Everything has changed in a matter of hours.
The girl said the road would be long and they would be following – hunting us until none were left.
The human in me is weeping out by the second.
I grip my pocket to make sure it’s still there, the remaining item keeping me hanging to the life I had only a matter of hours ago.
Memories of the events are starting to fade already, she said they would. The house left behind will be found with the body bleeding out on the lounge floor and contents destroyed. I’d be gone of course, riding down the motorway to a destination unknown.
My hands gripped the steering wheel as I recollected what had happened.
It was pouring rain. I’d set about the night as any other. Bath, dinner, pour a glass of red and toast Jane’s picture that stands on the TV stand. Jane smiles back at me through her glasses. Her bulging brown eyes and short brown hair remind me of the time she was full of life … before she was taken from me.
I scratched my overgrown beard and held back the tears.
In the photograph I’m standing next to her, my arm wrapped around her shoulder and giving a matching smile to the camera, Our yearly holiday in Cancun – 2002.
Keep it together Mike.
I have no one to plough my emotions on. Complications led to no children. I’m all alone in this place I don’t understand anymore.
The knock on the door came as I refilled my glass.
The time: 21:54 – too late for visitors.
I opened the door and there she stood. A small girl no older than thirteen, a drowned rat with pale arms and legs beneath a green summer dress. The rain had stuck the bob of black hair to her head; her eyes black as the night.
‘Are you all right?’ I asked.
The girl stood and said nothing, just a lost blankness upon her face.
‘Are you lost?’ I continued. ‘Do you want to come in and call someone?’
Her head tweaked toward me with a sudden jerk. ‘You’re inviting me in your home?’ she asked; her voice grainy, low and too old to be coming out of this small body.
I felt an urge to just close the door, shun out this distressed child and get back to my grieving in peace.
Instead I said – ‘sure,’ and moved aside.
The girl sprung in.
Coldness shot past me like a walking block of ice.
Upstairs I grabbed a towel from the bathroom. The girl wrapped it around her shoulders and remained standing.
‘You have a name?’ I asked.
‘Eva,’ she whispered.
‘Okay Eva, do you need someone to come and pick you up?’
A shake of the head.
‘I’ve only had one glass if you need a lift somewhere?’
Her head tilted. ‘No, thank you.’
‘So, you’re going to head back out in the pouring rain and get hyperthermia?’
‘Could I ask a favour?’ she asked.
‘Could I please stay the night?’
I started to protest. What if the neighbours had seen the girl come in my house? Or even worse – leaving in the morning. I’d be the talk of the town, a threat to society.
‘I won’t be any trouble,’ Eva pleaded. ‘I’ll be gone before first light, no explaining to do to anyone.’ She said as though reading my thoughts.
But I don’t even know you!
I wanted to say no, take the girl back to the door and make her leave. I would call her a taxi or drive her myself, but having her here made my gooseflesh tingle.
Instead my good nature took rank and agreed.
‘You’re not planning on stealing anything are you?’ I asked. ‘Because I have nothing of value.’
Eva shook her head.
I set the fire as we sat across from one another staring into the flames.
‘What’s the story Eva?’
‘No family, no one to come and get you, outside in the pouring rain. Knocking on a stranger’s door and asking to stay the night. What’s going on?’
Her eyes flickered in the flames, I strained to see the colour in them.
When Eva didn’t reply I thought she was hiding something. Maybe she had been a runaway, her parents driving her to run from some hideous life.
‘Nothing to tell,’ Eva finally replied.
Obviously I didn’t believe her but let it slide anyway.
‘What about you, Mike?’
Did I even tell her my name? I can’t remember.
‘Now that’s a boring story,’ I said. ‘I’m a sixty year old Steelworker who enjoys a glass of wine.’ I tilted the glass. ‘My arthritis gets worse by the day and sometimes I wonder why I even get up in the morning. Is that uplifting enough?’
For the first time I thought I saw a glimpse of a smile.
‘Old age Eva, something you can look forward to.’
I took a drink.
‘Who’s the pretty woman in the photograph?’ Eva asked.
‘My wife, Jane.’
‘Where is Jane?’
‘Jane died a few years back – cancer,’ I said.
‘I see,’ Eva replied.
There was something about this girl – wisdom.
‘I’ll be with her soon enough,’ I said.
Eva’s face fell blank again, an emotionless portrait.
I made my excuses and headed for bed. Eva would sleep on the sofa with the blanket from the spare room. I would have offered the guest room but there was something telling me that I shouldn’t allow her upstairs.
I left Eva curled up on the sofa and staring into the fire.
I woke at 02:34. The silence was ruptured by a low bang noise from downstairs. For a moment I’d forgotten all about the strange girl who should be sound asleep on the sofa. I pulled my legs out of bed and pulled on my clothes from the night before. On the landing silence had resumed apart from something that made my stomach turn. A squelch from downstairs. Over and over; like a slobbering dog licking its lips at the sight of a treat.
