The man was running through the woods trying to outrun his pursuers…but he couldn’t…he looked behind him and was relieved to see that the man in black was gone. He slowed down a little. His heart was pounding a mile a minute and he needed to rest.
A twig suddenly snapped in the stillness.
He whirled around.
He didn’t even have time enough to scream…
The body was discovered late one afternoon in April by the Captain of the London Police named Mark Smith. Mitchell Connor was sitting in his office, doing paperwork, when Mark called him and told him a body had been found at Devil’s Creek Pond. “Looks like a suicide,” he’d said in a huff. “We need you to come down here right away.”
Mitchell was glum. That had been the third suicide he’d had this week. What was going on in this town? Nothing too pretty, that was for sure. He hoped the trend would end, and end quickly. He hadn’t been getting much sleep lately, either, with weird dreams about vampires and men in black running through the woods. Oh, well. If you wanted money, you had to work, and if it was one thing Mitchell loved, it was money.
He got in his car and drove the ten miles to Devil’s Pond. There, were several police cars and an ambulance. They were too late now, though. No one could save the victim. He was good as dead.
“What’s the diagnosis, boss?” Mitchell asked Mark dejectedly. He stared up at the trees surrounding the pond. They looked old and haunted, and many people in the city thought they were.
“Suicide, like I told you over the phone,” he answered, shaking his head with a scowl. “Looks pretty bad, from the looks of it. Died by drowning.” He gestured Mitchell to follow him. Mitchell did so and Mark zipped down the body bag to show him the body inside.
Mitchell gasped. His body was white as a sheet, especially his face. “Anyone know how long he’s been in the pond?” he demanded of the police officers surrounding him, gathering evidence and putting them in bags.
“No,” Mark answered. “Not exactly. It looks like it’s been dead awhile, though.”
Mitchell cocked his head to look at him. “You sure?” he asked.
“Sure I’m sure,” he said, nodding. “Just check for yourself.” He pointed to a pile of gloves in a box on the ground next to him.
Mitchell resisted the urge to laugh. “I trust your judgment, Captain,” he answered.
“Look, there’s nothing else you can do today, why don’t you take the day off?” Mark asked him.
Mitchell shrugged. “Okay. I was going to ask you for one, anyway.” He turned and headed for his car.
Mitchell got into his car and drove the two blocks to his house. It had just started pouring down rain and the streets were shiny and wet. The lamp posts were shiny, too, but they hadn’t been turned on because it wasn’t quite dark out yet, just semi-dark. The sky was bleak and ash-gray.
Mitchell pulled his car into his driveway and turned off the engine then he noticed something was wrong. His front door was open.
He grabbed his gun and started for the wraparound porch. It was an old house, built in the 1800s and had bay windows and four chimneys. Mitchell never understood why the house had four chimneys, but it was left to him in his grandmother’s will so he didn’t question it. He moved in when he was eighteen and had joined the force at nineteen and had been living there ever since. He had had a fiancée but she died in a tragic car accident on Boulber Street and sometimes he was lonesome but mostly he was angry at the world, and why it worked the way it did.
He stood in the doorway and looked down.
Watery footprints stared back at him.
Someone was in the house-or had been.
He side-stepped the footprints-needed to preserve them as evidence until they evaporated-and slowly went into the living room. Nothing had been disturbed. He went into the kitchen. His refrigerator door was swinging open. He closed it and went on upstairs. Nothing had been disturbed on the second floor either.
Well, he thought. Maybe his shyster was just hungry and wanted food. That happened. Some burglaries occurred because the burglar was homeless and needed money to buy food or they stole food from the refrigerator and left behind enough evidence to find them.
Mitchell swallowed hard. There was one place he hadn’t looked, which was the attic and he hadn’t gone up there in years. Mostly he kept it locked. Holding onto his gun, he went back downstairs to find the key to the attic door. It was in the bureau drawer in the living room. He opened the drawer but it wasn’t there. So. Someone had stolen it or he had lost it a long time ago, he couldn’t be sure, couldn’t know.
So he decided to investigate the attic by himself, except with his cell phone in his hand.
He walked up the stairs to the second floor. All the bedroom doors were closed. He looked down the hall to the attic and swallowed hard, shaking his head. He shouldn’t be doing this. He should call his captain. He would take care of the intruder. But he did not. He kept going towards the attic door.
He put his hand on the knob and the door swung open. He looked at the hallway. It was very dark. There was a light bulb overhead and he switched on the light. He shouldn’t have done that. The light made the darkness surrounding him even scarier. Well. He was going to have to go up there.
The staircase looked kind of unsafe. He really should turn back. He was just about to when a sound made him jump, and he nearly tumbled to the floor.
Gathering all his courage, Mitchell headed upstairs.
The attic was cold and drafty.
He wasn’t sure what he was doing up here, but he knew he wanted to get away from here as soon as he could. But not now. He had to find out who was in his attic and then he would call the police and have his ass thrown in jail.
Boxes lined up in the corner of the room. He saw his old trunk full of old pictures and other treasures. Shadows were strewn about the room, giving him an air of gloom.
Then he saw it. The casket that belonged to his grandmother.
He walked over to it and rested his hand on the polished wood. Swallowing hard, he opened it up.
She was still in there, safe and sound. Her eyes were closed. She was asleep.
“Grandma,” he scolded. “You know you’re not supposed to get out of bed during the day. What if someone saw you?”
Grandma smiled at him, showing him her fanged teeth. “I’m sorry, honey,” she apologized. “I had to feed.”
“Were you the one who killed the man in the lake?” He had to ask that question.
She nodded. “I said I’m sorry,” she said. Her voice trembled. “The hunger…it’s just too raw, grandson. I had to.”
“You could have fed off of me.”
“You know that’s not how it works,” she made excuse. “Once every century, I have to feed off of someone I’m not related to. You know the rules!” She sounded exasperated and crossed her arms over her chest, glaring at him.
“Well, I’m just glad you’re okay!” He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek, then tiptoed out of the attic and down the steps.
He didn’t need to make a report after all. It was just Grandma.
Apryl Fox has been published previously in Strange Horizons, Offcourse Magazine, Dark Animus, Snow Monkey, Whistling Shade, Not Very Quiet, and many others. She was recently published in Three Line Poetry and Dragon Poet Review and currently resides in Michigan. She has written six novels and some of those books are on lulu.com.