The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 15

I stood outside pacing as I watched to see if anyone, or anything, emerged from that abandoned house across the street, and I realized how strange that must have looked to my neighbors, so I decided to do something less creepy as I waited for my vampire league to arrive. I opened my garage door and started painting some wood I got to fix my fence, but that was dreadfully quiet, which only made me more nervous as I hyper-focused on that sinister building! I used my phone to turn on a radio app, and my favorite music did the trick! For a while anyways… A song about a jilted lover came on, and it made me think of Lilith. I tried not to obsess over my parents’ disapproval of our marriage, but of course, my mind kept going back to that. I was torn between believing that Lilith would never come back, which would hurt me but make my folks happy, and imagining that she would return with the knowledge of how my family would feel about that reunion. Both thoughts bummed me out, but, on the plus side, it distracted me from getting overly anxious about facing Damon and any of his possible demonic friends…

            “I like that song!” Phoebe chirped. I had been so lost in contemplation that I hadn’t noticed her coming up the driveway, so her presence made me jump! “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you!”

            “You didn’t scare me,” I lied. Once my nerves cooled down, the substance of what she said sunk in for me, my heart pounded wildly to know that this goddess shared the same taste in music as me! I elatedly commented, “Oh, you like classic rock too!”

            Phoebe delightfully responded to me, “It’s the best! Nothing beats the pure, raw talent that came out of that era!”

            I agreed with her, “Absolutely! It’s the best! It always puts me in a better mood!” Speaking of putting me in a mood… Her fervor for something I felt passionate about drove me crazy enough to inwardly say, “Lilith who?” And not to get too crass, but her use of the word raw set off a series of colorful fantasies for me!

            “Hey, I wanted to talk to you about something…” Phoebe brought up in a more serious tone.

            “Oh? What about?” My spirits instantly deflated. Instead of picturing some choice scenarios, I now feared the worst! I was so sure that she would condemn my attempt to kiss her yesterday, and a surge of disappointment coursed through me as I anticipated her gentle rejection.

            Phoebe explained, “Well, I keep thinking about what happened at the blood bank last week. It seemed like you held back ‘cause you weren’t sure where to strike, am I right?”

            Relief washed over me to hear her say that! I still didn’t know whether she didn’t catch on to what I meant to do or if she just didn’t care, but I was glad that she didn’t have any ill feelings about that event! I definitely didn’t want to have anything disrupt the work we were doing to rescue those missing kids, so I vowed to show more caution from then on! “Yeah, I didn’t know where to drive the stake! I would’ve hated to have missed his heart and have him… I don’t know! What would he have done if I got the wrong place? He can’t die like we can, so…”

            “Well, I did some research, and I can show you the exact spot to hit next time.” She walked up to me and requested, “Do you mind if I touch you?”

            “Not at all!” Yeah, that vow I just made got thrown out the window at that moment! How could it not when she got close to me and put her hand on my chest?

            Phoebe instructed me, “Do it right here.” I don’t think I need to explain what went through my head when she told me that! She didn’t immediately remove herself either, so I wondered if she was giving me a certain signal…

            From the end of the driveway, I heard Ginger bark, “I’ll be fine! Don’t worry!”

            Darn it! I couldn’t help but feel upset by not seeing how that situation would have played out, but I reminded myself that we had something important to attend to! I gazed out to my front yard, and I could see that not only did Ginger not come in her usual vehicle but someone else was in the driver’s seat! As Ginger approached my home, I could see the pretty lady who rode with her stared at Ginger with grave concern. Ginger apologized to us, “Sorry! Brielle was worried about me walking around at night, so she insisted on coming here with me.”

            “You invited your partner to go with us?” I questioned. It’s not as though more help wouldn’t have been appreciated, but it was my understanding that we were trying to limit the amount of people who knew about our vampiric knowledge! It was a fairly far-fetched concept to regular citizens, so if someone’s relative knew about our plot, I feared that he or she would have tried to talk us out of it! It never occurred to me what my colleagues would tell their loved ones about all this- I lived alone, so I didn’t have anyone to answer to! My curiosity began to surface though as I pondered what she might have relayed to her to convince her that we weren’t nuts for doing this! “Does she know about…?”

            “No, of course not!” Ginger assured me. “I just told her that since the police weren’t doing their job that a bunch of us teachers volunteered to look for our students. She insisted on being here as a lookout ‘cause it could get dangerous! Actually, she’s completely right, but she has no idea why!”

            I empathized with Brielle about worrying for her girlfriend’s well-being, but her company just added to my list of things that made me anxious! If we got too close to Damon, he could lash out, and Brielle more than likely wasn’t equipped to defend herself properly against him! Before I could discuss any of this though, the rest of our crew arrived, and Ginger wasn’t the only one to have taken a family member with them! We all gawked at Fletcher’s large bloodhound who accompanied him to my property, and Ellie inquired, “You brought your dog to do this?”

            Fletcher replied, “Obviously! Does he look like a stray I picked up on the side of the road?”

            Ellie seemed skeptical about the concept of him tagging along, but Aleck opined, “Well, he may be a useful tool! This breed is known to be good hunters!”

            “Oh, I doubt he’s got any skills there! He’s usually pretty lazy! But I figured he would come to my aid if I was in real trouble! Huh, Spike? You’d help Daddy out, wouldn’t ya, boy?” he tried to buoy his pet up, but Spike just yawned and laid down on the concrete.

            “Yeah, I’m sure a blood hound would do well to protect you against bloodless creatures!” Ellie quipped.

            Fletcher clearly didn’t care for her remark, but before an argument could ensue, bats flew out of the abandoned house! They all beheld that eerie sight with mounting apprehension, so I suggested, “Well, it’s not gonna get less freakier, so we may as well get going!” And with that, we warily began our trek.

            I had such a strong feeling about finding evidence of Damon’s wrongdoings that it truly stunned me to discover nothing significant after quite a bit of walking! We all traveled together as a group, but we managed to cover quite a bit of ground. After an hour of walking, Spike got too tired to move, so Brielle had to come find us and drive the dog back. She gave us another hour- if we didn’t’ return, she was going to come find us again. I don’t think any of us expected to last that long, but after almost sixty more minutes of fruitless traversing, all we managed to unearth was a possible guitar teacher for Ellie’s nephew based on a somewhat rained on flyer she saw while we took a breather. It devastated me when we decided to give up and go back to my house- I was so sure we’d stumble across something that night! None of us deemed this as a practical method of tackling this problem anymore either, which made me feel even more uneasy… I was certain we were on the verge of a monumental win, but I couldn’t reasonably sell them on continuing this practice any further until…

            “We could try hanging around the cafeteria and see if we can hear any students talking about what Damon’s up to,” Aleck proposed.

            “Like they’re gonna be honest with a bunch of adults hanging around!” Ellie criticized that tactic.

            As they all quarreled over our next move, I hung my head in a bitter sorrow. Everything just seemed to be falling apart at once! My marriage, my relationship with my parents, my house was literally falling apart, and now I worried that we would lose more innocent children to this monster! Before I could completely give up hope though, Phoebe put a sympathetic hand on my shoulder. She didn’t’ say anything in front of the others, but the empathetic twinkle in her eyes expressed all I needed to gather right then! I swore I detected something in her that revealed her desire to make me feel better in another way, and I started to think that maybe all was not lost…

            I saw a shadow of a figure behind Phoebe, and every craving that stirred in me got paused as I quietly commanded to everyone, “Hold on!” Everybody halted their gait and silenced their voices, and a chill went up spines as we heard the sounds of footsteps behind us! I dreaded the thought of fighting Damon in a way, but in another weird way, I felt alleviated to think that he may have been trying to confront us! I would have felt so much better to face him sooner rather than later, so eagerly anticipated this showdown! Everyone slowly turned around with bated breath, and we were all shocked when we saw…

            My next-door neighbor was heading back to his house with his two little sons! We all grew crestfallen as our adrenaline emptied out, and it really stung me to feel the excitement of nearing a solution get so violently sucked out of my body! Damon never struck me as particularly brilliant, but I began to think he may have outwitted us until we heard the younger boy whining, “But Papa! That one in the park looks so fun!”

            “No!” my neighbor put his foot down. “It’s so grungy, I don’t trust it!”

            “That’s just ‘cause it’s new!” the older son argued. “Come on, Papa! It’s almost Halloween, and we’ve already seen every other haunted house in Terra-Belle! Why can’t we-?”

            My neighbor cut him off, “Because I said no! Besides, it seemed like it was mostly for older kids. I only saw teenagers heading there! I’m done discussing this, end of story! And don’t bother me again ‘til after I meditate!”

            Fletcher puzzled, “He lives across the street from a haunted house, why would he wanna see more?”

            “Uh, ‘cause real haunted houses are dangerous to bring children into!” Aleck kidded. He then less amusedly asserted, “Children and adults really…”

            “Guys! You’re missing the important part of that conversation!” I pointed out. “The haunted house in the park is new and has a bunch of teens going to it!” Everyone’s eyes grew wide, and all at once, we raced towards the park.

            We hadn’t put much thought towards the neighborhood park before because the newly erected structure wasn’t visible from the street, and once we delved deeper into the area, we kicked ourselves for not exploring this place in our previous excursions! Honestly, I saw a sliver of it from the sidewalk, but I just kept thinking that the city hadn’t update their public restrooms in ages! It never occurred to me that it was new! Furthermore, in the daytime, it didn’t bring in such a crowd, so it didn’t rouse anyone’s suspicion. Its boxy appearance didn’t particularly scream “amusement,” and its shoddy material made me believe that Damon had put it together in a hurry. Just from the outside, it didn’t give off any indication that Damon may have been lurking there, but after a family exited the attraction muttering how lame it was, I felt certain we had found his latest scheme! There was no way he was clever enough to entertain the masses, and obviously, that wouldn’t have been his intention anyways! “They probably would have found it more thrilling if they knew real vampires were in there!” Ginger stated.

            Phoebe warned her, “Shh! We don’t wanna let him know we’re on to him! He might be able to hear us right now!”

            We didn’t’ see any sign of him, and the only employee to this establishment was just a bored dude selling tickets. He didn’t look like a vampire, but he didn’t seem particularly pleasant, so it wouldn’t have surprised me to learn that he wanted to help that fiend with his diabolism! We kind of just stood and stared at him for a minute- I know time was of the essence, but we didn’t know how to get the ball rolling. Seriously though, how do you ask someone if their boss is a vampire? He eyed us strangely and queried, “Can I help you?”

            We all hesitated, but then I shakily probed, “Could you… I mean, what… Can you tell us what’s in here?”

            The guy denied my request, “Nope! If you wanna know what lies inside of here, there’s only one way to find out! Tickets are five bucks each!” He held out his hand fully expecting us to pay up, and we all turned to each other for prompts on what to do…

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 14

Bang! An explosion sounded in the distance! Phoebe immediately turned her car back on and headed in that direction, and while that ruckus should have put me into distress, I was more terrified by the thing I almost did! What was I thinking? I could not believe I almost kissed her! Sure, I felt attracted to her, and she had been acting really nice to me, but was that what she wanted? Her face contorted in worry over the possible disaster we were running into, so I had no idea if she had any kind of adverse reaction to what nearly went on! I sincerely hoped that she couldn’t tell I meant to do that romantic gesture on her! I fretted that I may have created an uncomfortable situation by my actions, which would enact some horrendous consequences for our mission! If we couldn’t act as a cohesive group, then Damon could easily divide and conquer! As we approached the blast site, I writhed with self-reproach! If my lack of sound judgment caused another kid to go missing, I knew I would never get over that!

            I didn’t care much about whatever detonated until I realized that we were close to my house! I regretted criticizing it for all of the stress its repairs caused me because it was better than being homeless! Or going back to that motel! It may not have been perfect, but it was my home! I had more affection for it than I thought I did for that thing! Thankfully, it seemed untouched, and I breathed a sigh of relief! I briefly mused about whether or not my homeowner’s insurance would have even covered that sort of incident, but when I saw a smoldering piece of metal laying in the street, I couldn’t’ think about anything else…

            Phoebe and I got out of her vehicle to inspect that mysterious object as did a few of my curious neighbors. Fletcher and Aleck arrived next, and Aleck was actually the first one to identify the contraption. “My drone!” he exclaimed. He tried to move closer to it, but it emitted a little pop followed by streaming out more smoke, so he backed away. “How was this even possible? It wasn’t made with any combustible materials!”

            “You don’t know why this happened? I’ll tell you why! You put this in there!” an elderly man hobbled out of one of the houses across the road from me and indicated to the abandoned building adjacent to his place. “You upset the ghosts!”

            “What? There’s no such thing as-!” I don’t know why I was going to correct him- a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t think vampires existed, and look how that turned out! So, I figured who knows! Maybe ghosts are real too!

            The old man insisted, “Oh yes, they’re real! And they’ve been haunting that spot for years! The Armand family was the last family to live there, and one day, they went from totally normal to acting real funny. Then one day, they vanished without a trace! They did something that displeased the ghouls within, and things were never the same ever since!”

            This account was fascinating, and we hung on his every word… For, like, a minute! The weird guy who resided next to me countered that claim, “No, Richard! The house didn’t make them act funny! Mister Armand robbed a bank, and the rest of the family kept it secret, so they all ended up in jail. The haunting started after they got arrested.”

            “I tell you they were a regular family ‘til they moved here!” Richard firmly maintained his stance on the issue. “The portal to Hell got buried on that property, and Mister Armand accidently uncovered it! It made him possessed with evil, and now the demonic spirits are in there plotting their revenge!”

