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Child of the Night

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“Soma,” Julius said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “What are you doing?”

“Sneaking out when you explicitly told me not to go after whatever you and Yoko are trying to track down?” Soma replied, at least having some sense to look sheepish as he did. He still hadn’t left his perch on the windowsill, the cool night’s air rustling his jacket.

Julius sighed. The kid was honest, if anything. He wished the windows in the old Belmont estate had a screen, or something. At least then Soma might have made enough noise trying to remove it so that Julius could catch him before he was half dangling out a second-story window.

“Soma, we can handle this on our own,” Julius began. “We’re trained for this, and we have Arikado on call if need be. You don’t need to get involved.”

“But—“

“I invited you here for a vacation from school, Soma! To see the Belmont collection, not to get yourself killed!” Julius retorted. He moved towards the window, all but dragging Soma in by the scruff of his neck away from it. If anything, Julius likened him to a kitten—full of energy and not ready to listen, but ultimately innocent.

Some days he felt like he was scolding his own child, though.

Soma pouted. “I can fight. I have magic. I think I can handle whatever your after—in fact, I know I can handle it!”

“This isn’t just one simple minded monster, Soma! And this isn’t like the castle, we can’t just charge in, guns blazing and hope it turns out well,” Julius explained. “And these werewolves—which is what they are and is a crucial fact you didn’t know, which is dangerous —are strong. Smart. That’s why they’ve been such a nuisance to deal with and track down. I honestly wasn’t expecting to even have to go after them until you were back in Japan.”

Soma sighed, shaking Julius’s hands off him. “I’m not a child, Julius. I can help! I hate just being left behind while everyone else gets to help people… I don’t like feeling useless.”

“I know you don’t,” Julius said, closing the window in one fluid motion. The lock clicked shut, still working despite the rust. He really needed to clean up this damn house… “But Soma, last time you ran off on your own… it could have ended badly. It almost did, if Mina hadn’t given you that charm.”

Soma crossed his arms, leaning against the wall. The wallpaper was old, yellowed with time and peeling—just as Julius had remembered it being as a child. His father had always said he was going to tear it down and paint the walls, but he died before he ever had the chance. After the Demon War in 1999, the Belmont family was in a state of chaos that meant that things like wallpaper were not a priority.

Maybe he’d do that himself, then. Over the summer. Mina and Soma could visit, help out, Yoko could help too if she wanted to join…

Julius was snapped out of his thoughts by the sound of Soma’s voice. “This isn’t like that,” Soma was saying. “There’s so evil cults, no threat of Dracula.”

“Exactly. So, this really doesn’t need your involvement in any way. You have no stake in it. So—leave it to Yoko and me, alright?” Julius replied, hand playing with the edge of his scarf. He had to get going, lest he leave Yoko and Alucard to deal with the monster alone. Yoko had set out on her own, likely to meet up with Alucard if need be, but Julius had stayed behind to make sure Soma had listened to their request for him to stay put—and well, it was obvious how that had gone. He knew to trust his gut, as it was usually right—especially about Soma.

“I know, I know, but I just… I feel so. Restless, now, not doing anything. School’s fine and all but I just… I just feel like I need to be out there, with you guys. Helping you,” Soma said. “And… I dunno, I worry too. I feel like sometimes all I do is let you guys protect me from the supernatural when you really don’t need too… and I don’t want people getting hurt when I could be there to stop that. I can’t... I can’t just have a normal life, no matter how much I try. I know that’s what you all want but I just don’t think it can happen.”

That sounded familiar, Julius thought to himself. He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. God, Alucard was going to have his head, assuming Yoko didn’t completely obliterate him. “Alright. You can come.”

Soma’s head snapped up, silver eyes sparkling. “Really? Thank you, Julius, I won’t let you guys down, I’ve even been working on my sword skills—”

“Soma… Just be safe, alright? And don’t expect this to be a thing. I’m just letting you come so I can keep an eye on you, since I feel like the moment I left, you woulda been jumping out that window again,” Julius said, grabbing his gear. He tossed Soma a sword that had been brought out from the Belmont armoury. Soma caught it easily, attaching the sheath to his belt.

“Probably,” Soma replied, doing his best facial impression of a rather mischievous cat. Julius sighed. This kid was making his hair turn grey more and more with each passing day.

