As we rounded the corner, the music became louder.
My boyfriend pulled up outside this old, derelict, Victorian mansion. "You ready?" he asked me, flashing his fanged smile. I returned the smile, my own fangs reflecting the moonlight.
We walked hand in hand up the creaky old steps. My foot fell through the last stair. I cried out, gripping my boyfriend's arm as I struggled to pull my foot free. I could hear hysterical laughter behind me and I knew that I had just been tricked. Sure enough, the stair reappeared, seeming as solid as the house.
I turned to see the practical jokers, Tom and Brad, standing behind me, cheesy grins on their faces and arrows through their heads. "Real original, guys," I told them, rolling my eyes. Tom began laughing again. "Yes, but who fell for it? Get it? Fell for it?" He and Brad slapped high fives before jumping into the bush to await their next victim.
I felt my boyfriend take my hand. "Don't worry about those jerks," he said, kissing my cheek. "I'll fix them when we're back at school." I grinned and adjusted my eighteenth century noble woman's dress. The fall through the fake stair had caused the dress to almost release one of my breasts into the cold night air. I mentally kicked myself for not wearing a bra and double sided tape.
My boyfriend opened the old doors to reveal a large ballroom like atmosphere. A DJ was in the middle of the floor while bodies writhed and grind against each other. A quick glance around the room made me realise that this could be a mistake of epic proportions. I saw a hot dog grinding his hips, and weiner, against a pig and there was an angel convincing people to chug beer at a rapid rate.
"I think this was a mistake," I said, turning my head. My boyfriend was gone. Furiously, I scanned the crowd for any signs of my 'Lestat' but alas I couldn't find him.
"Fuck!" I muttered. A couple of Freddy Krueger wannabes turned to look at me. I dismissed them with a wave my noble woman's hand before I took to the stairs. Maybe from the balcony I could get a better view, find my Lestat and get the hell out.
People raced by me, drinks in hand, laughing and joking. One girl thought it was funny to run up behind someone and scream loudly in their ear. Unfortunately for her, I screamed back. She walked away scowling, her finger in her ear to drown out the ringing. I chuckled, adjusting my dress again. I always knew I had a powerful set of lungs.
"That was priceless."
I jumped, turning around slowly. Standing before me was a handsome young man whom I'd never seen before. His dirty blond hair was perfectly neat and his eyes were cold grey like steel. His skin was pale, porcelain.
"Thank you," I responded, giving a little curtsy. "I couldn't let them have all the fun." The stranger laughed, his hand adjusting the sash on his old fashioned solider costume. "I'm Andrew," he said, extending his hand.
I introduced myself, taking his hand. Rather then shaking it, Andrew lent down and kissed it. I blushed and giggled.
"It's too noisy here," he said, still holding my hand. "Shall we move somewhere quieter?" I nodded. I scanned the crowd below once last time. No sign of Lestat. I made a mental note to kick his ass at a later date for ditching me, as Andrew pulled me into a side room.
One look at the room and I could tell it use to be a library. Shelves lined the walls. A couple of old books reminded. I picked one up, blowing the dust off the cover while Andrew took a seat near the window.
I approached him. From the library window I could see an old cemetery in the yard. It was overgrown and unkempt and there were a few couples down there getting hot and heavy. I gave a soft chuckle and sat beside Andrew.
Suddenly the door burst open and a group of people entered the room. "Oops," said one girl dressed as, well, I presumed she was suppose to be a slutty version of Snow White. "Sorry, didn't know anyone was in here." She gave us a wink.
"No, it's alright," I said quickly. "We were just talking. It's so hard to hear yourself downstairs."
Snow White nodded. "We came up here to tell ghost stories. Want to join us?"
I looked at Andrew and he nodded. "Sure," he answered.
For the next hour the other kids swapped ghost stories. None of them were particularly scary. Some of them were just stupid. But everyone was in the spirit of the night and appropriately "oohed" and "ahhed" when it was called for.
After a few minutes of silence someone dressed as a duck said, "That story about the smokers and the burnt out motel has given me shivers." Some one else agreed. Some one else dressed like a cowboy made the comment that the scariest kinds of stories were usually about haunted houses. "I mean, could you imagine living in a haunted house?" he asked.
"This house in haunted," I said quietly.
All eyes turned to me and room became so quiet that, despite the music from below, you could have heard a pin drop.
"Well, I don't know for certain," I stammered. "But my grandfather told me some weird things about this place from when he was boy."
Everyone leaned forward including Andrew, their eyes pleading with me to continue my story.
"When my pop was, like, fourteen, he use to work in this house. He did odd jobs for Mr. Hill, the guy who built this house. Pop use to rake leaves in the yard and tend to the grounds. That kind of thing. Mrs. Hill had died a couple of years earlier, so Pop figured that Mr. Hill liked having him around for the company.
