Chapter 8 Page 13
Posted February 3, 2023 at 02:34 am

**EDIT** Had to take a wrist rest this week, see you next week! Thanks for your patience in the meantime!

Thanks for reading!



        In the pitch black backrooms of Jackpot Junior’s, amidst the cobwebbed ruins of a failed venture involving illegal animatronic dogfighting, Ritz Price-Lee was sucking on a bug.

        “...Absolutely vile,” glowered Paige, staring down with disgust at her thrall.

        A very tired Gage watched the same scene with disinterest from the rafters. “It’s that or rats in a dump like this,” he grumbled. Gage was a creature of the night, not a morning person, and Paige had called him before noon demanding a ride to the hospital. Thinking she was sick (which was impossible) or injured (which would have healed in moments anyways), he’d leapt into action, tearing through the streets of Mayview in the crummy van he’d stolen and revamped (no pun intended) with extremely tinted windows

        Gage’s disappointment was immense when he found Paige as invulnerable as ever, not in need of a dark knight rescue but in fact just simply after what she’d asked for: a chauffeur. What’s more, she was MAD at him, for reasons he couldn’t begin and/or be bothered to deduce.

        Paige shot him an icy glare. “You’re the one who’s supposed to keep this lair stocked.”

        Gage shrugged, swinging his car keys in lazy loops around his finger. “It is stocked.” Davy never let the teens withdraw more than what they needed from his hospital’s blood bank, but Paige had made them ration it painstakingly until they’d built up their own secret rainy day reserve. Gage had stashed a few bags in Jackpot Junior’s walk-in fridge, tucking them behind the marinara

        They had a number of safehouses just like this, sunless places they could sleep without an invitation. Any business that welcomed customers would do, provided Davy hadn’t bought it and forbid his thralls from entering—he liked them reliant on his permission whenever possible. He’d almost closed a deal to purchase Jackpot Junior’s, too, but things fell through when Mr. Jones couldn’t cross the ninth hole water hazard at the country club golf course (after having already made the meeting tense by hissing at the current owner’s crucifix). For now, the arcade was as good a lair as any.

        Paige jabbed a pale finger towards Ritz. “We need her to be lucid. She needs human blood. If we HAVE some here, why am I watching the rich girl go full Renfield on a cockroach?!”

        Gage didn’t know what a Renfield was—the only vampire media he’d consumed was Blade: Trinity—but he knew a literary reference when he heard one, and smoothly steered his slender brain around it. “Youth Culture eats bugs,” he sneered derisively. “Good enough for her, good enough for the newbie.”

        Paige pinched the bridge of her nose in exasperation. “First of all, Youthy ate bugs before she was a vampire—”

        “Hemolymph,” Youth Culture said, staring hungrily at Ritz’s meal from her perch atop the peeling husk of an animatronic warrior.

        “W-wait,” babbled Ritz, half-emerging from her savage buglust haze, “You g-guys are vampires?”

        “You’re a vampire,” Gage lobbed back.

        “Nuh-uh,” Ritz countered, wiping bug juice from her mouth. She was used to winning arguments by sheer net worth alone.

        “Yes, you are. You’re a vampire,” Paige interjected impatiently.

        “...Okay,” said Ritz. If Paige had told her she was a potato tree with a PhD in astrophysics, Ritz would have done her very utmost to accommodate.

        “From now on, no sunlight, no garlic, no sharp wooden objects. Like it or not,” Paige snapped, “you’re one of us now. Thanks to him.” She leered at Gage up in the rafters once again.

        “Huh?!” squeaked Gage, taken aback. With toadlike grace, he leapt down to the floor. “Whaddaya mean, thanks to me? Y.C. bit her too!”

        “Does this mean I w-won’t be able to see my reflection?” a suddenly despondent Ritz whimpered from the floor.

        Paige took her time turning to face Gage. “You’re the one who turned her,” she hissed softly, eyes aglow.

        “Wha—because she kicked me! No thralls, Davy’s orders, remember?? It literally couldn’t’ve been on purpose.” Gage was more hurt than annoyed; he didn’t know why Paige was on his case. “It’s that chick’s freakin’ judo’s fault! If I didn’t have that nosebleed—”

        “Then what?” Paige’s words held their edge to his throat as her steps clicked to a stop a breath before him.


        “If your blood hadn’t got in hers and made her one of us, then what?”

        “...Huh?? Who cares, Paige! Look, lay off. You’re not making any sense—”

        Ritz jumped, nearly hitting her head on the shelf beneath which she was hunting for more bugs, as a heavy metal clang burst through the room. Youth Culture swiveled like an owl to face its source.