact, trust me; I see in the shadows very well. So, I ask again…how did you get hurt?"

Conditioning, and threats of even worse pain if he said anything, made Franklin give the stock answer that his father had told him to give when anyone started asking questions about his injuries. "I…I fell down the stairs. I was clumsy again."

Franklin could almost swear he saw the dark red balls of light the man seemed to have for eyes roll. "Fell down the stairs, eh? How very original…I'm surprised you didn't run into the door, as well." The disgust in his voice was apparent, no matter how weird it sounded. "So is it your mother helping you down the stairs, or your father?" When the boy didn't answer, the hooded man seemed to nod. "I see. Both are guilty in this."

"I…I didn't say…" Franklin began, panic rising. What if this man told someone and they came after his parents? His father would surely kill him then…he had sworn on many occasions he would if that ever happened!

Holding up a black gloved hand, the man interrupted him. "You didn't have to say, kid. It's fairly obvious. Turn around and lift up your shirt."

Franklin began to grow scared. He had heard about people like this, bad people that liked to do bad things to little boys like him. First his father and now some weird stranger…what had he done to deserve this?

"Please…don't." he whispered, tears beginning to flow again.

"Relax, kid. It's not like that…I'm not a pervert or anything. I just want to see how bad you're getting it from the parents at home. So show me. Now." The stranger said calmly, but something in his unusual sounding voice let the boy know that he wasn't going to take no for an answer.

Not wanting to anger the red eyed man, he did as he was told and turned around, slowly lifting his shirt and shutting his eyes. A few seconds went by and nothing happened, then suddenly Franklin felt a deep chill as the man's fingertips lightly trailed some of the many welts, bruises and scars that covered his small back.

"Pull your shirt down, and turn around. I've seen enough." the man said, the familiar sound of anger creeping in his voice. Franklin meekly obeyed and turned to face him, then gasped out loud. He looked up into the man's hood and saw the brightly burning eyes looking back at him, narrowed in anger and his very sharp teeth gritted tightly. "Tell me something; how would you like to stop it all? No more pain, no more being scared…what if you could be beyond it all? Would you be interested?"

Franklin was taken off guard by the question as it was definitely not what he was expecting from the man. He had been afraid the stranger might hurt him, or worse, but instead he did the exact opposite. Here he was, offering the boy a chance to escape being a punching bag for his dad, a chance to stop the tears and the pain for good. It was everything he had ever wanted, had ever dreamed about. So why was he not jumping at the chance? Why was he hesitating?

"How…how could I do that?" he asked, knowing he probably wouldn't like the answer very much. "What would happen?"

The man then smiled, the smile not a friendly one but one that made Franklin shudder. "You seem like a smart boy…well, aside from coming out here alone this time of night." he said with a low chuckle. "I think you have a pretty good idea what would happen."

Franklin swallowed hard. The man was right, he did know. "I'd be like you, wouldn't I?"

The man nodded. "Exactly. Think about it; I can give you what you want." The man knelt down on one knee to look Franklin face to face, holding the boy's gaze with his piercing scarlet stare. "I can give you the power to make sure your parents never lay a finger on you again, make sure you never know fear again. All you have to do is accept, of your own free will, what I offer."

It was tempting, what the man was offering; a chance to be free and not be scared of being hit at any given moment. Franklin thought on the offer, thinking about how good it would feel to live a life like that, and then noticed something. He noticed that the longer he stayed in the presence of the man, the colder he got regardless of how hot the mid-August night was. Also noticeable was the darkness that surrounded them was growing even more prevalent, and he could swear he saw the shadows writhing around them like huge snakes. Fear of his father was a powerful motivator, to be sure…but fear of whatever this man was and would turn him into was a much greater deterrent.

"No. I don't want to…" Franklin started, fright of what might happen next almost stopping him but somehow he pushed on to finish. "I don't want to be like you."

"I see. Are you positive about this? Think about what I'm offering and choose wisely." he told the boy, his gloved hands gripping his sore shoulders in an icy embrace.

Franklin nodded slowly. "Yes, I'm sure. I don't want to be scary like you. I'm sorry but I don't." Franklin then closed his eyes and braced himself for whatever pain was coming next for his refusal.

After a few tense seconds, he felt the cold hands let go of his shoulders and waited to be hit, but the attack never came. Franklin then cautiously opened his eyes and saw that the man had stood up and was looking down at him, his red eyes looking less angry then a short time before.

"Don't be sorry, kid. You had a decision to make and you made it. I just figured I'd give you something I never got; a choice." the man said, shrugging. "Go home, and do yourself a favor; don't come out at night like this again. Trust me, it isn't safe."

A path in the slithering inky black shadows opened up, showing Franklin a view of the normally lit park beyond it. Without taking his eyes off the hooded stranger, he edged around him and started to move cautiously at first and then quickly to the exit.

"Hold on a minute," the man called after him, freezing in his tracks. "What's your name, kid?"

"Franklin…my name's Franklin."

"Well, Franklin, my name is Nickolai, and I have one more question for you."

"OK. What?" he asked cautiously.

"What if I said I could stop your parents from hurting you, once and for all? You wouldn't have to be 'scary' like me…I'd take care of everything. Would you like that?"

The boy nodded enthusiastically. "Yes! Yes, I'd like that a lot!"

The man grinned, fangs gleaming like deadly little daggers in the dark of the hood. "I thought you might. Very well then, Franklin, leave it all to me. Just tell me where I can find your father tonight. I think he and I need to…talk a bit about your future."

A/N: So if you've read my profile, you might have noticed me mention writing my take on the vampire mythos with a story of my own. While I'm not ready to start the serial like some have PM'ed me and asked me to, I am going to offer up this one shot short side story of one of the main characters of my planned story. My vampire Nickolai, in the main planned story, he's a man on a mission...however, in this side story he's trying to build a little karma to offset the things he's done and will do. Gotta love the anti-hero types. Pt. 02 coming soon...Cheers!