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Ella White first noticed the girl on that Tuesday afternoon. Well she’d seen her before obviously, she lived only three houses down, but that was the first time she’s ever actually noticed her. Maybe it was the tights. Yes that must have been it. She was not an especially eye catching girl. She was tall and thin, maybe fourteen years old, with dirty blond hair, which she had pulled back in a messy ponytail and a pale, thin face. There were dark circles under her grey eyes.
It was March and not quiet warm enough for children to go outside with out a coat on and today a harsh wind would stop and start without warning so the girl was wearing a black pea coat. There was nothing particularly exiting about that. But she was also wearing a pair of bright red tights. So bright it made her look even paler.
“Oh lord.” Ella mumbled under her breathe as the girl walked passed her house. But then again, she’d seen kids today wearing crazier things then that. Still the girl intrigued her.
She screwed up her wrinkled face trying to remember the girl’s name. Janie? No, Jamie? No. It was SOMETHING starting with a j. Julia that was it. Julia Lewis. Ah, yes Ella remembered now. She was in the eighth grade at the local middle school. She must have been walking home from the bus stop. It was almost three thirty.
Humph! Ella racked her brain for memories of Julia but she could think of none. True, she was an old woman now and she didn’t take much notice of her neighbors. Even if it was a small town.
With a sigh, she let herself drop into her rocking chair and looked out the window. From there she could see the street and sidewalk that children walked. If she craned her neck a little she could see Julia’s house, a drab, grey building, as nondescript as the girl who lived there. To Ella’s surprise, Julia came back out of the house. Ella noticed she had traded her red tights for a pair of faded jeans.
She stood shivering despite her coat on the corner of the sidewalk. She kept looking down the road as if she were waiting for someone. Sure enough a few minuets later a boy wearing a navy blue baseball cap came walking swiftly towards her, ignoring the sidewalk and walking directly in the street. He stopped in front of Julia and said something to her.
With a mighty groan Ella lifted herself out of her chair and cracked the window so that she could hear their conversation. Eavesdropping, she believed, was her right as a woman over seventy. They were talking softly but Ella could still make out what they were saying.
“I waited and waited for you this morning. Where were you?”
“I’m sorry.” Julia said in a quiet soprano. “I was sick. I was going to call you but I forgot.” Ella detected something in the girls face. She was lying, even if the boy couldn’t see it. But why?
“It’s alright.” The boy said. Just meet us at Sarah’s house in five. Remember, no bright colors.” This struck Ella as slightly odd considering how bright the girl’s tights were only moments before. Almost as if she had done it on purpose.
“You go I’ll be right there.” Julia said. “I just need to tell my mom I’m going to basketball practice.” The boy nodded and swiftly walked back down the sidewalk, hands shoved in his pockets.
“Humph!” Ella said again, closing the window and leaning back in her rocking chair. This was very odd. In a few minuets the girl came again out of her house, this time holding a gym bag. Ella watched her go.
“Well if I don’t I’ll always regret it.” She mumbled and made her way to her car and followed after Julia. She couldn’t help it. The quiet girl interested her. And how few things there were that interested her now a days.
After a few blockes Julia stopped in front of a long brick house were the girl Sara must live. With out hesitation she went inside. Ella stopped the car.
Well that was the end of that! She couldn’t very well go into the house. Besides she’d done enough snooping around for one day. Still, all they way home, Julia’s face, as face she had never even noticed until that day, keeped popping up in her thoughts. Something made her go up to the house and peek in the basement window.
And there WAS something strange going on. Gathered in the basement of the child’s, Sarah, house was a group of at least 15 children. All of them pale, all of them with dark circles under they’re eyes. Ella guessed there ages to range from seven to sixteen. They did not see her.
Groaning she stooped down and cracked the window. A thin whisper of voices came through it.
“I don’t want to!” One of the younger children, a girl said. “ I won’t do it.”
“Annie,” An older girl said. “We’re not making you do anything but think about what you’re saying!”
“She’s right.” One of the older boys said. “Look at what happened to Tyler!” He gestured at a boy maybe eight years old. Tyler drew his shoulders to him, obviously scared by the many eyes upon him. Julia noticed this.
“It’s not you’re fault.” She said softly. “I could have happened to anyone.”
“Not me!” Annie said, staring at the boy with hatred in her eyes. “I wouldn’t kill someone.” There were a few moments of silence. Then Tyler burst into tears.
