It was the last day of school in Hunter Sports High before the Christmas break. It was a perpetual swelter of heat across the landscape of tarmac, dirt and grass in Australia – so hot that even the grass itself steamed and all surfaces wavered from the o-zone less sun that glared down over the region, but despite the extreme heat in the Hunter, the passion of the students of a sports school couldn’t stop them from being outside. However, Six weeks of freedom, air conditioning and video games awaited the seven hundred adolescents within minutes, when school would finally end for the year. Chayne also counted the minutes in secret as sweat virtually poured down his forehead and chin. It was the day before his birthday, but that wasn’t what made him so keen to finish work. His job as a referee and sports instructor for New South Wales’ best young athletes was both paying well and keeping him fit, but he had bigger fish to fry in his life. Australia was bearable when it wasn’t in its two seasons of summer, or its third season of half-summer. It was essentially summer, Bird Swooping Summer, Wet and leafless Summer, and Winter, and the Ex-Rugby player was ready for a change of seasons. When the bell finally rang he breathed a groan of relief. “Right guys, pack it up. We’re out of here!” Chayne yelled to the field of sweaty red-faced teenagers, shielding his face with a hand, eyes squinting through the sun. As the kids amassed and packed their things, Chayne couldn’t help but sigh and glance around the sports field another time. He was going to miss his country. Within only a couple of moments though, he was back to work. “Don’t forget to pack anything you got from the storage room away. I don’t want Turtleman calling me up over missing footballs again.” He chimed with a foolish grin, which the kids responded to with stifled laughter over the reference to the nerdy and stiff lipped librarian and equipment keeper, Mister Allens. After a long and hesitant half hour of cleaning out his desk and giving his goodbyes to his fellow instructors, he waved off to a few of his students who were passing the school gates one last time as he slid his belongings into the boot of his black 2012 Toyota Camry, closing it with an accidental harsh slam. Chayne grimaced to the loud clunk, running his hand across the rim of the driver’s side door in an apologetic fashion. “Tch, Sorry girl. Didn’t mean it.” He opened the door to be greeted by blistering heat, giving another of his exaggerated groans. ‘It’s like the deepest pits of hell. Why are car interiors black?’ He thought to himself, and after a few moments of standing half way out of the door of the car, he appreciated the ‘cool’ breezes of the 40 degree Celsius day. After a couple of minutes he forced himself into the driver’s seat, and with the greatest speed he could muster, turned the car on, ran the engine and blasted the air conditioner. He got to his parents’ home after a nice and cool forty minute drive (with a couple early minutes of the ride filled with hot air spewing from the front fans as the conditioner adjusted), where his every important belonging stood on their front porch, moved their by his uncle, ready to be whisked away to a whole other Country. His father, Neil, greeted him from the steps. “Ready to kick start your career with your old man?” Neil roared cheerfully to his son, making Chayne smile to him – both due to his father’s sheer excitement as well as his own, which he had yet to fully realize.. “There is never a good time to move, Aye?” Chayne responded cheerfully, trying to ignore the thousands of doubts that plagued this life changing decision. At fifteen, Chayne started his ‘career’ in Rugby League. He dominated all age groups he passed through, being picked up by the Hunter’s own Newcastle Knights when he turned twenty years old. He signed contracts and was on his way to becoming hugely popular with big pay, all by doing something that he loved. By the time Chayne turned twenty-two though, he was banned from his football club and any seasons for the next four years for getting caught being involved with illicit drugs, and physically abusing his girlfriend, Chelsea, at that time in his career. Within just a week of his disqualification he angrily and stupidly abandoned his still-standing contract with the Knights. Thankfully for Chayne, he was one of the few Rugby players that was not swarmed by the media, as scandals and inquisitions involving Rugby Gambling and fixing were going on at the time. Within three months he landed his job at the Hunter Sports High School, training the kids and refereeing their official rugby matches. Only three weeks ago his father told him that he’d found a way for Chayne to regain his glory, and increase it tenfold. A desperate Chayne decided to trust his father, and together they would hopefully be pursuing opportunities for professional sports in the United States – starting in New York City. His father had already organized