            “Revenge? Wouldn’t they want more people to come in there so they could spread more evil?” Fletcher puzzled.

            Richard wagged a knobby little finger at him and remarked, “You don’t believe, but everyone here knows it’s true! You anger the wicked souls within the property, and strange things start to occur…”

            My next-door neighbor must have thought we were skeptical because he backed up Richard’s point, “No, it’s true! One time, a piece of debris from there flew into my yard, so I threw it back on there. The next day, I found a block of cheese on my lawn!” We stared at him blankly, so he clarified, “I’m vegan! That was a huge problem for me!”

            I recalled not buying my realtor’s story that entailed this event taking place as a result of that abandoned house’s hidden characterics, and now I felt as though I owed him an apology! I was curious to learn more about the background of this building, but I didn’t know how to ask questions specific to learning about our adversary without giving away the secrets we now held. I didn’t need to hear so much about the odd experiences that everyone experienced outside of the property, I only wanted to see what they knew about the inside of the structure! And who may or may not have traveled in and out of those remains! I felt sure that they saw more creatures than just Jett coming and going from the area! But before I had a chance to inquire about anything pertaining to that house, a couple of squad cars turned up at the scene, so instead, I queried to my neighbor, “So, are you gonna be cool if I have a barbecue or…?”

            I’m not sure why that concept appeared into my head, I hadn’t even thought about doing something like that! I don’t even own a grill! I don’t know why I mentioned that, and I got a little nervous when I could see that he had strong opinions on the matter! I cringed at the idea of kindling a feud with my neighbors for no real reason! But before he could address that, Arnold commanded to the small crowd, “Nobody touch a thing ‘til we’ve had a chance to investigate!”

            Ginger and Ellie pulled up right as they were putting up some crime scene tape to block off the cul-du-sac, and Ellie hollered, “Ugh! My car’s in there!”

            “Sorry, ma’am,” Bill apologized. “We’re gonna be here for a while…”

            “Hey! There’s a new hole in the roof!” Phoebe observed as she stared at the abandoned house.    

            Bill amended his statement, “I mean, don’t worry, we won’t be here long!”

            Phoebe probed, “Seriously? A crime went on in there, and you’re not gonna look into it at all?”

            Arnold retorted, “What are we supposed to do? Arrest the ghosts?”

            As a couple of other officers joined Arnold and Bill in their examination of Aleck’s drone, we met up with Ellie and Ginger on the other side of the crime scene tape. Ginger studied the abandoned house and noted, “You can’t see that hole from the car! Maybe we would see more clues about Damon or the missing children if we walked instead of drove!” Everybody groaned at the notion of all the work that make us do, but Ginger didn’t see the big deal. “What? You’ll be fine! Just wear comfortable shoes!”

            “What if we don’t own any comfortable shoes?” Fletcher cheekily challenged.

            “Aren’t you the PE teacher?” I shot back. His face soured, but oh well! I didn’t relish the premise of exercising that much after a full day of work, but I knew there was too much at stake to argue further. No one else spouted out anymore objections to her suggestion either, so we all agreed to hoof it tomorrow afternoon.

            Once the police declared the source of the explosion as “inconclusive,” they cleared out, and my colleagues were finally to go home for the night. Phoebe gave me her usual warm smile as she left, so I guessed that she wasn’t upset about my attempt to kiss her. Or I was subtle enough that she didn’t know what I tried to do. Either way, I felt relieved that I didn’t create some unnecessary drama in our group! With the weight of that worry off of my shoulders, most of my body was able to relax again. My stomach reminded me that I missed dinner, so naturally, I fed Jett first. Before I could make myself anything, I saw the millionth text from my mother, so I speedily whipped up one of my frozen meals (which were meant for work, but I decided to resolve that later) and called my parents up as I sat down to eat my meal. “Hey Mom! Hey Dad! What’s new?” I crossed my fingers that they had a lot to update me on so I didn’t have to answer for my wrongdoings.

            My dad started to relay to me, “Well, I started golfing more, and I’m getting better each time I go! My handicap went from-.”

            “William!” my mom scolded him, “Do you think I’ve been waiting by the phone all day to listen to your boring stories about retirement?”

            “Sorry Katherine!” my dad responded sheepishly. A part of me wanted to invite him to elaborate more on the mundane details of his golf games and such, but I knew my mother would flip her lid if I dared to do such a stunt! My father posed to me, “Okay, so what? You finally left Lilith, huh?”

            I redressed the error in his recollection, “No, she left me ‘cause… Wait, what do you mean finally?”

            Dad hesitantly revealed, “Well… You two just always seemed like you wanted different things out of life, so we thought that maybe, one day, you might pursue someone who was more… Katherine, help me out here!”

            I never liked her!” Mom bluntly asserted. “She seemed like a gold-digger to me! I always thought she would end up dumping you for someone richer!”

            “She did leave me, but I’m not sure how much money he makes… And that’s not important! What do you mean you never liked her?” It truly shocked me to have heard such an audacious pronouncement from them! My folks loved me dearly, so I just assumed that they held someone that I deeply cared for in the same esteem! To have this belief proven false was as equally upsetting as the moment I caught Lilith cheating on me! Okay, maybe it wasn’t that drastic, but in both cases, I got overwhelmed with astonishment! “Dad, you spoke at our reception! You said nice things about her back then!”

            My father differed with me, “Actually, I just gave out advice on how to keep your marriage lasting as long as mine. I don’t think it worked though…”

            As I absorbed these flabbergasting revelations, Jett circled around my legs and bugged me for something. I ignored her as I ranted, “I don’t… I don’t get how you could think so horribly of her! Lilith was understanding, smart, and we had so much fun together…” Correction, I tried to ignore Jett, but she pushed against me forcefully and meowed loudly enough that I couldn’t’ forget her existence right then, but I chose not to react to her until I had finished this alarming conversation. “Well, we did ‘til I started making work my number one priority instead of her!” Jett’s mews grew loud enough that I had the raise the volume of my voice. “I drove her into the arms of another man, so I took this job that would fit around her schedule to prove I can… FINE! You’ll get your way! Happy?” As I headed to the door, I told my parents, “Oh, I didn’t mean that for you. My cat wanted out.”

            “Listen, son, we’re sorry about hurting your feelings, but we just didn’t trust her! I knew one day she’d break your heart!” my mother consoled me. “You’re such a loyal and loving guy, I hated to see someone take advantage of your big heart…”

            “I…” I intended to interrupt her, but she prattled on and on about how I placed my trust in the wrong person and that I deserved someone who would make me happier in life. I couldn’t’ get a word in edgewise, and it was incredibly painful to soak this all in, so I braced myself against the wall by the front window. As I watched Jett chase after the insects that had ventured out for the night, I pondered on how many other family members secretly resented my decision to marry Lilith. As I honestly reflected back, I recalled how many of them seemed stunned that I proposed to her, but none of them expressed any dislike for her! At least not out loud… I knew I owed so many relatives a call, but I dreaded the thought of having to endure more lectures like this!

            Just as I contemplated that perhaps my parents developed a spite for Lilith out of jealousy since she got to see me more often than they did, I saw movement come out of the abandoned house! A herd of bats burst out and flew into the starry sky! Wait, is a group of bats called a herd? Maybe it’s a swarm… Anyways, my jaw dropped, and I gasped, “Bats!”

            My father chided me, “What did you just call your mother?”

            “Oh no! That was meant for her!  I just… saw something across the street!  Some bats… I was totally listening to what Mom was saying, I swear!” I lied. As my parents berated me for my behavior, I put the phone on speaker so I could text the vampire league about this development. It dawned on me why we didn’t see any signs of them during our usual patrols- vampires are nocturnal! Except Damon, he seemed to be active day and night. I didn’t know why he was the exception, but I knew that the rest of his colony… Wait, what do you call a group of vampires? Well, whatever they are, we didn’t see any sign of them after school because we did our search in the wrong time!

            “Does that make sense to you, Connor?” my mom inquired.

            I had forgotten for a moment that my folks were still on the phone with me! I had no clue what they were asking about, but definitely did not want them to repeat their long-winded speech! I simply replied, “Oh yeah, totally!” as I continued to message the other teachers. We decided to do our walking excursion after sunset, which got some understandable opposition, of course. I didn’t care though because, in the end, they all concurred that this was the best way to end our misadventure, and I had a feeling we would finally get to see what scheme Damon had concocted…

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 13

“Hello?” I answered the phone as I entered my front door. I didn’t look at my caller ID before I picked up the call, but I didn’t think I needed to! Based on the timing, I assumed it was one of my fellow teachers calling to say they would be late, which would have turned into a huge hassle for me since I would have had to contact everyone else to postpone our plan. I crossed my fingers that no one would cancel, that would have ruined idea completely! I bristled at the thought of that event! Another student went missing today, and each delay could cost another kid their life! Or at least their freedom, I wasn’t sure exactly if they had actually died! A small part of me dared to hope that it had been Lilith frantically trying to reach me to immediately stop me from signing those divorce papers because she had changed her mind but based on her lack of communication during our separation and the paperwork that had come without any sort of personal touch, I finally accepted that it was unlikely that she would ever crawl back to me! I supposed that it was still vaguely possible, but I no longer let myself count on it. After I already entered the conversation, it occurred to me that a telemarketer might have randomly decided to give my number a ring right then, and normally, I would be nice to salespeople after my experience in that industry, but I didn’t have much time to entertain anyone that day. I had already readied myself to hang up on them when…

            “CONNOR!” my mother’s voice shrieked so loud that it hurt my ears! Her volume had gotten so booming that I felt compelled to hold my phone away from my head in order to save my hearing! “Why the hell didn’t you tell me you sold your house?”

            My eyes grew extremely wide when she said that, and I was glad that she hadn’t initiated a video chat for this discussion! I hadn’t given out my new address to my family members initially due to my assumption that Lilith would return and we would go back to Philadelphia before the next instance where a relative would visit me, it’s not like that happened so often, but I now realized what a grave error that had been! I could tell my mom had went over to my old penthouse only to find me not there, so I didn’t blame her for getting angry with me! I just hoped that I could say something that would calm her down enough to forgive me quickly! “I never used to tell you about every single sale I got, so I figured why should this time be any different?”

            I chuckled at my joke with the intention of having her share a laugh with me, but she hadn’t found that the least bit funny! She scolded me, “You didn’t think it was important to tell your parents that you made a major decision like that? We came over to surprise you with dinner since we hadn’t seen you in months, and some Italian businessman answered the door. He didn’t speak much English, so he didn’t understand our confusion about who lived there! He almost called the cops on us! How is it that neither you or your wife thought to tell us about such an important event?”

            “Uh…” That would have been difficult to explain under regular circumstances, but I could see my colleagues arriving at that very moment! How could I thoroughly go over the facts of my situation in the, like, thirty seconds I had? I knew I would pay for this later, but I decided to hastily rattle off a summary for them before I ended the call, “Lilith left me ‘cause I paid more attention to my job than her, so I quit Novak Neander, moved to Terrible, I mean Terra-Belle, and became a substitute teacher to try to win her back. I have an important meeting to go to right now, so I’ll have to give you more details later! Love you! Bye!”

            “Wait, what? Hold on, don’t-!” My mom tried to persuade me to divulge more, but I hung up. I felt terribly guilty about doing that, I mean, I just unloaded so many bombshells on them! I knew that they had so many questions for me, but I couldn’t spare the several minutes it would take to properly describe everything that happened! In a way, I much preferred going this route since I didn’t have the chance to overthink about how to reveal this stuff to my folks, but I knew I would get punished for my abruptness later! Yes, I’m forty years old and I still worry about getting in trouble by my mom and dad! But once I could tell the world how important this mission was, I knew they would forgive me. For the time being though, I put my phone on silent and hoped their ire wouldn’t grow too much as I joined my vampire league outside.

            As soon as I approached the rest of the crew, Fletcher greeted me with, “There you are! Are you gonna hurl every time we do this?”

            I responded, “I didn’t get sick today, believe it or not! My parents called, so I told them that I couldn’t talk ‘til tonight.” After fibbing about why I bolted inside yesterday, it felt so good to be honest with them today!  “Okay… Did we decide who’s pairing up with who?”

            “We were just trying to figure that out,” Ginger let me know. “I think the final verdict was that Aleck could ride with Fletcher, Phoebe can go with Ellie, and you can come with me.”

            “No, you didn’t wanna go with him! You’re gonna ride with me, remember? Connor and Phoebe will have to go together!” Ellie differed with Ginger in a way that suggested that she strongly wanted me to ride with Phoebe.

            Ginger hadn’t picked up on her hints, so she puzzled, “You said you never wanted to go in my car again ‘cause you despised my taste in music!” Ellie gave her a reproachful stare, and then Ginger caught on to what her objectives where with that statement. “Oh! You’re right! In that case, you can choose the station we listen to!”

            Awkward! As Aleck headed to Fletcher’s truck and Ellie followed Ginger to her vehicle, I wondered why Elle had so firmly insisted that Phoebe and I travel together! Had I made it too obvious that I had feelings for her? I mused myself with the concept that perhaps Phoebe harbored some affection for me too and that maybe Ellie was trying to hook us up, but I didn’t see how someone so ideal could have that kind of emotion about me! I was surprised enough to have her forgiveness after yelling at her about my ex, but I couldn’t imagine that a smart woman with her life put together could ever develop passion like that for a chaotic mess like me! I worried that she had requested a session with me because she had detected my yen for her and wanted to turn me down gently, but when I gazed at her beautiful face, she radiated total sympathy, so I reasoned that they had all deciphered that I had been concealing a vast amount of inner turmoil and made the decision to have Phoebe offer me words of comfort. Out of all them, Phoebe seemed like the most compassionate, so if they elected anyone to do that, it would have been her! I got a little disappointed to think she wouldn’t be confessing her adoration for me, but t felt a little satisfying to have someone care about my well-being like that!

