When I was a little girl, I wrote a note for Santa Claus and tied it on a branch of our Christmas tree. On the note, I had written in my chicken-scratch handwriting “Does Rudolph’s nose really glow?” I had genuinely expected an answer, but I got none. My note was still on the tree unedited when I woke up the next day.
Like most everyone my age at the time, I had believed in Santa. I didn’t know that my parents were the ones that put the presents under the tree, even when Santa did look and sound suspiciously like my father. My note was very childish, I think as I look back on it now. But I had really believed that all those Christmas stories were real. I even believed there was a bogeyman that lived in my closet and that the tooth fairy left me money under my pillow.
Now I was old enough to understand that magical things were not real, and that what I was thinking was completely illogical and utterly impossible. Just because I had read it in a story didn’t mean that it was true. Hours spent working part time at the library and reading in my spare time had really taken their toll on me.
For about two months I’d been having trouble with being lethargic and weak. My neck bothered me a lot. When it itched it would feel like there was a wound there on its way to healing, but there was nothing ever there. My parents told me to see a doctor, and I did. He asked me if I had given blood recently and I told him I had not.
But the weirdest part was the dreams. Very vividly when I was asleep, I felt like there was someone in my room, watching me, touching me, and I couldn’t do anything about it. When I wake up, my mind feels clouded, and when I open my eyes I wonder where I am. I don’t even recognize my own room, my own hand covering my face; I don’t remember myself.
These symptoms don’t happen every day. I put the dates together and began seeing a pattern in them. In the beginning, I noted in my planner that I fell asleep in class because I was so tired—that had never happened to me before. I also wrote that I felt like I slept on my neck wrong. I was tired the rest of the week, and was feeling great by the time it happened again, an exact week later. I didn’t notice it the first time, or even the second, but by the time a month had gone by, I started figuring it out.
I didn’t want to worry my parents, so I told them I was fine. They were worried about me enough as it was because I lived by myself. I rent a small house that was renovated into a duplex. The lady that lives in the section next door is an older woman that likes to bake things and talk for hours about the good old days. It was a quiet place, a quiet neighborhood. Nothing of excitement in human history has ever occurred here. Until now.
Maybe I was just crazy. All my symptoms could be solved rationally. I’d recently started another semester of college and the stress could just be getting to me. Maybe I was ill and whatever it was could be treated easily. The doctor suggested that perhaps I was developing sleep paralysis, which would explain the visions and the restless sleep. That was a very likely explanation–much more likely than the one I was entertaining. If I was wrong, I could have a good laugh at my own superstition. If I was right…Well, I didn’t really know what I would do.
I was sure if I told anybody what I thought was wrong they would have laughed at me. I didn’t even believe my own conclusion. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t help but feel the need to write a note for another person who couldn’t possibly exist.
I sat my pen down and read what I had written on a sticky-note:
Let me meet you.
“It’s off to an asylum for sure,” I muttered out loud as I held it tightly in my hand. I traveled down the hall, glancing at myself in the mirror that hung on the wall. My hair was past my shoulders, blonde and wavy, and slightly damp from a recent shower. My eyes, a bright blue, seemed darker because of the lack of light. I watched myself rub my neck uncomfortably, then I took the last few steps to my room. In just my cat-print nightgown, I slipped under the covers and tried to close my eyes, but sleep wouldn’t come. I rested on my back, staring at the note that was clasped in my hand. The red ink looked black in the darkness, and the yellow of the paper seemed brown. My room was so dark I couldn’t even tell if my walls were white or gray.
I felt wide awake as I watched the sliver of a moon rise into then out of my window. A few minutes later the glass seemed to fog over and I yawned, my eyelids beginning to sink over my vision. “No,” I whispered, trying to fight off the sensation. But even as I said this, I was already drifting away, falling gently into the cloud that surrounded my mind.
It was a calming feeling to slowly be falling, falling, falling. I imagined that I could fall forever. But suddenly the freefall stopped without warning, and it was such a strange sensation to abruptly be yanked upward after seeming to fall so far that I couldn’t have gotten up again. Then like cobwebs being brushed away, I was suddenly aware again.
