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It’s Finally Safe to Go Outside
A short story
"Let's get food, I'm starving.” Mihaela's fingers disappeared as she slid them through her long, black hair, emerging moments later covered in grime. She frowned and rapidly patted her long claret and black silk dress. “Plus, I’m dusty from having spent the past eighteen months inside.”
Mihaela and Alexandru stood before the unlit fireplace, its ash as dark as a deep forest on a moonless night. Wind rushed down the chimney, a cacophony of preternatural whispers that swirled inside the hearth.
Alexandru looked at his wife, his coral eyes glowing as if lit by a spotlight, as he pressed his hands against his stomach, unable to mask its borborygmus.
“Your belly speaks for you,” Mihaela continued. “You’re gaunt, my love. Your cloak flops around your shoulders like it was sewn by a blind tailor, and your feet wobble in your shoes like a knarr in a gale.” She kissed him, her lips chilled by his cold cheek.
“Yes, sweetheart, it's been an interminable year-and-a-half. The pandemic hit us particularly hard. I didn’t mind the sleep, but this is the longest we've gone without a meal since moving to Boston.” Alexandru expelled a weary sigh and stretched, the long fingernails at the apex of his six-foot-seven-inch frame scraping the living room’s ceiling.
Mihaela circled the room while lighting the thick candles in the brass candelabras, nighttime sentinels affixed to the room’s walls that spewed serpentine flames upward, casting shadows throughout the room. Mihaela smiled, her bone-white teeth shimmering in the candlelight. “Yes, but the pandemic’s over now. We can eat.”
Hunger wobbled Alexandru.
Mihaela grabbed his arm to steady her husband.
“Do you think there will be people outside? It’s only been an hour since the government gave the all-clear, and surely restaurants and pubs haven’t opened so quickly. Besides, it will take days for people to prepare for outdoors, so fearful they were of the virus, which makes it pointless for us to go out tonight, especially so near midnight when most are already in bed.” His expression turned sour as he complained, “I’m famished.”
The grandfather clock rang the first of twelve discordant chimes, and the moonface dial above the hands sneered.
Alexandru cracked his knuckles during the silence between the chimes. “I want to feed as much as you do, but if the streets and alleys are still empty, it’s a waste of energy.”
Mihaela sniffed the air and flared her nostrils. “The minions have left their homes.” Mihaela then took Alexandru’s hand and guided him to the open window, through which a slight breeze blew in the tangy bouquet of human blood. “Look!”
Alexandru’s chest expanded to nearly twice its size as he took a deep, satisfying breath. “The mortals smell scrumptious.”
Four men in their twenties, each with an amber Samuel Adams beer bottle in their hand and a blue and red Red Sox cap on their head, singing Whiskey in the Jar staggered by Alexandru and Micaela’s timeworn Victorian house. Alexandru thought they sang surprisingly in tune given their inebriation, and also that this would be the last song they’d ever sing.
He glanced at the clock again. Six hours until sunrise, plenty of time to feast.
Alexandru opened the front door, his cloak fluttering as the cool outdoor air slipped inside, his black locks flowing in the breeze. The fever of anticipation gave him goosebumps. He turned to his wife, who stood behind him in the vestibule, before stepping over the transom onto their broken-brick driveway through which weeds and stunted blades of grass poked.
Then a powerful gust from the north slammed the front door shut.
Alexandru tried to open the door, but the knob would not turn. He twisted it again with all his vampire strength, but it didn’t budge. “La naiba!” he shouted as he yanked on the door again.
Alexandru wanted food, but he wouldn’t dine alone.
Michaela pushed and pulled on the door from the inside, also with no effect. She cursed living in a one-hundred-twenty-year-old house. Something’s always breaking!
“Let’s do it together,” Alexandru said. “On the count of three.”
Before he could say “one,” golden-yellow light peeked out from behind the full moon. At first, a sliver, then in seconds, the sunlight singed Alexandru’s skin before blistering and blackening his centuries-old flesh. His arms burst into flames, and he screamed in agony.
“My love, get to your coffin! The time isn’t midnight; it’s noon. This is a solar eclipse.”
If you liked this story, I think you’ll also enjoy The Big Cheese.
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