            “Ready?” Phoebe queried.

            “Let’s do it!” I cringed at the way I phrased my reply. It really bothered me that I may have made everything more uncomfortable by not choosing a better response! She didn’t say anything about it though, and I lumbered over to her passenger seat wishing for a smoother interaction for the rest of our excursion!

            It’s funny, as often as I fantasized about having a moment alone with this goddess, I never pictured myself moping when I had the opportunity! As I stared at the mist drizzling down the window, I couldn’t rid myself of all the grief I endured recently! I abandoned a job I loved, sold my beloved home in the city, moved away from my family, took a position in a stressful field, bought a house I couldn’t take care of, and faced a murderous vampire all for what? I went through so much for my wife, and she didn’t even have the courtesy to speak to me! If I hadn’t caught her screwing that guy, she wouldn’t have even conveyed why she walked out on me! I really thought I was meant to live the lifestyle we had together, and now that it started to sink in that I may not ever get it back, it made me wonder where I did belong! I never imagined myself staying as a substitute teacher long term, especially since I had to fight these ghoulish monsters in the process! And I wasn’t even good at it! I wouldn’t’ have minded considering the possibility of pursuing Phoebe, but I could hardly lift my head up right then, so how could I have even tried to flirt with her? I regretted that I couldn’t have been more cheerful for such an opportune juncture, but as my luck would have it, I was in a position where I didn’t even want her to see me in such a state! I blew it! I bitterly wondered if I would ever get a chance like this again when I felt better…

            Phoebe kidded, “You’re not telepathic, you know!”

            “Huh?” Her quip shook me out of my torpor, and it instantly reminded me that I hadn’t gotten placed in this car just to brood! “Oh, sorry! I haven’t seen anything yet!” That wasn’t a lie, but guilt now swirled around inside me! I had been so preoccupied with all of my grievances that I hadn’t paid attention to my surroundings! If I overlooked a detail vital to solving our conundrum, I never would have forgiven myself!

            “What’s wrong?” Phoebe probed.

            The last thing I wanted in that instance was to lose my vampire hunting position! No, I didn’t really want to confront Damon or any of his potential cronies again, but I couldn’t have let the other teachers take this on by themselves knowing what they were up against! Even if my contributions were small, I still had a clear conscious lending a hand to find these missing children! It was my last shot at having a role of importance, and I had to make sure no one doubted my ability to keep carrying on! “Everything’s fine! I can do this, don’t worry! Hey, do you think that vampires do well in the rain? I haven’t heard anything about them not being able to get wet, but still…”

            I fully expected her to react to the topic I just raised, but instead, she parked her sedan and asserted, “You know, everything doesn’t have to be fine! It’s okay to not be okay sometimes!” I opened my mouth to say something about the point she brought up, but I couldn’t’ come up with a proper way to articulate my bafflement at her sentiments! I had never heard of anyone encouraging someone to fully experience their negative emotions! She went on, “Life doesn’t have to be peachy-keen all the time! Sometimes things just suck, and it’s okay to acknowledge that! You’ll never be able to concentrate if keep everything bottled up, so spill it!”

            It floored me when I realized how right she was! At Novak Neander, we were always in the mindset that positive thinking yielded positive results, so it didn’t occur to me until she mentioned it that I had been ignoring all of my unhappy feelings in an effort to achieve success! That probably wasn’t healthy, and obviously that didn’t work out anyways, so I thought that I should, but ow could I do that for her? Not just because I was out of practice! Seriously, how could I tell a woman I liked about my pining away for another girl? She gazed at me expectantly, and I gathered from her expression that she would have let me go without discussing this, so I assessed that if we were to continue collaborating in any kind of endeavor, I needed to clear the air eventually! I took a deep breath and confessed, “Lilith sent divorce papers in the mail yesterday! One day, we were happily married, then the next thing I know, she wants nothing to do with me! I’m sure it probably doesn’t make sense to you to get so hurt by a cheater, but-.”

            “No, I get it! You spent several years with her, and she blindsided you with her sudden departure,” Phoebe surmised.

            “Yes!” I felt so relieved that she understood and didn’t judge me so much for my viewpoint! “After more than twelve years of us being best friends, all of a sudden, she can’t stand me anymore! Like our marriage meant nothing! I know I kind of deserved it, but-.”

            Phoebe cut me off, “No, you didn’t! No one deserves that kind of betrayal! You may not have been perfect, but all relationships have issues! She didn’t even try to talk about your problems, did she?”

            I had blamed myself for our split for so long that I hadn’t even thought about reflecting on anything she did! Phoebe’s logic made too much sense not to though, and I couldn’t help but to get a little riled up about everything Lilith did wrong now! “If she had ever mentioned how I was hurting her, I wouldn’t have continued with anything I was doing! But she said she shouldn’t have had to bring it up…” I recalled the counterpoint she had argued, and I began to doubt myself again. “… I should have automatically known what the matter was, I guess! I felt horrible for not seeing her warning signs sooner…”

            After clicking her tongue in annoyance, Phoebe indignantly raved, “I’m sorry, but Lilith sounds incredibly childish! You can’t always know what’s on another person’s mind! Psychologists spend years studying people’s brains, and they still have to have long sessions to learn more! She contributed to your relationship failing, but she’s putting all the blame on you! You did the best you could with the information you had, don’t let her convince you that you’re a bad guy! ‘Cause you’re not! You really aren’t! You’re sweet, smart, and you go out of your way to help others, do you know how rare that is? You’re a good guy, and you don’t deserve to get treated like that!”

            Her kind words really struck my heart! I could have practically soared from how much she lifted my spirits! I received so much flack lately that I started to esteem myself as a terrible man, but she made me think otherwise! I nearly got a happy tear in my eyes from how moved I felt, which hadn’t happened to me in, like, a decade! I couldn’t remember the last time I cried from happiness recently! I didn’t know how much I desired some compassion during that ordeal until she gave it to me! She was so amazing for showing me consideration right when I needed it the most! She put a sympathetic hand on my shoulder, and her warmth made my pulse race wildly! She smiled at me, and suddenly, her lips were so inviting! Without thinking about it, I leaned in a little closer…

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 12

I felt way too antsy to relax! Not when I had guests coming over! Granted, I didn’t expect any of them to come inside my home, I still felt like I needed to mentally prepare for their arrival. Fletcher had football practice and Aleck had to run chess club (which I didn’t know was more than some cliché used to make fun of nerds in movies), so no one would get to my house for a few hours, but nonetheless, I had a lot of angst about their visit! I mean, naturally, I was nervous about we may discover on our quest to find Damon and any vampire he may have created along the way, I don’t think any reasonable person would enjoy the prospect of fighting superhuman monsters, but I was more worried about what we may not find from this endeavor! If we didn’t make some progress in diminishing this threat and rescuing the missing students soon, I knew that more and more of my colleagues would give up. I couldn’t handle this mission on my own as proven by my behavior on Saturday. I had the chance to drive a stake through Damon’s heart and finish this misadventure right then and there, but I froze! Given the same opportunity, I didn’t know if I could do it right the next time, so I really needed allies in my corner for this! I tried not to overthink about all of the things that could go wrong, but I just couldn’t get myself to relax and hope for the best! I knew that if I didn’t get my mind off of my rising level of dread that it would consume me and eat into my performance when I reached the point where I needed to get to work, so I stopped trying for tranquility and shifted my focus in trying to be productive.

            The appearance of the inside of my property was pretty immaculate, so I turned to the many repairs that needed to get done around the house. I went to my room to change into more casual clothes to do this, but I realized that I didn’t really have any! Most of my garments were intended for professional wear, and it really shed a light to me on how I divided my time! I began to feel guilty over Lilith’s accusation of not nurturing my home life, but I shook off that thought temporarily. I already had a lot to fret about without adding that to the list! I finally came across a pair of khakis and a tee shirt from a baseball game I went to as part of a work event, and I donned those as I readied myself to occupy my brain with enough activity to forget about my woes!

            I’m not much of a handyman, I typically just called maintenance if anything needed to get fixed prior to living here, but I reasoned that I could figure out how to do most things with sheer logic. I picked cleaning the exterior of my house first to give off a better impression to my colleagues. Yes, I knew that they had already seen my house in its current condition, but I reckoned that if I never made any kind of improvement on its appearance that I would get judged for it! I especially wanted to impress Phoebe in hopes that she would get compelled to come inside… Or if Lilith returned, I would have wanted her to have no kind of repulsion about entering into the building… Both scenarios assumed that I survived any sort of vampiric encounter… My mixed emotions started to addle my mind again, so I set those ideas aside and retrieved the hose from the side of my yard that the previous owners left behind. Man, I didn’t realize that those things were so heavy! I turned on the faucet and…

            Nothing! All I did was make my house slightly more wet! I put the water on full blast, and I saw bits of loose moss fall down, but most of it continued to cling on! I kept spraying for a while, hoping the only aspect of this I was missing had been a little patience, and as I sprayed near my garage, I didn’t realize that somebody had been walking up my driveway! I quickly shut the spigot off and apologized, “I’m so sorry! I didn’t see you there!”

            “You didn’t? Wow, I’ve never had a hose turned on me by accident!” the man remarked. He dried off his papers on the clipboard he was carrying, and before I could read his badge, he introduced himself, “Oh, I’m Drake from Orlock Security. Did you install any kind of safety system in your home yet?”

            “No!” It felt so strange to have gotten placed in this role reversal- usually, I was the one doing the sales! It irked me that I had this bit of nostalgia added to my already tumultuous confusion, but he had inadvertently brought up a good point to me. Up until then, I had been relying solely on Jett to alert me to any potential intruders, but an alarm would probably prove to be more reliable! I needed as much protection as I could to thwart off Damon’s possible intrusion, so I thought maybe a cat wasn’t the best way to secure my house! So far, he hadn’t actually gone after me or ventured close to my home, but who knew how long that would last! “I don’t need to hear your spiel, I’ll do it!”

            Drake seemed totally thrown off by my abrupt acceptance! “Really? I… Well, okay! When would you like it installed?”

            I nearly told him to do it immediately, but then I remembered my obligation to the vampire league. I had no clue how long we would have to devote our evenings for this project, and I certainly didn’t want to create anymore delays than absolutely necessary, so I frowned not knowing when I could give Drake an answer. “Hmm… I’m not sure. Can I have your card and get back to you?” He grew hesitant about doing that, so I assured him, “I’m not trying to brush you off! You’ll get the sale, I just can’t say when exactly.”

            “Oh, okay then!” Drake obliged.

            “Thanks!” As I accepted his business card, it occurred to me that he was a door-to-door salesman, so he had already been around the area that we planned on patrolling! So, I hoped that he had noticed something that would save us some work! “Listen, Drake, did you happen to see anything weird in this neighborhood? Like any bats hanging around a certain spot…?”

            After mulling it over a bit, Drake replied, “Well, a lot of people have bats as Halloween decorations… But you mean real bats? I haven’t seen that. Seems like a pretty normal community! Well, except for that house across the street…” He glanced back at the abandoned house, shuddered a little, and then had a very serious expression as he faced me again. “You need this system! Call me soon!”

            I promised him, “I will!” I had no inkling of how soon that would be when I said it, but Drake appeared reasonably confident that I was a warm lead, so he left more pleasant than he was before our meeting, even with his damp outfit!

            Before Drake could completely disappear out of my sight though, he circled back to my house and informed me, “If you’re trying to get the moss off of your house, you’re gonna need to spray it with a special cleanser first!”

            I genially responded, “Thanks for the tip!” He gave me a friendly wave as he walked off, and I stood there feeling awfully dumb with my hose in my hand right then! Was that common knowledge? So, in addition to learning more about British Literature and educating myself about vampire lore, now I had to research the basics of home improvement too? I threw down my hose and exasperatedly rubbed my temples trying not to get overwhelmed by my frustration over the pressure mounting on my shoulders!

            Seconds later, the mailman came, and I actually felt somewhat relieved by this development! I knew that the deliveries usually just contained bills and ads, but it gave me something to do at precisely the right moment, so I got excited to receive the post for the first time since the nineties! I crossed my fingers that I might get something that would keep me busy for a while, and later on, I would regret that wish! After sifting through the junk, an unusual letter caught my eye…

            Yes, an actual letter came to me, and you’ll never guess who sent it to me! Well, maybe it’s kind obvious to you, but it certainly caught me off guard! It was from Lilith! My heart soared to finally hear from her after over a month with no communication! The envelope was rather thick, so I could only assume that she had a lot to update me on since her departure! I didn’t even wait until I went back inside to open it up, I had to know what she had to tell me! I assumed it included a heartfelt apology and a roster of all the ways that she missed me, and I even speculated that she was stuck in Canada and needed my assistance to get her out, which I would have definitely done given the chance! It didn’t even occur to me that she might have sent me something bad until I saw the contents of that envelope…

            Divorce papers! No note, no explanation, she simply sent a small stack of forms with all of the legalese that summarized her desire to no longer be my wife! I felt a lump rise up in my throat, and I could hardly breathe! A cold chill overtook my chest, and I checked my surroundings to see if Damon’s presence had caused it. It hadn’t. I couldn’t read the paperwork, but I didn’t really need to- it had instantly burned itself into my memory! She didn’t want anything from me, just my signature! I couldn’t’ comprehend how she could have just forgotten all of her love she once had for me, and my brain went numb just trying to understand why she would do something to hurt me like that…

            Phoebe pulled up to my address, and I panicked! She was the last person I wanted to see me in such a fragile condition! As she got out of her car and gave me a warm greeting, I saw two more of my coworkers parking in my periphery! I just couldn’t let them view me on the brink of collapse like that, so I ran inside of my house. Well, first I tripped over Jett, who had unceremoniously darted in front of my path, and then I dashed inside of my home. I barely made it out of the mud room when the tears began to flow! I couldn’t stop them from coming- after such a taxing day, I could not take this heartbreak anymore, so I couldn’t help myself!

