Meet Xander, Chicago's "Dark Guardian."
Stillborn: The Seventh Son
“I was born on Friday the thirteenth.”
Images flash before your eyes. You are in a hospital delivery room. A blonde in her mid-thirties is pushing for all she’s worth. Her disheveled hair is damp, some plastered across her forehead as she grimaces, screaming as she attempts to push. To say that this is a hard pregnancy would be an understatement. At the end of her second trimester, her husband was killed serving his country in a war that she felt was unnecessary. That left her alone with six children and a seventh on the way. This child, she determined, was going to be her last. Not a superstitious person by any means, she believed that she was being punished for making that decision. As pregnancies go, she was definitely having a rougher time of this one than she’d had with the others. Somehow, her unborn child had seemingly managed to suffer no ill effects of her problems. Or so, the doctors thought.
“How could they have known then what I know now? With all of their degrees, their countless hours of practicums, their medicine, their need to diagnose everything using their “science,” they weren’t ready for my arrival. You see, I am an anomaly that very few people in mankind’s history have witnessed. Even fewer have a clue as to how to prepare for the arrival of one such as myself.”
We cut to the present day. Standing on a ledge overlooking Lake Michigan, a young man takes a deep breath. Your vantage point is over his left shoulder. As you back away from your speaker, you can’t help but notice the full-length black leather trench that he wears. His arms folded across his chest, his aura makes him appear larger than his six-foot frame would normally suggest. A pair of shades sits atop his bald head, a gold studded earring is evident in his left ear.
“My mother was chosen. Don’t ask me why she was chosen, above so many others. Maybe she WAS being punished for deciding to buck Mother Nature. Maybe it was her low self-esteem. Maybe, it was her despair brought on by my father’s demise. Maybe, it was just meant to be. In any event, she was to be my entry into your world. She was to be the mother of this city’s guardian.”
You return to the delivery room. The woman’s face is nearly purple with effort as she pushes her son out of his womb. The purple child, covered in placental fluid and blood, is motionless. The eyes of the delivery team’s members dart about in desperate silence before the lead physician snatches a stethoscope from a waiting tray behind him. Checking for a heartbeat, controlled chaos takes over. The child is taken out of his mother’s sight, the lead physician rushing over to begin CPR.
“WHAT’S WRONG WITH MY BABY?! YOU SAID THAT HE WAS GOING TO BE OKAY!!”
A nurse tries to console the mother as the lead physician and his team focuses their attention on the task at hand. The mother struggles to break free of her restraints, inhuman strength fueled by concern for her child forcing more bodies to enter the room.
“I was stillborn. The doctors, with all of their technology didn’t see that coming. How could they? For all of man’s advancements in medicine, there are some things that just won’t be accounted for. My birth date, my death date; were predestined. You see, my mother should not have been able to have a healthy child. All of the abuse that she’d heaped on herself after my father’s death made her body unfit to deliver a healthy child. That’s what the doctors say. Yet, here I am. Healthy, strong. However, my friend, if you think that I’m truly alive… You’re sorely mistaken.”
You return, once again to the hospital room. The wailing of the child’s mother is evident above all other voices as we watch the lead physician struggle to resuscitate the boy. A drop of sweat travels down the crease made by the scowl on the physician’s brow, only to get vacuumed up by the teal-colored mask covering the doctor’s nose and mouth. The monitors now attached to the child, as well as the rest of the lights in the room, flicker off. A mere moment later, all lights save those on the monitor come back on.
“What the…?! Somebody make sure that the monitors are still plugged in! Now is not the time for this!”
Before the doctor can finish his statement, multi-colored lights flicker back into life. A long, nearly inaudible breath is heard, followed by a few small coughs. Those coughs are then followed by the wailing of a child.
“Do I know how to make an entrance, or what?”
You return to the present day. Your narrator extends his arms to his sides.
“Chicago’s “Dark Guardian.” Look… Let’s just call a spade a spade… I prefer to say “Black Guardian.” I think it has a nicer ring to it.
He turns around, a smirk on his face. His big brown eyes flash with glee as he reaches into an inner pocket in his trench. A mere moment later, he’s placing a plastic toothpick between two overdeveloped canine teeth on the left side of his mouth. A gold shirt with what appears to be an embroidered multi-colored tribal design can be seen as he tucks his hands into the pockets of a pair of purple slacks. A silver dragon pendant adorns a silver chain hanging beneath the collar of his shirt; a pair of black Western slouch boots with silver tips completes the ensemble.
“I am Xander. My friends call me X. My enemies know me as “The Hunter.” As far as introductions go, that’s all that you need to know. I was birthed and reborn at Cook County Hospital, not very far from here. Much like this city, it has seen its fair share of violence and unexplainable occurrences. But that’s neither here nor there. You’re here because you sought me out. I’ve got eyes and ears all over this city. Not your traditional eyes and ears, though. You see, I was reborn with a few… Gifts.”
