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In a Californian city known as Moonlight – with small-town charms and numerous neighborhoods nestled along the foothills of majestic, imposing mountains, a young barista named Terrence is ending his adolescence and beginning his adulthood; at twenty-one years old, with the help of a wise elder named George, he is about to be initiated – gaining an enchanted, nocturnal form all his own.

“So, are you taking initiation leave soon?” Terrence’s female coworker says as she pushes her blonde bangs out of the way of her face and looks at him with a mixture of curiosity and concern.

“Only for a few days” he replies as he works on a few more coffee drinks at the café he works at. “I think I might have found an elder that is a good fit for me. I’m gonna meet him in a few days when my leave begins.”

“Good luck, Terrence” she says to him with a soft smile as she assists him with their drink orders.

After making preparations that weekend, Terrence begins his week of initiation leave by making the drive down to meet his elder for his initiation – a middle aged man named George, a relatively short distance away from his apartment. As luck would have it, George lives in the same city as Terrence and was willing to meet up with him in the late afternoon. Unlike the newer houses Terrence was accustomed to, the man he was about to meet lived in Old Town Moonlight – a district with a lot of quaint shops and houses built many decades before he was born.

As he passed through the shopping district – a quiet, tree-lined street with rows of local stores on both sides, with the help of GPS, Terrence enters into the residential district he was looking for. Shortly thereafter, he parks on the curb outside his home – a modest one story with neutral-colored stucco, a neatly trimmed grass lawn and a wooden door at the front. He made his way out of his vehicle and approached the front door. Just before he was about to knock on the front door, it opened wide and Terrence was startled by the sight of George in the entryway.

With a somewhat stoic look, George gazes at him for a moment before saying, “Come right in, Terrence.”

Terrence makes his way inside George’s home and is greeted by the familiar smell of a home with years of people living in it – as well as worn furniture, and collections of assorted knickknacks just as mysterious to Terrence as the man who organized them. Despite the age of the home, everything was meticulously organized and very clean – showing the care and respect that George has for his living space.

Snapping him out of his daze, George says, “Follow me into the backyard. The sun is about to set.”

Taken aback by the brevity of his statement, Terrence somewhat awkwardly follows behind George – with a mixture of uncertainty and pent up excitement.

George turns to Terrence and says, “What do you think your nightskin is meant for, Terrence?”

Terrence thinks about all the dreamy, starry-eyed ideas his high school friends would express when the subject of their nocturnal, adult forms came up. Though he could have just parroted the most common thing he remembered being told about it, in that moment it occurred to him that his peers have or will have a lot of the same feelings of uncertainty he’s currently experiencing.

Taking a deep breath, he says, “I don’t know, sir. I don’t think any of us do.”

George gives him a long look – his face a mixture of surprise and modest appreciation. “It’s not often that I hear the truth from young men your age. Perhaps I can speak more candidly about what is ahead for you.”

George checks the height of the late afternoon sun for a moment, takes a deep breath and looks at Terrence before saying, “I could give you the standard creed – recite the old words and hope you retain them, but I will speak plainly to you instead. After the blood rite we will perform today, you will receive your nightskin. Your instincts are correct. I have no idea what your form will be or what its purpose is. But what I can tell you is that nobody is ever prepared for what happens next. Your nightskin will give you abilities you’ve never had before – heightened awareness like nothing you’ve ever experienced. There is great power, but also great temptation. When the time comes, you’ll know what is the right path to take.”

Grabbing a pin from a small box, George pricks his finger and places a few drops of blood into a small clay pot full of water. Terrence offers his hand as George silently motions towards it. George grabs another pin from a second small box and pricks Terrence’s finger – allowing him to place his blood in the same old water vessel. As the last sliver of sun passes under the horizon, the water in the vessel begins to glow a deep, vibrant red.

Moments later, Terrence becomes disoriented – caught up in the intensity of the raw sensations that are overwhelming his mind. Stretching out his arms before him, they become enwreathed with deep brown fur – with dark clawed nails on each digit of his hands. The same fur on his extremities surround the rest of his exposed flesh, and his head gains pronounced, chiropteran features – with deep ears, a pointed, pug nose and sharp fangs.

Terrence hears the distant city sounds in the streets that surround him, and though initially over-stimulated, the calming, natural sounds hidden amongst the suburban landscape of Moonlight helps to ground his senses in the primality of his nascent form.

“Given your battish nightskin, you should hear the call of your brethren shortly” George says as his lupine nightskin becomes fully visible to Terrence. “Those with a lupine form like mine can hear the howls of others like us in much the same way. Feel free to leave your car in front of my house. You can pick it up later tonight. Your first night will begin shortly. It is a full moon tonight, so be especially careful, Terrence.”

“I will. Thank you George” Terrence says genuinely.

