In the quiet suburb of Hamilton Heights, everything was peaceful, and nothing was suspicious. The cars that puttered around the neighborhood did so in a slow, responsible manner, and were always driven by familiar faces. The houses that lined the perfectly manicured front lawns were all colonials, painted with sensible, muted colors that didn’t detract from the beautiful uniformity of the others.
That pervasive ‘Keeping up with the Jones’ mentality that had dominated most American cul-de-sacs since the 1950’s never managed to take root there. Instead of competition, there was community, and everyone who called that little piece of suburbia home felt that they were a part something truly special. That is the way it had always been in Hamilton Heights, and the way it would remain, at least until that demon disguised as a man arrived and ruined it all.
But I don’t know that, well, not yet at least. In the beginning of this sordid story, I was as ignorant as the rest of the town, just another fool with kind intent just begging to be deceived. Instead of boring you any further with the wonderful mundanity of the time before he made his presence known, let us go back to the day I first encountered this cruel creature, the day I came face to face with the devil himself...
I stand outside of the modest 2-story colonial that’s just next door to my own. With a smile on my face, a fresh banana pudding tucked beneath my arm, I walk up the front steps of the house to welcome my new neighbor to the quiet suburb of Hamilton Heights, where everything is peaceful, and nothing is suspicious.
As I knock, the front door opens slightly from the pressure of my knuckles, revealing a dark foyer hiding behind it. It’s a disconcerting occurrence, but I quickly rationalize that worry away. The door must’ve been ajar before I knocked, that’s all. Unable to garner any information by simply peeking into the darkened entrance, I cautiously take a step forward for a better look.
“Hello? Is anybody home?” I call out while pushing the door open further. After waiting a moment for a response, I continue inside. Looking around the bare room, the only items I’m able to make out is a pair of cardboard boxes in the far corner. There is a strange smell wafting through the air, a stagnant scent of earth and decay. Several windows on the lower floor that have been boarded-up, leaving only tiny streaks of light to pierce the blanket of darkness covering the house’s interior.
Glancing out of one the small spaces between the boards, I see the moving truck that had pulled in earlier in the day is still parked in the driveway, so unless the new neighbor can turn into a bat or something, then they have to be home. A quiet bump in another room causes my heart rate to skyrocket, a stark reminder that I’m not supposed to be in here.
“Hello?” I call out again. Still nothing. “I’m Gail, I live next door. I brought over a little welcome gift for you.” I say into the ether.
After peering hard into the darkness of the next room, I recognize a few of the featureless shapes lurking within it and grow confident that it is the kitchen. The sudden movement from behind causes me to spin on my heels; thankfully, it’s just a trick of the light from the setting sun and I relax once again. I sure am jumpy today.
I figure I might as well leave the dish in the fridge to keep it from spoiling in case no one is home, so I press ahead into the kitchen with a few tentative steps. Even though my eyes have adjusted to the low level of light, I still can’t make out where the fridge is, so I reach over to where the wall seems to be and feel around for a light switch.
I grab daftly at the air for a moment before my hand finally finds purchase on a surface, but what I am touching is neither switch nor wall. It’s warm, and feels like...like skin, human skin. I begin to scream, but a leathery hand reaches out and covers my mouth, stifling me completely. The Pyrex dish slips from my grasp and collides with the tile floor, sending pudding flying everywhere. I hear a sharp flick, and a dim set of bulbs begin to come alive overhead, and I’m able to get a good look at my attacker’s ghoulish face.
The man is only a head or so taller than me, and is nearly as wide as he is tall. His face is covered in a wild bush of a beard, and what pale patches are visible is flush with red. I’m not able to get a good look at the rest of him, but what I can make out is that he’s wearing a worn brown duster. As my eyes met his, I let out another yelp against his calloused palm. He has eyepatch over his left eye, and his one visible eye is so yellowed and bloodshot that it obfuscates the color of his iris almost entirely.
“Oh God, please don’t turn me into a lamp, mister!” I try to say, but my plea is muffled almost entirely by the brute’s massive paw. His filthy hands reek of garlic, if I weren’t already crying it would’ve easily made my eyes water on the stench alone.
“Oi, lass! Calm down now,” the man says in a harsh whisper. His Irish accent is so thick it comes off as a caricature. “I’m not goin' to hurt ye, but you cannot go screaming your little head off, alright? You’ll awaken him.”
I cease my squirming and listen intently. I’m still scared, but I’m more curious.
“Okay, I’m goin' to let go now. Just promise me yer not goin' start screeching.”
I give a timid nod, and step away as soon as he moves his hand off of me.
