“Before I continue, I want to give you this,” I say to them as I scrummage through the mess, searching for the paper. I pull it out, smoothing the edges with the palm of my hand. But no matter how hard I press, the wrinkles will never fade.
“What is this?” they ask, taking the card as I knew they would.
“Remember in sixth grade when you wrote for the school’s literary journal?”
“Yes. I was excited when my submission made it in. Then completely ruined when my next one didn’t make it. I never tried to submit one again.”
“Yes, well, don’t give in so quickly next time. I can’t make any guarantees that you’ll win, but you’ll feel better knowing you tried even if you failed. Because it is better to try and fail than to not try at all. And while we are at it, make sure to thank at least one English teacher of yours. Especially the one who encouraged you to maintain your long defunct blog.”
I don’t think they heard me. Their eyes hungrily glue themselves to the paper, taking in every word and wondering in they’ll ever be good enough.
The hand sailed through the glass, shattering it. He quickly unlatched the feeble lock, only there to bolster its appearance as a broad muscled guardsman, then flung the cabinet door clear off its hinges.
“Stop! Thief!” A voice called out. He turned around, gripping the vial tightly in his protected hand. It was the Professor, a spindly little ghoul with thick tufts of white hair poking above liver-spotted ears. The Professor put up a shaky fist, trying to threaten him with all the strength he could muster.
He stepped closer to him, his lips curling into a snarl. “You think you can stop me? Look at me! Look at what you’ve done!”
The Professor quivered, cringing as the man peeled away his hood, revealing a prickly mane of porcupine spines and devilish horns poking where the ears should be. “I-I warned you. I warned all of you. Now leave it. It is not ready for you. It is not ready for any of you.”
“Who are you to get to decide that?” he growled, brandishing his sharp fangs. “Who are you to decide anything?”
It was not fair, taking his anger out on the old man. But he thought of Angel, sitting trapped in a glass house with glass walls and a glass door sealed shut, never allowed out into an air that poisoned the skin, turning it into something freakish, yet always allowed to watch. Everyday he came to her, everyday he pressed his paw onto the frame hoping it would break through and he could touch her again. What a fool he had been, going outside when they said something had happened, something the Professor had done and was so desperately trying to fix.
In his hand he clenched the only thing that might fix him; the only thing that might bring him back to his Angel.
The Professor, wrapped in the plastic covering meant to protect him, moved to block the doorway. “You are not leaving with that. I do not know if it even works, but we do not have more of it. Please, if you care at all, leave it so that others may be saved too.”
But he did not care about the others. He only cared about getting back to his Angel. So, he pushed the Professor out of the way, ripping the plastic covering above his wrist and exposing him to the infection that changed him. The Professor screamed, his terror ringing throughout the building as the skin began to change. The Thief ran, shoving the vial into his trench coat, and jumped the stairs, four at a time. Footsteps echoed along the tiled hall, chasing the scream before realizing they needed to chase him. Too late. He made it through the doors and out onto the empty roads where cars laid abandoned, streetlights dented, and all notable landmarks remained unrecognizable and destroyed.
The glass house was not far away; through the underbrush and past the lake it waited, its chimney smoking. The Thief smiled. Finally, he would be able to touch her, to kiss her, to hold her with all the love his heart possessed. For seven long years he has been searching and she has been waiting, her hand pressed against the other side of that wall, waiting to break through. He slowed, his run shifting to a walk so he could catch his breath. Should he take it now and surprise her? Or wait so she could see?
The vial dropped from his hand and rolled into the tall grass. From the edge of the wood her could see it. A large hole the size of a crater had obliterated the roof.
“Oh, Devon,” her voice hissed behind him, drooling with venom. “Oh, my Devon, you’re finally here! We do not have to wait anymore! We can be together, like this, like the deadly creatures that we are.”