The long, adventuring nights keep getting longer as Misty and Roland search out rumors of shadows and laughter. Added to her woes is a head cold of supernatural proportions larger than a trucker’s appetite. She shambles through her work and Roland’s play, a member of the undead in nose and crusty eyes.
Their adventuring finds nothing but dust and a child’s laughter, but when she begins to experience vivid dreams of tooth-decaying fantasy parks and zombie apocalypses Misty wonders if something isn’t wrong. Roland comes to the rescue with only one choice to help her, but she’s not so sure she wants to trade in her humanity for a souped-up existence with strings attached.
Fall weather always brought more than just the cold. It also brought a cold, namely the one that was trying to make me wish I could unscrew my nose and give it a good rinsing.
I stood over the coffee pot with my eyes encrusted with gunk and my temperature on its way to a warmer place. Behind me in the diner was a group of ravenous truckers that more closely resembled wolverines than humans. I swore every plate I dished out came back with gnaw marks around the edges.
For myself, all I wanted to do was curl up with one of Ralph’s famous apple pies and pretend to die. I’d been nursing a head-cold for a weak and now I knew why I’d never gone to med school. The cold was winning all the battles and the tissues were piling up in the waste basket behind the counter.
“You don’t look so good,” Candy commented. She stood near the swinging kitchen doors with her coat on and one foot already in her car.
“I’ve got this going for me.
If I die Ralph can just cook me up with the rest of the unknown meat and call it sassy food,” I quipped.
She wrinkled her nose. “Thanks for reminding me why I don’t eat on the job. Anyway, I heard they finally dropped the investigation into your aunt and uncle.”
I sniffled. “Yeah. The police said they didn’t have anything against them.”
“Maybe Brady’ll show up soon and get his truck out of the impound,” she suggested. That didn’t seem likely since it’d been a few months since the welcome-home party at my aunt and uncle’s farm. Besides, the only way he’d show up was if my aunt brought me the flower pot she stuffed his ashes into. “Anyway, good luck and see ya tomorrow.”
“Maybe,” I half-heartedly agreed. Whole-hearted agreement took more energy than I could dish out right then.
Candy waved to me and I flopped my hand back at her. She left me to fend for myself against the constant onslaught of calls for more coffee and fries. Ned was one of the loudest of the bunch.
“Come on, Misty, get moving. We’re dying of thirst here,” he growled.
I sneezed into the pot, grabbed the handle, and turned to them with a smile.
“Coming,” I cooed.
I poured out their tasty surprises and listened in to their conversations. They were a better source of road gossip than a biker grandma.
“So anybody hear from Brady?” one of the men spoke up.
Ned shook his head. “Nope, but I suspect he’s a victim of one of them vampires that’s got around here now.”
“You heard anything new?” another asked Ned.
Ned straightened on his stool and gravely nodded. He looked as dignified as a mummy, but with extra wrappings around the waist. “I hear some things.”
“Come on, Ned, ya gotta tell us,” the first man insisted. “We don’t want to be driving into one of them places.”
“You’re going to have a hard time driving near this place,” Ned commented. “I heard from one of the women at the Depot in Northton that there’s been some pretty eerie things going on in the abandoned industrial park. You know, the one all those city-folk invested in before they went belly-up in the recession.”
“Isn’t there just some buildings there?” one of the men wondered.
Ned gave a nod. “Yeah, but that’s all a vampire needs. Just one building with a roof over their heads.”
“And a hot shower. . .” I murmured.
Ned glared at me. “What’s that?”
“Want more hot coffee?” I rephrased.
Ned pushed his mug towards me. “Don’t mind if I do. Now where was I?”
“Telling us about the park,” one of his lackeys. By this time he had half the diner’s attention. The other half was dozing in their seats.
“As I was saying, there’s been shadows seen there by some of them dumb kids who go there to spray paint the place,” Ned explained.
“How come I haven’t read it in the paper?” a man spoke up.
“Because them kids don’t want the police to know they’ve been trespassing,” Ned pointed out. “But the Depot women got kids who go out there, so that’s how come they know.” Ned took a big drink that emptied his mug. He smacked his lips and looked to me. “That’s good coffee, but I think it’s a little thick in spots.”
“I’ll be more careful next time,” I promised as I turned away.
“That’s it? Just a bunch of shadows?” one of the men commented.
Ned turned and glared at him. “You wanna go check it out, then you go. I’ll keep my distance, and so should you.”
The meeting of gossips was adjourned and the men went their separate ways. I finished my shift a few hours later and shuffled through the kitchen to my car.
“Don’t touch anything!” Ralph screamed as walked by him standing near the stove.
“I’ve touched everything in the diner, why not in here?” I asked him.
“Because Ah don’t want to get sick, that’s why! Not git! Git!” he yelled at me.
“I could always just not come in to work tomorrow,” I suggested.