            “Connor?” Phoebe knocked on the door and called after me in a concerned tone. It lifted my spirits slightly to have her truly care about what I was going through, but I hated the timing of it! I didn’t have much of an opportunity to process anything yet, so I definitely wasn’t ready to share anything with her! Or anyone else for that matter! I knew I wouldn’t be able to nurse my wounds at that minute since we had important job to do, but I didn’t know how I would pull myself together to properly do that!

            “I’m fine!” I fibbed. “I just… threw up!” I had no recollection of that line crossing my mind, but I patted myself on the back for coming up with something so clever! Now, any blotches on my visage and my watery eyes had a plausible justification! I threw my mail out of my sight and chose to pretend that none of it was real, not even the advertisements, so that I could move on with my day. I took a deep inhale and inwardly prepped myself to join everyone else. As soon as I opened the door, Phoebe gazed at me with her beautiful eyes full of alleviation, and for a split second, I forgot about my inner turmoil! I smoothly told her, “Let’s roll!”

            We split the territory we wanted to cover, and we drove around the neighborhood to search for signs of Damon or teenagers in distress. We had to go at a slow speed to really study the environment, which got us some suspicious stares from the residents of the area! We planned to do that for an hour and meet back at my house to go over our findings, but after about twenty minutes, rain clouds set in, and soon, a torrential downpour made our quest totally impossible. We reconvened and reported back the evidence we found, which was pretty much nothing. Ginger gushed about someone’s lawn decorations, and Aleck got a thrill to see a “zonotrichia ablicollis,” which he had to clarify was a sparrow, but we didn’t unearth anything significant, not to thwarting Damon anyways! So, we all agreed to meet again tomorrow after school, and we all prayed that this time would prove to be more productive!

            I hadn’t even looked at my post that I tossed onto the floor since I had placed it there, and I found that I could only function by lying to myself about Lilith’s intentions with that gesture. I believed that she acted out of spite because I hurt her with my neglect at my old sales position, and I refused to sign it immediately as requested! I wanted to give her more time to calm down, and I rationalized that if she gave the situation some serious thought, she would change her mind about what she wanted to do. I debated about putting all of this into a letter to send back to her, but I didn’t have time to put pen to paper. I had a class to teach, and as the kids wrote their essays, I couldn’t’ help but watch Damon and wonder where that a’hole was going when class was over! I knew I couldn’t do it once my shift was over either since we had a new tactic to use in our mission against that infuriating vampire…

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 11

How do you teach a student who tried to kill you? There’s a question I never thought I’d ask myself! We never did come up with an answer for that in our group chat! We couldn’t tell the police because we didn’t have a story that sounded sane to a rational person. We couldn’t say his fangs grew longer, no one would believe that! Even if they bought our claim about him trying to bite our necks, it just sounds like a misdemeanor assault. Also, technically, we were trespassing when we entered onto the blood bank’s property beyond the visitor’s area, so Damon could have argued that he was just defending himself against intruders. He didn’t try that in his efforts to keep his job, he probably should have gone with that rather than trying to convince his bosses that we were on friendly terms with him! Anyway, Phoebe found a list of donors at the receptionist’s desk, and all of the missing kids had donated there right before they disappeared! We couldn’t show that to any detectives though since we obtained the information illegally, and even we did present it to them, it still wouldn’t prove Damon had any direct involvement with them going missing. They might interrogate him as a witness, but it seemed unlikely they would list him as a suspect yet. We think he used that database to find the victims’ addresses and stalked them there; he caught Corvina walking to her house, but we didn’t know if he did the same for the other children who vanished. The only thing we knew for sure was that we were on our own and that work would be awkward on Monday!

            You’ll never guess what Ms. Bronagh had slated for her class’ next project… Dracula! Talk about awkward! I’m sure she did it since they would finish it on Halloween, but still! I could only hope that the novel might provide me with some tips on how to deal with vampires without so many gory scenes with blood and impalement! The beginning had a dude getting some real estate and a bunch of villagers warning him not to go there, so I started to worry this book might be prophetic! I felt almost tempted to skip ahead to Wuthering Heights; even though a tangled up romance would have made me think of my own messy love life, I would have much rather have had that constant reminder than getting haunted by f’ing vampires all the time!

            Third period made me nervous! I had no idea how Damon would treat me after our encounter over the weekend! Would he be hostile and bitter, or would he feel shamed and try to avoid eye contact with me? I also pondered how he would react to our next reading material- it would either make him ecstatic or critical over how his kind were portrayed in this piece of literature. To my surprise, Damon didn’t change his behavior at all! He still acted like his usual lazy and disinterested self, and as I spoke, he stared at me with his typical bored eyes! You’d think that I’d find this relieving, but I actually found it more disturbing! Him not showing any emotion over the incident made me wonder how often he has events like that! I briefly considered that perhaps he had no memory of that occurrence, but I wouldn’t allow my guard to get let down! If he had been hatching up a new scheme as he claimed he would, then it was vital that I continued to watch out for him!

            When the lunch bell rang, he turned in his reading questions without glancing up at me, and while I found this noteworthy at first, I couldn’t remember if he had ever done that before or not. I watched him with a leery outlook wishing that I could follow that prick and put a stop to his plans right then and there, but I restrained myself. I was pretty sure Principal Palillo would have fired me on the spot if I attacked one of his students no matter who creepy and sinister they were! I thought that maybe if his assignment contained any kind of threatening message that I would at lest have had an excuse to confront him, but astonishingly enough, his responses were perfectly normal! In fact, I think he got an A! I didn’t think he cared enough to produce quality work, so I found that incredibly perplexing…

            Just as I was musing about his knowledge on the subject’s origination stemming from his age (I swore he was old enough to have met the author in person!), a voice of a young girl startled me, “Mister Fenmore?”

            I hoped that I hadn’t jumped too much in front of her! It would have been mortifying to expose myself as a chicken to one of my students! I looked up at her with as much calm as I could surmise, and I saw a teen who donned herself in every single trend that topped the current style list at that moment! She didn’t strike me as one of my brightest pupils, but she made it into an honors class, so I entertained the notion that I had judged her too harshly. “How can I help you, Miss…?” Drats! She wasn’t at her seat, so my seating chart couldn’t’ help me with her name!

            “My name is Roxy,” she informed me. I grinned as I recalled her paper maché sculpture in Aleck’s classroom, but I decided not to bring it up. I did want to assist her as thoroughly as possible, but I also wanted to finish my lunch before the fourth period bell rang… “Can you help me with something?”

            “Of course! That’s why I’m here!” Aside from feeling hungry, I felt so honored that one of the children of my class had turned to me for assistance with something! I didn’t think I had been there long enough to really build up trust with them, so it kind of caught me off guard in a way, but it also touched me to know that I had made enough of an impact that a kid would seek out my advice! I gave her my utmost attention and prayed that she would be satisfied with my guidance!

            She hesitated slightly before asking me, “Um… Do you know Damon?”

            My interest now peaked, and my heart began to race in anticipation of this conversation! I assumed that she must have noticed something strange about his behavior, and I was eager to hear whatever she had to say regarding that subject! I didn’t have any clue on how he interacted with his classmates, so it would have been helpful to gain that insight from her! I dared to imagine that she would divulge his next move, which would have made my vampire hunting job so much easier! But how would I honestly reply to her inquiry? It’s not like I could blurt out how he was a vampire who tried to murder me to her! Unless she had found out the truth about him as well… “Well, I haven’t been here very long, but I do recognize him as one of my students. I mean, how could you forget a cat like that?”

            “Right! Like, for real! He’s so hot!” she gushed. My jaw dropped! Even if a person didn’t know that he was a blood-sucking fiend, I figured that most people would find him too odd to consider him handsome! It worried me that she found such a dangerous man as attractive, a fear that only heightened when she added, “Do you know if he’s single? ‘Cause I was hoping he would go with me to Homecoming…”

            “Uh…” I didn’t know what to tell her! I know at one point, Corvina at least pretended to have a relationship with Damon, but I didn’t know if they really did have anything going on! A part of me wanted to lie and say that he had a serious girlfriend just so that she would stay away from him, but I reasoned that one of her peers might reveal my deception. I refused to encourage her attempts to pair up with him though, so I just vaguely expressed, “I don’t know. I don’t meddle in my students’ private lives!” Her spirits deflated, and a part of me was curious as to why she had thought I would help her with that! “Sorry! Don’t let this ruin your lunchtime though! Go on, enjoy your meal!” She never mentioned anything about having any food, but it was on my mind again, so… She dejectedly left, and I frowned as I fretted about this development!

            I raced to the teachers lounge with a frazzled expression on my face from not only the drama we faced with Damon but also the fact that I had missed a large portion of my lunch again! I would have just wolfed down what I brought, but I knew that we had a lot to discuss, so I crossed my fingers that I could just give them the info I just learned rapidly and then spend the rest of my time trying to eat. I grabbed my storage container out of the fridge and headed to the table that my vampire league sat at with dread coursing throughout my body, but as soon as I approached them, Phoebe turned around and gave me a huge smile, which made me forget about everything else in the world for a second! And I do mean a second! I would have probably stood there and gawked at her like an idiot for longer if I didn’t see Ellie out of the corner of my eye staring at me quizzically! I took a seat right away and kept my head low in case I blushing. I had just started beating myself up for forgetting about Lilith again when Aleck interrupted my train of thought, “You’re gonna eat that pasta cold?”

            Shaking myself out of my reverie, I responded to him, “Huh?” I glanced down at the skillet in front of me, and I privately acknowledged that this dish probably would taste gross if eaten unheated, but I didn’t really care about that in this instance! “That’s not important! I got some bad news for you guys…”

            “Oh great! That’s all we need right now!” Fletcher grumbled.

            “Roxy wants to ask Damon out to Homecoming!” I revealed to them before anyone spoke up again. “Apparently she’s got a huge crush on him!” They all stared at me in shock. No one said anything for quite a while, so I decided to begin munching on my noodles. They were pretty disgusting in their unwarmed state, but I overlooked that in the interest of hastiness. Since none of them had talked yet though, I had to get the ball rolling, so I decided to converse mid bite, “Someone say something!”

            Ginger’s nose crinkled up as she uttered, “Ew! I mean, I’m no expert on which men are considered good looking, but he seems so… blah! Am I right?”

            Fletcher opined, “My daughters tend to go for the bad boys, but I cant’ see them pursuing anyone criminal! I don’t think… I should check their rooms again…”

            “Guys, we can’t interfere with out students’ social lives…” Phoebe covertly indicated to the other teachers in the room who were apparently listening in to our conversation curiously. “If we intervened with every bad decision they made in their dating lives, we’d never have enough space in our schedule for anything else!”

            “Phoebe is right. Let’s not worry about that right now! We need to focus more on our ‘bat’ problem!” Ellie asserted. “Those ‘bats’ could be anywhere! How do we find them?”

            Aleck suggested, “Bats tend to gravitate towards areas where they can feed themselves. Maybe we can lure them to us with what they eat!” We all gazed at him in aghast, and after giving his words some consideration, he changed his mind. “Oh, right! We can’t do that!”

            Ginger proposed, “Well, the… bats… seem to flock around the house across the street from Connor, so they can’t go too far from that area, right? What if we just went around the neighborhood and search indications of where they go?”

            “That could take ages though!” Ellie complained. “I got papers to grade and a husband to feed! Last time I let him cook his own dinner, I came back to a house full of smoke! I can’t keep giving up my evenings for this!”

            “It shouldn’t take that long to find the bats,” Phoebe differed. “The first attempt to destroy them didn’t work, but now that we know what we’re up against, we can totally kick their ass when we seem them again! We just need to know where to find them! Once we get the bats home, we can all go back to our normal lives again!” She paused and threw in, “Couldn’t Victor just order take out for the night?”

            I dearly wanted to keep shoveling down my food, but I also could see a lot of quibbling happening if I didn’t step in, so I begrudgingly paused my eating and inquired, “How about we check out that house and see if any of the bats are hidden in there?”

            Fletcher, totally appalled, brusquely commented, “Are you crazy? It’ll be dark by the time we get there, and I’m not about to fight any va… bats… in that house with no light outside!”

            “Okay, so let’s just meet at my house and see if we can find the bats close to their headquarters!” I recommended. “If we don’t see any sign of them after a couple of days, we can try something else. But, for now, that’s all we got, so it’s worth a shot! Sitting around doing nothing is not an option! This is too critical to delay any longer! We have to find those bats before it’s too late!”

            “Wait, I’m confused… Are you trying to save those bats or exterminate them?” a teacher at an adjacent table probed.

