Chapter 1: And It All Begins

Heh...Thursday, October 24, 2013. The beginning of the week that changed my life. And, one week before Halloween. I thought it was going to be a normal Halloween. But, I guess not. I'll never forget that night, that first night that changed my life, that is...

***

I never realized the "other" side of the world. A world generally unseen by most humans. A side where creatures of mythology exist. Vampires. Werewolves. Faeries. Elves. Giants. Maybe even more, I don't know. All I know is, I probably should've been better prepared that night. October 24th. Figures, this being Minnesota, not only was it freezing, but there was freezing rain too. I was coming home from work. See, I'm an IT Consultant. Basically, I was a nerd. But, I was a very different kind of nerd. See, I was also briefly in the military, but let's not get into that. I will say that because I spent some time amongst soldiers, that I became a gun nut or Gun Otaku, so to speak. So, naturally, I had my concealed-carry permit, and I was packing almost all the time, except when at work and places that ban guns, which is almost everywhere. I carry a Springfield Armory XD45 4" compact handgun with a laser sight attached to the grip à la Crimson Trace. A nice, smooth, and reliable handgun, and it's small and lightweight too, meaning easy to carry. It packs a punch in a small package.

But, enough about that. Back to what I was doing. It's one week before Halloween, and Minnesota weather decides to screw with us, or more like me, dropping freezing rain that night. Visibility, well, it sucked. I can't lie about that. I was driving home in my car, a ninth generation mid-2000's Toyota Corolla S. It's a dark blue color. I had my fog lights on, but that wasn't enough to help my visibility. Never mind that it was not only dark and raining, but traffic was also horrible too. Minnesota drivers aren't exactly the best drivers in the country. It seems like every year around cold weather time, everyone drives like they've never driven in these conditions before. I mean, come on. Minnesota is one of those places where if you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes, it'll change. So, to avoid the traffic, I decided to take the side roads.

Thankfully, not only is it a road I've driven many times before, but it was mostly devoid of cars. Means no grandma or grandpa driving at ten under the legal speed limit, and no crazy drivers trying to run me off the road. It was a nice avenue, with large sections of road having wooded areas on both sides, and lighting is somewhat scarce, but that's okay. Or, so I thought. See, what I obviously didn't foresee was the fact that I was going to hit something with my car. Well, in reality, when do we ever foresee something like that? On a dark, cold night with freezing rain and poor visibility? Unless you live life in a movie or work of fiction and you're that clichéd. Otherwise, I didn't think so.

So, that's exactly what happened. I was driving, when I felt my car jerk and there's a loud thump. I stop as best I can, since my car doesn't have ABS brakes (it's the Corolla S model), and back up. I zip up my tan 5.11 Tactical parka and step out to see what the heck I ran into. The moon was hidden behind the clouds. The freezing rain wasn't pouring, but it wasn't a light rain either. The temperature couldn't be much higher than freezing. I was wearing my work clothes: black slacks and a gray button-up t-shirt and Lugz work boots. I also had a watch cap on my head, and a Surefire G2X tactical flashlight. Call me a nerd all you want, I'm an armed citizen and protector of my loved ones (my wife specifically) before I'm an IT Consultant.

I examine the side of the road where I had hit something. The freezing rain was causing a lot of glare from my flashlight, but after some careful searching, I noticed some red liquid on the ground. I go back to examine the front of my car. Strangely, there wasn't any physical damage to the body, but it was covered in what looked like blood. I tilt my head slightly, boggled.

"Did I hit a d-d-deer? Or maybe a big rodent like a raccoon or p-p-possum?" Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, I also stutter from time to time. I continue searching around the area, keeping an eye out for evidence of an animal or something that seemed wounded. I scan the tree line using my flashlight, and see nothing. I look around for several more seconds, and decide to just shrug it off and continue home. My wife calls me as I'm about to enter my car, when I hear a strange noise. It sounded like heavy breathing, but it had a deep and throaty sound to it. I answer my phone, but only briefly. "Jenn, can I call you back? I think I might be in a dangerous situation." I hang up before my wife could protest. I pull out my flashlight again, and scan the tree line. Then, I catch two silver glimmers, clear as day, through the glare of the light through the freezing rain. Then I realized those glimmers were about close to seven feet, or two meters, off the ground. I see it slowly shift and swing left and right. Then I heard a voice. A male voice, deep and somewhat throaty, like the breathing I heard just a short while before.