“Let’s head out then, we have a lot of ground to cover before we’ll be able to catch up with Yoko and Arikado, I suspect,” Julius said, motioning for Soma to follow him down the staircase.

A normal life, no matter how hard he tried… It was true that the three of them had been hoping that Soma would return to his normal life after the eclipse. Be a normal Japanese student again, the world of Dracula and monsters behind him—and it seemed to work, for awhile. But lately, it seemed like Soma had been getting more and more restless, trying to involve himself in the supernatural whenever he could.

A normal life, forever unreachable now—Julius could understand that. That restlessness, that need to help others, to be involved with the night.

That was a feeling he knew very well, even around Soma’s age.


He awoke with a jolt. Pain was a constant as his bleary eyes surveyed the room, trying to make sense of the blurry shapes he could make out. White, grey… idle sounds in the background—voices, things moving. Where was he?

…who was he?

He sat up, wincing when pain coursed through his abdomen. What was going on? His mind was a hazy mess—he could remember some things, basic things—he was Romanian, and he spoke the language. English too. He was male… the year was 1999, right? Or was 1998? But otherwise… otherwise he felt like he was drawing a blank.

First, he needed to find out where he was.  Looking around at the drab scenery, the simple white sheets of his uncomfortable bed… well, a hospital was the obvious answer, but was he at least in Romania?

A woman in scrubs—a nurse, he reminded himself—came scurrying over to him, clipboard clenched tightly in her hands. “You’re awake!” she exclaimed, before ushering over some others. His mind drifted away, barely catching what the nurses were talking about as they checked him over, looking over his bandages, asking him questions.

 He merely groaned. Now that he was awake, his senses felt like they were under attack. Between the bright lights, the noise, the pain of his body…. He felt like he had been hit by a train.

“Sir,” the first nurse said, voice stern. “Can you understand us, Sir?”

“…yes,” he finally said. His voice was sandpaper to his ears, scratching its way out from his dry, unused throat. The nurse handed him some water, before speaking again.

“I need to ask you some questions, but if you feel you need further rest, I can come back later. My name is Crina,” she told him, clicking her pen.

The man shook his head, before wincing at the pain that brought as well. His body ached and burned—he was covered in cuts, burns, and he had a feeling several of his fingers were broken. It was hard to breathe too—he didn’t want to know about the state of his ribs, honestly. Yet, he had no idea how any of this had happened.  “I can try.”

“Alright. We can stop any time. First, your name?” Crina asked. For a moment, the man was distracted by the bustling outside the room—they seemed awfully busy, for what at first glance did not seem like a big hospital.

Crina looked at him, concerned “Sir?”

“I…” he hesitated. It hit him full force, the emptiness in his mind. “I don’t know.”

He swallowed, thoughts racing. “I don’t… I don’t remember. But, it’s fine, right? You know, right? You’re just checking to see what state I’m in, but you can tell me, right?” he said, getting panicked the more he spoke. Oh god, oh god —the reality of the situation he was in was starting to sink in. He could feel the anxiety bubbling up inside him, ready to escape at any moment via a full-fledged panic attack.

Who was he? What was he doing here? Why did everything hurt, what’s going on, what’s going on, what’s going on—

Crina bit her lip. She looked deep in thought, clearly considering her next words carefully. “Sir, I’m… I’m sorry. No, we don’t know,” she admitted. He was snapped out of his mantra by her voice, but the building panic did not dissipate.

At his silence, Crina continued. “We’ve… we’ve had a lot of people through, and with some odd wounds. There was some sort of… accident, the church told us. Military said the same thing. Something about a factory accident outside the town, something very dangerous; a chemical fire is the standing rumour. Out near that old crumbling castle, in the forest. Creepy place. People get attacked by wolves there a lot.”

“…you.. you don’t know? ” he breathed, barely focusing on her words.

Crina shook her head. “You didn’t have any ID on you at all when you were brought to our hospital. We tried to find any next of kin who may have shown up looking for you, or if any survivors from the factory accident knew you, but we’ve turned up nothing. I’m. I’m sorry. We hoped you would be able to tell us when you woke up.”

The man stared at his hands, eyes glossing over, vision unfocused. “How long was I asleep?” Talking, he noted, seemed to help quell the panic constricting his chest. It was so hard to breathe, but he needed answers—he needed to stay calm.