            None of us had a statement handy for that! We eyeballed each other to see if anyone could come up with a solution, but everybody’s brains seemed to have gone blank! Fortunately for us, the fourth period bell rang, so we all scrambled to get to our classrooms. Phoebe declared, “We’ll see you tonight!” Ellie, Fletcher, Ginger, and Aleck didn’t seem thrilled by that concept, but they didn’t voice any objections, so I took that as their unwilling consent to go along with that plan. As I rushed back to my room, I contemplated Ellie’s anxiety about the duration of this task and worried she may get proven correct. We had no inkling of what to watch out for, so how would we know that we spotted something significant? This alarmed me, but I couldn’t’ think about our vampire problem right then, not when I had a fictional vampire problem to review during the rest of my day!

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 10

I walked into that blood bank totally determined! Not only did I have allies who now totally believed my side of the story, but we had Damon cornered! He had nowhere to run from here, so nothing was going to stop us now! Or so I thought! Once we got past the foyer, I couldn’t focus on anything but the posters on the wall, all of which depicted needles and/or blood, so, you can probably guess, I got nauseous! “I think I’m gonna be sick!” I informed the others.

            Fletcher very confidently asserted, “You’re not gonna sick!” Immediately after he said that, I vomited! “Well, I’ll be damned!”

            “Oh, that’s just great!” the receptionist complained. “Everyone, clear the lobby area! Don’t go near it, it’s a biohazard!”

            “I’m so sorry!” I apologized to the receptionist as she got out a mop and bucket. I felt a little insulted by her referring to it as a biohazard though! I mean, I know it’s gross, but it’s not like the soup I had for lunch would create a toxic environment! But she was elderly, I didn’t want to put up too much of a fuss because it seemed as though this task stressed her out enough!

            As she began soaking up my mess, she grumpily told me, “You’re lucky you’re handsome! If I was forty years younger…”

            Awkward! I had no idea how to respond to that! Seriously, what on Earth was I supposed to do with that? As I contemplated the possibilities, Phoebe whispered into my ear, “Keep her distracted!”

            Keep her distracted? How was I supposed refrain from getting distracted when I had Phoebe stirring up my excitement by getting close to me and speaking breathily like that? I couldn’t help but get worked up by that occurrence, but not long after that titillating thought had tickled my fancy, I saw Phoebe give me an impatient face. I couldn’t enjoy that feeling long, which bummed me out, and I had no time to overwhelm myself with guilt for having images that weren’t conducive to staying loyal to Lilith either! I had to spring into action right away! But how? I certainly didn’t want to flirt with her, that’s all my tangled up love life needed! I decided to revert back to my old sales tactic of keeping a person interested by getting them to talk about themselves. “So, are you from here originally?”

            I hoped that she would be the type to become overly chatty without too much persuasion, and she did not disappoint! She started prattling on about growing up on some farm upstate, and I just had to nod and say an occasional “uh-huh” as she rambled on. Meanwhile, I could see Ellie and Fletcher shielding Phoebe as she pilfered through the front desk while Ginger and Aleck snuck into the hallway where I could only assume the phlebotomists drew their donations. It was a bit of a let down that I didn’t have an important role in Damon’s potential takedown, but after thinking about it for a while, it made more sense for me to entertain the gatekeeper. If I focused on anything else, I probably would have caught a glimpse of those posters again, and I figured that I would end up throwing up again. Plus, if anyone was going to impale the vampire, it made sense to send the biology teacher and a woman who showed no fear to do that kind of thing!

            “Oh, those were such good times! Well, it was nice talking to you, but I better…” She tried to end our conversation right there.

            “Wait, so how did you go from a farm girl to a healthcare professional? I hardly think that a rural town like that had any kind of medical program?” I wasn’t paying close enough attention to know what she actually told me about where her childhood took place, but that wasn’t important. I knew enough to make it seem like I drank in her every word! Besides, she had cleaned up everything a lot more quickly than I thought she would and my cohorts hadn’t finished their mission, so I had to keep her busy a little longer!

            She happily gave me every detail of her college life, and I fully appreciated her chattiness at that moment since it allowed me to watch everyone else out of the corner of my eye. Phoebe appeared to have found something noteworthy because I saw her taking pictures on her phone. I was insanely curious as to what she found, but I accepted that I would have to wait until we left to see what evidence she obtained. I had no clue how long our stay would last though since Ginger and Aleck still hadn’t reemerged from their role in this excursion…

            “Has the phone rang at all?” the receptionist tried to peek at her desk. Luckily, Phoebe ducked down in time! If Ellie and Fletcher hadn’t taken up their posts as guards, she probably would have been seen! The two of them pretended to show interest in some brochures nearby them, so the receptionist didn’t feel compelled to instantly check on them.

            “No, it didn’t. Speaking of phones, I have a ton of picture son mine of where I grew up…” First of all, I didn’t know whether or not I was lying about the phone ringing or not- I was too busy to think about frivolous noises going that went on in the background! Secondly, I had to show the receptionist my cellphone because Phoebe started tiptoeing out from behind the front desk. I had to swiftly shift to pretending that I couldn’t find the photos when I spotted Ellie and Fletcher guarding the hallway as Phoebe started exploring it. I assumed she wanted to check on Aleck and Ginger, and I began to worry about them too! I had no notion of how long it should take to slay a vampire, but if they took too long to resurface, it wasn’t a good sign…

            The phone at the front desk rang, and in this instance, I definitely heard it! I inwardly prayed that she hadn’t caught wind of this, but to my dismay, she let me know, “I have to get that.”

            I cringed, but fortunately, she didn’t pay much mind to Fletcher and Ellie as she dashed for the phone! I ran over to my colleagues and asked them, “What’s going on?”

            Before either of them could reply, I heard some loud crashing sounds booming from one of the rooms at the end of the hall! The receptionist put her call on hold and repeated what I just expressed, “What’s going on?”

            “We’re interested in donating plasma,” Ellie lied. I’m almost positive she was lying anyways, I sincerely doubted that she had any kind of inclination to do so in this circumstance! The crashing had stopped, so she decided to let it go and had Ellie and Fletcher wait while she finished up her call. I truly didn’t believe that Phoebe, Ginger, or Aleck were safe right then, so as soon as the receptionist’s eyes were off of the hallway, I purposefully kept my sight locked away from the posters on the wall and slipped inside of that corridor to search for them.

            “Phoebe?” I called out hopefully as I neared the end of the hall. I didn’t get a response, and it filled me with dread! Not only because I worried about my peers’ safety, but I really didn’t want to be the one to put a stake in Damon’s heart!

            I came to the room where the commotion had originated, and it was eerily silent! I was terrified at the prospect of this ordeal, but my instincts took over and put me fully into survival mode! I felt one hundred percent certain that a trap waited for me on the other side of that door, so I slowly turned the handle. Once it was slightly ajar, I used my foot to kick the door completely open. Apparently, Damon had assumed that I would burst into the room because pounced onto a spot near the front! When he realized that no one was there, he glanced up and saw me still in the hall. “Hey, you tricked me!” Damon exclaimed.

            I shot back with, “Well, you were trying to kill me, so forgive me fi I don’t apologize for your inconvenience!”

            Damon snarled at me, but then his head whipped around when he detected movement behind him. Aleck and Ginger were not only unconscious, but they were strapped to the two medical chairs in the room! Phoebe had hidden herself behind Aleck’s bed on the far side of the room, and Damon caught her trying to uno his restraints! He advanced towards her, and I wasn’t about to let him attack her! I punched him in the back of his head, and he toppled down to the ground! I didn’t manage to know him out, but he laid on the floor and moaned in agony. I remarked, “Wow! I didn’t know that vampires could feel pain!”

            “Really? We may not have blood running in our veins, but our nerves still work! How do you think we’re still able to walk and talk?” he challenged me. I didn’t have the foggiest idea how their bodies worked, so I could only assume that he was accurate on that! If Aleck had been conscious, I felt as though he would have a lot to say on that subject! I didn’t spend too long on that subject though since Damon had gotten up and lunged at me! I swiveled out of the way, and he didn’t slow down in time to avoid slamming his head into the wall! While he was dizzy from this tumble, I spun him by the shoulder and pinned him to the wall. I pulled out the stake Phoebe had given me on the previous day, and I could see him panic… for a second! I hesitated slightly just trying to picture how to actually accomplish this feat. I really should have studied so I knew exactly where a person’s heart is!

            “Nice try!” He smirked as he grabbed my wrists and pinned me to the wall. His fangs grew longer, and I refused to let him defeat me like that! I didn’t know if this would work, but I tried it anyways- I kneed him in the groin! Success! He doubled over in torment, and I could see Phoebe brandishing her weapon, so I held him up from behind…

            Before Phoebe could strike, a couple men in white coats poked their heads in! Phoebe hastily hid her stake behind her back, and I released Damon while I tried to make myself as innocent-looking as possible. One of the white coat men cried out, “Damon1 What do you think you’re doing?”

            Damon stuttered, “Oh, I just… I had to restrain my patients ‘cause… of… you know…”

            “You didn’t check these patients in!” the second white coat man bellowed.

            “Mommy?” Aleck groggily inquired as he woke up. That made me feel better about that din-din comment I made last night! No, I still hadn’t gotten over the shame of that!

            The first white coat man angrily stated, “You can’t accept anonymous blood!”

            Damon pleaded with them, “Please don’t fire me! They’re my teachers! They’re non anonymous! Go on, tell them you know me!”

            “Do you know this man?” the second white coat man asked.

            “Is that… Timothy Chalamet in a blond wig?” Ginger answered as if she really believed in her guess. I couldn’t tell if she meant to deceive them or if she had experienced a side effect of whatever had knocked her out.

            Damon tried to laugh that off, “Oh, they’re such fun, my teachers! We have such good times together!” He guffawed heartily, but between the insincerity of his explanation and our lack of frivolity on our faces, the white coat men weren’t buying it. He frowned and then queried, “I’m fired, aren’t I?” The white coat men nodded firmly, so Damon scowled before turning back to us and seething, “You may have thwarted me this time, but mark my words, I will find a way to make it happen again! Nothing will stop me! You hear me? Nothing!”

            He stormed out, and the first white coat man inquired, “What was that about?”

            Phoebe replied, “Actors! They always gotta be dramatic!”

            “Wait.. Are we at a blood bank?” Aleck wondered.

            “Do you need help out?” the second white coat man questioned.

            I scooped him up, and as I assisted him out of the room, I kidded with the white coat men, “I don’t know why you’d think something like that!”

            Fletcher and Ellie saw me supporting Aleck and Phoebe supporting Ginger, and they grew very concerned. “Don’t ask!” Phoebe regarded them between her labored breaths.

            Ellie rejoindered, “Oh, we’re not ‘cause you’re sure as hell gonna tell us what went on!”

            We scoped out the area for Damon in either his human or bat form, and when the coast was clear, we exited the blood bank. I had forgotten how far away our cars were, so I posed to Aleck, “Feeling better yet?”

            “He gave me a sedative!” Aleck blurted out.

            “So, is that a no?” Fletcher pondered.

            I informed him, “It means they’ll need a ride home! And we’ll have to wait until tonight or tomorrow to plan our next move. Damon got away, and he’s cooking up another scheme to harm our students!”

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 9

“A blood bank?” I questioned as I stared at the document. I could see what it said clear as day, so I didn’t conformation for that. I just expected to see something much more sinister like a threatening note or a roster with all of the people he kidnapped! This didn’t seem very precarious at all… except that it came from the property where a vampire resided! “What does a vampire want there? I thought they only ate fresh blood! Is this like their version of fast food?”

            “Vampire or not, that kid is obsessed with blood,” Aleck remarked. “I can’t talk about it without him getting overly excited! I’m afraid to start doing dissections again!”

            Phoebe commented, “This seems like a place Damon would go, and this flyer was found where Corvina was last seen, so maybe this blood bank holds some clues to all our missing students!”

            Fletcher objected, “Oh no! I thought this little adventure would be a one time thing! I’m not going there just ‘cause that son of a bitch might hang out there!”

            “I’m with Fletcher!” Ellie chimed in. “I got things to do this weekend! My plants need watering, and my shower needs to get cleaned real bad! We washed the dogs in there, and now it’s a real mess!”

            “So, you’d rather have a clean shower than safe children?” Phoebe challenged her. Ellie seemed affronted by that insinuation, but she didn’t have an answer for that.

            Ginger brought up, “What are the odds Damon actually hid something important in a public place like that?”

            I responded to her, “He wouldn’t deliberately leave anything there, but there could be something that he didn’t realize was important like records of the victims donating there or something. Some of the staff may have been the last ones to see those kids before they vanished! If we can figure out Damon’s hunting grounds, we can put a stop to his scheme before he takes someone else out! The police won’t don’t anything with this! It wouldn’t’ be enough for them to get a warrant, there’s no evidence of a crime actually getting committed on that property! By the time the cops connect the dots, it could be too late! We need to go there ourselves and find out what he’s up to or else a lot of innocent students will be doomed!” I could tell Phoebe would go there in a heartbeat, but, while the others appeared to feel badly about the situation, they didn’t seem so convinced to make the trek down there. I then added, “Unless you’d rather investigate that abandoned house…”

            That prompted everyone to immediately show enthusiasm for going to the blood bank! Phoebe peered at the flyer and reported, “Looks like they’re almost closed. We’ll have to meet up there tomorrow. How about at noon?”

            “I can’t do that, I gotta run soccer practice ‘til one,” Fletcher let us know.

            “Yeah, my son has karate lessons from one to two,” Aleck put in.

            Ginger stated, “My partner and I have Pilates at two.”

            I asked Ellie, “Let me guess, you have something going on at three?”

