As I said, as I revise and edit this vampire story of mine, I’ll be going over that process both here and Patreon, although I’m saving most of the ‘Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray’ kinda stuff for the Patreon. Hey, fish gotta swim, birds gotta eat. So consider this a free preview.
Now, from conversations with my editor, we’re in agreement that most of the fat to be trimmed is gonna come from the first act. Blame it on the Aspergers, but I’ve got sort of a ‘When Are They Going To Get To The Fireworks Factory?’ kinda rule. So, why should we spend so much time on these two characters’ relationship when one of them’s going to become a vampire and that’s gonna hit the reset button on their relatsch anyway?
Because they’re both attractive women No reason!
So this is the first scene that both me and le editor (ze editor?) singled out for the cutting room floor. Basically, the pre-vampire stuff was running so long that I wanted to throw in a scary bit as a bit of foreshadowing; “Fireworks Factory In Twenty Miles’. And it’s not just a Lost thing where it’s creepy for the sake of creepy, it’s tied into the plot.
The problem being, by the time it actually comes into play and is explained, I think most people will have forgotten it. It’s like “oh, you’re telling us NOW what that was all about? They were both STRAIGHT when that happened!” So, since we’re hurrying to the scary stuff anyway, we don’t need any proto-scary stuff, and the bit is gone. It’s still a fun little scene though, got that right NOOOOOOOOOOOPE reaction from the people I showed it too, it’s just not quite right for this story.
(Hey, anyone remember when movies would do teasers that were just shot for the ad campaign and didn’t actually happen in the movie? Weren’t those fun, since they didn’t give anyway away, but they still told you what you were in for? Think of this as that.)
Her parents picked at their old argument some more, sparing Mindy as they settled down to watch an old Tom Hanks movie on Netflix. Mindy set her food in the microwave, covered it with the dish that kept the hot juices from splattering everywhere, listened to her mom tell her to remember the dish and made a wholly justified groan, then started the nuking. There was a knock at the door.
“Minerva, can you get that?” her father called, and Mindy left the microwave humming to loop around the house to the front door. The knock kept beating at the door as she approached, slow but regular, like maybe it was just a branch blown by the wind.
Mindy unlocked the door. The beating stopped. She opened it and there was no one there; just a little white shape out on the lawn. Mindy turned on the porch lights. It colored in the figure a little—small and hunched over, shriveled up. “Hello?” she called.
The shape moved a little. Mindy thought it was a leg coming out of the huddle of limbs and clothes, but it could’ve been a cane. It was so thin, so white. The shape moved on it, and Mindy could make out a little tail of white hair fluttering out from near the top—not the hunched shoulders, but the head that canted down and seemed lost in the shadows that the light cast.
Mindy stepped outside. Her socks hit the damp grass of the evening’s sprinkler and the cold ran up her legs like a bunch of tiny needles she’d just now noticed. “Hey!” she said, a bit louder, a bit ruder. “Are you alright?”
The shape was walking in circles now—canting along, making a staccato beat on the grass. The wind picked up, letting her see more of the white hair that seemed so barren, so frayed, and carrying small words to Mindy. Muttering, indistinct but not unimportant. Weighted like the shape was trying to remember something.
The wind blew the front door closed behind her, cutting off the tinny sound of the TV and the trivial conversation her parents carried on over any movie. Mindy counted her steps now. She moved to reach out for the shape—it was that close—but held her upraised hand at the level of her waist. It was ridiculous: she could see the shape, see it was a person, a senior citizen, a woman, so what was the harm? Her side was turned to Mindy, that’s why she looked so strange. That was all.
But the way her body twisted… the way it lost itself in the shallow darkness… it wasn’t right. Mindy kept looking at it like it was a Magic Eye picture and she’d made a mistake, but in her mind, she wasn’t thinking of it was a little old lady. She didn’t want to think about it at all.
“I’m gonna go get my parents,” she said, backing up. She took a step backward, thinking I should turn around. Another step back, I should run for it. Another step.Now, now, now!
The shape reached out a hand, but it was more like it sprouted it from some abyss within itself, a skeletal tendril with claws for fingernail, bone-white for skin. It grabbed the sleeve of her shirt and it hung on.
“They let him in.” The voice was old and it was tired and it was defeated, words from a soldier about to be overrun or a prisoner on death row. “They let him in. They let him in.”
If I try to pull away, I’ll die. The thought was so clear in Mindy’s head, a bell ringing in a quiet space. It could’ve been a prophecy for all she knew. Yet she inched away, her body recoiling from that clawed touch on a biological, an instinctual, a molecular level. The long fingernails frayed her shirt sleeve and Mindy imagined them in her skin. She thought of them cutting like razor blades.
“Who’d they let in?” Mindy asked.
The woman looked at her. She looked at her and she saw her and she looked at her. Then she turned and Mindy saw the patch of blood on her neck, spreading into a nightgown almost as white as her skin and becoming a second shadow, a darkness that encroached on an entire half of her. Eclipsing her. “The Devil.”
Then Mindy pulled away. She ripped her hand free and she turned around and she ran for the door as the distance narrowed and stretched and refused to let her pass, but then the door snapped into focus, she was there, she was home, and she threw the door open and she threw herself inside and she slammed the damn thing close with her entire body.
The shot of the door slamming echoed through the house. Her parents looked at her.
“What is it, sweetie?”
Mindy turned the lock before she answered.
Of course her father unlocked it and of course he and her mother went out to put a blanket around the woman and bring her inside. And of course, in the light, it was just a frail old woman who’d hurt herself.
The EMTs came quickly, nothing better to do on a quiet weekend in a quiet town, and they called whoever it was they called and it turned out the woman was someone’s grandmother who’d gotten confused and wandered out of her retirement home and probably just tripped and cut herself on something. No reason for alarm. They patched her up right in the ambulance and drove her back to the home. Didn’t even turn the flashing lights on.
Mindy wished she could feel foolish, but it’d been so real. That deep-bone certainty you have as a child, that there’s something under the bed or in the closet and only pulling the sheets over your head could protect you. Mindy was too old for that. She was eighteen. About to graduate!
But she’d felt someone watching her. She’d felt someone there with her. No, not someone. A human would be on an entirely different wavelength. This had been what a seal would feel when there was a shark in the water, a gazelle as a lion bore down on it. The feeling of being hunted.
“Welp, I’m gonna have nightmares tonight,” she said to herself, locked up in her room.
Her father had teased her about it and her mother had asked if she needed to see a therapist, maybe she had post-traumatic stress from that car accident last spring (“It was a fender-bender, Ma.”). She put them at ease more than she did herself. Then she went up to her room, turned out all the lights, and got into bed with her baseball bat under the covers. She’d been a terror on the middle school softball team, and even if she was a bit rusty now, a guy was a much bigger target than a baseball.
She looked over at Lucia’s window like a little girl would look at a night light. Lucia was still up, lying in bed, talking fast and furious on her phone. Mindy waved at her. Lucia looked at her and waved back, but her gaze was vacant. She was focused on the phone.
And just a reminder that the rest of this sort of thing I’ll be posting on my Patreon, so if you’re into it, go there,