I rode Angela’s bus home. Even after skipping sixth period, she was still pissed about the Trumps, and like always, the conversation was along the lines of “I should have kicked her ass” or “she does that again and I’m going to stomp her.” Of course, both of us knew that was just big talk. You couldn’t just go up and punch Amanda without fighting the rest of them too. And even if you did manage to take them all on and beat them, your glory wouldn’t be long. In fact, they would do their best to turn it into humiliation. That’s what they did to me earlier in the year when I had had a run in with Chrissy. So I told her on the ride home it was best to leave it alone. Angela may have talked big but she understood, and soon we were riding in relative silence.
“Thanks for catching me,” she finally said. I knew she was referring to the hallway incident earlier. “You’re always there for me.”
I smiled. “You’d do the same thing for me.”
“You never did tell me the anime.”
“Your drawing. What anime the guy was from.”
“Oh that,“ I laughed. “You just don’t let it go, do you?”
“It’s a new one.”
“Okay, so what’s it called?”
I knew I couldn’t keep this up for long. I had no choice. “It’s called, I have a hot new neighbor.”
Her eyes grew wide as saucers. “No shit? You’re kidding me.”
“I just caught a glimpse of him last night. I made up most of the picture because I couldn’t see him very clearly.”
Her eyes got even wider. “Were you peeking in his window, perv?”
“No, he was on the back porch staring up into the sky.”
“Well hell, I’ll come over and keep him grounded if you won’t.”
I laughed, shaking my head. “I bet you would.”
“You going to talk to him?”
“I don’t know,“ I said. “We’ll see.”
“We’ll see? What’s wrong with you? Everybody at school already thinks you’re gay. Get the hook up and prove them wrong.”
Leave it to Angela to downplay her Trumps incident by referring to mine. It was the first party of the school year. Earlier that week I had called Chrissy Trump a skanky bitch after she tripped me up in the cafeteria. A girl at the party that I didn’t even know came up to me to say she thought that was the coolest thing ever and she wanted to talk to me outside. I didn’t think anything of it and went outside with her. Next thing I knew she had shoved me into the pool and dived in after me. As I came up out of the water she threw her arms around my neck and kissed me. It all happened so fast and I was gasping for breath so it was easy for her to take advantage. Before I could get away, The Trumps had appeared with cell phone cameras going in rapid mode. I shoved the girl away from me but it was too late. Next day it was all over facebook, Instagram, and twitter; me all wet and wild-eyed with some girl shoving her tongue down my throat.
“You just had to bring that up, didn’t you?” I said to Angela as we got off at her bus stop. “You know that was a set up.”
“Yes I know. But the fact remains everyone thinks you don’t like boys. And you have never had a steady boyfriend, unless you count Charlie Simkins back in the seventh grade.”
“You want to get slugged, don’t you? None of that was my fault.”
“Okay so, prove everyone wrong. Hit on your hot neighbor.”
I knew this was her way of daring me, but knowing Angela, I also knew this was a way for her to position herself if I failed. I wasn’t about to tell her I thought he was a vampire. She’d probably try to bite him back. I sighed. “Look, I’ll introduce myself and we’ll see what happens.”
“What do you mean, see what happens? “
“It means, I’m not going to throw myself at him like some lovesick fool I know.”
“I’m not lovesick, just desperate. Which is what you should be. Tomorrow I’ll be expecting to hear his name. I bet it’s something sexy like Ryan or Tatum. Or better yet Gray. Omg.”
With that she nearly danced up her sidewalk to the front door. “Don’t count on it,” I muttered, wondering what in the hell I’d gotten myself into.
The walk home from Angela’s was about two miles. It usually took me an hour, but that day it took longer. I needed to seriously unwind and think things through. To rise to Angela’s challenge would mean it would have to be tonight. If I drug my feet she’d give me hell when I didn’t give her his name next time I saw her. I berated myself for even trying to please her. If I went over to meet this guy it needed to be on my terms not hers. And again, she didn’t suspect what I did. She wouldn’t be the one who would have to kill the bloodsucker. Damn it, why was life always so complicated? Why couldn’t I just meet a guy I liked and not kill him? I was jumping ahead of myself I knew. Chances are he wouldn’t be friendly, or perhaps he didn’t like girls, or just flat out didn’t like me. By the time I got home I had already convinced myself my whole life was a disaster and always would be.