“Two days—since the eclipse, actually,” Crina said, pouring him another glass of water. “Drink. We’ll keep trying to contact someone for you, I promise. Are you feeling okay? Is there anything you need?”

“I mean, everything hurts, so maybe some pain killers? But otherwise. I think I’m good. Food, later. That’d be nice,” the man replied, sipping the water. It was cool, soothing to his throat even after the first glass.

He smiled a little, feeling calmer, but it faded at her next question, “Do you remember anything that may help?”

“No. Nothing. Other than I’m Romanian but…” But they had been speaking it the whole time, he knew, so he figured he was in, well, Romania. The look on Crina’s face confirmed it wasn’t much help either.

 “I’ll talk to the doctors about your pain killer dosage,” Crina said, motioning the IV in his arm. He hadn’t noticed it, admittedly. With a polite, professional smile, Crina turned, heading towards the door with a steady gait. She paused, though, hand hovering over the handle.  Turning towards him, she said, “You’ll be okay. We’re here to help you. It’s possible your memories may even return on their own, and if not… No one is alone in this world. We’ll find someone who knows you.”

He felt himself smile as she left, hands gripping the sheets as he tried to stay calm. Yeah…, things would be okay. They had to be.

 

 

Right?

 

 

 

But it was at that hospital that Julius learned he really was alone.

 


 

Days passed. He talked with Crina and her coworkers, his voice returning to what he assumed was its usual timbre with use while his throat—and numerous other injuries—began to heal. He still had no idea who he was, though. The most they had managed to come up with came early, about two days after he met Crina.

His clothes were damaged, full of holes and singed beyond repair. This left him with just the hospital gown, but luckily, it seemed the blood red scarf he had apparently worn had mostly survived. It was soft to the touch, maybe made of silk, and something about having it made the man’s heart feel lighter. It was nice to have something of his… something to own, something that couldn’t slip from his fingers like his memories.

On the tag, Crina had discovered a small message written in sharpie – Good luck, J . The handwriting was neat and small—and after a bit of testing, discovered it to not be the mans. Neither of them was sure if J was the message writer or who it was intended for but… but it was something. And god, J was desperate for any clues as to who he was, where he belonged. So. J he was, and J he would be until he knew more.

Having the scarf was nice—he had ended up having a panic attack after the first day despite trying so hard to keep it down, but he found the scarf helped calm him now that he had it. Having it there grounded him, reminded him there was something tying him to his old life. J would find out the rest soon enough, right?

J often found himself struggling to sleep at night. Crina joked he was nocturnal, but part of J wondered if that was true. Had he worked night-shifts, perhaps? When he did finally sleep,he had nightmares, dreams of death, fire, and blood, but he could barely remember them come morning.

Being up at night did have its advantages. Crina tried to be gentle with him or distract him by talking about whatever topic came to her mind. She was good company, and one that took a lot of night shifts.

However, at night, especially nights where Crina was not there, he often heard the nurse’s gossip about him, unaware he could hear.

Gossip about him was no surprise. He was some teenaged (or young adult, they weren’t so sure about that either) runt who ended up here covered in wounds and burns with no memory of anything. It was worth talking about, he supposed, though he hoped some of their theories for who he really was weren’t true—some of them were out there, with talk of Russian mobs and family curses.

That part was not what bothered him. No. It was the confusion about why he even had amnesia in the first place. J had a concussion when he was brought in, he was told. But otherwise, he had not suffered much of a head injury. While concussions could cause memory loss—for it to be this bad, this extensive, and last so long? That, according to them, didn’t make much sense—his memory was just gone like it was magic.

The holy water he discovered in his jacket when Crina had brought it to him made him wonder if it was. But he also could have just been religious. He wondered if God was watching him now, then, while he was lost and alone.

So, at the hospital J waited. Talked with Crina while he healed. Forced himself to enjoy the Jell-o and other foods he was given. He was hoping, desperately hoping, that someone would walk through the door to his room and hug him close, talking about how much they missed their son, brother, friend… anything.

No one came. 

By the time he was discharged all he had were hospital fees (which the nurses, including Crina, god bless her soul, helped pay for. Perhaps it was sympathy, perhaps it was pity—but he’d take anything at that point). There nothing to help him figure out where he was from and where to go next. Nothing at all.

