Happy Saturday. Things are getting heavy around here. However. Must continue. So. Here you go. Part V. And relax. Drink your coffee. This entry is a little on the long side.
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“I See Monsters”
By Sara Dobie
I could feel the leftover heat from the day’s sun on the floorboards as I sat on the imposter’s porch the following night. In the darkness, I leaned back, brave enough to sit at the base of his front door. Somehow I knew he would not soon leave his abode, as if I knew the imposter as I had once known Nathan. So there I sat, comfortable, wishing the imposter smoked cigarettes or some other silly human habit that required contact with the outdoors. Instead, the imposter lingered inside, typing on his precious laptop in his living room.
By that night—night three—Caleb knew me well. I could sense the animal in the front foyer, behind my back, as much as I could sense the imposter’s heart, beating in a slow bass drum ten feet from my touch. Caleb stood by the door, staring at nothing but hardwood, knowing something terrible was inches away. And harmless, because I could not enter the imposter’s home. I could not enter without an invite, and Caleb would give me away before those words could be uttered. “Come in,” was all I needed, but I knew Caleb’s terrible bark would shake the imposter. The imposter trusted Caleb, and despite my mysterious black hair and attractive dark eyes, the imposter had no reason to trust me. So there I lingered, sitting on a porch warmed by light I would never see. Light I would never see without severe repercussions, at least.
Music played inside. I played with the frayed edge of my black jeans and listened to clear, clean guitar strings and a soft, quiet male voice. Was that violin lofting above the empty spots in the guitar chords? Was that, perhaps, Ryan Adams? I leaned my head back against the front door and closed my eyes. I suspected I knew the song, but it was difficult with a wall between us. I blocked out the sounds of cars on East Bay. I blocked out the far off noise of ocean waves breaking onto the rocks of Charleston harbor. I even blocked out the imposter’s blood, and I could hear it. Yes, Ryan Adams—the calm, quiet sound of Love Is Hell. I would be certain when…yes, the next song, which sounded mysteriously like a Janis Joplin tune: “English Girls Approximately.” I smiled, despite my hunger, because at least the imposter had good taste. I smiled again, because I imagined the imposter did have good taste. In the two occasions when I had seen him eat, there had been no meat—solely vegetables. There was no fast food restaurant garbage in the imposter’s home, and as I mentioned, it was a shame he didn’t even smoke. How easy it would have been if the man had just come outside for a cigarette once in awhile.
As I sat and enjoyed the sound of Ryan Adams, seconded only by the imposter’s healthy heartbeat, my Zen was interrupted by the abrasive sound of a cellular telephone. I sighed and rolled my eyes to the heavens. How I hated modern technology. The horrible devastation of social media. Sites like Facebook and the god-awful Twitter. The world kept getting smaller, and if the world continued getting smaller, how would we hide? How would vampires exist in safe, dusty corners, when photograph “tagging” had become a drunken modern equivalent to Salem’s witch trials? How long would it be before we, too, were “tagged,” but we would be “tagged” as “random undead chick at the bar” or “immortal I kissed last night.” Awful.
Ryan Adams went silent, and the imposter’s voice filled the unfortunate emptiness. “Hey,” said the imposter’s voice. “How is she?” He sounded panicked, and it made me lean away from the front door, as if his panic was a poison that could invade my system like an outdoor allergen.
There was a long pause—silent, beyond the incessant breathing of the imposter’s dog—and then, “Well, what the hell do you want me to do about it? I’m not up there.”
Not yet, but you’ll see the pearly gates soon enough.
“I can’t just leave school, Susan.”
Yes, a college student.
“They don’t know that. They haven’t—”
A pause that felt long as immortality.
“They don’t know if she’s going to die.”
I wondered who he spoke of—who he was speaking to. The imposter seemed too young to have death on the brain.
“Tell me what you want me to do.”
Then, there he was. No, he did not sneak out for a late night smoke. He did not stick his head out the front window. Instead, he shifted Caleb away from the front door. The imposter sat down, and we were back to back, separated by no more than a tired piece of wood. His heat roared through my spine. I lost my breath, and my head rolled back and leaned against him. It would have been no more intimate if we’d been touching palms.
Then: “F@%$ you,” he said.
The animosity drew me away. I pushed forward and hugged my knees against my cold chest. For the first time in my many hunts, I felt disturbed. And it had taken but two words from the Nathan imposter to do so.
“Yeah,” he said, and I wouldn’t have heard it if I had been mortal.
Another long pause stretched into my existence of timelessness.
Then, the imposter was back, and the animosity was gone. The animosity was replaced by a tired love that could be explained as nothing less than futile fondness for a body and soul on the brim of extermination. “Hey, Mom,” he said. “It’s Joshua.”
There was a name for the imposter and his vegetables and his dog. Joshua.
“Caleb’s good,” he said, and he chuckled. “How are you feeling?”
Something told me she was not feeling well.
“Good? That’s great. Susan says they might let you out. Right?”
“I wish I was there.”
“School’s perfect. Classes are picking up. I have exams this week.”
I wished I could tell him not to worry.
“I’ll see you soon, though.” He choked on the words. “Yeah, no, I’ll come home right after. I’ll be with you soon. Okay? So just hang in there, and, um, I’ll be back on, um, Saturday.”
The sudden sound of laughter made me lean back again, hoping to suck some warmth.
“That’s what Susan told me. She said your doctor’s really cute. Just don’t harass him too much, okay, Mom?”
I smiled because the imposer—Joshua—felt warm again.
“I love you, too. I miss you.”
I missed a lot of people.
“Okay. Well, I’ll call you in the morning.”
Unless you step outside to give Caleb a break.
“I don’t need to talk to Susan. It’s okay. I just want you to know, I love you so much.”
Love. Just another four-letter word.
“Bye, Mom,” he said, and I heard the discreet beep of an off button.
Joshua leaned back against me again. The hardwood door felt soft beneath his warmth and his pain. I’d had a family once, too. Parents. Grandparents. A big brother who protected me from monsters. We had been well-off, living in the Charleston French Quarter with nary a care on earth. My biggest fear had been singlehood at twenty, so when I had met Nathan at nineteen, it had seemed my fears had been misplaced. My father had approved of a boy so wealthy and respected. My brother had gone hunting with Nathan, and even he had felt something akin to friendship. Only my mother had known better. Only my mother had seen the darkness in Nathan, and I had only realized the truth too late, when the blood had been on his hands.
The levels of human goodness were limitless, as were the levels of human indecency. I remembered, as a youth, thinking I could read people—thinking I could look at a man and know who he was and what he wanted. It had seemed so simple, and I had prided myself on my judgment of character. It was only long after Nathan that I’d realized my judgments had always been off. I had assumed the best in people, and there was no safety or sensibility in doing so. My assumptions had cost me my mortality. My assumptions had tossed me into immortality, where I lingered alone. I had friends. I had Donovan, who I enjoyed the presence of when in the vicinity of the deep American south. I had a few dear companions in Italy and France. Yet, they were merely friends. There would never again be love for me. Love lowered boundaries. Love cast aside doubt. Love was not blind; love was blinding.
When I heard him leave the living room and move to the bedroom, I left my porch. I lingered at a college fraternity party until well after hours. With my feminine wiles, I baited two sophomores. I took them back to my place, certain no one had watched us leave. I gave them liquor and weed, until they could barely move. We took our clothes off, and I fed on them naked, knowing I murdered them. Just like I murdered my Nathan.
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