for the two of them to go over and stay a few months, at least, and mingle with some of his father’s connections. ‘Connections’ his father claims. Chayne had no doubt that Neil was schmoozing some of the few American investors interested in Australian sports, likely scoping out the Knights on a practise day in the stadium lounge. It isn’t that Chayne wasn’t grateful for his father’s help, but he had his doubts that moving to America would get him anything more than a new rented apartment and cheaper cigarettes. At least the smokes are cheap in America. That was one thing he was definitely looking forward to. Soon enough, Chayne had packed his and his father’s belongings into Neil’s Hilux and they were headed to the Airport with his pet dog, Blaza. It was 5:40 pm already by the time they had left, and their flight was only four hours and twenty minutes from departure. After a rushed three hour drive to Sydney International Airport and an hour and some in the airport, Chayne and Neil arrived at their boarding terminal, with less than five minutes to the final call before boarding was closed. Neil was huffing, sweaty and red, although the consistently low temperature of the airport was a welcome break from the outside. ‘Feel sorry for the foreigners’ Chayne had thought to himself as he and his father made their way through the terminal. Within moments of the thought he had seen a family walk out through the arrival terminal nearby. ‘An Irish family, or maybe Scottish.. Assuming that from the retarded accent. I’m not good at picking accents, unless they’re Asian. Most get good at telling the difference between those races. Especially in Sydney. Christ we’ve got a lot of Asians. That’s ironic. Sorry mum.’ A short smirk slithered across his face. ‘They must get a huge fucking shock when they leave the front door of the airport the first time. Good luck with that.’ Once his mostly racist jumble of thoughts had passed him, he was already on the catwalk leading toward the door of the plane. “In twenty-one hours we’ll be in New York. Excited?” Neil asks with surprising enthusiasm, and a tremble of nervousness. “Sure am, though fucking planes..” Chayne responded simply, in which Neil gave him a mischievous look, followed by a quick toothy grin. By the time the two were finished shoving their luggage in the overhead compartments and taking their seats in the dreaded Economy Class, his father had sneakily handed him two lines of tablets. Chayne glanced down to them, turning them over to their foiled side and reading the printing. “Tramadol and Temazepam?” He looks to his father with a chuckle. “You swipe these from mum? You fuckin’ dog.” Neil gave him a couple of laughs back, elbowing his son. “Well you’ll need something for sleeping and something for your ‘chronic pain’, right?” Chayne only responded with another few mischievous laughs as he broke the foil seals on each tab, popping out a couple of each and handing them back to his father. As the flight attendants started to get ready for their flight safety miming session, he quickly pushed them into his mouth and swallowed them dry before leaning back in his chair with a relaxed sigh. “Wake me up when they’re giving out the beer, will ya?” Chayne mentions to his father, closing his eyes as he listened to the ambient noise of the Cabin and the annoyingly Australian recording of a woman letting you know how to inflate your life jacket and where the attached light and whistle are on the vest. After one stopover in Hong Kong and countless shitty Budweiser’s and Bailey’s on Ice, a heavily “prescription” drugged Chayne and Neil emerged from their plane in the JFK Airport. Rather than be amazed by the American Culture surrounding him, the first thoughts and words that came from Chayne were at the Airport tobacconist and they were: “I need six fuckin’ packets Marlboro reds.” Within a few minutes he had a carton of cigarettes tucked under his arm as he and Neil waited at the carousel for their luggage. After a $320 trip to also pick up the dog from the baggage claim, the three caught a cab to their ready apartment close to the Brooklyn Bridge. Once they arrived at Schermerhorn Street, they could see their apartment from the taxi rank - covered entirely in snow. It followed to same architecture he expected of New York City – the brick outer structure with symmetrical orderly placed windows across the apartment complex. He stepped in to the already warm and furnished apartment after having unloaded the two dufflebags and one box of his belongings, followed by his father’s own luggage. He was surprised to find, despite the dated looking architecture that almost strikingly mirrored every New York based TV show he’d ever seen, that the interior was modern. It was a refreshing new start from his old flat, and the white leather couch in the small apartment’s living room was something he admired deeply. “Despite the brick style of a shitty highway motel this place is pretty good, dad.” He