I wondered why the realtor was so eager to sell me this house. It’s good sized, has plenty of house keepers, and has acres of land to go with it. What I’m worried about is how much I paid for it. It cost as much as a trailer house. Why would he want to get rid of it? It’s a nice place, only it gets a little drafty, but hey, it’s October. It gets a little freezy here on the mountains in the fall. I finally decide not to dwell on the fact too long, and get to work. Being in this place is like being a queen. The house keepers are dying to be handed orders. I only came outside because I wanted to be alone. You’d think it would be easier, but I get constantly bombarded with questions. It’s a little exhausting for a country girl.
As I head back inside, I remember the realtor’s face as he showed me around the house. It looked like it was stuck in a permanent scowl, as if he hated the house. Or people. His warning was strange, too. “This place sometimes has bad things happen. When you go to bed, make sure your house keepers are safe at home and all your doors are locked.” He seemed jumped up, like a ghost would come out of nowhere. I roll my eyes. Who ever says ghosts or zombies or monsters are real, well, they’re crazy. Only two-year-olds believe stuff like that.
I gaze at the house in front of me. It’s solid dark oak wood, polished until it gleams. The roof’s dark shingles reflect the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Overall, it’s a sturdy place. The downside of things is the shadows are prominent here in the backyard. It makes it colder. But it’s not like it scares me. The goosebumps on my arms are just from the cold. That’s all.
I don’t watch where I’m going on my way back; I’m so intrigued by the house. I run smack bang into the groundkeeper. He staggers and picks up the game bag he dropped. He stands and gets a better look at me. Then he touches two fingers to his black baseball cap. “Sorry, ma’am. Didn’t see you there.” He’s maybe in his mid-twenties, has a very muscular build, has hair the color of tarnished bronze, and vibrant eyes the color of blue-grey agate. His voice is soft and deep and has a southerner accent.
I shrug. “You’re fine. I’m sorry I didn’t see you there.”
He shrugs, too.“My name’s Casey Rajteric, if you don’t know. I manage the grounds here. You’re Shaya Bennett, right? I work for you.”
He offers his hand and I pump it twice, then let go.
“Yup. Nice to meet you … in a … very awkward way.”
Casey smiles. “Yeah. Hey, have you heard of the stories about this place? Ones that are floating around up here ‘bout this place?”
“No. What are they, ghost stories?”
“Nah, but they’re as close as they can get. Wanna hear one?” Casey’s smile widens into a grin. He must know I love ghost stories. I love having chills crawl up my spine.
I smile and nod as fast as my neck will let me. “You bet!”
Casey smiles too, and waves me forward. “Let’s get out of the shadows. You got goosebumps as it is. I can’t tell this story in the dark. It’ud give you nightmares.”
I laugh cheerfully, shake my head and let him lead me out of the shadows. “You can, but you don’t think I’d like it.” Casey shakes his head, too.
When we’ve gone far enough, Casey begins his ghostly tale.“Remember, this is just a legend. About 50 years ago, this mad scientist moved out here. At least, we think he was mad. If he wasn’t mad, he was crazy. Made a whole lab downstairs.”
“You’re kidding!” I exclaim, wide eyes betraying my amazement.
“Nope. Can show you right now if you like. I been there myself. The city meant to tear it down, but never did.” Casey lowers his voice. “Nobody knows why, but we think it’s because workers went in and never came back. Not alive anyways.”
“So they became ghosts?”
“ Don’t know about ghosts. Me, I don’t think they became ghosts, no. But you have to hear more on that scientist. They say he created a virus he couldn’t control. Got way out of hand. He did some test on rats. Apparently, the rats went crazy. Killed each other off.”
“So how did the disease get out of hand?” I ask, truly curious. Man, the things I never knew about my house!
“At the time, they said the guy didn’t think it would be contagious. So he reached right into the rat cage when there was only one left. It bit him. Right here.” Casey points at the spot between his forefinger and thumb. “It … what’s the word … infected him with the virus.”
“Infected?” I say, thinking of a disease like the flu. If the flu is in my house, I don’t want to get it. I swear, you never recover until spring. It’s miserable. “Like the flu or something?”
