“The so-called ‘vampire attacks’ have escalated as Halloween approaches with more than three people already hospitalised,” the newsreader’s voice blared through the room.
I was ironing a shirt. Scrap that. A hundred shirts. I’d offered to do it for little, old Mrs Havering in flat three after she’d fallen and broken her leg.
My mother’s words rang in my head. “You’re a people pleaser, Elsie. One day, you’ll have nothing left to give of yourself.”
The camera switched to a balding reporter, wrapped up in a heavy coat against the frosty night air. Beneath him were the words, Live from Druids Hollow.
My attention was sharply grabbed. Druids Hollow was only a few streets away from here. I’d played there as a kid. The road passed through an old, creepy woodland, winding through it like a viper.
The reporter pointed to a bloody patch on the ground beyond a line of police tape. “Last night, the most vicious attack of all was reported. But after last year, when kids dressed up as clowns to scare people all around England, the ‘vampire’ sightings weren’t taken seriously enough. What was once thought to be a prank, has escalated to violent attacks which are being termed ‘barbaric’ and ‘animal-like.”
My gut twisted uncomfortably. What kind of sicko dressed up as a vampire and went around biting people? One victim had reportedly lost a pint of blood. A whole pint!
The iron hissed loudly as steam poured from it.
My heart leapt toward my throat at the sound.
Calm down, Elsie.
My mobile phone rang making me jump again. What was the matter with me today?
I sighed, taking it out of my jeans’ pocket and finding Mrs Havering calling.
I answered it, suppressing my frustration. “They’re not done yet, Mrs Havering, I’ll need another hour or so.”
“Oh no, it’s not that dear.” Her voice quavered a little and I immediately tensed.
“I really don’t want to cause a fuss, but there’s a man outside my door. He’s been trying to get in for some time, but when I called out to him, he didn’t answer.”
My throat dried up. “Have you called the police?”
“Yes, but the number was engaged. It’s the strangest thing…”
Static crackled in my ear and I turned my attention to the TV, frowning at the black and white message written across it, We are currently experiencing technical difficulties. Please stand by.
“Have you tried, Eric?” I asked. He lived across the hall from me. I wasn’t exactly the intimidating type with my 5’2 frame and skinny legs. And my light pink hair didn’t help either. Eric was the obvious person to deal with this situation.
“He’s not picking up either,” Mrs Havering said. A loud bang sounded in the background and I heard the thump echo through my apartment. Her flat was directly below mine. One flight down.
I swallowed hard as Mrs Havering released a whimper of fear.
“Alright,” I sighed. “I’ll see if I can do something.”
“Thank you, Elsie. Really.”
People pleaser! my mother’s voice sang in my head.
Yeah, yeah. Remember to put that on my gravestone.
I headed toward the door, my trainers thumping across the floorboards. At the last moment, I pivoted, heading for my small kitchen and rifling through the cutlery drawer for a knife. It might have been dramatic and totally illegal in England, but my Daddy had always told me, ‘I’d rather you were in prison than dead, sweetheart’.
I tucked the knife into my back pocket, feeling a little foolish as I headed for the door again.
It’s probably just the postman. Mrs Havering is always over-cautious.
I crept into the hallway, not wanting to alert the man to my presence. Glancing at Eric’s flat across the moonlit hallway, I made a decision. Hurrying to his door, I raised my knuckles and tapped softly.
An inhuman screech sounded from downstairs and every hair on my body stood to attention.
What the hell was that?
I took out my phone, dialling Eric’s number, my heart thumping in my ears.
Come on, answer the phone you lazy, good-for-nothing, gym freak.
“Yello?” he answered like a tool, sounding sleepy.
“Hey, let me in. I’m outside your flat,” I whispered.
“Holy crap, is it finally happening? Are you here for a booty call?”
Despite my rampant heart, I rolled my eyes. “Open the god-damn door,” I snarled through my teeth.
“Easy baby. You need to put that anger to good use. Don’t waste it.” The door wrenched open and he appeared in nothing but navy boxers, his chiselled chest taking up my entire view.
