Holliday’s was nearly empty that night, as was the case on most Mondays. There were maybe ten customers total, and just a few of them were sitting at a table. Only three people—a waitress, a cook, and the owner/bartender, were working, and business was slow enough that they could relax and chat with one another throughout the night.
“Well, now, here are your loaded cheese fries,” said the waitress, carefully setting a hot basket of fries topped with cheese and bacon down on the only occupied table. She was a petite woman in her early twenties, with long straw-colored hair and dark eyes. She wore black shorts, a black blouse, a yellow apron emblazoned with the logo, “Holliday’s,” and a nametag that read, “Madison.” She set down the rest of the dishes, one by one. “Onion rings, burger and fries, and a grilled chicken sandwich. Now, can I get y’all anything else?”
The customers, a triad of young, bulky construction workers, shook their heads. They were watching Madison intently, leaning in close whenever she spoke; she could smell the sweat on their skin and the shit on their shoes. She did not like the way they looked at her, with their mouths slightly parted, their tongues practically hanging out like a dog’s. She found the vacant looks on their faces pathetic. “How about just another pitcher, darlin’?” said one of them, through a grunt.
“Of course,” she said, taking the empty pitcher in her hand and turning around before she had to spend another second being stared at. She fought hard to mask her contempt most nights, as she rarely found the company of men pleasurable in the least.
As Madison poured another pitcher at the bar, three beautiful strangers appeared at the door. One of them, a woman who appeared to be around thirty five years old, lazily made her way to the pinball machine in the corner, where a group of young college students were standing around, beers in hands. She had large, violet eyes and chestnut hair. She wore a sleek beige boat neck dress that hugged her slender frame perfectly, and matching four-inch stiletto pumps. She waved slowly to them, wearing a playful smirk and dripping with a feline smugness, and their jaws dropped when she flashed them her fangs. Seeing this, Madison beamed, hurriedly delivering the pitcher to the construction workers before approaching the remaining two newcomers, who were idly waiting to be served. One was tall, maybe six foot three or four, and appeared to be in his mid-thirties. He was blond, and his short hair was slicked back. His muscular arms and lean waist were prominently defined beneath his tight maroon v-neck shirt, and Madison shivered when she looked into his hypnotic blue eyes. He was the epitome of cool and calm, and he carried himself with a sense of old world dignity that Madison could not help but admire. The other, shorter one was quick and wiry, like an alley cat. He was agile and antsy, and he kept pacing around behind his companion, which Madison found strangely charming. He had messy red hair, a hook nose, and speckled hazel eyes. He wore a black t-shirt under a ratty blue flannel one, and torn jeans with muddy boots. He looked to be around twenty-five. He flashed Madison a grin, and she cocked her head when she saw that he had no fangs. Catching her look of surprise, he drew his fangs to show her, and she blushed and gasped like a shocked southern belle.
“Hi, this is your first time at Holliday’s, isn’t it?” said Madison, with a bright smile. “I mean, I’ve never seen you here before.”
“Yes, it is,” said the tall blond.
“Well, let me get you guys a table,” she said.
The taller one grunted in response. Madison seated them at the corner booth after being joined by the third customer, and handed them their menus. The redhead didn’t bother to even open his menu, opting instead to watch Madison’s every smallest move. Madison could feel his eyes on her, and she nervously picked at her cuticles as she waited for one of them to order. The blond sifted through the menu at lightning speed—something that astonished Madison, who was herself a very slow reader—and sighed playfully before setting the menu back down.
“I’d just like to try that…Sanguine that came out recently?” he said. “Three of those, please. Warm.”
“Sure,” said Madison. “Anything else for y’all?”
The three guests laughed.
“No, Madison. That’s a very pretty name, by the way,” said the blond, reading Madison’s nametag. “We don’t really…eat much.”
Madison found this information startling. She was overwhelmed with excitement and interest, and her heart fluttered whenever any of these customers directed their attention toward her. Having never had contact with vampires before, she found it difficult to politely suppress her curiosity, though she decided to hold her tongue for fear of being a nuisance.
“I’ll be right out with your drinks,” said Madison. She walked to the bar where Jane Holliday, the owner and bartender, stood slinging shots at the locals. Jane was in her early thirties, and had worked in factories and steel mills since she was twenty, before settling down in Carlton and opening up her bar. She had strong arms and a loud, braying laugh. She always smelled like clove cigarettes and whiskey. Jane gave Madison a strange look when she gave her the order.