"You...hit me...I don't like getting hit by cars..." I don't know why, but I replied to the voice. Maybe not the best idea in the world.

"Well, I'm sorry." Well, the reply was crappy and poorly thought out too. "But, the fact that you're s-s-still alive is a testament to your physical endurance and d-d-durability." Bad time to start stuttering. I knew that this individual - haha, funny; not so much someone, but something - wasn't happy that I hit him...or it. But, I was going pretty fast, and there wasn't damage on my car, so what was going on, really? I soon received my answer. This figure steps out from the tree line and directly into the path of my flashlight. This figure stood at about seven feet tall, but wasn't human. His head was dog like, and his upper body in its entirety was covered in some dark fur. It was wet from the freezing rain, and the light made some ice fragments sparkle in his fur, causing me to briefly think of that stupid Twilight book series, but only for a split second. His hands had longer than normal fingers, and had what appeared to be claws where his nails were. His legs were muscular, and he didn't have shoes, and his feet almost looked like...dog paws. Even after seeing all that, I didn't realize the severity of the situation, at least, not right away. But, then again, I was kind of shocked at what stood before me. I knew it was a werewolf, but I just couldn't really believe it. After all, I also wear glasses (remember, I'm a nerd), and they're about as thick as the bottom of a Coke bottle, and I'm talking about the glass kind. This werewolf was glaring at me, eyes appearing to be metallic silver (when is silver not metallic?), and speaks to me, the condensation from his breath clearly visible in the beam of my flashlight.

"An apology isn't going to cut it, puny little human." Now why'd he go and call me puny? That just pissed me off. "I'll settle for nothing less than your life!" Okay, by now I'm running through the options in my head at lightning speed. In that moment, I knew what option led to the best case scenario. Or was it the worse case? I blurted it out.

"P-P-Please don't kill me!" Crap, I was pleading. Again, stupid choice. "What reason do you have to take my life?" That thing started taking steps towards me. Exactly like you see in those horror movies. One foot - or paw - in front of the other, slowly, but stomping almost with every step. It annoyed me slightly, but I didn't want to piss him off further. Unfortunately for me, I made one mistake after another, and ended up making my situation worse. Really, my next action should've been the first thing I resorted to. But, then again, what happened has happened, and I can't go back in time and change it.

That werewolf took one more step towards me, and I decided that I to resort to my final option: violent retaliation. That werewolf takes a swipe at me with his left arm. I use my short height (I'm 5'6", for your information) to duck under the height. And now to revert back to my training. I draw my XD, brace my shooting arm with a Harries technique, and squeeze off several shots into his torso (a rather big target). The bullets just seem to glance off of him, though, and those that seem to penetrate his skin, just get pushed out when his apparent hyper-healing abilities kick in. I figured at that time that headshots were the way to go. So, that's exactly what I do, I am for his head. The problem was that he charged at me. I squeeze off some more shots, all of the miss. It swipes at me again, but I duck down and slide underneath it between its legs. Or his legs...It or he? Ah, whatever. I roll over and try to squeeze off more shots, but it was in vain. That werewolf grabs my by my throat, lifts me up, and pounds me back into the ground. Then he lifts me up, and does it again. And again. I felt something like being stabbed in my chest as he was doing it. Every time I slam into the ground, I can feel myself fading, and fading more, until I'm about to completely pass out, but before I succumb to the darkness from the world fading away around me, I hear a roar, and I'm thrown against what I think is my car, and that's the last thing I remembered.

***

My name...my name...is...

Tom...

I...sometimes go by...Takeo...

Where...where am I...?

I'm...laying on a bed...it's comfortable...is this...Tempurpedic...?

What...happened to me...?...I got...it hurts...all over...

