Characters: Edgar Frog, Alan Frog, Sam Emerson
Warnings: Not really.
Spoilers: For Reign of Frogs, I suppose.
Synopsis: Set after Reign of Frogs. Alan drank vampire blood, and Edgar is going to save him even if he has to to tear down the whole town to do it...
Prologue | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Alan woke up alone for the first time since this nightmare had started. No Edgar shaking or prodding him, just the sense that he night was beginning slowly coaxing him from his slumber. His bed sheets had somehow become tangled around him as he slept. He unwrapped himself and started to get up, then he paused. No point, he was locked in. Irritated, he lay back down, placed his hands underneath his head and stared at the ceiling. He listened to the sounds of the house. Downstairs in the store, Edgar and Sam were speaking in low voices. He could hear what they were saying easily, but it wasn't for his benefit that they were whispering.
He closed his eyes and listened harder. There were people in there browsing comics. Four – no, five distinct heartbeats. They were trying not to be overheard. He wondered whether two of the extra people down there were his parents. He wondered whether they had noticed his absence the past few days.
Because he didn't really want to know the answer to that question, he tuned in to Edgar and Sam's conversation and concentrated on that. It was amazing to think of how far from his room they were, and how quietly they were speaking, yet he could hear every word with as much clarity as if they were sitting next to him.
“But no one we asked knew anything. 'Her house burned down and she left town', or 'she died in the fire', or 'she was injured and she's gone away to recover'. The same things over and over again. Doesn't that make you think that maybe she really has gone?” That was Sam, his voice hitting a higher pitch as he became agitated.
“No.” Edgar replied. His brother sounded confident on the surface, but Alan could tell he wasn't as sure as he appeared. “She was in charge of a huge vampire population, she wouldn't just give up all that power and skip town. She's hiding somewhere, plotting her revenge.”
“We killed most of the vampires she was in charge of,” Sam pointed out, “so her power's gone. And, don't you think maybe she thinks she's had her revenge?”
“What do you mean?” Edgar demanded.
Sam didn't reply at first. Alan held his breath, waiting. “Well, what's the worst thing that could happen to a vampire hunter?”
Again, there was silence. Both boys heart rates increased, Edgar's more than Sam's. Alan lay completely still, trying not to think. He had assumed it had been a spur of the moment decision, some kind of self defense tactic by the vampire he was fighting, to panic and disorient him. The idea that it might have been a thought out plan – change the hunter into a vampire as some form of punishment – it changed nothing, not really, but at the same time it changed everything.
“I'll to make her suffer for this,” Edgar said at last, “I'm going to hunt that bitch down and I'm going to force feed her holy water.”
Alan agreed. Unfortunately, he thought Sam might be right. That would explain why there had been no retribution after they attacked the mansion. They spent that night hiding, expecting to come home to pick up the pieces, but nothing had happened. The vampires may even have known they would go back the next day and cleared out before they arrived to burn it down.
If this was her revenge, Alan thought, she had a twisted sense of justice. Turn a vampire killer into the thing he hates most. If the self loathing doesn't finish him off before he turns, he replenishes the ranks, replacing one of the ones he killed. Well, that wouldn't happen. He would rather die. But the idea had awakened a kind of rage inside him. He couldn't let her win. If it came to it he would kill himself, but until that time came he would spend every night hunting for her. There was no way he was going to wait around in his room drinking bottled rodent blood and waiting to go crazy.
Alan opened the window and leaned outside. He took a deep breath, inhaling the night, and then he imagined that the darkness had a physical presence, one that he could control. He willed it to envelop his body and lift him upwards into the air.
As his feet lifted from the ground, Alan felt a thrill of excitement in his stomach. He had flown before, by accident, but he hadn't expected it to be so easy or to feel so natural. It was a freedom that he had never experienced before, that he would never be able to explain in words. The chill in the night air didn't touch him as it brushed through his clothes. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the feeling, the sense of elation. If he could never be human again, it would almost be worth it just for this. Almost.
