It Is Always Three O'Clock in the Morning

Episode 1: Cities In Dust

Music: Cities In Dust

Several weeks have passed since Anthony and Angel were embraced. They have learned, in rough terms at least, what they are and what they must do to survive, though neither really full believes it yet. Angel has been spending his nights with Marcel, an old friend of his and small-time drug dealer, who seems to be involved with the strange supernatural underground Angel finds himself a part of. Marcel does not seem to be the same sort of monster Angel is, though Angel does not know exactly what he is. Anthony has been guarded and shepherded by Nora. As the episode opens, Anthony and Nora are walking through a large central city park near midnight, and their conversation reveals tensions and distrust between the two.

Nora angrily accuses Anthony of staying in contact with Tracy, her neighbor and twice now the target of Anthony’s hunger. She lectures him on the danger involved and the need for secrecy. Anthony fends her off as best he can, replying that he understands the risks involved and assuring her he has been careful and safe as possible. He also denies further contact with the woman, though he has in fact spoken with her once or twice more than he is willing to admit. Shifting subjects, Nora gestures to an abandoned bath house and sanitarium on a hill on the edge of the park. That’s their destination, she explains, a place of gathering where they can socialize with “others.” This will be Anthony’s social debut, she intimates mysteriously.

Earlier in the night, Angel rides with Marcel in a beaten-up old car as they drive through a run-down part of Cathedral City. Marcel has been fairly helpful but also secretive, and tonight he began the evening by declaring that “the boss” wants to see Angel, and that Angel had little choice in the matter. On the upside, Marcel says the boss might be able to help Angel figure out who did this to him, who turned him into the thing he is now. Angel rides along, and follows even when Marcel leads him in an unmarked back door of a decript-looking building and down several flights of crumbling stairs, until they are well and truly underground. Through a series of halls and tunnels, they find themselves at a large rusty metal door and Marcel gestures for Angel to go inside. From now on he’s on his own.

Inside the dank-smelling room underneath the city Angel finds an exquisitely beautiful library, and an exquisitely horrible monster in the library, sitting at an ornate writing desk. It gestures Angel to come forward and in a clipped European accent of some kind introduces himself as Viktor. Even with everything that has come before, Angel has difficulty controlling his panic and visceral disgust as the creature in front of him, with his surrealist-nightmare face and his amateurishly rearranged looming body. Nonetheless, the creature named Viktor asks Angel what he knows of what is he is, and listens patient to his explanation. Viktor enlightens Angel further, explaining that there is a diversity of monsters like Angel in the world that would beggar the imagination. Viktor is one of them, in fact, though quite different from Angel. There even exists a gentile society of monsters, it explains, to provide some company in the lonely nocturnal void. And finally, Viktor explains that if Angel works with this society, the Camarilla, and more specifically if he works with Viktor, great rewards are possibly in store. But before allowing him to make the decision, the Viktor thing beckons Angel to follow him through a further door into the labyrinth, so that Angel “might make an informed decision.”

Following Viktor through a smaller rusted door and down several twists and turns, Angel finds himself in something resembling no less than a modern equivalent of a castle dungeon. A handful of rows of cells line the walls of this narrow corridor, with shadowy half-light given by electric torches hung by hooks on the ceiling. And there in the last cell, squirming on the floor of the cell and whimpering pitifully, a moving thing. Angel gasps as he realizes the thing is a person, a thing like himself except only flailing stumps exist where arms and legs should be. After allowing this scene to sink in for a moment or two, Viktor turns to Angel and explains that other societies exist, ones actually more horrific than the Camarilla, and that the man on the floor belongs to one such alternative. This, Viktor suggests, is the price of not playing along. At this it faces Angel, and asks whether he is willing to receive the benefits of service. Angel says yes to this convincing offer, and Viktor attempts a sinister broken, grey-gummed smile in response. “Excellent. Well, we must be going,” Viktor says, “You are wanted at Elysium.”

In the echoing art noveau halls of an empty house of baths, sinister people gossip and whisper in small groups around the high walkway edges or linger on plush, rotten couches at the bottoms of pools. Anthony and Angel find themselves brought together, sitting on uncomfortable wooden chairs at the bottom of a long, deep pool in front of a depressingly normal metal desk. They share few glances but fewer words, instead waiting in the echoing silence as various other figures appear in the walkway on the edge of the pool, shadowed and far enough away to prevent identification. After what seems like an eternity of waiting, the empt metal chair is suddenly and instantaneously filled by a mousey-looking woman in a rumpled brown suit appearing seemingly out of thin air. She wastes no time but begins to interview Angel and Anthony for some unexplained purpose, her eyes alive with a rare intensity. Her questions are invasive and seem to suggest that Anthony and Angel are by turns violent, predatory, cowardly, sadistic, and perverted. Angel plays along, but Anthony is defiantly reticent, and the mousey woman mysteriously threatens “positive reinforcement” if he does not begin to comply. Unhappy with the idea of finding out what that might be, Anthony follows along, for now at least.

During this exchange, Anthony is questioned about the woman who turned him, who they refer to as his “sire.” After describing her, an unseen man comments to an unseen woman on the walk above, “Certainly sounds like Arianne..” and with that, another woman has appeared in the pool bottom, a tall and severe-looking woman with piercing gaze behind a set of ornate spectacles. She proceeds to press Anthony hotly on his sire, and condescendingly patronizes to him when his answers don’t seem sufficient to her. Finally fed up with this treatment, Anthony shouts in response to yet another badgering demand, and slams his hand on the desk in his frustration.

This quite simply makes the entire situation go batshit. The mousey woman shrieks in response to Anthony’s echoing slam, and fetches a large scalpel from somewhere under the table which she attempts to drive directly into Anthony’s fist, though Anthony is able to jerk his hand back just quickly enough to avoid being pinned to the desk. But before he can recover he is picked up bodily from his chair as the tall woman’s hand closes on his face with an iron-grip and lifts him one-handed in the air. “Edith! Calm yourself,“ she shouts. “My name is Annette, and I am Prince of this domain, neonate,” she growls. “That means I’m in fucking charge here. If you choose to bawl like a baby any more in front of me, you can greet the dawn. Got it?” Anthony weakly nods, and finds himself dropped unceremoniously on the floor. “I’m done with you,” Annette announces. “Listen to your babysitters, and stay out of trouble unless you want me to schedule a private session between you and Edith. Now get out of here.”

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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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