BARBWIRE STITCHES

BARBWIRE STITCHES

By

Lamech O'Brien

PROLOGUE

In the garish New York skyline, the small shop looked out of place. Instead of a loud neon sign that screamed out to the public in day-glo brilliance, a hand painted wooden sign hung in the window. Three Weird Sisters. It was an odd name for a shop even if the shop was an occult store. But she didn't care. She liked the name.

Sylvia raced her feather duster along the many magick books that lined the old shelves in the store. They were all self-help books for people who gave up on the realities of nine to five shrinks and Prozac popping happiness. Love and luck spells. Spells to make you more stable and wanted. Complete and total bullshit. There was no furry magick charm to make the opposite sex want to hump you dry or words that would make your boss kiss the ground you walked on. There was no God or gods. Science had seen to that. Sylvia smiled as she thought how many of her faithful customers would find it amusing that the owner of a magick shop was a die-hard atheist.

Looking over a book that proclaimed that you too could find power within your chi, Sylvia heard a series of loud sneezes echoing though out the small store. Max. The poor boy's allergies were getting the best of him. She hated the spring season for that reason alone. Max suffered and she didn't want him to feel any pain.

He had been through so much. She knew his entire story, told to her through wrought out confessions and nervous breakdowns. He had been a mistake. His parents had told him from the beginning through every word and action. Too stupid to have used a condom, too Catholic to have an abortion and too proud to give him up. The Finns never make any mistakes, they would tell themselves over and over like a broken record. But they would look at boy and find otherwise. A constant reminder of a grave error. This boy wasn't meant to be. He isn't right. When Max stated that he wanted move in with Sylvia at the tender age of sixteen they didn't object. In fact they wished him the best and hoped to God that he would never return. Maybe one day, they mused; he would even change his last name.

Now Max was her responsibility. Sylvia wasn't sure what possessed her to take him in. She once thought she was in love with the boy who was fourteen years, her junior. But she realized soon that her feelings were not as deep. The pretty faced boy was more of a pet than a love interest. A stray to cuddle and take care of rather than to lust over. Dumb boy, I guess you're going to be the closest thing I will ever have to a son. Or am I the closest thing to a mother for you? Either way, I feel we've both been fucked over. Though there was something about the boy that made her feel calm inside. Maybe it was the way he would stare out of their apartment window describing to her the breath taking non-existent ocean view or how he would talk of how he could read her mind, even though he was always wrong. He would try so hard and end up making her laugh. Now every time she'd stare into his brown eyes, despite the slanders her mind spat out, she hoped that he would never leave her.

Sylvia approached the boy with a dirty coffee cup that someone had stuffed between some zodiac books. Slobs, the whole lot of them. Max took it and tossed it in the trashcan behind the counter.

"What are we going to do for dinner tonight?" the boy asked as he wiped the counter top with some glass cleaner. "Leftovers again?"

"Do you want leftovers?"

The boy gave the woman a deadpan stare.

She sighed. Yes. I know that was a dumb question because we've had leftovers for three nights in a row. And that pasta is starting to smell odd. "What do the books say?"

"We've got about thirty dollars to work with."

The door chimed. The sound of incoming customers and potential sales. The business instincts in both of them made them put on their plastic grins and turn towards the door.

"Hello and welcome."

Sylvia hated doing that. Max couldn't care less about the greeting but he really loathed smiling for no real reason other than to push the goods.

Two people turned their heads towards the couple's direction. They were both boys, barely a few years older than Max. Pups. The taller one was dressed in a simple gray, form-fitting shirt and black cargo pants. His black hair looked like it had been slapped in every direction with hairspray. No uniform style, just spiky. He wore a large pair of sunglasses that looked like a throw back to the seventies. The square, silver frame looked a little out of place on his smooth baby face. Behind the dark shades Sylvia could feel his eyes scanning her body and sizing her up.

Her head rushed with thoughts for a moment. She wanted a gun and she wanted it now. The woman wanted to plow the kid down for no other reason than the way he was gawking at her. She shook her head free of that thought and glared back at the boy.

He smiled and slowly turned his attention elsewhere.

Amused, little fucker? Her mind hissed. Give me five minutes and I'll show you amused.

Suddenly she flinched as she felt Max's cold hand grab her arm from behind. Sylvia turned to boy.

"You're shivering," he whispered close to her ear, "Are you okay?"

Sylvia frowned as she shook her head. She then shrugged and started to head towards one of the aisles. Time to bury her anger in work.

Watching the woman storm off Max suddenly felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. His eyes released their hold on the woman and scanned the room. They stopped on the other boy.

He, the stranger, was standing before Max, dressed in an ugly Hawaiian shirt and wrinkled brown cargo pants. His hair was a mess of black, greasy waves that needed to be comb. It hid much of his choir boy face. His hands were shoved into his pockets, making the top of his pants hang dangerously low around his slim hips. By the look of it, he wasn't wearing any underwear. The boy was sucking hard on a lollipop. His mouth worked on the candy as the stick that jutted out of his mouth moved around as if it were dancing. The sloppy sucking sounds and the cherry, sugary smell that lofted around in the air made Max sick to his stomach. It was all too vulgar.

