"Sh*t!" Cooper cried, prying the driver's door open and falling right out of his seat onto the concrete below. From inside, the others could hear what sounded like a fluttering of massive wings. The van shook violently as Cooper circled it, shouting randomly.
"Siugnas reup!" Roared a deep, booming voice that seemed to come from everywhere at once. "Retarf ni menoitidorp!"
"Oh, Jesus!" Gregg screamed, pulling one of the amps over himself for protection. The van suddenly lurched to one side, and from the inertia, Gregg could tell the van was now hanging on two wheels, defying the pull of gravity for a brief moment before it lunged back down onto four wheels. The three in the back of the van crashed harshly into the metal walls.
Unsure of the condition of the others, Alex looked down at his seatbelt, thankful that it had kept him safely in place. Breathing heavily as the van still shook, he quickly slammed his open palm into the radio, finally silencing "Jumpin' Jack Flash's" riff. Alex could still hear Cooper screaming outside. Panicking, Alex pulled open the glove compartment and began sifting through the myriad of papers inside. Finally, his fingers closed around the aged envelope, and he ripped it from the glove compartment. Tearing it open, he quickly flung its contents all over the cargo area of the van, and over himself.
Just as suddenly as the chaos had begun, it ended. The van's rocking ceased, and all went silent. Now panting, Alex gave a sigh of relief. Cooper, oddly calm, slid back into the driver's seat. He took a deep breath and let loose a strange howl.
"Everybody cool?" Cooper asked, grinning like a madman.
"Jesus, dude." Alex gasped, grasping his chest dramatically. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw the rest of the guys slowly push the fallen equipment off of themselves. Gregg snarled and brushed the white powder off him.
"Salt?" Gregg laughed, sounding unnerved. "Really?"
"For our safety." Alex explained, trying to catch his breath.
"Okay, from now on," called Stephen from beneath a mountain of boxes, "we don't listen to the radio in the van."
"Or ever again." Bobby concluded.
Kneeling on the top of the van the next afternoon, Stephen had no choice but to be impressed. He ran his hand along the scratches in the roof's paint, examining the odd three pronged marks that ran along the roof. He gave an exasperated grunt and turned his head to look down at Bobby.
"Really did a number on us this time," said Stephen, sounding very tired from the previous night's scare.
"You're tellin' me, dude," replied Bobby as he handed a bucket of white paint up to Stephen, who pried open the lid with his keys. "No more radio," Stephen muttered.
"We won't need to worry," replied Bobby, tossing Stephen a fresh paintbrush, "I took it out."
"Good," concluded Stephen, dipping the brush into the paint and letting the excess drip off. As he pressed the brush to the metal surface of the damaged roof, he noticed the little bits of burned paint strip off as he swiped the brush over. He slowly dropped the brush into the paint bucket and carefully plucked a piece of the burned paint from the metal. Examining it closely, he began to grind the paint into a fine black dust that the wind soon blew from his fingers. Caught on the wind, the powder flew away, back to the earth from where it came.
Tapping. For the third night in a row, there was tapping at the window in the living room. It had interrupted Gregg's personal reading time all three times, and now, it was really growing on his nerves. The sun had set hours prior, and Gregg often looked forward to his alone time: a book, a tall glass of milk, and the comforting sound of a rainstorm raging outside.. But then again, most time meant alone time to him.
Reclined in his red velvet chair, Gregg looked up from his copy of the Works of Edgar Allan Poe with disdain. The tapping was much louder than it had been the previous two nights. It seemed to have a sense of urgency this time. Frustrated and curious, Gregg closed his book and stood, placing the book on the cushion of the chair. He sighed deeply and stretched his arms a bit while grunting. As he walked over to the curtained window, he highly expected the source to be a misguided bird.
But when he opened the blood red curtains, he discovered not a bird pecking at his window, but rather a horrific face, twisted and distorted with large white teeth staring in at him, a slender hand ending in a pale, talon-like hand tipped with claw-like nails tapping at his window.
