Not my typical story.
“Cut!” the director yells.
My jaw immediately relaxes, and I suck in the extra saliva building in my mouth. I slouch back and frown at the director, Chad, as he shuffles through a stack of loose leaf papers crumpled in his firm grip.
“I’m sure I made it abundantly clear that the vampire is supposed to bite Brad’s neck before the hunter runs around the corner. What is the hold up, Gloria?”
I roll my eyes and suck in more excess saliva from around the fake teeth in my mouth. I just can’t seem to get used to them, and even though they’re way more sophisticated than the dollar store plastic ones I used to get when I was a kid it still feels foreign and wrong.
“Gloria!” Chad cries, interrupting my annoyed introspection.
“Nothing, Chad. It’s just that stupid cardboard box is in my blind spot, and I keep tripping on it.”
“Set dec! Fix it.” Chad’s head is back in his chaotic script pages and he doesn’t even acknowledge the young guy who scrambled up to shift the cardboard boxes out of my path.
John, playing Brad in the vampire hunter flick, looks annoyed with me, but he still holds out his hand and pulls me up. It drives me nuts that we’ve done this shot five times already, but Shawn keeps coming around the corner too soon, like whoever is giving him his cue is totally doing it on purpose.
“This is the last time we’re running this one, people! Get it right!”
“Scene 4, B, take six!”
The classic clapperboard slaps signaling the beginning of the scene, and I’m hidden in the shadow under the escape ladder. I swallow once more, and when I hear Brad dash around the corner I jump out and screech at him, flashing my bright white fangs. The light’s shining into my eyes and practically blinds me, but before I can grab hold of John/Brad’s arm to spin him around he faces me with blood dripping from his mouth and an incredibly frightened, shocked look on his face. I stop dead in my tracks with my jaw hanging open wide as he reaches toward me and grabs my arms then collapses to the ground.
I stumble back and gasp. I can’t scream. I can’t blink. I can’t think.
“Cut!” Chad cries. “What was that?” He jumps to his feet and stomps toward us.
“N-n-no, Ch-Chad. Oh . . . my God!” I finally scream and drop to my knees next to John. “He’s not breathing. Somebody help me!” I rub my hands over his chest, his arms, his face. His blood covers my hands, but I can’t find what’s made him bleed. A splattering and oozing of red is all over his face and neck.
All the sudden Chad is there, across John’s body from me, and his face mirrors my own, fear screwing up his features into a frightening mask. He reaches for John’s throat, searching for his pulse, but when he looks back up I can see the fear being dragged down into painful confusion. I can already sense the loss.
“He’s . . . gone,” Chad says, shaking his head while everyone else has gathered around.
I hear the distant, faint sound of ambulance sirens and my world comes sharply back into focus. There are terrified voices of people all around, crying, yelling, the siren growing ever closer. My heart hammers in my ears, and there’s something wet on my face. I reach up to wipe away the tears, not even registering the blood on my hands.
Someone else grasps my arms and pulls. I look up and see Shawn, his features scrunched up in regret . . . no. Anguish? He wraps his arms around me in a gentle embrace, pressing my cheek to his chest. His lips press into my hair and I feel the infinitesimal ruffling of the strands from his warm breath. I swallow back the thick saliva but it clogs in my throat as more tears escape my eyes.
The paramedics arrive and try to revive John, but it’s useless. I watch them while leaning into Shawn’s strength, and will John to come back, but he’s been gone for almost ten minutes. His blood is pooled on the ground all around his head–a red halo I’ll never be able to forget.
The cries and yelling have died down to a low murmur–a deathly, hellish sound of its own–and the medical people step aside to let the cops check the scene. The first thing they do is ask everyone to back up but stay put. I watch Chad point at me while he talks frantically with one of the officers.
I know why. I was the first to see him fall. I . . . am I a suspect? I wonder. I suck on my fake teeth and grimace at the thought.
“Don’t worry, Glo-bug,” Shawn whispers for only me to hear. “They’re just going to ask you a couple questions.”
It seems like days later, but it’s only been a few hours when I’m finally released. I’m back at my place and gotten a shower. I am sure I’m still in shock because nothing feels real to me. At least I don’t have the stupid vampire teeth in my mouth anymore. I check all my doors and windows one last time and pull the belt on my robe a little tighter before taking a seat on my couch.
After flipping through the channels I realize there’s nothing on that will take my mind off of the gruesome scene that keeps playing through my mind. Only it’s not a scene; it’s real and really happened. My gut tightens and throat constricts, but giving my head a vigorous shake does nothing to clear the visions from my head. I lean back and look up at the ceiling, focusing my thoughts on the little divets in the cement ceiling and the spiraling pattern circumferencing the outside of the metal ducting.
A knock sounds on the door, and I almost jump out of my skin as a half scream-half gurgling cry escapes my throat. “It’s just the door, Gloria,” I say to reassure myself.
I peek out the little spy hole then lean my head against the door with a sigh. It’s just Shawn. After I catch my breath, I unlock the dead bolt and swing the door open. “C’mon in, Shawn,” I say. “What are you doing here so late?”
I close the door and turn to stare at him, but I didn’t realize he was standing so close and take a quick breath in, my chest expanding with the effort.
“Did you hear about John?”
“No,” I say a little breathless, not sure why Shawn is standing so close. Instead of the heat of his body I feel a chill sweep over me.
“He had a bite mark on his neck, but his body disappeared from the morgue.”
I blink, slow. “What?”
“That’s crazy,” I say and back away, something in Shawn’s eyes unnerving me.
He steps closer until I’m flush with the door, and I hold my breath, frozen with a sense of fear that seems out of place and yet totally natural. Shawn leans in, his face an inch from mine and the gleam in his eyes the only life I see. He stands straight and slips my hair back off my shoulder, exposing my neck.
“Right there,” he says while touching my throat, my pulse pounding against his fingers.
I suck in a breath, my mouth dry, and swallow hard. His lips part in a slow, easy smile but what I see there isn’t fake. It’s real. I open my mouth to scream but in the next second, before a sound can pass my lips his teeth sink into my neck and my world goes black.