Find Me Tonight

The boy watched the pink foil helium balloon hover listlessly in the moonlight. It was the last remnant from his sister’s birthday party earlier that day. During the party, it had been perky, dancing happily in the breeze. Now, enough helium had escaped that it had begun its inevitable slump toward the ground.

It had been a lovely party. Full of sunlight and laughing, presents and cake, and kids running around in the grassy field playing ball. Or tag. The boy didn’t know.

He had been distracted by something else.

Behind the park shelter was an old railroad track choked with dense trees and bushes. He’d seen a glint, though. Something shiny was calling to him from the dark undergrowth. His mom and his aunt were too busy wrangling all of the other children to notice him, so he hopped off the bench and made his way over.

When he got close enough, he heard laughter. He looked over his shoulder, to his sister and her friends chasing each other around the playground. Had one of the older kids slipped away? The boy wanted to play with the older kids rather than his sister and her friends, so he chased after the laughter in the trees.

Once he ducked through the tree line, he immediately tripped and landed hard on the old metal tracks. Tears stung his eyes as he looked at his hands, scraped on the rotting railroad ties.

“Get up, boy. Those scrapes won’t kill you.”

The boy jerked his head up. There was a little girl, probably about his age, looking down her nose at him. Even in the deep shade of the trees, she was incredibly white. Her skin, her hair, her dress. He looked down at himself, as dark as she was white: dark skin, dark hair, dark clothes, dark blood where gravel had embedded itself in his palms.

He didn’t want to cry in front of this little white girl, so he scrubbed his hands on his pants with a pained grimace and stood up.

“You’re not one of my sister’s friends.”

She shook her head, white ringlets of hair swaying by her face. “No, I’m not. But I’d like to be your friend.”

His mom had always said not to talk to strangers, but he’d always thought she meant adults, not other kids. Still, this girl was very strange.

“What do you want to play?”

She tilted her head to the side. “How about chase? You run, and I will chase you.”

The boy frowned, not wanting to run after falling hard on his hands and knees. “Can we play something else?”

The girl stepped very close, and the boy was surprised to find goosebumps all the way up and down his arms even in the heat of the afternoon. She had moved in a quick, jerky way, and when he took in a breath, there was a bad smell coming from her. He looked up at her face, and saw that her eyes were glowing with a weird red light.

The boy took a step backward and the girl laughed. “What would you like to play, then?”

He gave a nervous shrug. “I should probably go back to the party.”

The girl’s mouth turned into a pout. “We could bring the party to us. That could be fun.”

“How do we do that?” The boy was starting to feel sick, so close to this strange little girl. It was so dark under all the trees and bushes. And mosquitos had begun to bite him, sucking out his blood. He swatted at one, and she stared at the streak of blood the mosquito left across his skin.

After a moment, she pulled out a little compact mirror. “It’s a bit like going fishing. Watch.”

She crawled into the bushes, and he followed. She opened the compact, and holding one end of it, she stretched and she angled the mirrored end to catch a bit of sunlight. The boy watched as one of his sister’s friends—who had come over to the shelter for a drink—noticed it. She looked around, but there were no grown-ups close by. She looked back to the light, and stepped toward them.

The girl snapped the compact shut and crawled back to where the boy was standing. She let out a little giggle, the same giggle that had drawn him in. He felt his eyes go wide and round. It was like fishing. If the mirror and the laugh were the bait, what was the hook?

His sister’s friend crashed through the underbrush toward them. “Oh!” she said when she saw him and the white girl.

The boy opened his mouth to say something, but suddenly the little white girl lunged forward and tackled his sister’s friend to the ground.

His sister’s friend screamed. He screamed. The girl in the white dress pressed his sister’s friend to the ground and wouldn’t let her up. Her mouth was on her neck, and no matter how much she struggled, she couldn’t get up, and then she didn’t struggle anymore.

The boy stood frozen to the spot, not believing what he was seeing. It was like some scary movie his mom never let him watch. Only this was real.

When the girl looked up, there was blood on her cheeks and ringing her mouth, smeared across the front of her white dress. His sister’s friend was still, eyes open, staring blankly at the trees above them.

And then there was more crashing, and he heard his mom and his aunt calling his name. He stood horrified, not able to move. The girl with the bloody face didn’t take her eyes off of him.

“This was a fun game. You should come back and play with me. Tonight. After the sun goes down.” She lunged forward.

The boy put his arms up and stepped backward, tripping on the train tracks again. He fell in slow motion, the girl in white jumping on him as he landed. He felt the sharp prick of her teeth in his neck, the pulling as she sucked his blood out through the holes, and then a strange, burning, worming sensation. Before she got off of him, she leaned down and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

“Find me tonight.”

And with that, she was gone, and his mom was scooping him up into her arms, wailing and crying. His aunt was crouched next to his sister’s friend, but he knew there was nothing to be done about her.

He only hoped there was something that could be done for him.

#

The next few hours were excruciating. His entire body burned from the inside out. His mom kept taking his temperature, making him drink the medicine she gave him when he was sick, putting cold washcloths on his burning forehead.

At one point, his aunt insisted his mom take him to the hospital. His mom said they had no money. He knew they had no money. His mom had been saving for his sister’s party, but she could barely afford the pink foil balloon, the tiny sheet cake, and powdered Kool-Aid for the kids.

And now one of them was dead, and the parents were blaming his mother.

But he didn’t really know much about any of that. All he knew was the pain. It got worse and worse, pressure building up inside of him, pushing him out of the way.

And then the pain stopped and he went perfectly still.

And his mother wailed.