“Mmmmm. Nah, I don’t think so. More like the bubonic plague, you know? Once one person gets it, then another person gets it, then another, and so on. It’s first passed from a … parasite if you will. You follow me?”
“Yeah. So, what happened to the scientist?”
“Went crazy, people say. Killed his housekeeper, the groundskeeper, everybody.”
“The town put him away, right? Jailed him? They’d have to. He was crazy.”
Casey shrugs. “Well, no one really knows for sure. Some say he died a couple days after he was infected. Others that he left for a place like England or some place like that. And there are some that say he stayed. Hid in his house and lured people in. Murdered ‘em.”
“And he died?” I wonder aloud, thinking how good a horror movie this story would be. Seriously, this is a really creepy story. People would pay good money to watch.
“Like I said Shaya, no one really knows what happened. And if you ask the townspeople, they’ll say it’s just a legend. Just a ghost story.” Casey smiles and leads me back to the big house.
“And is it true? Is it just a ghost story?” I ask, hoping he says what I want him to say.
“Depends on who you ask. To me it’s a legend. Happened so long ago, it ain’t real now. But if I lived it, I’d have to say it was real.”
Yes! He said it!
“Come on, Casey. It’s just a story. Only two-year-olds believe stuff like that.” I laugh.
Casey chuckles as we pass into the shadows of the house. “Not just two-year-olds would believe me.”
“Who ever says ghosts or zombies or monsters are real are crazy, Casey.”
Casey stops, turns around and stares at me with such a fierce intensity in his eyes. “Don’t you believe that, Shaya. Maybe monsters are fake, but don’t think that scary beings or spirits ain’t real.”
“I never once said it wasn’t real.” I defend myself.
“But you just said-”
“Let me finish. They could be real, but I said that if you say they’re real, you are crazy because you think they’re scary. They’re not something to be scared of. That’s all.”
We’re at the house now. Casey sighs and shakes his head. I’ve won. “Alright. See you tomorrow. Make sure you send the house keepers home or they won’t stop bugging you. Don’t waste power with the lights.” Casey turns slightly, muttering “What was I going to say?”then turns right back around. “Oh, don’t forget to lock your door. We’ve had problems with the boys from the town. They like to vandalize the inside. They ain’t nothing but trouble.”
That’s the second time I’ve been given this warning. That is strange. To hide how curious about it I am, I smile at him. “I won’t forget. Thank you for telling me the story, Casey.”
“Yeah,” Casey starts walking backwards. “Hope you don’t have nightmares. Sweet dreams.”
“Funny,” I say flatly. “I’m so scared. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Casey laughs and turns around. “See you,” comes the cheerful reply. “Remember to keep your door locked.”
I head inside. Miriam Fischer, the head housekeeper is waiting for me. “Hi Shaya! I’ve done all your laundry and cleaned the house. Dinner is in the oven and there are housekeepers unloading your things as we speak. Do you need anything else?” She has a smile that stretches from one ear to the other. Yeesh. She practically worships me. I decide to take Casey’s advice and boot them out.
“No, Miriam, I can manage. Thank you. Can you bring the other housekeepers over here?” I say as politely as I can.
“Absolutely,” she says and bounces away like a rubber ball. I sigh and shake my head. When Miriam comes back with three more girls, I shoo them out, though I probably could do it nicer. I just want them out.
When I close the door, I take Casey’s second warning to heart and lock it tight. Something tell’s me that trouble makers from the town aren’t just what I should be worried about. But it’s not like I’m scared of that story. It’s just a legend. No one believes in ghosts and monsters anymore. We only tell their stories for fun.
I find plates and silverware, then scarf down dinner. It’s roast with potatoes and spices that taste so goood. Sure, Miriam is a pain, but jeez! She can cook!
After dinner, I turn the T.V. on to the news and start brushing my silver-blonde hair. They’re doing a story on another missing person. This is the second one in this last two months.
“And the search continues on twenty-five-year-old Jordan Lake. She was last seen on August ninth, spotted in the Spearhead Mountain Range area.” The news reporter is saying. “She is known for her adventurous personality. Jordan has three sisters and a brother that love her dearly and miss her. If anyone knows anything on where she is or what happened to her, please notify the local authorities, or call the number below.”
