Author: Raelene Atwood
Warnings: Violence, cusswords
Summary: About supernatural beings living among humans
Joshua walked into Holliday’s and took a seat at a booth, across from a young woman with short mousy hair and freckles. She was tall and lanky, and wore dark sunglasses that hid the bags under her eyes, and a lime green scarf around her neck. She acknowledged his presence with a nod, quietly studying a menu while chewing her nails.
“Hey, Josh,” she said, lifting her shades up for a moment to look him in the eyes before letting them fall back down across the bridge of her nose.
“Hey, Marley,” he said. “How’re you doin’ these days?”
Marley shrugged lazily. Her light blue eyes were sleepily half-closed, and she sighed before lighting up a cigarette. “I guess I’m alright,” she said. “Fuckin’ hate everything, but that ain’t news, is it?”
Joshua smiled uncomfortably. A plump, middle-aged waitress named Paula approached their table. She was chewing gum and walked with a slight limp. She set a small black ashtray down in front of Marley before speaking.
“Hi, can I take your order?” said the waitress.
“Sure, uh, I’ll have the bacon cheeseburger with fries and a coke,” said Joshua. “Marley, what do you wanna eat? My treat.”
“I um, I think I’ll have the baked potato with sour cream and chives, please,” said Marley. “And just some water with lemon.”
“Alright, I’ll be back with your food in a flash,” said the waitress. She turned around and limped back to the kitchen. Joshua watched as she left, and leaned in close to Marley before opening his mouth.
“So,” he said in a hushed voice, “where in the world’d you disappear to, Marley? We were all lookin’ for you. Have you even told Gran that you’re back?”
“No,” she said, before taking a long drag off her cigarette.
“You should, she’s been worried sick.”
Marley rolled her eyes and blew smoke in Joshua’s face. He waved the cloud of smoke away, and she let out a hollow, dry laugh. Heaving a long and heavy sigh, she silently untied her scarf to reveal swollen, red fang marks on either side of her bruised neck. Joshua opened his eyes wide, intrigued.
“There’re more of ‘em, but I can’t exactly show you,” said Marley. The skin on her face grew taut as she began to recall what had happened in her mind. The memories were all too fresh.
“Marley, oh my Christ, are you okay? What happened?”
“I um, I was just outside my trailer at night,” she said, swallowing back tears. “Because I—I thought I heard someone outside, y’know? And I got scared. So I took my daddy’s shotgun and walked outside, y’know? And I yelled out. I said, I said, ‘You fuckers come on out if you wanna live!’ and I stood there for a while, waitin’. Just waitin’. And then…I got grabbed from behind. And he took me. He took me. I don’t know where he took me, but he did. And he fucked me, and he bit me, and he drank my blood.”
Joshua reached over the table and took Marley’s small, bony hand in his.
“He wore a mask the whole time,” she said. “And I dunno how much time passed while I was there. I’m not even sure what day it is, to be honest with you.”
“It’s Wednesday,” said Joshua. “You’ve been gone since last Thursday.”
“Yeah, well, uh, I…I woke up back in front of my house just yesterday. I was naked and all bloody. One of my neighbors found me and took me to the hospital. I asked him not to tell anyone.”
“Oh, my God. I can’t believe this.”
“I just…I don’t understand why all this shit has to happen,” she said, holding back tears. “And why it always has to happen to me.”
“Marley, have you told anyone about this? Like the police?”
“No,” she said, tears streaming down her face now. “Well, yes. I told ‘em. But they couldn’t find any evidence. And they…tested my pee. And I had—I was doin’ drugs, Josh. I was bad. And they wouldn’t believe me,” she said. She folded her arms over her head and sobbed quietly. “They thought I was one of those vampire groupies. One of those fuckin’ freaks!” Joshua walked around the table to sit down on her side of the booth. He wrapped his arms around her as she cried.
“It’s okay, honey, you’re alright now,” he said. He gingerly kissed her forehead. “We’ll get some food in you, and I’m gonna take you to Gran’s where you’ll rest up, okay? You’re gonna be just fine.”