The sun was just starting to set as I threw my book bag on the front porch. There was still plenty of light out and if I was going to wait for the boy next door to come outside I might be waiting awhile. I could go inside my house and read my latest Manga acquisition, or perhaps watch some Netflix, or just sit on the porch and wait for the undead. Or I could be bold and go over right now and knock on the door. If he was a vampire he wouldn’t answer, unless he had one of them human caretakers to protect his resting place in the daylight hours. In that case, I would just have some slobbering Renfield to fend off. If that happened I could just holler for mom. She was probably sunbathing in the backyard with a vodka in her hand anyway.
I looked over to the house next door. I didn’t detect any movement in the yard or behind its drawn curtains. “Oh to hell with it,“ I mumbled, and headed across the lawn.
The first thing I noticed as I stepped from my yard into theirs was the absence of sound. It was almost like I had stepped into a vacuum, or perhaps even sound was afraid of being this close to nightwalkers. I couldn’t even hear the light breeze through the trees, though I could see them swaying. No birds, no creature made a sound on this property, and I have to admit it made me a little nervous.
Still, I went up the front porch steps and raised my hand to knock. I hesitated, wondering just what I thought I was doing. I had just gotten home from school. What little make up I started the day off with was now gone, my hair was a mess, and I was in jeans and t-shirt; not exactly following the ‘how to meet hot guys’ guidelines. I shrugged and knocked anyway. For a moment it didn’t make a sound, and I thought maybe I should just give this up, but then I heard the noise of my knuckles rapping the door. No matter that it came about thirty seconds after I actually knocked. I listened intently, hoping to hear footsteps or a voice telling me, “wait a minute, I’m coming.” Anything to tell me there were no vampires here; that I had been wrong. But no one came. I debated whether to knock louder, and in the end I decided to try the door handle myself.
I put my hand on the door and it was ice cold. Perhaps the AC was running overtime in there, but I didn’t think so. There were no window units and I didn’t see central air units outside anywhere. I tried the knob but thankfully it was locked. I decided to go around back, maybe knock there.
The backyard was spacious with a concrete patio and in ground pool, much like my own yard was. A row of hedges lined a back fence that separated our properties, but the shrubs were barren and sure enough I could see mom lying out in her bikini by the pool. I could tell by the rise and fall of her breasts that she had fallen asleep as usual. Part of me wanted to scream her name just to see how drunk she was, but before I could I saw I wasn’t alone on this side of the hedge. A man was sitting at a card table on the patio working what appeared to be a jigsaw puzzle. He didn’t seem to notice me at first, and when he did, his head came up so slowly it made me think of those old automaton gypsy fortune telling machines they had at the fair when I was like nine. He stared at me curious, tilting his head one way to the next, before beckoning me to him. My head was screaming not to do it, but something bolder inside made me approach his table. He held up a puzzle piece and handed it to me as if he wanted me to place it for him. He had very dark eyes, the kind that are so intense you almost feel naked. His smooth pale skin made him seem almost unnatural, and I wondered how he could be so white out in this sun. He impatiently shoved the puzzle piece at me with a nod of his head. I took it and looked down at the puzzle he was working on.
It was a bizarre kind of puzzle, like something out of a nightmare. The unfinished image clearly suggested a view of hell, with writhing, tormented bodies, some entwined in reckless abandon, others twisting in the talons of demonic figures. At the center, a tall dark presence drank the blood of several people at once, all of them hypnotically held fast in his gaze and grip. Where the puzzle piece was missing there was a young girl about the same age as myself . Her body was turned towards the terrifying figure, and she must have been looking up at him rapturously, but she didn’t have a head. It was the missing piece.
I looked in my hand and turned it over. Sure enough, the piece I held was the girl’s head, and looking at it I saw in her eyes a look of adoration and helplessness. I looked at the man behind the card table. His Asian eyes held no malice, but something within told me this guy did not wish good things to befall me. A slight sneer crossed his thin lips. His mouth began to open. He made a sound in his throat but it wasn’t exactly speech. It was a guttural kind of moan and his lips seemed to curl back to show me the only teeth he had were two pairs of fangs. His sneer turned into the scariest smile I had ever seen. I dropped the puzzle piece and bolted.
I ran so fast to my front door I didn’t even bother with my book bag. I slammed the door behind me and threw the deadlock in place. I kept waiting to hear the man’s body slam into the solid oak of the doorframe, but he never did. I wasn’t even sure if he ever got up from the table. I didn’t look back once; I’d been too freaked out.