The screen flashes as she is speaking, showing a young woman with chin-length hair the color of pale chestnut. Her eyes are so dark, I can’t see where the iris meets pupil. She’s got a petite build, a small nose, and … she’s one of my house keepers! She was one of the three girls unpacking my things.
For a minute, all I can hear is the sound of my racing heart thudding in my ears. When I can hear again, the news reporter is finishing the story. “She was reported to have bought a house, lived in it for three days, then mysteriously vanished. We ask everyone in the area to keep their eyes open for strangers, and for Jordan. Now back to you, Anthony.”
“Thanks Marissa. We now return to sports tal-” I turn off the T.V. before Anthony starts his thing, and stare at my reflection. My heart is beating so fast, you’ed think a stampede of elk were running right past my window.
Jordan Lake. She is missing. She is not. She works at my house.
Crap! I think. I didn’t see the number at the bottom. I sit on the couch wondering what to do. Should I call the police? Should I tell anyone about this? What should I do?
I leap to my feet and find myself up and locking every single door, stuffing all the nooks and crannies, pulling the shades so no one can see me. Upstairs, downstairs, everywhere. Now that I know just how weird this place is, I probably won’t have a good night’s sleep. I fly through the house, faster than a whirl-wind, completely terrified of what might happen if I don’t get this done. When I’m certain that I’ve stuffed up everywhere, I go to my room and lock up the door and all the windows. Then I tuck myself in and wait.
The darkness seems to close in around me. I’ve never really been claustrophobic, but now, I feel like I’ll hyperventilate if I stay in here much longer. My mind and eyes play tricks on me. Every so often, I see two glowing spheres in the room that shouldn’t glow. I don’t think that I’ll ever get to sleep, but fatigue is making my eyelids droop. Finally, I sink into an exhausted slumber.
I’m alone. I know I am. There is nothing that I see. I wonder if I am seeing the inside of my eyelids, or if this is the place my mind sent me tonight. I look around, curious, and just a little concerned. I feel I am going insane in this house. I blame it. Just when I decide that there will be nothing I see here, there is noise. It isn’t loud, only a faint shuffling noise. It doesn’t sound threatening. At least, I don’t think it does.
I begin to move. It’s a stumbling, slow walk and I feel like I’m walking through syrup and I will trip over my own feet if I’m not careful enough. And when I look up, I notice a light. It gets brighter and brighter as I move closer and closer. Suddenly, I’m in front of a glass cage.
All over inside are rats. Big rats. Inwardly, I thank Casey for telling me such a scary story. He’ll probably get a kick out of knowing what my dream was about. They don’t stop moving, the writhing mass of fur just doesn’t stop. I wonder what they are doing.
My question is answered when one rat facing me lunges at another. For one second, I can see its eyes. Its eyes are a dark red, so dark and vivid I can see its pupils. I’m no expert, but I know that it has the virus that Casey told me about. At least, I think it does. I know what must happen next, and I turn away. I don’t want to see them kill each other. But I forget to cover my ears, and the squealing starts. It’s a horrible sound, a sound of pain, a sound of hate, a sound of desperation, a sound of death. I cover my ears, but the sound echoes around my skull. I wish that it would stop! I can’t take it anymore! I assume a fetal position and hold it for maybe fifteen minutes.
It stops suddenly. It must have, because I don’t hear it anymore. Cautiously, I move my hands away from my ears. They’ve stopped. All but one should be dead. I honestly don’t want to see anything or be here anymore.
Something snaps into my focus and I realize something shocking. This dream, this nightmare isn’t my own. Everything is so clear, and it shouldn’t be. I have no memory of this. I’m in someone else’s memory. Something else’s memory. I want out.
I truly believe that you can change your dreams if you can think hard enough. I usually can, but this time, I can’t. It’s like the floor’s a magnet and I’m something metallic that it wants to stick to. The box with the rats draws me, coaxing, beaconing to me. The magnetic floor begins pulling me. I’m walking despite my will.