The stranger's blue-gray eyes looked into his with an odd familiarity. Max could feel it and he didn't like it. He had never seen this boy before in his entire life.

Max turned away. He looked down at his hands and saw how almost all his fingertips were bandaged up. He had a bad habit of biting them when he was nervous or upset. And now he longed to taste his own flesh. To suckle at his fingertips until he was subdued in an incoherent haze that held him and only him. But Sylvia didn't like it when he did such things. And in the state she was in, she would be furious with him. Between a choice of his own pins and needles nervousness and Sylvia's scowl, Max picked the later.

The boy grabbed a cloth and started to wipe the counter down again. It was something to distract him. The hardwood floor began to creak. Sounds of wooden cries became louder and louder. The stranger was coming closer.

Max wiped harder and harder. Maybe he just wants some information? Maybe he wants to make some small talk. How's the weather and kids and the like? Maybe he just wants to know why I'm acting like a moron. The cloth began to squeak against the glass. Max rubbed harder.

Hot, moist breath brushed Max's cheek. "I may not know your name but I know you."

Max looked up in shock. His own eyes met the stranger's once more. Locked in a game to see who would turn away first, the stranger's face twisted in a smile. The lollipop stick jutted straight up out of his mouth like a faux cigarette. Max could feel his fingers pulling at the bandages.

The stranger leaned in closer; "I've known you all my life. Every moment of every day in this God damn city has been leading me to find you."

Max's eyes narrowed, "Who are you?"

The stranger blinked. It was as if Max had asked the most bizarre question that had ever been dared to be spoken. The stranger slammed his hands on the glass counter top and pulled himself back. He let out a disgusted grunt as he ran his hands through his dirty hair. Shivering as if energy was binding him, he shook an angry finger at the puzzled boy.

"I've been waiting for this, this second, this instant, this Kodak moment my entire life and all you can say is, "Who are you?" This is fucking rich! " He suddenly ran up and hopped onto the counter top. Max tried to escape but the stranger had him by the shirt collar. He yanked the boy over to the counter and threw his face down on the glass hard. Max's head made contact and then bounced off the surface, leaving a mixed pool of saliva and blood behind.

Max lifted his head as his mind began to see the world around in him slow motion, one frame at a time. The stranger said something in a monotone voice that sounded more like a slur than actual words. Max tried to make out what the boy was saying but his own eyes were welling up because of the pain that was spreading on the right side of his face. Life was blurring before his eyes. He could still make out the creature in the hideous blue Hawaiian shirt in front of him. It was licking at the countertop. The thing looked up at the boy and hissed. Max suddenly felt his other cheek throb with new pain. Again, he had been slammed down on the counter but it was seconds after the fact that he knew about it.

Another blur appeared before his eyes. A taller black clad figure reached out to the boy. Hands slowly took his right arm and pulled him foreword. Max could feel his body being dragged across the counter top to the other side.

He tried to protest but his mouth was too full with his own blood to speak. He swallowed, coughed and choked out a cry.

A third blur came in front of his eyes. Max heard shouting in many pitches. He closed his eyes as his body hit the floor. His legs were beginning to trail behind him. He looked up. The two figures were dragging him. The third blur pointed at the other two. More screams. Then loud, sharp blasts of sound, as if someone was lighting firecrackers indoors. Max felt his body go limp and fall against the floor. He had been let go. Closing his eyes, the boy could not help but cry. The pain was catching up to him.

The sound of the door chime echoed in his ears.

A warm soft hand stroked his bruise cheek. A voice whispered in a pleasant voice and then began to sob.

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There were no broken bones. Max just had cuts along the insides of his cheeks from where his teeth scraped against them. Still Sylvia had slipped him a Valium to settle his nerves enough to sleep.

Sylvia slouched on the couch and tried not to fall asleep while Conan did his monologue. Max lied on his bed with his body wrapped up in a thin blanket. His mind swam in drug induced dreams. He was walking in a church. The church didn't have a name. It didn't need one. It was a gilded place of worship, no different from any other. Max felt himself drift among the pews going towards the confessional booths. He opened the door and sat in. The small window next to him slid opened.

Crossing himself Max began, "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned."

Suddenly the door to the booth swung opened. A hand reached in and grabbed Max by the shirt collar. The boy's eyes widen when he saw the stranger from the store in front of him. He was still wearing that ugly Hawaiian shirt. Only the small flowers on the fabric had been replaced with hula girls. Naked hula girls in every position. The lollipop stick was still dancing between his lips.

Max screamed as he looked over to the confessional window. The figure's shadow was slumped over.

"He's gone," said the stranger, "He wasn't of much use to anyone. Who really cares if they've been saved or not? Heaven is just as bad Hell. Only brighter."

No matter how long Max stared at the figure, the being refused to move. He could feel himself gasping for air. His skin became a field of pins and needles. "Who ARE you!?!"

The stranger stepped back as his face dropped. The stick in his mouth dropped as well. He raised his hand in the air. Max curled in a tight ball.

"NO, WAIT, MAKO!" the boy yelled.

That was his name.

Where in the hell did that come from?

