California, 2009

“Alright, tomorrow,” Alec called, slapping the top of his friend’s beat-up sedan as he jumped out, the chill of a fall evening greeting him.

                Practice had run late, though he knew his parents wouldn’t mind. He’d sent a message earlier warning them, though he hadn’t received a reply. He adjusted the heavy sports bag on his shoulder as he began trekking up the long path to his front door, the chill not enough to eradicate the slight waft of sweat-soaked football equipment inside.

                He’d leave the bag in the laundry, the contents to be washed in the morning.

                The jagged sound of his friend’s car faded as his foot fell on the concrete step halfway up the path, the lingering silence settling against his skin uneasily, the hairs on his arms standing on end. He paused, casting an uneasy eye across the darkened houses around him. Houses from which the sounds of dinners prepared and children playing usually sounded at this hour. Only stillness greeted him, without even the skittering of the local cats.

                Alec swallowed hard, taking a long breath in, letting it out slowly as he turned his eyes to his own home once more. The modern two story wasn’t anything unusual for the area, nor was the grey SUV, a couple of years old, but well maintained, that sat in the driveway. Inside the garage he knew a motorcycle sat. His father’s. Older, but treasured, his father’s prize possession, amongst his tools and Alec’s sibling’s push bikes and discarded toys.

                It looked like it always did, but silent, as though he’d arrived home in the little hours and not at eight thirty.

                Alec drew another long breath, forcing his feet forward. He was being paranoid. They were normal. Nothing worthy of notice. All those stories his mother had told with such serious black eyes were nothing to them. Fables. He had nothing to worry about.

                The jangle of keys as he drew them from his pocket had him flinching, but he held his hand steady  as he guided the key into the lock, turning with slow deliberation until the harsh click and slide of the barrel echoed out.

                Deep breath in and out.

                He turned the knob and pushed the door inwards, the hollow sound of the stopper catching it before it could make contact with the wall bouncing around the foyer, up the carpeted stairs and away into the still house.

                “Mom?” he called tentatively, eyes scanning the shadows as he stepped lightly across the threshold. “Dad?”

                No response. No movement.

                Easing the bag off his shoulder he placed it silently on the floor by the door, stooping to retrieve the hand gun his mother kept in the umbrella bucket without looking as he did so.

                The release of the safety was a sharp pin of sound but he didn’t give himself leave to react as he tread lightly towards the family room on his left, keeping his back always to the wall. He moved through the room, slowly, scanning for any sign of disturbance and found none.

                Breathe in, breathe out.

                He moved on through to the dining room, the kitchen, empty, undisturbed. The study, laundry room, garage, all the same, his father’s bike still pristine, still present. No reason to think they’d gone anywhere.

                The stories his mother had told him about the hunters who so eagerly killed their kind grew louder in the back of his mind, alongside the basic defence training she’d forced upon him, upon his siblings, though he was the only one to exhibit any nephilim traits beyond the black of his eyes.

                He moved towards the stairs.

                His father was human, further diluting their already weak nephilim bloodline. It was a blessing, his mother would say, we’re almost extinct, maybe that’s how it should be. Appearing and being as weak as humans keeps us unnoticed, keeps us alive.

                But Alec was stronger and faster, could very well have inherited a little of the nephilim longevity, though it wouldn’t show until he was older. Still, he didn’t show off with it. He’d always been taught to play it down, appear human.

                He inched his way up the stairs, the carpet springy under his shoes. He paused on the landing, a smear of dark on the cream catching his eyes. He didn’t recall a stain, not on his mother’s immaculately kept carpet. He turned right, towards it.

                His heart stuttered against his ribcage, the stain taking shape as he slowly approached to reveal the crescent of a shoe’s heel, one that smudged when he ran the toe of his shoe over it. Still wet.

                He clenched his jaw and moved silently on, eyes catching more stains, each darker. He didn’t pause to check them, knowing full well they too stood wet, undried, and tried not to think of what they might be, clinging to the indistinguishable shade of grey the darkness cast them in as his denial.

                The doors of the upper level were all closed baring one, through which a trickle of silver-white moonlight emitted. A doorway in which rested another stain.

                He bit down the bile that tried to rise in his throat and lifted the gun, finger resting alongside the trigger, his back still to the wall, and pulled in a breath before swinging into the doorway, his eyes darting to each corner along with the barrel of his gun before he truly took in the scene, and gagged.

                Stumbling back onto the landing, Alec shook his head, gun tumbling from his trembling hands, his eyes locked with those of his father’s wide, unseeing, brown, peering from a head no longer attached to a body. A body that lay heaped in with four others. Four others whose heads lay scattered away, their black eyes just as blind as the human eyes of his father.

                A strangled sound of denial gurgled up his throat as his back hit the bannister, sound and bile at the stain still spreading out from the corpses in the middle of the room. A macabre pool, creeping towards the furniture of the media room.

                A floorboard creaked to his left.

                Alec’s attention snapped sharply towards it as a glint of steel swung towards him and he dove out of the way, rolling quickly from the floor and to his feet as his instincts and training kicked in.

                There were more than one, and they each held cold steel.

                His gun was out of reach.

                He ran.

                With nephilim speed, Alec darted between the hunters, steel whistling too close for comfort as they attacked. The rest hadn’t stood a chance. His father was human. These people were murderers.

                The burst of anger sharpened his focus, honed it to a blade’s edge as he sprinted down the stairs, leaping the railing to avoid the hunters who appeared at the bottom, to duck beneath the blades they thrust his way and strike with his fists. To break past them and for the still open door.

                He darted towards freedom, legs drawing him forward faster than any human, eyes fixed forward, focused on escape not on who might be waiting outside the door.

                Pain, white hot, seared his spine as figures bled from the shadows to fill the street in front of him, racing forward with shouts as he crumpled, tipping down the stairs to sprawl face down on the path, pain blurring his vision, sealing his throat so he couldn’t even scream. He distantly watched the approaching forms, either friends or more likely, enemies, and waited for the death blow, waited as, sword raised, one reached him.

                And the sound of steel on steel rang out, the second blade saving him from the first.

                Druids, he realised as heat began to radiate above him alongside mortal screams. They were druids.

                A human body slumped to the ground beside him, dead eyes staring into his, then gentle hands on his burning back, knees dropping to the ground beside his face, a thrumming warmth seeping into his spine.

                “Yer safe now, lad. You’ll be just fine.”

                His eyes slid closed, his body enveloped in warmth.