Night Child: Ace's High
Chapter Ten: Wither
"I drown in hesitation, my words come crashing down, and all my best creations burn into the ground. The thought of starting over leaves me paralyzed…tear it out again, another one that got away…"
"I wither, and render myself helpless. I give in, and everything is clear. I break down, and let the story guide me…I wither…and give myself away…" --Dream Theater
December 19th, 2018
Son of a bitch…
Hacking and gagging, I pull myself out of the back of my mind. Trudging back from the other end is never any fun, and right now, I feel my pulse throbbing in my ears and my head is fucking killing me. The scent and taste of blood surrounds me, and the air breathes heavy, the dust already coating my lungs. I gag again before opening my eyes.
Light. Little circles of light, pouring in from broken glass and jagged boards. My vision blurs, and I blink my eyes, trying to focus.
Jesus fucking Christ, OW.
Well, I found out what was hurting so bad. My face feels like a swollen lump, my right eye isn't opening. My nose throbs and goddamn, does it kill. I peek out through my one good eye, seeing how bad it's broken. Shit. It feels like I got hit with a ton of bricks.
"Heidi," I mumble, my throat too sore to make the cry audible.
I try to sit up, but I can't even get a few feet off the ground. My hands are still tied behind my back.
Shit, shit, shit.
I blink my eyes again, trying to see. It hurts like a motherfucker, but I don't care. It doesn't matter.
"Heidi..." I call out again, coughing over my words.
I roll onto my stomach and wriggle my hands. The ropes are tight, but I've untied myself from tighter straight jackets. I close my eyes, trying to breathe steadily. I press hard, gritting my teeth until I can hear through my heartbeat. I listen close and I can hear the faint music coming from the stereo, and almost as soft, something else. Sobbing.
I open my eyes and look up and I see her. Heidi, sitting with her back turned to me, the light hitting her directly from above.
"Heidi!!!" I yell.
She doesn't move, doesn't even acknowledge me. Something is wrong. Something is very, very wrong.
I tilt my head down and see it.
Blood. So much fucking blood.
I rip my arms out of the rope and stagger to my feet. The room spins as I make my way over to Heidi. She doesn't turn around as my faltering footsteps echo, and I get that god awful, sinking feeling as I approach her.
By the time I walk around her, my worst thoughts are confirmed.
The big, gapping hole in his side has drenched him and Heidi crimson. His strange, hybrid eyes stare lifelessly into the light, dull and glazed over. There ain't no maybes, no in betweens here.
Ace is gone.
I'm frozen. I can't talk, I can't move...I can't even think of a reaction. Heidi and me, we're no strangers to death. I've seen people I've loved tortured in front of me, been forced to look into their eyes as the lights go out.
But waking up to find this...
"He saved us," Heidi says.
She says it so suddenly, so unexpectedly, I jump a little when she speaks. I stare down at her, but she won't look up at me. I want to say something, anything, but nothing comes to me. I'm feeling my own throat start to sting and my eyes are welling up and I have to look away.
What the hell can I say? That it's not fucking fair? That he didn't deserve it? That I'm sorry?
"He saved us..." she repeats quietly.
I keep my head down, my teeth pressed against my tongue. More than a handful of times, we've showed up too late. We didn't hold on long enough. We underestimated whatever it was we were fighting and somebody got perished. Faceless strangers we didn't know, people we knew who we tried to protect, fellow hunters we teamed up with.
But this...shit. I don't even know what this is. In my clouded mind, I can barely remember what happened. But I remember what he did. For me. For Heidi. And…Jesus. You don't spend your whole life in hell, you don't finally make it…and then have this happen.
I glance back at Heidi briefly before realizing it. Her expressions changed—it's grown harder, almost frightening. Her eyes have stopped tearing beneath her running eyeliner, and she's no longer staring at Ace's lifeless face. I wait for her to say something, to say anything, but I'm gone to her.
I follow her line of sight and then I see it. A few feet beside us, still protected by shadow. The bloodstained ground and the fragmented skull of Ace's sire. Sage. I look back at Heidi, and I can practically see the gears grinding in her head. I turn back around, and this time, I notice something else lying in the puddle of blood and ash.
The hypodermic needle Ace had stabbed Sage with.
Two weeks ago, if I had seen someone attempt to do what I'm contemplating now, I would have shot to kill right then and there. I wouldn't have asked questions, I wouldn't have given a thought to it, and it would have been the right thing to do.
Nothings backwards now. I know it's twisted thinking, bringing him back. I watched his own song rock him to his death, and he went quietly, blissfully almost. He was at peace. To bring him back as something less than human…to bring him back as a monster…
Not a monster. Not anymore. There's evil on both ends, there's selfish and instinct and stubbornness that makes us—all of us—drag up the dark. Makes us rationalize it, makes us believe in it. I know it better than anyone. It's my job to help people, to save people, and what I did to Ace…there was no reason or justice in that. He was harmless, he was sad and tortured and he was going to be alright, and I gave the go ahead to rip it all away. For no reason other than to find out why Incarnate wanted him, for my own curiosity. I was selfish. I was the monster. I was biased and unfair and this is all my fault.
