Antonio started to pack his bags.
I could not stand to see my best friend from high school leave after such a short stay.
Antonio is an old friend of mine from Newcrest High. We were both in the nerdy clique of students who just avoided bullies and played fantasy card games. Our friends called us “the twins” since we looked so much alike, but I dyed my hair blonde as soon as I got out of high school. I offered my former classmate a space to stay in my house for a week. It was sad to hear that he lost his job, girlfriend, and home all at the same time. I wanted him to stay longer, but he insisted on leaving as he didn’t want to be a burden in my house.
“There is still hope, Tony.” I confront my friend in the backyard who was sorting the things that he needed to sell or pack. “You should just join my church. We’re given a stipend to hunt vampires every month! I can teach you everything there is to know.”
“For the last time, vampires aren’t real, Byron.” my skeptical best friend tells me while rubbing his forehead. “As much as I am tempted to join your church for the money, I don’t really want to associate myself with any kind of organization. And why are you dressed like that?”
“This is my service garb. All vampire hunters like me wear it on missions, like the one I have tonight. It protects me from the evil forces of the undead.”
“Whatever. You should lay off the vampire and zombie movies for a while.”
Antonio has always been the skeptic in our group of friends. It has always been hard to persuade him. I guess some things don’t change.
“So what now then?” I speak up. “The last thing that I want to happen to you is to be penniless on the streets. I’ve got plenty of room here in my home, and I’ve never seen Mr. Chubbles this happy before!” I attempt to persuade him to stay again. My cat, Mr. Chubbles has always been a grumpy little thing, but it seems to have taken a liking to Antonio.
Antonio sighs. “Byron, I know that it’s only been a brief time, but I have to leave. Willow Creek has been unkind to me, and I heard that there are more opportunities in Newcrest. A new life in Newcrest, that’s what they say.” I see a faint smile form on his face.
Another reason to persuade him to stay. “Newcrest is crawling with vampires and other supernaturals. You might not believe me, but trust me. I’ve seen them with my own eyes.”
“I’ll believe in those things you’ve seen until I’ve seen them myself.” Antonio paused. “You know me.” There was a look in his eyes that told me that he’s serious about leaving and starting a new life. I guess I should just let him go.
“All right.” I say with resignation and nod. “But if you ever need help, you can always come back here. The Love of the Llama Almighty welcomes anyone in His arms.” I raise my arms for a hug, and he returns it.
“See you around, bro.” Antonio addresses me with an old nickname.
“Take care, bro.” As soon as I finish hugging him, the taxi driver comes and helps Antonio load his things into the cab.
That was the last time I ever saw him.
The vampire on the other line agreed to meet me. Sending him that picture of his subordinate getting into another vampire’s limousine must have been what convinced him. The Guild has informants everywhere, thankfully. I waited in the small park near the vampire’s hideout. I am not afraid. I’ve dealt with vampires like Dr. de Guzman before. Years of being in the Guild has hardened my senses. We were taught the most important traits when hunting vampires: faith, bravery, and the most important one of all, alert–
I almost leap in surprise as I didn’t expect that vampire to manifest itself all of a sudden. I try to reach for my crossbow, but the vampire speaks.
“Well now, I didn’t expect guildspawn like you to become startled so easily.” it chuckles as I try to regain composure. Head Pastor Ramirez must be ashamed if he saw me like this.
“V-vampire!” I manage to say and try to look unfazed. “So! You have come for the information that you seek.”
The vampire yawns and stretches his arms. “I just got out of my coffin, human, and I haven’t drank anything yet. Make this quick or your blood will be my breakfast.” Bloodsucking fiend.
“You want to know where that limousine went, is that correct?”
“What else would I be here for?” the vampire speaks with arrogance. They always look down on other beings as if they were their servants. “Tell me where that limousine went, human, and I will agree to help you find the damned Pastor.”
Ex-Pastor Westfall must pay. Heresy is the greatest sin anyone can commit in our church. “I’ve got silver weapons on me, vampire.” I threaten it as I gesture towards the silver knife on my belt. “You’d better stay true to your word.”
