Michael did not return that night. Nor the night after.
Both nights I waited by the window, watching the woodland for any sign of his return. The first night, I think, was mostly tinged with fear. I was frightened at the thought of seeing him again. I remembered his dark, blank eyes and it chilled me to the core to think how different he looked at that moment. Until that moment, I didn’t realise how much I had separated Michael from all the other vampires I had met. He had a name and not just a joke name that I had made up in my head. He was Michael. He was not like the others. He hadn’t tried to kill me. Well, at least he hadn’t until I had freely given myself up to him. But when I had, I had suddenly realised that Michael was essentially no different to the rest of his kind.
He was a vampire. And vampires kill humans. The end.
But although I was scared to see him again, I wanted him to come back and I didn’t even know why. He irritated the hell out of me. He was strange and sometimes I didn’t like the way that he looked at me. In fact; most of the time I didn’t like the way that he looked at me. It made me uncomfortable and edgy. He had a link to my past which brought back horrible memories and had forced me to confront those nightmares when I was awake, not just during my sleep.
He was a vampire and there was no reason in the world why I would want to spend time with one, unless it involved watching him breathe his last on the end of something sharp and nasty.
However, weirdly, I really did want him to come back, so by the second night I grew anxious.
Maybe he was never coming back!
Maybe he had decided that I was more trouble than I was worth. I wouldn’t have blamed him. Twenty years he had fought with his inner demon not to kill me and there I go, throwing myself at him and begging him to do his worst at the first opportunity. Maybe after experiencing the madness of my parents he had decided that saddling himself with another crazy member of the family really was too much to bear.
So I sat and I waited, biting on my bottom lip until it grew slightly swollen and when it was too sore to bite, I started working on my fingernails. I pressed my face against the window and strained to see every possible angle at which Michael might approach the house. But he did not come. I waited all night, listening to the ticking clock as it tormented me from its spot on the fireplace, chiming softly every hour to remind me that with every chime, the night grew closer and closer to sunrise and there was less chance that Michael would show.
Dawn arrived and I wanted to scream.
I could not sleep, I could not eat. I wandered from room to room, looking out the windows, knowing full well that he would not appear during the day time. I went to the front door, unlocked all the bolts and looked out onto the lane. I could see no footprints patterning my path or garden. It had snowed afresh during the night, another reason to send my spirit crawling back into its bed of despair. I shut the door and pressed my forehead against the wood and closed my eyes.
Please, Michael, if you can hear me, please come back! I’m sorry!
By the afternoon, exhaustion had given way to the first tendrils of panic. I began to wonder if he had hurt himself. What if he had fallen or been hit by a car in his flight to escape me? What if he had impaled himself on a tree branch or gate post somewhere and bled to death out there in the cold woods? What if he had called for me and I had never come to save him? What if he had died alone out there?
After much pacing of the house, wringing of hands and cursing myself for my own stupidity; I decided there was only one way to tackle this.
Daylight faded and dusk crept in, growing ever more powerful by the minute. The moon awakened and decided to take its rightful place in the evening sky.
I was dressed in jeans, sweatshirt, boots and a thick padded coat (and before you ask, no, it wasn’t white with ties at the back). I was armed with a sheathed knife which was attached to a belt around my waist and also a torch. I went without gloves as I was concerned they might encumber me, should I need to unsheathe the knife quickly.
Unlocking the door for the second time that day, I could feel my heart hammering in my chest before I had even stepped outside. As I did, I shut the door behind me and the audible click of the door closing seemed to echo around the lane and notify anyone within earshot that, finally, the hermit had left her home during nightfall.
Coming, ready or not!
The chill night air whispered over my skin, making me shiver immediately and my breath left me in short, sharp gasps that danced in the air and faded away into nothing.
All was quiet.
I trudged down my garden path, where the snow was heavy and undisturbed, tugged on the gate and stepped out onto the lane. I scanned as far as I could see from left to right but could see no sign of movement. There were no footprints coming from where Michael usually appeared. There were no footprints anywhere along the tree line.
The woods and I eyeballed each other.
I’m coming in there you know and there is nothing you can do about it.
A slight breeze ruffled thought the leaves.
Come in, said the woods, but you’ll never leave, you’ll stay with us forever.
We’ll see about that, I thought and switched on the torch, casting a beam of light into the darkness of the trees.
I approached the edge of the wood, hearing the crunch of my boots as they left imprints in the thick snowfall. I stopped just at the border and shone my torch between the trees, carefully scanning into the gloom but could see nothing.
‘Michael!’ I called out although the sound barely dented a few metres into the undergrowth.
‘MICHAEL!’ I shouted this time, hoping that he would respond quickly and prevent me from having to enter this dark and malevolent place.
I waited, listening for any sound or movement. Everything remained as it was; still and silent as the grave.
My inner coward was screeching at me to turn around and flee back inside my little grey cottage. Even my heart seemed to urge me that it couldn’t take much more horror and fear as it thumped wildly inside my chest.
I turned my head and looked back at my house. It would be so easy to run back inside and lock the doors again. It would be so easy to pack my bags and run; start somewhere new and leave all this – and Michael – behind me.
Except, something told me that running and hiding wasn’t the right thing to do this time.
Something told me that I couldn’t just walk away from this strange vampire who had invaded my life.
Something told me that he needed me. Michael was in trouble, I was sure of it.
And so with trembling hand I raised my torch out in front of me and stepped through the gap from which Michael usually appeared and entered the waiting woods.
Copyright (c) Lindsey Clarke 2010 all rights reserved