• The days following the kidnap attempt were thankfully peaceful for Ryan. Monday was a Bank Holiday, which meant there was no school. This turned out to be fortunate for him as he discovered on the Sunday that he was a bit of lightweight when it came to alcohol. A couple of beers, it seemed, were all it took to put him well on the path to being drunk. Thankfully, Ben had noticed the state his friend was getting in and had intervened before Ryan had gotten too drunk. However Ryan looked like, and acted as if, he had been drinking, something that he wouldn’t be able to hide from his foster parents. Normally quite relaxed and understanding towards the children under their care, underage drinking was one of the things they drew the line at. If he had gone home in that state, he would have been in for a world of trouble. This was where the Bank Holiday saved his skin. Through nothing less than a small miracle, Ryan had been able to convince his foster parents over the phone to let him stay the night at Ben’s without tipping them off to his inebriated condition. The next morning, Ryan was introduced to that wonderful condition known as “a hangover.” It was a new experience for the boy, and one that made him swear off alcohol for life.

    Being back at school on Tuesday was a welcome return to mundane everyday life. The predictable school routine, normally stifling and restrictive, almost made him forget about his life outside of school, homework and avoiding the attention of the teacher.


    With its usual shrill buzzing, the alarm clock roused Ryan from a dreamless sleep. Ever since his encounter with the vampire, the nightly nightmares that usually troubled his sleep had been absent. Still, he wasn’t a morning person and he groaned as he pulled himself out of bed, tripping over the tangled blankets that had twisted themselves around his legs. With a grunt, he crashed to floor, roughly landing face first. A giggle from across the bedroom heralded Trey’s return to the land of the awake.

    “Laugh it up squirt,” Ryan mumbled, “if you’re not out of bed by the time I’m free, I’m so gonna kick your a**.” It was an idle threat and Trey knew it. Ryan wouldn’t lay a finger on the younger boy in anger. It just wasn’t Ryan’s style to pick on or beat up kids younger than him. Nonetheless, the twelve-year-old found the energy from somewhere to get to the bathroom before Ryan could untangle the blankets.

    Unlike every other morning, Trey seemed to have found more energy this morning than Ryan. Being washed and changed before the older boy, and even joining their foster parents for breakfast before Ryan had even left the bedroom. In a reversal of the normal routine that his foster parents found mildly amusing, it was Ryan that trudged grumpily down the stairs into the kitchen instead of Trey. Blearily keeping his eyes opened, he gulped down a glass of milk, refusing an offer of breakfast saying he wasn’t hungry.

    The good weather from the Bank Holiday weekend had finally broken and a cold drizzle fell out of the grey sky. It was that annoying sort of rain, light enough so that you didn’t know you were getting wet until you were already soaked to the bone. The sea was calm for boat ride to school, and a sullen Ryan walked wearily up the stone path to the school buildings.

    Throughout the morning lessons, he struggled to keep his eyes open and could barely concentrate on his work. Although tired, he knew that it wasn’t from lack of sleep. He had gone to bed early last night so he should have been properly rested. As the morning drew on, he began to develop a headache that was seemingly exacerbated by the buzzing of the fluorescent lights overhead. He could almost hear and feel every beat of his heart within his head. It didn’t take a genius to work out that he was sick; something that his friends pointed out more than once as the day went on. As usual however, Ryan didn’t want to make any fuss or draw attention to himself.

    Lunchtime finally came and Ryan sat at a table forcing himself to eat some food. He still wasn’t hungry but he knew that he’d only feel worse on an empty stomach. So there he was, sitting by himself in the corner of the small dining hall, forcing a few chips into his mouth. Normally he would be making a pig of himself, enthusiastically scoffing down the ketchup-drenched chips but today the smell of them was making him nauseous. He pushed the plate back and rested his head in his folded arms, his hood pulled over his head. “Maybe I should go to the nurse’s office,” Ryan said as he closed his eyes.

    Suddenly, the chair was pulled out from under him and he crashed to the floor. “Get up Henderson!” A very familiar voice said harshly. He opened his eyes to see Boris standing over him, scowling angrily. “When I’m done with you, they’ll have to CARRY you to the nurse’s office.” The sounds of conversation died as everyone turned to look at the brewing confrontation in the corner. Boris didn’t wait for Ryan to get up, reaching down and pulling the younger boy to his feet. Holding on to his collar, he shoved Ryan against the table, its legs screeching as they scraped across the floor.