“For real?” said Jane, pouring three microwave-fresh bottles of synthetic blood into warm mugs. “I mean, I bought a case of these just in case we ever got vampires. And now we have them? Never actually thought I’d ever be serving this shit. It’s got me a little nauseous, to tell you the truth.”
“Well, it’s natural to them. Maybe not so much for us, but they have a right to be here,” said Madison.
“Alright, alright, don’t get all P.C. with me, I’m just saying the shit’s gross. Got no problem with somebody else drinkin’ it. ‘Sides, this shit ain’t natural to them, real blood is,” said Jane. “Remember that. And watch yourself.” She set the three mugs on Madison’s tray and lit up a cigarette.
“Kieran, why are you watching that girl?” said the blond.
“What do you mean? I’m not watching anything,” muttered the redhead, who was still watching Madison. He spoke with a thick Scottish accent.
“You are. You’ve been staring at her since we got in here, and it is starting to worry me.”
“Worry you? What, the thought of me planning my dinner is worrying you?”
“No, but the thought of you falling into the arms of some local is less than savory, I’d say. And by the way that you’re watching her, I’d say I am worried for good reason,” said the blond. He turned to their female companion and gestured subtly toward Madison, who was on her way back with their drinks. “That is not the way one watches their prey.”
“She smells different,” muttered Kieran, slouching in his seat.
“Here you are, at ninety-eight point six,” said Madison, as she set the mugs down on the table one by one. Kieran shook his head at the blond man before claiming one of the mugs as his. “Now, y’all have a good evening. If you need anything else, just give me a holler.”
“Thank you,” said Kieran, sheepishly avoiding her gaze. His friends rolled their eyes as Madison smiled and walked back to the bar.
“Ulrik,” said the woman, to the blond, “is this really where you see the next two years?”
“You worry too much, Simone,” said Ulrik. “Maybe it is. Do you have complaints?”
“Yes, I do. You’re giving up bright lights and big city to come to Bumfuck, Nowhere? And for what, to open up some shitty discotheque that no redneck is ever gonna walk into?”
“There are people that aren’t rednecks in this town,” he said. “Just ask Kieran here. He’s been…sampling the local flavor, if you know what I mean.”
“There are plenty young heathens out here,” said Kieran. “Drugs, sex, rock and roll, all that shite. Some of these girls are even wilder than I think I can handle. All that backwoods puritanical bullshit they’ve been grazing on’s got ‘em goin’ full on with the real world, y’know? Just fuckin’ and snortin’ all day and night.”
Simone and Ulrik chuckled.
“Okay, so maybe you have a customer base. What about everything else that’s wrong with this plan? What the fuck are we going to do here? There sure aren’t any other vampires within fifty miles of this godforsaken dump,” said Simone.
“Exactly why it is the perfect place to conduct business as usual,” said Ulrik.
“I can understand that we had to get out of Nevada, but I can’t understand why we had to come to Georgia. And even then, couldn’t we have relocated to Atlanta, at least? Why here?”
“Enough. The decision is final, my pet. Carlton, Georgia, it is. We need to lie low.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake.”
Ulrik laughed. He looked around, observing his surroundings for a while. He took a sip of his Sanguine and grimaced, shaking his head. He set the mug down and slid it away.
“This stuff is vile. Absolutely disgusting. Tastes nothing like blood,” he said. “I’d sooner just take the stuff in pill form. I don’t even know why they decided to come out with the liquid version.” He wiped his lips with a napkin and tossed the crumpled napkin effortlessly across the room and into a garbage can. Simone sniffed at her mug, but did not drink it. Kieran took a quick swig, but spit it back into the mug.
“Are those cunts on TV serious?” shouted Kieran. “This stuff is acrid. How the hell’s one supposed to live on this shite?”
“Ulrik, let’s just pay for this and leave,” said Simone, rolling her eyes. “We still need to go see this place you bought.”
“Come,” said Ulrik, rising to his feet. “Let us go.” He pulled out his leather wallet and produced two crisp twenty dollar bills. As Simone and Kieran sped off in a blink, startling many of the other customers, Ulrik sauntered over to Madison, coolly confident and sparkling with debonair charm, to hand her the bills. “Keep the change,” he whispered, before vanishing off into the night after his companions. Madison clutched the cash in one hand and her racing heart with the other.
That night, Madison fell asleep as soon as she arrived home, around 2 AM. She waved at her brother, Joshua, who was watching television in the kitchen, and went straight upstairs to her bedroom. She stripped off her sweaty work clothes and put on an oversized t-shirt before collapsing on her frilly bed and drifting off to sleep.