“What the hell is going on?” I say, slightly louder than I intended.
“Shhh! Quiet lassie,” the man hissed. “Remember what I said.”
“Fine,” I whisper loudly, crossing my arms over my chest.
“Look, ma’am. I’m normally not so blunt but yer snoopin' has cost me precious time, we need to get outta here right now, the night is almost upon us.”
“What are you talking about?” I say. “You’re crazy.”
“I can see how I might come off that way. Just—here, take this card and call me as soon as ye get to safety, okay? I promise to explain everythin'.”
He produces a crinkled business card from the inner pocket of his jacket and jams it into my hand. I smooth the face of the card out so the text more legible and read it. Professor Eddie Van Helsing, Vampire Hunter/Scuba Enthusiast.
Confused, I look up, but the man is already gone. I lean over so I can see out of the kitchen doorway and see the squat man high-tailing it out of the house, bounding down the front porch and into the front yard.
“What a weirdo,” I say to myself before stuffing the card into my back pocket.
While his warning was ringing fresh in my mind, I also couldn’t bear to leave mess for my new neighbor. I quickly scooped up the shards of glass and pudding and tossed it into a nearby trashcan, then wipe up the remaining residue with a roll of paper towels that are sitting on the small island in the middle of the kitchen.
After trashing the soiled paper towels and washing my hands, I feel a cold chill ripple across the entirety of my body. The small hairs on my forearms stand rigid in congress with the hairs on the nape of my neck as a feeling of dread wells up inside of me. I’ve got to get out of here.
Within a moment, I am out of the house, closing the door tightly behind me as I make a beeline across the yard to my own house. Glancing behind me, I notice the moving truck is no longer in the driveway. Was Eddie driving it then? I put my pondering to the side until I’m safely behind the confines of my own front door.
Before locking the doorknob, I look out of the peep hole and breathe a sigh of relief when I don’t see any monsters following behind me. I don’t see much of anything at all to be honest, save for the outline of my porch swing. The sun has set all the way now. Some creature could very well be lurking outside right this very moment, shrouded by the cover of night. I quickly reach over and turn on my porchlight and check again. Now I’m sure that there’s nothing there.
With my wife Tessa gone on her expedition with her research team, I’m all alone here, so I figure I may as well go to bed. Before adjourning upstairs to my bedroom, I give the brass knob a couple of good tugs to make sure it's really locked.
As I enter the bedroom, I sit down on the burgundy loveseat near my queen-sized bed and cradle my head in my hands. My thoughts abound with fears of what could be lurking around outside, or right next door even. The rosy wallpaper, which usually brings me such comfort has no effect on my mood. I look over at the portrait of my loving parents that hangs on the wall across from me, and I don’t know why, but it seems like they’re following me with distrusting eyes. Watching, unblinking. I stand back up and step away from the painting, before getting very annoyed at myself. My parents are great, so why am thinking like this? So what if the eyes seem like they're following you, it's just an illusion. Or is that delusion? It feels like I've been infected with paranoia.
A knock at the door snaps me back to reality.
I stand back up and adjust my blouse before I go downstairs. Is it the police? Maybe it’s Eddie Van Helsing coming to silence me for stumbling upon the scene of his crime. Another series of knocks forces me to quicken my pace as I rush to the front door.
I take a second to look through the peephole and see a pale, well-dressed man in a long, black pea coat standing on my front porch. He is thin, with a handsome face, despite its angular features. His eyes are strikingly blue, bordering on white. The question remains: who on earth is he?
I unlock the door and open it enough to peek my head out.
“Can I help you?” I ask. It’s hard to keep my voice from wavering a little, especially after the night I’ve had.
“Good evening Madam,” he says. His accent is soft, but noticeable. I can’t make out what it is, but it adds a sense of nobility to him.
“Pardon me for disturbing you, I was just stopping by to introduce myself. My name is Drake DeVille, I’ve just moved in to the flat next door.”
“Ah, well it’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. DeVille. I’m Gail Torres.”
“Please, call me Drake. The pleasure is all mine.”
“This is going to sound silly, but I actually stopped by earlier to meet you, but there was no one home.” I say.
“Ah, yes. I’m sorry for missing you. I’m a doctor over at Madison Memorial Hospital. The graveyard shift there has really turned me into a creature of the night.”
“Oh, I see. I didn’t mean to disturb you earlier. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.”
“I appreciate it. By the way, have you seen any moving trucks in the area at all? I’m still waiting on the rest of my furniture to be delivered and they were supposed to bring it by earlier today.”
“I saw one in your driveway earlier, that’s actually why I stopped by.”