J was completely and utterly alone.


Crina and some of the other nurses had been kind enough to give him some money. He could tell they did not like the idea of sending this amnesiac, homeless man—or perhaps even minor, with his age so vague—off on his own, but they hadn’t had any say in it. J just could not stay at the hospital anymore, according to the higher ups, and instead suggested social services or the like.

J really did not like the upper management of that place. The few times he had met with anyone with any authority, they hadn’t seemed very fond of him. A lot of people had died, they said. Others were in far worse condition. An amnesiac kid was of no worry to them when they had so much more to deal with—though said much more tactfully.

J had no choice—perhaps it was more apt to say kicked him out than discharged him. He was healed, though, and healthy as could be.

J was grateful for the nurses’ help. It was nice to not have to worry about food—at least at first—and the homeless shelter was kind to him. Crina had even given him clothes and a bag, which she said belonged to her younger brother who was moving out soon.

So, at first, it wasn’t so bad. However, J soon found himself restless in the sleepy town he had woken up in. It was hard to get a job with no experience or identity, but he also felt… felt something was calling to him. Something from the woods. He thought back to what Crina had said, about the ruins of the castle where the factory accident. Where he supposedly lost his memory.

Perhaps, he thought, he would find some answers there.


 

The trek through the forest began easy enough. The woods were thick and colourful—autumn was in full swing, golds and reds overtaking, clashing with the deep greens of pine trees, as J made his way through. The sun was low in the sky, but there was still enough heat that his simple coat was enough. He trudged through, keeping an ear out for any animals—Crina had mentioned something about wolf attacks—but it was hard to discern the different noises from one another. Especially when with each step he took, he was met with the sound of crunching leaves and snapping twigs.

On J’s way through the forest, westward towards where he had been told the ruins of the old castle near the factory were supposed to be, he was able to see the leftovers of the accident easily. Trees were damaged, collapsed on their sides or branches broken. Scorch marks and burned leaves were scattered across the land.

As he neared the ruins, the destruction got worse—until there was nothing but charcoal around him, the remnants of a blazing forest fire. It was cool now, but the smell of burnt human flesh and plant life still hung heavy in the air, making his stomach churn.

Wait.

How did he know what burnt flesh smelled like—especially human? Perhaps his burns, he thought, even if J didn't remember receiving them. Still, it was odd his brain had been able to pick the scent out so easily.

J sighed, looking around the destruction with a feeling of emptiness. There wasn’t much. Just blackened earth and charred remains. He felt something snap under his weight, brittle from the heat—glancing down, his heart leaped into his throat. It was bone. Bone, peeking out from underneath the ash, its flesh long charred off.

J jumped back in alarm. He pressed a hand to his chest, trying to calm his heart rate—it was probably just animal bone, like a deer. It seemed like most of the area had been shifted through—the remains of the burnt forest neatly put into piles. The authorities had likely already collected whatever human remains they could—and any survivors like J himself.

Still… it only cemented this place as ominous—as full of death. 

As for buildings, well—there were chunks of stone that perhaps had once been a wall, but no trace of any factory nor even the castle Crina had spoken of. The stone itself was oddly shaped, irregular and blackened like everything else. “Kind of looks like a face,” J murmured, lightly kicking one boulder.

He sighed, surveying the destruction. He was surprised that there was no one cleaning up the aftermath, but it seemed that finding bodies had been the main priority.

J tried to imagine it, the blazing flames—that didn’t seem to engulf the whole forest—the destructive power needed to completely char the ground like this, to destroy any signs of life, be it man-made or natural. All that was left was a barren wasteland, deathly quiet in the evening light.

He wandered through, finding bits of animal bones (or he hoped it was animal), but not much else. There was no sign to what exactly had happened here, nothing to point him towards his next goal.

“Coming here was pointless,” J said to himself, running a hand through his bangs. He really needed a haircut…

He felt worse than he had before. It wasn’t just the disappointment of not being able to find anything out about his situation, either. Something about this place… it made him uneasy, filled his stomach with a feeling of dread. It made his heart heavy, longing for something he did not know seeping through. This place was cursed. A place of death. Of loss. Of great sorrow.

J wanted to go home.

But what was home, for him? He didn’t even know who he was.

He was alone. Alone, with the only connections to his life nothing but ash.