“N-no,” she said. “No. Please. Don’t tell Gran I’m back. Just tell her we talked on the phone and that I’m fine. Tell her I just decided to go on vacation. I’m in Atlanta, as far as anyone knows, okay?”
“Just promise me you won’t tell anyone I’m back. At least for a little while. I can’t face all those people, Josh. I just can’t. Not yet.”
“Okay,” he said. “I won’t tell nobody. But you know this shit won’t last, this town’s too small for you to hide forever.”
After Joshua and Marley finished their meals, Joshua made a quick phone call to his grandmother, to tell her that Marley had called from Atlanta, and that she was perfectly fine, as he was asked to do. He then drove Marley back to her trailer, and put the exhausted waif to bed, where she immediately collapsed into a deep slumber. As he left her residence, which was cluttered with empty liquor bottles and drug paraphernalia, newspapers, piles of clothing, and boxes of records, he found a business card on the dining table. The card was black with red lettering, and it was from an establishment called “The Red Door.” The logo, which was embossed in the middle of the card, was an open, lipstick-stained mouth with fangs. Joshua felt suspicious, unsure of what to make of the presence of this card in his cousin’s home. He pocketed the business card and left quietly.
The next morning, Madison and Joshua were sitting at the kitchen table as their grandmother, Pearl, prepared a breakfast of sausages and eggs fried in bacon grease with buttery, freshly baked biscuits. Madison was idly turning her fork in the sunlight, observing the way the light hit the smooth silver prongs. Joshua was flipping through channels on the small, black and white television propped up on the counter in front of him.
Pearl Gentles was a small woman of sixty seven, with a head of curly gray hair and bright green eyes. She wore a light pink housedress and a red checkered apron. With one look around her home, one could tell that she was very particular about cleanliness. Everything went with everything, and Pearl would have it no other way. She had made the curtains and tablecloth herself from the same fabric, so as to “tie the room together,” and there was not a speck of dust in the most hard-to-reach places. She still wore makeup and fixed up her hair when she went out.
Pearl lifted the frying pan off the stove and shuffled over to the table. She gently placed the fried goods on a big white plate in the middle of the table, and set the pan in the sink after draining the grease in a mason jar by the window. Joshua and Madison helped themselves as Pearl grabbed a carton of orange juice out of the fridge and handed it to Madison, who poured three glasses, one for each of them. Joshua changed the channel to the local news, and stood up to fix the rabbit-ear antennas when the screen went fuzzy with static.
“—and since the development of the new synthetic blood, commercially known as either Synsang or Sanguine, there is no reason for us to fear vampires,” said the middle-aged man on the screen. He was wearing a suit and wire-framed spectacles. “We are seeing more and more vampires walk freely among us, and we are well on our way to peaceful cohabitation.”
“Now, that’s just fuckin’ stupid,” said Joshua. He spat the words out like they were on fire. He wore a look of disgust that Madison found unsettling.
“Joshua! Language,” said Pearl, as she cut her eggs into small strips, breaking the yolks.
“Sorry, Gran,” muttered Joshua. “It’s just…I mean, we’re food to those vampires.”
“Not anymore,” said Madison. “You heard what that doctor just said, didn’t you? They’ve got the synthetic stuff now.”
Joshua scoffed and turned to his sister. “Maddy, remember when you went on that Slimfast diet?” he said. “It’s got all the nutrients you need, but you barely stayed on that diet for half a week. That shit—sorry, Gran¬—that stuff ain’t food. You really think all vampires are willing to give up their favorite snack for a cheap imitation?”
“Well, no,” said Madison. “But the option is now available. And it’s not like they kill everyone they drink from.”
“Oh, no, child,” said Pearl. She took a few bites of her sausages. “A lot of people willingly donate their blood. They go to bed with vampires and let them feed.”
Madison and Joshua looked at Pearl, a bit taken aback.
“Well, see, they’re supposed to be incredible lovers.”