I was lying on my back just as I was when I fell into the unnatural slumber. I tried to turn my head, but a hand over my mouth held my head in place. My eyes fluttered open and I shrank back from the dark figure looming over me. Panic set in. I was now aware of the real implication of what I had set myself up for. As my fear mounted, I felt the cloudiness entering my mind again. Afraid of what would happen if I went back into the fog, I forced myself to cease my struggles, hoping to cause the blurry thoughts to disappear. Slowly, they did. Trying to subdue my fear, my eyes darted around as I attempted to assess the situation.
Whoever it was sitting on the edge of my bed, I couldn’t tell because his face was completely blotted out by darkness. The light that came in through my now-opened window only showed the very outline of one side of his face. For what seemed like many minutes neither of us moved, then he slowly raised his other arm and I flinched.
Between his fingers was a square of paper, and he tilted it just enough toward the light that I caught my messy handwriting upon it. “I got your note,” I heard. His voice was melodious, calling up a beautiful image in my mind of a breeze rippling crystal-blue water on the surface of a great lake. It wove through my ears and into my brain, my heart, my very soul, filling me with such a feeling of ease I smiled under his hand that was so cold it felt as if it was carved out of ice.
His face, hidden in shadow, came closer to mine and my smile vanished. He stayed like that for a minute, and I felt that even in the darkness he could see my every expression, see right past my eyes into my mind and gaze at what I was thinking. This thought was a little disturbing. “I’m going to take my hand away,” he said softly, his voice just as sweet to my ears as sugar to my tongue. I dully realized from my reading that it was probably some sort of enchantment that was weaved into his voice. He continued, “Can I trust you not to scream or shout or otherwise make a noise that might raise alarm? I know you have no reason to believe me, but I promise I am not going to hurt you. I’d like to meet you, too.”
For a second I was about to tell him I wouldn’t scream, but his hand muffled my words and I realized if I screamed now no one would hear me. I quickly banished the thought of screaming and nodded. For several seconds he didn’t move, probably considering if I would keep my word or not. He removed his hand from my mouth.
I took a sharp intake of breath, and I saw his hand come back to my face, but I let it out as a simple sigh. His hand hovered there, but after seeing I wasn’t going to raise the alarm, he rested it on his leg. The note he had been holding he put in a pocket somewhere in his shirt. I started to reach for the lamp on the bedside table, but he shook his head and whispered, “Not yet.”
He crossed his legs and sat up straight. “I see against all modern distractions you have deduced what makes you so tired. I knew I should have varied my nightly visits a little more.” He paused, and when I didn’t say anything, he continued. “I’ve never done this before. No one’s ever figured it out and tried to contact me. I’m quite anxious to know what you are thinking. I wish you would say something.” His mesmerizing voice appeared to be smiling. “How did you come about to the conclusion I was hypnotizing you?”
I couldn’t answer at first, my ears ringing with the after effect of his voice, but he seemed content to just wait until I spoke. “I…read it in a book?”
I saw his head bob in a nod, and as my eyes were starting to get used to the darkness, I could just barely make out the basic features of his face, but nothing distinctive about them. “Then you know what I am and why I am here,” he said. Gulping, I could only nod in return.
He reached back and itched the back of his neck. “Um,” he murmured as if gathering his thoughts. Was he more nervous than I was? “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have to be. I wish I could just go to the supermarket and get what I need, but it’s not that simple.”
I tried to make myself as small as possible as he bent over me again. “Do not be afraid,” he said, and the gentle way he said it, with that spellbinding voice, I couldn’t help but relax some. “This isn’t the first time.”
He lowered his head down to my neck and I couldn’t hold back a shudder and a quiet whimper. He drew back and sighed. “You are afraid. I knew it was a bad idea to show myself to you.”
I felt the fog come back to my mind and I quickly exclaimed, “No!” For a moment, the cloud held at the edges of my consciousness, then it faded away as he waited for me to speak. “Please, don’t hypnotize me. I don’t want to be unaware. I don’t want to forget.”
His face hung right over mine and he said softly, “Then do not fret. All will be well soon enough, and I’ll turn the light on in a moment so you can see me. Here, let me try something a little less invasive.” He reached out for my hand and turned it over so my palm was up. I felt his thumb running over the veins on my wrist.
I sat up and propped myself up on my pillow. “Will it hurt?” I whispered.
“Yes,” he answered truthfully. “For a second or two.”
