When the lights flashed and blinked out, Robert stood in the center of the dark unfamiliar room. He had entered the Victorian house by invitation finally to meet the man he had most wanted to confront since Annie Blaine had disappeared. He hoped the man would assist him in finding her. Now, moments before the meeting, the lighting failed. The room filled with a blackness that felt tangible.
Unwilling to move for fear of colliding with one or more of the priceless antiques he inspected as he entered, he concentrated on the deathly silence while considering what he might do next. He waved his hands in front of him.
As he started to move, a narrow band of brilliant white light slashed across the wall where he had entered. Before it extinguished, the gold plated door handle that bore the mask of a hideous creature, mouth wide in a scream of anger, long curved teeth tipped with what Robert believed represented rabid saliva or blood burned his retinas.
Again, in total darkness, Robert waited for his eyes to readjust, but the light came again before they could.
This time, the white band appeared five feet closer to him illuminating a four-foot tall ceramic urn bearing lines of Egyptian hieroglyphics with at least ten different pharaoh’s cartouches that still bore the colors applied millennia earlier. Above their row, symbols from the Book of the Dead, told a brief tale of one who acted as a guide for lost souls.
While Robert understood that much, the light went out before he could decipher the names of the pharaohs whose souls had apparently been lost.
Lifting his arms, now determined to find the door and escape, something fur-like brushed roughly across his face, the side of his head, followed by four sharp but thin objects that sliced long gouges into his cheek.
Blood slithered down his face, his neck and dripped onto the white marble floor underneath him. He heard the sound of the drops splashing the floor echoing off the walls.
Panicked, Robert hastily backed up, now not caring if he destroyed everything in the blackened room in his haste to escape.
Heavy weight landed on his shoulders. Warm breath that smelled of rotted flesh, combed across his nose, filling his head with its misery. Taut muscles pressed the back of his skull as the intruder’s body bent Robert’s head forward. Needle sharp claws dug into his shoulders.
Robert slammed into the wall to dislodge the creature. Its weight disappeared. The breath that a moment earlier had lifted bile into his throat, lingered like a bleak cloud of death.
He swung his hands before him, hoping to dispel the stench, but froze when he heard the sounds of thick paper torn violently. Wood splintered as if the hands of a giant effortlessly ripped a wide, thick board lengthwise.
Positive his racing heart might explode Robert pushed his hands against the wall, felt movement under his palm as the wall shredded upwards.
“Please stop it now,” he cried finally able to speak through his terror.
Long cold fingers reached from within the wall behind him, probed his throat as if feeling for a way down into his chest, pressed firmly against his arteries, tracing their length. An arm of steel muscle followed, pinned him helplessly against the wall, lifting until his weight balanced on his toes. Robert struggled, and then stopped when he realized he could no longer breathe.
His legs weakened, but the arm held him in place. He felt life and hope dissolving quickly. Then, the brilliant white light returned. This time it traveled the length of the room until one edge cut across his face and chest.
Robert glanced down, and saw nothing. He glanced up, at the sound of footfall, and faced a tall blond haired man with emerald green eyes standing at the opposite side of the five-foot wide band of light.
“I am Edwin Blutleer,” the man said in a deep steady voice. He did not blink, or move. “I believe you wished to speak with me.”
Robert could only stare speechlessly. He nodded, rubbed his throat, gingerly brushed his severed cheek, and found it was untouched. His fingers were clean. He felt no pain.
“Who are you,” he pleaded. “No man can do what you just did to me.”
“No they could not.” Blutleer lifted his hands, palms down and waved them outward and back. The room illuminated fully. A large white cat with deep blue eyes wound affectionately around his ankles, lazily walked to Robert and did the same to him.
“You know who I am,” Blutleer spoke in a cultured Germanic voice. “I need to know who you are and why you wish my assistance.”
“I’m Robert DeLancey. I’m here by invitation.” He jammed his hand in his pocket and lifted out the card he’d received in the mail, folded twice. When he first read it, he felt surprised since he rarely received physical mail. He lived his life online mostly.
Nervously, he unfolded the card, checked to be certain it was the right one, thought, What else could it be? Then he held it out like an offering.
Blutleer nodded. The card disintegrated leaving behind a small flutter of white powder.
Robert glanced at his hand, rubbed his thumb across his palm, thinking that the card might have singed his flesh, and shrugged suddenly no longer surprised at Blutleer’s powers.
He’s doing this to me for a reason, he thought. Making me feel this way as if he is a normal man and we’re meeting like two acquaintances.
Effortlessly, the white cat leaped onto his shoulder, wrapped her tail around Robert’s neck while purring in his ear as if to welcome him with her affection.
“It seems that Amanda finds you of interest,” Blutleer commented as if amused by the idea. “I’m afraid her bite is far worse than her purr, however.” He chuckled, spoke in German, which Robert did not understand, and the white cat settled to the floor soundlessly.
