I still could remember the feeling of being alone and vulnerable while I was propped against the hallway of my family home the day after I'd buried the folks. That previous night I'd also found out that I wasn't the typical teenager simply wandering the school halls and the overpriced malls. I was frozen in the hallway listening to a creature trying to engage me. The voice that had slithered into my home through the answering machine wasn't human. It wasn't a matter of it going through the mechanics of the answering machine causing the voice to be somehow distorted -- the very machine I could have sworn I'd turned down on my way to bed but in hindsight I think that wouldn't have mattered given the sort of creatures that went bump in the night. There was something menacing in the man's voice. Just like that I went mentally back to that day -- my sixteenth birthday to be precise.
"Esmeralda Meredith. You must answer me!" The somewhat charismatic voice commanded, but I was frozen in place and saw absolutely no reason to answer that creature's demands. I knew I wasn't exactly human, and after the night I'd had I knew that vampires were around and somehow I knew that this creature wasn't human. I wondered at various other people I'd come across during my life that had struck me as somewhat off. But then, I was probably 'off' to everyone else, come to think of it. I sighed and listened to the man talking into the answering machine without moving from the wall that was literally supporting me.
The tone wasn't nice in the least. I could tell the creature was frustrated by my silence. He could stay pissed off because I didn't plan on picking up the phone anytime soon.
"Just open up the door and let me in. I will explain everything to you." He was trying for the kind uncle voice, but I knew better. He wasn't right in the head if he actually thought I'd just open up the door. I'd be terminally stupid if I allowed him inside my home. I didn't need to flip through a copy of Grimm's Fairytales to know that once you let something bad into your home you were a meal or worse. Given the original fairytales the 'or worse' wasn't a fluffy bunny sort of moment.
A nasty growl flowed through the answering machine and into the room and down the hallway to where I was huddled surrounding me like a deep, dark, forbidding fog. Frozen against the wall, I shivered and wondered what this creature was. I hoped that he'd hang up but he hadn't yet and for some odd reason the answering machine continued to roll.
"Child, you are far too willful, just trust me and let me in -- I will protect you from all these tawdry vultures. Why aren't you answering?" A pause as he seemed to wait for me to pick up the receiver -- I found it more than a tad amusing, because there wasn't a chance in hell that I'd let that creature get closer access to my mind. Instinctively I knew he possessed some sort of mind control; he was far too sure I'd pick up, and far too arrogant for this to be the first time he had tried to push someone to his will.
Another growl and then he snarled, "This will be something that we will discuss in the very near future. I've asked you rather nicely to pick up the phone and simply talk to me and yet you stand there listening and ignoring my heartfelt request. After all, I am for all purposes practically a part of your family -- the only family you have left at that. Why don't you just think of me as an uncle, or your long lost cousin -- either one, no matter, right? So please stop resisting me and just pick up the phone like a good girl so we can sort this all out." If I'd been, like, five I may have given into the not-so-gentle persuasion, but I wasn't and this creature was creeping me out more than just a little. His stress was far more apparent than he'd figured. I could feel him trying to push me in some weird way that I didn't think was good at all.
The silence stretched for what seemed like absolutely forever, and still he didn't speak. I could feel the air between us with what seemed to be a physical force pushing down on me, and I had to add in that I felt an itch in the middle of my skull like something or someone was diligently trying to drill inside my head -- I knew it wasn't normal or in any way right. That said, I knew that I just couldn't walk away from the voice coming from the answering machine. It was as if there was a major accident happening right next to me on the road and I wasn't able to pull my eyes from the upcoming wreck. I felt my teeth grinding as I resisted the pull to go lift the receiver and talk to the voice.
"You're utterly stupid. Sadly, it looks like I will have to kill you." With that the unnamed creature hung up the phone.
With a pit of tension in my stomach, I looked at the answering machine, and there wasn't any sign that the call had been recorded since the digital panel on the machine was blinking error. I consoled myself with the notion that I wouldn't have to listen to any recorded messages from the messed-up television folks who'd called me day and night asking if I wanted to be on TV. I curled tighter into a ball on the floor and bit back a sob. And I could add in that at least the crazy creature had driven off the news crews. Forcing myself up off the floor near the hallway, I walked cautiously past the machine, as if it could reach out and force me to answer any random call, and went to the dining room bay window.
