By Melissa Rose Rogers
There was a knock on the front door. It wasn’t the BANG BANG BANG of a police officer about to break the door down. It also was not the gentle knock of a Girl Scout trying to sell her cookies. I gazed through the frosted glass of the door leading into the foyer, hoping that whoever was at the exterior door would just go away. I mean, if they knew me then they were not going to knock on my door without texting. If they didn’t know me, then what business did they have knocking on my door at 7:30 on a Thursday night?
I waited. It was probably just three minutes, but it felt like an eternity. I thought earlier I heard footsteps padding down the hall toward my apartment, that it must have been Mrs. Margotti going to take her dog out for its evening stroll. It’s one of those yippy dogs whose ancestors were really a bat crossbred with a rat about fourteen centuries ago, but due to convergent evolution, they keep calling it a dog because a toddler might insist that it has four legs and fur and is, therefore, a dog. It’s not.
The knock sounds again: insistent, polite, practiced. I step over the threshold into the unlit foyer. I could click up the light switch, but that would confirm my presence.
Here in the foyer I could open the front door, or go back through the door into the hallway and pretend I’m not home. I stare at the floor as if the wood grain has instructions and will tell me what to do. It’s a medium oak that hides a multitude of sins, and in this darkness I can hardly make those out. Instead, I look through the eyehole on the door. There are two men with black suits, ties, and briefcases.
What are they? Mormons? Jehovah’s Witnesses? FBI?
They knock one more time. The taller one leans down like he knows I’m there, like he’s looking back at me through the fisheye distortion.
“Hi, mister, do you have a moment?” His voice is rich, cultured, and alluring even through the door.
What are these sleaze balls trying to sell me? A knot forms in my stomach. That same knot that I get when I’m trying to order a sandwich at Subway or make a presentation at work: the fear of social judgment is clawing at my abdomen making me strain for my breaths, such as anxiety does.
“Mister? I can see your feet under the door,” the second guy says. His voice is not so eloquent.
Doesn’t seem like they’re going anywhere, and I’d better get this over with. I open the console table and pull out my pistol. I stuff it in my hoodie pocket, and pull the safety back. The cold metal in my grasp is reassuring. I might be a little anxious, but I’m careful. That gives me control. That makes me feel safe, less anxious. Anxiety keeps people alive, even if it makes us a little quirky.
I slide the chain lock free, and unbolt the deadbolt and turn the door latch. It’s two men in suits black as night with slicked-back hair, mafia hair. No, not mafia. Their ties are red silk and abstract, an Emilio Pucci in cherry and fire engine and maroon. The sheen of their suits, the way the collars fit–these are not Mormons.
“Can I help you?” I ask. The cold weight of my pistol clutched in my hand, my trigger finger thirsty, though the rest of me is saying no. The cold metal of the doorknob in my other hand is anchoring me to the apartment building.
The second one meets my gaze, deepest midnight in his eyes. He peers through my mind, into my soul.
“Yes. Do you have a moment to talk about our Lord Dracula?”
The metal knob in my hand suddenly feels more distant, less grounding. The gun in my pocket has lost its teeth. Everyone knows plain guns don’t work on vampires unless you get a really great heart shot of a high enough caliber.
“Dracula. You’re vamps,” I say keeping my voice even, though my throat is dry.
“That’s right,” the second one says with a small, white smile, no fangs threatening me.
“What do you know about vampires?” The first asks, his voice melodic, enchanting.
The way his lips form the words perplexes me–where is he from? How old is he? I find myself being cocooned into stifling confusion.
It takes a moment and a lot of effort for me to form words on my own tongue.
“You’re a bunch of bloodsuckers,” I blurt out, shifting uneasily on my feet.
They both chuckle, their fangs briefly uncovered by the movement.
“Ah, someone’s been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
“Or maybe True Blood,” the second adds.
They chuckle again, but they know I don’t know what’s so funny about it. Suddenly they stop, they switch back into focus on me.
“That’s all propaganda,” the first one says. He steps closer, looming above me at probably 6’4”. I can now smell the delicate pepper and musk and cedar of his fancy cologne, but it seems like it’s covering another scent that I can’t quite make out.
My eyes flick to the second vamp, his piercing eyes drawing me in. Well-groomed eyebrows frame his face, thick but waxed into submission. I wonder: do vampires grow hair? I grip the doorknob tighter, but it doesn’t make me feel any safer than before.
“Propaganda,” he says with a nod and a quiet voice. He’s closer to my height than the other.
The first draws me back to his thrall. “If we can have a few minutes of your time, we have a gift for you, and would love to dispel some of those untruths for you.”
“A gift,” the second repeats, his eyebrows raising as if encouraging me. He lifts his briefcase, black and shining in the soft hall light.
I take in a deep breath. “What would you think I would want from you? I know what you want from me.”
They glance at each other and chuckle again, as if there is a joke I just can’t understand being a stupid, living, breathing human.
When the second one looks back at me, he’s still holding the briefcase, still as stone.
“My name is Cecil,” the first one says, drawing my attention away from the shimmering leather of the case.
“I’m.” I stop myself and inhale, my internal coupe just came to a complete stop. I almost told him my real name, and that would put me at a deep disadvantage–deeper than the one I’m already at.