“Do you think I wanted to?” He cried. “Do you think I want to be a killer?” The little girl didn’t answer, silenced by Tyler’s outburst. “I hate it!” He continued. “I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!” He tried desperately to compose himself but failed. “I’m just…. so…thirsty!” He began to sob again.
“Oh no…” Ella whispered. This was far more serious than she’d expected. Her instincts told her to call the police but there was something in the boy’s voice that made her stop. She had a very hard time believing a sweet little third grader could have killed anyone. So instead she stayed and listened.
“We all are.” An older girl said. “We can’t keep this up much longer.” She turned to Annie. “What if it was you’re little sister.” Annie’s bottom lip trembled. “What if it was you’re mother, you’re father, someone you cared about? What would you do then?” Annie lowered her head.
“It’s all his fault.” A younger boy said. Strangely enough he didn’t seem to be talking about Tyler. “If he hadn’t changed us…”
“But he did.” The older girl said. Ella got the feeling they had had this discussion many times before. “I want things to go back to the way they were, believe me I do. But this is who we are now.” She looked at the frightened faces of her friends. “And we need blood!” This caused a few of the children to shudder and turn away. It was then Ella noticed another similarity between the children. They all had rather long, sharp incisors.
“No…” Ella groaned. “No, no, no!” Unfortunately, as much as Ella tried to pretend she was mistaken, all the signs fit. All the dreadful, awful signs. Someone or something had changed all these children and now they needed blood. She couldn’t bring herself to even think the word. But it entered her mind anyway. Vampire.
“I don’t want to kill anyone.” A little girl said softly. She was younger than the rest, maybe four or five. Ella drew in a sharp breath as she stared at her. She was so young, SO young.
“I don’t want to be a monster.” The little girl continued. She drew in a shakily breath. It was obvious she was trying very hard not to cry. “And I don’t want my family to get hurt.” She turned to who appeared to be the oldest boy. “ Matthew’s right. We have to leave.” There were a few murmurs from the crowd and they refused to meet the little girls eyes.
“All in favor of leaving to night?”
“Won’t they just follow us?” A boy of maybe nine or ten asked.
“You’re forgetting how fast we can run.” The girl said. “And we can cut our hair. They’ll look for us but after a while they’ll give up. They’ll expect us to age. We won’t.” This caused several of the younger children to start crying softly. “They’ll eventually forget all about us.”
“Not me.” One of the little girls said. Ella recognized her as the same one who had tried to blame Tyler earlier. There were tears in her eyes.
“They’ll never forget about me.” She continued. “Never ever ever!” The older girl stared at her sadly, not knowing how to make her understand.
“All in favor?” The older boy, Mathew, repeated. Slowly Ella watched the hands go up. Finally there was only one person with their hand down, the little girl. Finally she bit her lip and raised her hand too.
It was late, after one o’clock, yet Ella wasn’t asleep. She sat on her porch, so quiet and still she seemed to blend into the night. She was waiting.
Slowly, one by one, they came. Doors shut and children slowly drifted into the street. Most of them were crying. They stood outside their house for a long time, and Ella knew they were trying to fix it in their memory forever. This went on until all the children Ella had seen earlier that day stood down the street from her. They did not see her. They were too caught up in the people and things they were leaving behind.
The last one to come out was Julia. She turned and slowly shut her door. She remained like that for a long moment, not taking her hand from the wood. Then she slowly joined her friends. With out a word they set off down the street, older children trying to console the younger. Only Julia lagged behind, only Julia looked back.
Ella wasn’t sure how the girl saw her but she did. They’re eyes met for a brief moment and in that moment Ella realized why the boy had said not to wear bright colors. Because they were noticeable. And that was the last thing the children wanted. It was painful enough for those they left behind. Why not make the forgetting a little easier? And that was exactly why Julia had worn them.
She wanted someone to know, to follow her and learn the truth, like Ella had done. Julia smiled a small sad smile and Ella saw her sharp teeth glint in the moonlight. She discovered that she was not afraid. Not anymore.
In the blink of an eye Julia ran over to Ella’s porch and back. It was so fast Ella barely even saw it. They stared at each other a few minuets longer. Ella saw the sadness and the hurt in Julia’s eyes. She knew now what she had suspected all along. These children were not evil. They were brave. Julia gave Ella one last look and disappeared after her friends. Ella knew she would never see them again. She sat there staring after them for a long time, preparing herself for the police sirens and yells of heartbroken mothers that would surely come tomorrow morning. She had never gotten married or had children and she tried hard now to imagine what it must feel like to wake up and find them gone.
