Kevin Landers recognized the black, curly-haired head of his friend, who was slumped at the corner desk. He walked over to find out what was going on. “Something wrong, Dave?”
Dave Miller raised his tanned face. “Oh, hey, Kevin. I was just reminiscing about an old friend. Today’s the anniversary of his disappearance.”
Kevin grabbed a nearby chair and rolled it over next to Dave. “That would’ve been just before you moved to Sydney. Is that right?”
Dave had been quiet and reserved when he’d started work at the firm, but he and Kevin had hit it off early when they’d discovered a common interest in surf lifesaving. Their friendship then developed further when they went to Queensland for a week to compete in some of the competitions over the summer months. By the time they returned they were close mates.
Dave nodded and turned to stare out the window. “Yeah.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” Kevin put a hand on Dave’s forearm. “I’m a good listener.”
Dave’s smile was weak, but Kevin sensed that the offer had made a difference. “There’s not a lot to talk about. Scott was a good friend. He was there one day and gone the next. The police never found him — he just vanished.”
A cough had them spinning in their chairs. Their boss was standing behind them with his arms crossed and a raised eyebrow. “Are you two going to get any work done today, or should I just write it off.”
“Fair go, Peter. Dave’s got–”
“It’s okay, Kevin.” Dave glanced up at Peter Foreseque. “Sorry, Peter. I’ll get back to the reports straight away.”
Peter gave him a half smile. “If something’s bothering you, you can come and see me. But we really need those reports finished today, if at all possible.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll have them done.”
Kevin frowned as Peter returned to his office. “He could’ve asked what was going on.”
“He did, in his own way. There really isn’t much to talk about, and getting onto these reports just might be what I need to distract me.” Dave smiled. “Thanks, though, for coming over. I really appreciate it.”
Kevin grinned and stood up. “No problems, mate. If you want me, just call. In the meantime, I should get back to my own work.” He paused before heading off. “A night out might help, too. Why don’t we go see a movie tonight?”
“Okay, that sounds great.” Kevin could see the relief in Dave’s eyes. “We can work out what we’ll see at lunch time.”
Kevin glanced back as he was returning to his desk, and was happy that Dave was back at work. Whatever mood he had been in appeared to have gone. Unfortunately, by not watching where he was going, Kevin knocked over someone who was getting up from a desk.
“Sorry, Jake. I wasn’t looking where I was going.”
The lanky blond was smiling when he picked himself up from the floor. “It’s not the way I would prefer to have contact with you, but I’ll take what I can get.”
Kevin rolled his eyes. “Are you still going on about that? I’ve told you, I’m not like that.”
“I’m allowed to dream, though, aren’t I?” Jake brushed himself off and sighed. “You’ll remember to let me know if you ever want to try something different, won’t you?”
Kevin couldn’t keep the smile from his face. Jake had been flirting with him ever since starting at the office three months prior. It was always harmless and, after the initial shock, Kevin found it mildly flattering, though he had no interest in the guy. He had his eye on one of the female analysts in the company. “Don’t hold your breath, Jake, because you know it’s not going to happen.”
Jake shook his head sadly. “Such a waste. Oh, well, back to work, I suppose.”
* * *
“Are you ready?” Kevin asked.
Dave looked up from his desk. “I’ll be two minutes. I just have to email this off and then shut everything down.”
Kevin glanced around. He frowned slightly when he saw Jake approaching.
“Kevin! Are you joining us for Friday night drinks? There’s a bunch of us heading out now.”
“Sorry, Jake, but Dave and I have already made plans.” Kevin crossed his fingers that Dave wouldn’t change his mind. Kevin's plan was for the two of them to have a quiet drink and a bite to eat somewhere, before heading to the cinema. Kevin wanted to get the story on Scott, since it would be the first significant piece of Dave’s pre-Sydney history he had extracted. There was a new monster movie that Kevin was keen to see, and Dave was happy to go along with that suggestion. Since it was a casual dress day, neither guy needed to change. Kevin was wearing a short sleeved shirt and jeans, while Dave was in a loose fitting T-shirt and slacks.
“Dave?” Jake glanced at the nameplate on the desk and then smiled down at the shorter guy. “G’day, Dave. I’m Jake. I’ve seen you around, but I haven’t had a chance to say hello.”
Dave glanced up. “Hi, Jake. Sorry, I just need to finish this and then I’ll be with you.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“That’s okay,” Dave said as he returned his attention to the computer screen.
Jake turned back to Kevin. “How about joining us for just one drink? It won’t take long, and then you two guys can go off and do your own thing.” He winked.
Kevin was happy that Dave was busy or he may have asked what the wink was all about. He wasn’t ready to explain to Dave his odd relationship with Jake, and certainly not in front of Jake.
“Done!” Dave turned the monitor off and rose to his feet. “Did I hear someone talking about drinks?”
“There’s a bunch of us from accounts heading out now. Would you like to join us?” Jake asked.
Dave raised an eyebrow at Kevin, who tried to signal with his expression that he didn’t want to go, but Dave either misunderstood or, more likely, decided to be perverse. “Sure. Kevin and I don’t have any urgent plans, so that sounds like a great idea.”
The three guys headed towards the lifts.