I shoved him hard, stepping into his flat without asking.
He smirked, coiling an arm around me. “Take it easy on me from the waist down, it was leg day today.”
“Shut up,” I snarled. “Mrs Havering’s in trouble. Someone’s trying to break into her flat.”
His sparkling, spearmint eyes dimmed in a flash. Eric was a fireman. And even if he was a cocky bastard most of the time, he was damn good at his job.
His hand slid down to my butt, halting on the knife wedged half-way into my pocket. His brows raised. “Jesus, Elsie. What the hell are you doing carrying that around?”
I shook him off, taking the knife out and keeping hold of it. “I thought I’d have to go down there alone.”
“Well now you don’t.” He snatched a black t-shirt discarded on the back of his sofa. As he pulled it on, I noticed the words Weights Before Dates stamped across the chest.
His place was OCD clean. Nothing like my apartment.
He headed toward the door, pushing a hand through his dark brown locks and marching into the hallway. I followed, keeping the knife in my grip, feeling only a little foolish. But from the loud banging coming from downstairs, there was no way I was letting go of it.
A thunderous crack announced Mrs Havering’s door breaking and footsteps pounded into her flat.
Eric shot me a concerned frown as we tore down the stairs two at a time.
Mrs Havering screamed like a banshee.
My heart slammed against my ribcage, over and over.
I kept close to Eric, his body like a muscular wall which I was more than willing to hide behind.
We fled across the landing and I spotted Mrs Havering’s door wide open with a massive crack in the middle of it.
We stepped into her apartment which was freakishly silent.
“Mrs Havering?” I whispered, much too quiet for her to hear. It was stupid, but I didn’t want the intruder to hear me either.
Eric shook his head at me, moving through the lounge full of chintzy pink furniture. He glanced into the kitchen and jerked backwards, grabbing hold of my arm and dragging me toward the closet.
“Wh-” I tried to question him, but he slammed a hand to my mouth and pulled me into the cupboard.
I was facing fur coats, pressed into them by Eric so Mrs Havering’s cheap perfume consumed me.
“Keep quiet,” Eric whispered. I was pressed so close to him in the small space. His back to mine.
“What’s going on?” I breathed, my palms growing slick around the knife now clamped in both of my hands.
A snarling, growling noise sounded from the lounge and I shuddered, the hairs on the back of my neck prickling to attention.
Eric remained silent, pressing me further back into the coats.
I couldn’t breathe, suddenly suffocated as he wedged me in place.
I jabbed him in the ribs, trying to signal him to move back, but he didn’t.
A vile, sniffing sound carried from beyond the door.
Oh god. Oh no. What’s happening?
My vision darkened as I couldn’t draw breath.
“Eric,” I begged, growing desperate, flailing against him.
The door flew open and I stumbled back, gasping down air as Eric was hauled out of the closet.
I turned, taking in the emaciated man holding Eric by the throat, then slamming him to the floor. Despite being half Eric’s build, the guy was freakishly strong.
Eric cried out, throwing heavy punches at the man as he fell atop him, drooling, baring fangs. Real life fangs.
I screamed, darting forward to help, my legs willing me on.
The attacker dug his fangs into Eric’s neck and he wailed in pain, trying to throw him off. But it was no good. His eyes locked with mine over the guy’s shoulder. And all I could think was the word, vampire.
“Eric!” I cried, diving forward, landing on the man’s back, trying to wrestle him off. I still had the knife, but couldn’t find the courage to use it.
I can’t stab someone!
The ‘vampire’ jerked backwards, throwing me off of him. I stumbled, falling and hitting my head on the coffee table.
My vision swam with stars as a dark shadow approached me. I’d dropped the blade. It was two feet away. I scrambled toward it but the vampire fell atop me, weighing me down. I reached desperately toward it, my nails scraping across the floorboards.
Eric cried out in fury and something slammed into the vampire, the force resounding through my body. Blood leaked over the back of my neck.
As it dripped to floorboards, I saw it was blackish-red and viscous.
Not mine. It’s not mine.
The weight eased from me and I was dragged to my feet by Eric, gazing down at the dead vampire at our feet.