“What if I don’t want you to?” I said even quieter.
He was silent for what seemed like an eternity, then he said, “I will respect your decision. I will leave and never bother you again.”
“Never?” I asked. “But I have so many questions. Who are you, how did you get here, why can’t I see your face now?”
He was silent again, but not quite as long. “I’ll answer your questions and tell you everything you want, under the condition that you continue to feed me.”
“And you won’t make me forget it all?” I confirmed.
He nodded. “If that is what you want.”
This was all getting a little out of hand. My experiment wasn’t supposed to succeed in summoning a vampire from the night, much less to make a deal with one. Now I had a choice to make that no rational person should ever have to make. Do I take the risk to find out more about what no one else knows, or chicken out and try to forget it even happened? You know what they say about curious cats.
“Okay,” I said reluctantly.
The vampire leaned closer to me again and I resisted the urge to flinch. I felt his eyes studying my face, probably for second thoughts. He flipped my hand around and gripped it in his in a brief handshake. “Then we have an agreement. Try and be quiet and it will be over soon.”
With that, he turned my wrist towards his face and I briefly felt his lips against my skin before I quite suddenly felt a sharp pain from his teeth piercing my skin. I squeaked from surprise more than pain. I bit my lip, trying not to think that he was biting me. I could feel each draw he took of my blood. I could hear him swallow every one. It almost seemed like I could hear his heartbeat, and that it was beating in time to mine, but then I realized it was just my own pulse I heard in my ears–he didn’t have a heartbeat. He was right, though. The bite stung for just a couple seconds, and then the area began to feel oddly numb.
I lost count of how many times he gulped down mouthfuls of my blood, how many times I felt my heart beat, and how much time in which this sin was being committed. Surely it was a terrible thing to let him feed from me. So many of the older books I read described his kind as unholy and that it was damning to be drunk from. But I didn’t know which was worse—to be drunk from without my knowing or experiencing it in full consciousness.
All of a sudden he drew away. I could barely see his tongue running over his lips, and when it wasn’t enough, he plucked a tissue from my bedside table, wiping his mouth with it like a gentleman that had just feasted at a formal banquet. I pulled against his grip on my hand and, feeling my movement, the vampire suddenly exclaimed, “Oh!” and brought his mouth down to my wrist again. I feared for a moment that he wasn’t finished—and feared when he would stop—but all he did was lick the punctures clean and then he let my hand go. When I put my fingers to the bite I couldn’t feel them. It was as if they had simply disappeared. The numb feeling in the area slowly went away, replaced with the itch of healing skin.
“Thank you,” he said. “You are most kind. You can see me now.” In a startlingly fast movement, he turned my lamp on. I shut my eyes tight from the sudden light, and it took me many blinks and squints to finally be able to see comfortably. What I saw quite disappointed me.
I had expected a hideous monster with an aquiline nose and red eyes. I had hoped for a gorgeous man that looked like a fallen angel. But this boy…this vampire…wasn’t even a man yet, or, at most, was only a young man. He looked younger than me by about two or three years, so maybe around eighteen years old. His face was extraordinary in its ordinariness. There was nothing special about his features except for his dazzling green eyes that half hid behind dark brown hair. His nose was just a bit large for his face and his eyebrows were a bit bushy. His skin tone wasn’t pale, but an ordinary peachy color; it was flawless, though, with no large pores or zits of any kind, and an even tone all over. He would be a face that I wouldn’t notice in a crowd, wouldn’t so much as take a second glance at. But, if brought to my attention, like now, I would say he was just terribly plain, and in no way was his plainness ugly or handsome. He was wearing a navy button-up shirt with a pocket on the left side. One half of the collar stuck up while the other was folded at an odd angle. His jeans looked worn, as though if he stretched them too much holes would rip open in them, and his tattered shoes appeared to be on their last leg.
“Hi,” the ordinary vampire said, waving his hand back and forth in a small wave. “See, it’s not so bad, right? Imagine how weird it is for me.” The vampire smiled as he judged my reaction. His teeth were mostly normal looking, though his eye teeth were suspiciously pointier than you would expect for a normal person, but they seemed too small after imagining them piercing my flesh. Still, my eyes widened involuntarily. His smile vanished and he said, “I am sorry. I still frighten you.”