He flew a loop around the town, getting used to this strange ability. Santa Carla rushed by beneath him, a blur of lights, sounds and smells. He flew high enough that no one would notice him if they happened to look up, but low enough that he still felt like he was in the city. The speed he could manage was incredible. He picked a deserted street to land, and lowered himself to the ground. His landing was anything but graceful. He descended too quickly and stumbled as he hit the pavement. That was okay, he could work on that.
He walked quickly back to the boardwalk, the hub of both human and vampire activity. Here he had found a vampire last time by simply concentrating, he could do it again.
The sea of humanity that surrounded him was almost overwhelming. To find a vampire in this would not be easy. There were too many distractions. As he walked, he kept his eyes focused on his own feet, forcing senses other than his vision to take over. He was surrounded by blood. The human shaped packaging was incidental, it was the contents that consumed his thoughts. The animal blood may have taken the edge off the thirst, but not the need. He was coming to realize that they were two separate and distinct things. One could be sated with a substitute, the other could not.
It was always going to be a part of him. That voice that whispered from the shadows, pleading with him to do unthinkable things. The only way to silence it would be to kill the Black Widow, or so kill someone else. He was losing the battle now, and he wasn't sure exactly when that had stated to happen. Was it before he drank the animal blood, or after?
He sensed the vampire from behind him and turned around to scan the crowd. She wasn't difficult to spot. She stood alone, watching the crowds in much the same way as himself. Two predators, scanning for their prey. The difference was they were hunting for different things, and he had found what he was looking for.
She was beautiful, long black hair perfectly framed a youthful face. She was slim, attractive, well dressed. If he didn't know what she was, he would have been watching her for a very different reason.
He walked in a wide circle, placing himself behind her, and followed as she walked through the crowds, looking at the people surrounding her. Searching for one, Alan suspected, who was alone, who she might easily coax away from the boardwalk without arousing suspicion. It wouldn't be difficult for her. A few softly spoken words, a smile, any one of the many male tourists could be tempted to follow her somewhere more private. It would be the last decision he ever made, and one he would regret for the rest of his short life.
Alan followed an inconspicuous distance behind her, watching her watching the people. She stared with interest at a group of young men, walking rowdily past, clearly drunk, leering at the pretty girls. He wondered what he would do if she chose a victim. He had come out tonight to practice identifying vampires, perhaps even follow one back to its lair. But if she decided to feed, he would have no choice but to stop her, and his foolish, spur of the moment decision to come out left him unarmed.
Lost in thought, he failed to notice that the vampire had stopped walking and turned around. Eyes still downcast, he almost walked straight into her. He stopped just in time, turned and hurried off in another direction.
Heart pounding, he tried to appear not to be rushing. Not daring to look behind him, he could tell she was still there. In a few short seconds, he had gone from hunter to prey, and unarmed against a full vampire he had no chance in a fight. The only thing he could do was stay close to people, not leave the crowds. She couldn't attack here without drawing attention, he was safe.
A hand touched his shoulder and he froze. It was her. She felt cold, her fingers were like icicles on his skin. He turned slowly, and looked at her.
“Why are you following me?” She asked.
Even her voice was beautiful. She must barely have to say a word before her victims blindly followed her to their deaths. Alan feigned ignorance, “I'm not.” He backed off a step, turning to walk away.
The hand gripped tighter, she stared deep into his eyes. He tried too look away, but she managed to hold his gaze. “You've been following me for the past five minutes,” she said, “I gave you chance to leave, but you didn't take it. Now I want to know why.”
Alan shook his head defiantly. “I wasn't following you.”
She smiled, “You're new, aren't you? Where's the one that changed you?”
He didn't reply, he stared her straight in the eye and prayed that he didn't look as afraid as he felt.
“The new ones always latch onto someone,” she said, “normally it's the one that changed them. Where is she?”
“Dead,” Alan told her. He omitted the part where his brother had driven a stake through her heart just seconds too late to save him.
He thought for a second that he saw a flicker of emotion cross her face, but before he could identify the meaning, it was gone. “And so you chose me. I'm flattered.” She released her grip on his arm and Alan relaxed just slightly. He wasn't equipped to fight, but perhaps if he could distract her for a moment, he could fly away.
