I stood outside on the sidewalk of a familiar neighborhood, looking up at narrow, two-floor houses sandwiched next to each other in a seemingly endless street. The houses themselves couldn’t have been wider than half the width of an average home, with no space between them. It looked to be nearing the evening, the sun almost halfway down the horizon and not a cloud in the sky.
The house in front of me was painted a familiar shade of peach. The numbers on the door read ‘627’.
I glanced down one end of the street and saw kids playing jump rope four doors over. Down the opposite way, a dog-walker was trying to free a tangled mess of leashes. That was when my heart jumped into my throat and I made a mad dash to my front door. I grabbed the doorknob and twisted, but it was locked. I searched my pockets for my keys but found none, so I screamed into the house, pounding my fist against the door.
“Hey! It’s me! Open up!” When there was no answer, I began slamming my shoulder against the door to try and break it down. Several hits in, the door didn’t budge. I took a step back and launched my foot towards the door with all my strength. The wood finally gave way and split open in front of me as the rest swung open wide.
The moment I stepped inside, my heart sank at the sight in front of me. On the opposite end, a figure in a dress lay next to a dinner table set with three plates and a large, blood-spattered turkey in the middle, still letting off a bit of steam.
“No!” I ran to her and knelt down. “Mom! Wake up!” Claw and bite marks riddled her body, soaking her clothes in blood.
“Frankie!,” said a voice behind me, from the front door. I turned to see me Dad walking towards me.
“Dad?” I almost smiled, but then I noticed he was clutching his throat.
“Frankie…” He said before his hands fell limp, releasing a wave of blood that gushed from his throat that had been torn out.He fell to his knees when I ran to him. I caught him before he hit the ground, one of his bloodied hands clutching my shoulder. “Dad, no!” I pressed my hand to his neck to stop the bleeding, but it was so thin I couldn’t hold any of it back no matter how much pressure I put on it.
“Stay with me, ok? Stay with me!” I could see the terror in his eyes, his mouth open as if to say something. But nothing else came out, save for a sickening gurgle. In an instant, the life in his eyes disappeared and glazed over. I screamed at my Father as I shook him, thinking he would wake up and tell me everything was all right. That it was all just a stupid joke. But he didn’t.
“Frank?” I heard a voice echo through the house. It was Heather’s voice. My beloved. As my thoughts turned to her safety, I shot to my feet. I called out her name as I looked through every nearby room, but didn’t find her. I ran upstairs and immediately checked the bedroom. She wasn’t there, but the bathroom door was closed with a sliver of light stretched across the carpet. The smell of lavender and honey-scented soap soaked the air. A shadow moved across the sliver, and a hum emanated from the bathroom. Heather!
When I opened the door, the world felt like it slowed down. I gazed at strawberry-blonde hair draped over her shoulders and into the bathwater. The soft, supple skin of her arm draped on the rim of the rub. Her finger was pressed against the top of the rim dragging around a rose petal. The room was littered with petals, covering the water as it floated above the surface and all along the bathroom floor.
I let out a breath of relief when she looked back at me and smiled.
“Baby, we need to get out of here.” I said, making my way towards her. “We’re in danger, and we need-” I was just a couple feet away from her when I suddenly collided with something flat that almost toppled me over. It was like an invisible barrier, like glass but it didn’t give off any reflection. I traced my hands around it, over the tub and along the walls. That entire corner of the bathroom was encased in this barrier. I slapped it with my hands, feeling the solid material, though with each hit, it didn’t make a sound no matter how hard I punched it.
“Heather!” I cried out. She just stared at me, smiling. She raised her hand and kissed her fingertips before pressing them against the other side of the barrier. Her eyes then drifted away, looking off to the side as they went cold. Just like my Father’s.
I continued to cry out. “No! Not again! Please! Heather, stay with me! Please!”
All the rose petals melted, turning the pale, cloudy bathwater a deep red. So did the petals on the ground, the crimson spreading across the floor. I watched helplessly as her amber eyes turned to white, her strawberry-blonde hair turned to grey, her supple skin turned to porcelain, cracking on the surface. Red seeped from her eyes like tears down her face.
Suddenly, I was thrown across the room, slamming into the mirror with a huge hand gripping me tightly by the neck. I struggled to get free, but the grip was too strong. Standing in front of me, a hulking werewolf with dark brown fur streaked with grey smiled. A large scar was drawn across his face from his forehead down to his nose where it looked like a piece had been carved out. It smiled at me with eyes of red and gold.