            “Actually, no!” Ellie answered. “I rarely schedule anything anymore. Since my husband retried, he has all the time in the world to do what he wants! Unless there’s a doctor appointment, he doesn’t make plans for anything. I’m sure at that time he’ll be watching football, eating greasy snacks, farting a lot, and yelling the TV. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind getting out of the house for a bit!”

            “So, three o’ clock then?” Phoebe posed to the group.

            Ginger requested, “Can we make it three thirty? I don’t my partner would wanna tag along for this whole thing.”

            I confirmed with the group, “Three thirty it is then! See you all tomorrow!”

            Aleck, Ellie, Fletcher, and Ginger all mumbled their goodbyes as they headed to their cars. Phoebe handed the flyer to me and inquired, “If we leave this with you, is it gonna get stuck on your cat’s legs again?”

            “Oh sure, ‘cause I’m gonna leave something important lying around the house where she could get to it!” I shot back. She grinned at my quip- man, she had such a beautiful smile! She lingered there for a brief second, and a part of me hoped that she would invite herself into my home…

            “See you tomorrow!” she genially expressed to me. I felt a slight surge of disappointment, but my thoughts didn’t stay on that topic too long. I couldn’t help but watch her leave, it made me feel like I was receiving an exquisite treat just being able to do so! I forgot about everything else in the world until…

            Phoebe pulled away, and I saw my neighbor watching me. Was he viewing our escapade that whole time? I gave him a friendly wave and then I turned to go inside my house straight away! If he could hear any of that, he probably got a good grasp of our plight already. If he hadn’t, I wasn’t about to explain it to him! It took me a whole book to explain it to you, so how would I have done that in a short conversation? Regardless if he heard us or not, I wasn’t up to having a long discussion right then. I had less than twenty-four hours until I became a vampire hunter again, so I needed to go inside and relax while I still could!

            I played my classic rock station as I prepared my dinner, which I had to share with Jett because she apparently loves chicken, and, for once, I could think about my day without feeling completely anxious! The tunes definitely helped, but it also comforted me to know we would be confronting Damon in a public place. He had to maintain a normal person’s cover to blend in and keep his post, so I didn’t think it was likely that any of us would have to drive a stake through his heart during our visit. My mood was also lifted by my coworkers’ assistance throughout this ordeal. Now that they had quit acting cold towards me, I was able to get to know them a bit, and doing so made me start to like them. What took up, like, ninety percent of my headspace was Phoebe though! Every love ballad or song about an enticing lady made me think of her, but it didn’t occur to me that I had romantic feelings for her quite yet. I knew I found her alluring, but the same could be said for lots of beautiful women. I viewed it more as a celebrity crush and didn’t take it seriously until a song about a break-up became an exception for me not picturing Phoebe as the star of the story art. I recalled the ugliness that went down with Lilith, and then it hit me- Lilith hadn’t crossed my mind at all until that moment, so maybe my attachment to Phoebe had become stronger than what I had with Lilith!

            Most people who make a discovery like that would be thrilled, but I just got really overwhelmed! Guilt surged throughout me; I couldn’t believe that I had forgotten about Lilith! She was my wife and my motivation behind everything, so it astounded me that a pretty face could take all of that away! Then again, it wasn’t as though my feelings for Phoebe were so flippant! She had a strong drive and ardently pursued her goals, and she balanced that with an air of sweetness and unbeatable kindness, both qualities that I greatly admired! But it wasn’t as though Lilith didn’t have her good qualities too! I hadn’t known Phoebe for long, but I knew Lilith for over twelve years! I had developed a real love for Lilith, although a part of me wondered how true that could have been if Phoebe had that kind of effect on my heart! A song about being torn between two lovers came on, and that seemed to ring true for me… except that I had no proof that either woman had any interest in a relationship with me! The whole thing just had me so confused, but on the plus side, my mixed emotions over the matter kept me occupied enough that I didn’t have a panic attack about going to the blood bank and possibly fighting Damon!

            You know, if your parking lot is closed due to re-pavement, you should really put that on your website! I suppose they probably informed the people who got scheduled to donate blood, but we had no idea until we drove up! They kept a small section open for disabled people, but even if any of us qualified to use those, we couldn’t take any of those spots because those were all full! We found a small dirt lot nearby, but we still had to do some walking, which wasn’t so easy considering there was no formal sidewalk! We traveled along a small patch of dirt along the roadside, but its rocky texture made it hard to traverse! Ginger complained, “Ouch! Ugh, if I knew we’d go this route, I wouldn’t have worn flip-flops!”

            “My knees’ll be sore tomorrow!” Fletcher grumped.

            “Oh great! There’s a giant bush blocking our path!” Aleck vexedly observed. “We’re gonna risk getting run over just trying to get to this place!”

            Phoeboe encouraged everyone, “Remember why we’re here! We’re trying to save our students’ lives! Any pain or discomfort we go through will be worth it if we can keep them all alive!”

            I really marveled at Phoebe’s resilience right then, but that dose of adoration got swiftly by a bout of self-reproach for forgetting about Lilith again. Before I could contemplate that too much, Ellie reacted to Phoebe’s statement, “Yeah, tell that to my chaffin’ thighs!”

            I didn’t want our plans to fall through from a stupid plant, so I quickly studied the area to come up with a solution. I came up with, “Only one of us needs to go into the street! I’ll do it. I’m gonna push the leaves aside so your path should be clear. We should be almost there, and I imagine there’s some chairs for us to sit and take a break in…”

            Ellie, Aleck, Fletcher, and Ginger all begrudgingly agreed to that. Phoebe appeared to show real appreciation for my commitment to this, and I tried not to let myself get too pleased by the fact as I watched for cars. As soon as the road was empty, I jumped onto the street. I could hear a vehicle speedily coming up behind me, so I hurriedly pushed against the branches of the shrub. Thankfully, I made it time! Breathily, I announced to them, “You may pass!”

            “Are you okay?” Ginger queried. I didn’t want to highlight my labored breathing, so I just gave her a thumbs up as she went by.

            “Oh good, we really are almost there!” Aleck noted. “Hey, look! There’s a Chiroptera Emballonuridae!”

            Fletcher chided him, “What did we tell you about using your scientific name for crap? Can you just say it in English?”

            Aleck differed with Fletcher, “Actually, the scientific names we give to things are considered a part of our language!”

            Before Fletcher could snap at him, Ellie came into view of the blood bank parking lot and pointed out, “Oh, wow! There’s a bat landing on the property!”

            A bat? A bat landing on the property where Damon, who could turn into a bat, had an affiliation? You bet that got my attention1 I swiveled around the bush, and once I let go of the branches, I could see it landing on the blacktop. It just sat there for a moment, and I really hoped that it wasn’t a regular bat behaving oddly! The others watched it curiously, but then they grew alarmed as they saw it suddenly shrouded in smoke! When it dissipated, they saw, in its place, Damon now stood there!

            Everyone froze from sheer shock, and Damon now saw us standing there! His eyes grew wide from fright right before he dashed inside of the building! Phoebe gasped, “Did that just happen, or did we all suffer from the same hallucination?”

            “Damon can turn into a bat!” Ginger exclaimed. “How is that possible? Unless…”

            “He really is a vampire!” Ellie finished her sentence. “Huh! Vampires are real? Who’d have thunk it?”

            I asserted, “I did! I told you guys!”

            Fletcher probed, “Wait, so we’re fighting a real vampire? This is way above our pay grade!”

            Aleck concurred, “Yeah, are we really gonna take on this responsibility? It seems like too much!”

            “Well, what are we supposed to do? It’s not like the police have a vampire fighting division!” Phoebe retorted. They couldn’t argue with that reasoning, but the real weight of the circumstances dawned on everyone. We all had misgivings about this, but we had no choice- we had to do this! It wasn’t a pleasant concept, but the alternative was even less so!

            “Okay, so shall we then?” I invited them as we all stared at the structure where Damon now lurked…

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 8

Finally, someone had a clue what to do! Honestly, my only proposal was to explore that house to search for evidence of Damon’s vampire nature, and once we accomplished that, I didn’t have the foggiest notion on how to proceed from there! I had just been hoping that whatever we found would give us a clear indication on how to move forward, but now that Aleck had a plan, my thoughts on what actions to take seemed wildly irresponsible! He went to the trunk of his car, and my curiosity peaked on what he may have had in there! My imagination went crazy thinking that he had some kind of secret weapon that could annihilate the problem in an instant, so you can imagine my disappointment when he pulled out what looked like a children’s toy! It crushed me to view our only way out of this mess was to enact my insane suggestion! I tried not to show my actual feelings to him to keep him on board with assisting me as I regarded him, “Your idea is an r/c helicopter?”

            “This is not an r/c helicopter!” Aleck responded with a note of offense in his voice. “This a drone! I paid a lot of money for this than I would an r/c helicopter, and it can do so much more! For instance, it has a camera built in so we can fly it into the house and see what’s in it without risking our lives if there’s something dangerous in there!”

            “That is a good idea!” I acknowledged as he began setting things up on top of his car.

            Ellie gazed at him with a slight confusion. “Why do you need a flying camera? Do you wanna know what your neighbors are up to or something?”

            Aleck refuted himself against that accusation, “I’m not spying on anyone! I use it to study weather patterns! I like teaching biology, but I like to dabble in other sciences too! I did use it to watch my wife undress once; I thought it was cute, she did not!” He finished setting up the drone, and we all gathered around as he turned on the monitoring screen…

            At first, all we could see was a roof full of pine needles, but as it reached a hole that a fire had obviously created, my pulse started racing! We had access to the inside, and I felt certain we would discover something vital to the cause! I didn’t know what that could have possibly been, and I mused myself with pictures of catching Damon turning into a bat or hanging from the ceiling as he slept. I really hoped that we wouldn’t see something innocuous like him doing his homework in there! Or worse, we could have found nothing at all! When the drone neared the part of the house that still had a shred of structural soundness, we all held our breath as our anticipation mounted at its highest! We saw something glowing in there, and we were all on the edge of seats as our scope of it climbed closer and closer…

            All of a sudden, the drone froze in its tracks! It made some glitchy noises, emitted some sparks, and it fell to the floor! Our spirits all sunk as the feed turned fuzzy, and Aleck appeared to be on the verge of tears! He lamented, “Aw man! That was expensive!”

            “Now what?” Ginger posed to the group.

            “We’re going to have to go in there ourselves,” Phoebe told us, “I stopped at the hardware store on the way here, and I grabbed some weapons to sue. You know, just in case!”

            She went into her sedan and pulled out a fairly full bag of stuff. In my head, I envisioned her grabbing some sort of knives or hatchets for us to use in case Damon attacked the group, and I inwardly commended her for her stroke of brilliance! Before I could congratulate her on her foresight, she revealed what she had purchased- wooden spikes with cute little flowers and insects on them! It baffled all of us, and she evidently saw it on our faces because she explained, “They’re stakes! I don’t know if vampires are real or not, but Damon certainly thinks that way! So, if we all go in there brandishing a vampire’s most potent method to get taken down, we can intimidate him!”

            As she handed out one to each of us, my insides writhed with dread! I had forgotten that vampires got slayed in that way! I guess it should have been fairly obvious, but I think I blocked that out of my memory since I knew it would mean I would have to face my greatest fear… “So, if he is a vampire, we’ll have to… stab him?”

            “Straight through the heart, yes!” Phoebe confirmed as she finished passing out the stakes. A lump rose in my throat. I knew we had to protect our students from these monsters, and if we didn’t do it, no one else would, but I didn’t believe I could do that! If I even came close to piercing his skin, I’d probably faint and become easy prey for him! I nearly started to shiver just at the prospect of doing that!
            “Could you have gotten some without so much fru-fru crap?” Fletcher inquired as he studied his “weapon” in disgust.

            Phoebe replied, “I was in a hurry to get here, so I just went into the garden section and paid right there at their register. We can always go back and invest in new ones if we need to.”

            Ginger stared hers in delight. “I like mine! It’s adorable! It would be a shame if it got covered in blood!” I tried not to vomit at the image she projected! “Hopefully it doesn’t come to that!”

            “And what are we supposed to do if there aren’t vampires and we get attacked by real people?” Ellie challenged.

            “It’ll still hurt for a normal person to get stabbed by one of these suckers!” Fletcher pointed out.

            A part of me wanted to cancel this whole ordeal, but I couldn’t’ let my phobia prevent us from doing the right thing! I knew we had to do this, and my more cowardly sense prayed that someone else would volunteer themselves to do the actual stabbing! I mean, it only takes one person to drive a stake through the heart, right? Once again, I questioned everybody, “You guys ready to do this?”

            No one readily answered that! We all wanted to help, but now that it became real, it truly intimidated us! Seriously, we were about to face someone dangerous, who wouldn’t be nervous? After a minute of a spooked silence, Aleck piped up, “Let’s just get this over with!”

            Despite our unspoken agreement of his logic behind that direction, we all stayed frozen for a minute! It’s not that we didn’t want to do it, well, I suppose we didn’t really… It’s not as though we weren’t willing to do what our moral code deemed as right, our bodies just didn’t want to move! Phoebe was the first to break that spell. I really admired her bravery, but I couldn’t’ sit on that thought for too long! I couldn’t allow that goddess to go in there by herself, so I followed after her. Soon, the others trailed behind us too, and we were all moving towards the abandoned house… Slowly. Hey, at least we were moving forward! We halted just before we set foot on the property, and we all took a pause to gawk at the place. No one spoke until Ginger eventually spoke up, “Who would ever willingly go into this thing?”

            “Crazy people!” Ellie remarked. “No one sane would go into a building like that!”