He shifted to sit at the end of my bed to put distance between us and I stared at him. His lips didn’t move with his words, but moved independently, like the beautiful layers of his voice were being spoken all at the same time. If it wasn’t for his enchanting voice and bright eyes, I wouldn’t have thought he would be anything but an average person. He frowned, seeming annoyed at something. “It seems it will be difficult talking to you if you can’t resist the spell of my voice. I assure you, I am not trying to speak this way. It is just how I talk. My voice is supposed to catch you off guard like my hypnosis does.”
It took a moment for that to process in my mind. I shook my head and mumbled, “Sorry.” I still couldn’t believe it. This was really happening. I wasn’t crazy, I was right! But, I guess, I could still be crazy. Maybe I was asleep in a padded room right now dreaming about this as I struggled in my straight jacket.
“No, don’t be sorry. This is my fault,” he said. “I shouldn’t have revealed myself. I think it would be best if I made you forget all this.”
I grabbed his hand, though he had tried to move it away with such a speed that it was almost hard to catch. His skin was warm now. “That wasn’t our deal,” I said. “I would rather know than be ignorant.”
He smiled again, but this time he didn’t show his teeth. I could almost still feel those lips against my wrist.
I needed to think about something else. “What is your name?” I blurted out.
He seemed almost puzzled by my question, but he answered, “William Moore.” William the vampire leaned forward, his intense green eyes boring into mine. “And you are Kaylah Rhodes.”
I couldn’t reply for what seemed the longest time. “Yes,” I finally said. I frowned as a thought occurred to me. “Hey, how do you know that?”
“Oh, I wasn’t snooping or anything,” he said, and I could have sworn I saw a bit of a blush on his face.
I followed his gaze as he turned his head to look at the table I had set up in one corner of the room. On it was paper, pencils, and text books. It was where I did my homework I brought home from college. Sticking out of the top of my English text book was my assignment, and at the top I had written my name. “Oh,” I said.
When I turned my head back to look at William, I found his face not more than an inch away from mine. Startled, I scooted back until I was against the headboard of my bed. He blinked at me and said, “Sorry. I’m not used to being so close to a human that isn’t asleep and expressionless. But I would rather see that than see you afraid.”
He looked so forlorn and lost that I did not know what to think. This thing had just drank my blood and seemed embarrassed about it. William Moore continued to shatter all of my expectations.
“I’ve never done this before, either,” I said. “I don’t know what to make of you. You’re not what I expected.”
“Really?” he said, tilting his head in a curious way. “What did you expect?”
“Honestly,” I thought out loud, “I didn’t anticipate that you were actually real. I thought I was just playing a joke on myself, I guess.”
“I assure you, I’m real,” the vampire said. “Is that okay?”
Was he asking me to validate his right to exist?
“I mean,” he continued, “can you handle that? Knowing about me, about what I am? You’re not going to go crazy or something realizing that there are real monsters that go bump in the night, right?”
“I don’t think so,” I said cautiously. I didn’t feel on the brink of insanity.
He sighed heavily as if I had lifted a great weight off him. “Okay, good.” He twirled his fingers into each other in a fidgeting manner. “You’re not what I expected, either. I fully believed you would not to listen to me and scream your head off. And I definitely didn’t think you’d willingly let me bite you. I thought you’d kick me out, maybe chase after me with a broom or a baseball bat or something. But you didn’t. Maybe you are a little crazy.” He offered me a timid smile.
I snickered quietly and he looked at me quizzically. I said, “I think maybe you’re more afraid of me than I am of you.”
William made a pfft sound and vaguely gestured with his hand as if trying to deny it. Then his shoulders slumped and he shrugged. “All right, I might be. But only because I’m afraid of you being afraid of me. It’s not pleasant being screamed at in horror. And scared humans are dangerous.”
“You don’t look that scary,” I commented.
“Not right now,” he murmured almost under his breath.
“This is weird,” I said under mine.
“You’re telling me,” William said. He slid off my bed in one fluid motion, landing on the hard wood floor with barely a sound. “I should go now.”
“Wait,” I said, and he interrupted me before I could say anything more.
“You’re not going to tell anyone,” he said. It wasn’t a question or a threat, but a simple fact. He had me there. Who would believe me anyway? “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather forget about me?”
