The three of us walked onward to the next block, home of a little Mexican market as well as a Filipino place. I could still feel Eric's kiss on the side of my neck, like a small piece of fresh ice upon my skin. It lingered with a bit more feeling than the bloody kiss Alex gave me.
I had Mark to my left and Abby to the right of me as we strode inside of the Mexican market, and we were greeted by all the fresh smells of spices and the sight of horchatas near the front door there. A part of me wanted a cup for myself but I had no idea about the two of them. Indeed, my looking at the two of them next to me felt like hanging out with Vincent again in a strange way.
And yet, I had no clue as to why I was overthinking the whole thing, especially since it was my kid sister and her best friend, both of whom launched into a conversation about something. I offered to buy them both a cup but once I did, I realized what they were talking about.
“—well, it's because ghosts have such a strange point of view of the world,” Mark was saying. “Where we see the world as a place that can both harm us as well as help us, they see it as nothing more than disposable. Just a floating rock in space and we're all visiting.”
“Oh! Goblins! What about goblins?”
“Oi, you guys want some horchata?” I offered them.
“Of course, of course,” Mark said, absentminded.
“Me, too,” Abby followed, and then they returned to each other. I picked out three cups for ourselves and poured each of us one for ourselves, the sweet pearly white rice milk with some cinnamon mixed in. And it took me a second to realize that we were the only ones in that market. I turned my head to the left: no one there. To the right: besides Abby and Mark, no one there, either. I wondered who I could run to just to pay for our horchatas. I picked up two of them and handed them over to them.
“—about as mean and insidious as the gargoyles on the Winchester house,” Mark was saying, “—as far as I know anyways—oh, thank you!” He took the cup from me and Abby took hers as well.
“But they do more to keep the rain out than to frighten us, those gargoyles, I mean,” she added. “So—we shouldn't be too afraid of them?”
“Nah,” Mark assured her as he brought the straw up to his lips. “Now, ghouls, you've got to watch out for.”
“You guys talking about the Winchester house?” I asked them as I picked up my cup from the counter.
“Oh, yeah,” Mark replied. “Abby always tells me 'dude, we should go to the Winchester house some day!' And I always tell her, 'dude, Abs—it's down in San Jose. It's a ways away, not like we can walk there.'”
“Yeah, we'd have to hitch a ride down there,” I added, “while we're at it, we should go down the Santa Lucia Mountains, too. The Dark Watchers down that way!”
“That's probably just the wind, though,” Mark confessed as he took a sip.
“We could always take a walk to the Golden Gate Bridge,” Abby suggested.
“All the souls who've jumped from there,” I noted before I took a sip myself. Perfect balance of cold, cinnamon, and rice: on the tip of the cinnamon, I could taste where Alex had kissed me and left a trail of blood in his wake.
“By the way, have you guys seen a clerk or somebody around here?” I asked them, to which they glanced at one another.
“No,” Abby replied with a shake of her head.
“Yeah, this is—literally the stillest I have seen this place,” Mark said. “Like, you wouldn't think it was open.”
He turned his attention to the aisle behind us. The linoleum shone underneath the pale lights. Vacant and completely silent save for the hum of the refrigerators on the other side of the building.
Abby raised a finger.
“Do you guys hear that?” she asked us in a soft voice.
“The fridges?” I asked her.
“No. It's like—voices.”
“I don't hear anything,” Mark told her.
“I don't, either,” I added.
Abby took a sip from her horchata and then she took a step forward. I set a hand on her shoulder, to which she gasped.
“Tell me where it is,” I told her in a hushed whisper.
“It's like—over there by the back doors, Lil.” She gestured to those big floppy doors on the far corner of the room. I took a sip myself before I took the lead.
Even with as tough as she was, there were times I had to be the big sister to her. I took the lead, around the displays of tamarind, jamaica, and fresh fruit: Mark and Abby lingered right behind me every step of the way there.
Indeed, I could hear something that sounded like people talking on the other side there: they spoke in hushed voices and what sounded like complete gibberish. I peeked through the blurred windows there at the top, at all the boxes and things there in the back; I gazed into my own blurry reflection for a second before I pushed the door open. All the while, something blocked it off. Abby pushed the other door open and she gasped at the bloodied corpse that lay there.
“What the hell?” I blurted out.
