The moon shines down on an affluent middle class neighborhood. It illuminates a beautiful two story craftsman style home that is visible through a clearing. Its owner keeps trees away from the structure allowing light to reflect off the snow. It looks like dusk outside the home rather than what it actually is: midnight.
The light from outside spills into a bedroom on the second floor. There, Justin Clark lies awake staring at the ceiling. Several worries chafe his brain. Chief among them is Brenda’s, his wife’s, depression. He wonders if he is doing all he can to help her. He reviews his responses to her illness: he is supportive of her feelings; he helps with chores and with the children; he finds ways to pay for the frequent counseling, psychiatrists, and medications. He even installed special lighting in the bedroom to simulate sunlight to combat seasonal affective disorder. It sounds to him like he has been doing his part, but he worries he may not be doing enough to save her.
The doorbell rings. Justin looks at his alarm clock. It is 12:30 AM. It is 12:30 AM on a Tuesday. He backhands his bedcovers off and throws his legs over the side of the bed. He does not put his slippers on or retrieve his bathrobe. He intends to have words with whoever rung his doorbell behind a closed door. He walks down the hall with crossed arms and taking quick short steps. He climbs down the stairs glaring at the front door as if annoyance will give him the power to see through it. He cannot, so he looks through one of the narrow windows decorating the sides of the door. He sees his neighbor and exhales a low growl.
Justin opens the door and asks with exasperated calm, “Mr. Rodriguez, is everything alright?”
“I was wondering if I could come in,” he replies. The young man wears an elegant suit without a coat even though it is winter.
“Mr. Rodriguez, you know very well that I can’t invite you in: you’re a vampire,” Justin says.
“In that case,” he says as he tosses a device into the house. It looks like a round bathroom scale with a calculator attached to the top.
“Mr. Rodriguez, what is that?” Justin asks as he walks toward the device lying on the floor in a spot between his living room and foyer.
“That is a bomb,” he replies. “Well, it is a bomb and a mine. If you pick it up, your house and its contents will be scattered everywhere. It will be quite a mess.”
“It’s not a bomb,” Justin says as he reaches it. He bends over to inspect the device, and it is too convincing to handle. “What good does it do you to toss a bomb into my house?”
“It makes our interaction brief. You have two minutes to decide whether you will invite me into your house so I can disarm the bomb and then dine on a family member of your choice,” he allows his words to hang in the air. Justin shivers from the cold or fear, he cannot tell. “Or, the Clarks can all die leaving me hungry, but free of witnesses.”
“Why don’t you just tell me the code before I throw it at you?” Justin says.
“You know how fast I can move,” he replies. “You only have a minute to decide now.”
Justin considers covering the bomb with his body, but that amount of power will just go through him. He thinks he can push the refrigerator onto it, but he cannot drag it over in less than a minute. He looks at the timer on the bomb. It reads thirty seconds. He tries to dig his nails into a gap between floor boards.
“Good thinking. Only, if you tilt the bomb, it will go off,” he says. It reads fifteen seconds. Justin considers his alternatives. They all end badly.
“All right!” Justin whispers loudly. “Please come in!” Mr. Rodriguez rushes past Justin in a blur and with the force of a train arriving at a platform. He enters a four digit code and the timer stops. The bomb is disarmed.
“My conditions,” he says. He is elegant and grinning.
“My wife,” Justin says. “Just please don’t wake her up before you do it.”
“Reasonable,” he replies.
“Follow me,” Justin says. He and the vampire walk up the stairs. Justin can only hear his own footsteps. When they are on the second floor, he continues walking quietly down the hall. He is afraid that one of the children will walk out and see them marching toward their mother’s bedroom. There would be no questions, only the screams of horrified children.
They reach the door. Justin turns toward Mr. Rodriguez and puts his index finger against his lips requesting silence. Mr. Rodriguez smiles broadly and mockingly mimics the gesture. His fangs glow even in the faint light of the hall.
Justin walks into the bedroom first. He steps aside at the doorway and motions for Mr. Rodriguez to come in. Mr. Rodriguez appears to glide silently across the room to Mrs. Clark’s side of the bed. He observes her as she sleeps. He turns toward Justin and mockingly puts his finger against his lips signing silence. Justin maintains eye contact with Mr. Rodriguez, feels the wall for the light switch, and then flips on the bedroom lights.
Mr. Rodriguez can only hiss loudly as he turns into ash. His clothes fall empty to the floor. The sound wakes Mrs. Clark.
“What was that?” Brenda asks with a voice modified by the effect of waking and irritation.
“Mr. Rodriguez got in the house,” Justin replies. “I just turned on the sun lamps we installed.”
“Are the kids OK?” she asks.
“They’re fine,” Justin replies. “Do you want to go sleep in one of their bedrooms while I vacuum up the ashes?”
“I’ll vacuum it up in the morning,” Brenda says. “I’m finally getting some good sleep.” Justin is happy to hear her say that. He turns off the light and remembers the bomb Mr. Rodriguez left disarmed downstairs.
“Thanks, honey. I’m going to check on the kids real quick and then I’ll come back to bed.”
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