Fran looked out the glass door; the rain had stopped. The parking lot lights reflected on the numerous puddles covering the pavement. Normally, she would decline the offer, but tonight she accepted. “Yes, thank you.”
“I’ll be right back, Sean; I’m walking this young lady to her car,” he said to the seated guard.
“I’m glad that storm finally stopped,” Fran said, as they walked out of the air-conditioned building. “But it’s still a muggy mess.”
“I am too,” he said, walking next to her. “I heard some roads were flooded. Do you live here in Maryville?”
“Yes, I live downtown above The Feathered Peacock.”
“Then you’re probably aware that there has been a rash of hooligans running around town, especially at nightfall.”
“I know,” she said. “I was just visiting a friend who was attacked by some strange huge bird that looked like a mutant bat. I even saw it sitting outside her hospital room window. It’s probably still around here someplace. I’d keep an eye out for it if I were you.”
“I haven’t seen anything like that,” he said, glancing toward the sky. “All I’ve been seeing are people dressed like they’re from some royal goth subculture hanging around the hospital grounds.”
“Like those over there?” Fran pointed to a landscaped island near the road.
Water splashed under their feet as they watched people watching them from the shadows of ornamental trees.
“Yes, exactly like those,” he said. “There seems to be more of them tonight than I’ve seen before. I don’t know where they’re coming from, but they seem to be invading the island.”
“Have you ever told them to leave?”
“I have. One night I told them there was no loitering on hospital property.” He paused. “They’re kind of creepy people, so as long as they don’t come any closer . . .”
They reached Fran’s car in the nearly abandoned lot.
“I’d drive straight home,” he said. “And I wouldn’t talk to any of those punks; I don’t trust them.”
“Don’t worry,” Fran said, unlocking the door. “I’ll stay as far away from them as I can.”
They said goodbye to each other. Fran turned the ignition and watched the guard walk back to the hospital. Then she saw him look up as if he had seen something. Probably that bird, she thought. She put the car in gear and drove out of the lot and onto the street. The Feathered Peacock was not too far from the hospital; only a few traffic lights to drive through and then she would be home.
As she drove away from the hospital, she looked out her rearview mirror. The people around the parking lot began walking into the road as if they were going to follow her. Fearing they were going to begin running after her, she rolled through the stop sign and accelerated rapidly as she pulled onto the main road leading into Maryville.
Even though it was a Monday night, there was usually automobiles driving down the street and standing outside Pirates Cove Bar and Grill smoking. But not tonight. The roads were deserted, the shops were closed, and no one was standing on the sidewalk in front of the tavern.
When she approached a traffic light, something big flew over the intersection. That bat, again? The light turned green, and she pulled forward. It seemed rather peaceful driving through town. The wind was calm, a nearly full moon shimmered behind thinning clouds, and best of all, The Feathered Peacock was coming into view.
She pulled up to the last signal, now flashing red as it did every weekday night. She looked both ways at the intersection, noticing that a mist was now rolling into town. Her windows began to fog over on the inside. It must be cooling down outside, she thought as she reached down and pulled a tissue from the box she kept between the front seats. As she wiped an area big enough so that she could see through it, her car moved.
“What the heck?”
She turned on the defrost and set the fan on high. As her windows cleared, she saw them. Her car was surrounded by vampires, lots of them. Panic surged through her nerves as she pressed the gas pedal. The car did not move. Something was holding her back.
This time, she floored it. Her tires spun as her driver’s door window shattered and a hand reached in, closed its powerful fingers around her neck, and squeezed. She took her hands off the steering wheel and grabbed the frigid hand choking her. Her final thoughts as things went black was that at least they were killing her and not turning her into a bloodthirsty corpse. A blessing.