"Mr. Hill also had a son, but Pop never saw him because he was off fighting in some war. I think it was the Second World War. Anyway, Pop said that Mr. Hill was always telling him that his boy had been in this battle or that invasion or he was getting a medal for something or other. Totally proud, you know? So when the war ended and he found out that his son was coming home, he just about exploded with excitement. He was all like "We've got to fix up the attic apartment" and "Everything has to be just perfect and ready." He got Pop to do all the work up there. He paid him quiet handsomely to do it too. But then Mr. Hill's son got home, and nothing was really like the old man had expected.
"I guess this guy wasn't interested in talking about all the glorious battles he'd been in. Pop said he was just, I don't know, fragile. Totally shell-shocked or something. Who knows what he'd seen? But I guess he had nightmares all the time. Even during the day, he'd kind of space out every now and then. He couldn't concentrate on conversations. And Pop said he'd come over sometimes, he'd be doing some chore, and upstairs in the attic apartment, he could hear this guy just crying. Poor Mr. Hill. He didn't know what to do about it so he kind of ignored it. And then, eventually, the son was so absolutely tormented that he went up to his room in the attic, took his service revolver and shot himself in the head.
"I guess that at the funeral, the old man looked as though he had aged twenty years. Afterwards, when everybody was having coffee and sandwiches, he made a point of coming over to Pop. He asked him if he could drop by the house the next day because he had an important job for him to do. So Pop said "Sure." I mean, what else could he say? So Pop rocked up the next day and get this: Mr. Hill wanted him to clean the attic apartment. More importantly, clean the bloodstain off the floor. He told Pop that he, himself couldn't do it but he couldn't stand the thought of it being there either. So, armed with a mop, scrubbing brush and pail of water, Pop went upstairs to clean.
"It took him almost all of the day but when he had finished, the floor was spotless. He said that the floor was gleaming and if you didn't know, you would never have guessed that a body had been there. Which is why he was pretty surprised by Mr. Hill's reaction when he came back to work the next day.
"Mr. Hill laid into him about slacking off and not doing his job. My pop was like "what?!" So he went upstairs to check it out.
"And the bloodstain was still there.
"He was stunned, you know. It made no sense whatsoever. But he did the only thing he could think of, which was grab the bucket and brush and cleaned it again. But he made sure that he arrived at the house extra early tomorrow to check before Mr. Hill had a chance to. Just in case. It wasn't like he expected the bloodstain to be still there.
"But it was.
"It was there, just this big, dark, gory-looking stain, like no one had every touched it. So my pop begins to panic knowing that Mr. Hill would be checking on him soon. He grabs the rags and some water and begins to scrub the floor furiously. He had only managed to get a little patch cleaned up when he happened to glance behind him. And that's when he saw it.
"The stain was beginning to reform itself, behind him.
"My pop totally freaked out. He went tearing down the stairs and started blithering to Mr. Hill about what was going on and how he wasn't going back up there, ever-not for any amount of money. Mr. Hill just looked at him like he had lost his mind but he didn't say anything. He just turned on his heel and went up to the attic himself. But ten minutes later, when he came down, I guess he was as pale as a ghost. He turned to Pop and said, "James, please get me some planks and nails from the shed." So Pop did. Then together, they barred the door closed."
"Which door?" Snow White asked, chewing on her nails.
I lifted my hand and pointed to the corner of the library. "That one."
All eyes followed my outstretched finger. They could see a door handle sticking out from old wooden planks. There was nothing but silence.
"I wonder if the stain is still there," the cowboy wondered allowed.
"It is," Andrew replied quietly.
I turned to look at him. His face was pale. Paler then when I first met him.
"How do you know?" someone asked.
"Because it's my blood," he answered, his eyes locking onto mine.
It seemed like such a typical adolescent thing to say. At first there was silence but then the others began to laugh. "Nice one man," said the cowboy.
"Yeah, good one," replied Snow White.
I reached out and touched Andrew's hand. "What's the matter?" I asked. He was slumped against the curtain, his skin losing it's pallor.
Andrew didn't respond. He didn't look at me. It was like he hadn't even heard me. Instead, he stood up straight and began to move to the door.
A mummy stood up and clapped Andrew on the back as he moved past him, still laughing hysterically. But Andrew didn't stop moving. He didn't comment. He just left.
I didn't see him leave. I hadn't even spared him a glance as he was crossing the room. From the moment he stood up, my eyes had been fixed on where he was sitting. More importantly, where his head had been resting. There, spoiling the yellowed floral curtains, was a dark, dripping, baseball-sized stain. It's center lay exactly where Andrew had been resting his temple.
I felt my stomach knot as I stared at the bloodstain on the curtain. I felt physically ill.
"Hey, where did your friend go?"
My head snapped up as I looked at Snow White.
"What?" I asked, stupidly.
"Your friend. That guy. The soldier? Do you think he'd mind if I took his seat? Sitting on the floorboards is too uncomfortable."
I didn't say anything as she rubbed her backside. I was too horrified to speak. Instead I made a limp gesture to the bloody mess that had begun to seep down the curtain, onto the horrid peeling wallpaper and eventually landing on the cushion.
Snow White took that gesture as an invitation and parked her ass down next to me. She looked directly at the bloodstain on the curtain and didn't bat an eyelash. There was no reaction; there was no revulsion in her eyes whatsoever.
