Myths and mankind have coexisted since the dawn of time.
At some point in everybody’s lives, our parents have told us not to fear darkness, that there’s nothing lurking under our beds at night, and that fairytales are only there to persuade children to be more obedient. They tell us to grow up, to turn off the light and sleep soundly, but they are blind.
We’ve carved in stone, written in papyrus, sculpted our imagination into marble, plastered our hopes and dreams on frescoes, painted our fears and nightmares on a canvas. Across all ages and cultures, our art, literature and folklore have reflected a truth.
There’s a reason vampires, witches, werewolves, dragons, angels, devils, gods, heroes and many more have been recorded throughout our history and across most, if not all cultures. There exists a living world we cannot see, but somehow know it’s there. A world where fables, myths and legends walk, breathe, and live.
He saw me approaching him. Where I came from, the formal etiquette was that boys approached girls. Not the other way around.
The party was overcrowded. It was a far cry of the environment where I thrived. Was I slouching too much, or was I standing too upright? Was my stride too lanky or too stiff? My hair, bronze-colored and wavy, what if it shuffled to the side the way it bothered me so much? The smile on my face felt more artificial the longer I forced my lips to stay curled. My biggest fear right then was losing my footing to my treacherous high heels.
Perhaps my friends wouldn’t judge me (I hoped), but everyone else would. The weight of their eyes watching bore down on me. People glanced at me, others stared as I pushed through and they faded into the background.
Alan Grayson. There was something mystifying about him, the way he carried himself with such grace in an almost noble fashion, the way he moved about with a perfect gait. His frame was lithe, his limbs toned. His white blond hair was slicked back, keeping his spotless features in full display. He was one, if not the most popular boy at Farpoint High School, and not because he wanted. From one day to the next we raised him up to that status.
I was at the verge of a nervous breakdown. I faced down the abyss where my social status was about to go plummeting in one false move.
There was still time to turn back, to pretend something else had caught my attention, but some madness in me forced me to keep moving forward and I stumbled into his personal space.
The music killed my voice before a word came out of my taut lips, which prompted this otherworldly beauty of a boy to lean down with his ear towards me. I produced another meek ‘hi’. My heart thundered against my ribs.
“Sorry, could you please speak up?” Alan said loudly, scratching the back of his head. “Music’s too loud.”
I wanted to slap myself after that. Between the din of music and students hooting, I would have to speak above my comfort zone.
“That won’t matter once we’re on the dance floor,” I said louder, putting on my sweetest smile. I could feel my face burning up. Now I wanted to die.
Judging by his reaction, I failed miserably. Alan stiffened on the spot, and the other boys flanking him stopped mid-conversation to snicker. He threw them a murderous glance. “You better shut up,” he said, before turning back to me. “I’m sorry, Scarlett, but I hate dancing.”
He knew my name even though we weren’t classmates. That, at least, gave me a small boost of confidence.
I couldn’t stop fidgeting with my hands. “Just so happens I don’t enjoy it either, so maybe we could… do something else? Talk? I mean…” His eyes were a mesmerizing gray, like liquid silver. It was easy to become lost in his gaze.
That is if he didn’t draw you out. “Sorry, but it seems we’re not on the same page,” he said, standing straight, hands tucked in pockets. One of his friends burst out laughing. “Guys, I’ll kill you for this.” He turned back to me. “Ignore them. It’s me they’re laughing at, not you. And it’s not the reason you think. It’s hard to explain these things because hu-, I mean, you’re not my type. And I mean that on many levels. There’s no tale to tell here.”
“Are you not into… girls?”
He gave me a smile that spelled out defeat and turned to his friends. “Help me out here, how else am I supposed to explain this?”
“That’s why it’s so hilarious!” one said.
“Sorry, man, you’re on your own.”
This time Alan wore an annoyed expression. My legs quivered a little. “I don’t feel like explaining myself. I have my reasons. I don’t want to dance, and no, I don’t want to talk either, so save yourself your breath and ask somebody else next time. Many will say yes, you can bet on it.”
The looming thought in my mind became less about impressing him and more about who else might be watching me, judging me. I wanted to hide the fact it upset me so much, but sad eyes made for terrible liars. There’d be nothing better than vanishing into thin air. At least no one could see me curled between my bedsheets, clutching my pillow, I figured.
I gave Alan a thin smile before retreating through the ever-shifting amorphous crowds that covered the makeshift dance floor. “Hilarious, Evan. No, I won’t be guarding anybody from my temper.” That was the last thing I heard before their voices got drowned out in the blasting music.
Duncan’s house was a two-story timber residence, which proved convenient when a third of the school was invited to our own monthly poor man’s rave. I strained my sight in all directions, searching for any sign of my friends. Last I knew of Rick and Amanda, they were making out on the couch by the chimney. Tiffany had offered me a drink before my ‘daring venture’. Disco lights of bright colors spun and drifted in the ceiling, providing the only source of lighting in the hall and living room by the stairs. The air was heavy with cigarette smoke, so it was hard to distinguish the moving faces in front of me.