Gregg recoiled in horror, tripping over the upright lamp, sending both him and the lamp crashing to the ground. The light in the room went dark, and Gregg fumbled in the inky black for the lamp's switch.
"Let me in, man," said a voice, quavering a bit, "it's raining cats and dogs out here."
"What?" whispered Gregg aloud in the dark. Finally, his hand caught the lamp switch and light flooded back into the room, illuminating the pale figure in the window. Gregg, now more aware of the moment, glanced back at the face, which now seemed much less horrific than before. The pale, gaunt face staring back at him now looked much more human and feminine, with large blue eyes and a small nose. Gregg scrambled to his feet, attempting to compose himself.
Catching the girl's eye, he slowly raised the window just enough to be able to hear his midnight visitor more clearly.
"What is this?" Gregg asked tentatively, watching the girl's pure black hair blow in the gentle wind of the evening.
"What is what?" the girl responded. "It's raining and all that. I just need some shelter."
"But at midnight? Can't you use a door?" Gregg sighed, opening the window fully. "Fine. Whatever. You can use my phone or whatever."
There was a long pause as Gregg stood aside to let the girl in, but the thin figure did not move. She simply stayed in one place. But it was at that moment that Gregg realized the window he had just opened was on the second floor, with no means of standing on a ledge. Looking past the girl, Gregg discovered the meaning: she was floating in mid-air.
"Ohuh. Aren't you going to come in?" Gregg asked, taking a small step away from the open window. The girl didn't budge.
"You're gonna need to uh, invite me in first," the girl whimpered slightly, awkwardly tapping her fingers together, looking rather embarrassed.
"You're one of them, aren't you?"
"What gave it away?" the girl asked sarcastically, gesturing to her entire self. Her soggy red sweater sagged around her wrists oddly, giving her the appearance of a drowned cat. She was now shivering in her grayish skin.
"The floating," Gregg pointed out, looking down at the girl's Converse, which were tucked neatly up near her butt, as if she were sitting on her knees.
"I figured," the girl sighed. "So can I come in or not?"
"Not in the mind to let unholy creatures into my house at night. You'll suck me dry before I can say "bleh.""
"Oh, please. The whole blood thing is so two hundred years ago," the girl snorted, waving her hand dismissively.
"Really," said the girl. She then pointed to Gregg's tall glass of milk, still sitting on his end table. "I go more for milk now. It's not really the same, but it does cure the hunger."
"Alright," muttered Gregg, walking over to the end table and retrieving the milk. Upon reaching the window, he hesitantly handed it to his midnight guest, who quickly gulped it all down and handed him back the glass.
"That was great. I've been starving."
"Alright, fine. You can come in." Gregg said after a moment's thought.
"You have to address me by name. Compulsion," the girl explained in a soft, lilting sort of voice.
"What's your name, then?"
"Technically, Sala'ill Naig Mannchum." The girl explained. Then, after an awkward silence: "I go by Selina nowadays. Things have changed a lot."
"okay, come on in, Selina."
And with Gregg's permission, Selina heartily leaped headfirst through the window, landing on her hands and doing a quick cartwheel onto her feet. She cheered triumphantly, her clothes dripping onto the wonderful beige carpet.
"What the hell are you doing in a town like Ganton?" Gregg asked, closing the window behind her.
"Traveling," explained Selina curtly, smiling warmly at Gregg and revealing her perfectly sharp pair of fangs.
"Traveling?" Gregg asked, walking around her, as if to examine her. She was tall and lanky, with nearly waist-length, raven black hair with bits of bright red highlights threaded in for appeal. She was oddly thin, but not unattractive. Her gray, almost sickly looking skin gleamed slightly in the room's light, revealing no pox marks or scars in her flesh, minus two small holes on the side of her neck. "Bull. People like you don't just travel. You're after something."
