Chapter 7: Date

4861D367-189F-4645-AD95-28EE6D2FE89D

Between collecting souls,

858ED7A6-4348-4F40-8DD9-ECD800072111

looking after Ryan,

72A52F09-6E3E-4F3C-97D0-93BE39055F10

and being Jack’s thug as he terrorizes other vampires, I haven’t had to time to work on my book. Or sleep. Or do anything at all. But despite everything, I made the time to meet with Michelle for dinner.

6F8A1DFC-3486-4DB9-B525-C6FD65DE71BD

My heart was pounding as I walked over to the table Michelle was sitting at. She looked up and smiled at me.

“Hey,” she said. “You look great.”

0A80FA67-48D4-4D22-B696-373C3ACB7B78

“You too,” I replied, sitting down. “Why’d you pick this restaurant?”

She shrugged. “It’s not the fanciest place in town, but it’s way classier than eating fast food on a first date.” I browsed the menu and we placed our orders.

“So… what do you talk about during a first date?” I asked sheepishly.

DD5F0B25-6681-4D17-8602-470839AC7519

Michelle snorted. “Oh my gosh. Don’t tell me you’ve never been on a date before.”

There was that one time in my third cycle when I went out with a guy for dinner. But I couldn’t really count that as a date since we didn’t get to finish it. And the reason why is because he choked on his food and I had to collect his soul shortly after. I really hope Michelle doesn’t die and make this awkward.

I shook my head and she clasped her hand to her mouth, holding back her laughter. “Well, on a first date you usually try to get to know each other,” she said after regaining her composure. “So, tell me about you. What makes you you?”

C322E20B-4786-4E76-BE6E-388E13FC08C1

“I like reading books, and I’ve been trying to write one, but it’s kind of a mess right now.”

Michelle nodded approvingly. “A girl after my own heart. What’s it about?”

I blanched. I never talked about my work-in-progress book with anyone, even after almost two decades of working on it.

870FA83F-E96F-4C82-8955-FB08EA1E981B

“Oh, uh, it’s kind of like a slice of life novel that just follows the main character around,” I mumbled.

1CFB09C9-17E5-4DB3-8BCA-A85D490BE468

“Really? You’re gonna make it that vague? Come on, just give me a brief synopsis. I won’t judge you even if it’s a raunchy romance novel.”

“The main character is, um, the grim reaper.”

7364941F-99DE-416C-97DF-3379109B8AF2

Michelle’s eyes lit up. “That’s interesting. How did you come up with the idea?”

“I just thought it would be fun to write about the grim reaper. You know, see what her- I mean his- daily life was like,” I shrugged, trying to act nonchalant. “Anyway, what about you?”

E46AF319-B22A-497A-B4DE-3A1B7697C82B

“As for me, I like books, too. Pretty much the reason why I became a librarian,” she began. “My parents wanted me to go to med school, because everyone in my family is a doctor or nurse. But I’m just not that into treating people or saving lives. They refused to support me after I told them that, so I had to scrounge up whatever cash I could just to finish college.”

“Oh,” was all that I could say.

6F85243F-ECC5-47D0-914C-6F68CB3D07E2

“Don’t feel bad for me, everything turned out well anyway. When I saw that the library here was hiring, I jumped at the opportunity. It fit all of my criteria: I get to surround myself with books, and I get to be as far away as possible from my family.” She took a long sip of her drink. “Anyway, enough about my sob story. What about your family? Are they as crazy as mine?”

“I don’t have any, actually. I’m an orphan,” I said my perfectly rehearsed lie. “I grew up moving from one foster family to another, so I don’t really have any place to call home.”

Michelle was quiet for a while. “Wow. I really sounded like an asshole whining about my family, huh?”

5E0DCE6E-1E70-4645-8799-41998A27EF7C

I laughed. “No, it’s fine. I don’t mind it.”

After getting past the awkwardness, we managed to talk all night, not realizing how long we’ve spent at that restaurant.

02617D19-EC24-4D6F-A252-9E871CB4C049

I kept stealing glances at her, too. She looked lovely tonight, and I hope she didn’t notice how much I stared at her.

2A795071-5D3A-48B6-BBDF-FF9D2FC4A659

But I think she stole glances at me, too, because I could feel her eyes on me while we ate.

Michelle and I walked home together. Adrenaline rushing through me, I awkwardly invited her inside. But she just laughed and said she had things to do so she took off.

CF68F2A1-CC6B-4AEF-A765-72271DC32518

I couldn’t stop smiling. How could going out with someone just once make me feel this way?

0EFB78F6-E00E-442E-8B66-E504CC437C87

I was getting ready for bed when I heard a knock at the front door, snapping me out of my blissful daydreams. I glanced at the wall clock. “Who the hell thinks it’s okay to visit this late at night?” I muttered.

ABDC5FB2-7337-497A-8B18-6D975736A0ED

It was Angelo. I stepped outside and shivering as my bare feet made contact with the cool wood on the porch.

C7249E9E-5961-4ABD-8638-A6B82FE50D77

“What brings you here?” I asked.

