It Is Always Three O'Clock in the Morning

Episode 0: We Only Come Out At Night

Music: We Only Come Out At Night

A prelude

A cold wind blows down the streets of Cathedral City late on a dry early autumn night. Anthony Forzaglia and Angel Luis Iglesias, two twenty-something guys who could not be more different, are walking these streets heading home. Home to Angel is his family’s small apartment in a run-down residential tower complex, and he’s returning from a long shift at a second job. Anthony, a rich kid slumming it up, is coming back from a nightclub and returning home to his dorm at a prestigious downtown city university. These two have never met, but their attention is drawn by the smell of smoke and the reflected light of a blazing building fire on the nighttime clouds above.

Drawing closer, Angel realizes it’s his building that is on fire and he breaks into a run, sprinting headlong for the entrance. He dashes inside heedless of his own safety, because he knows his family, his mother and two younger sisters, could be inside. As he bounds up the countless flights of stairs to get to his apartment, Anthony cautiously detours to to the scene. Not hearing sirens despite the fire’s already roaring state, he pulls out his phone to quickly dial 911, and when done he keeps it in hand just in case. He’s distracted from getting closer to the fire, though, because his attention is caught by a scream in a nearby alley. A woman is being mugged, and shouting for help.

Angel emerges on the 13th floor of the tower. His family is on the 28th, but he has to cross a long hallway, full of fallen ceiling and flames, to reach a second set of stairs to get there. As he runs down the hall, he stops in response to a feeble cry from an open apartment door. Inside is an old woman in a wheelchair, someone he recognizes dimly, and she’s begging him to help her get out. She can’t walk the whole way down, she needs Angel’s help, she says. Angel can see it’s only a matter of time before her ceiling collapses and the entire room is full of flame. He stares at her numbly for a few moments before mumbling that he’ll come back after he grabs his family, and he backs out of the room. But he knows she probably won’t have the time to wait.

Meanwhile, Anthony plunges down the shadowed alley to help the screaming woman. He rounds a right angle turn to the end of the alley, and sees them: a hulking guy with a knife standing above a woman in anomalously fashionable clothes cowering on the ground, clutching her purse and sobbing. Anthony screams for the mugger to leave the woman alone, and suddenly too many things happen at once. The big guy turns in surprise toward Anthony, leaping at him, and Anthony feels a sudden dull ache in his gut. A gun goes off from somewhere behind him and Anthony is suddenly showered in bits of human being. He looks down as the guy who doesn’t seem so large now crumples to the pavement, and notices the handle end of a particularly large knife jutting out of his abdomen. Glancing up, the previously cowering woman is walking toward him with a revolver in her hand, her mascara-streaked face smiling. Anthony quietly considers this sequence of events until the woman is inches from his face. He whispers, “Help me,” finding it surprisingly hard to speak. She leans in and whispers back, “Oh, I will,” as she lowers her hand to the knife handle. Sharp new explosions of pain cry out as she drives the knife rhythmically in and out of Anthony’s body. The last thing he is aware of before he blacks out is her mouth descending to his neck, and a sharp pain combined with a euphoric coldness…

Angel drives on, thinking of his family but also hopeful that maybe possibly he could help the old lady below. Hitting the 28th floor, he sees down the hall that his door is ajar, and he sprints through it into his living room. He is unprepared for what he finds there. His mother and sisters are here, as he feared. But they’re backed into a corner of the kitchen by a small man with sunken features. Angel shouts at him and picks up a knife on a counter. The small man turns to face him and.. snarls? A rage plays across the man’s withered face, a kind of animal emotion that could only be called a rage, accompanied by a look in his eye as fiery as the blazes surrounding them.