It was no surprise when I didn’t find my friends by the couch. For all I knew, they might have been looking for me, too. But the more I dwelled on Alan’s rejection, the more I wanted to leave, to hide, to disappear. Booze gave me no pleasure or escape, not to mention I was underage. And only awkward conversations with my friends would result from this. I couldn’t stomach tonight anymore.
So I headed for the front porch, threading my way amid dancing couples, drunken students shuffling about their way, and groups of friends being rowdy. As I snatched my coat from the peg at the entrance, I felt her presence looming behind me. I couldn’t think of anything more undesirable than her. I pitied the family member that had to feed that mouth to near adulthood.
Melanie Noir stood at least three inches taller than me and easily weighed five tons more. “Gee, looking like that, small wonder he turned you down. I don’t think slutty-looking vampires are on demand right now.” The raven-haired vixen smiled at her own clever joke. Ever since that clash we had during the Homecoming dance two months ago, I had become a target of her cruelty. Poking fun at my porcelain skin tone was something she loved doing.
“I don’t remember the last time cows were on demand,” I said, before slinking out into the chill of night, leaving Melanie to her outraged frown.
The meandering side streets along Elder Grove Trail came to dead ends with houses bordering the edges of the pine forest and the hills dominating Farpoint, our fair and insignificant dot in Washington State. Outside Duncan’s house, the boisterous noise was a stark contrast with the nocturnal silence otherwise shrouding the whole town. It was one in the morning after all.
I turned on Winding Hills Avenue towards the street I lived on. Streetlights flickered along the avenue, and one of them blinked for a beat. My shadow appeared, elongated, vanished, and reappeared every time I passed under one. Mist had settled over the grass. A howl came from miles away. Cars rested at the curb like slumbering sentinels. The wonderful thing about Farpoint was that no place was too far away for our puny human feet.
The first thing I noticed when my family moved here from Seattle last year was that the moon, when full, could be appreciated with greater detail than anywhere else. Somehow it seemed bigger, and clear enough to count its craters…
The loudest sound came from my high heels clicking on the gravel. It unsettled me. A rush of air made the trees rustle, the leaves scatter across the pavement, and sent a cold shudder down my limbs.
Soon I realized someone had been following me. My heart had been pounding painfully when I approached Alan, but that was nothing compared to now. The hairs on my neck stood on end. My throat went dry like sandpaper.
I looked over my shoulder. Some streetlights stood farther apart from each other, creating glowing pools of light in a sea of darkness. Towering pine trees watched over me from the sides, possibly giving concealment to my stalker. I quickened my pace as I hurried towards the light. Eyes flashing everywhere, peering into the dark, I sought him out. My rapid breathing came out in wisps of mist, wafting away by the chill of the night.
A slight movement some distance away, a fleeting shadow off to the side of the sidewalk within the gloom, and I turned tail, running as fast as my feet could take me. I did not hesitate to kick off my high heels. It wasn’t long before I heard his footfalls on the hard ground as he took off after me in a sprint.
I dug into my coat’s pocket for my smartphone, thumbed on the fingerprint scanner—error, try again. I cursed and tried again until the home screen came up. My street was only a few dozen yards away. I only had to reach it and turn the corner on Weeping Willow Drive. I cut through the park, darting over moist grass, as the soles of my feet found relief and a better foothold to run faster.
I hit the phone app. Three numbers. That’s all I needed. I couldn’t tap number 9 as the running and swaying motions made me miss. Delete. 9-1-1. I heard him dangerously close now.
Somehow he had cleared the distance faster than I expected. I caught a glimpse of his face, concealed in shadow, a transitory blur that would forever haunt me if I lived.
It was too late to scream, but I shrieked my lungs out anyway, before his musty hand wrapped over my mouth and drowned out my cries for help. The phone never rang. I glimpsed a set of three piercings over his eyebrow glistening against the lamplight while I struggled to free my mouth.
“Hush, sweetheart. You only get to enjoy this once in your life,” he whispered. His breath stank of iron. I tried to kick him back, but he deflected it with ease. His free hand went over my breasts. As tears dribbled down the side of my face, the one thought flashing in the back of my head was Please, not again, as I tried to squirm free. “See you in the afterlife, darling.” Instead, he did something I never expected. He swept the hair away from my neck, and bit down on it.
It hurt for one tiny moment. The only thing I felt was a lingering tingling sensation. Little by little, my lifeblood drained out of my body, along with all my strength and wits. I stopped fighting back in a matter of seconds. It’s not I didn’t want to. But my will to resist had abandoned me. I lay there at his arms, blinking at the starry night sky and the full red, bloody moon.
Then I went numb. A burning feeling took over my entire body, as though ants had come out of the ground to swarm and eat at my insides. The stranger let go, and I tumbled on the sweet-smelling grass without protest. Soon the edges of my vision blackened, and I became one with the dark…