“Whispering to a Vampyric Moon” by Mary Beth Asaro

The air was warm, cryptic, and sweet to listen to on a bus traveling to small towns. Keisha sat in the back feeling what little breeze a seventy mile an hour bus can make through a cracked window. Then she closed it, took one look at her dry ebony skin, and pulled out a bottle of vanilla lotion from one of her bags. She smoothed out and rubbed in the lotion on her arms, legs, neck, and face as if it was a religious ritual to cleanse the soul. The coolness of the lotion felt good against the roughness of her cream sweater and denim blue jeans. After the lotion bath, Keisha tossed the bottle in the bag and leaned against the grey cushioned seat while watching the blend of living and dead leaves, and grayish brown tree bark chopped with colorful double wides flash before her window. The rhythmic colors danced in her eyes at a fast pace under the dying sun. Then she lifted her nappy head slightly against the small comfort of a cheap seat as the bus began to show signs of slowing down. They passed by a speed limit sign flaunting the bold black letters of fifty-five to the passengers.

Keisha stared at the tin roof while she caressed a small square locket around her neck. Hours went by as her hypnotized eyes transfixed on a memory she worked hard most of her young life to bury. A shade of anger shaped her facial features; her hand just stayed pressed to the silver locket as if to hide it from the rest of the world. Then within a snap of a finger, the emotion was gone and Keisha was back to staring at the window.

The bus slowed down before coming to a halt. Keisha spotted her destination in the distance of a corn field. She grabbed her bags and walked slowly off the bus. The door hastily closed behind her and continued on its way again to another destination. Keisha glanced beyond the corn field at a two story grey shack and began to walk, racing the shadow of the sun to the house.

Sweat poured from her brow as she climbed the creaky steps on to the wooden porch and banged on the storm door. She heard nothing arose from within. A call from a whippoorwill made her jump, shrill, and look towards the back woods.

"Lord, I don't wanna die here," she proclaimed silently.

The storm door flung open making Keisha jerk her head towards the disturbance. A middle aged Caucasian woman stood next to the door with her green eyes looking Keisha over. Her long dark curls were held up from the pale face in a halfway pony tail and the woman's thin figure was dressed in all black as if she was one of those modern day vampires that are shown in a horror movie.

"Can I help ya?"

Keisha was beside herself for a moment. She didn't know whether she should answer the woman or drop her bags and run.

"Is there something I can do for ya? Are ya lost?" The woman drew near Keisha and placed her black painted fingers on Keisha's arm. The coolness from the fingers made Keisha come to life with answers.

"I'm lookin' for a room... for rent. I read in the paper that this place has one. Are you Miss Kurby?" Keisha could feel her bags beginning to slop away from her sweaty palms.

The woman took a contemplative look at her. "You're not from around here, are ya?"

"Not lately, no." Keisha heard several plops on the wooden porch and realized that she wasn't holding her bags any more.

Miss Kurby smirked. "Call me Kat."

"I'm Keisha Burner."

Miss Kurby opened the storm door and waited for her. Keisha quickly picked up her bags and just stood there for a moment wondering if she should go in.

"Well, are ya comin' in or not?" Miss Kurby's body showed signs of impatience.

Keisha took note of this and hesitantly went inside. Miss Kurby followed after her and let the door swing shut behind them.

"It's one-fifty a week plus room and board."

She watched Keisha survey the living room and the small wooden fire place for anything unusual.

"You're the first since October."

"Why's that?" Keisha turned her attention towards Miss Kurby.

"Since the serial came to town."

Keisha's dark eyes grew bigger than a pecan on a summer's day.

"Oh, it was just some psycho who thinks that he's some kind of vampire. He's probably long gone by now." Miss Kurby assured her with a wave of her hand. "Find anything... to your liking?" She gave a warm smile to her new guest.

Keisha stood in the middle of a black and white Third Eye rug while taking in the creepy environment. "My, what a... interesting place you have here."