I went through the dining room towards the back of the house. Looking out onto our patio, I saw mom was still sleeping one off and the guy next door was gone; the macabre puzzle still laid out on the table. Thinking he was on his way over, I ran upstairs and locked myself in my room; my dad’s vampire kit laid out and open on the bed. If anyone came through that door they were going to get hit with a one two punch of holy water and wooden stake. But no one came, and I sat on the bed as the night began to fall outside. I heard mom come in and rumble around in the kitchen. I wasn’t sure if she was fixing dinner or a new drink, but I wasn’t about to come out my room to find out. I was waiting for pitch dark so I could go stake that puzzle working , blood sucking freak.
I finally ventured downstairs around eight o’clock. Mom had left some meatloaf and potatoes in the microwave for me before heading off to work. How she managed to drink all day and then sober herself up enough to work the night shift at Walmart was beyond me. I heated up the food, but looking at the ketchup on top of the meatloaf turned my stomach. It made me think of the Asian man with the sneer and pointed fangs.
Venturing back up to my room I decided to get me a shower before heading next door. I needed something to steady my nerves. Part of me wanted to call Angela and tell her what had happened, but instead I just laid my cell phone on the bed and headed for the bathroom. I was so freaked out even the running water in the shower seemed menacing and intrusive. After a while I scared myself into thinking I was being watched. I crossed my arms over my breasts and tried to turn away from the shower door, but I found myself looking over my shoulder, fearing that at any minute the vampire would come lunging through the glass just to get to me. And then I would be like that girl in the puzzle, helplessly hypnotized and a willing victim to the powerful creature of darkness.
I turned off the water, threw open the shower door and grabbed a towel off the rack. If anyone was in the room they were only going to catch a quick glance at me. I have never been self-conscious about my body, but I’m no exhibitionist either. I had worn tight or revealing outfits at times, mostly to go to a show or something, but I had never felt so exposed in all my life. I wrapped my towel around me and nearly dashed into my bedroom where I closed and locked the door. I turned to the bed and noticed my cellphone was gone.
I froze to the spot. I knew I had put it on the bed. But now it wasn’t there. My eyes scanned the room. Perhaps my bathroom freak out was warranted after all. Someone had been here watching. And now they had taken my cellphone. I walked carefully to the window and looked through the blinds at the house next door. There were some lights on and I could see some movement in one of the rooms, but no one was outside. I heard the sound of an echoing tinkling bell from behind me and I spun to the sound, dropping the towel in the process. Naked, I grabbed up the stake from the vampire kit still on the bed and scanned the room. There was no one there. Again, the bell sounded, soft and distant. It was my cellphone. Sitting on top of my dresser, plugged into the charger.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe I had plugged it up before I headed to the shower and had absent-mindedly forgot about it. I went to the dresser and opened the top drawer. I grabbed some fresh underwear and slipped into them as quick as I could. Next drawer down, dark pants and a black tank top advertising an X-Japan concert my dad had taken me to in New York a couple years back. I turned away to grab my shoes and the bell sounded again. It was a cellphone notification of some kind. I woke up the phone and didn’t see anything to alert me to email or a message or anything. I hit the home button and pulled up the last used applications. The one at the top was the camera. I clicked it and the app opened to my photo gallery which was normal if you had just taken a picture. The top photo in the gallery brought me to a breathless stop. It was the picture of a tattooed moon, encircled by bloody vines, or perhaps veins. Under it were the words “Loveless”.
The first thing I thought of was that was the name of my favorite song by Luna Sea, but the next thought was the realization that this tattoo was on a boy’s hairless chest. And I knew for a fact I hadn’t taken it. I pulled up the tag info on the picture. It had been taken only a few short minutes ago, which meant there had been a boy in my room with a loveless tattoo and the balls to let me know he’d been there. But if he had thought to scare me with this, he was mistaken. Now I was pissed. I stuck the stake down the back of my pants and covered it with my shirt. I put the holy water in my front pocket and in one last gesture, removed the crucifix from my dad’s vampire kit and looped it around my neck letting it drop on its chain just out of sight down my shirt. I snatched the cell phone from the dresser and took one last look at the photo before sliding the phone in pocket. It was time to stake that pervert right through his tattoo.
“Vampire Boys Of Summer” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.