The cage is littered with the corpses of dead rat bodies. Although they are bigger than the ones I see in the wild, they look smaller in death. I can’t see any blood. I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad sign.
One rat stands victorious. I think it's the smallest one there. It’s the one I saw first start the attack. It’s panting, loud and long and hard. There is clotted and mussed up fur on one shoulder from the battle. It’s muzzle is caked in blood and when it opens its mouth so sqweel in victory, I see that its teeth are, too. I stare at it. It stares at me. I hate it. The stare is so accusing and furious, as if I was the one that made it fight.
The staring contest is broken when a large calloused hand comes in and wraps around the rat. A man’s hand. To confirm that this is a male holding the rat, a deep, bass voice thooms from the dark. “Come on, my pretty. Studying time.” And that rat digs its teeth with all the force it has in it’s body into the hand. He cries out and drops it back into the cage. The hand vanishes back into the dark. He moans to himself and then snarls two words: “Stupid rat.” He moans for almost a minute.
Suck it up, buddy! I think. Nobody really wants to hear how bad you hurt. Then I remember how he gets infected because of the bite. Ooops. My bad.
He moans once more, but he is cut off halfway through his whine.
He looks up. I know he does, because I can see his eyes now. They have the shine of cats eyes in the dark, but has the insane red in the white bits that the rat had.
“I can hear you.”
My blood chills when he says this. It’s not the kind of chill that I get when I hear a creepy story. He looks as if he is staring right at me. No, I tell myself firmly. This is a dream. Not a memory, not real. He’s looking
The man laughs. It’s a wild, crazy laugh that wheezes when he begins and ends. “I can hear you and see you, Shaya Bennett. Get ready to be infected. It’s your turn.”
His meaty hand closes down on my throat and brings my scream to a painful end.
I scream myself awake. I’m sitting up, staring at the wall and breathing hard. When I’m certain that I’m alive, I climb out of bed and change into a pair of grubby jeans and a dirty grey tee shirt. Then I push my door open and go down the hall to the bathroom. My throat itches like you wouldn’t believe. I study my reflection. Nothing unusual. Just the washed out tired look of someone who had a bad nightmare.
Suddenly I see something. On my throat, over my windpipe is a green-grey bruise ringed in red. New. Very, very new. I go back to my room, shaken and unnerved. Was it myself, or was it the “dream?”
When I come to my door, I realize it’s ajar. I locked it last night. I don’t remember unlocking it this morning. I check the windows. Locked tight. I sprint through the house. Every door, every window is locked. Nothing is out of place, there is no graffiti on the walls. Nothing is out of the ordinary.
Except for one thing. The front door is unlocked and open. Wide open. Numbly, I shut the door. My mouth is dry, and there is an achy feeling in my mind. Whatever happened last night, someone came into my house after I locked all the doors. I want to go back into town. This house- I thought it was the best thing that happened to me- is going to drive me insane.
I drop onto the couch and sit there. One hand unconsciously pulls the blanket around me. What do I do now? Where can I go? I can’t stay here anymore, that much is obvious.
Not knowing what I should do, I go to the backyard. There is a lawnchair in the warm rising sunlight. I keep the blanket around my shoulders and tip my head back. I still don’t know what to do.
“Hey!” Calls a cheerful voice. I open my eyes. Casey is jogging to me. His eyes are bright and happy, and his pants and hands are bloody.
He drops on one knee and grins at me. “Good morning, Shaya. How was your sleep? Any nightmares?” He waggles his fingers at me and grins. “Whooo!”
“What’s with your hands?” I ask, a little irritable. I don’t want to talk about my dreams just yet. This isn’t the time.
“Hmmm? Oh, I have a deer tag and I got one this morning about an hour ago. So … yeah.” He sounds convincing enough. He just avoids my eyes as he says this, which makes it seem like a lie. I decide to go with it.
“Congrats. Well, you’ll be happy to know that you gave me nightmares.” When I say this, Casey laughs hard, his voice deep and low like a rolling bell. “Not funny. It was like a memory, Casey. A memory that I don’t have.”
His laughter dries up suddenly, but he still has a smile. “I don’t know what you're talking about. A memory you don’t have? Completely impossible, Shaya.”