Finally Ella stood and walked slowly back inside. Her eye caught something wedged between the door and the wall. As she picked it up she realized it was a piece of paper. Julia must have left it. There were two words written on it, words that made Ella sigh and stare back after the missing children. Remember us.
Annie O’Leary forced her eyes open. The room was spinning. It reminded Annie of after she had been running around in circles and made herself dizzy. She blinked and everything came into focous. She groaned and her head started throbbing.
She sleepily peaked over the edge of the drawer she was sleeping in. Everyone was still asleep, Annie could see their chests moving up and down. When ever they had to stop her friends rented only one room, It was all they could afford, sometimes not even that. Annie had slept on a doorstep or in and alley far too many nights.
Since there were fourteen children it was pretty cramped. Only the smallest children got the beds, more of them fit. The ones that didn’t slept in dresser drawer and the older children slept in sleeping bags on the floor. Last night Annie got stuck with the drawer. It was far from comftrable but since she was only six almost seven she still fit. She had to keep reminding herself that she never would be seven, not after what happened.
Glancing over at the window Annie relized that she was not the only one up. A older girl was standing at the window. She was holdingthe curtin back with her pointer finger and was watching the sun rise. Annie’s heart gave a leap as she recognized Julia.
Julia had always been nice to her, even before everything changed. She vaguely remembered once hearing some older boys, although not as old as Julia, calling the older girl plain.
“She is not!” Annie had said defensively.
“Is too.” One of the boys said. “Too pale.”
I think she’s beautiful.” Annie had said. And she did. She liked Julia’s light blonde hair, like the stringy stuff inside an ear of corn. It was so much nicer than Annie’s plain brown hair.
And after they had left Julia had always been there to hear her problems. No one else had wanted to listen to a poor little girl who missed her puppy. It’s name was Milley. She was soft and brown and she liked to lick people in the face. With a sniff Annie rollded over and started to cry. The noise quickly woke everyone else.
“Annie!” An older girl Beth snapped from her sleeping bag.
“It’s too early for this.” Mutterd Tyler, pulling his pillow case over his head. Annie scowled at him. She couldn’t help if she was sad. Everyone was sad, even Tyler. She knew because she had seen him crying when he thought no one could see. Besides, it was his own fault they were there. If he hadn’t gotten thirsty and killed his teacher none of this would have happened.
Annie knew she couldn’t blame him for the thirst. She got thirsty too but when she told one of the older children they would disapeare for a while and come back with a jar of blood for her to drink. She never killed anyone. Although she would never admit it she was secreatly scared of Tyler.
The biggest kid, Mathew streached and rubbed his face. There were bristles on his chin. Mathew had always been a mystery to Annie, he looked as big as her father, mabey bigger and yet he still went to school and lived at home with his parents. The best Annie could figure was that Mathew was almost a grown up but was just finishing up being a kid. He glanced at the clock.
“Well,” he said “We have to get up soon anyway.” This raised a mighty groan from the children and everyone started talking at once. They had been working hard all yesterday, they were tired, how did Mattew expect them to get through this one?
Wordlessly Julia started making peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast. She knew that the children would quiet down once they got something to eat. Mathew looked at her gratefully.
Annie wrinkled her nose. She hated peanut butter and they had it almost everyday. She knew it was chep but still. Her mother used to make her eggs or waffles or French toast. Annie closed her eyes and bit her lip to keep from crying again.
When she opened them again Julia was walking around handing out sandwiches. Most of the children muttered a thank you and took a big grumpy bite.
Finally Julia came to Annie. Annie remembered tosay thank you clearly, even though she was not thankful for peanut butter. Julia smiled and moved on. With a sigh, Annie forced her self to take a bite. She grinned. Julia had remembered to give her strawberry jam.
By later that day Annie’s bad mood had returned. She and some of the smaller children were picking up bottles and cans from the side of the road. It was hot, humiliating work and to make matter’s worse Beth had used up all the hot water that morning so Annie had to take a quick, cold shower and forgot to wash her hair. Now she was crankey, hot and smelly.
“I don’t like this.” She announced. No one seemed to hear her. “I don’t like this!” she repeated a little louder.
“Just pick up the cans Annie.” An older girl, Megan, sighed. Annie scowled. Megan was always telling her what to do.