V. Dice
"...everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed."

Gerard didn't really mean it about the vampires, a fact that became clear as he whispered, his breath rasping in Frank's ear. "The cops think they were on PCP or something. Fucking fucked-up kids. One of them bit one of the cops while they were being arrested. The cops wanted us to stay and give statements, but I said fuck that. We weren't sticking around for them to figure it out. Not after they found you face down in the parking lot."

"They attacked me," Frank said again, his voice thick. "Like six of them. Or eight." They had told him what was going to happen. "We'll go find someone else," the tall kid had said, and he, Frankie, he hadn't done anything about it.

"You're okay though," Gerard murmured, his hand roaming over Frank's chest. It was a question.

"I guess," Frank said, although he didn't feel okay. He wasn't dead, though. That was something. He guessed.

They checked in to a Holiday Inn along the highway, maybe in Kansas, maybe in Indiana, Frankie didn't really know. Bob went in and got the rooms, and the rest of them sat in the van and didn't look at each other and didn't speak. Frank curled his hand around Gerard's wrist and pressed his fingers against the pulse there.

There were two rooms on the second floor with double beds in each, and a connecting door that Mikey unlocked and threw open immediately.

"I'm going to take a shower," Frank muttered to no one in particular.

"Oh, here," Gerard said. He handed over one of the several black duffel bags he'd carried up. Frank opened it. Clothes, his iPod, his cellphone. He felt his eyes blurring over.

"Thanks," he said. Gerard nodded.

Frank went into the starkly lit bathroom and shut the door behind him. He sat down on the toilet seat and pulled out his cell phone and took a deep breath.

He called his mom first and told her they'd left the tour for security reasons but that everything was fine. She was worried, but not too much, not after she heard that the whole band was with him. "Even Ray?" she asked. For some reason, his mom thought that Ray hung the sun and the moon. Frankie thought it might be because of the fact that, despite his crazy hair, Ray seemed like a nice responsible boy. Ray was a nice responsible boy.

"Of course Ray, mom," he said.

"Well, be careful. Check in with me."

"Love you, mom," he said softly.

"I love you, too," she answered.

Jamia was next. "What?" she said.

"Hey, it's me, um--"

"I know who the fuck it is, Frankie," she said. "What do you want?"

"Um, we left the tour," he said, trying to think of how to explain what had happened in a way that didn't sound fucking crazy.

"Okay," she said.

"See, there was this thing, a kid bit me, and it just got really dangerous and--."

"Frank, jesus. You're making no sense. Are you drunk? I thought you quit when Gerard quit?"

"He sort of started again," Frank said. "But that's not--"

"Great," she said. "The Party Twins are back in business. Look, Frankie. I have to go, okay? You can't just call and talk to me anymore."

"I know," he said, desperately, holding the phone close to his mouth. "I know, okay? But the thing is there are sick people out there, honey, and you should--"

"Frank, stop. Just stop. Stop talking, stop calling, stop everything."


"Good bye, Frank."

"Jamia--" he said again, but she had already hung up. He set the phone down on the bathroom counter and took off his clothes, piling them neatly on top of the toilet seat. He turned on the water, and pulled out the little knob that made the water into shower spray. He spread the bathmat carefully on the floor. He climbed in the tub and stood under the spray, tipping his head back so that water wouldn't run into his eyes. It was yellow in the tub, the fluorescent light dimmed by the thick yellow plastic of the shower curtain, like Frank was standing in an old photograph. He looked at his hands in the strange light, the lines criss-crossing them, the sprawl of the fingers. He wondered if Gerard had remembered to bring his guitar. Then he put one hand flat on the tile wall of the tub and used it to hold himself up. The water slid over his face and erased his tears as they came.

When he came out of the shower in fresh boxers, holding his dirty clothes in a bundle against his chest, the others were watching television. The news. And not Mtv news, which was usually all they cared about, but real news, CNN. Frank sat down on the bed next to Gerard, who scooted over for him without even glancing his way.

"...most recent in a series of reports of teenagers attacking and wounding others in imitation of vampires. Later, our experts will talk about the goth phenomenon and what you can do to prevent your child from falling victim to this strange new craze."

Gerard laughed a short bitter laugh, but the newscaster was still talking, and Frank didn't want to miss anything. "...video from the strange attack," the female newscaster was saying. "We want to warn you that this is very disturbing and is not appropriate for children."

The quality of the clip was very poor, smudged and grainy, but it was of someone playing at Warped, shot from the far right side of the stage. Someone's cell phone, Frank realized. Some kid taking video with his phone. The band, Pete's band, Fall Out Boy, was playing a song but the volume overwhelmed the cellphone's audio ability and kept cutting out and buzzing with static and Frank couldn't recognize the song. Then, suddenly, it happened, something black flying up out of crowd, a person, maybe, launching itself onstage and into Patrick, the lead singer, grabbing him, knocking him to the ground and falling on top of him. And then there were two more, just blurs really, on the far side of the stage, grabbing one of the others, Joe, the guitarist, and Frank couldn't really tell what was happening except that the first person, the first attacker--

vampire, he thought, and hugged his clothes close

--was standing up, his arms outstretched and something was falling from them, something was dripping, and then there were screams and the camera phone was jostled and the video cut off.