I did this to him.
Maxwell breathes heavily over me, and I try to block him out, try to think. What Ace said, about it being better this way…it was all wrong. I don't believe in fate. I don't believe in destiny or meant-to-happen, and I sure as hell don't believe in God. Or at the very least, a God who would make this part of the plan.
I believe in taking action.
And if there's a chance for me to save Ace…to bring him back, any chance at all...
I lay Ace down on the floor before I reach forward and pick up the hypodermic needle. I silently press it to the blood-soaked ground, pull up the plunger and watch the red rise up into it. I have no idea what this will do. But after Ace did what he did for us…I owe him at least this. I need to try.
The blood fizzles in the sunlight within the barrel, and I wrap my fingers around it to block out the light. As I pull Ace back onto my lap, I glance up at Maxwell. His face is bruised and bloody, but his expression is set in stone. I don't know what he thinks of this, what he thinks of me for even attempting it. So I wait for him.
I tilt Ace's head up and slam the needle into his neck.
The air tenses around us we wait. I press down quick and fast, no second guesses. As the blood empties from the barrel, Maxwell bends over and sits on his knees, watching with me. Waiting.
"Can this…could it work?" he whispers.
I don't answer. I don't dare to. I have no idea the rules of vampirism, how far the envelope can be pushed. I don't know what we're waiting for, how long it will take.
I pull the silver needle from Ace's neck, and see the dark spot where the blood drained into. I glance back up at Maxwell, and watch his one open eye widen.
From the spot where I injected Ace, his veins have begun to darken. The little lines branch out, taking root across his neck. The blood, washing through his body, transforming his own.
The veins disappear down his shirt collar, and a few moments later, I feel something shifting at his side against my lap. I pull up his blood soaked shirt and watch the blood pool into the hole in his side, filling the wound. The deep red suddenly solidifies; intricate fibers of muscle reattach and repair themselves across the gap.
"Jesus…" Maxwell mumbles.
I glance up to see the darkened veins make their way up Ace's face, to cut deep and purple across his lips. It makes its way up to his hairline, and even I gasp as the red invades his open eyes. It roots in, leaking across the whites and staining it as it moves. The red begins to contract quickly, tightening against his faint irises like it's liquid. I look down to his side to see the hole in him has closed up completely. When I look back at his eyes, where there was once yellow, there's deep, dark orange stained in faint black, like the smokey surface of cooling lava. There are parts of it that look cracked, and between them, bright orange pulses from deep within.
I watch as blood red pools into his slitted pupils. The outline around it darkens and grows, and suddenly, his eyes are still.
For a moment.
Because the next second, his pupils dilate tightly together and glow white. Ace shuts his eyes tight and gasps.
The light. Oh god, the light.....
It forces my eyes closed, it burns so badly. I can feel it going right through me like a knife, heavy and unforgiving. Dear god, it's as if my blood were being pulled tight against my bones. I gasp, sucking in air, but I feel nothing.
"SHIT! Heidi, the sunlight!"
I hear it screamed from above me, and before I can place the words or the voice, I am tugged away, pulled to the floor, flattened to hard ground by two warm bodies. I feel someone's skin touch my own, and the shock that shoots throughout me is so intense it stings. It makes my blood boil and I try to drag in more air.
"That hurts…" I whisper.
The pressure relieves immediately as one of the figures readjusts his weight. The other pulls me up into her lap.
"Christ Heidi, his hand, look…"
I part my eyes gently as someone lifts my hand and I can feel it, my fingers shredded, exposed.
"I was blocking his face, I don't think anything else got burned."
"Shit …I can see through his skin. I can see his bones."
"It won't take him long to heal."
"Why didn't the light blow off his skin like normal vamps?"
"He's still transforming. Light affects them differently. It's deadly to all of them, but the younger ones…it's less potent."
The words are strange, unfamiliar, but the voices…
The light is gone now, and as the pressure against my bones shifts away, a strange feeling washes through me. Part pain, part euphoric, entirely overwhelming. I begin to hyperventilate, but it's doing nothing. I can feel the air pooling into my lungs, but I feel no relief, no breath. I want to panic. I want control. My body spasms and I receive neither.
This feeling, it soaks deeper into me, gaining strength yet fading at the same time. It's as if it's invading my nerves now, and as I twitch it roots faster, down into my bones. At the very back of my mind, there's a hunger, pulling at me, a void demanding to be fed. My mouth stings, I can taste blood on my gums. I whimper.
A pair of fingers intertwines with my own, and this time, the feeling isn't half as jarring. This sensation, it's familiar, yet a million times more complex than it had ever been. It's skin, it's rotating blood, it's a life, someone's entire life, flowing through them. It feels anxious and worried, but it feels relieved. It feels redeemed. It's a beautiful distraction to the pain, and I embrace it fully. I feel it deepen, I feel like I'm crossing a bridge, and I see shapes and sounds and memories. Heidi Black.