“That’s odd. Maybe they were pulled away unexpectedly before they could get started. That would explain the trashcan full of glass I woke up to in any case.”
“Oh...that may have been my fault. I’d left a banana pudding for you.” I say.
“Really? How thoughtful! I do love some banana pudding, though I’m rather inept in the kitchen. In medical school I subsisted on an all-ramen diet for years. Would you mind making another? I would compensate you fairly, of course.”
“Ha, sure. That wouldn’t be a problem at all.”
“Well, I suppose I’ll stop bothering you. I’m going to try to find my charging cable so I can plug up my phone and order some take-out.”
Drake pulls out a smartphone from his pocket and gives it an annoyed look.
“You’re no bother at all, if you want you can come in and use my land line. My wife is on the road a lot, so we have plenty of menus in here as well.”
“The offer is very thoughtful, but I must decline, I’ve got quite a bit of work to do getting my house in shape. Let me know about that pudding though, okay?”
“Of course! Will do.”
Drake gives me a friendly wave before leaving when he stops dead in his tracks. He stands there like a stature for what seems like forever before I take a few pensive steps towards him.
“Uh, are you okay? Drake?”
Drake says nothing at first, then slowly turns towards me, blood is pouring down the corners of his mouth. For a brief second my mind screams ‘vampire’, but then I see the sharpened stick jutting out of his chest.
“G--Gail.” Drake reaches a hand out towards me, but it is sliced off clean, and rolls down the wooden steps of the porch before coming to rest on the concrete sidewalk below.
“Oh my God!” I scream before I see him, a wide-eyed Eddie Van Helsing wielding a blood-soaked silver machete,
“Ye shouldn’t have opened the door lassie, not with beasties like this on the prowl.” Eddie says.
“Get inside, quick!” Drake exclaims before trying to tackle Eddie. Eddie slashes the doctor across the throat with his machete, sending a streak of blood across the front of my house and Drake DeVille slamming to the ground.
“No today, vamp.” Eddie says, flicking the blood off of the end of his blade onto my grass.
“What did you just do?!”
“I've just slain me a vampire, lass.” Eddie says, standing proudly over Drake’s twitching body. “By the way, yer looking mighty suspicious, darlin'.”
“You’re crazy!” I yell as I run back inside.
“Ai, well I’m not the one invitin' Dracula into me bloody house! I may be crazy, but yer enthralled. Now I’ve got to deal with ye too.” Eddie says as he starts stomping towards me, his blade still at the ready.
I run inside and slam my door closed, but that moment of peace is short-lived. Eddie’s arm suddenly smashes through a nearby window, sending shards of glass raining everywhere.
“Lucy, I’m home!” Eddie says as enters into the kitchen.
I scramble up the stairs with him right on my heels.
“C’mon lass, let me sanctify you and the vamp’s spell will be broken! Trust me.” Eddie says, his Irish accent is gone now.
“Go to hell!” I yell back as I lock myself in my bedroom.
I construct a makeshift barricade by stacking my vanity and my loveseat against the door to buy me some time, then I quickly dive under the bed. After a moment of searching, I find the small case where Tessa keeps her revolver. I’m scrambling to unlock the case and get ahold of the gun when I look up and see that Eddie is quickly making headway. As he breaks into the room, I have the revolver free from the case and trained on him.
I scream as I squeeze the trigger as many times as I can manage before everything goes black.
When I came to, I was lying in a hospital bed at Madison Memorial Hospital. Soon after a police officer came in and took my statement, then filled in the missing pieces. Eddie Van Helsing, aka Edward Hopkins, survived our encounter somehow and escaped capture. No one ever found the body of Drake DeVille. They don’t know if Eddie managed to double back and hide it before the police arrived, or if an accomplice was involved. Either way, Drake was likely dead. None of the hospital staff I’d met knew him, but I just chalked that up to him being new.
A series of break-ins all across the neighborhood began shortly thereafter, leaving a night-shift stocker and his parents dead, staked in their beds as if they were vampires. People grew terrified and locked themselves inside, trying to stay safe until Edward Hopkins was apprehended. Eventually a decayed corpse believed to be Eddie’s was found floating in a local watering hole, but the hands and the head were missing, so no one believed it was really him.
The community then began turning in on itself. Tess and I were practically run out of town due to some nutjob conspiracy that I was secretly a part of Eddie’s team of vampire hunters. Others followed suit, either by fear or force. Before long, everything that made our suburb so special was gone entirely, Eddie had managed to kill that too.
Hamilton Heights, where nothing is peaceful, and everything is suspicious.