“I could catch up and bring you down in an instant,” she told him. Alan looked at her in horror. Could she... “I can't read you mind, just your body language,” she explained. “I've been around a long time, I've picked up a couple of tricks. So will you, eventually. Anyway, I don't want to hurt you. You're one of us.”
Alan shook his head, “I'm nothing like you.”
“Not yet, but you will be.”
He shook his head again.
The vampire smiled, “You're resisting. Oh, you silly boy.” She shrugged, “You'll come round to our way of thinking sooner or later. Sooner, probably.” She leaned closer, “It's getting harder, isn't it?”
Alan's mouth set in a defiant line and he prepared to tell her he was fine, that he would rather die than become what she was. Suddenly, the idea occurred to him that perhaps he shouldn't argue. The vampire was looking at him with something akin to kindness, she didn't know who he was, what he was. She didn't know how many of her kind he had killed. Body language or not, she saw a new half vampire, wandering the streets of Santa Carla, alone, confused. As far as she knew, he could be anyone. He could have been turned by anyone. If he could play that role, perhaps he could use her.
Fear wrapped its tendrils around his stomach and squeezed tightly as he prepared to take the greatest risk of his life. Chatting to a vampire. If he could win her confidence, maybe he could find out where the Widow was hiding.
“It's so hard,” he said. There was no acting involved as he delivered that line.
She nodded, seemingly pleased to hear that.
He took a deep breath and imagined he was someone else. Just some random kid, tricked by a vampire without knowing what they were or what he was letting himself in for. Someone who hadn't believed in monsters until suddenly he became one. “Can you help me?” he asked.
She smiled with pleasure, “You can help yourself, all you have to do is feed. Stop resisting, you've been given a gift. Look at all these people, each one full of blood. Follow your instincts, do what you're fighting against. You're better than them now, it doesn't matter if you kill some, there are always more to take their place.”
Alan swallowed. Her words stirred something inside him. They brought the need closer to the surface. To be told that it was okay to do the unthinkable... it was as though she spoke directly to the vampire within him and made it stronger, “I can't,” he whispered, knowing that he so easily could.
She looked at him and the need amplified. “Then don't,” she told him. “Keep resisting.”
The human life around him became meaningless, nothing but a source of food. He could feel the burning need expressing itself physically, he knew his eyes were changing. He was changing. His tongue touched long, sharp teeth and recoiled in horror. The exertion of denying himself brought beads of sweat on his face. “Stop it!” he tried to sound authoritative, but it came out like he was pleading.
The vampire watched calmly, with an air of satisfaction. “You are strong, but you'll be ready soon. I can see it in your eyes,” And with that she took off into the night sky, traveling too quickly for Alan to track her direction, and suddenly he was alone with the need. Every nerve in his body was on fire, a fire that could only be extinguished by the human blood that surrounded him in every direction. He fought to resist. He fought to stand. He fought to breathe.
Summoning the very last of his remaining willpower, he forced himself to turn away from the boardwalk and go home. Flight eluded him, he stumbled back.
Standing at the back of the house, away from the temptation of the boardwalk and from the girl with the compelling argument that sang such a wonderful duet with the voice in his head, he felt calmer. He managed to lift himself through the air into the still open window of his bedroom and collapsed in a heap on the ground with a loud crash
Almost immediately, footsteps pounded up the stairs. Alan quickly closed the window and by the time Edgar had unlocked the door he was sitting on his bed, the picture of innocence.
“What the hell happened to you?” Edgar flipped on the light and stared at his brother in horror.
“What?” His voice sounded shaky.
Edgar hung back by the bedroom door, “Jesus, Alan, you look like... What was that noise?”
Alan shook his head, “I need to drink, Edgar. I need it now. Please.”
To Alan's relief, his brother didn't argue, didn't protest, he simply nodded and disappeared down the stairs wearing a look of horror and resignation.
Alone again, Alan glanced at what remained of his reflection in his bedroom window. He appeared semi transparent, a further horrible reminder of what had happened to him, and one he had managed to avoid looking at so far. But far worse than that were his eyes. They glowed a frightening shade of red, the focal point of a face that was barely his own. He didn't recognize the person he was looking at. He didn't even look human.