Cautiously I ducked down right next to the large bay window adjacent to the bookcase. The beveled glass panes were covered with the foam colored sheers my mom had picked out years ago, along with the cream-colored drapes and off-white blinds. Cautiously I peeked out from about waist level through the mini-blinds to the front of my home. The lawn was well trampled, but I didn't see much more. There weren't any news people clustered outside my narrow view, but the sedan I'd watched on TV that had pulled into my driveway was still parked, but idling now directly in front of the house, no longer in the driveway. The tinted windows of the car didn't allow me any peeks into the back seat, but I knew immediately that the creature saw me. I felt a chill slide over my heart and I quickly dropped the blinds and stepped away from the window.
The phone rang right behind me, and with a heavy heart, I heard the answering machine message play into my house. Once my dad's voice stopped the still unknown creature's voice began speaking, "I saw you. Pick up the phone. I won't bite." He was trying for cordial and funny but gracious, and utterly failing. He wasn't ringing true, much less human.
I looked at the machine willing the voice to stop. He didn't. I heard him sigh and then add in a far more realistic and angry voice, "Esmeralda, you are a stupid child. Let me in now or suffer the consequences. This is your final warning."
I knew that nothing he said was being recorded on the answering machine. He had used some kind of weird supernatural power to override the machine, creating that error message in the data and from what I'd figured out it was just for him to try to tap into me. There was something he'd done to trigger the error in the recording so he could talk at me unrecorded. So far I hadn't succumbed but I was wearing down. I wanted to crawl back into bed and wish it all away, but I knew it wouldn't work.
The line hissed and he was quiet. I felt the push against me again, but this time I flicked it away with less pain. Maybe there was an upside to being different. A growl began ringing in my ears from the recorder -- since I knew it wasn't me, and we didn't have any animals, I assumed it was the unknown well-dressed crazy on the other end of the line.
"You will pay for your stubbornness. You should have let Rory guide you into your new life. Now you must be punished for your resistance. And that Harry creature won't be able to protect you forever. Vampires do have to sleep, you know." With that the connection was severed and I shuddered and bit back a moan. I didn't trust that he didn't have some way to hear me inside.
Standing indecisively in the room wasn't making me feel any safer. I truly wanted to go back to my bed and sleep the day away, but doubted it would be easy for me to fall asleep. Instead I figured I'd better fuel up and get started on seeing what I could do inside my home besides watch bad TV all day.
I missed my mom immediately when I went to the kitchen. The kitchen had been pretty much her domain. Being older than most of my classmates' parents, she wasn't much for stopping by a fast food restaurant and picking up meals. She actually baked bread from scratch during chilly days while making delicious soups to accompany the meal.
I went to the fridge and was overwhelmed by all the food stuffed everywhere. It wasn't like my folks kept the shelves bare but the visitors had brought an abundance of platters and bowls full of food. Sighing again, I reminded myself that I had to stop the sighs, as they were beginning to bug me and I was by myself! Listlessly I pulled out some containers and nibbled straight from them at the counter. It wasn't like I had to worry about anyone bitching about me picking at the food. As far as I knew it was going to be me, myself and I for the foreseeable future.
I ate a bit from various dishes then put the food back in the fridge. No plates to wash and I'd used my fingers so I simply cleaned my hands in the sink while unconsciously staring out the window above the sink into the backyard. I jumped a foot when suddenly there was a man in the window. It wasn't the stranger from the driveway but a slick and pretty reporter. He tapped the window briskly with a manicured fingertip and his cameraman was right behind him, naturally filming the encounter.
I smiled widely, then reached over to the right side of the pane and pulled the cord on the mini-blinds and flicked the rod shutting them, so all they could see was the off-white blinds and not me. The reporter shouted loudly, "Come on, Esmeralda, give me a break."
I laughed and walked away.
A minute later I heard an unmanly scream and thumps and thuds in my backyard. I couldn't resist a quick peek from the window. Sure enough, the reporter was on the ground being brutally kicked by a large man. It took me a second to place the man as the driver of the creepy man's car. I found it funny that I could see the cameraman a few feet back pointing his lens at his reporter. The cameraman didn't seem worried about being harmed, but more focused on catching the action. I thought it was a tad naïve since not everyone respected the Fourth Estate. It wasn't always widely recognized by thugs, nor apparently deranged creatures that went bump in the night.