There was an hour before midnight, but I already wanted to go home.
I stood by the door, idly watching as the others partied and had a good time. There must have been, what, twenty or thirty people here, and it was loud. Surprised I could hear myself think. The fat bass that spilled out of the speakers at the other end of the room filled my ears. The stuttering hi-hats tapped on my patience, withering it away with every loop of its uneven rhythm. The room was dimmed until I could only see my hand from arm’s length, so the only real source of light came from the neon strobe lights that illuminated people as they danced. A girl was grinding on a guy. That looked like Jenny, and that looked like Eric. Actually, multiple girls were grinding on multiple guys. I was reluctant on calling that ‘dancing’ anymore.
In other words, it was Friday night.
“Hey!” A familiar voice called out to me. I looked away from my watch to search for who that was. I could barely make out the outline of her body, but only one person wobbled like that when she was drunk.
“Katy,” I said, my tone more accusatory than I had intended.
“Wutteryou doing?” Katy slurred, “Come on, this was supposed to be all fer you!” She tossed me a red cup, and I caught it before its contents could spilled on me. No, it was empty of any liquid, but full of a nauseating smell. Rum.
“Nah, you know I’m not into that,” I said. “Plus, it gets my face way too red.”
“Nuh-uh, if that were really true, then you wouldn’t have went off with Brandon for shots just twenty minutes ago,” she teased, using that upper register tone that I hated.
I cleared my throat. “Well, that… That was different,” I said, wiping my lip and looking down. I was glad she couldn’t see the pink flush in my cheeks.
Katy tried to start another sentence. “But that’s… that’s…”
“Excuse me? Do you mean, ‘irrelevant’?”
“Yeaaaah, that. Tell me, did you… do…” In failing to articulate herself through words, she went for a vulgar gesture instead. I slapped at her hands.
“Anyway, one, one, one, one,” Katy kept repeating, until she started to sing the word ‘one’ along with the song playing in the foreground. It took me longer than it should have to realize she meant, ‘At least have one.’
Fuck, I told myself, I’m gonna regret this. I looked at my watch on my left wrist. Eleven o-three.
Shit, I knew it.
It had only been thirty minutes, and I could feel the room spin. Like I was in those tea cups on a merry-go-round, and I was spinning in that while the whole thing was spinning around. Spinning forever. But I was only lying on the couch, with a cold glass in my hand.
The music sounded far away, fading into some nothingness. Weird, I didn’t know the living room could fit sixty more people.
Shit, I knew it. I just hoped I didn’t get another stain on my new skirt.
Struggling to get off my back, my head dizzied exponentially with every movement. The headache tomorrow morning was going to suck, that much was certain. But I couldn’t bring myself to care right now.
I weighed the glass in my hand. Heavy. I brought it to eye-level. Not a glass, a bottle. Completely devoid of any liquid. I deserved no pat on the back for that one.
I pushed myself to get off of the couch, accidentally bumping into a couple sitting beside me. I would’ve went to apologize, but they were more concerned with each other than to pay me any mind. I left the bottle behind at the couch.
Again, I looked at my wristwatch. It took an embarrassing minute to finally get it down, since the time changed from eleven thirty-one to eleven thirty-two. Twenty-eight minutes until midnight. Until…
Until I was wholly and unequivocally screwed.
With no conscious effort, I stumbled towards the door leading outside, maneuvering through the crowd of ‘dancers’. I was operating under a previous thought, before Katy swung by to bestow this horrible feeling upon me, before leaving me alone. If I didn’t know any better, it was like she was trying to intentionally screw me over.
“Yehryuhjoeeng?” I heard from behind me. Didn’t recognize the voice. I knew this one, ‘Where you going?’
I didn’t want my attempt at speaking to be as horrendous. I answered without turning back, “Out, bit.”
What I had meant was, ‘I’ll be out just for a bit.’ Whatever, they’d get it.
I reached out for the knob, missed, missed again, finally got a hold of it, and twisted. Good work, team.
The chilly night air greeted me as I stepped outside, a sudden burst of wind closing the door for me. The soft fabric of my skirt lifted up away from my waist. My hands were slow in fixing it, but there was no one else out here anyways.
I took a deep breath in through my nose, hoping to avoid how thick my mouth was with the stench of alcohol. Looking up, the moon rose high above. Pretty, though it basked in its light rather than providing any use for me. As I expected, it was really dark out here.
Despite everything, going for a walk right now sounded kind of enticing, so I opted to take it, if not just to get away from the music, which I could still hear from only a few steps away from the porch. I turned around to get a good look at the house. Or mansion, to be specific.
Braham Manor, the perfect secluded spot for teens and young adults to party. The two-story, old-school plantation home used to be a site of awful human right violations I read about in Mr. Richard’s US History class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But now, on Friday nights, it was the place to be for teens to drink, have sex, and generally be free to act with no limits. Not that I condoned that type of behavior, but hey, a party was a party.
