Mirella Kolev’s wet tennis shoes squeaked as she trekked up the stairs of the apartment building. She pushed open the oak door that led into the second-floor hallway and walked towards her apartment. Thunder vibrated, and the fluorescent lights flickered in a silent threat. For as long as Mirella could remember, she hated being alone during thunderstorms. The repetition of brilliant light followed by roaring thunder made her feel uneasy. She quickened her pace and readied the key for the deadbolt lock. The lights flickered again, then went out. Mirella paused, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness as she waited for the emergency lights to come on. When they didn’t, she felt her way along the textured wall and searched for the entrance to her apartment. Once she found it, she used her fingers to feel for the keyhole in the deadbolt lock. She slipped the key in as the hallway door swept open. Mirella squinted to see who had entered but it was too dark.
“Stupid lock,” she mumbled, nervously trying to open the jammed lock. She heard footsteps moving towards her.
“Hello?” Mirella called out.
There was no answer. Frightened and with trembling hands she tried the lock again. The keys slipped out of her hand and fell to the ground.
“Damn it,” she knelt and patted the floor for the keychain. Suddenly, she felt what seemed like icy fingers stroking their way from of her neck to the side of her throat. She gave a feeble yelp and jumped to her feet, her hand reaching up to touch the cold tingle that remained on her skin. It took all the courage inside her to turn around and peer into the darkness.
“Who—who’s there?” She flattened herself against the wall. Mirella thought she heard laughter. It seemed to be all around her.
Forget the key, Mirella ran towards the opposite entrance and pushed open the door. Lightning flashed in the stairwell window, startling her and the sharp crack of thunder that followed made her jump. She wondered if her friend, Collin Davis, would be in his third-floor apartment. Gripping the railing, she bounded up the stairs. She opened the door, placing the wedge under the bottom corner to allow a trickle of light into the corridor. She hurried towards Collin’s apartment, but was engulfed by darkness halfway down the hall.
Somebody must be following me! The wedge wouldn’t have come out be itself that quickly.
Her heart pounded, and she broke out into a cold sweat. Mirella listened, afraid to take a deep breath in fear that the sound would give her away. Maybe it was all in her imagination, but an inner voice told her it wasn’t.
God, if only I had a flashlight.
Mirella placed on foot forward, then another, finding courage to move. She ran down the hall towards Collin’s apartment, the second one from the end. Rain pounded the roof as Mirella trailed her hand against the wall to guide her way. She knew he wouldn’t be asleep at this hour; he was a night owl. If anything, he wasn’t home, but she had to try. Maybe he would be there.
With quivering fingers, she traced the numbers on the door. Three-one-three. It was the right one.
Wait, were those footsteps? Oh God, oh God, oh God…
Her breath quickened as she knocked frantically. “Collin are you in there?”
No one’s home.
“Oh shit.” Mirella muttered, not sure if the deep voice was in her mind or in the hall. She ran for the exit and shoved the door. It wouldn’t open.
Nowhere to run.
The voice mocked. She turned and felt her way to the closest apartment and pounded on the door but got no answer. Where is everyone? She remembered Collin mentioned being practically alone up here because of renovations. Only two other tenants remained besides him on the third floor and she wasn’t sure which apartments were still occupied.
Shadows moved in the darkness and Mirella darted to another apartment. She- beat on the door than tried the knob. Locked. Goosebumps rose on her arms as she felt invisible eyes tracing every inch of her body.
“H-hello?” Mirella hugged herself trying to hide. What she could only describe as silent laugher floated in the air. It was there, but…it wasn’t.
Mirella could take no more. The darkness and silence were unbearable. Reality and imagination clashed, and she called out in desperation, “Who’s there? Damn it! I know you’re there!” She shivered. Her voice quivered, and tears threatened as she blindly searched for another apartment. Unable to get her bearing in the dark, Mirella wasn’t sure where she was anymore. She gripped the first doorknob she found and felt it twist. It opened! She rushed in, slamming the door closed and engaged the deadbolt and chain. She pressed her ear against the stained wood and held her breath. Footsteps stopped just outside. Lightning flashed, and thunder crashed as the storm raged on.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Mirella jumped, it sounded like fingernails against the wooden door panel.
She held still, trying not to make a sound, her heart raced. It knows I’m here. God, please help me.
Tap. Tap. Scrape.
The nails trailed down the door towards the knob. Mirella backed away from the door, her eyes trained to where she imagined the knob to be. A series of images raced through her mind of what was about to happen to her—the many ways she could e killed or raped and the ways she could fight back. If she could find something to use as a weapon…
A glorious pale light washed in under the door from the hallway accompanied by a monotone buzzing. Mirella cautiously stepped forward and dared to peek out the peephole. The emergency lights had finally turned on. Perhaps the electricity would soon follow.
Gathering her courage, Mirella removed the chain from the lock and slowly turned the deadbolt. She took a deep breath and opened the door. The hallway appeared empty under the soft glow of lights. She listened and the buzzing of the light and occasion al crack of thunder was all she heard. Not footsteps, voices or laughter. Could it have been all in her imagination?