“I was in a place. Then I saw everything you told me about in my dream. Only, it was vivid enough that it was like I was there.”
Casey’s smile has faded. He looks like he’s trying to pull up a long forgotten train of thought, a way to explain to me what I had dreamed. His jaw works as if he is chewing something.
“This dream … it wasn’t just a dream?”
“No. It seemed like it had happened before.” I say.
“Well … Sorry. I don’t know what to tell you. Don’t know what it is. Could be an omen.”
“No. Casey, the scientist. He knew I was there. He knew I was watching him. He spoke to me.” My voice is urgent, more of a whine than I want it to be. “I was there, like I snuck into someone’s memories. He said that I was going to get the infection, too.”
Casey laughs, but it's not as comforting as it could be. “Shaya. That’s only a dream. You’re okay, the house is okay, nothing bad will happen. The real infection was years and years ago. Forget the dream.”
I nod, the same numb feeling that I felt when I saw the door was unlocked this morning welling up in me. “Yeah. There’s something else you need to know. Somebody picked the lock and came in my house. Tried to choke me.”
Casey frowns. “You sure? Do you think that you might not have locked the door tight enough?” He sounds irritated, and just a little disbelieving.
“Positive. The bruise is here, even. See?” I point to it.
“You … didn’t leave out any door? You didn’t forget to lock it?“
“No. Everything was locked up tight. I made sure of it. Everything was locked. I did it all myself. After I saw the report on Jordan Lake, I was too afraid to go outside.” Why can I talk so calmly with him about my new death fears?
“Sad, huh? There must be a killer or a kidnapper on the loose and-”
“No, Casey. She’s one of my housekeepers.” I tap my chest to get my point across. “She works here. Honest Casey, she does.”
Casey laughs. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“I’m not!” I snap indignantly. “I saw her yesterday, I know it was her.”
“No. the housekeeper might have looked like her, but she’s not.” Casey shakes his head. “This house is making you paranoid, girl. Tell you what, why don’t I tell the housekeepers to take the day off? Then you can come with me and help me with my deer?”
Ugh. I’ve had enough blood for a lifetime. “Uh, no thanks. I don’t like seeing-”
“Oh, there’s no blood. Not much.” Casey says it a little too quickly. “Come on. You can just watch. Or you can sleep on the couch at my place. Cause if we’re both honest, you don’t want to be left alone here, right? Come on.”
He’s right. He wins this one. “Okay. Let me get my shoes, I’ll be back in just a second.” I promise and go back inside. I can’t help but wonder if this is a good idea or not.
As promised, Casey takes care of everything. Then he drives me to his place. I nap on his couch for maybe two hours, then come to watch him. He works so fluidly and fast. I wonder how long he’s been doing this. It takes the good part of the day to get it done, though. Casey even lets me help out sometimes.
When the sun gets that goldenrod glow that says the sun will be setting soon, Casey and I are finished. We decide to walk home. Casey points out things about this place that I should know, and I tell Casey what it was like back at my hometown.
I think he knows I’m stalling. If he does, he’s not saying much about it. Either he doesn’t care or he’s just being a good sport. But I don’t want to go back to my house. It’s so … creepy up there. When I see its dominant silhouette on the skyline, I find chills running up my spine. But it’s not like I’m scared or anything. I just think the place is weird. I notice huge dark clouds lining the sky, threatening to loose any minute.
Casey decides that it might be a good time to leave. “Right. I’ll see ya tomorrow, ‘kay? I better go back home. There are things I gotta get done, y’know?”
“Yeah. See you.” The dark house gets even darker. The claustrophobia I felt last night comes rushing back, but I’m too afraid to say anything.
The sky decides to open up right about then. Casey looks up and rain spatters his face.
“This is gonna be a howler. Power’ll go out and the dirt’s gonna turn to mud. Can’t drive through this. Not to mention if you go through it, you'd get lost. Cool if I hang with you tonight? I won’t take much room.”
I shrug, but I still don’t want to be in this place. It’ll be more awkward being in here with Casey, though. Casey nods and winks at me. Something stands out. Something is wrong. His left eye has a slight bloodshot hue to it. Not exactly like full fledged bloodshot, but fairly close. One long blood tendril is crawling to his eye. His right eye is fine.