“Hi, sorry for coming over so late, I have really weird shifts at the hospital,” he explained. “I’m here because you forgot your phone there. Lucretia asked me to get it back to you.” He handed my phone over.

So that’s why it seemed like nobody was dying today. I wanted to kick myself, and hoped I wouldn’t get scolded again for forgetting my duties.

D73CB8EA-58EA-4874-A689-D4C23FE3FBF4

“Oh my god. I’m so stupid. Thank you so much, Angelo. I’m sorry you had to go out of your way for me.”

“No worries. I’ll get going now, have a good night!” He waved as he stepped off the porch and walked away.

04D18F67-CBED-4E69-9C31-98F0BEADAD4C

Time to check the damage. Surprisingly, no one really did die today, which was a relief. But after a few minutes of replying to texts and scrolling mindlessly through my social media, a notification popped up. I opened it. It was a soul dying just a short walk away from my house. I checked to see who it was and a lump in my throat formed.

It was Angelo. But maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was someone else who just had the same name. I went to the location, crossing my fingers, hoping it wasn’t him.

4A051BBB-0FB6-45CF-9342-4730121D882D

But it really was him. He was lying in a pool of blood on the sidewalk, his breath shallow as he fought to stay conscious. I breathed shakily as I collected his soul, trying to ignore the familiar feeling of the killer’s eyes watching me. I don’t know why I felt this way, I didn’t even know the guy that well. But in a way, wasn’t this my fault? Didn’t he die because of my forgetfulness, because there was a murderer on the loose trying to get a reaper’s attention? I blinked away tears as I watched this boy I barely knew slip away.

Advertisements

Chapter 6: Stakes

My heart was pounding as I walked through the library. I rehearsed what I wanted to say this morning, but I was sure I was going to mess it up once I saw her face.

3F6DF911-72CE-43E2-9E8D-75F62EE492D9

I found Michelle putting books back into the shelves.

“Um, hey,” I said. She looked at me, and her cheeks turned red.

076AA21D-659E-4254-A7C9-8C198164D988

“Hi. Look, about yesterday, I’m really sorry,” she began. “I shouldn’t have done that without asking for your permission and we barely know each other so that was really inappropriate for me to-“

“Actually,” I interrupted. “I came here to ask you out on a date. Maybe tomorrow? Or whenever you’re free. It’s okay if you say no, though.” I anxiously bit my lip.

42C7D496-4954-43EF-BF0D-B8FF851A12AB

She looked surprised. “You aren’t mad?” I shook my head, and a smile slowly spread across her face.

“If anything, you’re the one who should be mad at me for just walking away without saying anything,” I said.

Michelle laughed. “I get off at 6 tomorrow.”

5332FDF0-FEB6-4E6C-AC91-6F6E68FA475E

“Great! It’s a date, then. A real actual date.”

She nodded, still smiling, and waved goodbye as I left. She said yes. I felt absolutely exhilarated as I went back to the hospital.

 

616BC264-22CE-470E-A9AC-EEF0AB40EACF

Ryan was sitting by Doctor Miller’s bed, and they both smiled at me as I walked in, but went back to their conversation. Angelo was in the corner, his pencil flying across the page of his sketchbook as he kept glancing up at the two of them.

I looked over his shoulder. “Wow,” I breathed. “That’s amazing. How do you manage to make it look so real with just a few lines?”

35611FFA-15DC-4B7C-B19E-5AC7DADA90BF

He paused drawing to grin at me. “Thanks! I’ve been drawing since my grandpa gave me my first sketchbook. It also helps that back when I was a nursing student I drew all my anatomy references by hand.” He went back to sketching for a moment but stopped and looked at me again. “Hey, your name’s Anya, right?”

“Yup.”

“My mom has the same name,” he explained. “My grandpa named her Anya, but she hates it so everyone calls her Annie.”

“Uhh, okay?”

“Oh! Sorry, I rambled a bit there. I just thought it was funny that I met someone with the same name as her.”

“It’s fine,” I laughed. “I’ve never met anyone with the same name, so that’s cool, I guess.”

53613AEB-4B31-4E81-AB02-9334B3A02F4E

We chatted for a while until he had to go on duty again and I had to take Ryan home so he could shower and sleep. As soon as I tucked him in bed, my phone gave a soft beep. I stepped outside and closed his bedroom door before checking the assignment.

EA5A9D4E-7003-4FF2-AFCA-49960D6F6DD4

A vampire soul, cool. I scrolled through the details, and found that he was just a little bit over a hundred years old. Not quite as impressive as the last vampire soul I collected, who had lived through seven centuries. Cause of death was being staked through the heart. Location was…

I frowned. The location of the assignment was in the basement of the house next to mine. That weird guy who went through my trash had a dying vampire in his basement.

 

814C08D6-7B01-40AA-95A0-ADCBCD2DA30A

I materialized at the top of the basement stairs in my robes. I could see a faint light coming from below. I went down and approached the source of the light, a generic looking floor lamp. There I saw the vampire lying in a pool of his own blood, and my neighbor Jack casually sitting across him. He simply looked at me, but other than that he didn’t acknowledge my presence.

I pretended not to notice him and focused on collecting the soul. I was about to leave when he stood up and spoke.