There was a moment of silence on the television screen. The female newscaster cleared her throat awkwardly. "Um, obviously," she said, "a very sad day for fans and relatives of the band Fall Out Boy. Police say they have suspects in custody and are investigating the cause of this terrible terrible attack. In the meantime, the search is on for the remaining members of the band, bassist Peter Wentz and drummer Andrew Hurley, who disappeared right after the incident. We'll continue to update you on this developing story as new information comes in. Paul?"

Frank looked around, but neither Pete nor Hurley were in the room. "Where?" he whispered to Gerard, who nodded toward the open connecting door.

"They're sleeping," he said.

"What are we gonna do?" Frank said.

"We're going home," Gerard answered. "We called Chris already and he's calling their manager and we're going drive that way and drop them off in Chicago and catch a flight there. It's only, like, a day or two drive at most. And this way no one can get to us."

Frank nodded. "Okay," he said, relieved. There was a plan. Gerard had a plan and managers were involved and they were going to be home in a day or two. They were fine. Frank pressed his face into his dirty t-shirt and breathed for a second just to calm himself. Fine.

They ordered pizza and beer and Frank got dressed while they waited for it to come, and the ate cross-legged on the beds in front of the television. Not the news, thank god, just some stupid movie on TBS about Julia Roberts and her abusive husband and how she faked her own death to get away. It was a total chick movie, but there was something reassuring about the stupidity of it, something that seemed normal. Frank lay down on the bed while it was on and fell asleep to the sounds of a carnival.

He dreamed of a fence made of logs, sitting on it and leaning back, the rough-hewn wood digging into his palms, until he was looking up into the branches of an old oak tree, the bare branches scratching designs on the blue summer sky, and when he woke up, it was dark in the room, the t.v. silent, the only noise the sound of breath. Gerard was on the bed with him, curled up so that Frank could only see the dark curve of his shoulder in the faint light from the parking lot. He sat up slowly, so as not to wake him.

There were two people in the bed across from him, too; Ray, obviously, his hair erupting from under the sheet, and probably Bob. Frank stood up and stretched. He felt better now that he'd eaten and slept and things were happening, now that they were going home. He padded to the open adjoining door and looked in.

The curtains were open in the other room, letting in more of the sodium light from parking lot, coloring the room orange. Someone was asleep in the bed by the door. In the other bed, there were two people and, while Frank watched, one of them rolled over and shifted toward the other under the blanket. Probably Mikey and Pete, Frank thought, smiling, and then there was more movement and the sheet slid and there was Mikey's thin shoulder, and the curve of his ear and then a hand on his neck, his arm and the rasp of breath and, Mikey's hips moving under the blanket and someone sighing "please," barely audible.

Frank took two steps back, into his own room. It made him sort of sad, seeing that, knowing that it was probably just out of sympathy and that Mikey would be embarrassed if he knew Frank had seen, because he'd never meant to sleep with Pete, never wanted more than to be his friend. Frank sighed.

He knew that he should go back to bed, but he felt awake, too awake to lie down, so he went to the window instead, pulling the thick commercial drape back and slipping in front of it, its dusty weight swaying against his back. He could see the parking lot and the field beyond and even further out, the highway; the pale headlights of the occasional semi-truck were all that moved. He stood there for a while, forehead pressed against the glass, hypnotized by the peace and quiet.

Below him, a car door slammed.

Frank jerked a little, surprised, but it was just a guy on the far side of the lot, holding a jacket or something in his hand. Frank watched as the guy crossed the lot and headed for the nearest door. He was walking past almost right beneath Frank's window when he stopped. His head lifted as if there had been a noise and Frank scanned the parking lot for someone else.

When his gaze returned, the man was staring up at the window.

Frank recoiled, wondering if the man could see him. He didn't think so, not from the ground in the dark, not when the lights were off, but he didn't know, he couldn't tell. The man in the parking lot shrugged and moved on, heading toward the door. When he'd disappeared out of sight, Frank scrambled away from the drapes, hand over his chest. He was really starting to totally freak out if just seeing some guy in the parking lot was enough to give him the creeps.

He stood in the middle of the room for a minute, wondering if running the sink for a drink of water would wake everybody else up, and then he heard it, the click and snap of the door at the end of the hall opening and shutting. The man from the parking lot, maybe.

Frank tiptoed over to the door and pressed his eye to the spy hole, hands flat against the door, wondering if he'd be able to see him when he passed. He heard the muffled sound of footsteps approaching, the low tuneless whistle of someone singing to themselves, and then the spyhole was blacked out.

He was outside the door. Frank glanced down. Locked and deadbolted with that thing that stopped maids from coming in, even if they had keys. Locked.

"Come out, come out, wherever you are," the man said softly. "I know you're in there, little bird."

Frank closed his eyes and pressed his mouth shut. Stay quiet, stay quiet, stay quiet, he thought. No sounds, no breath.

"Maybe you should open the door," the man crooned. "Maybe just a little. You saw me, little friend, and now maybe I should see you."

Frank pushed his hands against the wood and opened his eyes. The peephole was still black, the man's eye against it, maybe. They were close enough to kiss, if the door hadn't been between them.

"Maybe not, then," the man said, chuckling to himself. "Maybe some other time, huh, little bird?"

After a second, the light returned to the peephole and Frank could hear the soft shuffle of footsteps on the carpeting. A minute later, a door far down the hall opened and closed.

Frank turned and sat heavily, his back against the door, head in his hands, mouth pressed into his palms to keep from screaming. The whole world was falling apart. The whole fucking world. "oh," someone said softly from the other room. "oh, yeah."

[ Plague ]