“We can’t stay for long, though,” Kevin said. “We’re going to a movie tonight.”
Jake grinned. “That sounds like a good idea. Do you mind if I tag along?”
“Ah… I’m not sure,” Kevin said, while trying to work out how to politely refuse.
“Do you like horror movies?” Dave asked.
Jake shuddered. “No way. I get nightmares after them, so I avoid them as much as I can.”
“Sorry, Jake, maybe next time, then,” Kevin said, secretly relieved.
* * *
“You don’t talk a lot about your past,” Kevin said, returning to the topic that had arisen that morning.
Dave shrugged as he glanced across the small table before returning his attention to the pizza in front of him. “There’s not a lot to talk about. You already know that I grew up in Byron Bay and lived there until about a year ago.”
“You left after your friend disappeared?”
“Yeah… Scott.” Dave opened his mouth again, as if to say more, but he took a bite of pizza instead.
“What made you decide to come to Sydney?”
Dave’s eyes unfocused. “I was running away, I suppose. I couldn’t stand the look I saw in those around me. The sympathy got to be too much, but it was the accusations I saw that hurt the most. Despite the police saying there were no clues, some people seemed to think I had to have known what had happened, since I was so close to Scott. He got me interested in surf lifesaving. Before then, I was a slob, rarely exercising. He got me off my backside and got me trained into something resembling a fit state.”
“Do you have any idea as to what happened?”
Dave dropped his gaze to the table and shook his head. “No. One night he just disappeared. No trace at all. His room was untouched. His car was still in its spot. It was as if he stepped out that night — and never came back.” A shudder went through his frame.
Kevin reached over and took hold of Dave’s forearm. “I’m sorry. I won’t pry any more.”
Dave looked up and gave Kevin a grateful smile. “Thanks, mate. I appreciate you being here tonight, but I really don’t want to talk about it.” He waited until Kevin squeezed his arm once and then let go. “Now, how about we finish up and go see this movie you’re so keen on.”
* * *
The crowd of mainly young people streamed out of the cinema. Kevin and Dave let themselves be carried along until they could work their way out to the edge of the mob.
“What did you think of it?” Kevin asked.
Dave shrugged. “It was okay, I suppose. I found it unrealistic, but that’s just me.”
“Unrealistic? Of course it’s unrealistic. Horror movies aren’t supposed to be real.”
“Why not? There are enough horror stories in the world today without having to make things up. Things like that movie just leave me cold.”
The two guys strolled north along George Street.
“Didn’t you get a shiver the way the vampire ripped out the guy’s throat?” Kevin asked.
“Nah. Fake blood spurting everywhere just doesn’t chill me. Vampires are so stupid, too. The idea of having to drink blood to live just doesn’t hold water. There’s not enough nutrients in it to sustain someone human-sized.”
The two guys turned into an alley as they took a shortcut to the office. Kevin had left his car there and had offered to drive Dave home after the movie.
Kevin laughed. “You need to learn to suspend your disbelief, mate. Still, you have to admit the transformation into the werewolf was well done. The erupting muscles and hair were pretty impressive.”
“Not really. It was nothing at all like a real transformation.” Dave’s voice sounded odd.
Kevin turned to ask him what he meant, but the words died in his throat. It wasn’t Dave he saw in the dim light that filtered from the main street, though the clothes remained the same. It was another face that he was intimately familiar with that he saw instead: his own.
A sense of horror rose through Kevin as he saw the figure smile his own smile: a twist of the lips that was a cruel pretence at wryness. Kevin took an involuntary step back as the creature moved towards him.
The figure’s right hand shot forward and seized Kevin’s throat. A scream of horror was stifled as Kevin felt himself being drained through that grip. His body stopped responding and went numb, as if the very essence was being sucked from it.
“You don’t understand, Kevin, but I love you. I only do this to those I love — I’d die if I didn’t.” The figure formerly known as Dave watched compassionately as the sentience in Kevin’s eyes died moments before his flesh melted away, leaving behind only a set of clothes.
The duplicate Kevin quickly undressed as he assumed his new physical identity. His old clothing no longer fit him, as the original Kevin had been both taller and wider than Dave. While he changed, he spoke to the new memories that he had absorbed.
“You’re alive within me, Kevin. Don’t worry — the others will keep you company.”
The new Kevin smiled as he recalled how fortunate he had been to stumble across the only way to survive. As far as he knew, he was the last of his kind. All the others he had heard about had gone insane from the multitude of conflicting personalities they had absorbed. By taking only someone he loved, and only once a year, he had maintained his sanity through the centuries.
A smile appeared as a recent memory surfaced. “Jake? Now that’s intriguing. Maybe I’ll stick around. This could be Jake’s lucky year, once he learns that Kevin has changed his mind.”
He tossed his old clothing into a nearby dumpster and walked away, whistling. A new start was always an interesting time.
Copyright Notice — Copyright © October 2007 by Graeme.
The author copyrights this story and retains all rights. This work may not be duplicated in any form — physical, electronic, audio, or otherwise — without the author's expressed permission. All applicable copyright laws apply.
Disclaimer: All individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.
I would like to thank Rain from The Mail Crew for editing this story for me. I can thoroughly recommend their website to all teenagers who are gay, lesbian, bi or not sure.