I feel a hand on my face, rubbing it...oh, it's my hand. I almost have to force my eyes open. I was laying in a really comfortable bed. It feels a lot like my Tempurpedic bed at home. I try to shake the cobwebs and fuzziness as best as I can. I didn't have my glasses, obviously, but judging from the blurry shape before me that was somewhat bright, but very warm light; it was a chandelier. I try and look around the room, but my vision is so bad without my glasses I can only vaguely make out the color of the room, a window, a large set of heavy double doors, the bed I was laying in with the nightstands on either side, a large mirror, dresser, and some other furniture I can't really make out. Oh, the nightstands. I slide over, only to realize that I was wearing only my undershirt and boxers. I hang my legs over the side of the bed. My bare feet touch the carpeted floor.

"Soft carpeting, huh?" I squint my eyes and notice the nightstand had my XD and its holster resting on top of it. I also saw an outline of something, so I grab it and pick it up. It was in two pieces. Upon bringing it closer to my face, I realized that they were my glasses and they were broken in half. "Bugger. My binoculars are busted." I hold them up to my face and look around the room. I realize that my clothes were neatly folded and were sitting on a red chair. I notice the details of the room. It almost had something like a gothic-style architecture to it. I get up, only to get hit with a sharp internal pain in my chest. It's bad enough to sit me back down on the bed I was sleeping on and causing me to drop the two halves of my glasses. I notice something black on the foot of the bed, but I just dismiss it from my mind. Upon rubbing my chest, I felt something strange. I pull my shirt up to see that I have bandages wrapped around almost my entire upper torso and chest. It was layered on think and fairly tight. I can slightly see blood on it. My blood. I try and get up again, but the pain is too much and I collapse back down onto the bed. I hear the door open. I snap my head towards the door, not really able to see who it is.

"It's best not to move." The voice is definitely male and somewhat deep. He had a slight Eastern European accent of some sort, similar to Russian, but the nuances are slightly different. Romanian, maybe? I got tired of holding my broken glasses to my face and had set them down. I see an individual walk across the front of me, and opens the curtains to the room's only window. I see from the windows that it's night time out, and I assume late, but I can't tell, I can't really see. "Externally, you have a chest wound when that wolf boy inadvertently stabbed you with his claws. Internally, both your lungs are punctured and ruptured. As a human, your clock is ticking towards death." Oh great. I'm going to die now...wait, what was that last part?

"What d-d-do you mean, 'as a human'? Who are you really?" The individual turns towards me...I think.

"Sorry, I haven't introduced myself." He voice was monotone. Kinda like mine was back in high school whenever I did the school news. "My name is Marku Puravet. But, since you're American, or at least sound like one, just call me Markus."

"I'm Asian, and I'll admit I don't have a p-p-perfect grasp of the English language." After all, on YouTube I'm known as the friendly neighborhood English-butchering Asian man. "As for you, has anyone said that you're kinda like Marcus from Borderlands? Except your accent isn't as thick. You're not Russian, are you?"

"You have good ears. Tom, is it?"

"Yeah, and you're Romanian?" He replies with a "Hmph!" "J-J-Just so you know, I normally don't t-t-talk very much. But, I gotta know. What happened, why am I here, and I GOT ATTACKED BY A WEREWOLF?!" Oh yeah, I'm also really slow on the uptake, even though I was perfectly coherent when I was attacked. Figures. And the pain kicks in. My chest felt like it's on fire, and I start hacking. Being all health-conscious and whatnot, I cough into the crook of my elbow, but it doesn't matter. After the hacking stops, I see blood - my blood - in the crook of my elbow. Things have become much more morbid. Naw, the situation was already dire, I just didn't notice yet. I wipe the blood from my arm as best as I can, but Markus keeps talking.

"Like I said. As a human, your time left is limited."

"What with this 'As a human' line you keep saying? It's almost like you're not human-" I was suddenly hit with a realization. "You aren't human are you? What the heck is going on, really?"

"What if I told you that there was a much darker world than the world you live in, and the fact that you managed to stay alive meant that you would have to learn about it, even though you weren't going to live long enough to see much, let alone, all of it?"

"I'd say that you were a little off your r-rocker. This whole situation is really hard to b-b-believe. I mean, it's like the movie Underworld...or something...or Twi-"

"STOP! Please don't mention that. I take offense to that."

"Well, then, I guess we agree on something. So, you were saying? Finish and I'll think about believing you."

