Thirty year old Hazoc Maharba was a muscular man about 5’ 10” in height. He had wavy black hair down to his neckline. His favorite way to dress was jeans and flannel shirts. He was a bit unshaven now because of his current circumstances. His personal life was in a shambles. His wife was killed in a car accident about a year ago. His grief continued to escalate over the months, leading him into an ever-deeper depression along with feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, and dissatisfaction. He missed his wife Yadnica terribly. His German Shepherd Cid was his only friend. He had become distant from his co-workers. His job performance had also slipped and he was on the verge of losing his job because of it.
Hazoc had some strange new neighbors – scary actually! They appeared to be a husband and wife in their fifties. They were rather hideous and mysterious looking, seemingly drenched in blood. When he looked closely at them, he noticed they had hair like anyone else. The man had short brown hair and the woman had straight red hair down to her waist. But every part of their flesh that was seen could only be described as though it was painted with blood.
He saw the couple quietly slip in and out of their home in the darkness, and he occasionally passed them on the brightly lit sidewalk as he walked his German Shepherd. They intimidated him however and if he did pass them, he would turn his head away, acting like his dog was distracting him. He never wanted them to have an excuse to strike up a conversation with him. Hazoc was afraid that they might be involved in unusual and secret rituals and seek to steal his soul somehow if he gave them the opportunity.
But as time progressed, his curiosity about them grew. For such a bizarre looking couple, they actually seemed to have their lives together. He noticed a joy about their repugnant faces, as he’d sneak a quick look in passing. He observed them walking, talking, laughing, and seemingly always happy. One day, the man even managed to make eye contact with him; and in those few seconds, Hazoc felt like his soul was made bare, as though this mutant freak had penetrated to the depths of his heart with one glance. It scared him and excited him at the same time. But he swiftly turned away and moved on, avoiding that first contact so he wouldn’t be vulnerable to the possibility of being swayed by them into an unknown and dreaded way of life.
In the few weeks since they moved in next door, Hazoc occasionally witnessed other of these blood-soaked people visit his neighbors’ house. A couple of times, he heard eerie groans emanating from inside their house. He was particularly shaken when he’d see normal people enter their house, but come out transmuted into the same bloody visage as his neighbors. Other times he chillingly could have sworn that he saw shadows darting out from the windows, siding, or roof of their house, which brought back horrible memories for him. His thoughts returned to the tragic night that his wife, Yadnica was killed in a car accident. He saw similar shadows the night of the accident, and was haunted by them ever since. He also feared there could be a connection between these shadows and his mutated neighbors.
Recently however, Hazoc began to wonder just how much difference there really was between him and the strange couple that lived next door. Because of his bout with depression, he started to think of himself as an outcast as well, and was becoming slightly less intimidated by them. One day as the couple was taking a leisurely walk, they noticed their depressed looking neighbor sitting in a nearby park with his dog. At this point, he was open minded enough to be receptive to his neighbors when they took advantage of the opportunity to strike up a conversation with him.
The couple cautiously walked towards the bench he was sitting on, wondering how he might react to their approach. The man spoke first. “Hi, I’ve noticed that we’re neighbors, and we haven’t had a chance to introduce ourselves.” He smiled.
Hazoc gave them a nod and a weak smile in return.
The man continued. “I’m Nad. This is my wife Retsee. We just moved from the other side of town.” He extended his hand to Hazoc for a handshake.
“Uh, …hi. I’m Hazoc,” he responded bashfully without returning his hand. He kept moving his eyes away from them as their appearance made him feel uneasy. They look even creepier up close, like they’re bleeding head to toe, he thought. What if I touch them and catch their disease?
Nad brought his hand back and exchanged a weak smile with his wife, acknowledging to her that he noticed how uncomfortable Hazoc was being near them. “Sorry to interrupt you. We didn’t mean to put you on the spot.”
Hazoc was a little shocked by their pleasantness. “Oh, …um…that’s okay. Nothing wrong with getting to know your neighbors, right?” It was still hard for him to look in their faces – not just because of their bloody countenance – but also because of those piercing eyes that seemed to penetrate into his soul.
After a few minutes of introductions and small talk, Hazoc started to feel more at ease with his new acquaintances. Nad noticed how sad Hazoc looked so he decided to take a chance and asked him, “So why you feeling so down, Hazoc? Do you mind sharing? We’re good listeners, …even if we’re not good looking,” he said with a smile, trying to make Hazoc feel more comfortable.
Hazoc was surprised that they knew exactly how he was feeling. He strongly hesitated while he pondered whether or not to share his deepest personal struggles with these strange-looking mutants. After much thoughtfulness, he began, “Well…okay…eleven months and 13 days ago, my wife Yadnica was killed in a car accident.”
“Oh, we’re so sorry,” Nad and Retsee said in sync with each other. Then they linked arms and looked at each other with loving eyes, realizing how lucky they were to have each other.