They wait, eager, expectant, for my slip up.
“You can call me … Kyle,” I say. Kyle was my roommate from college, and the first name to pop into my head.
“Kyle.” Eyebrows Vamp raises aforementioned then quickly descends into a sneer, I’m unsure if they believe my deception.
“Well, Kyle,” Cecil says, leaning in towards me. “Kindly give us a few moments of your time and let’s talk about some of those prejudices that your kind has persecuted my kind with since, well, since the dawn of man.”
Kindly. Prejudices. The words grate against me. It’s like a knife to my throat. If I don’t do what they’re asking, then I’m being unkind. Then I’m being a bigot. For some reason, their opinion really motivates me, but I’m not sure why.
I take a step back through my doorway. “I don’t want to come across as prejudiced,” I say, feeling my brow furrow. It’s like I’m watching a movie now and not really in control of what I’m doing.
“Good. No one wants that,” Cecil says, his mouth stretching into a practiced, fang-free smile.
Fang-free. Something in that predatory thought jars me back into control. I step back farther inside, as far in fact as I can without actually letting go of the doorknob.
“No one wants that,” I repeat, my voice wavering more than I want it to. I slip my hand back into my pocket, and then remember that I’m carrying a gun, a useless gun against these creatures. My one defense is that I haven’t let them inside. My pulse thunders in my ears. A drip down my spine of cold sweat makes me shudder, or is it the evil in his gaze?
“Kyle,” he says, voice low. I want to listen to that voice. “What were your reservations? What were your misconceptions about vampires?”
Mrs. Margotti’s Chihuahua skitters down the hall slipping on nails and ceramic. It gets a good whiff of the vampires, then, eyes wide, it retreats behind Mrs. Margotti. The huffing and puffing woman rummages through her straw shoulder bag for her house keys; she doesn’t look up though she must have seen me here. The Chihuahua whines and whimpers, shaking. Before my neighbor turns the key in the latch I hear the unmistakable tinkle of piss hitting tile. So scared, the dog is peeing itself. Maybe I should be scared too. She swings the door open, and the dog races inside.
Cecil draws my attention back. “No, let me rewind. How about you sit down and tell me everything you know about Lord Dracula?”
I nod. I can’t remember what my misgivings were.
“Kyle,” Eyebrows Vamp says, as I gaze into his dark brown eyes, chocolate fondue tempting me, the warmth of whisky drawing me in. He has the prettiest eyes I’ve ever seen on a dude. It’s pretty weird. Super long lashes–I could just stare at his eyes forever. I shake my head, feeling creeped out by admiring a guy’s eyes so much. I mean, I guess they’re just eyes. Eyes can be beautiful regardless of gender, right? Panic is building in me at this inescapable attraction. Is this how moths feel pursuing a flame?
A darkness is creeping in over my mind like a fog rolling in. Or maybe the darkness was always there waiting for the contrast of their blinding light because everything else seems muted but them. It’s like I have tunnel vision, but all the colors look normal.
Where my pulse had rung in my ears before, now it feels like everything is distant–my body, this place, and them. It’s maybe not a physical distance, though, but more like time. I guess I’m just processing things slowly. That name from his lips echoes through me, a ripple of psychic cacophony.
“Why do you keep calling me Kyle?” I ask. “My name is Bryce.”
Their eyes light up. “Let us in, Bryce,” Cecil says, but his voice is punctuated by the shrieking growls of the Chihuahua.
“Or,” says the one with the enchanting eyes says, “come out to us. Come out here and we can go somewhere else to talk. Somewhere more comfortable.”
My hand’s still on the doorknob. An unnatural mix of false comfort and desperate fight or flight instincts war for obedience–oil and water–inside me. I shift uncomfortably, and then slip my hand into my hoodie pocket. The gun. The useless gun is cold against my sweaty palm. It might be of no actual physical defense, but it spurs my mind to remember the reason I had the gun in the first place: if they were someone I wanted to see, then I would have gone to the door without the gun. I didn’t want or expect to see Cecil and Eyebrows. Shrill yipping from the neighbor’s dog further pulls me from their snare.
“No thanks,” I say, slamming the door shut with everything in me.
“We’ll check on you next week to see if you’ve thought of any questions,” the rich voice of Cecil purrs, tinged with anger.
I hear them hiss angrily, murmur to each other, and then they slide a shiny pamphlet under the door, their shadows forming dark lines reaching toward me. Once the door is latched, I flip the deadbolt and slide the chain into place, then back up through the foyer door. From between this second door, I still hear the dog barking. After a few moments, the dog stops. It runs off suddenly. Maybe Mrs. Margotti put out its dinner.
I open the foyer door and see a bar of uninterrupted light under the front door–the shadows of the vampires are gone.
I snap the foyer door shut and turn the small latch for extra peace of mind, however feeble it might be.
Switching the safety back on the gun, the metal in my hand feels solid against my shaking, so I cling to this anchor. My nerves instead of calming now that I have reached safety are instead in overdrive with unresolved adrenaline.
In my living room, I find my phone. I’m getting a pickup order of a “no soliciting” sign. I need to research a better defense against vampires. I don’t want there to be a next week. I might not make it then.