I took my phone out from the pocket of my skirt, and lit the way.
Strolling away from the house, my legs were on autopilot. Braham Barn, which was somehow more iconic than the fancy mansion, was down the dirt path that led back onto actual road, and then the city. Katy and Maria had originally planned it to be the main venue of the party, but more people came than anticipated, and because of the usual Friday festivities going on anyways, it was decided to merge the two together. There shouldn’t be anyone there, I guessed. Take a seat, and chill there. Sounded like a good idea to me. Clearing my head became a priority. I couldn’t recall why at the moment, but I wanted to go home. Unfortunately, I couldn’t right now. This was a decent compromise.
I now had a goal in mind. Good. Better than going about aimlessly. I squeezed past the cars and trucks that haphazardly parked in front of the mansion.
The farther I got away from the mansion, the louder my ears rang. From all that music and screaming, I could hardly hear my own footsteps as I walked on the dirt and rocks.
I could hardly even hear the rustling of the dry corn fields that made the edges of the path.
My head was still spinning, and I knew I wasn’t going in a straight line. I could turn around and verify via my footsteps, but that was unnecessary work. Not wanting to make my walk a terribly boring one, my thoughts went to my school schedule the next week. Had to keep my mind off of other stuff.
But I tried to make it into a game. How much could I remember if I was this inebriated? I checked off the list in my head. A chemistry project due on Monday. Tuesday… I had to read a chapter. Was it chapter seven or chapter ten? Dang, but that was what this game was about.
Nothing in particular on Wednesday, I thought, I can relax then.
As though they could agree with me, the dry leaves scraped together behind me.
So then, on Wednesday… What to do, then? Maria said a boutique opened up recently, should I dip during lunch and go with her? Maybe. But back to school. Was there anything else? Math, possibly? Probably.
Thursday, though, Thursday, was the big game. No chance in hell could I miss that. Coach would kill me.
Again, the plants agreed. I tried to tune it out, but they were already grating their way to the front of my attention. These damn plants wouldn’t stop. How windy was it?
Wait, but I felt no wind on my skirt. The plants in front of me weren’t moving either.
Don’t tell me…
I wheeled around.
I peered into the darkness, and only now did I realize just how far I walked. The mansion was miniscule, the roof lit by wandering red and green spotlights, but other than that, it was pitch black. I raised my phone’s light a bit higher, but I couldn’t see anything else. It was just me on this path.
Well, it should be, at least.
That rustling noise continued, but I couldn’t see who was behind it. Wouldn’t surprise me if it was some boys from the football team. For some reason, they liked to think they were funny. Probably from one too many head collisions.
“Not funny, guys,” I yelled out. My voice carried into the open air. Nothing. That noise continued.
“When I beat your ass, I don’t want to hear ‘it was just a prank!’”
Whatever, I thought. I was too drunk for this shit. Speaking of which…
Turning on the front-facing camera on my phone, I decided to take a look at myself. The bright light took some time getting used to. Yikes. Maybe not the best idea. Just from my cheeks, I was red as an apple. My eyes were more squinted and slanted than ever, and I had to force one of them open with my fingers to see that it was also red.
That was enough. No need to see how messed up I was.
Putting the phone out in front of me again, I looked down again at my watch. Eleven forty-two. It had already been ten minutes? Damn, and it’d take ten minutes to get back, obviously. It’d be awkward if they started off the countdown without me. Chilling out at the barn was now out of the question.
I turned to head back. At the same time, the noises stopped.
It was about ten feet ahead of me. A figure of something I had a hard time getting a grasp of, shrouded in the dark. But I was close enough to venture an educated guess.
“Dammit,” I muttered to no one, “Coyote.” Coyotes were known to frequent these fields, but no one I knew ever ran into any whenever we came out here. Sure, there was a rusted old sign at the entrance of the plantation that read ‘Beware of Coyotes,’ but nobody ever spare a second to read it.
It blocked my path back to the house. The only way I would be getting back was if I managed to walk past it, but I’d rather not chance that. Walking through the field and around it would take away my vision and mobility completely. Drunk or not, I wasn’t that stupid. But I took one step forward, hoping maybe, just maybe, I’d end up scaring it away. I halved the distance between me and the coyote, but it hadn’t budged.
Okay, maybe I was that stupid.
Sweat started to trace the back of my neck, and my thoughts rushed to figure out something I could do. Maybe call Katy? Perhaps, but considering how drunk she was before, she was probably out cold in a corner somewhere by now. Maybe someone else? A good quarter of my contact list did make up the people at the party, so I had the luxury of choice, at least. Now, just gotta go through my phone, I silently planned. Be careful, and try not to shine it in its eyes. My wrist shook as I tried.