Suddenly I began to shake. There was a deafening buzzing in my ears. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to understand. I knew that I wouldn't. I couldn't understand what had just happened.
Not unless I saw him again.
I stood up and ran. I ran across the room, jumping over people's outstretched legs and dodging the furniture. I banged my thigh hard against the corner of an antique curio table and nearly fell flat on my face when my foot became tangled in an Oriental rug. I managed to hold it together and made it out the door in record time.
Downstairs was much more crowded then before. People were everywhere, the smell of sweat was in the air. Those that had grown tied of dancing had merged to the stairs and were now blocking the way. I pushed past everyone, desperately searching the crowd for any sign of Andrew. Finally, in frustration, I decided to follow my instincts. I made my way down the stairs and that stupid bitch which screamed in my ear earlier this evening attempted it again. I shot her a look before smacking her in the nose, sending her backwards against the railing.
"Fucking bitch!" she cried as blood spurted from her nose. "What the fuck is your problem?" I turned my head, my eyes locking onto her. Suddenly she backed off, apologising for acting the way she had.
I continued my search for Andrew. I caught a glimpse of khaki material somewhere near the DJ booth.
"Andrew!" I shouted, but it was useless. I knew that no way could anyone hear me over Michael Jackson's Thriller.
Standing on the ballroom floor, I scanned the room. I saw Andrew making his way out the door.
"Hey! Somebody stop that soldier guy!' I cried, pointing in Andrew's direction.
But no one did. The odd person glanced up in my direction but soon went back to their conversations and dancing.
I chased after him, panting as I pushed through the couples. I got a few dozen or so dirty looks and I'm pretty certain I made a guy spill his beer, but I didn't care. I had to get to Andrew. I could see his broad shoulders growing ever more distant.
As if he knew I was following, he turned and smiled just as he exited the house.
I burst through the door, the chill of the night air hitting my sweat soaked skin. I glanced around, searching for Andrew. There he was. Standing in the small cemetery. It seemed as though he was waiting for me.
I raced over to him, my heels sinking into the damp soil. "Andrew!" I called. "Andrew. Are you alright?"
He looked at me, the vacant look had left his eyes. I felt like he was looking at me rather then through me. He smiled. "Thank you," he said. "I understand now. I can go."
I didn't want him to leave. I opened my mouth, but no words came out. Instead I pleaded with my eyes, hoping that he could explain it all before he left.
He cupped my chin in his hand. "I saw you arrive," he told me. "I saw you and I knew you would help me. And you did." His eyes held some sadness as he smiled. "I cannot thank you enough." With that, he lent down and brushed his lips against mine.
When I opened my eyes, he was gone.
"Andrew?" I whispered, raising my hand, a finger brushing against my lips. There was no response. The Halloween party thumped wildly only a few yards away, but the cemetery combined with the night air seemed suspended in silence.
Slowly, as if in a dream, I turned away, walking slowly back through the iron gates. I stopped when I heard someone call my name.
Running across the grounds was my boyfriend. "Hey beautiful, I've been looking for you," he said, wrapping his arms around me. "Travis told me that you told a pretty spooky story and then had a bit of a freak out when your buddy claimed the story was about him. You OK?"
My head against his chest, I choked back tears. "I have to go home," I told him. "I don't feel very well."
He felt my forehead. "You're a bit warm. Come, let Lestat take you home, mon chéri." I felt him pull me towards the front yard. All I could think of is wanting to go home and to snuggle up under the blankets.
We stopped walking. "There's something I have to see first," I said, before turning and running back through the cemetery.
Each sculpture was different - chosen, presumably, to reflect the person whom it memorialized. I paused when I came to a sorrowed woman in flowing robes, holding a bible with a tiny lamb at her feet. I stopped when I came to a soldier.
I nearly shredded the skirt of my dress wiping away the years of grime from the flat name plate that sat just below the soldier's boots. Eventually, though, I was able to read the simple inscription that was there. A. Hill, it read. A hero 1923-1947.
"A." As in Andrew, I thought. I turned to look at the house, my eyes drifting upwards towards the attic window. For a brief second I could see him, plain as day, standing there, watching me. Then, as quickly as he appeared, he disappeared again.
I felt my knees buckle. I called out to my boyfriend, my voice coming out strangled. I felt so sick.
He appeared beside me, a worried look on his face. "You alright, love?" he asked, helping me to stand. I nodded and glanced back at the attic window once more. It was dark as the night sky.
My boyfriend helped me stumble along until we reached the car. "Do you feel any better?" he asked, helping me inside. I nodded, telling him that I probably just need the cool air on my skin. "I don't blame you," he said, climbing into the driver's seat. "It was hotter then Japanese horseradish in there."
The car ride was pretty silent. I could feel his worried eyes watching me. "So, Travis told me the gist of your story," he said, breaking the silence. I turned to face him. "It sounded pretty creepy," he added, giving my hand a squeeze.
I smiled weakly. "I never told the whole story," I replied, looking out the window. "You'll never believe its ending."