The man had been mutilated beyond recognition, to where I couldn't even make out the features of his face, but not in the way that a predator would: his eyes had been gouged completely out, and cleanly as if done by a surgeon. His skin had been peeled back and stripped of the flesh underneath as well as most of the blood save for the puddle on the floor around him: a dried out hollow hide had been left behind, much like the hides at the vampires' lair, except this was fresh. His body had been completely torn apart as well, with the bones broken and exposed before us and the cavity of his body split wide open, complete with the ribs jutted out right where his stomach and his liver used to be, as if he had been smashed to pieces and then had his organs harvested.
“Fucking hell,” Mark said from behind us.
“The beast,” Abby told me.
“The—thing that—the vampires can see but we can't?” I recalled, albeit with a frown.
“Yeah. I just—I feel it.”
She swallowed and she huddled closer to me. I put my arm around her: I tried to look away from the corpse but it was so hard not to do so.
For all I knew, and with the way in which the creature went about with things, that could be either of the three of us there on the floor before us. I looked closer at his hollowed out bodily cavity at something that resembled a maggot there. But then again, it could have been my imagination, like that could have been a glisten of a bit of blood, but it was white like a little maggot, though.
“Abby? Lily?” Mark's voice caught our attention from behind.
Anything to get us away from that horrible scene before us. I led Abby away from there and towards Mark, who stood by the meat counter with a look on his face as if he had just seen death herself.
“What's the matter?” I asked him, and he pointed to the wall on the inside there. Blood spattered on the tiles in thick layers like paint: underneath the thinnest layer, I made out the sight of letters.
“What's up, Lily?” Mark asked me.
“Hang on, hang on—” I strode over to the other side of the counter and into the concrete floor, which had been splattered with blood as well. Careful not to step in one of those puddles, I approached the wall and the letters inscribed in blood as well.
“'Miles Bones is next',” I read aloud. I turned to the two of them on the other side of the counter.
“There was a Jay Bones at my school,” said Abby with a glimpse over at Mark. “Remember him?”
“Yeah, he taught biology,” he recalled. “Kind of a dick, too.” He took a sip from his horchata. But this was Miles, though: a new question I had from that moment. But I swallowed and I felt the icy sensation within the pit of my stomach. For all I knew, the creature could be there with us, ready to rip us to shreds like the poor man, and neither of us would know it. I hurried away from the wall.
“Let's get out of here,” I commanded in a hushed voice.
“What about our drinks, though?” Abby asked me.
“Not paying for three horchatas is the least of my concerns right now,” I told her, “come on—we could end up like that poor guy in the next room.”
I led the two of them up the next aisle, still empty and with the pale white linoleum kept up to a perfect polish under the ceiling lights. One of the lights over us flickered but never went out, but the feeling in my stomach persisted regardless of that. We reached the end of the aisle when I heard the sound Abby had heard before as well.
“You hear that?” she asked me as we screeched to a halt.
“Like people talking,” Mark chimed in. I turned my head to the right, to the fire extinguisher on the floor and beyond to where the glass windows stood on the far wall. Through the dim light from outside, I made out the sight of our own reflections. Something moved behind us, and I knew it wasn't part of the reflection.
I turned my head in the other direction.
Nothing there. Literally nothing there but the blank floor and the entrance from where we came in.
But I could hear the voices in there. They spoke at a low level and they repeated the same things over and over again, but I couldn't hear exactly what they were saying. They almost sounded as though they came in on the wind, much like the Dark Watchers down in the Santa Lucia Mountains.
I looked over at Abby and her eyes, as wide as marbles. Sheer terror on her face.
Something was in there with us, and the fact we couldn't even see it only made it worse.
Mark ducked down and the two of us followed suit. He darted over to the registers; I held onto Abby's hand and led her away from that spot there. I peered behind us: still nothing there. Literally nothing. We ran away from nothing.
A part of me wondered if it was just our imaginations getting to us. But then the window on the other side of the room shattered and a figure hurried inside of the market. Over the dark shadowy deep set eyes, I recognized that helmet of jet black topped by a small plume of silver over the forehead.
“Alex!” Abby shouted as we neared the front doors.
“Get out!” Alex bellowed and he brandished those long razor sharp claws at us. “Get out! Get out! Get out! GET OUT!”
But Mark skidded to a stop so he could watch him. Alex picked up the fire extinguisher from the floor and with his head bowed a bit, he pulled the pin. He pointed the nozzle at the spot where we were and he set it off. Within the cloud of fire retardant, I made out the outline of what appeared to be a disembodied human head floating in midair. Shards of glass stuck out through the eye sockets, as well as the obvious sight of blunt force trauma to the head.