Miss Kurby brushed passed her and elegantly walked into a large, modern kitchen area filled with all the home comforts of a New Age phone, sink, counter, table and chairs, cabinets, microwave, stove, freezer, and refrigerator.

"Oh, that's only the beginning," Miss Kurby grabbed a cocktail glass from one of the upper cabinets and sat it down on the counter closest to the refrigerator. "You don't mind do you?" She smiled at Keisha. "Or do you want something to drink as well?"

Keisha stepped in the room and eyed both the cocktail glass and Miss Kurby before politely mumbling a "No, thank you."

Miss Kurby opened the refrigerator and took out a clear, rectangular plastic bag filled with dark red plasma. "Thanks. It's that time of the month for me." She snipped a good size portion of a plastic edge with scissors she scrambled for from a bottom drawer and poured out the contents in the cocktail glass. "I have a cravin' for blood once a month since I was twelve." She threw the scissors in the drawer and slammed it shut with a hip. Then she placed the empty plastic bag in a small white trash can hidden in one of the bottom cabinets.

Keisha could feel her pulse pumping out of her wrists. "H-human blood?"

Miss Kurby took a sip of the blood and nodded a quick "Uh-huh."

Keisha clasped a hand to her mouth and back ed up a few paces after dropping her bags on the Mahogany floor.

"Miss Burner, it's nothin' like that!" She raised the glass. "This is from willing patients at Carolina's who are aware of my cravin's."

Keisha released her mouth and drew nearer. "What?"

"I work the graveyard shift at Carolina's Hospital. Everybody knows I have 'em." She began to drink some more blood before continuing the explanation. "It's some sort of disease. I forget what they call it. Any way..." She reached over and grabbed Keisha by the hand. "I'm harmless as a butterfly." Miss Kurby shook Keisha's hostage hand with her free hand and winked at her to comfort Keisha. Then she slowly walked beyond the kitchen to an old spiral staircase. Miss Kurby turned towards Keisha and motioned with the glass in her hand to follow. "Come on! There's still lots more to see."

After a moment of waiting, Miss Kurby started to walk up the staircase. Keisha glanced at her bags on the floor; then the living room leading to the front door and back to the slow rhythmic feet moving up the wooden staircase. Seconds later, she grabbed her bags and joined Miss Kurby on the staircase.

Miss Kurby took another swallow of blood. She kept her eyes upward on the decreasing stairs. "Where ya from?"

Keisha bit her bottom lip. Then she exhaled exhaustedly. "Came from Florida, but was born here in South Carolina." She felt one of her hands begin to lose its grip on one of the bags. Keisha digged her nails into the black fabric for a tighter grasp until she could reach the second floor. "Was raised here in Dovesville 'til thirteen."

They reached the second floor. Keisha put her bags down for a moment to rest her hands. Miss Kurby stared at her guest massaging her hands. "You and your parents moved to Florida, I take it."

Keisha kept her eyes down at her aching hands. "No. They been dead since I turned thirteen. I just ran away so I wouldn't have to go some place I didn't wanna go."

Miss Kurby was intrigued by Keisha's answer, but she didn't dare to dig more into it. Instead, she kept drinking her blood. Keisha finished massaging her hands and picked up her bags. While in the process of lifting up the bags, the corner of her eye caught a glimpse of an open door with lit candles and a black opened casket inside at the far left side of her. She quickly turned her head towards that direction to get a good look to confirm what she just saw. Miss Kurby followed her alarming gaze.

"Oh, that's my room. I can't get to sleep in open spaces. Some how I tend to get more rest in a closed coffin than in an open bed." She drank the rest of the blood in one gulp. "Everything is a disease now-a-days."

