Being the new kid in school sucks. I thought by now I would have been used to it, because of all the moving my family has done over the years. But I guess there is no getting used to the stares and the condescending curiosities. Sometimes I wonder if they know my secret. Can they tell just by looking at me?
We’ve lived in an RV for as long as I could remember. My parents had already raised two children to be adults by the time they had me. I was unexpected. And, according to my older brother, I was almost aborted. But because of the surprise, mother was too far along to have the procedure. So, nearing retirement age, my parents had to keep me. That wasn’t going to stop them from living out their dream retirement of travelling all over the states.
By the time we reached Flagstaff, I was already accustomed to the shitty feeling of being a nomad. But something felt different there. The climate was gentle and the people seemed to be gentle too. By second period, I had been approached by several people who were eager to know my background. No one ever seemed half as interested as Kayle did when I told her about our travels around the states. Just being around her made me feel this secret kind of wanting.
“What was Texas like?” her eyes were wide with excitement.
“It’s desert in some places, and forested in others,” I told her. “Mostly I remember the fireflies. I used to catch dozens in empty jars and put them on my nightstand when I would fall asleep.”
Through lunch and even after school let out, Kayle kept by my side, prodding me for more stories. Apparently she had never left Arizona, so she had big hopes of going to college out of state once she graduated. I found her bottled-up life just as interesting as she thought mine was.
But when I told my parents about it, they exchanged uncomfortable glances with each other. They were always lounging about the RV, looking like they were too tired to even go outside. I never could understand what the point of travelling was if you weren’t going to experience the towns. Still, they were old, I told myself.
“Is she pretty?” mother asked. She didn’t smile much, but when she did her eyes twinkled in a kind of wicked way. “Does she have pretty hair?”
“I bet she’s really energetic, huh?” my dad prodded. “Just like Whitney was in Denver?”
I didn’t know how to answer their weird questions, so I just went back to my room and pulled the screen shut. I had a lot of stuff to get caught up on anyways. Every time you transfer to a new school, the teachers dump pounds of sheets and reading in your lap so you can get caught up. My whole life, I feel like I’ve been perpetually catching up.
After a couple hours of studying, I got a text from Kayle. She said she was having trouble with the Algebra homework and asked if I knew how to do differential equations. I told her yes, and asked my parents if I could invite her over. My mother’s eyes twinkled again as she said, “Of course.”
The truth was, I didn’t know anything about differential equations, but I wanted to spend as much time with Kayle as possible. I was so tired of feeling lonely.
When she came knocking at the door to our RV, I found that my parents were no longer in the living quarters. Their room was back farther and had an actual door leading in. For the entire time we had been travelling, I’ve never been allowed into their room. As I got older, I just assumed that they must be doing creepy sex things or something. It was weird to think about, but the only reasonable explanation.
I showed her in and gave her the very brief tour. I called into my parents room for them to meet her, but they must have been asleep. So we sat and worked out the chapters as well as we could between the two of us.
Suddenly, my bedroom curtain was torn aside and my parents were standing there, holding a birthday cake with fifteen candles lit. They broke into song as Kayle looked at me with shock.
“It’s your birthday?”
“I always forget,” I apologized.
“He’s 15,” mother said, smiling. “That means he is finally of age.”
“You can’t get your license until you’re 16 in Arizona,” explained Kayle.
“Oh no, dear,” mother said, laying the cake down on the counter in my room. She pulled a leather strap from her pocket and handed it to dad. “He’s finally of age to learn the family secret.”
Kayle and I exchanged horrified glances. She jumped up to dash through them, but my father clasped her shoulders tight. He lifted her as if she weighed nothing and set her back down on the bed. Mother began binding her hands.
“Oh God,” I said, horrified. “No, I’m not going to…rape her.”
My parents laughed together as they worked, procuring another leather strap and tying it around her ankles.
“What do you think we are, monsters?” father said, still laughing.
But even as he said so, he tore open Kayle’s button down shirt, exposing her pale flesh. Kayle tried screaming, but mom had already gagged her with one of my socks.
“You are truly blessed,” mom said. “We’ve always known. You came so late in our life, and you avoided some…dangers…of being born. And now, on your Ageless Day, you have been blessed with a sacrifice.”
Mother clasped her hands together and smiled fondly. She came close and kissed me on my forehead. The terror still gripped at me. My heartbeat pulsed like a hammer in my throat. But something was drawing me closer to her flesh. Something I could not explain.
Suddenly I was hungrier than I had ever thought I could be. It was a kind of hunger that took hold of my entire being. Seeing her bare skin brought this strange craving that I was unable to control any longer.
“No, no,” mother said, patiently. “You start with the legs and work your way up. All of the vitals are at the top, and the meat will spoil if she dies.”
“Here,” dad said, handing me an ornate, crafted knife.
It had a large green jewel stuck in the end of the leather-wrapped hilt. The knife itself twisted up like a silver flame, its edge curving out, then in and tapering at the razor-sharp tip. Kayle was staring at me, wide-eyed in disbelief.
I held out for as long as I could. I refused the craving in me, but once I held the knife in my hand I was completely overcome. Salivating uncontrollably, I dove in.
“You’ll learn,” dad said, unable to hide the disappointment in his voice. “You’ll learn to overcome these things people call morals.”
“I don’t know, dad,” I said, hugging my knees close to my chest. “I felt sick after only two bites, like the blood didn’t agree with my stomach. Maybe I am human.”
He laughed his comforting, slow laugh. He looked more animated now. Even mother was more chipper, sitting in the driver’s seat. They almost seemed drunk all the sudden, like they were lifted with some kind of drug. I guess blood just has that effect on some people.
“You are not human, son,” mom said. “I saw the look in your eyes once she started to bleed. You looked so hungry.”
“Anyways,” dad called out, signalling the end of the discussion, “It will take them a good month or so to find her bones. So, where to next? California, maybe?”