As it spoke to me, blood poured from its mouth.
My screams must have escaped into reality as I was awakened by a rush of cold water. Instinctively, I jerked back, but something restricted my movements, scraping against my skin. The funny thing was I felt rope, but couldn’t see it. What I did see was what I could only describe as a cocoon of white fabric not unlike a straight jacket, though I couldn’t see the sleeves. The wrapping was thick, maybe by a few inches as I couldn’t move my arms or legs. Cold metal touched the back of my head and neck, probably the place’s support beam.
The room felt like it to be about the size of an average basement, with two light sources. One light was just above me, dimmed with a brighter light a few feet in front of me. Concrete floors, probably no windows. I’ve only been in rooms like this a few times, though I’ve rarely been the one strapped down.
Standing in the middle of the other light was a man holding a bucket. “Rise and shine, sleeptalker.” Guy was big enough to be a linebacker, though when he set the bucket down, I barely heard the metal hit the concrete floor. When he stepped out of the light, it looked like his body blended in perfectly with the darkness.
Beyond the light, I saw nothing in the darkness, even with my enhanced vision. So, it certainly was a surprise to see the big guy step out of the light, literally disappearing in the dark only to see a much slimmer figure walk into the light seemingly from out of nowhere.
Her skin was like mocha, her hair short and curled, eyes looked like they could castrate a man from fifty yards if they wanted to. Her heels clicked as she walked, stopping a few feet in front of me. She wore a teal dress with gold ribbon curving under her chest. Beautiful and dangerous, and both made me uneasy.
She held up a leather wallet with my badge reflecting the light in my face. “Frank Marlowe,” she read off my license within the open billfold. “Coming from the City of Angels, you certainly are a long way from home.”
My first instinct was to play the hapless cop who was only doing his job. After all, I really was investigating a simple case that happened to turn violent with (a vampire) some dude who was hopped up on (fresh blood) PCP.
-was all I could say before suddenly, what felt like a cinder block almost knocked my head off. Cobwebs filled my head as I saw blurry doubles, my ears deafened with intense ringing.
“I am talking here,” I heard through muffled ringing. “That means you listen. Do not interrupt me.”
When everything began clearing, I couldn’t see who or what hit me, not a damn thing outside the light. Only her, where she stood in the middle of that fucking light. All I could do was glare at her, a low growl escaping through my teeth.
She stepped close to me and bent down to meet me at eye level. “You settle yourself down, wolfboy,” she said, tapping on the chest part of my “cocoon”. “That ain’t exactly rope you’re tied to. You monster out, and silver razor wire here will turn you into little wolf filets.” She stepped in closer, her breath strangely warm against my neck. I tried to look away, but an eyeful of cleavage pressing against me said otherwise. “And it has been such a loooong time since I’ve tasted a wild animal. I almost want it to happen.”
As much as I liked to call bluffs on most things, doing so here would’ve been reckless. I slowed my breathing and felt my heartbeat calm down.
“Now,” she said as she pulled away and turned to walk back into the middle of the light. “My men picked you up all strung out on that green shit that got into your bloodstream. I know you’ve seen what happens when a mortal gets his hands on one of those and shoots up. Fucking junkies. And you being what you are, you seemed able to toughen out the strain it puts on the body.”
From behind her, a chair slid into the light and she sat down. “Or whatever you mongrels do.” She crossed her legs and tossed my wallet at my feet while pulling a small metal box from her purse. Inside were matches and cigarettes, and when she struck the match, I noticed a distinctive flinch from the sparkling piece of wood, though she retained her composure.
“You do not want to lie to me about who you are. I know you’ve walked in the daylight, you don’t have the firepower of a hunter, and you’ve survived a five-story fall that would otherwise flatten anyone mundane. Truth be told, I’ve wanted to enjoy this wonderful conversation the moment you set foot into my town. I’ve seen too much bloodshed between us to take any chances.”
She exhaled a cloud of cigarette smoke in my direction. Ugh, the air smelled of menthol.
Well, its good to know she doesn’t want to kill me. Yet. Though I hate the fact that I find myself at someone’s mercy. Again.
“May I speak?” I said.
She waved her hand that held the cigarette before pressing her lips back onto the red ring she already made around the filter.
“I get why you’re cautious. After all, I did just move in from the other side of the country with nothing but my name and reputation.”