“Are you implying that I dishonor deals made between gentlemen?” the vampire pretends to look offended. “If you think that I might betray you, you should watch out for your fellow humans, like that wretched Pastor of yours. How about becoming a ghoul? It has a lot of benefits, and you no longer have to associate yourself with your wretched kind.” The fact that he offered me to become a ghoul is insulting. Vampires can do that, and I want to stop it.
“Enough!” I get impatient as I give him the details. “The limousine went to this place somewhere in East Newcrest.” I bring out my phone to show the vampire the limousine’s route.
It just laughs as if it heard a hilarious joke.
“How stupid of me!” the vampire exclaims. “Of all the places in Newcrest, why didn’t I think of that?” I just look at the map’s destination: Remigio’s Reptiles and Oddities.
The vampire then rubs its eye. “We have a deal then. Oh, Antonio. I will finally be able to get you back from that old fool.”
The mention of that name made my eyes widen.
“Ah, so my hunch was right after all?” the vampire speaks condescendingly. “I thought that the Antonio in your mind was someone else, but I saw a hint. Then I knew that he is the same person I turned a few months ago!” it laughs.
“It can’t be.”
I freeze in place for almost a minute.
“My best friend…” I try to push away the possibility that the vampire in the photo is Antonio. I look at the photo again of the vampire’s subordinate getting into the limousine. I can’t see his face, but he is definitely wearing something I know he would wear.
This monstrosity in front of me must pay.
Forgetting my training as a hunter, I bring out my silver knife and attempt to slash the vampire in a blind rage.
“MONSTER!” I slash as the vampire seems to just phase through my attacks. “TURN HIM BACK!” I shout as the vampire regains a corporeal form again.
“Attacking with blind rage will not do you any good, hunterling. I was expecting to meet someone more mature, but I seem to have overestimated you since I have brought with me my whole arsenal.” the vampire says with a cocky grin.
“ANSWER ME!” I shout again and perform a thrust that he just dodges with ease. “WHY DID YOU TURN HIM INTO A MONSTER?”
“A monster? No, no, my dear hunterling. He has become something above humans, that’s all. As my protege, he has fully accepted what he has become. He now enjoys many benefits, like immortality, increased physical prowess, and the ability to detect plasma fruit cans within a hundred meter radius.” the vampire speaks as he dodges another slash.
“HE WAS MY BEST FRIEND!” I shout and slash again, but he just phases through the attack like a ghost. “HE WAS GOING TO BECOME A DOCTOR!”
I start to feel tears clouding my eyes. “I swore to protect everyone from abominations like you. But to hear that my best friend is now a vampire is just–” Before I could even continue speaking, I feel the vampire kick my stomach. I stagger back and drop my knife in the process.
“Calm down, hunterling. I have no time for games. Nothing will happen if you just attack me.” I breathe heavily as I see that the vampire has a point. “How about an addendum to our agreement? Help me track down Antonio, and maybe you can persuade him to give up his vampirism.” I heard that there is no cure for vampirism, but anything is possible in the supernatural world. I just nod and agree to help the vampire.
“Excellent! So humans like you can be reasonable after all.” the vampire laughs as I wipe away my tears. However, helping him will give me the chance to meet Antonio again. “We shall rendezvous at the spot you pointed out on the map in an hour. You might need to bring better weapons, hunterling.” It gestures towards the silver knife I dropped.
An odd voice then calls out from the darkness.
“DOCTOR! KIMCHI PREPARE NOW!”
“I’LL BE RIGHT THERE, PARK!” the vampire shouts back. It has human servants? “If you excuse me, hunterling. I have a few things to prepare myself.” the vampire says as it runs back to its hideout.
It was only a slight glow, but there was something following the vampire, almost unseen. Perhaps it was the one helping him dodge my attacks. The vampire suddenly stops and calls back to me.
“If you told me that we were going to rescue your boyfriend, our talk would have been a more pleasant one!” the vampire laughs as I just blush.
“BEST FRIEND! HE’S MY BEST FRIEND!” I shout back as I head towards the supply cache of Guild weapons buried near a tree. As I pick up the silver knife I dropped, I receive a text message from an unknown number.
h e l pp..