Xander laughs a soulless laugh. His fangs seem to nearly glow in the darkness with their whiteness. His eyes suggest that there is no real humor found in his words. Sarcasm, perhaps?
“No one paid attention to the timing of it all. Not a soul. That’s the… Beauty… Of Man’s preoccupation with himself. If it can’t be rationally explained, if it doesn’t have a tidy little package that it can be wrapped in for presentation to the masses, it obviously doesn’t exist. But then, I’m here, as plain as the nose on your face. I shouldn’t exist, either, should I?”
Xander seemingly disappears. Before you know it, he’s behind you, his hot breath on your neck, a powerful arm pressing your own arms against your body, a hand with a vice-like grip holding your head at an awkward angle.
“Don’t piss your pants. I’ve no reason to hurt you… Yet. I can smell your fear mounting with each heartbeat. ‘What have I gotten myself into,’ you’re asking yourself. Don’t bother denying it, I can read your thoughts. The second it flashes across your mind, I hear it, as sure as you hear the sound of my voice. But then, how can you be sure that it’s the sound of my voice that you’re hearing?”
Instantly, the inhuman grip that you were caught in is released. Xander stands before you, fangs at the ready, a sinister smile on his face. His facial features stand out as you hold your breath. A neatly trimmed mustache connects with the beginnings of a beard. A strong jaw line leads to a small pair of ears.
“You’re wondering what I am.” His voice is heard, but his lips have not moved. “I’m not one of those things that go ‘bump’ in the night. I’m far too graceful for that. I don’t hide underneath your bed, don’t fancy making closets and dark basements my home. I’m the stuff of nightmares and legends. One of those ‘things,’” he spits contemptuously on the ground. “That only lunatics and fools would dare believe exists.”
His eyes turn black, as he removes the glove from his left hand. Holding it in front of his face, you hear a small chuckle. His nails begin to grow, taking the shape of talons.
“Not necessarily Wolverine, but they serve my purposes just as well. You see, my friend, I am a vampire. A member of the ‘walking dead.’ Some would call me a wraith, a demon, devil’s spawn. I prefer to say that I’m somewhat unique.” His nails go back to normal before he replaces his glove onto his left hand. Once again, he disappears. Suddenly, you feel the weight of his right arm as it is placed on your shoulder in what can only be called a makeshift hug. “I’m not your ‘typical’ vampire. I wasn’t ‘brought over’ by being bitten. My mother wasn’t attacked by vampires or impregnated by some incubus. I’m a vampire because I was destined to be. The seventh born in my family. You might as well say that my… Condition was in the stars.”
Xander motions above, a gesture that is so elementary, yet full of passion.
“This is my time, you know. Darkest night. Only here, atop what used to be the tallest building in the world, do I feel at peace. That is, until it’s time for me to go to work.” He stops and stares intently for a few moments, his silence uncomfortable. You can hear his voice, even though his mouth doesn’t move. “Yes, THIS vampire works for a living. Which brings me to you. You will know how I’ve come to be here. You will know my purpose, my passion, my destiny. You, my friend, in your infinite curiosity, have placed yourself in the unenviable position of becoming my partner in crime.” He smirks. “Alright, I’ll get out of your head, if that makes you more comfortable. As you wish, I will speak to you normally.”
Xander smirks once again. If not for the struggle against the thoughts going on in your mind, you’d be thinking that you’re having a weird dream. I can assure you that this is no dream. The overriding thought is “this can’t be happening!” Xander stands before, you, regarding you intently, his toothpick wildly moving from side to side as he chews on it. The expression on his face seems to suggest that mentally, he’s chewing on an idea as well, his mind churning just as feverishly as those canines are on the plastic in his mouth.
“I’m gettin’ hungry.” Xander interrupts your thoughts. “Time for a bite.”
Horrified at the suggestion, you almost back away. Xander’s not having that, as you find yourself in his grip once again, cradled in his arms.
“You ACTUALLY think I was referring to you? Please!” Xander has a disgusted expression on his face. Those disarming eyes flash with a little humor. “You’re not even worth the effort. As far as I’m concerned, I’m on the clock. Besides, I’m not in the habit of eating the help. I would suggest that you grab me around the neck and hold on for dear life. We’re gonna get a jump on this food thing.”
Barely finishing his thought, Xander easily runs out toward the ledge, then leaps. “You might not wanna look down.”
You know that feeling that you get in the pit of your stomach when riding a roller coaster or an elevator? Multiply that intensity to the nth degree, and you have the feeling of freefalling from atop the Sears Tower. You can hear the beating of Xander’s heart increase as he takes a deep breath. Your face buried into his shirt, you notice that he doesn’t smell like he’s a walking corpse. The smell of Obsession, accompanied by an unfamiliar, yet intoxicating scent is highly evident. His body is definitely generating heat, a stark difference from what you’d have thought to expect from a mythical being. As your mind tries to process the information its receiving, you’re interrupted by the sudden cessation of motion. Xander is putting you down.
