*New original short story Where the Dead Things Are© by T.L. Gray - Part One
My Mama once told me, "If a man only wants to see you when the sun goes down, he's a vampire. Baby, run away. He'll bite you, leave you all mesmerized until he drains you of everything that makes you alive, and then he'll toss you into his collection of other dead things." She told me that once while braiding my hair. I remember looking into a dirty, smoke-stained mirror, watching vacant eyes stare off at nothing with a cigarette hanging out the side of pale thin lips. I can still see those small jagged lines along the edges displaying leftover bits of dark red lip stick. She looked younger when she smiled, but she hardly ever smiled.
Of course, my wild imaginative mind took the story literally to heart and in my youthful naivety found myself fascinated with the supernatural; vampires especially. Then after Mama died a few years later, I became obsessed with stories about death. However, I look back on that moment and realize she wasn’t talking about vampires at all, not really. I never thought Mama had much sense, but as I’ve met my own sort of vampire and found myself struggling to climb out of this cavernous pit of death, I now realize she was much deeper than I ever gave her credit.
Looking down at the shimmering Vodka, I see my dark red lipstick mark along the glass lip and can’t stop Mama’s words from echoing in the deep part of my mind. How did I get here? When did I lose myself and turn into Mama? Where had my soul gone? Will I find it among all the dead things?
I can tell you the exact moment, the particular hour, the definitive minute everything changed. It all started with the sound of tires slowly crunching over gravel as he pulled into my driveway. My heart started beating so fast I thought it would literally jump out my chest. It sounded too loud and I wondered if he’d be able to hear it. I quickly checked my underarms for moisture, because I was nervous as a chicken in a fox hole. My body may have been hot, but thank goodness I was dry and smelled like fresh flowers. My cinnamon breath caught as I gasped, almost letting out a small squeal as I heard the car door open and then close again. I never heard the engine at all. It’s like he floated in on a dream.
With shaky legs, I walked out the French doors that led to my patio-porch, and then to the privacy gate. He’d parked his car just on the other side. I could see the light green hue of his exterior between the fence slats before I caught a glimpse of him. It was only a slither of a glance of one of his long, bronze skinny legs sticking out a pair of basketball shorts, but I was transfixed. I tried to calm my breath as I opened the gate, but there was no controlling it. I’d lost it completely. It evaporated from my lungs altogether when my gaze locked onto those dark, brown, mesmerizing eyes and that soft crooked smile. The setting sun behind me cast a golden spotlight on his beautiful caramel skin, highlighting his chiseled face, full lips, and aura of authority. He looked like a god bathed in glory and I felt myself wanting to fall to my knees in worship. I mean I literally felt like falling when my knees suddenly buckled beneath me. I had to grab the wooden gate to keep the ground from jumping up and slapping me in the face.
Sometimes I wonder if he knew the effect he had on me. I doubted it, but I often wondered, still do. He always had a way of bringing the hidden things out of me, and reflecting my own image back at me when I tried so hard to focus on his. He didn’t have one. He was a mystery, yet something I understood without words, without explanation, and I loved him deeply. I still do. But he left me where the dead things are, tossed me to the side once he’d drained me of all the vibrant life I had once held. But I’m not without hope, not without magic. That’s what’s brought me to this bar in the middle of nowhere. I’m trying to escape, trying to save the last bit of my soul, trying to put some distance between me and him so that I may one day find the strength to resist him, breaking the power he has over me, and crawl out of this place of dead things. He doesn’t want me, but doesn’t want to let me go either.
I threw back the shot of vodka, feeling the burn all the way down my throat and settle into the emptiness of my stomach. Alcohol on an empty stomach always hurt, but it also helped the numbness rush in faster. I glanced down at my watch and realized the sun had surely already set outside. I needed to be on my way. He’d be able to find me. If he ever found me, I know I’d never have the strength to resist him. I pulled the small wad of twenty dollar bills I’d kept in my front jeans pocket. Slapped one down on the bar and then threw back the last of three shots I’d ordered. I wiped my soft lips with the back of my shaking hand and walked out of that dead place filled with other dead people, into a city where all the dead things are. Yet, I’m a survivor, and though too faint to hear, my heart still beats.