I stop breathing and suddenly, the pain of not being able to breathe doesn't hurt me. I part my eyes and look up.
"Heidi," I whisper hoarsely.
She and Maxwell look down at me. I cringe and shift my eyes away from his distorted face.
"Maxwell," I mumble. "What happened to you?"
He laughs, but I can feel it. I can feel the pain cut into the air by him, by others. Sage. Lolita. Rave. Nameless human faces pull me to the stage, where I can feel the ache pulsing from the skulls atop the stereo. And then, I feel more. I feel my own.
"Maxwell…Heidi…what's happening?" I ask. "I was…the…the board went right through me…"
My teeth sting and itch and I stop talking. I taste blood. Lots of it.
"Am I dying?" I whisper.
I spit blood from my mouth. I don't feel like I'm dying. I feel as if I'm awakening, becoming stronger. I feel my mind unclouding and I can think and remember clearly.
"I…I already died…" I realize out loud.
I gasp and cry out as something stabs at my lips. I open my mouth and press my tongue to two sharp, snakelike fangs that have erupted from my canines. Dear god.
Dear god. I'm a Vampire.
"Heidi…I don't understand. I didn't…Sage didn't…" I mumble.
"She didn't," Heidi says, holding up a hypodermic needle. "But we did."
I widen my eyes, and Maxwell and Heidi draw back. I wonder what I must look like to them.
"I didn't know if it was what you wanted or not. After what you did for us Ace, I couldn't just…"
"You brought me back…you saved me…" I whisper, realizing what she, what they both did.
"Relax, Ace…don't let yourself get worked up…" Maxwell says gently.
I lower my shoulders, untense my muscles, and as I do, I feel my fangs fold slowly back. I feel the roof of my mouth absorb them, concealing them.
Christ, that itches…
"Heidi, we got some missed calls from Mandalay. And a text," Maxwell says.
"What's the word?" she asks.
"Ashes was watching us the whole time, undead bastard. They've both already sent for help."
Part of me wants to ask what that means, who's coming, where they will take me, but I don't think I have the energy to process anything. Instead I look down, watching the light veins fade away. I see the hole in my side that killed me has healed completely, a faint white scar the only indication it had ever been there. I reach down with my left hand that got hit by sunlight, and as I do, I see my fingers. I felt skin repair itself after being dragged into shade, but it's gone back to the same gritty pink and white texture it's always been.
"My burn marks are still here," I mumble.
Heidi takes my hand back, looking at it.
"Only open wounds go away for good. You're stuck with all the scars you died with," she says.
"Some scars never go away," Maxwell mutters under his breathe.
"Some do," I whisper, tightening my hand against Heidi's. I don't know why, but the feel of her blood rotating against her skin is comforting.
I yawn, feeling my fangs pull out of the roof of my mouth, stretch out between my lips like a snake. The ache feels good, like stretching a muscle, and I have no doubt that I'm still growing some new ones at the base of my fangs. I look down to my fingers, my sharp nails. I had filed them down before, but they're sharper, deadlier than ever. I flex my fingers and watch them extend out like switch blades. I gasp a little before quickly pulling them back in, relieved I didn't flex the hand that's still within Heidi's.
"Are you gonna be okay, kid?" Maxwell. "Like this?"
Like this? I've no idea. For now, it feels strange and new, yet somehow ancient. For all the talk you hear of vampires…of our kind being dead, it certainly feels alive. No…more than alive. It's exquisite, it's painful, it's exhausting, it's overwhelming, it's vivid beyond imagination. It would frighten me if it didn't feel natural. If it weren't for that instinct, that voice of survival that tells you to run, to hide, to yield, to fight. Now? It's telling me to shake off the death that's surrounded me, the torture, the pain, the helplessness that's followed me my entire life. It's telling me to wake up from it all.
It's telling me to live.
"… I've survived worse." I say.
"Like reflections on the page, the world's what you create…the worlds which you create."
And thus I present the end of Night Child: Ace's High, the origin story of Ace Jayson. The Night Child universe is constantly expanding, I will be going both forward and backward into it. For more information about it, check out my profile. Hope you enjoyed it!
Notes: you may have noticed the lack of authors note and what not at the start of the chapter. I didn't want to break flow, so I decided to just save it for the end. And hey, check it out, Maxwell got over his Coheed syndrome…although he really did have a lot of songs that would have made for a great chapter, especially now that they have a new album (although it's almost nine years old to him), I needed to draw the line. Originally, I was planning on having an extended ending (not different from this, but just…more conclusive ending) but I think this was a good note to end Ace's high on. I'll save the rest for the prologue of the next story or something.
As always, my eye for catching mistakes fizzles out after a while, so I'll be back to correct, correct, correct. Feedback, please, that's what I post this for! This is the first completed story I've ever posted online (sorry all you unfinished fanfics from high school, I'll complete you one day). But anyway, how did it flow? What worked, what didn't work, what did you like, what didn't you like? I know how hard it is to get reviews here, and any reviews given to me are always returned. Thank you for reading Night Child: Ace's High. Stay tuned for future Night Child projects.