“I think there’s something wrong with your eye. Are you tired or did you get punched, or did you get something in your eye?”
“Why do you- is it bloodshot or something?”
Casey looks down. “Sure. I might have gotten something in it, but I’m real tired.” He yawns, but it seems a bit fake. It’s as if he just wanted to punctuate his point. He was a good sport when I was stalling, so I figure I should be a good sport about this, too.
I let him come inside. He reaches for the light switch and flips it. He’s rewarded with a radiant glow for only three seconds. Then lightning BOOMS …
… and the power goes out. “See?” Casey’s voice echoes in the big mansion. I think he thinks this situation is funny. “I told you the power would go out, didn’t I?”
“Yeah. But I didn’t doubt you.” I shoot back. “I have some candles in the kitchen. You can find me a lighter and we can light the-”
“No.” Casey cuts me off. “There’s a Coleman lantern in the living room closet. You can light candles if it will make you feel better, but they don’t shine as bright.” There is a soft thud-thump of boots on carpet and then the closet door eeks in protest as Casey opens it. He rustles around for a minute, then there is a simultaneous click while the light blinks on.
“Yeah, see?” He waves it about, casting shadows on the ceiling and wall. “Here, if you want, you can go light the candles.”
“Yup,” I stare out the windows. The glass gleams, showing the rain beading up and coasting off. It makes neat patterns, but it doesn’t help how nervous I am. The water is so pretty. In the morning, I probably won’t be able to go out of this place. The mud will hold me hostage in my own house. And it will be the water’s fault.
“I need some water first. You want some?”
“Sure.” Casey flops onto the couch and tips his hat over his eyes. “You want some light while you get it?
“Nah, no thanks. I can get the water fine.” I feel like I shouldn’t take the light from him. Some tiny voice in the back of my head tells me that I shouldn’t take the lantern.
I hurry to the kitchen. I watch my feet, my head, and the hall in front of me. If I don’t watch, I’ll either run into something or trip over my own feet. I don’t have the surest feet in the world. You know how some people fall down the stairs? I fall up them. That’s how clumsy I am.
I grab two glass cups and turn on the faucet. The water gushing out is darker than I remember, but I’m so thirsty that I don’t question it. I fill Casey’s and take it to him.
“Thanks,” He says. He must be tired. There is an odd slur to his voice that I haven’t heard before. Somehow, some way, it just doesn’t sound tired. “Put it on the coffee table would you?” he yawns.
I clink it down, then turn to my cup. The water still looks dark. Most likely it’s due to the fact that there is no light. I gulp a big mouthful.
It’s not water. Water does not taste metallic. Water is not this thick. Water is not this hot; I put the faucet on cold. Water does not have a strong flavor or remain in your mouth even after you swallow it.
But blood does.
I scream and hurl the cup across the room. It hits the wall and shatters, staining the dandelion yellow paper with blood. A murder scene.
“CASEY! IT’S BLOOD!” I let all the paranoia, all the horror, all the shock I’ve felt in this house give voice in the scream.
Then from deep inside the house, I hear whispers and moans. Items and trinkets are shuffled around. Eyes appear out of the hallways and doors.
“You have to go.” Slurs Casey. “Go to the hotel in town. Get out of here. Run.” He doesn’t look up. He doesn’t sound scared.
He’s been right about pretty much everything. I have no reason to doubt him now.
Behind me, there is a soft noise. The sound of someone getting to their feet. The noise of a glass cup being picked off a stone coffee table. Then a thick slurping sound. Casey is drinking …
I fling the door open and charge down the steps. I don’t remember grabbing my keys, or my wallet, but I must have done it. The car is on and moving by the time I get control of my limbs. The mud did not keep me hostage like I thought it would. I do exactly as Casey said. I speed through town, going so fast a cop could have pulled me over. I check into the hotel. The woman behind the counter is nice enough. I just hope she doesn’t smell the blood on my breath.
She gives me a room. It’s small and just my size. A falling Anvil, I drop on the bed, not caring about the dreams I might have. All I want is to fall asleep and wake up to a world that isn’t as horrible as the one I’m in now.