Retsee added, “We know how important it is to have someone close in your life.”
Hazoc responded, “Yes. Thank you. You’re very kind.”
Nad continued by asking, “Do you mind telling us what happened?”
“Well…my wife and I were on our way to visit some friends of hers. Yadnica was driving. All of a sudden, she screamed and swerved the car into oncoming traffic. I quickly moved my hands over to the wheel to help get us back in our lane before we had a head-on collision.”
“Honey, what’s wrong?” Hazoc asked in a panic. “Why’d you scream? How come you ran into traffic like that?”
Yadnica was visibly shaken and rubbing her eyes. Then she waved her right hand in front of her. “Don’t you see them, Hazoc…don’t you see them? The shadows?”
Hazoc focused. “Holyyyyy…I see them.”
“They keep flying into the headlights and look like they’re coming right through the window,” Yadnica cried.
“Oh my gosh, how many are there? I didn’t even notice them. They just blended in. I thought they were reflections from the streetlights. Be careful honey. Don’t pull over. We don’t know what they will do”.
Yadnica kept driving at full speed, swerving as if avoiding each shadowy figure. “They warned me this could happen.”
Hazoc looked over, wondering.. “Who warned you this could happen?”
“The Nosivads...the people we’re visiting tonight…Yadnica screamed again as she turned the wheel sharply to the right, hitting a ditch on the side of the road. The car flipped over twice and landed on its side.
Hazoc continued his story. “She died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. I was hospitalized and released a couple of days later,” he finished with tears streaming down his face.
Nad and Retsee looked at each other with sadness and also a mutual understanding of something more.
With a tear in her own eye, Retsee comforted Hazoc. “We are both so sorry for what happened to you, Hazoc.” She would have put her hand on his shoulder, but she knew it would make him feel uneasy. Cid licked his face.
Hazoc thought a moment. “Hey, …what did Yadnica mean…that the Nosivads warned her this could happen?” He stood up and accusingly asked, “What do you know about these shadow creatures? I’ve…I’ve seen them around your house too.” Cid began to growl on Hazoc’s behalf.
“Okay, easy Hazoc, …please,” Nad reacted, holding both hands in the air. “Listen, we know the Nosivads – Lupap and Athrama. We’ve heard about that night. They are our friends."
“You mean they’re freaks like you?” Hazoc snapped back."
Hazoc grabbed Nad by the collar. Cid growled at Retsee so she wouldn’t intervene. “What do you know about this? What happened that night?” Hazoc asked with raised voice, his left hand around Nad’s neck and his right fist in the air ready to strike him in the face.
“Please Hazoc, listen to us. The shadow creatures are our enemies. Yadnica had talked to the Nosivads because she was having troubles of her own with shadow beings. The Nosivads invited you and Yadnica for dinner that night, hoping they would be able to tell you how to protect yourselves from the shadows. But they knew the shadow creatures would be angry if they found out about it. So they forewarned your wife that the shadows might try to stop you from coming that night. Lupap and Athrama never really knew for sure how the car accident happened, but they always suspected it was the work of the shadow creatures.”
Hazoc’s fist slowly started to lower and he released his chokehold from Nad. He sat down and started petting his dog. He kept silent for a few minutes. His neighbors just stood there holding each other, giving him time to digest this new information.
Finally Hazoc spoke up again. “I’ve had nightmares about those creatures ever since the accident. Sometimes I am not sure if they are dreams or reality. I’ve even felt their presence at work. Sometimes, I get all knotted up in my stomach after seeing shadows when they could just be images from passing coworkers. I’m just never sure. So, one reason I’ve always been hesitant about you - and your kind - is because I’ve seen them around your place too.”
“I understand Hazoc. Believe me, we both do. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that our kind – as you put it – are also known as Metians. Have you heard that term before?”
“Yeah, sometimes I’ve heard that mutants also go by that name. I never understood what the connection was, though.”
“Well, we are named after a man named Mete. Mutants also know him as the Blood Master. This might sound a little crazy to you, but Mete came to rescue me and my family from the shadow creatures about twenty years ago, and we ended up being the first normals to ever go through the metamorphosis that changed us into blood mutants.”
“What? No way,” Hazoc responded in great surprise. “You’re the people that started all this? That’s wild,” he shook his head in disbelief. “How in the heck did you become like you are? Why would this guy Mete do this to you? How?”
“I know it sounds crazy, Hazoc, but the truth is, Mete came from the Begetter himself. Becoming a Metian is the only way to really protect you from the shadow creatures. Mete reveals himself to those of us who have recognized our need for protection from the shadows that hide beneath the darkness in our world. Normals have become so accustomed to the darkness of our planet that they are rarely aware of the evil shadows that move freely throughout society, trying to manipulate everyone’s minds for their own satisfaction.”
