Ophelia's Shadow

Chapter One.

The night was a living thing. It breathed in time with the invisible creature that was the world's soul. The moon was a wide open eye, watching the crouching night with a luminescent stare. Did it know the night was doomed to die? To be reborn? Did it know it's light came from its sister sun, the sister it fled from every morning? Did it really give a shit?

Small minds moved rapidly through the night. Some with fear, for they could not understand the monster night. Some moved with the peace of mind only the ignorant could possess. One moved with confidence. He knew the night and the dangers, and still he came out into the midnight urban playground. To own the night like this spoke of strength, or of a mad game of tease the nightbeast.

Ani chucked back another swig of nasty tasting brew. His partially numbed lips sloshed onto the brown paper bag that held the bottle. He grinned and belched happily. It didn't matter how much of this stuff he drank, he could always have a bit more.. It never dragged him back from the edge of madness, but it sure was fun! His blood raced through his veins faster than crabs through a whorehouse and all of his nerves tingled from the boost. Alcohol couldn't do for a body what Verve could. Verve, the only pop with four times the regulated amounts of caffiene and sugar. It was so bad for you it could only be bought on the black market. Just the way Ani liked his carbonated beverages, illegal.

He had been wandering aimlessly all night. Just glad to get away from the flophouse for a bit. Oh yeah...and away from Everwalker and his ways. Not only did Walker not know the basics of being civilized (like NOT eating the last piece of pizza in the fridge when it's got somebody's name written on it in ketcup), but he also had a mission. Ani shuddered. There were only two types of people that scared him. [you lie] Women that wanted to marry you, and anyone who is determined to reach a goal no matter the obstacle. Too often they were one in the same. [what about us?] Ani ignored the voices. [don't we scare you?] They always tried to catch his attention with thier silibant whispers. If he acknowledged them...[look at us!] Then he would be crazy. Ani shook his head and grinned hugely. 'I'm not crazy.' He whispered to the amber streetlight. [no you're not. you're just...special. he he he] A private joke.

Ani ran his nimble fingers through his long, black hair and winced when it hit a tangle. The light reflected off of a silver ankh he wore in his right ear. Kind of another joke. One he'd have to explain later. He heard an argument up the street and returned to the world around him.

"I don't care WHAT you tell them, Franco! Tell them I'm in the dressing room changing." She was a candle burning brigthly. Ani kept his pace slow as he walked towards her, drawn like a moth to the flame. Her shimmering back length hair was red. Not red like blood, but red like fire's passion. [temptress] She was wearing black leather boots up to her knees and a skirt that was just barely modest. Her bosom was tightly bound in a leather bodice tied with red ribbons. Crystals and silver danced and sparkled from every ornament on her person. She was...really pissed off.

"b-but Boss! Yer parents are on the way. You'll lose the club if you blow this party off." The mucslebound bouncer pleaded.

"They can try! I own this place. Not them! I'll be damned if I'm gonna let them drag me off to another stupid dinner for thier stupid Corporation! G'nite!" Ani swallowed hard as she stormed down the sidewalk towards him. He resisted the urge to hide in one of the shadowy doorways. Passing this chick on the street might be his only chance to ever get near her. [what are you going to do? jump her?] He could only hope she would look at him as she walked by. He wanted badly to know what colour her eyes were. [eyes of the dead?] As he watched, entranced by the way her hips swayed, he noticed a limosine dark as a murderer's heart turn the corner and park in front of the club. She turned and caght glimpse of the car.

Ani gasped as strong hands pulled him into one of those shadowed doorways and hot lips pressed against his own. She was shorter than he had originally thought, she had to go on tip toes to reach his mouth. [was she desperate? or blind?] He cupped her leather bound cheeks in his hands and pulled her towards him. Might as well enjoy the stroke of luck that fooled her into thinking he was desireable. [blind. had to be] She broke contact and nibbled along his neck [vampire?] as he licked her ear, playing with the intricate earrings that pierced its fleshy softness. "Please play along." She whispered. "I don't want them to find me." [THEM! was it them? which them?] He swallowed uneasily. He supposed most parents wouldn't suspect it was thier daughter tongue tangling with a disreputable fellow in a dark alcove. Good cover. He sure wasn't going to fight it.

"uh..." He started when she kissed him hard. Okay. No questions, he could live with that. He heard a car door slam shut. [them? yoo hoo, he's over here] It was becoming...difficult to concentrate on anything but the firey bundle in his arms. Hopefully her man at the door would feed her folks some line. Ani wasn't sure he ever wanted this to end. [it will end. she's too good for you freak] She bit his lower lip just as Ani felt a strong hand grab his shoulder. He yelped in surprise then was airborne. He hit the sidewalk hard and lay there, fascinated by the little explosions of light that danced in front of him. They were like malicious little fairies. He could hear her struggling with the bruiser who had tossed him.