    Ryan shrugged off Boris’s grip but stopped short of pushing Boris back. The thug was already angry for some reason and he didn’t want to provoke him further. As it was, he had to hold on to the table with one hand to steady himself. “What’ve I done this time?” Ryan asked tiredly. He looked behind Boris and saw that the several of the boy’s cronies had joined him, forming a rough group itching for a fight.

    “I know it was you,” Boris said, “that night in the alleyway. You told the police which way I went.”

    “Oh ... that,” Ryan said suddenly remembering the night clearly.

    “It’s your fault that I got ******** community service. I gotta go to some stupid community music s**t because of you.”

    He wanted to say, “I didn’t make you steal that dirt bike, seems to me that getting caught was your own stupid fault.” However, he knew that would be a mistake so he said nothing, studying the situation and looking for a way out other than fighting.

    Boris misread his silence. Unaware that Ryan was feeling ill, he took the boy’s pale complexion, the beads of sweat on his forehead and unsteadiness as fear. Sneering, Boris shoved Ryan hard in the shoulder. “What’s the matter, nothing to say?” Ryan didn’t answer.

    By now, a crowd had gathered around them, some of the more callous members of which were starting to jeer and call the traditional playground chant of “fight fight fight!” Out of the corner of his eye, Ryan saw Trey run out of the dining hall. Emboldened by the chant, Boris threw a punch at Ryan. The jab struck the side of Ryan’s mouth and forcing the younger boy back a step. Despite drawing blood, Ryan could tell that the punch had been an attempt to injure him, but to provoke a response.

    “This is only going to end when one of us is on the floor isn’t it?” Ryan asked wiping blood from his split lip.

    The chants had gotten louder and the crowd bigger. Boris’s friends yelling “pound him into the floor.” The bully grabbed Ryan by the hair and pulled his fist back ready to punch. This time, judging by the expression on Boris’s face, Ryan knew that this one was going to be full force. If Boris wanted a fight, then a fight he was going to get. Before Boris could throw his punch, Ryan lashed out with one of his own, the heel of his hand striking upwards at the taller boy’s nose. Surprised by the strike, Boris cried out and lost his grip as blood started streaming from his nose. Ryan quickly dropped into a crouch, ducking under a wild retaliatory swing. With his arm outstretched, Boris had left himself open. Ryan scooted around behind him and punched him twice while still crouched, once behind each knee. Boris’s legs buckled and he collapsed to his knees. Standing up, Ryan wrapped his arm around Boris’s neck and applied pressure.

    The crowd of schoolchildren had fallen into a stunned silence. Only a few seconds had passed since the start of the fight and no one had expected it to end so quickly or in this way. That the smaller boy had so quickly and completely overpowered the sixteen year old was a shock, even Boris’s friends had been surprised. Ryan had been their favourite target amongst the lower years for the last month or so. His small number of friends made it easy for them to get him alone. Boris had particularly enjoyed bullying the passive loner. However, there was no trace of passivity in the boy’s eyes now; only blind rage. Normally Boris friends would have stepped in by now, but the look in Ryan’s eyes chilled even them.

    As Boris kicked and struggled in a vain attempt to free himself, a stray thought forced its way to the front of Ryan’s mind. It would be so simple to break Boris’s neck, just apply pressure and twist in a certain way. For several long seconds, Ryan actually weighed the pros and cons of killing Boris. Then a pair of strong arms grabbed him from behind. Two teachers had forced their way through the crowd to break up the fight. As one of the teachers tried to pry him off Boris, Ryan suddenly realised in horror that he had actually been considering murdering Boris. In the shock of the realisation, he released his grip, falling back into the teacher’s arms. He stared at Boris, contemplating what he may have almost done.

    The other teacher bent down in front of Boris, who was still whimpering, and checked the boy’s bleeding nose. “I don’t think it’s broken but I should take him to the nurse’s office.” He helped Boris stand up.

    “I’ll take this one to the principal’s office,” said the teacher hold Ryan by the arm. His grip was strong, almost hard enough to leave a bruise. “You’re not going to cause any more trouble, are you.” It was a statement, not a question. He was one of the PE teachers, a tall muscle-bound mountain of a man. As well as teaching at the school, he coached the local rugby team that Ben, Jake and Spud were members of. He was also very strict, a true believer in discipline and harsh punishment and the type of PE teacher that thought nothing of forcing children to play football or rugby in the most arctic of conditions. Most of the kids at the school were scared of him to some degree, even bullies like Boris. The other children parted as he dragged Ryan out of the dining hall. As they left, Jake came running around the corner, closely followed by Trey. The twelve-year-old must have gone for help when he saw the fight brewing.