"Not in particular, no." Selina responded, crossing her arms defensively. She began to walk around the wide room, if only to escape Gregg's studious eyes. "I just like to move around."
"And you automatically assumed I'd be accepting ofyour kind?" questioned the still-studious Gregg.
"You sound racist when you say it like that," replied Selina sadly, hanging her head.
"I guess I just had to hope. I've been tapping at your window for a few nights now."
"I'm aware." Gregg sighed, glancing over at his book, which was still sitting on the chair cushion.
"I managed to catch a few glimpses of you as you went to bed. I figured you seemed nice enoughyou're awful young to be living on your own, aren't you?"
"I'll be eighteen next month," explained Gregg. "And I'm independent in the eyes of the law. I live on my own."
"Pay for this house yourself?" Selina snickered.
"My parents died in a car crash last winter. This house, and our assets, went to me. I had a damn good lawyer." Gregg explained in monotone, as if he had explained it a million times before. "I'm more than capable of taking care of myself."
"Seems it," Selina agreed. "I mean, you seem pretty intelligent."
"What about you?" asked Gregg.
"IQ? Gee, I dunno. 100?"
"No," Gregg scoffed. "How old are you?"
"I lost count at a thousand," Selina laughed, counting for a moment on her fingers. "But that was a few decades ago."
"You don't look a day over twenty." Gregg assured her.
"I was nineteen when I wasturned." Selina explained, walking over to Gregg's end table and opening the drawer. She whistled a bit as she rifled through his knick-knacks. She had often found a sort of sick pleasure in discovering and learning about others' keepsakes. Gregg didn't seem to mind, but instead watched closely as she giggled and dug deeper into his secrets.
"So what can I even do for you?" Gregg asked, sounding a bit bored.
"Well," Selina began, opening a small vial she found in the drawer. A pungent odor emerged, and she quickly re-capped the vial. "I used to live here a long time ago. I know you own the deed and everything, but I was hoping you'd let me chill out here for a while."
"Why?" Gregg asked, folding his arms defiantly. "What's your agenda?"
"No agenda," Selina smiled. "Just looking for a place to crash for a while. Let's just say my last digs didn't exactly work out."
"Fine," Gregg sighed, giving up. He usually hated company, but Selina seemed different, aside from her obvious condition. There was something about her that drew him in. He was curious to learn more about her. "But just for a while."
"Don't worry. I'll pull my own." Selina promised, grabbing an envelope from the drawer. She turned it over in her hands, and upon seeing Gregg's name on the return address, laughed aloud.
"Oh, wow. You're Gregg Collins?" she asked, stifling a further giggle.
"What of it?"
Selina turned to face him, her big blues eyes locked on his. She smiled, revealing her gleaming white teeth once more. There was a sort of malicious, joyous glee in her smile.
"You and your friends are pretty well-known around town."
"Why the hell would you even call me here?" Alex asked, closing the front door behind him. The living room was cold, as if a separate winter had occurred in only one room. There was a rancid smell throughout the small house, like rotten eggs mixed with bodily gasses.
"I need to tell you something," Clarissa replied, biting her bottom lip nervously. She strolled through the rancid smell in the living room and into the kitchen, with Alex right on her heels.
"What is it?" asked Alex, sounding just as nervous.
"Something bad," replied Clarissa as she closed the blinds to the only window in the kitchen. Outside, the night stared back at her with unseen eyes. She took in a deep breath and turned back to Alex.
"There's been a change," she said quietly, as if worrying someone else was listening to them.
"A change?" Alex repeated, circling the girl anxiously.
"I have new orders."
Alex's eyes went wide. His mouth was left agape for a moment as Clarissa tried to catch her breath. Her pale hand swept her bangs out of her face as tears began to form in her somber eyes.
"He told me to"
But Alex knew exactly what she was going to say, even before she said it. He began to groan in anguish.
"To do you."