Keisha gulped down a ball of fear that appeared in her throat. Miss Kurby smiled at her. "Come on. Your room is this way." She escorted Keisha to the opposite end of the hallway. They came to the last door. Miss Kurby opened it and switched on the light. The light illuminated a room in the style of the 1950's with just a plain bed, dresser, and closet area; the bare essentials for a traveling guest. Keisha sat her bags on the bed and took a look around. Then she noticed a small window next to the dresser. She approached it and stared up at the grey spotted, pale moon shining down at her in its full spotlight.

"Protect my innocence and forgive my faults as I go my own way," Keisha whispered to the moon.

Miss Kurby eyed her as if trying to figure her out. "Who are you whispering to?"

"To the vampyric moon." Keisha closed her eyes for a moment while she listened to a frog croaking outside her window.

"And why did you come back here?" Miss Kurby stood in the door way anxiously awaiting an answer.

Keisha opened her eyes and turned back towards the bed. "Sometimes you can't out run your past."

"Right." Miss Kurby took a step back. "I'll just let ya pack. I'll be down stairs if you need me 'til eleven thirty when I go to work."

In a matter of seconds, Miss Kurby was gone from the door and Keisha was left with herself. She unzipped her bags and began to unpack her belongings on to the bed. Then Keisha went through them, one by one, placed them in the empty dresser drawers, and plopped down on the bed. She laid her head down on the pillow. With her eyes closed, she listened to the nightly house and outside noises until she fell into a dreamless sleep.

Keisha awoke to the sound of breaking glass. She jerked up and slowly made her way towards the threshold of the door. "Kat! Is that you down there?"

She could hear footsteps walking around down stairs. A moment later, the sound of a chair slid across the floor. "Miss Kurby!" Keisha carefully walked from her room to the spiral staircase. "Did ya break somethin'?"

Only the petrified silence answered her back. Keisha made her way half way down the stairs and paused for a moment. She leaned against the rail and tried to let her eyes adjust to the pitch black of the dinning room next to the lighted glow of the kitchen. A bell toiled from a grandfather clock near the staircase letting the near by inhabitants know that it was now midnight. Keisha jumped at the sound of it and almost screamed until she held her mouth closed. She took a deep breath and gazed over the railing again. A dark figure sat at the dinning room table watching the staircase.

"Who's there?"

"Whuz dere? Whuz dere?" A male voice mimicked psychotically.

Then the figure rose up from the table and walked into the lighted area of the kitchen. "Death cums ta dose who find it," the charcoaled man replied. His artificial fangs laughed at her while his greenish red contact lens glared at Keisha crazily. He brushed back his long dreadlocks with a flick of his head. Keisha just stood there paralyzed as the man ran towards her until she felt something inside of her pulling her to run. She found the strength to run to her room and slammed the door. Keisha pressed her body weight to the door trying to keep the nightmare at bay. But the man wedged the door opened, and began to taunt her with his fake hisses and cackles. Minutes later, he pushed her on to the bed, over powered her, and prepared to sink his teeth into her neck.

Filled with anger and fear, Keisha could feel the mental power building inside her. No longer fighting, she placed her arms around his neck and closed her eyes; welcoming the nightmare.

His teeth slightly caressed her skin when he felt his life draining out of him. The man tried to push away, but Keisha held on tight. She could feel herself getting stronger while her victim grew weaker. Keisha liked the taste of him, his energy.

A couple of minutes went by when she could no longer mentally taste the life within his body. Keisha pushed him off of her. He fell to the floor dead. She got up from the bed and opened her locket from around her neck. Her smiling parents stared back at her as the vivid memory of her angry thirteen year old self mentally draining the lives out of her parents flashed through her mind. A tear fell and caressed her cheek. She closed the locket and brushed it away.

She found herself walking down stairs to the kitchen phone and dialed 911. A mellow female voice answered. "I've just killed an intruder. Please, come quickly," Keisha heard herself say calmly before she slowly placed the phone back down on the hook. She walked out into the cool night air awaiting the sight of flashing red lights while singing "The Precious Blood of the Lamb" on the front porch.