The sun was nearly set now, oranges and pinks washed away for cool blue as the light faded. The moon was full, J noted—and that thought sent a feeling of urgency through him. Full… full. The moon. Something about the moon, the eclipse—something about it made him anxious, but he didn’t know why.

Perhaps it was merely the dark. He was an area unknown to him, without useful landmarks. J didn’t exactly fancy meeting any of the animals that liked to attack humans that Crina spoke of. That, he thought, was probably the source of his unease, combined with his feelings of being lost.

Shoving his hands into his jacket pocket, J turned, trying to follow his own footsteps in the dirt as he went back the way he came. He hadn’t walked that far, he thought, so it wouldn’t take long to make it back to the town.

The moon rose higher in the sky. It’s light luminated his way, breaking through the bare branches of the trees. At least the moon was full, to help guide him back.

The moon was no friend of his, his thoughts told him. He didn’t know why.

Howls reached his ears. Wolves. No—there was something off about them, something not quite natural, like the sound was tampered with. J’s heart thrummed in his chest.  Adrenaline shot through him—but he didn’t feel the urge to flee, rather to reach for—for what? He had no weapons, aside from a single knife he had invested in (and only because his gut kept urging to buy it, a rather cheaply made dagger, from a pawn shop. He wasn’t sure why he’d need it, but it calmed the anxiety in his stomach whenever he felt its heavy weight in his pocket).

He doubted a knife would be any good against a pack of wolves. He’d be fine, though—the howls sounded far off. He’d be fine. He had to be.

A branch broke in the forest, to his left. J walked faster.

His hand gripped the handle of the dagger, still sheathed in his jacket. He didn’t let go, not even as his knuckles turned white. His instincts screamed at him, demanding he do… do what? What could he do, he was just… a person. Some punk kid. Even if he had any training at dealing with attacking animals, what good would that do him if he couldn’t remember it?

J just wished he could turn off his brain. All it seemed to do was scream at him about how something was wrong. He knew that already—that something was the fact that he couldn’t fucking remember anything.

More sounds came from the woods. Creaks and snaps—the thump of feet on earth signalling something nearing. J stopped walking, slipping the dagger out of its sheath without thinking. The polished metal glinted under the moonlight. The feeling of it in his hands, the sight of it in the corner of his eyes—it kept him grounded.

The creature was closer now. He kept his eyes on where the sound seemed to be coming from, digging his toes into the dirt. If he was lucky, it would leave him alone—but his luck so far had not been especially grand.

The animal burst from the treeline in a sudden rush of noise. J’s heart leaped into his throat as he prepared to defend himself, arms shielding his face, blade raised—

The deer that had emerged bucked up, spooked by his own presence. The doe ran off ahead of him, in a blur of limbs, the sound of cracking branches following suit.

J let out the breath he had been holding. Just a deer. The tension in his stance melted away, muscles relaxing as he began to walk again. Just a deer. He was just being overly cautious, alone in the dark woods. It was best he got back to civilization as soon as possible. Why hadn’t he left for the woods around noon? That would have been smart, he supposed, especially if he hadn’t slept most of the morning and part of the afternoon. His sleeping schedule left something to be desired.

 The howls seemed to disappear. A deer cried out in the distance—possibly the one he had seen-but he paid it no heed. If it was being attacked, he rather it be the deer being torn apart than him. No need to attract attention from any wolves.

J swore. Was he even going the right way? It felt like he had been walking for far longer than he had expected. The woods seemed to melt together, the trees nothing but dark shapes with the scent of pine and autumn, indistinct from one another, with the barren and burnt remains far behind him. He was sure this was the right direction but…

The smell of blood hit him. Right—fuck, the deer had run in the direction he was going, so if it hadn’t turned… A detour, then. Still, the smell was oddly strong, mixing with the scent of smoke that seemed far too strong. Had he been turned around by accident? No, even the burnt forest hadn’t carried such a pungent scent of smoke, not after a few weeks of time and at least one rain storm.

The weather was dry, now, perhaps it was merely another forest fire. He ought to take another path, avoid any feasting animals or raging fires. J knew that was the smart thing to do, yet—yet his feet took him forward, hand still gripping his knife as he headed towards the smell.

He creeped along the undergrowth, mindful of exposed roots. J kept his body low, stance defensive as he made his way closer and closer, the smell overwhelming his senses as the sound of flesh ripping reached his ears. This was a bad idea, he thought to himself, yet his feet kept carrying him closer.