Madison had a strange and disturbing dream. In it, she dreamt that Kieran, the redheaded vampire she had met at Holliday’s, was standing over a heap of blood, skin, and bones. It was night out, and they were standing outside on the grass. She could hear him snarling like a hungry beast in the dark. There was blood all over Kieran’s clothes and face, and there was an open cooler full of blood-filled vials next to the heap.
“What is this?” Madison asked, but he could not hear her. She tried to touch him, to shove him and pound on his chest, but she went right through him like a specter. “What’s happening? Did you do this?”
She watched as Kieran proceeded to bury the heap of blood and guts with a great big shovel. After spitting on the shallow grave, he wiped some of the blood off his face, picked up the cooler, and walked away.
“Madison, wake up,” she heard. It was Joshua. “It’s just a dream, Maddy. Come on, now.” Joshua shook his sister, who was flailing and groaning in her sleep. Madison opened her eyes abruptly and sat up, startled. She was covered in cold sweat.
“Sorry, Josh, I didn’t mean to…sorry,” she said.
“It’s alright, I’ve got you now,” he said. “So what happened?”
“Joshua, I am not about to tell you about one of my dreams. Now, why would you even ask?”
Joshua grinned. “Aw, come on, sis. What if it’s another vision? I wanna know if I gotta watch my back or something.”
“Believe me,” replied Madison, running her hands through her mussed up hair, “this dream had nothin’ to do with you, and you ought to just keep your nose out of it.” She recalled the scent of blood in the night air and shivered. Her skin crawled when she thought about it, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that there would be more nightmares to follow. As for her brother’s suggestion, that this nightmare might be a vision of some sort, she did not even want to consider the idea. ‘It was just a dream,’ she thought. ‘Just a dream, nothin’ more.’
“Well, alright, then, I’m goin’ back to bed and you do the same,” said Joshua. Madison smiled and playfully flicked him on the forehead.
“Look at you, big man, puttin’ his older sister to bed,” she said, as he walked away, chuckling to himself.
The following night, Madison was preparing to close up shop with Jane, when Kieran suddenly walked inside. He was wearing a sharp gray suit, the top buttons of his black shirt undone, and his wild hair was somewhat combed. After getting over the initial shock of being confronted by a man she had seen bury a dead body the night before, Madison took a deep breath to calm herself and smiled at him. She thought he looked handsome. It was already fifteen minutes to closing time, but she gladly approached him with a menu in hand and a smile on her face.
“Hi, there,” she said. “How are you doing this evening, sir?”
“Please, call me Kieran,” he said. He nervously rubbed his chin before continuing. “I’m doing quite well, Madison. And how are you?”
“I’m just fine, Kieran,” she said, bringing him over to an empty table for two. “Let me guess, some of that Sanguine?”
“Hm? Sure, sure,” he said. “Although, between you and me, I’m not exactly here for the refreshments.” He winked, and Madison blushed, unconsciously playing with a lock of her hair before trotting off to the bar, where Jane was vigorously wiping down the counter. Jane heaved a sigh when Madison gave her his order.
“He’s got his eye on you,” said Jane, reproachfully pouring the thick, red liquid into a mug. “I knew he was watching you the other night. He might be trouble, Maddy.”
“Jane, you’re just being silly. He seems like a perfect gentleman to me,” said Madison. She took the mug back to Kieran, who was waiting patiently for her return. When she set the mug down on the table, she placed a gentle hand on Kieran’s cold shoulder, which made Kieran twitch in surprise.
“Here you are, now—”
Suddenly, Madison collapsed to the floor. Her head was spinning, and she couldn’t feel her extremities. Her mind flooded with a barrage of images and sounds, before she opened her eyes to find herself in a forest, damp with morning mist. Before her was a pack of wolves circling a body—Kieran’s body, in fact. He was all bloody and lied perfectly still, and Madison was sure that he was dead. One of the wolves pounced on his body and tore open his throat. At that moment, Madison came to on the floor, shaking in fear.
