A Figure

October 24, 2007
By Emma Florio, Hoffman Estates, IL

A figure, tall and slender, stooped with the burden of centuries of life, glides over cobblestone streets, occasionally turning corners, going in and out of view when passing underneath the faint glow of a gas lamp. No distinguishing features can be made out on its face or body in the dark, though its skin glows dully in the indirect lamp light. Its clothing rustles faintly as it moves: stiff black cloth sliding over more black cloth, pant legs rasping against each other with each cautious step.

Rounding the corner of narrow, winding street, the figure catches sight of a large, imposing mansion, ivy-draped and seemingly abandoned, if not for the open window on the upper floor framed by billowing lace curtains.

Catching the scent of warm, fresh blood, the figure twitches its head to the right, in time to see two men, deep in conversation, turning onto the street. They peer warily at the figure, trying to catch a glimpse of its face concealed by its hooded, threadbare cloak. Not sensing a threat from the silent figure, they continue onward, picking up their conversation.

“I must say that the circumstances surrounding those murders are very odd, indeed,” the shorter of the two says loftily, as if trying to appear more informed than he really is.

“Yes, yes,” the other replies, preoccupied by his own thoughts, gazing absently at the dark figure. “Puncture wounds in the neck…very odd…”

“It can only mean one thing!”

The figure, standing at the spot where it had first sensed the two men, lifts its head slightly, a sliver of light shining on its chin and mouth revealing a small grin. Its eyes, from beneath its hood, follow the two men as they pass by.

“Oh? You claim to know the identity of the killer?” the taller man asks.

“Of course! Puncture wounds in the neck point to only one culprit.” The shorter man throws his hands into the air. “Vampires!”

“Everyone is well aware of your ludicrous beliefs and superstitions. You know, none of us buy into them,” the other replies, exasperated. The two men pass directly in front of the figure, which still stands, motionless, in the street. They breathe in and catch the scent of decaying flesh and dried blood, emanating from the mysterious figure. They quickly glance at each other, agreeing silently, and hurry off down the street, distancing themselves from the figure as quickly as possible.

As the men round the next corner, the figure continues to skulk up the street towards the large house, eyes intent upon the open window, watching the shadow of a woman pacing back and forth. The figure draws in a rattling breath and creeps forward, up to the wrought-iron gate. It opens with a loud creaking moan and the figure proceeds up to the front of the mansion, examining the crumbling stone of the walls, vines spreading across them like spider webs. Spotting another open window, next to other, the figure inches over until it is positioned one floor below the window.

The figure’s pale hand reaches out to grasp the vines and, hand over hand, with surprising speed, the figure pulls itself up to the second story and climbs through the open window into a dark hallway.

Moonlight floods through window panes into the dark corridor consisting mostly of the landing of a rickety flight of stairs and two doorways. Most of the windows are cracked, the work of local children, and a few adults, who, when passing the large manor house, toss stones through the glass. Earlier that evening, an eerie silence had descended upon the entire house, as if all the sounds of the outside world had disappeared with the setting sun. Now, the silence presses in on the empty rooms, physically pushing against the cob-webbed furniture, giving the dank air a muffled quality.

The shadowy figure creeps through the quiet stillness. The dusty floorboards moan in protest as the figure passes over them, disturbing the oppressive silence.

A long-fingered, ghostly sallow hand edges out from inside the sleeve of the black, moth-eaten overcoat— a nocturnal predator emerging from its dark cave. The skeletal fingers come together and flex, as if closing around a slender neck.

The figure passes in front of the cracked window, pale yellow moonlight glinting off of two distinctly pointed teeth in the figure’s mouth as a tongue passes over thin lips. The figure exhales a fetid breath, expelling the smell of decaying flesh and dried blood. With this breath comes a quiet chuckle, hoarse, the sound of a voice not used in many years.

The figure shuffles stiffly onwards, toward a closed door across the landing of the staircase, the moonlight throwing the shadow of its banister against the wall. The pale hand reaches out towards the brass doorknob of the door. The metal is cool to the touch, chilled by the frigid air of the house. This went unnoticed by the figure, its own skin as cold and smooth as stone. The figure turns the doorknob slowly, slow enough not to allow the rusted metal to squeak and moan.

As the paint-chipped door creaks open, the sound of soft rustling, of a person rolling over in bed sheets, flows out the door past the silent, observing figure. A thin grimace of a smile flits across the figure’s wraithlike face. Its nostrils flare, drawing in the soft, sweet scent of human flesh, blood coursing through the veins beneath.

The figure’s tongue flicks out to lick its thin lips again, the corners turned up in a small, self-satisfied grin. It pushes the door further, inching open until there is a narrow gap between the door jamb and the solid rectangle of splintering wood. With just enough space to squeeze its gaunt body through, the figure enters the room and stalks towards its oblivious, slumbering prey.

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