    “What happened?” Jake asked as the teacher led him down the corridor towards the principal’s office.

    “Boris tried to pick a fight with him,” Ryan heard another student say to Jake, “but he ended up getting floored. You should’ve seen it man, Ryan took him down like he was nothing!”

    Principal Winters was in his office, happily munching on a sandwich and enjoying his lunch break when there was a knock on his door. He sighed, bidding goodbye to the peaceful lunch he had been hoping to have. “Come in.” The door was opened and he looked over the top of his glasses as Ryan Henderson was pushed into the office by one of the PE teachers. There was a smear of blood by his lip and a stain on the sleeve of his top.

    “Let me guess,” the principal said, “fighting?” It wasn’t the first time that the boy had been involved in a fight. Although to his credit, he had always been on the receiving end and had yet to start one. The PE teacher told him what he had seen after he had been summoned to the dining hall. Having not seen the start of the fight, only Boris being put in a chokehold, what he said to the principal didn’t exactly put Ryan in a good light. “So, what’s your version?” The principal asked Ryan, not expecting anything other than the usual protestations of innocence that most students made when in this position. Ryan looked up from the spot on the floor he had been staring at, pausing for several seconds as if he hadn’t heard the question. He finally opened his mouth as if to say something but instead stumbled slightly. For the first time, Principal Winters noticed that Ryan did not look well at all. He was about to ask if he was all right when the boy’s eyes suddenly rolled back and he collapsed. Only the quick reflexes of the PE teacher prevented Ryan from falling forward and striking his head against the desk.

    The PE teacher gently laid the unconscious boy on the floor of the office as the Principal tried to wake him. “Quickly, get the nurse,” he said urgently as he placed a hand on the boy’s forehead, “he’s burning up.”


    The wooden ruler slapped on to the desk next to his head, its harsh “crack” causing the boy to jerk upright. “I’m awake!” He said hastily by reflex, causing several of his classmates to snigger. Ryan looked up; Ms Harris was standing in front of him with her arms crossed, a look of annoyance on her face.

    “Mr Henderson, since you feel that class time is an appropriate time to catch up on your sleep, perhaps you would prefer to complete your work after school?”

    Under the piercing stare of his teacher, Ryan shank back in his seat. “Yes miss.” The teacher snorted and returned to the whiteboard at the front of the class, continuing with the lesson.

    Ryan groaned inwardly and looked down at his desk at his already completed work. Science should be his favourite lesson; it was his best subject after all. However, in his first year of high school he had made a terrible mistake and in his first week no less. Ms Harris had been at the front of the class, sucking all the life out of a supposedly fun subject, when Ryan noticed that she had made a mistake when writing something on the board. Seeing this, he had made the fatal mistake of pointing out her error. Ms Harris was unfortunately not the sort of teacher that took being corrected well. As far as she was concerned, this snot-nosed brat had had the audacity to correct her in front of the entire class, to humiliate her. It didn’t matter that he had been right. For the rest of the year she had gone out of her way to make life difficult for him. Calling on him every time she asked the class question, whether he put his hand up or not, she was ready to pounce on him if he gave the wrong answer, which he rarely did. She was always critical of his work when marking it, finding some way to deduct marks even if it was for the most pettiest of reasons. At the start of Year 8, his form had had a different teacher for science and his grades had improved considerably but last September, he had learnt that Ms Harris would be his science teacher for Year 9 and his grades in the subject had since taken a nosedive.

    When her attention was back on the rest of the class, Doug elbowed him. “Why do you let her get away with talking to you like that? Just because she’s the teacher don’t mean she’s got the right to treat you like s**t.”

    Ryan glanced towards the front of the class before whispering. “Because my mum and dad said that if she gave me any trouble this year, and if the headmaster didn’t do anything about it this time, they’d pull me out of school and teach me at home.”

    “Home schooling?” Doug said a little too loudly, “no way!”

    “Mr Roberts,” the teacher said from the front of the class, “do you want to join your friend in detention?”

    “No miss.”

    “Then I suggest you pay attention and focus on your work. And Ryan, unlike you, Douglas has a chance of doing well on his SATS next week so please don’t disturb him or any other members of the class.” Looking down at the desk, Doug snickered quietly, earning him a kick and a hard stare from Ryan.

    The rest of the school day was uneventful, the other classes passing much more smoothly. During detention, Ms Harris had him repeating the day’s class work as punishment for falling asleep. Ryan again finished the work quickly and surreptitiously started on his Spanish homework. She didn’t pay attention to him as she marked the last night’s homework. After an hour, he had served his sentence and Ms Harris let him go home.

