– by Ruth Davis Hays
After her faltering conversation with the mysterious drugstore shopper that claimed his name was Kevin, Roxi has spent several hours following his distant figure, as he meandered through the dusk, before losing sight of him in a small neighborhood.
She had resolved to follow the strange, young man, and now she sat in her car on a quiet street in Murray Hill waiting for something …anything to happen.
It was after midnight. The street lamps were making an effort to glow, though not with much success, she noticed. The grey slab of pavement that passed as a street here in the residential west side of Orange Grove looked as if it had mange. A dark stretch with scattered patches of light. The houses had barely an acre to stand on before bumping into their neighbors. The few yards that had fences looked like they were making a meager attempt to fend off the neighbors’ clotheslines. Some homes had their own assortment of broken cars, dogs, and ceramic animals climbing trees. Most of the homes in this section of the town were nice; Roxi had to admit to herself. They were older ones that were built in the fifties and sixties. Small brick and cinder block houses were the new thing then. Now, the overall quality of them had either been chipped away by neglect, or restored and modified by younger couples and retired ones alike.
But still, Roxi could not help but wonder, what could a vampire possibly want in Orange Grove?
It hit her then that she was thinking of him as a vampire. Although she had no definitive proof as of yet. So, she sat. The cool of the October evening creeping in through the seams in her car to tickle her skin. The night was lurking quietly around her. She felt it watching her with a curious eye, as if to ask her: “What are you doing out here? Watching out for a creature of myth? Hoping that somewhere in the black corners of My domain you’ll find the answer to your own dissatisfaction roaming the open streets of this insignificant town? You are seriously looking for a Vampire? Surely, you jest! Go home, rest. There is nothing hiding under My starlit sky but your own imagination!”
“I must really be crackin’ up,” Roxi sighed. She looked at her watch. 12:30am, it sneered. Fine. So, she’d been wandering around this neighborhood for two hours, that was just great. “The people here must think I’m casing their homes. It’s a wonder the cops haven’t been called on me.”
She started up her car and pulled it into gear. Her nerve and her patience were about worn out. She reached for the headlight switch and caught a flash of movement in the corner of her eye. She froze.
Turning her head to the right, Roxi saw the lowest branch of the tree in a neighboring yard shake. Her pulse quickening, she scanned the yards and street. It looked still. The only movement came from the tree, though she could not see what might be harbored in there. A cat perhaps? she suggested to herself, suddenly nervous. Her fingers were cold against the steering wheel. Her heartbeat sounding in her ears. Some primal instinct prickled the hair on her scalp, telling her to run! But, her will to investigate was stronger than her instinct to leave. She sat motionless, her eyes riveted to the branches of the tree.
Then suddenly, there he was, in the weak pool of the streetlight ahead. A half block away; the old tree beside her still trembling from his exit. Her heart jumped to the top of her throat. She straightened in her seat and watched his every move with a growing excitement.
She opened her window slightly to listen for any noise of danger or …entreaty. The dim lights gave a subtle eeriness to his appearance. Roxi had to squint to see his features clearly.
He was spinning merrily in circles, arms up with his long, denim coat flying out around him. He bounced a few times, then skipped into the brighter pool of light on the far side of the street. His manner was quite animated, almost impish, and he seemed totally unconcerned about being watched.
As she stared, mesmerized by his bizarre jig, he bounded across the street again and up the side of an old oak in the yard diagonal to her car. He caught hold of a low branch and swung like a gymnast on the uneven bars. He vanished, up into the tree, amid the leaves.
Roxi marveled at his agility. Who was this guy? she shook her head. Certainly no one normal, even if he isn’t supernatural.
His head appeared near the top of the tree, and he sprang onto the roof of the nearby house.
Roxi shifted quickly to the passenger side window to see him. She saw his shape crawl up the roof tiles to the peak of the house. There, he stood and stretched his arms wide, arching his back like a sleeper waking after a long night’s rest. His mouth was opened wide and his eyes squeezed tightly shut, the soundless yawn had the look of someone gripped in agony. Then his face relaxed, he curled down into a crouch and his arms snaked out to let his pale hands explore the texture of the tiles. Suddenly, he began to pound with a merciless intensity on the roof of the poor house. She could just make out his face. There was a large grin on it. And she became aware of a low chuckle drifting into her car window on the cool night air.
Lights came on inside the tormented house, and dogs began to bark all around. Seemingly satisfied with this mayhem, the young man sprang up and spun on his heel. He ran along the rooftop, away from Roxi’s car, and leaped from one house top to the next.
Roxi gasped. It was a distance of ten yards at least. Bursting into action, she threw the car in gear and followed his lead up the street. She kept at a distance with her lights off. She did not want to scare him away.
She could see his form bounding from one roof to the next all the way up Murray Drive. The street ended abruptly at a T-juncture. The fact that the houses ended did not seem to deter his forward momentum. Roxi slammed on brakes in shock as she saw him jump out into empty air.
The young man landed with cat-like grace on the center line of the two-lane street.
He stood up straight just as two cars, on opposing sides, sped past him blaring their horns angrily. He spun around, fists up with both middle fingers held high.
This seemed to dissolve him into a fit of laughter, before he took off running down the painted yellow line.
Raquelle became painfully aware that she was gripping the steering wheel too hard. Letting out a quick breath, she flipped on her headlights and pulled out to pursue the rapidly disappearing figure.