He made his way to a small clearing. Stopping at the edge, still hidden in the dark of the fir trees, J stared out at the sight in front of him. The moon was higher in the sky now, silver light washing over like ocean waves. He could make out a dark silhouette, a wolf that seemed to be built a little off, a little too big—feasting on the poor deer he had seen before.

J swallowed. He stepped back, stumbling on a gnarled root. Catching himself on the tree it belonged to, he managed to right himself. He winced, the pine needles digging into his skin from the branch he had grabbed.

The wolf stopped eating. Its ears swivelled around, towards the source of the sudden noise, before it lifted its head from the deer’s carcass. Blood stained its dark fur a deep scarlet. It stood up— it stood up!— reaching its full height on strong hind legs.

It was a wolf, no mistaking it. From the trail to the snout, a wolf—but it was massive, built like an athlete and carried itself like a human.

Wait. Full moon. “ Werewolf,” J breathed. The word had come to him out of a void, a remnant of his old memories, just out of reach. But… was this normal? To run into a werewolf on a streak of bad luck? No… Crina would have mentioned werewolves, right? They were different from plain wolves, J knew that, just like how he knew what a wolf was, what Romania was, and what a werewolf was. They were pieces of his shattered memory left behind for him to gather up, to try to put together like the world’s worst puzzle.

He hated living like this.

The werewolf turned, silver eyes on him in an instant. It let out a low growl. It wasn’t moving yet, J thought—perhaps debating on whether it was worth killing J or guarding its current kill from scavengers.

J’s hand shook, his grip tightening on the knife. Half of him wanted to run, to get away—he had no idea what he was doing, and honestly, if he didn’t run, he was going to fucking die. But something deep inside him pushed at him, urging him to deal with this monster before it could hurt anyone else.

Had it even hurt anyone? Or was he going to be the unlucky first victim?

The werewolf howled then, teeth bared as he quickly began to close the gap between then. Oh fuck, oh fuck—J felt his heart jump in his chest.

J dived to the side, rolling until he slammed into a tree. Groaning, he quickly got to his feet. This was bad, this was bad, this was very bad—he sprinted off, stumbling over tree roots and rocks as he desperately tried to remember the direction he had come from. Where was the town again?

He could hear footsteps behind him, far too close for comfort. He was a dead man, if he didn’t think of anything quick. Kill the monster, the annoying part of him said. How? He asked back.

He didn’t get a reply.

Running seemed to be the best option. He felt himself adjust to the terrain, soon jumping over roots with ease, barely noticing the scratch of pine needles on his skin as he rushed passed. His heart thundered in his ears, drowning out any sounds except for his own, his breathing heavy as he ran northward.

He just needed to get away. To get his bearings straight before he did anything life threatening. Was he going the right way--? 

“Fuck!” J cried out, claws digging into his flesh. His face met dirt, a sudden weight pinning him down. Hot breath tickled his skin, the smell of blood and smoke overwhelming his senses. He struggled against the beast on him, his knife abandoned in the dirt just out of reach. “Motherfuck—”

“Little human, what are you doing out here all alone?” the beast spoke, its voice unnatural and dreamlike, a deep baritone that sent shivers through his body.

J didn’t speak. He was close to panicking again, he knew, but he needed to keep calm. This wasn’t a hospital, where his panic attack could be comforted by a nurse. If he didn’t do anything quick, he was going to die—or be turned, the ever-annoying part of his brain supplied.

Right. Don’t get bitten. He wished his brain hadn’t decided to only give him advice when he was already in mortal danger.

He reached out, trying to get his knife back in his grasp. It was darker now, the moon hidden by massive pine trees. He could just barely make out the glint of the blade, his vision shaken by the sudden fall.

The claws dug deeper into his shoulders, staining his clothes with his blood. He hissed but kept reaching. So close… “Little human?” the beast repeated, nosing at J’s cheek. “I know you can speak. It’s rude to ignore people.”

Gotcha. J swung, bringing the blade down on the beast’s face by his own. The werewolf barely had time to react, blood flowing as J buried the blade right under its eye. The beast reeled up, letting go of J as he pulled the blade out. Panting, he pushed himself up, backing away from the monster. He was injured, pain shooting through him with each movement. He didn’t think he could outrun the creature like this if he hadn’t been able to before. Fuck.