    Doug was waiting for him outside the school gates with their bikes. He looked up as Ryan walked out of the school building taking off his school tie and loosening the top button of his shirt. “Hey look,” Doug said grinning, “it’s the Truro One. Someone call the press, the political prisoner has been released.”

    Ryan gave his friend a sidelong glance. “Very funny.” He knelt down and took his school shoes off, putting his trainers on in their place.

    The two boys mounted their bikes and rode off through the town. As they hit the park that lay between their school and the road they both lived on, they accelerated down the bike path and raced through the park at breakneck speed. They had raced each other through the park almost every day since starting high school three years ago. It had become a kind of ritual, a way for them both to unwind. Eventually, the two boys erupted out of the park gates, skidding on to the road; the back wheels leaving lines of black rubber on the tarmac as they screeched around to rocket down the road. An irate driver beeped the horn of his car as he was cut up by the two hooded youths.

    Doug reached their race’s finish post first, skidding to a halt outside Ryan’s house. The older boy was only seconds behind him but Doug still had enough time to dismount and turn to gloat at Ryan. “Beat you again Ryebread!”

    “Yeah ... well,” Ryan said getting off his bike and pushing it up the driveway, “one of these days.” Ryan opened the side door to the garage and they wheeled their bikes in, locking their bikes inside. As walked through the kitchen into the living room, Doug still gloating over his victory, they were ambushed by a three-foot tall, blond-haired assassin.
    “Wyan home!” The little girl threw herself at Ryan, hugging his legs.

    Laughing, Ryan picked up his three-year-old sister. “Hi Sarah, had fun today?” Her toys were scattered across the living room floor and the coffee table was covered in paper and Sarah’s crayons.

    “Yep,” the little girl said, filling in her older brother on what she had done. As she did so, she noticed Ryan’s friend standing behind him. Scrunching up her face, she tried to remember his name. “Hi Dog.”

    “It’s Doug,” said Doug.

    “Dog!” She said triumphantly. He gave up trying to correct her as Ryan stifled a snigger. Sarah squirmed out of Ryan’s grip and scampered over to the table, picking up one of her drawings that she enthusiastically showed him.

    Unseen by the children, Ryan’s older brother walked out of his father’s study and paused at the doorway to the living room. He had been trying to finish an essay on Celtic myths and religion for his university degree for several hours. After working all day on it, he had decided to take a break when he heard his brother come in. He stood at the door, watching his younger siblings at play. Behind him, their mother came down the stairs carrying a washing basket. “Did I hear Ryan come in,” she asked as she got to the bottom of the stairs. Mark nodded towards the living room. She popped her head round the door to ask her younger son about school but stopped as she saw Ryan and Sarah and smiled. “What?” Mark asked as he noticed her smile.

    “Ryan and Sarah remind me of you and Ryan when he was that age,” she said quietly not wanting to disturb the scene. “Thanks again for staying in tonight and looking after your brother and sister; your father and I have been looking forward to this night for months.”

    “No problem, me and the squirt’ll order some pizza and play some Xbox or something,” Mark said. “We’ll have a blast. It’s been a while since we’ve had a night in together and you and dad deserve a night out on your anniversary.”

    At that moment, the front door opened. “Hey everyone, I’m home,” Paul said as he walked in.

    “Daddy home!” Squealed Sarah as Ryan carried her on his shoulders into the hallway.


    As usual, Doug joined them for dinner that evening. Ever since his father had walked on him and his mother two years ago, Doug and spent the evenings of most school nights at Ryan’s waiting for his mother to pick him up on her way home from work. Doug’s mother had been forced to take on a second job in order to make ends meet, often working late into the evening. When his father walked out, the eleven-year-old Doug had sunk into an angry depression. Instead of letting Doug go home to an empty house or hang around on the streets, Ryan had persuaded his mum to let Doug stay at theirs until his mum was finished with work. It was a good arrangement and if it hadn’t been for Ryan, Doug would have definitely gone off the rails.

    Tracy had made pasta for dinner and the family plus one sat down and tucked in. Ryan’s father was a youth court judge and during the course of dinner, conversation turned to his work. At one point, he pointed his fork at his younger son in mock-seriousness. “I better not ever catch you in court in front of me,” he warned, “If I do, I will find a way to bring capital punishment back.”

