5: Puzzle Freak
The first thing I noticed as I stepped from my yard into theirs was the absence of noise. It was like I had stepped into a vacuum, where even sound was afraid of being this close to vampires. I couldn’t 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 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 close, 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 it was locked. I decided to go around back, maybe knock there.
The backyard was spacious with a concrete patio and in-ground pool. 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 in our back yard. 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 glass topped table on the patio working a jigsaw puzzle. A large umbrella was mounted in the center of the table, shielding him from the bulk of the sun’s rays. He didn’t seem to notice me at first, but when he did, his head came up so slow 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 with a curious look, his eyes dark and intense, half hidden by stringy black hair that hung down in his face. He tilted his head one way and then the other, 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 towards me as if he wanted me to place it for him. His smooth pale skin made him seem almost unnatural, and I hesitated. With an impatient jerk of his hand he shoved the piece at me. I took it from him and looked down at the puzzle he was working on.
It was bizarre, 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 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 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 across the yard and to my front door as if the devil were on my heels. 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 got up from the table. I didn’t care to look back. 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. The guy next door was nowhere to be seen, but his macabre puzzle was still 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. I sat on the bed as the night began to fall. 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.
“Vampire Boys Of Summer” 2018 Paul D. Aronson. All Rights Reserved.