17F7895F-6BBC-42FC-93BF-672652714832

“Anya?”

I froze. He was grinning like an absolute madman.

“I’m right, aren’t I?” He said excitedly. “You’re Anya!”

I was panicking. “I do not know w-who this… Anya you speak of is,” I said in a low, gravelly voice.

“Oh, drop the act! I know who you are. Who would have thought you’d be the replacement for the old Brindleton reaper?”

F1C2448A-6F97-43DC-BBF7-F873FDB8B517

“H-how do you know who I am?” I asked in my normal voice.

“I’m the greatest detective back in Willow Creek, you know. Well, was, but that’s not important right now.” He sat down again and gestured for me to take a seat opposite him. I didn’t budge. There was no way I was going to sit in his kidnap slash murder chair.

DC736A03-F1E2-4CC4-8DA6-9BF44394EE88

He continued, “What’s important is that you are going to help me track down more vampires.”

“Wha-I- excuse me? Look, Jack, is it? I don’t want any trouble, okay? It’s obvious you’ve got some sort of sick obsession with me, since you keep killing people to get me to come, but can you cut it out? And I don’t know how you managed to figure out who I am, but you are definitely going to get a very angry lecture from a snobby guy in a white suit soon.”

“Huh?” was all that he said.

“You’re the weirdo that’s been stabbing people at night and watching me like a pervert,” I hissed.

6D082965-03A4-4D79-8ADC-95851340BF83

Jack scratched his head. “As far as I know, this is the only person I’ve killed ever since you moved in,” he pointed to the dead vampire. “And to be perfectly honest, he deserved it as he was saying some very rude things I’d rather not repeat.”

“Then who the hell has been killing people and watching me!?”

“I have no idea, but I have to confess that I’ve been investigating you, which is how I know your true identity.”

“What? Why?”

3103E657-377E-4AC3-8296-979829A8F11C

“Because you were acting very suspicious, and once, through your window, I saw you appear in your living room out of thin air,” he said, shrugging. “I thought you were a vampire, but once I saw all that takeout and junk food in your garbage bin, it was easy to deduce you were a different sort of supernatural creature.”

I groaned and made a mental note to buy curtains for all the windows in my living room.

“Okay,” I said slowly. “You’re not the killer who’s been stabbing people just to get me to come, but you are still a murderer.” I gestured to the corpse.

CF5AC21C-FB79-4A79-B215-FCEC95C5DE0E

“I am a vampire hunter,” he corrected. “And besides, I don’t kill all vampires I come across. I actually only kidnapped this fellow here to interrogate him, but he became quite hostile.”

“Why in the world are you kidnapping and killing vampires? You do know that a lot of them don’t even drink from humans anymore? They’re just trying to live ordinary lives.”

91D7D83E-D6CC-4AB0-92AD-3E1317D80605

“I know, I’m one of them.”

I raised an eyebrow, even though he couldn’t see it under my hood. “You’re a vampire hunter that’s also a vampire?”

D5DB7D47-DD94-4842-B8A4-E7723764EEC1

“Precisely! And now that we both know each other’s secret identities, we can work together!”

“Um, I have no interest in killing anyone, human or vampire. Besides, I didn’t even know there were any vampires here in Brindleton until you killed this one. I’m useless to you.”

“Hmm, I thought that as a grim reaper you would have access to records of all souls?”

I shook my head. “I only get information once they’re dying.”

Jack thought about this for a while. “Well, this certainly complicates my plans, but I’ve always made the best out of any situation. You can be my muscle instead!”

“Muscle? I couldn’t lift anything even if I tried,” I scoffed.

5AFEB134-2E74-4CFA-ACFC-D6FFD28D4AF2

“No, I meant you could intimidate them! I do the talking while you stand behind me and look menacing. I’ve met plenty of vampires who have had encounters with grim reapers, and they are absolutely terrified of your kind. What do you say?”

“I don’t even know what your motives are.”

“I hunt vampires because they took something important from me,” he said simply.

A01D1886-C628-4C8B-9DA0-B885F2DD757F

“Ah, so this is a revenge plan. What’s in it for me?”

“You said you had a stalker, right? The one who’s been killing people? I offer my investigative skills in return.”

Was finding out who the killer is worth going into a deal with a vampire with homicidal tendencies?

“Deal,” I said after a while.

Jack nodded approvingly. “Wonderful! Now if you’d be so kind to let yourself out, I have to clean this mess up.”

C7EAC512-9DC2-4253-8523-C98D577DE07A

“How are you going to dispose of his body?”

“Oh, I’ll just drag him out into the backyard and wait for sunrise. He’ll be ashes by then so that gets rid of the evidence. I’ve been doing it for years.” He gave me a wide, innocent-looking smile.

“…O-okay.” Maybe teaming up with a vampire hunter wasn’t such a good idea after all.

 

 

 

[Hello! Sorry for the lack of updates lately, I started college about a month ago and at first I’ve been busy getting stuck in traffic, then I was busy moving into a dorm at the absolute last minute, and now I’m busy preparing to move into a different dorm. For now, please have this double update! I’ll try to get back to my regular posting schedule once I figure out how to adult properly!]