            “I almost went in there,” I commented. Ellie bore an “I told you so!” look, so I went on, “But I did it to try to help people! It’s not like I wanted to go ghost hunting or something! Damon actually lives there! Well, he spends a lot of time there… Either way, how sane could he be?”

            Ginger stated, “That’s true. Vampire or not, he’s just… off! And he may have some victims in there too, so…”

            Phoebe recommended, “So we should go find out for sure!”

            We all warily took a step onto the driveway, and when nothing significant resulted from that, we inched closer and closer to it. I could smell the smoldering remains and feel a cold chill as we got nearer and nearer to the structure! My heart pounded faster and faster, and I could practically hear the same effect emanating from the others as well! We were almost on the front yard, and I started to think we could make it there without incident. Just as we set a toe on the dead leaves where the lawn must have been once…

            Something jumped out of the building! We all screamed and ran back down the driveway. I didn’t really want to know what ghoulish creature we would face, but it occurred to me that whatever it was might have the ability to outrun us, so I figured it would prove more practical to meet our adversary. I turned around as did the others, and we saw… Jett! We all felt foolish for getting scared of a little kitty, and I could only have imagined the impression we made on my neighbors! We all needed some time to recover, so we watched Jett circle the front yard. I pondered why she hadn’t come to me when I called her earlier, she had to have heard me from there!

            “Shoo! Shoo, demon cat!” Fletcher tried to usher her away.

            “She’s not a demon cat! That’s my cat! I named her Jett.” My instinct had been to defend my pet, but Fletcher’s comment prompted me to consider something- if Jett wasn’t demonic, then what was she doing in that house? She seemed pretty harmless in my home; the biggest offenses committed were laying on my bed at just the right spot so I couldn’t pull up my blankets and wanting out when I had just gotten myself comfortable, so I had no cause to view her as anything but trustworthy. The fact that she had gone into that house was troubling though! Had I gotten tricked by a wicked force?

            Jett chose a spot and squatted, and we realized that she had chosen to relieve herself right there! “See! She’s not evil! She’s creating landmines for our enemies!” I sincerely believed that. It didn’t make sense to me that she would take a dump somewhere where she might trod on it, so I firmly maintained that she was taking a stand against whatever malevolent figure resided there! It made me swell with pride to have a cat who showed so much moxie!

            After she finished, Jett tried to scurry away from there, but she stepped onto something that got caught on her foot! It appeared to be a piece of paper, and its tape got stuck on her back paw. She couldn’t get it off, so she put together the face that she wouldn’t be able to rid herself of it. She decided to ignore it and attempted to walk off with it attached to her. Aleck hollered, “She’s taking off with a clue!”

            We all chased her, and she dashed into the woods. Phoebe suddenly had a revelation, “Guys, cats won’t come ot people who are running after them! We gotta let her come to us!”

            “How do we do that? She wouldn’t go to me when I called her for her din-din!” Did I just say that? I don’t think I had ever used the term din-din in my life up until that very moment! What was it about her that evoked that kind of effect on me? I cringed, but luckily everyone was too preoccupied to ridicule me for that.

            ‘We could lure her with food,” Ellie threw out there. “It works on my dogs, and you said she didn’t eat yet.”

            I was so glad that she hadn’t repeated my din-din phrase! I offered, “I can try tempting her with her bowl again.” Phew! I didn’t blurt din-din out again!
            Fletcher let us know, “I have some chicken in my truck we could use.”

            As he retrieved a fresh bag of fast food from his vehicle, Ginger queried, “You came here with dinner? Did you think we were gonna take a meal break fighting vampire men?”

            “Hey! This place didn’t have a line- they never have an empty drive-thru! I had to take advantage of the opportunity!” Fletcher defended himself. He broke off a piece of chicken and stopped as low as his bad knees would allow him. “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty! Here, Rhett!”

            “Jett!” I corrected him.

            Fletcher grumbled, “Whatever your name is, come here!” For a while, I didn’t think that this would work out, but thankfully, Jett poked her head out and cautiously crept towards us. She gingerly sniffed Fletcher’s offering, and when she decided to trust him, she picked it up with her mouth and began eating! I quickly bent down and held her as Phoebe detached the paper from her fur. She didn’t appreciate that as much as she should have! Like, jeez! If someone helped you by taking off what got stuck to your body, wouldn’t’ you feel grateful?

            Once the paper got removed, Jett hissed and ran back into the woods. I hoped that she would forgive me, but I couldn’t think about that right then! My curiosity returned and burned with intensity as we gazed at the paper! Phoebe flipped it over from its blank side, and what we saw printed on the sheet shocked us!

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 7

“You can’t be serious!” the guy in gym shorts gasped.

            “Do I look like I’m kidding?” Phoebe retorted.

            The guy in gym shorts responded, “Kinda! Sometimes you’re really sarcastic and it’s hard to tell if you’re joking or not.” Phoebe nodded in acknowledgement of the truth in that assessment.

            The older lady remarked, “I agree we gotta do something to help the kids, but if we get killed going into a haunted house, how much good are we gonna be for our students?”

            “How much good are we gonna be if they all die and we have no one to teach?” Phoebe shot back. She was really good at overcoming their objections! If she hadn’t been dedicated to education, I would have recommended that she go into sales!

            “I don’t think all of the children would get killed,” the short man stated.

            Phoebe countered with, “You don’t know that! We have no idea what’s going on, so until we know what’s happening, we have to assume that they’re all in danger!” The short man couldn’t argue with that logic.

            The girly girl probed, “Couldn’t we just give this information to the police and remind them to do their jobs?” She thought about the sentence she just uttered and reversed course, “Oh, that’s never gonna happen! Forget that thought! I guess we have no choice! We’ll have to do it!”

            “We can always give whatever we find to the detectives on the missing persons cases,” I suggested knowing full well that this wasn’t going to occur! I knew once they saw the abandoned house, we’d find something there that would prove my point, but I hoped that a rational line of thinking might persuade them more than me continuing my vampire explanations. I didn’t blame them for their disbelief, I certainly wouldn’t have believed it either if I didn’t see it for myself, so I crossed my fingers that we would witness something there that would get them to change their minds! “I’ll give you my address so we can meet there after school.” The bell rang, so I amended my statement, “… Once class is over.”

            “I’ll liaise you all later!” Phoebe let them know. I couldn’t express just how much it meant to me to have her come to my side! Literally! We all had to rush to our classrooms before we were too late, so I didn’t have time to discuss it. The students stared at me peculiarly for huffing and puffing into the room after they had already taken their seats, but oh well! I was in too good of a mood to let that phase me! I was glad that they had tests to work on because it was a little hard to concentrate while Phoebe’s forgiveness and quick wit took over all of my attention! Not to mention the prospect of spending time with an attractive woman outside the workplace! Okay, we’d be going somewhere dangerous, but still, I couldn’t help but savor in this victory!

            I already had my address written down six times before the final bell rang! I know that there were only five other teachers participating in this excursion, but I miscounted it. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to have an extra one just in case! I used some of Ms. Bronagh’s apple-themed stationary, but I figured if she knew the circumstances that we faced, she’d forgive me for that! I started musing on what kind of symbol I’d use for myself if I were to purchase a custom notepad when Phoebe popped into the room! “Hey there! Oh sorry, did I scare you?”

            I asked her, “Would it be believable if I said no?”

            She answered with a grin, “No! Are you sure you can handle exploring a haunted house?”

            “No, but I’m gonna do it anyways!” I kidded as I handed her one of the papers with my contact information on it. I never pictured myself giving out my phone number to a pretty woman on such corny paper! But this wasn’t that kind of scenario… Right? Before I could work that one out, she led me out of the classroom.

            “For the last time, magic stones didn’t cause the civil war!” the older lady exasperatedly expressed to a student.

            The student disagreed, “Not magic, infinity! By collecting all of them, a force so powerful that-.”

            She cut him off, “That was a flippin’ movie! Do you really think I would talk about a stupid superhero battle in a U.S. History class?”

            “It’s possible! It did happen in New York City…” the student protested.

            “That was a work of fiction!” the older lady barked. “We’re covering American life in the eighteen hundreds, if you haven’t noticed! What could you possibly have been thinking about this whole time that wouldn’t make you realize this?” She paused and added, “Never mind, don’t answer that! You failed the test, okay? Go home and take the weekend to study so you don’t fail the next one!”

            The student left in a huff, and as the older lady rubbed her temples, I joked, “So, I’m guessing he’s your A student?”

            The older lady sniffed disapprovingly at that. “Yeah, right!” I handed her one of the papers, and she informed me, “I’ll text you my number. You know, just in case you save everyone and wanna tell us not to come before we’ve gone down there…”

            “Yeah, right!” I repeated her words. She didn’t seem pleased, but I could tell my quip didn’t offend her at least! I received her message and saw that her name was Ellie Wayan, so I inquired, “Is that a Missus or Miss Wayan?”

            “Was that a line?” Ellie sounded mad, but it was obvious that she was kidding. “I’m not one to get fooled by a pretty face!”

            She gazed directly at Phoebe, who blushed and tried to play it cool, “Yeah, me either! Let’s go get Fletcher!”

            When Phoebe and I walked into the gymnasium, we saw Fletcher rolling up some foam mats while a girls’ basketball team impatiently waited for him to finish. He moved slowly, apparently not able to move faster if he wanted to, so one girl complained, “You’re cutting into our practice time!”

            “You know, you could help and make it go quicker!” Fletcher pointed out with irritation.

            “I… That looks like so much work!” the girl whined.

            Fletcher gritted his teeth at her response, and then Phoebe and I volunteered to assist him. I noticed quite a bit of damp spots, so I conversed, “Man, you really had these kids working up a sweat!”

            As we finished up with the mats, Fletcher leaned against the bleachers and breathily told me, “Hopefully that’s all it is!” Phoebe and I made grossed out faces, and after we wiped our hands onto our clothes, I handed him one of the papers. “Thanks! Looking forward to it!” He did not convey any tone of truth to that! As we left, we heard him get hit in the head with a ball, and he grumbled, “Really? You made the team with an aim like that?” He didn’t appear to have gotten hurt, so Phoebe and I shrugged at each other and exited the building.

            Even though we were in the math corridor, I still expected the Barbie doll to be a cheerleading coach or some kind of motivational speaker, so it surprised me to walk into an algebra class! At first, I thought perhaps she just borrowed the room, but then I saw her name on the whiteboard (Ms. Ziven) matched the grading she did on the schoolwork in front of her! She mumbled to herself, “Is that a three or an eight? Oh well, either way, it’s wrong!” She glanced up and saw the puzzled expression on my face, so she queried, “What?”

            “Oh, I just wasn’t expecting to see you teaching this subject,” I relayed to her, and based on her reaction, I knew I had phrased that completely wrong!

            “Oh, just because I’m feminine, I can’t also be smart?” she raged. I felt appalled that she had interpreted my words in that way! Math tended to be a cold and calculating topic, and with her bubbly and sweet personality, it just threw me off to see this as something she’d enjoy! Before I got the opportunity to explain any of that to her, she stood up and railed me, “Just because I dress and act in a certain way doesn’t mean I’m not intelligent too! Or do you just think women don’t belong in the STEM field?”

            Now I felt mortified! I certainly had no misogynistic tendencies that would lead me into thinking like that! I also had no idea what STEM stood for, but I didn’t prioritize that inquiry at the moment- I wanted to make it perfectly clear that I did not have the viewpoint that she accused me of! “Oh, no, no, no! I-.”

            She then cited from memory, “The fundamental theorem of calculus states that one can connect differentiating a function with integrating a function. The first part says that one of the antiderivatives, or indefinite integral, like F may be derived as the result of the integral of F with a valuable bound of integration, implying that the antiderivatives for continuous functions do exist…” My brain went all fuzzy! I had no clue what she was talking about, so I could only assume that what she laid out just now was correct. “Shall I go on?”

            “No! Please! I believe you!” I didn’t know how long this theorem was, but my head couldn’t stand another second of that! I handed her my contact information, and since I needed her fury to ebb so she would help with the vampire issue, I buttered her up a bit, “I’m so glad someone with your pedigree of knowledge is willing to help a jerk like me, who only went up to Geometry and barely got a C!” She seemed pleased with my obsequiousness and accepted the paper I handed her.

            “See you later, Ginger!” Phoebe regarded her. I considered cracking some humor about her name being Ginger while she did not have any red hair, but I deemed that it wasn’t a good time to say that, so I bit my tongue and followed Phoebe out of the room.

            The short man had a huge classroom with science posters all over the walls and small aquariums with little snakes on top of his shelves. I wasn’t a big fan of snakes, which I didn’t find as scary as blood but still kind of got freaked out by it, so as he finished up on his computer, I looked around the room for something else to focus on. I spotted a bust of a handsome gentleman, so I wondered, “Is that Billy Squier?”

            Still glued to his screen, the short man filled me in, “It’s supposed to be Isaac Newton, but apparently Roxy thought he wasn’t attractive, so she made him look like Timothy Chalamet.”

            I bemused myself with that notion as he turned off his device, and as he wrapped things up, I handed him my contact information and thanked him, “I really appreciate your assistance with this, Mister…”

            “Thales ,but call me Aleck.” He frowned at my paper, and then he disclosed to me, “Listen, I’m willing to investigate what happened to those kids, but I’m not on board with the whole vampire thing! Bloodsuckers exist in nature, but there’s nothing that would chemically alter another being just from collecting this sustenance! Like, fleas don’t turn dogs into insects, right? And it’s physically impossible for a person to morph into another creature whether it’s a bat or wolf or whatever. I’m not sure what you saw out there, but I do know there has to be another…” As Aleck locked up his classroom door, Damon strolled by! He gave us all chills, and it made Aleck pause in his steps! Once Damon had gone out of earshot, Aleck exclaimed, “That dude’s a vampire!”