I wake up. There were no dreams. That is good. I don’t have to open my eyes to know I’m still in my hotel bed. What ever happened last night, it was most definitely not a dream. That is bad. I lunge out of bed and turn on the sink and slurp water straight from the tap. I’m thirsty enough I could drink all of Lake Superior. The water’s got that hotel tang, but it is water and not …
To forget if only for a moment, I get a towering plate of breakfast and scarf it down. Then I clean myself up and check out of my room. I can’t go back to the house, at least, not right now. Today is devoted to looking up as much information as I can about the virus Casey told me about.
I drive to the local library and camp on a computer. Time is brief, and I only have a couple hours.
For nine hours, I search the internet, searching for something, anything about this virus. I search mad scientists, rats going crazy, everything I can think about. No luck. Just when I’m about to give up, I find a short page on the virus. I zoom through it greedily, wondering just what I’m up against.
Forty-six years ago, a twenty-two year old scientist called Cayce Rich began an experiment on viruses that could be altered into life saving purposes. He moved out into the Spearhead Mountain Range, and began tampering with the diseases. He worked for three years, and finally he got a small effect. He tested it on rats, but it did not have the results he wanted. All the rats killed each other off until one was left. Cayce tried to get the rat for testing, but it bit him and passed the half virus to Cayce.
No one really knows what happened to Cayce. He vanished just after his housekeeper and gamekeeper went missing. Some believe that Cayce killed them, but no one knows for sure, just as no one knows what exactly happened to Cayce. Legends say he died a couple days after he was infected. Other stories argue that he left for a place in Europe. And there are some tales that say he stayed in his house and lured people in to kill them.. They claim that he could live forever, and has a thirst that will never be quenched. It is said that it is the thirst for blood., he yearns for the blood that evaporated from his veins many years ago. People will say that Cayce was a vampire, but it is not so. The newest nickname to those who receive the virus are “The Infected.”
I stare at the screen. Cayce Rich. Casey Rijteric. Casey is the scientist in the story. I was stupid enough to not believe him when he told me the story. It was his dream that I was in. I can see it now.It all clicks. The blood on his jeans yesterday morning. The blood he drank straight from the cup. He drank it because … he was thirsty. There’s no other way to put it.
Now what do I do? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. And like all the times I’ve asked the question before, I don’t know the answer.
I have to leave. I can’t stay here in this town. I can call the movers. I’ll call them from home. They only know my home phone. But can I risk going back? Casey is still there, he must be. That’s the only way. I can do it. I don’t think he would hurt me. The same cannot be said for the others in the house. I know there are more.
I work up the courage to go. Only three minutes, that’s all I need. I can do it.
The sky is darkening as I head to my car. Great. That’s all I need, to go to my house in the dark. My motions become robotic. Pick up your things. Go out in the parking lot. Open the door to the Ford. The click-clunk of the door opening soothes me. It’s real. So real. My house doesn’t seem real. I can do this.
The drive to my house would be pleasant. However, the stress of what I have to do prevents me from having a relaxing time.
The house is the same. Still dark, still big, still foreboding. My footsteps on the path is so loud. I wish it wasn’t so quiet.
I open the door as softly as I can. Nothing. I think I might have gotten off the hook and Casey isn’t here. I reach for the light switch, but another hand is already there. It’s twin has clamped down on my mouth.
“No, Shaya. It’s much more fun in the dark. Don’t you think so?” A soft, deep, southern voice sounds in my ear.
Casey switches his hold to my wrists and leans into me. There is a dark red, almost black color to the whites of his eyes, which makes the blue-grey agate of his eyes stand out even more. He is so close his nose is almost touching my nose. I can feel his breath when he says, “We all have it in here. We are all infected.”
Casey begins to laugh quietly. It’s a wild, crazy laugh that wheezes the tiniest bit when he begins and ends. He licks his lips as if anticipating a piece of candy being handed to him. “We are all infected here. And now, it’s your turn.” Slowly, he leans down to where the arteries on my neck are. “ Just so you know, it hurts more if you scream. So keep that in mind.”