“You little—” the werewolf cried out, voice devolving into growls. It reared up at him, heat radiating off it in waves.

J stepped back, gritting his teeth. This wasn’t over yet.

The werewolf growled again, a tower of flames erupting towards J. Oh fuck—seriously? Magic? He dived out of the way but was pointless. While it hadn’t hit him head on, the forest around him soon went up in flames. Fuck, fuck, why did he come here?

The werewolf chuckled. “Little boy, lost in the woods… are you scared?” it headed towards him, J trapped by the flames behind him. J raised his knife again, hand shaking. He didn’t want to die, not until he remembered who he was.

The werewolf stopped, quirking its head. Its eyes ghosted over his face, now illuminated by the fire. “Wait a minute… I thought your scent seemed familiar, little human.” J couldn’t stop himself from perking up at that. Familiar?  He was desperate for whatever information he could get about himself. Even from a beast that had been trying to kill him.

“It does?” J said without thinking.

The beast cocked his head again. “Hmmm, is that surprising? That’s odd… I wonder, did you come back here to deal with the rest of us, or… I can smell it, my Lord’s curse on you—” The creature stalked closer, teeth bared.

“Curse?” J asked softly, backing up as far as he could. The heat from the flames was hot on his neck, licking at the backs of his feet. He didn’t want to smell any more burned flesh tonight, if he could.

The werewolf chuckled. “Interesting…. Interesting,” it mused, licking at the blood on its claws.

J swallowed, mind racing. He needed to end this before he ended up an unidentifiable corpse. He took an offensive stance. He hadn’t injured the werewolf’s eye much, but perhaps if he gorged them out… But that involved getting close. Getting close meant being in range of those fangs, and he didn’t doubt that the beast was stronger than him. He needed to play this smart.

“There was a prophecy, the witches said—that during the eclipse in 2034, the dark powers of Dracula and his castle would be inherited by someone new… and if you’re that troublesome little brat that I’m thinking of—” the creature chuckled. “Then luck is on our side.”

The werewolf lunged, claws bared. J’s heart stopped, his mind racing desperately, trying to react in time. Why him? He couldn’t fight, he was injured, still weary from the accident, and this creature was massive. He couldn’t run, not without getting burned by the raging fire trapping him. His options where to die by teeth or by flame. Flame… flame. Water puts out flame…

That was right, he had almost forgotten.

His hand flew to his pocket. The moment it hit glass, his arm was raised, throwing the bottle with as much strength as he could muster. Glass shattered over the face of the werewolf, holy water washing over its fur. The beast screamed, blue flames igniting wherever the water touched it, blood dripping from its wounds.

“You bastard--!” the creature cried out, falling to the ground as the flames consumed it, the smell of burning flesh and fur filling the air. J gagged, inching around the werewolf.

“Fuck--!” he said, the beast latching onto his leg. He fell to the ground with a harsh grunt, claws digging into his ankle. “Let go!” he hissed, trying to shake the beast off.

“You… I cannot wait for the day you meet the same fate as Lord Dracula,” the werewolf spoke. “The day you choke on your own blood and join every one of your damned ancestors in hell.” Its grip slackened. J pulled his leg away, wincing. He watched the burning creature closely, now fully consumed by flames, as it slowly stopped breathing.

“What the fuck,” J breathed, his adrenaline fading. Shaking and pale, he sheathed his knife. He’d clean it later… He let out an unsteady breath. “Oh my God.”  J stood up suddenly, head feeling uneasy as he tried to keep his balance.

He felt like he was going to be sick. The burning smell seemed to invade his nose, overtaking his senses and mingling with the scent of blood. His whole body burned, muscles exhausted, his wounds stinging. He coughed, the smoke starting to become overwhelming as the fire spread. He needed to get out of here before he collapsed.

He staggered along the path, gritting his teeth with each step that jostled the cuts on his leg. How was he going to explain this to Crina? Or the hospital in general—could he even afford to go back? J bit down on his lip. What was he going to do—he had no real place to stay and clean up, barely any money… Would Crina take pity on him again?

He hated this, living like this. Unsure of where to go, of who he was. Tired of being alone.

