The Night of The Full Moon
There’s blood everywhere. Blood on my shirt, blood on my bed, blood in my mouth. As I scramble out of bed, I hear a thump. I look down and notice a small solid form underneath the sheet. Reaching down with a shaky hand, I uncover the body. It’s Mr. Whiskers. His eyes are wild with fear, his mouth agape, frozen wide as if his last moments were spent in agony, yowling for help. No. I couldn’t have. A single hot tear rolls down my cheek.
It hurts to breathe. I’m panting for air. You don’t have time for this. Mom and Dad will be back any minute now. They’ll freak if they see this. As soon as I strip off my clothes, I throw all the dirty linens into one pile. I run to the kitchen to grab the hefty size trash bag. I pile everything, including Mr. Whiskers, into the bag and double knot it. Next, I run into the bathroom and turn on the shower. Upon catching a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror, I see an inch of hair on what was yesterday, a bald head. I gasp, and then I see them... fangs. Where my canines should be, I have fangs.
“Billy, how many times have I told you not to leave your bike in the driveway?” Mom shouts.
I stick my head in the shower and wipe away the blood before returning to my bedroom and locking the door. I only have a few minutes before mom picks the lock. She’s annoyingly skilled at that. I put on my Spiderman pajamas and open the window. The doorknob rattles.
“Open the door, Billy. I’m not in the mood for this tonight.”
First, I throw down the trash, then I jump out and land on my back. My eyes take a quick second to glance up at my window, then I hightail it out of there. I run as fast as my legs will carry me, my bare feet slapping against the pavement.
Finally, I make it to the park. She’s here, sitting at the bench, back straight as an arrow, waiting. Her ghostly white skin seems to glow under the lantern light. Her dark green dress is like the one’s from the old movies. I throw the trash bag at her feet. Her crimson lips frame a toothy smile, teeth an unnatural white that could shame a Crest commercial.
My eyes water and I try my best to force the tears down. She needs to know that I mean business, that I’m to be taken seriously when I shout, “Hey, I don’t want it, okay? Do you hear me? I want to be ordinary.” Fangs make it hard to speak without a lisp.
She sniffs at the trash bag and giggles.
My face heats. “I don’t want to be a monster like you.”
Her smile falls, and her violet eyes narrow. For a moment, she doesn’t speak. The only sounds are the flapping of moth wings against the lantern light. She picks up gravel rocks from the ground and rolls them in one hand. Her voice is barely a decibel above a whisper, but it’s full of malice when she says, “Swings and roundabouts, Billy. A monster, yes, but a monster that will live forever.” She stands, towering above me like an angel of death, “A monster that is extraordinary.” Then she whips her hand, and the rocks shoot out like buckshot breaking every lantern in the park.
I can barely see her; she’s nowhere to be found. I hear someone’s dog barking from a distance. Then, I feel a rush of wind across my right, and then... Voosh! It’s on my left. Then she’s in front of me, grabbing my torso and lifting me in the air.
“Maybe I’ll change your mind once I remind you how precious life is.”
She looks down. I can’t believe it. I’m about fifty feet in the air, legs dangling. There’s another wicked crimson smile, and she drops me. As I fall, my life flashes before my eyes -- moving to Shadowsville, making friends, getting sick, my parents crying in the garage, losing my hair, fainting at the basketball court, then there’s the day I met HER...
The Lady in Black
I haven’t had butterflies this severe since the first day of school. I can see from the backseat how dad squeezes mom’s hand. Usually, I would’ve rode my bike here, but I made them a deal. I could spend an unsupervised hour with my friends if I promised not to exert myself and to eat the yucky nutritious food mom whipped up.
Negotiations were a bit lopsided if you ask me. I open the van door and get out.
“Honey, your oxygen,” reminds mom, loud enough for anyone within earshot.
I groan inwardly and turn to look at the square device. It was a brand-new design, one attached to straps, more compact than a regular-sized oxygen tank. Mom says it looks inconspicuous. I say it looks like a purse.
“I’m fine,” I say.
“Billy, your doctor says —”
Dad interrupts, “If the boy says he’s fine, he’s fine, Chrissy. Let him have some fun.”
As mom stares daggers at dad, I close the door and make my way to the basketball court. I spot Jamie and Derek with a group of new kids that just moved to Shadowsville. My heart squeezes, remembering the last time we played. I fainted right on the court as I was making my jump shot. Totally humiliating.
I shout, “Hey guys!” They wave to me.
“Hey, Billy. Um, how are you feeling?” Jamie asks, fidgeting with his cornrows.
I’m so tired of people asking me that. “We doing shirts versus skins, l-like last
time?” Say I can play. Please?
Jamie looks at Derek. The new kids stare at me and murmur to themselves in Spanish.