Mirella took a step out into the hallway shadows in dark corners formed shapes and appeared to come to life, she just wanted to go back to her apartment, but what if her keys were gone, what if the lock continued to be stuck? What if the lights went out again? What if…the creaking sound of the door to the stairway opening broke through her thoughts.
Mirella shut herself back into the apartment and set the lock and chain.
You’re not alone.
Panic renewed as the footsteps neared and stopped outside the door. Something—a key—slipped into the deadbolt and she heard it turned, Mirella grabbed the knob and pushed against the door.
Whoever was on the other side attempted to open the door. She heaved her weight against it, holding it shut.
“What the—Who the hell is in there?”
Mirella’s fears fled at the familiar voice. She looked out the peephole. “Collin?”
“Mir? What are you doing in there?”
Mirella unfastened the chain and opened the door. With relief, she grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him inside the apartment before shutting the door. “Am I glad to see you,”
She heard him go into a drawer, then a flashlight flickered, lighting the familiar surroundings. Somehow in all the chaos, she had managed to find her way back to his apartment.
“What are you doing here?” Collin walked into the kitchen.
Mirella lingered in the threshold and watched as he brought out a few candles. “My lock is stuck again.” He put candles out and lit them with a long match.
“So, you decided to break into my apartment instead of your own?”
Mirella shook her head.” Your door wasn’t locked,”
Collin shrugged, “Could have sworn I locked it.”
Mirella watched as he lit the last candle. She had knocked but she didn’t recall trying the handle the first time—did she? She studied him for a moment. His hair looked dry despite the downpour outside. Same went for his shirt. “Did it stop raining out?”
Collin shook his head.
Mirella had known him for about a year. In that time, they had become friends. She had no reason to fear him. It just been a crazy night, that’s all, she rationalized as she instinctively took a step back as Collin approached her.
“Mir? What’s wrong? You’re shaking.”
Mirella wrapped her arms around herself, “I just…the lights went out. I couldn’t get into my apartment and I, um,” She blushed and smiled, “I think something is after me.” She glanced over her shoulder at the door as she felt tears on her cheek. “Something is out there. It trapped me in the hall, I think it might still be there…waiting.”
Collin moved closer, his eyes appearing unusually dark in the candlelight. “You’ve been reading those books again, haven’t you?”
By those, Mirella knew he meant horror books. “Yes, but I’m serious, something is out there!”
“Shh,” Collin moved forward to embrace her. Mirella relaxed in the warmth of his arms, feeling safe. Maybe he was right, and her imagination had gotten away from her.
She felt his arms move and heard the distinct click of the deadbolt.
“There’s nothing out there that’s going to hurt you.” There was something sensual about his words. A secret promise that made her heart skip a beat.
Collin pulled back to study her, pushing stay brunette hairs behind her ear. There was something different about the way he looked at her. It was needful, even lustful. Mirella felt her body warm as her fears melted away.
“How do you know?”
Collin leaned forward, his soft lips touching hers like a caress rather than a kiss. She moaned in protest as his lips left her mouth and fluttered over her cheek and jaw until his warm tongue licked the lobe of her ear just before he whispered in it.
“Because that something is in here with you.”
Mirella suddenly felt as if she was drowning under the river of passion that he led her on. His hands tightened on her arms and she felt a sharp pain in her neck. She cried out, trying to comprehend what was happening.
He’s… he’s biting me!
Mirella could feel his mouth against her throat. She felt the rhythmic motion of sucking? Of drinking?
Is he drinking my blood? No, no way, he can’t be he isn’t a…
Vampire? With all that crap you read you can’t even say the word?
Collin’s voice entered her mind, mocking her.
No, Mirella thought, this isn’t happening. It’s not possible. How can he be a monster?
Monster? Really Mirella. I thought you knew me better than that?
Mirella pushed against his chest to get away. “You stalk me in the dark, and now you’re trying to kill me…what do you expect me to think? Ouch!”
At her painful cry, his sucking became gentler. However, he held her in place.
Who said anything about killing you?
“I sure the hell don’t want to become a vampire!” Mirella kneed him in the groin, which just caused Collin to tighten his grip on her.
Just relax, the more you fight it, the more it’ll hurt! Calm down.
His voice returned in her mind, but this time there was something behind it. A command she couldn’t ignore. Mirella’s arms dropped, and she found she no longer wished to fight him.
“I trusted you. How could you do this?”
She let out a grunt as Collin pushed her back against the wall in reply. She could feel the blood in her veins being drawn against its natural flow. Concentrating on the feeing, it seemed pleasant, almost euphoric. she relaxed as he sucking became tender, even…loving? She was surprised to find she enjoyed being in his arms. After all, how many nights had she fantasized about him. Of course, her fantasies didn’t include him biting her, but still.
Mirella felt tired and weak. He was supporting her weight now in the comfort of his arms. The candlelight faded with the soft patter of raindrops.
To be continued…