    “Never going to happen,” Ryan said through a mouthful of pasta. Swallowing, he smiled slyly. “I’m way too smart to get caught and besides, they’d never let you preside over my case. It’d be a conflict of interest me being a family member.” Laughter rippled across the table. Ryan looked over at Doug across the table from him and froze. For a split second, he couldn’t recognise the boy sitting opposite him. He looked a good year or two younger and his normally short and spiky brown hair, had become scruffily blond. At the same time, the food on the dinner table was not pasta, but the most succulent beef chilli that Ryan had ever smelt. Ryan blinked in confusion; Doug and the food were as they were.

    “Pass the garlic bread squirt,” Mark said nudging his brother with his elbow. Distracted, Ryan passed Mark the wicker basket. As he turned to Mark, he suddenly felt a stab of irrational and intense hatred towards his brother as he looked at his face. The emotion was fleeting, gone in an instant and Ryan couldn’t work where it had come from “What?” Mark asked noting the slightly confused expression on Ryan’s face.

    “You were home late from school today,” Ryan’s mum said conversationally.

    Ryan shrugged. “Yeah, we stopped at HMV on the way home.” They ate in silence for several moments until his dad spoke.

    “Detention again?”

    Reluctantly, Ryan nodded. His mother put her fork down. “Was it Ms Harris again?” Ryan again hesitated before nodding. “Paul! I thought you said you talked with the headmaster.”

    “I did.”

    Ryan’s parents started to argue. When Ryan refused to answer, Doug was put on the spot by Paul and was forced to admit that Ryan had been having trouble with Ms Harris since September. Tracy was livid that her son had kept this to himself, especially after all the trouble they’d had in Year 7 with that teacher. As his parents tried to “discuss” the problem with him, Ryan kept his head down, pushing the pasta noodles around on his plate. Across the table, Doug could see Ryan was quietly seething, gripping his fork tightly enough to make the metal bend.

    “It’s just one stupid teacher that has it in for me, not the whole ******** school,” Ryan muttered under his breath. Unfortunately, for him, Tracy had a mother’s hearing and she easily heard what Ryan said.

    “Ryan Michael Henderson, that’s not the point and don’t you dare use that language in front of your sister.” She turned to face her husband across the table, “You’ll just have to talk to the headmaster, tell him we’ll have no choice but to withdraw Ryan from school if he lets that women’s behaviour continue.”

    “NO!” Ryan yelled thumping the table. “You’ll only make it worse!”

    “But...” Ryan’s mother started before she was interrupting.

    “I like going to that school with my friends, you’re not taking that away from me. You’re not taking me out of school!” With that, Ryan got up from the table and stormed out of the room. There was an uncomfortable silence, broken only by Doug excusing himself from the table and going after his friend. It took Doug nearly half an hour to calm Ryan down. The older boy went back downstairs and apologised awkwardly to his parents for his outburst. Thankfully, they were understanding enough to let it slide this time, realising now how strongly he felt about the matter. They did warn him that if he still wanted to take his GCSE’s early as planned, then some things would have to change; he would have to get a weekend studies tutor. A fact that he didn’t exactly fill him with enthusiasm.

    Ryan’s parents went out at seven that evening and with Sarah already in bed, the boys broke out the console, ordered a pizza and sat down to an impromptu video game tournament. Doug’s mum picked him up an hour later, not long after the pizza had arrived but giving him enough time to scarf down a couple of slices before he left leaving Mark and Ryan to clear up. As Mark tore up the cardboard pizza box before he put it in to the bin, he looked over his shoulder as Ryan came into the kitchen. “Your friend never seems to be around when there’s cleaning up to do.”

    “That’s Doug for you,” Ryan said opening the fridge. He reached into the fridge took a can of beer from the shelf inside. As he moved to open it, Mark came up behind him and quickly took the can out of his hand and replaced it with a can of cola. “Give that back!”

    “If mum and dad find out I let you drink beer, they’ll kill me.” As Ryan pouted, Mark opened the can and took a swig.

    “Hey, you’re drinking it!”

    “Yes,” Mark said ruffling the annoyed boy’s hair, “but the difference between us, little brother, is that I’m 20 and you’re only 14. You’ve another two years Squirt before you can legally enjoy this. Which reminds me, doesn’t Doug turn 14 on Saturday? You two got plans?”

    Ryan sat down at the kitchen table drinking his fizzy drink as an evil thought wormed its way into his head. “We’re going to the cinema, see Iron Man. Neither of us has seen it yet, Doug made me promise to wait until his birthday. Then we’ll probably go back to his.”