"Da. This world has two sides. The world you know, and the underbelly hidden from the prying eyes of the public. This world, very few humans ever get to see. A world of what you would consider strange beings, some would call them 'Mythical.' Elves, faeries, vampires, werewolves, spirits, and more. Creatures from all over the world. Europe, Asia, the America's, Africa, even Antarctica. There's a large unseen world war going on between two major groups of these creatures. One group seeks to destroy humanity and claim the world for themselves. And then there's us. A group of creatures who would much rather live alongside human beings, rather than eradicate them. After all, there isn't much stronger than the will of a human being." I'm sorry, but it all kinda sounded like a fictional fairy tale to me. Or a Micheal Bay movie.

"Why should I believe you? You look as normal as anyone else I've walked or driven by in the city."

"Perhaps, or maybe you can't tell because you're blind without your glasses. Speaking of which, he's working on a special replacement to your glasses. Oh, he's here now." I hear the doors open and turn my head in the general direction. "Tom, time to meet the only other human to ever join our ranks. The good doctor, Shin."

"Oh, please." Shin, this doctor, has a smooth and gentle tone of voice. His presence is actually pretty cool. "No point in speaking in such a condescending way. Beside, I'm not someone special. Just a doctor working for you and the others here." The doctor walks up besides me.

"Takeo, right? Do you have experience in using contact lenses?" I nod...but...

"I go by that name sometimes, and only my closest friends know about it...how do you know about it?"

"We're government-supported, secretly. Somewhat like the Men In Black...kind of." Well, what he says and his voice puts me at ease...sorta. Not like Markus' cold and monotone voice. "We have intrusive access to your information so that we can access your information non-intrusively." I just stare at him when he hands me a contact lense case.

"Shin, was it?"

"Yeah."

"Your attempt at humor...has fallen SHORT!" Then I heard a voice. A female voice, with an American accent. "Who's that?"

"Over here." I look around. "Here." I felt something soft touch my arm. I look over to see something black. Upon squinting, I see a black cat who was pawing my arm. "Hi!" The voice seemed perky and somewhat bubbly. I sit there, awkwardly for a few seconds. I finally put two and two together.

"A kitty." Okay, that's obvious... "A talking kitty." There ya go, you get an e-cookie now, Takeo. Goodness, I'm slow. "I like cats." I really do. I like dogs too, but I more fond of cats...wait, a talking cat? I jump up and run behind the chair where my clothes were neatly folded, pointing a shaking finger at that cat, wide eyed. "A t-t-t-t-t-t-talking cat?!"

"Do you believe me now?" Markus says. I think by now, though, I've hit the first of the five stages of grief: Denial.

"I get it now...this is all a dream. Just one of my usually trippy dreams that I get." I get a lot of dreams of beating people up and otherwise harming and maiming people. Doesn't make much sense, to be honest. I'm not a violent individual. "That's it. I'm not really dying. I'm going to wake up, next to my beautiful wife, perfectly fine, ready for work the next day! This is all just one of my crazy dreams." What comes next, again? Oh, right: Anger. I reach for my XD and draw it. "You guys are crazy. ALL OF YOU! And you!" I point to Shin. "You're not even a real doctor. QUACK!"

"Whoa, guy, calm down." Shin says to me. I wasn't having it.

"You, keep your mouth shut." I activate my laser on my XD. "My vision may suck, but I can still make out shapes and light! Back off! I'm not afraid to shoot!" That cat speaks.

"You might want to cock it first."

Huh? I feel the back of the slide, and notice that the firing indicator showed that it wasn't cocked (it's a feature on the XD's). I drop my guard to rack the slide. Big mistake. That cat runs up to me at full sprint and cannonballs me in my chest. Now, you wouldn't normally think that a 20-pound, black, talking, Maine Coon cat (remember, I like cats, so I know about them) would hit very hard, but this cat hit me with the force of a fully loaded semi-trailer traveling at 85 miles an hour. At least, that's what it felt like. I get slammed into the wall, and I cough up a large amount of blood which splatters the floor. I slump to the floor, but still conscious. Markus shows his admiration. What a condescending individual. Shin, on the other hand facepalms. The cat strolls up to me, with what looks like a worried expression. As worried as a cat can look, though.

"Maybe I hit him too hard." Shin makes his way to me.