“That wasn’t as bad as you thought it would be, was it?” A study in contradictions, Xander stands before you, a gleam in his eyes. “I told you earlier, I’m not your ‘typical’ vampire. Blood sustains me, but it’s only necessary to heal from massive physical trauma. There are some ‘human’ things that I love too much to give up. A nice, rare steak, hold the garlic, please. I was never one for alcohol, at least, not on a regular basis. Because of my nature, I’m able to walk amongst you, day or night. It’s easier for me to move along unnoticed if I do my work at night. Besides, that’s when the REAL monsters and freaks come out of hiding. I heal from minor wounds at a highly accelerated rate. All of my senses, all of my reflexes are jacked up, which explains why I keep ‘disappearing.’ My ‘friends’ have informed me that I’ve virtually stopped aging, which is probably a good thing for a being that’s supposed to be nigh immortal.” With his left hand, he quickly rubs his chin with a wink. “I’d hate to see these good looks fall to the ravages of time. ‘Twould be a god awful waste of a fine physical specimen, if I say so myself.”
So focused on Xander, you’ve failed to realize that you’ve come to a bustling section of Chicago, just East of the downtown area. The neon lights outlining the shape of a guitar at a distance clue you in to the fact that there’s a Hard Rock Café nearby. Rock and Roll McDonald’s is also in the distance. You look at Xander, whose head motions at an angle. Excalibur’s.
“I LOVE this place. The DJs are top notch, the hunnies are some of the sexiest you’ll find anywhere and the place isn’t very far from the Lake. You wanted to know about the “Black Guardian,” Xander begins crossing the street, his aura attracting the attention of a group of women lined up in front of Excalibur’s door. He spins around, grinning. “This is where more of the story unfolds.” Motioning for you to join him, you feel as if you can’t resist. How can this assassin, whose very life depends on murdering humans, be so damn charming?
It’s like X is a celebrity. Everyone seems to know him, many pleasantries thrown in his direction as the two of you are seated in a private booth, overlooking the dance floor. A waitress whispers something in his ear, slipping a strip of paper into his hand.
“New blood, X?” She looks at you with a wink before planting a kiss on his left cheek.
“Nah. Just somebody that wants to hang with the man.”
“Having your usual?” She seems totally enamored with X, as so many others that you’ve encountered on the way to this booth have. He barely shakes his head before she asks you what you’re having. Before you can answer, X answers for you.
“Colorado Bulldog.” X grins at you, that unnerving twinkle in his eye. “Trust me. I think you’ll like it.” I’m waiting on a message. Until then, we’ll get back to my story. Sometimes, I’ve got so much going on in my head, I can’t seem to stay on any one topic for very long. Lucky for you, I’m takin’ a breather from my J-O-B tonight. Only because we’ve gotta get you ready to go.” X takes a quick peek at the slip of paper handed to him earlier, shakes his head and chuckles. “Some people’s kids. I can tell you this much. Being a vampire ain’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes, it’s MUCH better.”
The blonde waitress with the overly developed chest and the cheeky grin has returned with your drink. You witness an unspoken interaction that, for some reason, makes you feel a little jealous. She leaves once again, flashing that smile at you before doing so, and you find yourself hoping that she doesn’t return.
“Let’s get back to my birth, why don’t we?” X is staring at you, a thoughtful expression on his face. “As I mentioned earlier, I was born on a Friday the thirteenth. I was “resuscitated” just before 12:01 AM. The ‘witching hour.’ Most people don’t know that there’s more than one means of becoming a vampire. As I mentioned earlier, the seventh child in a family is destined to become a vampire. That is a rare occurrence, though. In my case, it seems that it was fate that made the decision for me. The seventh child, stillborn and reborn at the ‘witching hour,’ born on a Friday the thirteenth. Are you noticing the pattern?” Before you can say anything, X answers for you. “It does seem a bit farfetched, doesn’t it? How could so many things happen at the same time? All I can say is that the stars were in alignment.”
The blonde has returned, this time, with a menu, which is handed directly to you. X glances at her for an instant, resulting in a nod from her.
“X. Would you PLEASE stop doing that!” Frustrated with his telepathic communications, you’ve decided that it’s time to say your piece. “It’s disrespectful, and it’s making me majorly uncomfortable.”
“Forgive me. I just figured that it was an A-B conversation.” He flashes that grin again. It’s not going to work this time.
“It’s rude, and I’ll leave right now if you don’t stop.” You’re making your stand. It’s time for X to take you seriously.
X places his hands in the air, palms facing you. The gesture of surrender. “Look here. There are things going on that you’re totally unaware of. Granted, I’m not officially working, but I still need to stay on top of things.”
“And if ‘blondie’ over there is one of them, I’d suggest that you take care of that on your own time.”