Hold on. Wait a minute. My phone light caught something.
First of all, coyotes have fur, and this thing’s legs were thin, grey, and hairless. And those weren’t paws, they looked like hands.
Without thinking, I moved my light a tad higher. It was hunched over on all fours, crouching like it was about to pounce. Step by step, I backed away while keeping my eyes on the thing.
Where I was supposed to see a snout, was instead just long, jet black hair, soaked and covering its whole head. Also, coyotes weren’t generally known to be draped in a dark scarlet cloth.
It shivered. And so did I.
It shook again, and I noticed a red liquid glistening from my artificial light, dripping through its cloth down onto the dirt. It trailed off the path, and some of the tall plants were soaked in the same color.
Was it bleeding all the way here?
“Keh… keh… keh…” The thing breathed. Raspy and frail. Dry. My grip on reality slipped with every intake of breath. There was nothing to base this thing on, nothing to help me compartmentalize and understand it.
I’d much rather beware a coyote right now.
It shifted, and the subtle movement was towards me.
Run, what are you doing, run!
Shock rushed through me. There were no real thoughts, just instinct. Get the fuck away from whatever this thing is. My body took over for me, and sprinted away in the opposite direction. As though my body could purge itself from my drunken stupor, I ran. Where? Didn’t care, just not here.
I heard a rush behind me, and I only managed about ten wobbly steps.
My leg fell out from under me, and I collapsed onto the dirt.
“Ack!” I coughed.
There was a strange sensation, a tugging on my left leg, and the ground crawled away from me. Wait, the earth itself wasn’t moving.
I was being dragged.
Mustering up whatever energy I had left, I brought my body in tight and spun. I broke free, and both my legs hit the ground.
Sluggishly, I crawled to the edge of the path, pulling myself up using the stems of dried plants. My head was thumping in every direction. This wasn’t good.
It was taking too long for me to get up, my body betraying me in this crucial moment. Was that brief burst of adrenaline the best I could do?
“Ohmygod,” I cursed, “Jesus-fucking-Christ.” My heart was in my throat. I had no clue what that thing was, or why I was being attacked. Why it had to be me. Fear began to grip my body. All the reason in the world to run away, but none of the energy.
I wanted to cry.
Instantly, two intensely sharp pains penetrated my lower back, and I was lifted up from those fine points. My feet lost the feeling of the earth beneath me, and my stomach sank into nausea. Like going down a rollercoaster.
Without warning, I was thrown into the air.
One, two, three seconds airborne. Tears streamed down my face as I descended back down.
On instinct, I threw my arms out in front of me. Awful idea. I crashed onto the hard dirt, and my arms folded into themselves. They snapped like twigs, and the sound of bones breaking was audible.
Upon my rough fall, I continued to roll from the momentum. I rolled, rolled, rolled. How I felt on the couch paled in comparison to this. Desperately, I wanted to stop, but luck wasn’t on my side today.
Finally, I did, and I was on my back. Scratches peppered my legs, face, and I knew it was worse for my arms. By now, they were nothing but dead weight, I couldn’t even move a finger. My back was wet, my clothes getting seeped in blood.
To cope with everything, I tried to make out where I was.
My vision was blurry, fading, yet I could tell that I was on the crossroads of the dirt path, and the path to the barn was right up ahead. The barn’s doors were open, taunting me with a false promise of refuge.
I want to go home.
“Ugh…” My eye widened until they were saucers.
A thick mass of substance suddenly rose from my stomach and up my throat. I threw up.
A mixture of a hamburger, rum, Brandon, more rum and blood. Any attempt not to gag was futile.
Why, why… why? Was this how I was going to die? Covered in blood and vomit, and my entire upper body enflamed in an excruciating pain? Why did this have to be me? I didn’t deserve any of this.
No one did.
And as if all of that wasn’t enough, a cold claw gripped my neck, and lifted me back up to the air.
“Agh, kuh… okh!” My windpipe was forced closed, and a scraping wheeze was all that came out. But from being this close up, and the moon high above, I finally got a good look at whatever the hell this thing was.
It held me with only one hand, a testament to its strength. Standing upright, it glared at me with beady, black eyes. Its wet hair finally parted away from its face, only the occasional strand sticking to its cheeks. And like its hair, the cloth it was wrapped in parted away from its body, exposing its naked torso.
I could see it all. A sickly grey skin tone, a canvas for the blood that dripped from a gaping wound in its chest. My eyes wandered to its legs.
She cocked her head back, catching more moonlight, and opened her mouth for another harsh breath. A freezing terror slithered down my spine. Her canines were unnaturally sharp. Grotesquely sharp.
Snapping out of my trance, a will to fight back bubbled in me. My arms were useless, so I tried my legs. Coiling a leg, I sprung a kick.
Fuck, I missed. All I did was brush right beside her.
But she noticed.