And then a new pain started. Hunger unlike he’d ever felt before.

And as his mother clutched him to her chest, his fingers twitched of their own accord. And then they were around his mother’s throat. Stop, stop, no, don’t do that, he wailed in his mind, but he no longer controlled his body. And then he was biting his mom. Warm, life-giving liquid flowed from her veins into his mouth, into his belly, and made him feel alive again.

His mind went away for awhile after that. And when he came back, he was surrounded by death. His mom. His aunt. His sister.

But he was full, at least. And the pain had stopped.

But a new pain had started.

What was he?

The girl in white. She would know. She had said to come find her. It was dark outside. He’d never been out at night, but the park was just a few blocks from their tiny apartment.

He stood in the picnic shelter watching the balloon. He didn’t want to go back into the bushes where the train tracks were. He kept seeing the horrible things that had happened there, every time he closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see it anymore. He wanted the pink helium balloon to fill up again. For the sun to shine again, for his family to be alive again.

“You came back.”

The boy looked up. The girl was there, of course.

“It was a lovely party.” She followed his gaze to the pink balloon. “I’m sorry to have ruined it.”

Part of the boy wanted to attack her. She had done this. But the sad look on her face…and something else…stopped him.

“You can’t kill me. You’ll only hurt yourself if you do. If I die, you die.”

“What am I?”

She tilted her head. “Haven’t you ever heard of vampires?”

He shook his head. He had, of course. But only in a vague sense. He didn’t know what it meant.

“Well, it means you can’t go out in the sunlight and you can’t eat food anymore. You have to drink blood. But it also means you won’t ever get old or die, unless someone kills you. Or me, I guess.”

The boy blinked. “I killed my family.”

The girl’s expression didn’t change. “You will probably kill lots of families. Might as well start with your own. It was probably the easiest meal you’ll ever get.”

The boy just stared at her.

“Oh, and you probably shouldn’t go back there. The Hunters will be looking for you. They’ll kill you if they find you.”

“What am I supposed to do?” He couldn’t go home. But he couldn’t stay here. It was a park. There weren’t any beds or anything.

“You could come stay with me.” The girl looked hopeful.

But all he could think was that it was all her fault that everyone was dead and he couldn’t go home. He shook his head.

Her lip stuck out in a pout. “Fine. Don’t come. They never do. I hope the Hunters kill you, too.”

She ran off into the night, leaving him alone.

After watching the balloon for awhile longer, he reached up for it. His fingernails sliced into the foil, and the thing emptied, sagging onto the floor of the shelter. The boy looked at his hand. His nails had become claws. He coiled them into fists, but cut his palm.

Tears stung his eyes, but he couldn’t cry. He wanted his mom. He wanted to go home.

He didn’t care what the girl said, he went home anyway.

And sure enough, there were people in his apartment. He scrambled up into a tree across the parking lot to watch.

He expected the police, but it wasn’t. They were tough-looking people with weapons. And then the strange human-like creatures came—people who looked human but he could tell that inside they were more like him—and they cleaned up what was left of his family, from the bodies to all of their belongings, leaving an empty shell. All the while, he huddled in the tree. Even after they had all left, he stayed. What if they came back? The girl in white had said they’d kill him.

His family was dead, his home had been taken apart by strangers, and he was a vampire. What was he supposed to do now?

It wasn’t until the sun started to come up that he realized he had to get out of the tree. The sun hurt him. It was a new kind of pain. The heat of the day seemed to be boiling him from the outside this time.

Before the sun spilled over the trees, he ran for his house. It was locked, but he knew where his mom kept the hide-a-key in the fake rock on the back patio. He got inside just in time, and curled in a ball on the floor of his closet all day.

That night, he went back to the park. The balloon was gone, and so was the girl. She wasn’t anywhere on the railroad tracks, either. He followed them all the way to the bridge but didn’t dare go any further, where the tracks stopped and turned into a dirt bike path. He could smell that humans had been there recently.

Not knowing what else to do, he went back to his house. He used the hide-a-key to get back inside. He poked around in closets and cupboards, but the people had taken every last thing of his family’s.

He spent the rest of the night wandering the neighborhood, climbing in and out of dumpsters. He found a blanket and a couple of discarded toys that he drug back to the apartment. Once the sun came up, he went back to the closet with his dumpster finds and tried to sleep.

For a week, he was able to stay at his house during the day and he wandered the neighborhood at night, looking for something that he wasn’t sure what it was and never found. But then, there were people in the house, and he was trapped in the closet, hiding in the crawl space in the closet until they were gone.

When the people started moving their stuff in, something kept him from going back. It wasn’t his house anymore.

That morning, as the sun rose, he pounded desperately on his neighbor’s door. They groggily answered, and exclaimed when they saw him.

“Can I come into your house?” he asked, voice hoarse with panic.

They clamored to let him in, touching his face, hugging him close. “We thought you had died with your family! Come in, dear, come in.”

So he did. He ate well that day and had a place to stay for awhile, until someone else moved in.

He was able to find shelter most nights that way.

He never did find the girl from the park again. He wondered how his life would have been different if he’d just gone with her. Maybe she knew how to live better.

But maybe not. He liked to believe she was just as alone as he was, and that maybe, just maybe, she was also looking for the thing he kept looking for, not sure what it even was anymore.

And as he followed this new girl—the girl who dropped all her books onto the ground who was moving in to his family’s old apartment—to the door, he wondered if he’d find it tonight.

Sara is a Kansas-grown author of the fantasy and horror persuasions. She is convinced that fantastical things are waiting for her just around the corner, and until she finds the right corner, she writes about those things instead.

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