            “See?” I responded with a feeling of vindication.

            Aleck shook his head and then reported to me, “I just gotta stop by my house for a minute, and I’ll be right there.”

            I agreed to those terms as the three of us headed to the back of the school where the staff parked. It felt a little strange to have company in this area since I was usually the first teacher to leave! Aleck walked to his beat-up car that was outdated by at least twenty years, and he gawked at my luxury vehicle that I approached, “That’s your car? I thoguth the superintendent was visiting us or something!”

            I gave him a sheepish shrug and inwardly debated whether or not I should consider downgrading to blend in more. Phoebe drove by me in her cute little sedan, and she taunted me, “Looks like I’m gonna beat you there!”

            My competitive edge instantly kicked in! “Oh no you’re not!”

            I did some pretty reckless maneuvers in an effort to gain an advantage over the time she had over me, which, in hindsight, was pretty dumb! If I had gotten into a car accident just trying to win this race, then I wouldn’t’ have been able to help Damon’s potential victims! It turned out that I had done all that for no reason because she had to make a quick detour before coming to my house! Oh well! I refilled my cat’s food, and it surprised me that she hadn’t come to eat it right away, so I called out to her, “Jett! Jett! Jett!”

            A helicopter just happened to pass over the neighborhood at the same instance that I had spoken, so the guy next door corrected me, “No, that’s a chopper!”

            I wanted to say something sardonic back to him, but Ellie arrived and parked by my house. Ginger came next, and then Phoebe pulled up right after her. Oh, how I wished that Phoebe had come before the rest so I could have some alone time with her! I pondered why I had thought that, but an answer never surfaced as the remaining guests showed up. It almost appeared as though I were having a party, but with the grim expressions on everyone’s faces, it was apparent we weren’t in a festive mood! My neighbor seemed perplexed, but I ignored him. After everybody got themselves situated, I suddenly grew nervous just imagining what we might find across the street! I tried to convey confidence as I addressed the group though, “So, you guys ready for this?” I didn’t come across as very brave, but luckily, no one faulted me for it since they were equally as terrified! “Well, let’s do this!”

            I prepared myself to walk over, and everyone but Aleck was about to do the same. Aleck, however, piped up, “I have an idea!”

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 6

“Hey babe! Sorry I didn’t call yesterday!” I spoke into my cellphone as I speedily tried to find the cat food aisle in the grocery store in my neighborhood. “I just…” I found the right spot, but since someone was stocking a nearby shelf, I didn’t want to mention my vampire encounter. Frankly, even though I tended to tell Lilith everything, I didn’t think it would be a good idea to share that with her! I guessed that she wouldn’t come back to me if she thought I was losing my mind, so even though it felt weird to lie to her, I decided to keep that a secret from her. “… I just fell asleep early last night.” That wasn’t a completely fib, I did fall asleep in the living room for a while! “Work is going well, the kids are really into the subject now! Oh, I…” The voicemail cut me off, so I redialed and continued to leave a message as soon as I reached her voicemail again, “… I decided to store all of our old furniture at my house instead of paying for storage, so if you want any of it, you can come get it. Or if you’d like to stay, it’ll look familiar! Well, I gotta run an errand before work, so I better go! I love-.” It cut me off again, so I just shrugged it off as I put my phone away.

            The stocker had been giving me a peculiar stare, but as soon as he noticed that I saw him, he quickly returned to his work. I turned my attention to the wall of cat food in front of me, and my brain went blank! I had no clue that they made so many different kinds of it! I had no idea what the best brand was! I know my mom had a kitty when I was young, but I didn’t see it on there, so I was pretty sure it got discontinued. The stocker could probably sense my confusion since he asked me, “Can I help you find something?”

            “Yeah, I don’t usually buy this stuff, so I’m a little lost on what to get right now,” I answered him.

            He inquired, “What did you feed your cat before?”

            I replied, “Chinese food.” He gave me another funny look, and between that and the phone call, he probably thought I was totally demented! I’m really glad I didn’t mention the vampire thing! I clarified for him, “She’s a stray, I just adopted her last night.”

            “Oh, okay!” He seemed a lot more agreeable after I disclosed that detail. “Well, if she was living outside, you might wanna get this outdoor formula one for now. When you take her to the vet, you can always get their recommendation for what to use in the future.”

            “She’s not sick, so that probably won’t be anytime soon,” I stated as I picked up the twenty pound bag.

            The stocker grew alarmed by that. “You have to get her checked out! Outside cats often carry diseases like mange, worms, or-.”

            I’m not sure why he wanted to give me a long-winded explanation when I was carrying something heavy! Plus, I didn’t need the mental picture of Jett with worms inside of her! I didn’t mean to be rude, but I just had to interrupt him, “Great! I’ll get right on that!”

            I could tell he had more to discuss with me, but I turned around and headed towards the registers. I ran into the produce section first, and there just happened to be a display of garlic nearby. In my head, I joked that I should get one to keep Damon away from me, but within seconds I no longer found that funny! Even though he hadn’t shown any signs of aggression towards me, I knew it wouldn’t take long until he realized that my knowledge of the situation was detrimental towards his plans. Eventually, I felt sure that he would come after me, but not if I had a vampire repellant with me! I grabbed a clove, and I wished I had gotten a shopping cart as I headed towards the check-out stands.

            As I headed out of the house, I put a bowl of food on the front porch, and by bowl, I mean a small storage container. As Jett happily ate her food, I made an internal note to buy her a real kitty bowl. A part of me felt uncomfortable sending her outside again since I feared what could have been lurking in that house across the street, but she was very persistent. I reasoned that Damon would be at school, so she’d probably be fine. As I went to my car, something sprang out of that abandoned house, and my heart nearly leapt out of my chest! For a minute, I worried that he had sprung out for an attack, but then I saw a bat flying in the direction of the school. It never occurred to me as to how he got to campus before, but if I had tried to predict it, I wouldn’t have put my money on him flying there! I found it bizarre that he flew to get to class, and as I got into my vehicle, I wondered something… If he could still make it there, why couldn’t his victims also go back?

            Another student went missing from my first period class. I was glad that the class had their Hamlet test that day because I could hardly concentrate! Every day, more and more kids were disappearing, and I knew I had to do something about it, but I didn’t have the foggiest notion on any actions I could take to stop Damon! During third period, I watched him fill out his responses, and I didn’t see any hints as to how he communicated with his victims. As far as I could tell, he pretty much kept to himself. I saw him talk to a student for the first time that day, but he just requested that they hand in his paper since he could smell garlic on me and he was “allergic.” I supposed that was technically true, but it didn’t seem like a totally fitting description of garlic’s effect on vampires! As he headed to lunch, a part of me wished I could have held him back. I felt uneasy with him going out there and possibly recruiting his next victim, and it bugged me that I felt so helpless to block him from committing those atrocities!

            I heated up my leftover Chinese food (not anything that Jett touched), and I could hear the eclectic teachers chatting behind me. I didn’t pay much attention to them, I had too much to think about to care about what they were saying, but that changed when Phoebe walked in! She had that same warm aura around her, and her perfume smelled so good! But she looked so sad, and it greatly concerned me that something had hurt her! I had hoped that she still didn’t feel upset about our little spat, and as I sat down, I listened in and prayed that wasn’t the case. The girly girl queried to her, “What’s wrong?”

            “Steve is missing!” she revealed. “He’s the fourth one to disappear in the last few days! I’m used to kids being absent from time to time, but these children are just gone! I’m not used to so many police officers coming by trying to find our students! Something scary is going on here! Someone is going after them! I just wish I knew why so I could end this horrible thing!”

            “I know what to do!” I abruptly put in. They all seemed that I had so unexpectedly joined their conversation, and given my prior history with them all, I wouldn’t have normally bothered, but I couldn’t help myself this time! I couldn’t listen to the pain in Phoebe’s voice and do nothing! “Well, that’s a lie. I have no idea what to do, but I know where to look!”

            Everyone but Phoebe had an expression of mistrust on their faces, and the man in the gym clothes grilled me, “And why should we listen to you? Would saving these kids win back your ex? What made you suddenly start caring?”

            The girly girl crinkled her nose at me. “And why do you smell like garlic?”

            “Hey, I know we got off on the wrong foot,” I tried to entreat them, “but I think-.”

            “You think?” the short guy sneered. “We need facts in this scenario, not just random opinions!”

            The older lady challenged me, “What makes you believe we’d even want your help after how you treated Phoebe? Just go back and eat your lunch! We’ll figure this out ourselves!”

            I knew I created some hard feelings with those teachers, but I was a little surprised by their aggressive reaction! It also really hurt that they weren’t willing to hear me out when I only meant to help them! “Okay, fine! Sorry I tried to lend a hand! I just thought you cared about the safety of your students!”

            I had already mentally prepared myself to deal with it on my own when Phoebe grabbed my arm, prompting me to freeze. Despite my wounded emotions, I got a thrill from her touch! Her warmth and softness almost made me forget my troubles until she started talking and brought me back to Earth again, “Wait! Shouldn’t we at least hear what he has to say?”

            A rush of gratitude swept through me when she said that! She should have been the angriest of all, but she stuck up for me! I thought that if she could forgive me, they should too since they were outraged on her behalf. Evidently, they saw it that way too because they reluctantly allowed me to join them. “Go ahead,” the girly girl bade me.

            “Well…” I considered blurting out that this haunted house held a growing number of vampires, but I realized how insane that would have sounded to them, so, to earn their trust, I needed to slowly easy into it. “A few days ago, I saw Corvina walking around my neighborhood, and Damon attacked her! She fell to the ground all limp, so I called the police.” I left out the part where I threw up and fainted. I mean, if I could pretend that didn’t occur, then why not? “When the police came, she acted like she was fine and nothing went on, but then, the next day, she didn’t show up to class! Then more and more kids started going missing too, and I’m sure Damon did the same thing to them!”

            “How do you know?” the short guy probed. “Maybe it was just a coincidence.”

            This is the part I felt sure I’d lose them! It was the truth, but I had trouble buying into still, so why wouldn’t’ they all feel the same way? Still, I had to tell them sometime, so I forced myself to get it over with, “Damon’s fangs grew, and he sucked a bunch of blood out of Corvina’s neck! But he’s not just some kind of weird cannibal! When she reemerged, her mouth had grown bigger! Then, I know this’ll sound wild, but I saw them turn into bats! Yes, it’s an absolutely crazy thing to hear, but I swear, I’m being honest! Damon is turning our students into vampires!” They all gawked at me in total disbelief, and after a moment of stunned silence, I questioned them, “You all wanna have me committed, don’t you?”

            The older lady commented, “Actually, I was gonna say I want whatever you’re smoking!”

            “I wish I was high!” When those words came out of my mouth, I immediately corrected myself, “That’s not what I meant! I don’t want drugs; I just wish I had hallucinated that whole situation! I denied it for so long! Everyone tried to warn me about that creepy house across the street, but I wouldn’t listen! Now that that all this happened, I-.”

            “Wait, is this creepy house on the cul-du-sac on Dusk Lily Lane?” the guy in gym shorts wanted to know.

            I confirmed, “Yeah. Does everyone in Terrible, I mean, Terra Belle know about that house?” The guy in gym shorts nodded with wide eyes, and everyone else looked disturbed at that concept, so I threw in another detail for them, “Damon came out of that house. Wait, do you all have Damon in your class? I just assumed that everyone knew about him since he’s so strange…”

            The girly girl remarked, “Yeah, we have him in our classes too.”

            “I have to cover a poster of the circulatory system before fifth period ‘cause he’s always drooling over it,” the short man let me know.

            “He refuses to put on his P.E. uniform,” the guy in gym shorts recalled. “He goes through a lot of trouble to act like a vampire, but I never thought he was a real one!”

            He didn’t seem totally convinced, but I felt relieved that they were at least considering my claims! I hoped that I could get them completely on board so that we could come up with a plan since I think I made it pretty clear that I was clueless on what to do. The older lady turned to Phoebe with an overly skeptical tone, and she posed to her, “What do you think?”

            Phoebe mulled the issue over, and my body got filled with apprehension! The fact that she hadn’t dismissed my story right away bode well for me, so I just crossed my fingers that she would come to my side on this! My anticipation had mounted at its highest when she finally spoke up, “You called the police?” I nodded. It wasn’t the reply I had been expecting, but I held my breath that perhaps this acknowledgement would lead to something positive for my cause.! “So, there’s a record out there that she got attacked before she disappeared! Connor may have been the last one to see her again!”

            The short man asked Phoebe, “So, you’re saying you buy into this whole vampire theory?”

            Phoebe answered him, “I’m saying that whatever happened to Corvina started out there! Have you talked to any detectives about this?”

            “No. The police thought I lost my mind before they dismissed me, so I doubt any detectives would wanna talk to me,” I relayed to her.

            “If no one heard from Corvina again after that incident, then the detectives should be searching there for clues!” the girly girl conjectured.

            I denied that, “They’re not! Everyone refused to set foot on that property!”

            The man in gym shorts opined, “I don’t blame them! I wouldn’t touch that place with a ten foot pole!”

            Phoebe asserted, “I’m sorry to hear you say that! ‘Cause if the police aren’t looking there, then we’ll have to do it ourselves!”