“Very well. I’ll see you in seven days at about this time. We’ll see about answering some of your questions then. When I come to call, you must have the lights turned off, or I won’t come back.” In an instant it took me to blink, he was gone. I rushed to my window and looked out, but I couldn’t see him or anyone else on the streets or hiding in the shadows.
The next seven days couldn’t seem to pass fast enough. I was terrified at the thought of a vampire using me as a meal, but I was also curious as to what books couldn’t tell me. I couldn’t wait to ask him questions he didn’t give me a chance to inquire. As I waited for a week to pass, I spent my free time at work at the public library diving into as many vampire stories as I could get my hands on. I checked out every book about vampires they had and neglected my homework as I read one or even two a day. I stayed up late at night, and often fell asleep in the middle of a sentence, finding my book dropped on the floor when I awoke. After rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I’d pick it up, find my lost page, and start reading again. I read in class when I could get away with it, but I often fell asleep during class, too. I was sure the library didn’t appreciate my drool gluing the pages together, and my professors didn’t like my lack of attention, either.
I wanted to tell someone, but as the week progressed, I couldn’t help but wonder if it had all just been a dream. Every passing day put distance between me and that night to where it felt like it could have been nothing but my imagination. No one would believe me if I told them, especially since I couldn’t completely believe myself.
“Where are you at?” my best friend, Alyssa, asked me as she waved her hand in front of my face.
I blinked and focused my gaze on her. We were eating at the campus restaurant between classes. I had a plain turkey sandwich, while she had a giant meatball sub with practically everything on it. “Right here,” I said.
“No, you weren’t,” she said, taking a carnivorous bite out of her sandwich. Her father was full-blooded Native American and it really showed with her noble face and jet black hair. She wore all colors of the rainbow pretty much every day, and today it was a tie-dye shirt and shameless yellow banana patterned PJ pants. “You were on Mars or something with as far away as you were looking. So spill, where were you at?”
“Just thinking about a story I read recently,” I answered without commitment.
“You’ve been reading even more than usual,” she commented, wiping her mouth with a napkin. “You absorb too many more words, and you might get sucked into a book.”
“I wish,” I said.
“Careful what you wish for,” she replied. “You could get sucked into War of the Worlds or The Most Dangerous Game or, dare I say it, Dr. Seuss. Do you want to eat green eggs and ham on a boat with a goat for the rest of your life?”
“I guess not,” I chuckled.
“Not to mention all the papercuts,” she added with a grumble.
I almost told her several times about the vampire who called himself William Moore. But I didn’t. Of all people, she would believe me, and even then I didn’t think she would. So I passed the week in silence.
Aside from the slight ache in my neck and the usual tiredness, everything was still the same. I went to college almost every weekday, studying English and history. I ate, I slept, I walked, I talked. Nothing was different. Except me.
Dismissal couldn’t come soon enough on the last day. I tapped my pencil on my notebook, glancing between my pitiful notes and the clock above the whiteboard. Finally, Professor Hark said, “Have a great weekend,” and I burst out of the campus to my car.
I got home in plenty of time—the sun wouldn’t set for hours.
There are two doors on the porch of the duplex I lived in. The one on the left was to Mrs. Needlemeyer’s section. She owned the home and I rented from her. Her side was roughly the same layout as mine, only opposite in orientation. I walked across my threshold to the right and went all the way down the hall to my room. I put my backpack on my bed and dug around for my textbooks and placed them on my desk. I glanced at the door on the left side of the bed that connected Mrs. Needlemeyer’s room to mine, glad that it was locked and that we never used it. Supposedly she has insisted during the renovation of the home that there be a door connecting the two sides, just in case. Just in case of what, though, I didn’t know. She could just as easily come through the front door with her key.
I paused to look out the window across from the foot of my bed where William had come in a week before. I shook my head and once more considered my sanity as I opened my closet and dug around for something different to wear. Tossing a bunch of clothes around, I eventually put on a pair of pajama pants that had the cow jumping over the moon patterned all over them, and a light blue tank top. Now that I was actually expecting company I didn’t want to be caught in a nightgown again.