He was close now, to the city—the lights sparkling just outside of the treeline, the sound of cars going by on the highway. So close… Just a little farther.

J’s head found ground yet again, body laid out on soft moss. He needed to stand up, he needed to get help—




He woke up as the sun was rising, the early morning mist around him. The moss under him was soft and dewy, specks of blood dotting the greenery. He could still smell smoke in the air, but for now he was away from the flames. Safe.

J’s vision was bleary. He tried to focus, listening to the movement of insects on the ground, the feet of a deer in the distance. It took him awhile to gather is thoughts, his mind waking up piece by piece. His vision came to, but it wasn’t much help through the fog—the fog clouding his thoughts and the fog around him.

J’s body ached.  His wounds had stopped bleeding during his sleep, at the very least. He could feel the congealed blood around the wounds, sticking his clothes to his skin. 

His muscles screamed in protest as he pushed himself up. He wanted desperately to lay back down, to just let the moss cover his body. It wasn’t like there was anyone who would notice or care he was gone until he was nothing but another skeleton to be found in these cursed woods.

He sighed, shaking those thoughts out of his mind. He needed to focus. First… He needed to get back to town, get some food, and decide on what to do next. And he needed to do something about his injuries. 

J stood up, ignoring how the world around him spun. It hurt, he felt sick… god, this sucked. Slowly, he forced one leg to move forward, movements jerky. He continued like this, slowly finding a limping rhythm as he made his way back.

J’s thoughts raced. He had almost died, hadn’t he? It felt surreal, to think… to think that had been real. But he knew it was. The dried blood caked into his clothing proved that. He had a feeling if he turned around and walked far enough, he could find the burnt husk of a corpse.

He didn’t want to turn around, or even look behind him. These woods were cursed. Death was throughout it, buried into the roots of the earth, radiating from every too-dark shadow.

He swallowed. J only hoped he could make it back to the town without being attacked again.

 As he walked, he considered his options. He had no way to explain this to the hospital and something deep in his gut told him they would not believe the truth. So what were his options? Perhaps he could see if he knew any first aid, since his awful brain loved to tell him about skills he had while he was in the middle of needing them after all.

And then what? He couldn’t say in this town. These woods were awful, and honestly, what even was keeping him here? He had no family, no friends, no job, no identity…. This entire place felt wrong. All he wanted was to be home, but yet he did not know where his home was. Maybe he’d travel, do jobs under the table to get money, try to hunt down his past…

There was more to him than he had first thought. He knew that much. J remembered the werewolves words vividly. Lord Dracula.  A curse. Knowing who he was. His ancestors. J felt a shiver run down his spine. He wondered if most people knew about Dracula, or if his name struck them down with fear like it did with J. He had a feeling the answer to that was No.

And that prophecy that was mentioned—what did it mean, what did he have to do with it? 

J wasn’t sure. But he knew he had to find out. At the very least, he had about 35 years to figure it out. That was plenty of time.




Right?





The walk back to civilization was eerily serene, the world around him ignorant and uncaring of the fact that he had almost died in the night. J was glad it was early in the morning, at least, since it meant there were few people bustling about the town. He really didn’t need the attention his bloodied appearance would bring him. He headed towards the shelter he had been staying in, sneaking in through the back door (apparently he knew how to pick locks, the muscle memory there with him even if he wasn’t sure why he even learned this let alone anything else). 

There was a first aid kit in the staff room he swiped, before he snuck off towards the bathroom to tend to his back. It was then he realized how hard it was going to be to bandage and clean his back on his own, but… he knew he had to do it. Because he was utterly alone.


That evening, with his wounds bandaged and a new jacket on his back, J left the sleepy Romanian town for greener pastures. It was a somber affair, with his only goodbyes being a quick stop at the hospital to thank Crina and the other nurses for their aid. 

“Stay safe, J,” Crina had said, her soft hands clutching his own, blissfully unaware that less than a day ago they had been used to fight a monster. “Okay? And keep hope. No one out there is truly alone, even if you do not find those you used to know, you can always forge new relationships. Take care.”

J took those words to heart, if only because he had very little else to keep him going, to keep him grounded. He didn’t have much at all. Just the single backpack of supplies and some money, but he knew he had to leave. Perhaps, out there, outside of this cursed town, he would find answers.

The whole world was at his fingertips, whether or not it cared about his forgotten memories.