"Kitty, you really shouldn't have hit him like that. Besides, his gun wasn't even loaded." Really?

Bargaining comes next.

"What is it that you all want?" I say, voice raspy. I cough a few more times. Blood was flowing out of my mouth now. Somehow, I knew that I was not going to be okay. "I want to leave. What do I have to give you to let me go? Take my gun. Heck, take my clothes, I just want to leave...can I?" Shin was tending to me.

"Takeo, you really shouldn't get excited. It'll exasperate your injuries. You're in no condition to leave even if could get to your feet. You're going to die soon." Shin's voice. Goodness sakes, he reminds me of a likable anime character for some reason. "Besides, the fact that you managed to live after getting attacked by a werewolf that pissed off is unbelievable in and of itself."

"I guess, I have no choice. Why bother, apparently my injuries are too severe. I'm just going to die anyways. Nothing you tell me will ever make sense." Fourth stage: Depression. "This sucks. I can't believe I'm going to go down like this, surrounded by whackjobs."

"I don't blame you. I didn't believe it either when I was attacked by a creature that defied all that I know about medicine. But, I decided to join the cause. After all, I fell in love with the mechanic here, who happens to be a Dullahan." ...A Dullahan...?...Wait, that's a headless faerie, and usually one with malicious intent. But, more than that, I know what anime character he reminds me of. It figures his name is Shin...and he's a doctor...and...I start laughing, even through the pain. I guess, I'm just going to Accept (fifth stage: Acceptance) my fate. After laughing painfully for a few seconds, I look in Shin's general direction. At least, I think it's Shin.

"Doc-"

"Don't call me that."

"Shin?"

"Shin's fine."

"The Dullahan. What's her name?" He was working on my bandages.

"Sybil. Sybil Casey."

"She a nice woman, or faerie...or...?"

"She's a very nice woman." I squeeze out a smirk. By now, Markus walks up to me. I can feel his eyes glaring at me.

"Tom...no, Takeo. Do you now believe and accept the situation you're in?" Jeez, he's blunt. But, I'd much rather he be blunt with me.

"To be honest, I don't know what to believe. I still find it hard to believe what's right in front of me. A doctor who's hooked up with a headless faerie, a talking cat, and whatever you are, Markus."

"I'm a vampire." Yup, he's blunt.

"Well, there's that too. And, I figured as much, since you don't want me to mention that...err, series of books and movies. I guess I'm going crazy or something after getting attacked by whatever that was that injured me. But, if you want a fighter, even for a short period, I'm a fighter at heart and I'll lend my services. I guess I'll join your ranks...I just don't know if I can say I'd join permanently. After all, I'm going to die soon. Might as well live like it."

"Okay. You've made your decision, and you did so of your free will." I wouldn't really call it free will. Something about it feels like it's forced. "But, I must ask one thing."

"What?"

"Don't ever touch me." That's a weird thing to say.

"What? Why? I can't even shake your hand? Why can't I even do that?" Markus just seemed to avoid the question, and was walking towards the door to the room, ready to leave. Before he does, he says something cryptic.

"What fastens two people also only touches one." With that, he leaves. Jerk. Now I was in the room with Shin and the cat. Shin was redoing my bandages after apparently checking my wounds.

"Say...cat...what's your name?"

"Koneko, but in really, koneko is just Japanese for Kitten. So I just go by Kitty. I'm a cat spirit who hitched a ride on a US Navy boat from Japan. And I have cat form and humanoid form." Hmm...Hanekawa from Bakemonotagari huh? I'd imagine she's really attractive, but what do I care? I'm married.

"Interesting...AH! That hurts." Shin was tightening my bandages.

"Sorry. Wait, did you mention that you had a wife?"

"Yeah. Why?" Shin hands me the contact lens case again. I immediately put them into my eyes. "Yay, I can see again." I look over to Shin. He had straight black hair medium length barely going past his ears. He had a white doctor's coat and black glasses. Kitty was a black Maine Coon, like I mentioned before, even though I couldn't see her well. Screw logic, deal with it. I just like cats. Wait, Shin asked me a question. "Shin, what about my wife?" Shin and Kitty look at each other. I don't like where this is going.

"Is she at home?" Oh...CRAP! She's probably really worried about me. I jump up to my feet.