I crept down the stairs and saw that Eva had moved from the sofa.
The light to the kitchen was on.
I moved through the room to the kitchen doorway.
Eva was crouched in the fridge. She turned, knowing that I was there. Her face had darkened; her eyes completely black. Around her mouth was smeared red stains. Her hands gripped hold of the meat I had been keeping for tomorrow’s dinner.
‘Eva, what’s going on?’ I asked, trembling.
She just sat staring at me.
I felt my bladder weaken.
‘Have you been … sucking on that?’ I asked pointing. ‘I could have made you food … I –’
‘My taste is for something else,’ Eva said. The tone in her voice had dropped lower than before. I felt scared beyond anything. The same fear of losing Jane, an incomprehensible fear. ‘Who … are you? What are you?’ I asked.
Eva wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. I had to double take; I was sure I saw sharp fangs beyond her lips.
Her eyes shifted to the lounge and to the front door. The way a cat can instinctively hear someone approaching.
‘They’re here,’ she said. ‘They found me.’
‘What?’ I asked. ‘Who?’
There was a loud knock on the door.
‘Don’t open it,’ Eva instructed.
‘Because they’ll kill you.’
‘Hello,’ a man’s voice from the other side of the door said. ‘You’re probably wondering why I’m knocking on your door in the middle of the night. It’s simple really. That thing in there with you needs dealing with, it’s dangerous as you may now know. You made the mistake of inviting it in. now either you give me the same courtesy or I will use force.’
I’d obviously been having a nightmare. I’d wake up soon.
‘I’m going to count to five,’ the man said.
‘Don’t … open … the … door,’ Eva reminded me.
A bad dream.
I slapped myself.
‘Times up chief.’
The door blew open. The man walked in dressed all in black and holding a firearm in his right hand. Eva scuttled up the wall like a spider and onto the ceiling. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Eva hissed down at the man who opened fire. I ducked as debris fell. Eva dropped to the floor and dived behind the sofa. Bullets kept firing. The photograph of me and Jane shattered along with the TV.
With instinct I leapt onto the man, wrestling him to the ground.
‘You don’t know what you’re doing,’ he yelled in my face. ‘That thing is evil.’
I’d never felt the warm love of a child, no watching birth or seeing them off to school. No walking a daughter down the aisle or having a first beer on a son’s 18th.
An urge to protect this child – this monster, swarmed me.
This guy was the one shooting a weapon after all.
Then a blast from the gun. A burning sensation rippled through my stomach. The flow of blood ran out of me. I rolled over onto my back.
As the man stood, Eva was on him.
The fangs she sunk into his neck were long, sharp and devastating. The man yelled in agony as he fell back to the floor. Eva then started on his face.
I closed my eyes and held my stomach, waiting for death to finally take me, for this nightmare to be over. Jane was waiting for me. I’d have quite the story to tell her when we were finally reunited.
A hand fell on my shoulder.
I opened my eyes to see Eva, the child. A pale face, darkened eyes and no fangs. Blood dripped from her chin onto her clothes.
‘I’m dying,’ I said.
‘You don’t have to,’ she replied.
‘I took a bullet to the stomach.’
‘I can save you.’
‘W … why would I want that?’
‘You think Jane is waiting for you. What if I told you that there is nothing on the other side. Jane isn’t there Mike. There is just nothing but eternal darkness. I can shield you from that horrid realisation. You can live.’
‘I’m ready to die,’ I said.
Eva shook her head. ‘You have a good heart. I saw it when you opened the door to me. I was never going to harm you. They reached me quicker than I thought.’ Eva nodded to the corpse of the man. ‘There will be more coming for me.’
I stared at the broken photo frame. Jane stared at me. If she isn’t waiting for me, then what?
‘Exactly,’ Eva said reading my mind.
Suddenly the thought of death scared me more than anything.
I nodded to Eva.
Her head buried into my neck and I felt a sharp pierce. Eva continued to take my blood.
When she raised, the pain in my stomach subsided. I started to feel better – good even. The arthritis a distant sensation.
I stood before her. Love swept me up. I don’t know how but I instantly loved the girl. My joints felt like I was twenty-one again.
‘You’ve given me life,’ I said.
‘You saved mine.’
‘We have to leave,’ Eva said. ‘We have to find the others before they do,’ she said, pointing at the body.
‘Come on, I’ll explain everything on the way. You’re a guardian of the night now.’
I took my car keys from the kitchen counter. On my way back I crouched to the picture laying on the floor in broken glass.
‘The love for her will pass Mike,’ Eva said. ‘All your emotions will pass, except for the love for your own kind.’ I picked up the picture, folded it carefully and placed it in my pocket. I wasn’t ready to forget … not yet.
Ethan works for a utilities company in South Yorkshire.
Writing fiction has become a hobby over the past couple of years and he hopes to one day publish a novel.
Ethan notes Stephen King and H.P Lovecraft as influences behind his work.