Max felt something over his mouth but he could not see anything visible. The thing was pressing down hard, mashing his lips against his teeth. He thrashed around in the booth, scratching the invisible thing at his mouth. His fingers only damaged his own flesh. Banging on the sides of the booth, he looked towards Mako. But he was gone, vanished.

With his lungs beginning to scream for air, the boy felt the world around him dissolve back into reality. Slowly, he was waking up. His eyes adjusted to the light in the room. Someone had turned on the bedroom light. It wasn't on before. He tried to move his arms but they were pinned down.

Blue-gray eyes looked down at him. Mako was smiling as he released his grasp from the boy's mouth. He was sitting on Max's chest with his legs on either arm. The stranger leaned back, "I thought you would never wake up. Though I can see how." He shook a pill bottle. "Valium. Great stuff."

Fear quickly melted into anger. "Let me go or I'll scream!" hissed Max as he struggled against the stranger's weight.

"And what? This is New York. No one could really give a fuck about you. And Sylvia is dead."

Max screamed anyway. A hard hand slapped his face. The cuts in his mouth reopened. He could taste the blood slowly come into his mouth.

Mako grabbed the boy by the jaw. "Now, Max."

Mako knew his name as well. What the hell is happening here?

"Shall we go over this again? You can come with me on your own accord or I can drag you out of here like I tried to do this afternoon. Well, before you're friend so rudely stopped me. She's got another smile for her troubles now."

The boy glared into Mako's eyes. "Why should I come with you?"

"Because you are family. You knew it the moment you saw me. We're freaks. I see how your fingertips are bandaged up and the feather light scars cover your hands. Some people may think that you're just clumsy." He came close to the point. Max had no where else to look except in Mako's eyes. "But I know different. You were hungry."

He pulled back and showed the boy his own hands. Small tracks lined his palms and wrists. "I know because I am the same."

Max's breathing quickened, "I don't know what you are talking about."

Another slap came, only on the other cheek.

"Mako, stop!" Max yelled.

"So, you do know my name," the stranger smiled. "How did you find out? Was I in a dream?"

Max glared at the boy in silence. His mouth opened, revealing clenched, bloody teeth. A low, animalistic growl came forth, "I am not going with you."

The stranger groaned as if he had done this a million times before all with the same result. He reached for something behind him and pulled out a pocketknife. With a quick jerk he sliced his palm opened. Max's eyes turned away as the copper smell hit his nose. He felt Mako's grip onto his jaw. The boy struggled, shutting his mouth.

"Take it," Mako hissed as he pried the boy's mouth opened. The stranger's blood spilled into the boy's mouth and mixed with his own blood and spit. Max could not taste the difference.

"See," whispered Mako, "We taste the same because we are the same. How many times do I have to show you this before you take it as fact? Come with me, Max."

Max shook free from the stranger's grasp. He coughed up the blood and spat into Mako's face.

"That's it!" Mako yelled in return as he brought the pocketknife to Max's throat, "Either you come with me or you die!"

"Then let me die!"

The statement shocked the stranger. He sat back on Max's chest and began to laugh. "Enough with the fun and games, you're coming with me." Mako slid off the boy's chest and grabbed him by the arm. He yanked him off the bed and dragged him across the carpet. Max screamed and kicked but he was still too much in a drug haze to make his limbs fight back properly. He only flopped around like a fish out of water.

Down the hallway they went and into the den where the other stranger from the shop kneeled before Sylvia's corpse. He looked up when he heard Max's protest. Blood lined his lips. He burped. His belly was heavy and full.

"Gabe, let's go," Mako commanded as he motioned for him to take Max's other arm. He did so. Max cried out to Sylvia and then to anyone as the apartment door swung opened and he was dragged out. But no one came to his rescue. Mako was right. This was New York and no one cared.

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Three years later…

How did it get to this point? Max was standing before his friend, his mate and provider with a gun in his hand. Gabriel lied dead at his feet with half of his face blown away and his body torn apart with bullet wounds. The prey was sitting in the chair at the far end of the room, decomposing. Flies were already having their way with its flesh. Max was crying. He didn't understand any of it. Why was Mako doing this to him? Was this another game to him?

Mako pressed his back to the wall. He was crying as well. Max was serious this time. He had killed one of his closest friends and now he was going to kill him. And for what? Over something as trivial as a once warm body.

"A priest, Mako. You made me kill a goddamn priest," screamed Max as he shook the gun. The first dream he had of Mako ran through his mind. He wasn't of much use to anyone. Max shook his head. That was a lie. The priest was his salvation. His soul.

He let out a whined and then held the gun with a tighter grip. He was in control but not by much. "I am going, Mako. Once and for all."

He pulled the trigger twice.

Mako fell to the floor in agony as the bullets shattered his shinbones. His voice filled the room with screams. He looked at the boy through watery eyes.

"And if you follow me, as much as I love you, I will kill you." Max dropped the gun and looked at the bloody hands. His mouth watered out of instinct but he wiped them clean on his shirt. "I'm not a vampire, Mako. I'm human."

The young man turned around and opened the door. He walked out of the room and out of Mako's life.