Robert glanced around the room, and observed a small sitting area that appeared arranged for an informal get together.
Blutleer pointed towards it.
“Please be seated.” He followed Robert and the white cat.
“You do understand that the path you’ve now chosen is irrevocable don’t you?” Blutleer sat in a plush red velveteen wingback chair that towered over the tall man’s head.
Robert hesitated, and sat on a cane seat maple wood side chair that wobbled slightly.
“What do you mean?” he asked nervously.
“You do seek Annie Blaine, yes?”
“How did you know? I did not tell you why I needed your help.”
“Robert DeLancey, age 26, born in Hackensack, New Jersey. Your mother is an English teacher. Your father owns an automotive repair shop specializing in German cars. You graduated from Rutgers with a Masters in Education, but after meeting Annie, you decided to pursue her rather than an assistant professorship at a local community college much to your mother’s disappointment. You and Annie formed a company called Annie Blaine, LLC.” Blutleer stared at him. “How am I doing?”
Robert frowned, felt diminished somehow, and hoped it did not show in his eyes, or become audible in his words. “Where did you learn about me and my family?”
Blutleer shrugged. “Where is not important. Now answer my first question.”
“Do I seek Annie Blaine? Of course, but since you already know I am why bother asking?” Robert spoke boldly, and was surprised, and then pleased. Until he watched, Blutleer raise his right hand, make a fist, open it, and toss him a two-inch diameter silver sphere that expanded rapidly as the ball traveled lazily between the two men.
When it reached Robert, the sphere had grown to about two feet in diameter. He caught it defensively, and its weight knocked him over.
Lying on his back with the sphere, resting heavy on his chest, he stared as it grew larger yet, rolled off him, and then became translucent. Once the sphere was about four feet across, and as clear as window glass, Robert saw Annie Blaine crouched inside in a fetal position. She wore a diaphanous white gown that exposed the one-piece white garment she wore beneath that covered her with modesty.
“Annie? Can you hear me?” Robert sat on the floor, heard desperation in his voice, felt it spreading in his chest. He reached and carefully touched the sphere thinking it was an illusion. He pressed both palms against the curved surface.
The sphere’s exterior felt like a bass drumhead tight but with some give. He ran his fingertips across it, felt warmth, and thought he also felt small pinholes that might allow air circulation.
He looked up saw Blutleer sitting with a woman whose beauty might be unsurpassed by any woman he had ever seen before her. She had long thick platinum blonde hair and large deep blue eyes.
After an extended moment struggling with the feelings that raced through his mind, he cleared his throat. “Is Annie alive in there?”
“I find that to be an intriguing question, Robert. Do characterize alive for me.”
Robert tilted his head to see clearly around the edge of the sphere. “I don’t understand your question. I mean alive as in living.”
“Am I alive?” Blutleer asked seriously.
“You certainly seem to be alive.”
Blutleer stood, walked over, and laid his palm on the back of Robert’s neck. His hand felt like dry ice.
Shivers rocked Robert’s torso as the cold drilled deep and drew his core body heat out. He felt his heart slowing, found breathing difficult and then Blutleer lifted his hand and Robert’s body slowly warmed.
“I am not.” Blutleer sat again. “Annie Blaine sought me too, although not directly, but you are aware of that much.”
Robert started shaking his head to disagree, but stopped and nodded instead.
“Annie was not seeking you, but you’re the one who found her in the train station–“
“Yes, ten miles to the west of Dunigineton, Tennessee,” Blutleer finished. “Why did you stay home when you knew she was strongly determined to destroy the last vampire?”
“You know too much about us.”
“Robert, I know everything about you and your fifteen vampire slayer friends. Of course, what you do not know is that there are now five left including you.”
Without thought, Robert stood, knowing he could not remain seated and escape the man sitting ten feet away.
“Please do not leave us, Robert. Annie has waited for you to find her and I would hate for her to be disappointed now that you have. I mean, what would I tell her?” Blutleer asked mockingly.
“Tell her I was never here,” Robert stated and heard his voice squeak as a hand settled gently on his left shoulder.
Slowly, he turned his head and when his eyes examined Annie’s delicate features, saw the paleness of her flesh, the rose red lips, and the twin incisors as she smiled her greeting, Robert thought he might pass out.
“Robert, I missed you,” Annie said sweetly as she lowered her head to kiss his neck tenderly. She gripped the sides of his head with more strength than he could escape.
“Please, Annie, I’m sorry I didn’t get up in time to help you, but you knew I worked late and,” he stopped when he felt the pinch of her bite, and sagged as his blood drained from his head.
“I love you, Annie,” he whispered and knew then that he truly did and would forever.
Copyright 2018 Gabriel F.W. Koch all rights reserved