by Vanya D.
My hand trembled as I frantically punched in Derek’s number, sticky red liquid dripping from my fingers onto the phone's LED display.
I squeezed my eyes shut and pressed the cell to my ear, listening for the signal. My breathing was hoarse and uneven, my mind felt like scrambled eggs and my heart hammered hard against my ribs – none of it was a good sign.
“Hey, beautiful!” Derek’s voice came from the other side of the line. He sounded cheerful and carefree, and for that I envied him. “Miss me already? Two days must be a horribly long time to spend without me…”
I could vaguely tell he was being cocky, but teasing was the last thing I needed right at this moment. Not when I knew that every time I looked down I'd be greeted by the same lumpy outline, crumpled at my feet.
“Y-you told me to call you if something unusual happened again.” I muttered, voice shaky and unsure.
Background noise sounded on his side of the line – some crackling, cabinets opening, whatever. I wished I was at home too – if not at my apartment, then at his. But the moon was at its fullest tonight, and being a Moon Binder, I couldn't risk staying around people.
Which didn't explain why I was in the city. In fact, it only raised questions. Because the last thing I remembered clearly was watching the sea from my cave by the shore, where I usually spent the nights of the full moon – and now I was not.
“What’s wrong, babe? You sound stressed out.”
I tried to swallow past the lump threatening to clog my throat. “I’m in the city.” I said, knowing that he’d understand what that meant without much elaboration. This wasn't the only time I'd needed help, but it was the first time I ever found myself next to a dead body with blood on my hands.
There was silence on the other side.
“Where?” He finally asked, and this time I knew exactly what he was doing. The clomping of his heeled boots reached my ears plainly. Then I heard the door slamming shut.
He was coming.
“West third street, behind the ‘7 eleven’ on the corner of Churchill avenue.” I breathed in relief.
He was coming.
When I rushed out of the apartment it was way past midnight. Thankfully, the ‘7 eleven’ Rebecca mentioned was only a ten-minute drive away. Last time something like this had happened, she’d been completely lost in the ruined part of the city, and it had taken me forever to find her.
Dread seeped into my heart as I sped toward the place. By the time I got there, it felt like ages had passed since she called. The street and the stores were all dark, a single blinking sign announced that the shop next door was closed.
“Beck?” I called out in the direction of the single dark alley. If this was the right place, then she should be somewhere around here.
Except nobody answered. It was as quiet as hell on All Hallows Eve.
“Beck?” I tried again louder, taking a careful step between the buildings.
Overflowing dumpsters assaulted my senses at once, spreading putrid fumes everywhere. I stumbled back, my eyes straining to distinguish any shape in the murkiness before me.
“Rebecca, are you there?” I coughed out, beginning to wonder if this wasn't all a sick joke.
My hand slid into my pocket to retrieve my phone when movement answered from deep within the alley, like a wooden crate sliding over wet pavement. Then the silence returned, gloomier and more depressing than before.
Goosebumps prickled at the back of my neck, and a single drop of sweat trailed down my left temple.
If this was how I felt though – a man grown and trained in heavy combat fighting – I couldn’t imagine how frightened Rebecca must’ve been when she’d found herself in this alley instead of her moonlit cave on the seashore.
And she was nothing like me. She wasn't tough or experienced – just the opposite. She was delicate and breakable, and beautiful. With hair the color of the moon – long and shiny like velvet – she reminded me of an ancient goddess. Her voice was the melody of life itself, and her eyes –
A moan interrupted my thoughts.
“Rebecca?” My voice rose again, as I hurried into the darkness.
I was more confused than frightened when I found myself in this alley, but when my hand closed around the smooth handle of the moonblade, the scales tipped. Fear engulfed me as I realized I wasn't alone in my body. Violence was never part of my nature, but it was part of hers, and now the blood she spilled was on my hands.
The Moon goddess.
I was her last Binder – a sole survivor of the genocide war with the humans – and I should've known that she would try to take over what was left of her inheritance. Yet I'd been so consumed in my own thoughts and desires that I hadn't noticed when she'd wriggled inside my skin. The worst part was that with the moon full she had complete control of my body, while I was only along for the ride.
That's when I heard his voice – thick and solid like a rock, yet soft and gentle like the sea foam.
“Rebecca, are you there?” Derek called, and the sound of his voice alone seemed strong enough to push the parasite deity away, even if only temporarily.
My sandals skidded on the wet pavement as I tried to stand up from the wooden crate where I'd sat while I waited for him. All I could manage though was to fall onto my butt, just a couple of feet away from the dead guy whose soulless eyes still stared at me in the darkness. She'd sacrificed him – her mark visible on his forehead – a small shiny crescent that raised the hairs on the back of my neck.
“Rebecca?” Derek called again, this time louder, and I turned to look toward the alley's mouth. It was only slightly brighter than here, but it was enough for me to see his outline moving in my direction.
“Derek.” I whispered softly, relief washing over me.
Then the world around me stilled, like I'd paused a motion picture in the middle of an action scene.
I want him. A demanding voice sounded in my head. He shall be mine.
“No.” I protested aloud, dread filling my heart. “No!” I yelled, my soprano shattering the stillness into pieces, but the voice of the Moon chanted on.
He shall be mine. He shall be mine. He shall be mine.
“No!” I bellowed, fully aware that rebelling wouldn't stop the goddess's intentions. She always found a way to take what she wanted and this time would be no different.
Her shrill voice was like a war signal in the darkness, echoing around the empty brick walls with the force of gunfire. That couldn't be good, especially because I'd never heard Rebecca raise her voice even once in the three years since we met.
“Beck?” I called again, searching the shadows for a sign of her until I spotted a figure huddled against one wall.
Her head was turned in my direction, but I wasn’t certain that she actually saw me. I noticed that her hands were pressed against the sides of her head, and I could hear her chanting a ceaseless string of “No's”.
“Sweetness, I'm here. Come, let's get you home.”
A wide smile stretched her lips, as her eyes focused on me. “Derek?” But it wasn’t her gentle voice I heard. Then she shook her head and her expression changed. “No! You must go!”
“What do you mean go? I came for you Rebecca, and I'm not leaving without you.” I protested, kneeling before her.
That's when I saw the knife in her hand and recognized it as the binders' ritual blade. Made of pure crystal, precisely seven inches long, with a slight curve in the middle, it was the perfect sacrifice tool.
I sucked in a breath. “What are you doing with a moonblade, Beck?”
“Run.” She whispered with an urgent voice as the knife rose and then plunged into my chest hungrily, cutting flesh and spilling blood.
She betrayed you, a foreign voice spoke in my head. You saved her – loved her and she turned on you...
Somehow though, I couldn’t believe it. Not even when I looked down and saw her tiny hand still clenched around the blade’s handle. When my gaze returned to her face, it was twisted in a grotesque grimace, jaws clenched tightly and eyes bathed in blinding light.
“Rebecca isn't here anymore.”An icy voice crooned, brushing against my chilled face. “Only I am.”
“Who...?” I began, but the blood in my mouth didn't let me continue.
“I'm the goddess of the Moon, and I've come to claim your life.”