    “Sounds good,” Mark said sitting opposite him.

    “His mum won’t be back from work till late so we’ll have the house to ourselves.” Ryan waited until he saw his brother raise the can to his lips to take another sip. “I guess I’ll get Doug hammered than have hot naked butt sex with the boy I’ve been lusting over for the last two years.” Mark spluttered into the can, coughing up the mouthful of beer he had been about to swallow, and looked at his brother in shock. A second later, Ryan’s face crumpled as he burst out laughing hard enough to draw tears of amusement. “Oh man, you should see your face! I wish I had a camera, it’s priceless.”

    Mark glared at Ryan. “Ryebread,” he said using the nickname that he had given to his brother when they were younger, “I still think of you as my little baby brother; I don’t want the image of you and ‘hot naked butt sex’ anywhere near my brain.”

    Grinning evilly, Ryan leaned forward. “Hey, you’re just jealous that I’m secure enough in my own sexuality to be able to make jokes like that.”

    Rolling his eyes, Mark groaned. The two brothers went back to the living room, Ryan giggling and laughing. It took him a full five minutes for him to stop sniggering. When he did so, he paused the game they were playing and looked up at his older brother, a serious expression on his face. “You’re gonna have to tell them at some point you know.”

    “I know,” Mark finally said. Ryan had known that Mark was gay for at least a year and a half after coming home from school early one day and stumbling across Mark and his boyfriend. Fearing the worst, Mark had panicked when his twelve-year-old brother had walked in on him and his boyfriend kissing. However, Ryan had just stood there surprised for a second before going upstairs to do his homework. After getting rid of his boyfriend, he had gone upstairs to try to convince his brother to keep what he saw a secret. Ryan had simply told him that it didn’t matter to him whether he was gay, straight, bi or other; he’d still be his brother. He had also promised not to tell their parents. Since then though, the two brother’s had been a little distant from one another. Ryan hadn’t enjoyed keeping the secret, feeling like he was lying to his parents. A small part of him resented his brother for putting him in that position. Yet he had meant what he said that day, Mark was his brother and he’d always be his brother, nothing could ever change that.

    “Are you still worried that they won’t understand?” Ryan asked.

    Mark shrugged in answer. “I don’t know.”

    Ryan elbowed Mark in the side. “Hey, you’re talking to the guy that memorised all 177 elements on the periodic table just for fun. If they’ll accept a freak like me they’ll have no problems with you.” He ducked under a cushion thrown at him. “Pendejo,” he said throwing the cushion back at Mark and the smaller boy leapt across the sofa, knocking them both to the floor. The brothers play-wrestled on the floor, rolling around for several minutes before Ryan ended up on his back with Mark sitting on his chest, pinning his hands to the floor above his head.

    “You never learn do you Squirt?” Mark said as he leaned over Ryan, “I’m bigger and stronger than you.”

    Grinning, Ryan looked back up at his brother. “I won’t be weaker than you forever then I’ll be able to kick YOUR a** for once.”

    “Never going to happen little brother.”

    There was a knock on the front door, three sharp raps followed by the chime of the doorbell. Mark sighed and got up off Ryan. “We’ll finish this when I get back.” Mark walked into the hallway and saw the shape of a man silhouetted against the frosted glass of the front door. Wondering who it could be, Mark opened the front door and was confronted by a mirror image of himself. As he stood there, speechless in confusion, the corners of the other Mark’s mouth curled upwards slightly.

    “Hello ... me,” the other Mark said as he slammed his open palm against Mark’s chest. Mark struggled to speak as a sudden and intense cold flooded out from the hand, engulfing every corner of his body. His body was frozen, locked in place. The hand began to push at Mark’s chest, sinking into it as if the flesh and bones were no obstacle. “I’d say this won’t hurt, but I make it a point never to lie to myself.” He thrust his hand forward, right up to his elbow and beyond. Far further than he ought to have been able to. Taking a deep breath, he stepped forward into the twitching body of his double, merging with it completely. The body shook in the throes of a seizure as the two Mark’s battled for control. However, it was a one sided struggle. Within seconds, Mark had destroyed the original owner of the body, gaining access to his the memories and experiences. “I’m doing a degree in Celtic mythology?” Mark said in surprise, “I turned out to be such a tool.”

    “Who’s at the door?” Ryan called from the other room.

    “No one,” Mark said smiling as he closed the front door, “just a bunch of kids playing knock a door run.” Slowly, Mark walked back in to the living room. He looked down at his oblivious younger brother. “Now, where were we?”