I headed back out my bedroom and to the bathroom next to it. I brushed my hair out and put it up in a messy bun. On the way to the kitchen, I tossed my dirty clothes into the open washer in the hallway, and then entered the kitchen to see what was in the fridge. Lettuce that needed to be thrown out. A half drunk bottle of flat soda. After rearranging everything a few times, I found a package of bacon and a couple eggs. Good enough. It didn’t take long to prepare them then plop myself on the love seat in the living room to eat them in front of the TV. I flipped through the channels until I found some documentary on the History Channel about Shakespeare.
When I was done eating, I cleaned up the dishes and took a shower. I fussed over what I was to wear and how to put my hair, just as if I were on a date. Maybe it was a date. A dinner date.
Finally, I just decided to keep wearing the night clothes I had already put on. It suddenly worried me to think of how William had probably seen me in my frillier nightwear. Or even not wearing anything at all. Ugh! He could have done anything with my mind gone in the cloudy world he put me in. Surely I would have been aware of anything too extreme. But how could I be sure…I barely knew him or the extent of his hypnosis. My mind kept whirling into deeper and deeper paranoia, so I found one of my various vampire books and tried to occupy my thoughts with the written word instead. So far, I’d found that most of the books I picked up were useless, fluffy romances that didn’t seem to have any anchor to reality, so I had to take their vampire lore with a grain of salt.
I stayed up reading until I noticed the time. After finishing the page, I closed the book, turned off my lamp, and waited for a vampire to suck my blood. Minutes ticked away in nervous anticipation. Many things passed through my mind during that time, all centered around William. Why did he make me turn off the light? I knew what he looked like. What was his story? Surely he had a life more interesting than his plain face. Where did he go when he left here? I wonder if he went to suck other people’s blood.
I felt my eyelids growing heavy with tiredness. I was just about to fall asleep when I heard a soft tap at my window. With a start, I sat upright. A dark form in the shape of a man waited outside my window, and I saw his hand raise and jerk back and forth in a wave. Then all the fingers curled into a fist except the index finger as he pointed upward, signaling to open the window.
Slipping out of bed, I unlocked the window and slid it up, latching it into place so it wouldn’t accidentally fall and hit him as he climbed in. It was so dark I was surprised he didn’t fumble, but I supposed he could see better than I. “Good evening,” William said, straightening from his crouched position on the floor. “How was your week?”
I closed the window again because it was a bit chilly outside. “Fine,” I replied. “And yours?”
He chuckled, seeming to laugh at a joke I wasn’t in on. “Fine.” William turned toward me and I heard the smile in his voice. “You smell nice.”
“Delicious?” I asked, trying to make the word seem lighter than it was, though I felt it choke as it struggled through my throat to my mouth.
I saw his head shake back and forth, but only barely. He blended in with the darkness so well he seemed to melt into it. “No,” he said. “Your shampoo. Cherry blossom? It smells very nice.”
I wanted to laugh at my own paranoia, but I didn’t, because he stepped closer to me and whispered, “But you do smell delicious, too.”
To that I had no idea how to reply, so I simply turned my head to the side and gave him unhindered access to my throat. But he didn’t really seem to care as he strode over to my desk and took a seat in the computer chair that was pushed in under it. “You have neglected your studies,” he commented. “We can’t have that. Am I a distraction?”
I walked over to my lamp to turn it on and he jerked his head again to signal me to stop. Putting my hands behind my back, I said, “I’ll get on it tomorrow. How do you know I haven’t been doing my work?”
He jerked his head in the direction of textbooks on my desk, papers scattered around them. I couldn’t read them in the dark, but I knew what they said: “Due Monday”, and the date for several days before. I crossed my arms and made a slight chuckling sound. “Remind me to make myself less obvious.”
He didn’t move in response to my statement, and I had that feeling that he was looking through me again, into my very being. To interrupt his spiritual examination, I asked, “Aren’t you hungry?”
I was completely unprepared for his sudden laughter, so much so that it made me jump. “Is that what you are thinking? I wanted to try and prolong it so it didn’t seem that that is all I am after.” His chuckles ceased and he breathed in deep through his nose before saying, “Yes, I am hungry. ‘So why don’t I eat?’ you want to ask. I am not the mindless beast depicted in fairy tales. My hunger is no more uncontrollable than yours, Kaylah. You can hold back from shoving your face in your most favorite food, right? Though, it is uncomfortable to starve myself.