“Of which you have little to none, except for that one little murderfest. At least, I’m calling it that. The news, however, calls it a “horrible animal attack”. Pretty convenient, don’t you think? It’s amazing what you can dig up with just the click of a few buttons these days."
“…Be that as it may, I’m sure there are better ways to get in to contact with me. A simple meet and greet would suffice, honestly.”
“If we are speaking honestly, Mister Marlowe, I don’t…terms…only..”
My head suddenly felt foggy again, but this one was different, like a tide coming in. Her voice cut out like a bad phone connection. The room’s light slipped into a blue-green hue, and shadows took on a grey outline. A howling wind blasted through my ears, though I felt none of it. The black outside the light lit up a bit, and within it a familiar figure stood. He held up a piece of paper with ‘Antique, Dawn’ scrawled on it.
Reality flashed back like a switch. The woman looked at me with an annoyed look on her face. “Detective.”
I looked around the room for the figure, but blackness concealed everything again. Then it flashed back on me, causing me to flinch and squeeze my eyes closed before snapping them back open again.
Another flash back to reality, silence spilled back into the room. What the fuck is happening? Gotta roll with the punches.
“Well um…I’m alive, which means you need my help. But why me?
“Because you’re the only furball I know with a badge. I want you to track down this poison. It’s already got two of my people killed.” She flicked the cigarette butt to the side of the room. The lit end of the cigarette reflected against the floor in a disc of light before a boot snuffed it out. Or, at least I thought it did.
“You know, those two you have on file?”
On file? The ones I have back at my place?
“The tattoos?” I asked.
“Indeed.” A hooded figure leaned into the light and whispered into her ear. She nodded and stood up. “Seems our time is up, Mister Marlowe.” She turned and stepped towards the darkness. She got halfway through when she turned to me. “Oh, and make sure tonight doesnt wind up in your report. Some cases are best left on ice.”
“Hey, wait a minute! I don’t know your name.” I called out into the void.
“We’ll keep in touch.” She said from across the way, though not exactly from where.
“Are you guys going to get this off me?”
The lights in the room cut off, leaving me blind in the dark. I heard the sound of a metal door creak open. The moment it shut, my darksight finally kicked in and was able to see the room around me. It was as I gathered, a concrete floor and no windows.
As I pondered the predicament I was still in, I felt the metal support beam behind me rattle. I turned my head to an odd angle so that my ear was pressed against it to listen in. Within the beam came more rattling and then a few clicks.
Before I knew it, the cocoon gave way and split open. A wave of cold air blasted over my chest and I shivered. The shirt I wore that had my blood and the spillage of that green shit was gone. The wound closed up nicely, as those usually do, with only a few bits of glass I had to brush off. Thankfully, my pants and shoes were intact. I got up a looked back to the contraption, the cocoon itself attached firmly to the beam. I picked up my wallet from the floor and my jacket from the other chair (was that there before?).
A flight of stairs led up to set of steeply sloped metal doors. I threw open the doors and saw the Atlantic ocean. The wind blew ferociously, my hands dug deep into my jacket pockets. Judging from the hues of blues and purples stretched along the horizon, the day was maybe an hour away from reaching dawn. Next to the set of doors was a house, though it looked to be abandoned and in disrepair. I looked up and saw the Statue of Liberty not fifty yards away from me.
“Ma’am.” I said as I nodded at the ol’ girl.
“You done, yet?” Shouted a voice from behind me. I turned and saw a man He held a hand to his head to keep his cap from blowing away.
“I’m sorry?” I shouted back, closing the distance between us.
“With the tour. Your friends already left, said to pick you up later when you’re done. We can’t stay here long, this kind of thing ain’t exactly being done anymore.”
“Y-yeah.” We left the island from his boat, a twin-engine fishing yacht. We made our way back to the mainland, where the pilot stopped me as I set foot on the dock.
“Before I forget,” he said as he pulled a zipped leather pouch from the boat’s floor compartment. “Your buddies forgot this. Make sure they get it, ok?”
“Uh, sure.” I said as I glanced down at the pouch. I looked back up and saw the boat was already backing up out of the pier.
I hitched a cab ride back to my place, keeping the pouch close to me the whole way. With a night as shitty as this, some clean clothes and a shower would do me a lot of good. I tossed the pouch onto the table. The shower itself was a quick one, since there didnt seem to be any hot water. The sun slid through the blinds, and another goddamned weird day began.
And this one began with what may or may not have been a hallucinated figure holding a sign.