remarks cheerfully as he explored throughout the home. He let his box and bags down in the bedroom he designated as his own, which already had a comfortable looking cream-coloured bed and bedframe. He glanced out the window from his room, which encompassed the entire centre of the bedroom wall from floor to ceiling, seeing amongst many people roaming the park nearby, a bright red headed young girl. She couldn’t look any older than eighteen, and her firey hair caught his attention almost immediately, separating her from the others who briskly walked the streets or roamed the park. After a moment or two of idle staring, Blaza barked in excitement and clambered around his room, turning away Chayne’s attention. He leaned down to pet and rough his golden lab’s fur, which only provoked more excitement from his dog and a sincerely happy smile from Chayne. Days passed and Chayne had thoroughly explored the immediate area and even gotten himself to a couple of clubs, a ma-and-pa food business, and even a Bodybuilding supplements shop, which he browsed extensively, admiring all of the new brands and marketing. He had seen the fire-haired girl numerous times on his explorations, and couldn’t help but to stare when he saw her. He could tell from her body language that she was a conserved or shy individual, and such, he didn’t bother to approach her. Shy girls always tended to be the craziest. ‘And never stick your dick in crazy’ his dad had told him, numerous times. He thought though that perhaps American girls were different. His father told him he’d be leaving for a few days, and on his first night alone he shuffled back to his apartment after a quite few drinks at his new favourite pub, the Henry Street Ale House. Upon re-entering his home, and with the heater left on full blast, his apartment sweltered like home in Australia. He gave a borderline angry moan as he cracked the window to his bedroom and turned the heat right down. He fell asleep atop his sheets soon after, only bothering to just take off his shoes. Chayne woke in a painful haze after one of the strangest, trippiest dreams of his life, in which he remembered little more than an overload of information and hard to decipher advice from two faceless figures, and the buzzing of bees. He choked, squinting out the window in the moment before his gag reflex reacted to his night of drinking far too much. He ran to the bathroom, gripping the edges of the toilet seat and recycled last night’s meal and remnants into the porcelain throne. He groaned as his head throbbed, leaning over the toilet bowl; sweat and a few reactive tears running down his face. After a couple more rounds of vomit and dry retching, he gets up, wiping his mouth on his sleeve – not caring for the hygiene of it all. He stumbled back to his bed as he labored in his breath, sitting back against the sheets tiredly, before passing out almost immediately. He awoke yet again a few hours later as light penetrated his window fully, signalling that the day had well and truly began. He slowly stood up, dizzier than he had been in the last few years of solid drinking and partying. He leaned against the window, squinting out, only to catch sight of the red haired girl, enjoying her music and being at peace despite the huge crowd of busy commuters. He turned away, only to fall to his knees after a few steps. He felt the urge to vomit again, and slowly slid to his elbows and knees, breathing deeply so as to not chunder all over the wooden floor beneath him. He groaned again, frustratingly bumping his right fist in to the ground, only to have the wooden floor splinter immediately at his touch. He thought little of it in the haze of his “hangover”, only inhaling sharply in reaction to the few splinters that uncomfortably pierced the surface of his fist. He used his bed as an anchor to stand, pulling the splinters out and throwing them on the floor as he hobbled to the kitchen. He sat on a stool at the kitchen counter, and soon his dog rose from his own dog bed in the living room and trotted over to Chayne to greet him. Chayne reached out his to rub through Blaza’s ears, his head and down his neck, before returning his attention to the kitchen. He picked an apple from the bowl of fruit, biting in to it only to be greeted with the taste of blood. He spat the apple chunk to the counter, looking to it in plain confusion. He dry retched at the unexpected sight of blood covering his hand, the red liquid dripping from his fingertips onto the surface of the piece of fruit. He sat the fruit down, inspecting his hand in worry and slight panic. As he revolved his hand, there were nothing but the light scratches of the splinters he removed, and no cuts to be seen. He glanced down to Blaza, who now sat quietly but somewhat lazily at Chayne’s feet. He stood up from his stool, leaning down to Blaza and pushing back the fur around his collar, ears and neck, only to find no abrasions or blood on the animal – aside from