Madison’s jaw dropped, and she laughed with her eyes as silence filled the room. Joshua put down his fork and creased his brow. Pearl nonchalantly continued eating, until she noticed her grandkids’ stares.
“What are you starin’ for? I saw a special on HBO the other day,” said Pearl. The three shared a laugh.
“Still, that’s just sick,” said Joshua. He spoke through gritted teeth, practically seething. He remembered the swollen bite marks on Marley’s throat, and felt his breakfast coming back up. He cleared his throat before continuing. “I mean, makin’ love to dead folk? That just sounds wrong. I mean, their whole…being here is wrong. They’re supposed to be dead. I’m just glad there ain’t no vampires in our town.”
“Actually, three of ‘em came into Holliday’s the other night,” said Madison. “I even spoke to one of them.”
Joshua stared at his sister, chewing slowly before he spoke. “Maddy, are you serious right now?”
“I sure am. They’re nice folks.”
“They are not nice folks; they’ll tear your face off and eat it for breakfast, Maddy! Jesus!” said Joshua, raising his voice. He slammed his fork down on the table, causing Pearl to look up from her plate, alarmed. “Why in the world were you talkin’ to one of them anyway?”
“That is none of your business,” said Madison.
“It sure fuckin’ is my business!”
“Joshua, language,” said Pearl. Joshua held up a hand and nodded apologetically before continuing.
“Maddy, you’re my sister and I love you. I can’t have you getting mixed up with all kinds of dangerous…dead folk. Why were you talkin’ to one of ‘em? You should know better than that.”
Madison looked down and pushed a piece of sausage around in the yellow pool of egg yolks on her plate. “I had a vision about him,” she mumbled, barely audible.
“What’s that, dear?” said an astonished Pearl, gently placing a hand on her granddaughter’s arm. It was the first time in years that Madison had mentioned any visions, and she was intrigued.
“Yeah, what was that?” said Jason.
“I said I had a vision about him.”
Joshua’s green eyes grew wide, and Pearl wore a look of realization on her wrinkled face. Pearl turned slightly in her chair to face Madison. “Maddy, now, are you sure? Are you sure it was a vision? Tell me what happened.”
“I don’t know, I had this d—” Madison stopped short, deciding against telling them about her dream. She did not need to feed what she felt was her brother’s irrational hatred. “One of the vampires that came into Holliday’s…his name was Kieran. I touched his arm, and I just…I just went weak and collapsed. And I suddenly saw him lying still on this forest floor, surrounded by wolves. So I thought I should tell him, y’know, just as a courtesy.”
“Was…was he dead?” said Joshua.
“I don’t know. Maybe. One of the wolves tore his throat out, and then I snapped out of it.”
“Have you spoken to him since, dear?” said Pearl.
“No,” said Madison. “I told him about it, and then he just vanished.”
“Well, I really do hope he’s alright,” said Pearl. She took a long, slow sip of her orange juice.
Joshua scoffed again, taking a large bite out of a biscuit. He then set the biscuit down and rose to his feet. “Alright, I’m off to work,” he said. “Maddy, I trust you’ll stay out of trouble, right? No more vampires.”
“Josh, where do you get off tellin’ your own big sister what to do?” said Madison, a playful smile on her face. “I’m a big girl. You take care of your own self.”
As soon as Joshua closed the door behind him, Madison turned to her grandmother, who was clearing Joshua’s plate and silverware.
“Gran?” she said. “Do you know why Josh hates vampires so much?”
“Oh, honey, he don’t mean any harm, it’s just his way,” said Pearl. “He takes after your father. The both of them are…protective. And really, the bark’s always been worse than the bite with those two. He’s just afraid for our safety.”
“Well, I never heard him talk that way about vampires before. I feel like somethin’ weird’s going on with him. He was so angry.”
“If something is going on, it’s just a matter of time before one of us finds out,” said Pearl. She drank the rest of her orange juice and placed the glass in the sink. She smiled. “Your little brother has never been good at keeping secrets.”