"I'm not going!" *grunt* "Let me GO Bernard!"

"I am sorry miss, but..." Ani's vision cleared enough for him to make out a great hulk of a man, at least as big as Walker, dragging his fireball by her wrists. He tried to stand up and was casually kicked aside by the steroid munching bruiser. Ani's head hit against the brick wall and little fairies serenaded him once again.

"Leave him alone! He didn't know! BERNARD!!!" Ani felt another sharp kick catch him in the head and heavy darkness settled over his mind.

Wet. Rain. Rain? Ani opened his eyes slowly and painfully. It always took him a bit longer to heal from head wounds. He heard a soft tinkling sound and felt warm wetness splash against his hand. He looked beside him and saw a bum pissing against the brick wall.

"Fuck man! Watch where you're aiming!" He jumped up and wiped his face. "Fucking prick!" [he he he] "Who asked you? Shut up! I've had enough of you too!" The bum backed up uneasily as the wierd guy started yelling at himself. Now that he was awake and eyes open, the bum couldn't help but regret his actions. This guy looked crazy. Ani's long black hair was matted and loose from it's ponytail. He was thin but muscular in tight black jeans and a leather jacket that looked like it had spent many nights sleeping on cement. But it was his eyes...one brown and one bright blue that wiggled the worm of fear deep the belly of the bum. Didn't seem natural, but it did seem familiar.

"What the fuck are you looking at? Yah done pissing? Then get the HELL outta here!" Ani glared at the guy. [kill him.]

"Are you that rock guy? Marilyn Man..."

"Get the FUCK out of my FACE!!!" That was it. He had to leave or he'd have this guy's blood on his hands. [do it. he'd do it to you.] "Shut UP!" He took off at a run down the street. Home, some sleep, forget about the chick. Sure he could be a hero and try to find her, but...it was like a personal thing between her and her folks. Besides he wasn't a hero. Just some guy who got lucky enough to cop a feel in a doorway. [some luck.]

The Flophouse, as Ani affectionately called his apartment complex, was built in the fiftes or sixties and had never had any repairs done since. The paint had long since turned a dirty grey by the passing of the traffic and the weathering of the elements. Windows covered with aluminium were the complex' current trend. Handy to keep the sun out and to keep the heat in. Ani walked through the open security doors, might as well keep them open as they were always broken, and jogged up three flights of stairs to his floor. The smell of mildew hit his sensitive nostrils as he squelched down the carpeted hall. There had been a sewage backup about three months ago and the carpets had never been dried. He didn't mind. The mildew covered up some of the more *unpleasant* odours associated with hardcore junkies. The number had been ripped off of his door again, but he was able to find it by trying all the doorknobs. He was the only person on his floor who bothered locking his door. Of course, he had lost the key months ago.

He wrapped his long fingers around the knob and concentrated. He could see the tumblers, feel them like they were a part of his body. With a little flexing of his mind the lock opened and he entered the apartment. Useful gift that one. If he were a thief he could really clean house.

The TV was on and his living room was littered with empty pizza boxes and finished puzzles and mind teasers. Looked like Walker managed to keep himself busy. Speak of the devil...Walker was squatting on the floor in front of the TV watching Jepordy. Ani studied him, curious as always what made his friend tick. The guy was about six four and built like a brick shithouse. He was easily three time more muscular than Ani and was a natural when it came to bustin' heads. He had shoulder length wild white hair and a beard and moustache. It was weird, because he wasn't an albino. His bod was pretty hairy too. Ani had tried to educate him about shaving. Walker didn't go for it. Can't hurt a guy for trying tho'. Walker's blue eyes were always flicking back and forth, taking in his surroundings, like a wild beast in a strange environment. Of course, he had been a beast only a year ago. His nails were getting a bit longish again, but Ani wasn't going to try cutting them. Just about lost his manhood last time.

"Hey Walker! How's it going?" Walker reached over and turned off the TV. Ani noticed he was wearing his boots and jacket. He pushed Ani through the door and started walking down the hall.

"We have job. Target vulnerable. Go now." Ani stared then caught up to him.

"Yeah well, doesn't THAT figure. Just when I need a shower too."

"Yes." Walker agreed. "Ani smell like piss."

"Thanks. I needed that."