the trail he left when inspecting the Labrador. He stood in utter confusion, lowering his arms as he glanced around the room, his senses suddenly sharper as his brain pushed past his slow awakening to try and rationalize where the blood came from. Within only seconds of gaining some mental stability, a cascade of blood was falling from Chayne’s hands. As he pulled them up, blood had run along his wrists and forearms. He sat down on the stool again, glaring down into his arms in horror. After some moments of absolute disbelief, Chayne reached again, leaning over the kitchen top to vomit nothing but a small pool of bile onto the table. He started hyperventilating, and soon the blood began to move – slithering like maggots under his skin. He turned his head away, dry retching once more as the blood pooled at his fingertips, almost making it seem as though he had on a pair of thick gloves made entirely of fluid. Within just another five seconds, the blood began to move under his fingernails painlessly, being absorbed by his fingers, and within just another few, the blood was completely gone. Chayne sat wide eyed, staring down at his hands in shock. “Is.. Is this Acid? Am I on acid?” he shouts aloud, his voice trembling, as he attempted to discern what had happened within the last couple of minutes. He looked back down to Blaza in a sudden pang of stomach wrenching fear, and it felt as if he was a Red Bull Astronaut falling from the highest possible point in the world. He climbed down to his knees, fingers shaking as he called Blaza’s name, tears welling in the corners of his eyes as his dog laid unresponsive before him. He grips the Labrador, his tears breaking into horrified shrieking sobs at such a high pitch that he didn’t know he could even make such a sound. He clutched the wide eyed dog within his arms, pulling dogs head toward his own and holding his head against Blaza’s neck as a he cried. The Golden Labrador seemed to almost shrivel as Chayne held on, blood materializing on every part of Chayne’s body that made contact with his best friend. Chayne shrieked “No! No!” repeatedly, broken between whether to hold on to his dog or let it go as the trauma unfolded and the mental block started to break down – It was only after minutes of holding the shrivelling blood-drained corpse of his dog that he finally processed mentally that he was stealing the life blood from his pet. Chayne could feel heat over his entire form as he let go of Blaza, the lifeless body clunking to the floor. He stood, the blood that had covered him having been absorbed through any and every pore and of his face, arms and chest. It was then, that Chayne completely blacked out. The rugby player woke near the end of his bed, having somehow made his way to his bedroom. He had no idea how long he had been unconscious. He eventually stood himself up, and once he slinked toward the kitchen, he realized he must have been unconscious for days; judging by the swarm of flies circling around Blaza’s remains, and the stench that reminded him that what happened wasn't just some kind of bad trip. Despite the gruesome scene, his earlier urge to vomit had completely dissipated. He couldn’t tell the time, and couldn’t be bothered, as his pounding head but surprisingly invigorated body made no effort to figure it out. One of his primary thoughts was the fact he wasn’t hungry, dehydrated or physically tired. He eventually gazed out of the window of his apartment yet again, and when he saw no sign of the girl, a burst of anger overtook him – why, he could not explain, but he felt almost cheated that she wasn’t there – especially now, in such a hardship of his. The haze of pain and cognitive confusion returned to his brain, and he stumbled out of his apartment, with shoes loose on his feet and laces untied. He retraced his steps shakily, regaining some composure, but continuing to have a sick feeling in the bottom of his stomach. He eventually found her, after days of searching, catching glimpses of her, and her suddenly disappearing on him. It infuriated him beyond belief, as he felt a primal need to see her. He knew she had something to do with this. Or she’d know of it. Or.. or something. He knew he’d make his move when she entered a grocery, following her in. He stayed an aisle over, feeling his own blood in the inside of his ears throbbing as he got so close to just.. speaking with her. Or interrogating her. As she paid for her groceries he followed, trailing behind at a distance he thought was safe. When the fire-haired girl, Aisling, made her way down stairs, he briefly lost visual contact with her. As he tried to trail her down the alley he thought she had gone, he was met at the end of a street and junction by [[a van. He panicked, trying to flee, but within seconds he was swarmed with men whose faces he couldn’t see. After a sudden prick of a needle to his neck and some struggling, he was out like a light - knocked out in the back of a moving black van.