Shortly thereafter, Terrence is drawn to a group of his brethren near a public park a few blocks away. Terrence uses a gate in the backyard that opens up to the street – finding that he swiftly glides above the ground in silence. Before he knows it, he is several miles away and finds himself in the company of two other young, chiropteran men.

“Welcome Terrence” says a tall, imposing member of the group. “My name is Damian. Before you ask, just listen closely to those around you.”

Beneath the flow of sound and sensations around him are the voices of the two other men in the group. Terrence is immediately drawn to the voice of Damian – who dutifully reminds him that only his brethren can hear these voices, so he need not worry.

Satisfied with the demonstration, Terrence says, “Where do we go now?”

The other man from the group named Clark replies, “For now, we drink.”

Gliding silently as dusk turns to dark, the three young, chiropteran men find their way to a nightclub a few cities away. Following close behind, Damian leads the group past security into a private, VIP room – shrouded in dark, crimson, velvet textures and black leather in a round booth.

Shortly afterward, a young, chiropteran male server places a tray of glasses on the table and looks Terrence up and down for a second before smirking and walking away to other clients in the club.

Damian looks silently at Terrence and reminds him, through an inner voice, that those glasses contain fresh pigs blood and that they will drink from their glasses as soon as he has done the same with his.

Terrence nervously looks at the other two men and then back at the dark, opaque blood inside his glass – immediately drawn in by the primal scent and vitality of his own sanguine elixir. Feeling his nocturnal hunger, he begins to drink from the glass – hearing an excited inner voice from Clark reminding him to savor his first.

As Terrence drinks, the once chaotic noise of voices and sensations become clarified and enhanced – enriched by both sound, color and the emotions of people both near and far. Turning to meet the amused gazes of Damian and Clark, Terrence senses that though wild, their modest experience with chiropteran nightskins have tempered their egos – helping him to feel a sense of less cautious, genuine trust.

Turning inward, from the depths of his own mind, Terrence feels all manner of carnal desires – those of hunger, sexuality and a plethora of intense emotions. For a moment he feels enveloped by them, but his enduring memories – his adolescent dreams and future aspirations ground him in the present moment and he feels grateful for the experience.

But that’s when he noticed it.

Not everyone in this nightclub has the same attitude. There are many young men here who are far more narcissistic and even more tempted by what chiropteran men and women innately experience at night.

For you see, Sanguine is a nightclub for his brethren. Affectionately called VIP for vampires in the surrounding area, Sanguine is a great place to get high quality blood with your alcoholic cocktails, but it also has a bit of a negative reputation. Every so often, younglings wander in after their first awakening – often unescorted, and though things usually turn out alright, there is always an inherent risk. Terrence was let in specifically because twenty-five-year-old Damian and twenty-three-year-old Clark are there to vouch for his sophomoric soiree.

The young man about to approach their server is definitely without an escort.

Noticing the panicked feelings emanating from their server, Terrence becomes worried about what is about to happen. Sensing this, the voices of both Damian and Clark urge him to do something about the impending situation.

Overcoming his fear of the gradually approaching young man from across the club, Terrence makes his way over to the server. Terrence says, “My name is Terrence. Who is that over there?”

“My name is Nathan. Nice to meet you.” the server says. “I’m not sure how someone that feral is still inside Sanguine. Apparently he’s a fledgling like you. His name is Vincent.”

“I need more blood!” Vincent says.

Before Nathan can say anything, Terrence steps in, saying, “I think you’ve had enough, Vincent.”

Looking into his eyes, Terrence notices that they are bright red and his lips are caked with copious amounts of dry blood. He senses the noisy, clouded nature of Vincent’s mind – just like Nathan alluded to.

“Why don’t you mind your own business?” Vincent says loudly.

Though his heart is pumping in his chest, Terrence replies, “I’m making it my business. Nathan is just doing his job here.”

“Fuck you!” Vincent says.

Like a wild animal, Vincent swings his left claw towards Terrence. Right in that moment, Terrence sees the frightened look of Nathan as he swiftly avoids the first attack. Coming back around with his dominant arm, Vincent lunges towards Terrence.

In a burst of preternatural strength, Terrence grasps Vincent’s right forearm and slams him hard into the floor. He uses his body to pin him to the ground just as the security rush in to take over – grabbing the flailing, feral Vincent and proceeding to drag him out of the Sanguine club.

Terrence brushes himself off for a moment as Nathan somewhat hesitantly walks over towards Terrence, saying, “That was an impressive amount of strength. I’ve never seen that before. Are you alright?”

“It surprised me too. I’m fine, thank you. I’m just glad you’re okay” Terrence replies candidly.

Rubbing the fur on the back of his head and partially averting his gaze, Nathan pauses for a moment before saying, “Would you like another drink? It’s on the house.”

“That depends” Terrence replies. “Is your phone number complimentary?”