With her free arm, she seized my left forearm and violent jerked back. I immediately more felt right-heavy.
Fuck! What the fuck!
She twisted in place, and I was spun around. After a stomach-churning rotation, she let go of my neck, and I was thrown.
I soared through the barn entrance, all light was robbed from me as the ceiling passed overhead. My back slammed onto hard wood, and I banged against chairs and tables before skidding to a stop.
The pain was so bad I swore that I was getting used to it, and I just stayed on the cold dusty floor, shivering. My breathing was short and shallow, my chest not moving at all. A punctured or collapsed lung? I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t a doctor. But you wouldn’t need a doctor to know that I was fucked. It was easier to list what wasn’t broken than what was.
There were no tangible thoughts. No particular memory, person, or concept came to me. I just wanted to die five seconds ago.
A repugnant smell of blood soon filled my nose, and the messy stump that was once my left arm continued to bleed out. In a second, I was lying in yet another pool of red.
Let it end already.
And to my shock and continued horror, she pounced, clearing the distance from the barn’s entrance and landing on top of my stomach, officially knocking out all the little remaining wind out of me. Pinning down my one arm, she dug sharp nails into my fresh stump. I cried out. She breathed again. Somehow, I had the feeling she was wholly disinterested.
She removed her hand out of where my arm used to be, and as a move that, even then, I was shocked by, she brought her hand into her mouth. She licked her fingers. She swallowed. A slight change, but her body language shifted. Loosened.
By drinking my blood?
“ノノノノ, ノノノノ, ノノノノ, ノノノノ!” Her voice was so weak. Like it pained her to speak.
Or…? A? Were they even words?
“ノノ… ノノノ ノノノノ ノノ ノノノノノノノノノ, ノノノノ ノ ノノノ ノノノノ ノノノノノ!”
Perhaps at her response to her attempt at communication, I began to spasm uncontrollably, my heart racing to a near flat-line. A final resort? It was as useless as anything else I tried to do.
Ignoring me, she removed her hand out of where my arm used to be, she slowly stroked my fractured collar bone. Blood trickled from her finger down the curve of my neck, mixing with sweat. She leaned in closer to my face. Her breath reeked. Like rotten fish.
Those teeth again.
“ノノノ, ノノノ, ノノノ… ノノノ’ノノ ノノ ノノノノ ノノノノノノ. ノノノ, ノノノノノノ ノノ!”
She bit into my neck.
It really was…
I saw myself there, on the floor of that forsaken barn, writhing in pain and agony as her sharp fangs pierced the nape of my neck, and tore out a sizable chunk. I watched as my face went blue, as I was no longer operating on a sufficient amount of air. I tried to flail, but her overpowering strength constrained me, kept me down.
But, it was funny, because I didn’t feel any of it. No longer did I feel anything real. Like I was outside of myself, watching a secondary character from some schlock horror movie get brutally killed off, and not really sympathizing. And I was okay with that.
If this was what it was like to die, then I didn’t really mind at all.
Maybe it was better this way.
That- was what I thought.
A rumble. Far away. Like a single instance of a boom of thunder.
There was no sign of acknowledgement on her part, but she suddenly got up, and leapt away, allowing me only a little bit of air. I looked up, but everything was hazy.
A shape loomed over my body. A person, maybe. Features too blurry. Help?
It moved over me, and there was a still, brief respite before I was dragged again, tugged by my only arm. An unhurried, uneven pace. I was set down elsewhere, moved somewhere else in the barn, but I couldn’t determine where.
Another distant boom of thunder.
My vision was worsening by every passing moment, and when the shape appeared over me again, it was much less a shape, and more like a gray blob, the edges smudged into the black surrounding it like a watercolor painting.
To my right, I heard something like a dull thud. A sensory reminder that I was still alive, however barely.
The colors on the top part of the blob shifted a bit. If this was a person, or the thing from before, then it would be the approximate placement of their face. Exchanging words? A gesture? Baring their teeth? I no longer had the sensory capabilities to understand anything. A throbbing pulse throughout my body, and sizzling sensation coming from my left stump, like the wound was splashed in acid.
That- was all I felt.
The hazy blob-shape shifted again, and my face was stuck, forcing my head to look right. And that was when I saw it. It was close enough that I could actually tell what it was.
My left arm.
White as snow, and most likely just as cold. Unmoving, helpless. I cast my final few glances at the watch that adorned the wrist. And a singular, gold line inside the watch, pointing in one direction. I could surmise.
At last, I was starting to feel sleepy, my eyesight completely fading to black, my heart slowing down to a near stop. Right before I went to bed, I heard something. Faint.
A succession of individual sounds, each carrying a different pitch. A distinct rhythm.
They must have started without me. I sang along in my ahead, it’d be weird to do it out loud.
Happy birthday to you, Alexis…
Happy birthday to you.