It was Vincent.
But Alex raised the empty fire extinguisher and pelted him over the head hard.
“GET THE HELL OUT!” he shouted at the top of his lungs, and the three of us sprinted outside to the cold cloudy morning. Panting, we skidded to a stop right in the middle of the parking lot. Alex met up with us there and then he peered over his shoulder to the market.
There was literally nothing there, but the look of sheer terror on his face only made the whole thing more terrifying for me.
“Are you alright?” he asked me in a hushed voice.
“Yes!” I replied, also in a hushed voice. I threw my arms around him and I held his frigid body close to me: his claws brushed against my back. Something caught my eye, and I peered up at the roof of the market and the milky ghost lights over it. Abby and Mark gazed up at those floating spots there: as silent as the inside of the market.
Alex let go of me and he followed our gaze.
“The creature was on fire,” he explained in a broken voice, “and because neither of you can see it, it scared the hell out of me because I knew it would set you on fire.”
“Good thing you just happened to be walking by,” Mark pointed out.
“Yeah, I was walking to Louie's place,” Alex explained, “and then I looked in here and I saw the flames. And then I saw Lily's head and I knew what was going on because she could be burned alive—”
“And we wouldn't know it,” I added in a near whisper. “It was in the shape of my dead boyfriend, though.”
Alex knitted his eyebrows at that.
“In the shape of—him?” He set his hands on his hips and let out a low whistle. “And this whole time, we thought the creature was a—straight up thing.”
He then tilted his head a bit, and I followed his gaze to right behind us. A couple of cars rolled into the driveway right then: I recognized the police insignia on the surface of the hood.
“Looks like we got company,” Mark declared as he took another sip from his horchata.
The cops were all nice to us, especially when Abby confessed that she didn't understand what was happening while we were in there. It was true after all: I couldn't see the creature behind Abby but I could see it in the reflection of the glass on the far side of the room.
I couldn't recall the shape of it, but I did see something there.
But they wouldn't understand it, especially when they treated Alex like a live boy rather than a vampire and the ghost lights had vanished at that point. I didn't want them to call our house because the last thing Abby and I needed was Uncle Phil on our asses about something that was not our fault to begin with. They then offered to take us back to the Osegueda house, and at that point, any house would be good for the four of us, especially since the secret was between us at that point anyway.
We had returned to the house by lunchtime, and that point, Alex, who had kept his claws out of sight from the cops, let them fly out like a series of knives once we reached the porch and the squad car disappeared around the corner. He ran the edge of one of them along his tongue as if he licked peanut butter off of them.
“Mark, you wouldn't happen to have any spare blood hanging around, would you?” he wondered aloud, to which Mark shook his head and chuckled at that, albeit a nervous chuckle. Alex then turned his head and he gazed up the block. Those deep eyes saw things that neither of us could, such that a part of me wished I could see what he did. Eric noticed something about the Iverson estate himself and one that he never completely described.
“Is everything alright?” I asked him in a soft voice.
“I'm hungry. And there's something going on at your house.”
“Eric said the same thing,” I pointed out. Alex turned his head towards me: the gray daylight washed over his milky skin to where it resembled to delicate porcelain. His shirt still hung off of his body like a filmy lacy curtain, which only made his undead body seem more delicate and softer than before. I noticed he seemed a bit more well-fed than before as the shirt fit him a little better. The shadows on his eyes had subsided, but they returned as he turned his head a bit more to the house behind us.
“There's something going on here at this house, too,” he continued.
I thought about Medusa's head on the third floor.
“We think the house might be haunted,” I told him. His eyes hooded a bit as he looked right into my face.
“I see you still have some of my blood,” he said in a soft, husky voice.
I ran my tongue along my bottom lip. There was a little scab there, but one I hadn't completely paid attention to as of late.
“Wait, this is your blood?” I asked him, to which he nodded and then he winked at me. He slipped past me and into the house. He kissed me with his own blood and I wondered what else the vampires were hiding from us.
I turned back to the corner before me there: across the way was Uncle Phil's truck posted up there as if in anticipation of something. I spotted his furious expression even from behind the glass of the windshield.
“Ah, shit,” I groaned out as the real monster pulled up to the curb before me, ready to burn me alive.