Derek says, “Nah... Just sit this one out, Billy. We got three against three already; if you play, it’ll be an unfair advantage. I want you to give us pointers, help us up our game, cool?” Sweat drips from Derek’s fro to his eyebrow.
I just nod and take a seat on the bleachers. Those new kids can’t block for shit. It was like playing with a couple of kindergarteners. When it becomes unbearable to watch, I turn to see a woman on the other side of the park. She was dressed in an elegant black dress like she’d just been to a funeral. She had on a large black hat and sunglasses. She's staring, and it gives me the creeps.
I return my gaze to the game. A new kid finally lands a shot. How is this even fun for Jamie and Derek? They might as well just play one-on-one. I have to fight the urge to shake my head.
A brisk wind brushes against my skin. A shadow looms over me in the shape of a large brimmed hat. Upon turning around, I find the lady in black sniffing the air as if trying to identify rotten fruit. I’d just started using deodorant. I hope in my hurry to get here, I hadn’t… hey! I was sitting here first. If she doesn’t like how I smell, she can go back to her bench. I'm not in the mood. I'm just about to tell her so when she makes eye contact and smiles. Her hat lifts just a bit from her face, revealing a strange gothic beauty, like a 1950s Morticia Addams. Her lips are ruby red, and her skin is chalky white.
“Hello,” she says. “What’s your name, little boy?”
I bristle at being called little. I lost weight, and I feel puny compared to my friends.
I roll my eyes and say, “I don’t give my name out to strangers, thank you for understanding, and goodbye.”
Instead of getting all huffy, she places a satin gloved hand over her mouth and giggles. Just then, the guys go wild and yell. “Yo, Billy! Did you see that lay-up?” Asks Derek. “Your boys’ got skills.”
My boy has got a big mouth. Leave it to Derek to show off.
“Bill-ly…”, the lady enunciates. “What a cute name. Well, Billy, since I know your name, we’re not strangers anymore.”
“We are still strangers,” I snap. “I don’t know anything about you, and you don’t know anything about me.”
She takes off her glasses, revealing a pair of sparkling violet eyes. Those had to be contacts, right? I’m so transfixed by them that I forget why I'm ticked off.
“I know you’re dying.” She makes a sympathetic sound in the back of her throat.
Her words startle me, but then I remember how I must look to everyone. “Nope. All the kids go around with no hair and eyebrows these days, didn’t you know?”
She giggles again. “You remind me of my son. He was a mouthy one too.”
I’d been called to the principal’s office more times than I can count for mouthing off. At the Fourth of July picnic, aunt Rochelle said I had a temperament only a mother could love. She said that she would rip all her hair out if she had a child like me. Then, I replied, “Aunt Rochelle, I’d prefer the bald look. Then, maybe I wouldn’t have to use what’s left of my lungs breathing in that hairspray you use in that bad 80s haircut. Her over-plucked eyebrows shot up to her forehead, and she smacked me hard across the back of my head. It left a red mark in the shape of fingers. The slap could be heard over the music, over toddlers crying, over the sound of meat sizzling on the grill. Aunt Rochelle was escorted, no, shoved, to the parking lot by mom and never heard from again. Occasionally, being mouthy pays off.
I'm not only intrigued by this lady’s weird eyes, but her laugh—it's like the tinkling of wind chimes. Then, there’s what she doesn’t say— that everything is going to be alright. She simply tells me what I know deep down in my bones is true. I am dying. I return her smile and climb up to her level on the bleacher.
“So, where’s your son now?” I ask.
“He’s no more, Billy. He died right over there.” She points to a street where my parents dropped me off. Silently, she stares at the road for some time as if replaying a movie in her head. Those eyes sparkle, looking even more like amethyst jewels. I don’t know what to say, so I grab hold of her hand and give it a squeeze.
“He was going to be extraordinary, I tell you. Extraordinary! He was bound to be someone the world would have to reckon with. His softball rolled into the street, and he ran for it, and the car hit him. He died instantly."
I cry along with her, unsure if anyone notices. Ordinary. That word plucks at my heart like a pick on a guitar string. Jamie and Derek used to brag about how their best friend would be the next Micheal Jordan. I was that good. I look at my friends. They do their best to include me, but I feel them pulling away.
“I’m just a day late and a dollar short,” I say.
“What?” she asks.
“I won’t ever get to be extraordinary, and there’s nothing I can do about it,” I say, sniffling.
Her face brightens as if a switch has been flipped. “What a wonderful expression!” Her hands flap excitedly. Would you like to know my favorite expression, "Billy?”
“Sure,” I say. Maybe I don’t know anything about her, but I do know she has a serious case of the bat-shit’s.
“Swings and roundabouts, it’s a beautiful British expression that means having something good cancel out the bad. Would you like me to do that for you?
“If you could not only cheat death but become extraordinary, would you?”
“Of course, what sort of dumb question is that?” I'm back to being irritated.
