Grape Juice in the Moonlight
Ten Years Ago:
That sound wasn’t like anything she had ever heard, even in movies. It lasted for a long time before it was cut off, like someone hitting the stop button on a song right in the middle. Lexi’s body stiffened; her hands flew over her mouth to hold in a cry of her own. Her wide eyes stared out the window at the giant moon.
If that yell came from Tina, she might be in trouble. And if she was in trouble, Lexi had to hurry…
She ran up the two flights of stairs and into the short hallway that led from the basement to the family room, past the tall window, through the living room to the entry where the front door was standing open.
The air was just starting to turn cold. Lexi stepped slowly out onto the front porch, her nose filled with the smell of alfalfa. Holding her hands tight together up in front of her chest, she took slow steps down the porch stairs.
To her right, she could see all the way to the main road. The long driveway ran from there past the front of the house and over to the carport on her left. Out beyond the driveway directly in front of her was nothing but empty, freshly-cut field, looking like a pale green ocean in the moonlight.
Stepping onto the driveway, Lexi peeked over at Tina’s parked van. There was something on the ground on the other side; she could only see part of it, sticking out from the back wheel on the passenger side. She took a few more steps and saw that it was a person. A couple more short steps showed that it was Tina, on her back.
Lexi sucked in air. Tina’s head was lying so that she faced Lexi. Her eyes were really, really wide. Her left arm was flopped out in Lexi’s direction and her body from the chest down was hidden behind the van’s tire and the shadowed ground. There were noises: crunching, ripping sounds. Tina’s head moved up and down a little and her arm rolled back and forth.
“Tina?” Lexi said in a small, scared voice as she took another step. Something had spilled under Tina; the moonlight was shining on it; a black liquid like grape juice.
The noises stopped; Tina’s body quit moving. A growl came from behind the van. Low and deep. Lexi felt it all the way through her chest like when you stood too close to a speaker, and she was scared that just the sound of it could make her heart stop. She looked closer at the liquid…
Not grape juice.
Lexi screamed, turned and ran back up the steps. Something was coming out from behind the van, its feet sliding and then pounding on the gravel driveway. Lexi didn’t want to look; couldn’t look as she ran onto the porch and into the house, turned and shut the door and twisted the lock.
Something hit the front doors. Hard. Lexi fell back on her butt, screaming. She wanted dad—whenever she had been scared at night because of some noise or when she had a bad dream it was always dad who told her not to worry, that he wouldn’t let anything get her.
The thing on the other side pounded against the door, scraping and pushing, trying to force its way in.
Dad was gone. Who would protect her now? She closed her eyes, rubbed the pendant around her neck and thought of his voice.
You’re gonna be okay. You can get through this. I’m with you. You’re a survivor.
That helped. Yes. The doors were thick. This thing, whatever it was, couldn’t get in.
Even as she thought this the banging stopped. Lexi got up. She needed to get to the phone, call 911… she looked over as a shadow crossed the window in the living room. Whatever it was it was big—taller than the window. There and then gone. A phone…there was a phone in the family room, on one of the side tables by the couch. Lexi walked through the living room toward the family room and stopped. The thing was standing at the tall window just across from her. Two glowing eyes. Yellow. Staring… and then its face moved closer. A nose, wet and black. Air came out of it and fogged the glass. When the fog cleared Lexi saw teeth. Long, white, pointed. And then it was gone. Moving on… to where? Around that side was just the wall, with the windows to the daylight basement, which were shut, past that the treehouse and the laundry room, and then the back of the house, the kitchen…
Lexi’s chest clenched. The kitchen. During the summer both Ruth and Tina cooked with the kitchen window open.
She ran to close the window but only got as far as the short hall before stopping; there was a shredding sound coming through the hall as the monster tore at the kitchen screen.
It was getting in, and she couldn’t stop it. If it got into the house… she would need to get out.