They shared with Hazoc what he must do to break free of his grief and give him courage to deal with shadow creatures. They told him that he must become one of them. They explained that the power of Mete’s blood repels shadow creatures like bug spray turns away mosquitoes. Nad’s words drew him with a growing pull. “Hazoc, would you be willing to become like us?”
Hazoc looked at their bloody-looking bodies again. “I don’t know if I’m ready to look like that,” he answered honestly.
“Well, I understand that, Hazoc. Most people are afraid of us altogether. Let me ask you something. Why didn’t you want to shake my hand?”
“Honestly, I was afraid of something rubbing off on me. I was afraid of catching what you have. …And now you want me to willingly become one of you?”
“Okay, fair enough. First of all, we don’t rub off,” Nad laughed. He rubbed his hand against the bench arm. See? No blood. A person can only become like this by trusting Mete himself. People like us are not dangerous. We aren’t out to hurt normals or transmit any diseases. What you see when you look at me and Retsee is like an armor. It protects us from shadow creatures. They can’t come near us when we are wearing our armor. But it also protects us from physical harm in other ways too. The blood becomes like a shield, protecting our normal body from injury.”
“Whoa, now you sound like some kind of super-hero or something. Isn’t that just for comic books and movies?”
“Well, …no, Hazoc! To be honest, it’s not just for comic books and movies. There really is power in this blood. Mete’s blood really does protect us. He doesn’t just offer this protection to a select few. It’s for anyone who is willing to trust Mete. He knows the struggles we have on this planet. He wants to keep us safe from the brotherhood of shadows.”
Chills started to move up Hazoc’s spine the more Nad talked. He felt his face go flush with a strange new interest in what he was being told. “Tell me, Nad. Do Metians always look like this? Do you always wear your so-called armor of blood? …Or can you look normal like me if you want?”
Nad and Retsee looked at each other and smiled. In an instant, Hazoc was looking at an attractive middle-aged normal looking couple.
“Whoa, you can change back. Can all of your kind do that?”
“Yes, Hazoc,” Retsee replied. “All Metians can change forms at will. You have probably seen many Metians on the street and didn’t even realize it because they were wearing their cloak of flesh - as we call it. We advise caution though. We do not have the same protective strength of Mete’s blood when we hide it beneath the surface.”
“Wow, this is amazing. It’s like you can live as two different identities.”
“In a sense, yes,” Nad said. “But if you are willing to become a Metian, you must remember the importance of the blood. You can never forget its power. You can never be ashamed to walk in the likeness of a mutant.” Nad and Retsee returned to their mutant form. “…Hazoc? Would you like to become one of us?”
Hazoc thought for a few seconds. By this time in their conversation, an unexpected change had occurred in his mindset that he himself didn’t realize until this very moment. “Okay! Yes, …I want this. I never thought I’d hear myself say that, but yes!”
Nad spoke confidently. “Hazoc, if you are sure that you are ready to do this, Just call Mete by name and say you believe he was sent from the Begetter himself. Tell him you need him in your life to protect you from shadow creatures and to help you overcome your grief from losing your wife. Just call out to him right here like you’re talking to us, and you will be changed - right here, right now. But I want to forewarn you that your surroundings are going to change around you briefly as Mete reveals himself to you. You will have a vision that will take you to The Hidden Pool of Untainted Blood.”
Hazoc nervously began to speak. “Mete, I don’t really understand your power or what is going to happen to me after I do this, but I believe you came from the Begetter and I want you to protect me from shadows. Stop them from bothering me and help me to deal with the loss of my wife…please.”
Immediately after he spoke, a vision opened up before him. A golden path appeared which lead to The Hidden Pool of Untainted Blood. The robed majestic figure of the Blood Master materialized at the entranceway of the Pool. He noticeably shared the blood-soaked physical trait of Hazoc’s neighbors. Posted a few feet on each side of the pool were tall, bright beings of light.
A voice echoed, “Welcome Hazoc, I have been waiting for you. Enter into the pool of blood, and you shall be free for all eternity! I will protect you from shadow creatures and help you to overcome the difficulties that this life will bring.” Hazoc took the hand of Mete and almost hypnotically proceeded down a staircase, dipping his entire body in the pool of blood. As soon as he arose from the pool, he realized that all his grief and fear had been removed.
Suddenly, he was once again in the park with his new friends. He embraced them with red tears.
Retsee spoke up, “You’re one of us now. You have entered into a blood contract with your Protector, Mete. You’ll still have problems, but the power of the Master’s pure blood will help you to deal with them. You have been marked, and even though your life here in the darkness will seem overwhelming at times, the strength of Mete’s blood will always be there to help you. You’re family among the blood-soaked kindred!”
Now, Hazoc wasn’t afraid to shake their extended hands.
(This short story is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of a fantasy novel, entitled "Blood-soaked Kindred", written by Jeffrey Gante of The Masked Truelovers, with editing assistance from his wife, Jamie. As of Nov. 2010, they are on the verge of seeking a literary agent to help them discover an interested publisher.)