She forgets for the first time to hide her smile, revealing the most enormous and sharpest canines I have ever seen. I try hard to keep my face expressionless and not to stare at her teeth. But, whoa.
“It’s not a dumb question at all. But let me elaborate further. She clears her throat. “What would you sacrifice to cheat death?”
“Anything,” I say.
“Would you sacrifice your friendships?” I turn to look at them; they’re just focused on the game.
“Would you trade in your parents for another pair?”
I stall. “I… I guess?”
“Ah. You’re unsure. Consider what I’ll offer you— strength, speed, agility, better than even Spiderman.”
Did I look like an idiot? “That’s it, I’m leaving.” I’m about to stand when her hand flings faster than a whip. She snatches a fly from the air, hand moving so swiftly that my t-shirt flaps. She opens up her palm and licks it. Ugh, gross.
“Or…” she continues, “you can stay as you are, live a short and ordinary life.”
I don’t like how she accentuates “ordinary” like she knows how it bothers me.
“If you choose to be extraordinary, meet me here at twilight.”
Jamie yells to me, “Billy, we’re about to go to my house and chill, but I don’t think your mom will be down. If she is, come through. Bye.”
There’s More Than One Way to Damage a Heart
The Brussels sprouts on my plate look like tiny green basketballs, ones that I’d like nothing more than to chuck in the garbage. Grandpa looks like he’s about to puke. Dad stealthily returns his back to the platter.
“Billy, eat your vegetables; we had a deal,” mom says.
I swipe the plate so it goes flying towards the trash can. “If you’re so determined to force me, at least learn to cook!”
Mom’s mouth widens, and her eyes crinkle.
“That’s it, son, go to your room,” Dad orders.
My head hangs low as I march to my room. Grandpa comes in moments later and sits beside me. “What’s gotten into you, kid?”
“I will die, and I will never be extraordinary,” I say.
He nods in understanding and asks, “Did you know your great grandfather was extraordinary?”
I shake my head.
“Yeah, he was a shrewd, successful businessman. They called him the king of hostile takeovers.” Grandpa looks at me pensively. “And I called him extraordinarily unkind. He was a terrible father and even worse husband. I believe he killed my mother.”
My eyes grow wide. “He murdered his wife?”
“No, Billy. He hurt her feelings to the point her heart gave out. That’s my theory anyway. There’s more than one way to damage a heart, kid. You remember that next time you go around insulting your mother’s cooking.”
I nod, and he hugs me tightly before saying goodbye.
It’s twilight. Her hat, gloves, and sunglasses are missing. She looks younger now. Her skin was smoother and plump. She bends down to my level and asks, “Are you ready to be extraordinary?” Her fangs are as long as thumbs, and the sight of them causes goose flesh to crawl up my arm.
“Yes,” I say.
“Then drink.” She pulls out an apple juice carton from her pocket. I give her a wary look before taking it.
I take a few sips. “It tastes funny.” It tastes like apple juice, but also metallic and oh... the park starts spinning round and round. I lose my balance and fall. Her laughter invades my eardrums.
The Night of the Full Moon
I hurt everywhere. She stands above me, strands of hair loose from her pins, spilling down her waist like a crimson waterfall. Somehow, my eyes have clarity in the darkness.
“What have you done to me?” I croak
“You’re a transitioning vampire, Billy. To complete the transition and become immortal, you must drink human blood under a full moon. Of course, it’s up to you, but my vote is for drinking one of those new kids you hate so much.”
My heart somersaults. I struggle to sit up, and then I see it. There’s a dedication on the bench. It reads, “In loving memory of Bryan Black, 1948-1958”.
“You’re Mrs. Black?” I ask.
Her eyes snap to attention. “I don’t go by that name anymore. It’s Victoria King now.”
My grandpa’s words replay in my head.
They called him the king of hostile takeovers. I called him extraordinarily unkind.
I understand now what she’s after. But, I cant stop her. I’m as helpless as a flea in the hands of the Hulk. In movies, vampires are killed by some badass wielding a pointy stake.
There’s more than one way to damage a heart, kid.
“You want me to be your adopted son, right?”
She smiles and nods. “I offer everlasting life and happiness.”
“Bullshit! Why are you trying to kidnap a little kid if you’re so happy? You’d be a terrible mother! You’re a monster. I bet Bryan wasn’t hit by a car. I bet he threw himself in front of it just so he could get away from you.”
Victoria’s face twists like she’s being tortured, like I literally staked her through the heart. Then, her face shakes with fury, and she hisses at me. She balls up a fist and knocks me in the air all the way to the basketball court with one punch.
When I wake up, it’s morning. This time it's mom leaning over me, not Victoria. Her face is frantic, and she’s still in her bathrobe. “I love you, mom.” I smile as she holds me tight and tears roll down her cheeks.
I look around, and Victoria is nowhere in sight. Occasionally, it pays to be mouthy.