"Shin, you said that your lovely lady is the mechanic here, right?"

"Yeah."

"Does she have a car I can use?"

"But, Takeo, you're in no condition-"

"Listen to what I have to say, Shin, and listen good. If something were to happen to Sybil, wouldn't you jump in no matter how grim the odds?"

"Well...yeah..." He seemed defeated after that remark. Kitty paws my leg.

"I'll go with, you're going to need a guide to get back to the Cities. Follow me." I quickly put on my clothes and shuffle my way to where Kitty was leading me, not really paying attention to what was around me. We finally make it to the garage, but by then, I wasn't doing so hot. The only thing keeping me going was adrenaline, and even that wasn't enough. I take several steps into the underground parking complex and lean up against a concrete pillar. Kitty, seeing my condition, turns towards me. "Wait here. I'll be right back."

"Right." I was huffing and wheezing, and I could taste blood. I guess the idea of a sucking chest wound, actually does suck. I hold myself up as best I can waiting for Kitty to come back.

Memories of me and my wife are flashing back in my head. We had been married for barely a year, and yet here I was, a slowly dying chubby and stocky Cambodian slash Asian-American, rendered pathetic because of my injuries. Thinking about it, I guess I can be content, though. I once was a jerk, but then after high school, I turned everything around. I began to actually help people rather than hurt them and I did my best since, and I'm 24 now. I guess, that's all that one could ask for. But, I'm still here too, which means that I've got something to fight for. In this case, it's my wife, Jenn. I'm coming for you, wait for me, okay?

"TAKEO!" I snap my attention towards Kitty's voice. She was running towards me, but not at me, with a key ring in her mouth. She jumps up and tosses the keys to me. I catch them and immediately press the unlock button, and I see blinking lights from the corner of my eye. I look at the key and see the logo for BMW on it.

"Kitty, what car did you get the keys for?"

"Don't ask, let's move!" I press the remote start button on the key, starting the car. I look around to see where the car was, and upon fixing my eyes upon, I become speechless.

"A B-B-B-BMW Z4!" I get into the car and open the door for Kitty. I look around the cockpit admiring the interior. I notice a 6-speed manual shifter. Thank God I know how to drive stick. Kitty closes her door.

"Let's Go."

"Hai!" That's "yes" in Japanese Romanji. Anyways, I put the car into gear and let loose on the throttle. We speed out of the parking complex and out onto the road. I'm as smug as a bug, because I get to drive a BMW Z4. It's not my dream car, but hey, it's still nice and I hear that it's good at going sideways.

"Turn left here. It'll take you straight to the Interstate, I'm sure you can figure out where to go from there." I turn left at the intersection.

"Say, Kitty."

"You're kind of a scary driver, Takeo."

"I was thinking. This is technically a government car, right?"

"Yes. We get immunity from law enforcement...oh, please don't do what I think you're going to do."

"If you don't want to hit your head, I suggest you get on the floor or go into your human form."

"You're not!"

"I am! Ever seen Initial D or Wangan Midnight?"

"I'm bracing myself now, nyan." I firewall the throttle and work the shifter up the gears. I see the on-ramp to the interstate, heel-toe downshift, slide into the corner, and exit at high speed and proceed to drive triple-digits on the highway. Yet again, thank God I know how to drive stick. Thankfully, it's late at night...wait, what time is it? The dash clock says 1:30 AM. Oh lovely, I'm driving in the middle of the night. Oh well, more road for me. Meanwhile, Kitty is clutching to the car seat with her claws for her dear life. "Takeo, you're insane!"

"No, I'm just Asian. Besides, can't I live a little, I'm supposed to die soon!" We continue going at high speed, 150 MPH. Actually, there's a reason I'm moving so fast. I'm trying to keep my adrenaline going like in the movie Crank, but not because I had some jerk inject some oriental poison into my neck. It's more so I can stay focused and ignore the pain in my chest, because by now, it's getting excruciating. But, the only thing on my mind was my wife. I can't stand the thought that I was attacked and left her alone and all worried about me. We continue to our apartment as fast as we can on the interstate. Little did I know, that this was going to be the first night until Halloween that will change the rest of my life forever...

TO BE CONTINUED