“And leave me running this place on my own? I’d have a heart attack!” he suggested.
I put my hand on the back door knob and rolled my eyes. “Don’t give me hope. . .”
“What was that?”
“Don’t get me worried.”
“Good. Now git on out of here. And git over that cold!”
Oh, if only I could I thought as I stepped out into the cold fall air. A cool breeze blew by, and I shuddered and wrapped my coat closer against me. The trip home was long and tiring. My head ached something fierce, and I debated whether or not to tell my ‘roommate’ about the latest news from the trucker-vine.
I’d just about made up my mind when I unlocked my door and stepped into my apartment. The place was dark and quiet. I tossed my coat onto the couch and plopped myself down.
“Would it destroy you to turn on some lights?” I called out.
“It would be rather pointless for me,” Roland spoke up from the dark. His dark shape sat in the chair close to the couch. The soul box sat on the coffin in front of him that now doubled as the coffee table. It was either that or put it in my bedroom, and I wasn’t willing to take things to second base. “Besides, I would rather be a silent partner in your apartment agreement.”
I snorted. “As silent as the grave?”
I saw his white teeth flash as he smiled. “Something like that, but how are you feeling?”
“Like I have a foot and a half in the grave, and my last heel is trying to slip in,” I told him.
“Perhaps there’s something I can do to help,” he offered.
“Bloodletting is out of the question,” I warned him.
Roland smiled. “That isn’t quite what I had in mind.”
He stood and wandered through the dark apartment to the kitchen. That’s when my weakened nose picked up on a delicious smell of herbs and spices. I raised my sniffer and took in a deep breath.
“Garlic soup?” I teased.
“No, a simple vegetable broth,” he revealed. I glanced over my shoulder and watched his shadowy form pour some of the steaming soup into a bowl. He came back to me and held out the bowl and a spoon.
I took the bowl and glanced at the reddish-black liquid. “That is tomato, isn’t it?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he assured me as he took his seat in the chair.
I dipped my spoon in the bowl and took a sip. My eyes lit up and I swallowed the hot spoonful in one gulp. The soup slid down like a Spanish dancer, hot and with a little kick. Almost too hot. I opened my mouth and fanned my tongue.
“Wow. Not bad,” I wheezed between gasps for cool air. “You’d give Ralph’s apple pie a run for its money.” I downed a few more spoonfuls and nearly choked on the hot spoon. “So where’d you learn to do this?” I choked out.
“My mother taught me,” he admitted.
I paused in mid-slurp and my eyes flickered up to him. “Your mom?”
He chuckled. “A vampire can have a mother, at least at one time in their life.”
“Yeah, I guess, but it’s a little hard to imagine,” I commented as I gulped down the soup. “I mean, you being all undead now. It must have been awkward to get you to eat your garlic pills in the morning.”
“It was a very long time ago,” he agreed.
I put down the empty soup bowl, and leaned back and sighed. “Speaking of undead, I overheard Ned talking about some sightings near Northton.”
“Vampires?” Roland guessed.
I shrugged. “Or kids with overactive imaginations.”
“We should investigate,” Roland commented as he stood.
I let loose a torrential sneeze and rubbed my nose. “I think I’m going to have to sit this one out, at least tonight.”
“I’d be glad to wait,” he offered.
I snorted and snot ran down my upper lip. “Please don’t.”
“Then I would rather you be with me,” he rephrased as he retook his seat.
I sighed and pinched the bridge of my congested nose. “Maybe I could stay here and watch the soul box while you go to work hunting down and destroying your own kind.” I pulled my hand away and frowned. “Why exactly are you out to give your own kind the pointed-wood treatment, anyway?”
“They seek my soul just as Rose seeks it,” he explained.
“I’ll bite-in a metaphorical sense-who’s Rose?” I asked him.
“She is the small vampire you met twice before,” he told me.
“You mean that Village of the Damned kid? That’s a nice name for someone who’d like to play dress-up with me as the doll,” I quipped.
“Don’t let her physical form deceive you. She’s capable of terrible things,” he warned me.
“Some bad acting, for one,” I commented. “The first time we met she told me you were here dad. She was so cute I almost got diabetes from listening to her.”
“She’s also skilled in the art of primitive sorcery,” he added.
I raised an eyebrow. “Primitive sorcery as opposed to what? Sophisticated?”
“Primitive sorcery is the use of natural items such as dust and tree limbs to cast magic over one’s opponents,” he explained.
I stood and held up my hands. “The last thing I want to worry about is a demonic little vampire girl with magical powers, so I’m going to take a shot of NyQuil and go to bed before you give me day-mares.”
“She can’t enter here without your permission. Never forget that,” he assured me.
“Got it. Don’t invite in a pipsqueak size pizza delivery girl. Got it,” I quipped. I waved to him and shuffled off to bed. “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” he returned.