Madison had suffered through these strange visions before—her late father had shrugged them off, suggesting that if they grew to be debilitating, Madison could simply see a psychiatrist to “fix” her. Madison’s grandmother, with whom she lived, believed that Madison was just “gifted.” Madison had predicted her grandfather’s death, as well as a multitude of other random and mostly trite occurrences, such as the expiration of various food items in her refrigerator as well as scores to football games. She also displayed, from a very young age, an innate ability to win at games of chance. She had won every round of Monopoly or Yahtzee that the Gentles had ever played. She tried to keep these “gifts” to herself, after having been teased all through grade school for always simply “knowing things.” The other children had called her a geek and a witch, and she knew that she resided among sometimes very small-minded people who would label her as a lunatic if her abilities were made known. So she chose to keep quiet about her visions unless she could discern that the consequences of not informing someone were somehow dire.
Shaking off the vision, Madison silently decided that she would have to warn Kieran of what she’d seen, though she wanted to wait a while in order to collect herself. She groaned, rubbing her head. Kieran was stooped over her, his cold hand on her cheek. Jane was crouched next to him, a look of concern on her face.
“Maddy, you okay?” said Jane.
“Yeah…I’m fine,” said Madison, getting up onto her feet. “Don’t worry about it, I’m okay. Just had a spell of the dizzies.”
“Y’know what, hon? You go on home. I’ll take care of everything, okay?”
Madison nodded. “Thanks, Jane. I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said. Jane nodded and walked back to the bar. Madison nudged Kieran, who turned around to face her. “Listen, I need to talk to you. It’s very important. Would you meet me outside for a second? I want to talk to you alone,” she said.
“Alright, I’ll bite,” said Kieran, wearing a look of confusion. Madison turned around and began walking to the back of the bar to collect her things. Kieran’s eye was fixed on her. When Madison walked outside, clutching her purse and apron in her hand, he strolled up to Jane at the bar, where he paid for the drink he did not even start to consume. He watched Madison walk out the door as Jane handed him his change.
“Listen,” said Jane, who placed one of her strong hands on his arm, “I don’t know you, sir, and I’m not here to make any assumptions as to your character. But I’ve been watchin’ you, and you’ve been watchin’ her. Just know, you hurt her somehow, and I will put a stake right through your fuckin’ heart, understood?”
“You certainly are fearless,” said Kieran. His eyes lit up when she spoke, and he smiled, nonchalant. He drew his fangs, though it was more of a friendly display of rivalry than an attempt at intimidation. “Threatening someone who could tear off your head in less than a second? That’s brave.”
Jane kept her calm and stared back into his eyes, her brow creased.
“Don’t worry, I won’t bite her…unless she wants me to,” said Kieran, licking his teeth before disappearing out the door.
Outside, Madison was still walking to her car, and she quickly pulled out a can of mace when Kieran caught up to her in a moment’s notice, startled by his sudden appearance. “Oh, my lord,” she said. “You scared a few years off my life just now.”
“I’m sorry, didn’t mean to frighten you,” said Kieran. The two of them stood in silence underneath a streetlight for a while. Madison quietly observed him. He was fresh-faced and projected an air of naiveté, which was something she had not expected of vampires. She had always imagined them to be more like Ulrik—tall, pristine, and perfect. Upon closer inspection, Madison found that Kieran’s front tooth was chipped, and that he had a ruddy complexion and freckles across the bridge of his nose.
“Um, so…” started Madison. The silence was beginning to unnerve her. “First off, I’m about to say something that might sound completely crazy. And you have to know, I wouldn’t be telling you any of this if I wasn’t morally obligated to do so.”
Madison started a few sentences, but kept trailing off. Kieran cocked his head to the right and gestured with his hands for her to go on.
“Okay, well, ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had these dreams—”
“And I’m the man of those dreams? Is that what you’re telling me?” said Kieran. He threw his head back and laughed with his mouth wide open.
“No, this is serious,” said Madison, holding back a giggle that she felt was absolutely inappropriate. “These dreams…and visions, I guess…sometimes tell me things. And I know this is completely ridiculous, and I’ll understand if you laugh, but I think I know how you’re gonna die.”
“You do?” said Kieran. He was intrigued. “Pray tell, how?”
“Well, in this…vision, you were lying dead on the ground, surrounded by these wolves—”
Kieran’s fangs emerged, and something in his eyes seemed startlingly primal. Madison covered her mouth with her free hand, her eyes open wide. She was starting to feel a bit frightened. “Wolves?” Kieran grunted. His voice was a low growl. “What were they doing?”
“Well, I think they were trying to eat you. One of ‘em went and ripped your throat out.”
“And these visions…they’re reliable?”
Madison nodded. “I’ve never been wrong, as far as I know,” she said.
“This isn’t good,” said Kieran, before vanishing right before her eyes.