Eric steadied me, his hands on me reassuring me I was still alive, still breathing. But the thing before us wasn’t, the knife wedged between his shoulder blades, oozing black blood.
“Whatever you do, don’t turn around,” Eric breathed in my ear.
But curiosity got the better of me and I couldn’t help throwing a glance over my shoulder, giving me a direct view into the blue-tiled kitchen.
Mrs Havering was on the floor, her head dismembered from her body.
I screamed, pressing back into Eric’s shoulder, horror writhing through my veins.
The vampire groaned and my eyes snapped back to it in alarm.
“It’s not dead,” I gasped as Eric moved forward to finish the job. Before he got there, the vampire leapt to its feet, wrenching the blade from its own back. In moments, the wound was gone, healing over as if it had never been there.
Eric paused, his shoulders tensing. “Holy crap – run!”
He took my hand, dragging me back into the hallway. Footsteps pursued us and a horrible shriek dug into my eardrums.
We were halfway up the stairs before fingers snatched my ankle. I cried out, almost falling, but Eric hauled me upright, practically carrying me as we fled back into his apartment and slammed the door.
Eric hurried to his sofa, pushing it up against the door with a heavy thud. The vampire collided with the door on the other side with a grunt of fury.
I was shaking from head to toe, unable to banish the image of Mrs Havering’s mangled body from my mind. Shock was taking hold of me.
Eric cupped my cheek, his mint-green eyes meeting mine. “It’s alright, Elsie. Breathe.”
I did as he said, taking a shaky breath, my mind kicking back into gear.
“Come on, we have to climb out the window.” Eric moved across the room, wrenching up the window and holding out a hand to me.
I took it and he helped me onto the landing of a small, metal fire escape.
I froze, standing next to him, the icy wind whipping around us. The whole street was screaming. Bodies were strewn across the ground. Vampires were bent over corpses, feasting on their bodies.
Eric’s hand locked around mine as my heart beat out of tune.
A loud bang sounded as the front door nearly gave in from the vampire’s weight.
“What do we do?” I gazed up at Eric, my mouth as dry as paper.
He shut the window behind us, gazing up at the shining moon. “My car’s parked down on the street. See it?” He pointed to a black Land Rover outside the block of flats, four floors down and a twenty foot run away.
I nodded and he gazed back into his flat. “I have to get my keys.”
He turned, bending low as he hauled the window back up and stepped inside.
I watched, my hands balled into fists with anxiety as he fled across the room, back to the door where a row of keys were hanging on hooks beside it.
He snatched a bunch and the sofa flew forward as the door gave in. The vampire sped into the room, but Eric was already sprinting back toward me.
I cried out for him to hurry and he bent low, diving awkwardly through the window. The vampire caught his ankles, dragging him back. I snatched the keys from Eric’s hands and he gave me a wide-eyed look of horror.
I pressed the keys between my fingers, wielding them like knuckle dusters as I slammed them into the vampire’s head. It screeched, falling back and I helped Eric through the window, slamming it shut behind him, my pulse pounding through my skull.
I dropped onto the first rung of the ladder, hurrying down it as fast as I could and Eric promptly followed.
The window smashed, showering shards of glass over us. I quickened my pace, my feet meeting tarmac.
Vampires lifted their heads from the surrounding corpses, their bloodshot eyes narrowing on us.
I ran toward the car with Eric hot on my heels, pressing the button on the keys to unlock it. I climbed into the driver’s side, pushing the key into the ignition as Eric jumped into the passenger seat.
“Go!” he roared as a vampire collided with his door.
The engine roared to life and I pressed my foot to the accelerator, slamming the stick into gear. I wound through the bodies, trying to avoid them, even though they were beyond help.
Eric gazed at me and I glanced at him with a frown, questioning his expression.
“I thought you were gonna leave me,” he choked out.
I blew out a breath, taking a sharp turn onto the next street, the street lamps flickering. “I guess I’m a people pleaser.”
He leant toward me, pressing his warm mouth to my cheek, holding my head in place. “Well thank god for that.”