Luna hated parties. Not the parties SHE threw of course, but those pretentious 'I'll kiss your ass if you kiss mine' ones. The politcal games. The watchful eyes of superiors and the feverish maneuverings of inferiors. The crappy food and wussy drinks. She turned her nose up at another tray of impaled endangered animal bits. Her fingers played with her crystals and she mumbled to herself. It always worked. Just pretend you were the schizo daughter and most people left you alone.

Sometimes she did hear voices, and sometimes she knew people she had never met, but there was no way she would ever tell anyone about it. She wasn't crazy, she just talked to dead people. That was it. She had talked to a couple of occultists she knew, and as far as they could tell, she was a medium of some sort. That was cool with her, but she knew her parents would freak. 'Hi mom. I can talk to dead people.' 'omigod! Quick put that girl on drugs and stick her in the looney bin!'. Right. As if.

"Luna darling." Speaking of freaks, her mom took her arm and led her towards the action. "I want you to meet Mr.Blah blah blah. He's recently become the head of blah blah blah." Luna just tuned out the boring bits. She didn't care. The only reason she was being introduced to this guy was to hopefully snag him as a hubby. That way her parents could control him or use him to advance thier own positions. Just because Luna wasn't working in thier company (Lord knows the offers didn't stop) didn't mean she was a stupid little pawn. She just didn't want to play thier game.

"Nice to meet you..." She muttered in a distracted way, ignoring the sharp elbow to her ribs. Sorry mom! I don't feel like being normal tonight.

"A pleasure Miss Fox. Your father has been telling me what a talented entertainer you are. Have you signed any contracts yet?" Luna shot a glare in her father's direction. She hated that man. He wasn't her real father, just some guy her mother had married. Luna had found out from overhearing a fight between her parents one night. So he knew and she knew they weren't blood, and neither really felt an obligation towards each other. For him to mention her singing meant he really wanted her to hit it off with this guy. Luna grinned.

"No. I don't make recordings. Just live stuff at my club." She didn't like the gleam in this guy's eyes. It made her feel...like prey. What a strange thought. She knew it came from somebody else in her, that somebody that always seemed to know more than her. Which somebody was a different matter.

"I'd like to see you perform sometime." Time to get rid of this freak. Her parents' wrath would descend on her, but she didn't care.

"I don't think so. You couldn't get in the club. We don't let non members in." Did this guy not know rude when he heard it? He took her hand in his.

"A private performance then?" She jerked her hand back and held it to her chest.

"No. I don't sing for jerks. Excuse me." She turned and pushed her way past her sputtering mother trying not to hear them apologizing for her behaviour. Hell, if she wasn't apologetic, why should they be? She needed some air and a place they wouldn't find her for a while. She pushed past strangers in thier evening wear smoking thier expensive cigarettes and drinking thier fancy drinks until she reached the doors leading to a balcony. The doors were closed which meant there wouldn't be anybody else out there. Perfect place to hide.

Ani scratched his nose idly. Walker was scouting out the grounds and Ani's job was to stay put. Easy for him to say. Ani didn't like sitting around. Too much of a chance *they* might find him. He didn't know who *they* were, but the voices always said *they* would get him. He had seen *them* on several occasions. *they* were vaguely humanoid, like fucked up dog people. *they*'re eyes glowed green in the night and *they*'re fingers were clawed and grasping. He could hear *them* calling to him when he walked the night. Whispers that sent chills down his spine and caused his balls to suck close to his body in fear. *they* had been watching him ever since he was a kid, and no one ever believed him. They had all sorts of names for it. Shizophrenia, Paranoid delusional, genetic disorder. No matter how you sliced it, he was crazy. He had heard rumours his parents were related. Like closely related. Like brother and sister. It creeped him out. He sighed and fiddled with a buckle on his jacket. At least the voices in his head were laying low right now.

Ani stood and paced a bit, looking at the magnificent roses in the bed underneath the balcony. He grinned and unzipped his fly. Just marking territory. Yeah that was it. Not like the evil bastard that owned this place didn't deserve it. He sighed as he relieved himself, kind of spraying the stream back and forth to make sure he got full coverage. Ani smiled at the thought of the bastard leaning real close to sniff his prize flowers tomorrow.

"Uh, excuuuse me." Ani jerked in surprise and nearly caught himself as he hurriedly zipped up. He looked up and saw...pushed up tits and fiery red hair! She was wearing a slick evening gown with her leather bodice laced up over it. Crystals still decorated every part of her.

"You!" They exclaimed. Ani pointed a finger at her, his jaw dropping open in amazement.

"You look great!"

"You were taking a leak in the garden?"

"Yeah well..."

"Uh thanks..." They stared at each other again. Luna spoke first.