Time seems to slow as Angel and the intruder rush at each other, and they struggle for a short instant before the small man’s deceptively powerful arms pin Angel to the floor. Suddenly the whole man’s body is on top of Angel, as the man’s face lowers to meet his. Angel screams for his family to run before the man rips into his throat, and he sees that they escape as the thing in his apartment continues to tear the flesh of his throat with its teeth. Angel begins to lose consciousness as he finally feels the weight of the creature removed from him, and through dimming sight he watches it dash part way out of the apartment before pausing, saying something indistinct, and returning to Angel’s limp figure. Something is pressed to Angel’s lips, and he feels warmth as something copper-tasting drips down his throat. His next experiences are the sharp crash of glass, a strange chill whipping breeze, and a sudden complete loss of consciousness.

Hunger

Some time later, the whole circus of civil intervention has appeared. Firefighters, cops, and a gawking public fill a perimeter around the building as the fire continues to rage. On the outskirts, Nora Amador flits about, seeking some kind of artistic inspiration from the chaos. Her eye is drawn to a figure stumbling out of a nearby alley, a pale man weaving back and forth with a massive blood stain on his neck and face. Shit, Nora mutters to herself, because she recognizes what is happening here. Running to Anthony, she quickly strong-arms him into following her out of sight of the cops and away from the scene. Around the same time, a local drug dealer named Marcel Kelly finds an old friend in a nearby alley, not dead but also not quite alive. He spirits Angel away to a safe place.

Nora brings Anthony to her apartment, a lavish place in a trendy neighborhood. Anthony is conscious but not fully aware of what is going on. He all he knows is that he is ravenous, and he tells this to Nora multiple times as he sits on her bed. She tells him to shut up, pacing back and forth in her room, until there is a sound of another apartment door slamming outside. “Wait here,” Nora tells Anthony as she leaves the apartment. He can hear her knock on a nearby door, and then the dull sounds of conversation. Eventually Nora returns with an attractive young woman, and later Anthony remembers a warm, sticky sequence of events which he interprets as some manner of sexual encounter between the three of them. The entire chain of events is fuzzy, he can’t quite recall it really, but by the end he is no longer hungry.

The next evening, Angel wakes. He is in the backroom of a bodega with the window mostly painted over, but he somehow knows it’s evening. He recognizes the room as belonging to a neighborhood man, a man known for occasionally helping a kids stay out of sight when in trouble. There is a tray of food on the floor, and the churning of Angel’s gut tells him he is so very hungry, but he can’t bring himself to eat the food. Instead he lingers on the bed in the room for hours, hours which seem like days because of the awful twisting of his insides. He can’t make heads nor tails of what happened the previous night, and he couldn’t even if he had a clear head.

Later, after hours and hours, just a couple of hours before dawn, he hears a delivery boy leave the bodega. Rushing to the window though he doesn’t know why, he glimpses a delivery boy about his age walking away down the street. For the first time, in addition to the hunger Angel realizes just how cold he is. How icey his fingers feel, and how hollow he is inside. But that boy, he feels warm, Angel is so cold he can almost feel the boy’s warmth from inside the room. He can also hear the boy, specifically the rhythmic pulsation of his heart inside his chest, hot and full and complete. The window clacks open as Angel shoves it and slithers down onto the street, lurking behind the boy as he follows him, for what purpose Angel knows not.

Angel follows close behind as the delivery boy winds his way through the streets. The more time passes, the chillier and emptier Angel feels inside. Finally, the guy stops at a back entrance of a store hidden from the street by pallets and fencing. Angel doesn’t keep his distance, he is so cold, he walks right up to the delivery boy until the boy is facing him and staring in incomprehension. Angel stares into his eyes for a moment, seeing the similarities between them, when he realizes the solution to his freezing emptiness: he and the boy must become one. He embraces the boy in his arms, and strangely no cry is heard. A little warmer. But now the pounding of the boy’s pulse thrums through Angel’s ears, blocking out all other sounds, and suddenly Angel realizes that the only way to quench his chill, to fill him to completeness, is to join with the boy in the realest sense. Not fully aware of what he is doing, his teeth latch onto the boy’s flesh, and he begins to drink. He has never experienced such warmth, or such completeness of being until this moment. Later Angel is horrified by what he has done, the bloody body he has left on a back stoop for anyone to see, and he flees headlong into the near-dawn, but for a brief few moments he is once again whole.

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