The rest of the evening was pretty dull. I could have forgotten where I was if I hadn't been reading a book on vampire killing. By the time Lytton came back up, me and Luther were the only ones still awake. It must have been past midnight, and Lytton looked like he'd been in the gym. Luther threw a pen at him as he walked past. "There's a shower down the hall, Lytton, please go and use it." he snapped.
"Booiler's bust again, there's no hot water." Lytton shrugged. Luther threw another pen at him. "I don't care. Go and take a shower." he snapped.
"The water is freezing." Lytton whined.
"I don't care; you smell awful. Either go and take a shower or you can sleep in the hallway."
Lytton grumbled on his way out, but didn't argue any more. "I swear, he does it just to annoy me." sighed Luther. The room went back to uncomfortable silence. I finished the chapter I'd been reading and put the book away. My brain felt dead anyway. I threw off my T-shirt and jeans and lay down in bed. Luther turned off his lamp about five minutes later, too. But I couldn't sleep.
I'm not sure how long I was still awake for. At some point Lytton came clattering back in, swore after he tripped over something and stumbled back into bed. It was quiet after that, appart from something that screached in the distance for what seemed like five minutes. I couldn't even hear myself breathing. I did get to sleep, eventually, and when I woke up the room was empty. The curtains were open. It was light out. The room had been tidied and everybody had made their beds.
I stumbled out of the room and down the hallway into the bathroom. There wasn't any sign of anybody. There were ten shelves on the bathroom wall, six of them were filled. They were all tidy and organised, nothing like my old bathroom, in my old house. My old life. I tried to push those thoughts to the back of my head as best I could. The water was freezing when I tried to take a shower. Broken boilers were something I was used to, though, so it didn't bother me too much. I just made sure to be quick.
When I'd got dressed and went downstairs there was still nobody around. There were plates drying on the draining board in the kitchen, and something was cooking in the oven, and there were a few papers scattered over the side, but there was nobody there. I couldn't find any sign of them anywhere else in the building, either. I did finally see someone, Doctor Stanton, when I headed back upstairs. "There you are. I've been looking all over for you. Could I please speak to you in my office for a moment?" he said as he passed me.
I followed him back down the stairs and into his office. I didn't really want to talk to him, but I'd have to at some point and I wanted to get it out of the way as quickly as possible. At least I found somebody else on my way down to Doctor Stanton's office - Victor was now in the gym, looking very pissed off and making me feel sorry for a punching bag. I might speak to him after, if he'd calmed down a bit.
I sat in a chair in Doctor Stanton's office, wanting to be somewhere else. Doctor Stanton sat down opposite me. He offered me a packet of biscuits, but I didn't take one. "How are you settling in, James?" he asked. I shrugged. There wasn't much for me to say. "How have the other boys been?" he asked. There wasn't for me to say about that, either. "They seem okay." I said. Some of them seemed okay. "Sam and Luther were nice. Victor and Lytton kept fighting." Doctor Stanton offered me a weak smile at that. "They're both nice lads, deep down. I'm sure they'll have calmed down by now." he said. I didn't tell him about the number Victor was doing on the punching bag in the gym.
It was obvious enough that he was going to ask. He was trying to be tactful, but there wasn't really any way to be tactful about it. "How have you been coping, James? Since the accident?" I shrugged. There was a lot for me to say, but I didn't want to say any of it. What could I say? That every time I closed my eyes it played over and over again in my head like some aweful movie? That I jumped out of my skin every time that I heard a loud noise, that it felt like my heart was in my throat and all that I could think about was huge, misshapen beasts, their fur matted with blood and saliva dripping from great big fangs as they went to-
Doctor Stanton waved a hand in front of my face. It did help to bring my mind back to the present, but I still couldn't get the images out of my head. "Are you alright, James?" he asked me. I nodded, giving myself a moment to make my voice work. "I'm fine, I just... zoned out a little, that's all." I said, managing to avoid my voice cracking. "Nobody expects you to cope on your own, James." he said. "We're here to help you. Nobody expects you to just move on and forget what happened."
That was easy enough for him to say. But just him saying that wasn't going to be enough to make me feel comfortable talking to him. "I'm fine, Doctor Stanton." I said. A lie. I was lying a lot lately. "Can I go now?" I asked. Doctor Stanton nodded, and I got up to leave. "If you need anything, James, I'm always here." he said as I was on my way out. I didn't pay any attention to him. I probably should have done, but I didn't. I went straight back to the gym, half hoping Victor was still there. Half hoping that he wasn't.
He was still in the gym, all but destroying the punching bag. At some point while I had been in Doctor Stanton's he had ditched his shirt, and I got hit with a painful reminder that I didn't belong in this world. Victor actually looked like a monster hunter; all muscle, lithe and oddly cat-like. And I was just some kid that played too many video games. I watched as Victor spun round and kicked the punching bag, knocking it off the hook. If all of the fighting games that I'd played over the years were to be trusted, it was a roundhouse kick, though he stood up on the very tips of his toes as he spun, like a bloody ballerina or something. He stepped back from where the punching bag had fallen when he saw me.
"Take a photo, it'll last longer." he spat. I hadn't realised I'd been staring. I looked away while he went to grab his t-shirt. "What are you doing here?" he asked me.
"There isn't anything to do upstairs and you're the only one I could find." I replied.
"No, what are you doing here?"
"Training to be a hunter." I said, trying to keep my voice level.
"Oh please, you'll be a hunter when Finland win the Eurovision."
"Actually, they won in 2006." I told him.
"Seriously? Shit." he said. "This must be some sort of message from the gods."
"That I'm supposed to be a hunter?" I asked, skeptically.
"No, that I need a new sarcastic remark." he replied, dead serious.
Before I could say anything he grabbed my wrist and pulled me out of the gym. "Where are we going?" I asked.
"You'll see." he said, dragging me along.
"Children's TV shows say I'm not supposed to go places with strange men." I told him, hoping for a laugh or some other sort of human reaction. He didn't even look up. I followed him out of the building, all the way to a field a little way away. The academy was in the middle of nowhere, with nothing around but fields cows. "What are we doing here?" I asked.
"You'll see." he said, turning to face me. I was starting to get a little irritated. "What are we doing here, Victor?" I snapped.
"Punch me." he said, completely out of the blue.
"Excuse me?" I asked.
"Punch me. Right in the face. Go on, as hard as you can."
"Because I don't want to hit you."
"Well what if I told you that you have to?"
I wasn't sure what I was supposed to say to that. "You want to be a hunter, right? Well if you want to be a hunter you need to learn how to fight. Now hit me." he snappped. He had a point, but I still wasn't going to hit him. I stepped around him and made to walk off. Before I could, though, something took my legs from under me. I got up and turned back to Victor, who was stood with his hands on his hips. "Never, ever, turn your back on an opponent." he snapped. "That's the fastest way to get yourself killed in this world." Just to shut him up, I punched him square in the face.