"What are you *doing* here?"

"I like to sneak into rich guy's gardens and water thier flowers. I'm like a gardener or something." Luna gave him a look.

"Uh-huh. What's your name anyways? I never did get it..." She blushed slightly thinking of how they had met. She normally wasn't like that but...it had been great!

"What's yours?" Ani shot back.

"Luna Fox. I own the Den. Y'know that nightclub."

"Yeah. I'm Anibus, but people call me Ani."

"Shouldn't that be Anubis?" Ani sighed deeply. Why did they always ask?

"No. It's Anibus. I'm like a fucked up version. My gaurdians named me." Luna heard someone calling her name from inside. It sounded like her mother.

"Look I have to go. I don't want you to get caught. Could I get your number Ani?" Ani blinked. His number? Oh yeah. It *was* kinda dark. She probably couldn't see him very well. Pretty women did NOT ask for his number. Oh well, she'd find out eventually, might as well humour her for now. He pulled out a matchbook and scribbled his phone number on the inside of the cover.

She caught it as he tossed it to her and tucked it in the bosom of her dress. "Thanks." She blew a kiss at him and walked out of his line of vision. "I'm coming!" He heard her call. A hand on his back nearly made him scream in surprise. Walker.

"Jeez Walker! You nearly scared me to death."

"All inside. Walker, Ani go in soon." One of these days Ani was going to have to teach Walker about the finer points of english. Like pronouns.

"Okay. But..."

"Not hurt woman with fire hair?"


Luna sighed the long suffering, melodramatic sigh of an experienced actress. If big company parties were bad, then these exclusive smaller parties were worse. Her mother had ushered her into this room with a dozen people Luna didn't know (except for the jerk she had brushed off earlier) and had left, leaving Luna alone. Lots of small talk was happening and not much else. She noticed several of the guys in suits pairing off with younger women and men. Man! If this was some lame attempt at getting her to participate in an orgy she was going to KILL her mother!

"You look out of place, Miss Fox." Oh great. Jerk decided to 'help' her out. Sure. Right. Uh-huh.

"Actually I was just going to powder my nose. Excuse me." She tried to brush past him but he caught her arm in an iron grip. Gads! He had nails. "You're *hurting* me." She snarled at him.

"Don't leave yet, pet. I want to get to know you better." There was something about his eyes...Luna felt danger all around her now. Whether it was her own instincts or those of the dead she channelled she couldn't tell, but it was definately there.

"Let me go you Jerk!" He pulled her close to him and twisted her arm behind her back. She could feel herself being lifted up to his face by the arm and bit her lip to stop from whimpering. As if she would give him the satisfaction.

"Sweet little Luna. Tonight is the night you join the Company." She heard a scream from within the room. It was joined by another then another. She felt something sharp dig into the soft flesh of her neck then a scream escaped from her lips as well.

The partygoers smiled at each other knowingly as the first scream ripped through the night. The young were always so rebellious. There was laughter and the party continued. No one was paying any attention to the shadows that were growing larger behind the tall stained glass window that dominated the room.

The window shattered into a million slivers of brilliantly hued glass as two large figures came hurtling through the window. Screams of hysteria followed by sprays of gore filled the room as the furred demons ripped through undead flesh. The larger, his white fur stained with crimson, leapt into the largest knot of fang baring guests and was buried by their bodies. The smaller, blood hardly showing on his ebony fur, dodged another blow. The bloodsuckers were regrouping and the element of surprise was wearing thin.

Luna heard the screams from the other room and wondered briefly if she wasn't hallucinating. The grip on her arm loosened and she fell to the ground, landing on her side. Warm wetness ran down her throat to drip onto the rich carpet.

It was probably impossible to remove. That made her happy.

She grunted as feet dug into her back and Jerk slammed into the floor. There was some black dogman wrestling on him. On her too. It's muzzle was drenched in saliva and blood, but it seemed familiar. The image was a nail in her head, it hurt to think about it but it was definately there.

She felt bile rise in her throat when Jerk's head was ripped from it's neck, bathing the walls and rug with it's crimson spray. The kicking of his legs across her thighs made her want to scream again. With a supreme effort she wrenched herself out from beneath him.

She was dizzy. The black dogman leaned over her and she could feel his hot breath wafting over her flesh. She was too scared to even move. A pink tongue lolled out of one side of his mouth as he spoke in a language she knew she should be able to understand.

"Boshoi gal." She looked into his eyes...one blue and one brown...and his clawed hand reached down her top and rooted around in her bra. Her chest rose pressing her breast against his hairy arm as she inhaled to scream. There was a sharp pain and darkness descended.

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