A CHANGE IN THE WEATHER
by S.E. WRIGHT
ain often fell suddenly along the mountains. Yet when he looked up to see her, hazy through the curtain of mist, Lee sensed something darker than storm clouds had crept to his porch.
“You’re a sight for sore eyes,” the stranger called out with a laugh Lee felt in his bones.
The gentle shower that’d lured Lee to the lanai to hear it dance along the tin roof soured. Wet air usually energized him, yet this seemed stagnant. It smelled of rot.
“Cozy.” She nodded towards his screen door, peering at the living room beyond. Irony was not lost on Lee. Any other time, a lady looking to get into his place would have been called a lucky day.
Lee pointed to the porch swing across from him. “Dry enough out here.”
He’d have said early twenties at first. Though with each stolen side-glance, Lee doubted she’d ever been young. Eyes pitiless. Skin purpled. He’d seen that shade before, but not on the living. Lee pushed it from his mind. She’s just cold. The hair along Lee’s forearms pinched at his pores.
“Where’d you come from?” Lee asked before thinking better of it.
He knew most neighbors on the hill. Spread out in bungalows, dotted along the incline. That was how Lee liked it. Privacy.
She smiled, her tongue quickly licking her lips in an alarming manner. “Oh, that’s a funny story.” She slipped into the seat. Drenched, barefoot. Sundress muddied. “When the rain lifts, I’ll go.”
She was thin. Disintegrated in some ways, if that was the right word for it. Still, every bit of tissue twitched as if wired with strength of the insane, the meth head… or the damned.
He could almost hear the scolding of his Aunt Mercy above the rising wind, calling from the heavens. “What’s wrong with you, Lee? Big man afraid of a small girl?” Mercy had never understood him. Yet even Auntie might have hesitated with the hospitality this day.
An uneasy silence wormed between Lee and the stranger. The eaves dripped, a hog hung in a slaughter house. Her cruddy fingernails tapped along with its rhythm, a maddening drum-drumming that throbbed into his skull. And all the while, Lee could not shake a feeling.
She wanted to feed on him.
Were the stories of vampires possible? Pretty, cunning creatures. Nosing to get inside, only to reveal their fangs behind closed doors.
“They are true.” Her voice interrupted his thoughts.
“What?” Lee pretended, wondering if he could reach the screen before she lunged. Not as fast as he once was in his prime. Fatter, older. Joints tightening in the cool.
“You know.” She smiled coyly, a look that should have stirred attraction in him, but instead his spine tingled. “Those tales about trusting strangers.”
The last time he’d met a stranger was in town. Three months ago. Their name already beginning to fade from Lee’s memory. He’d have to look through his trinkets to recall it. He’d like that. Oh yes. If only this one would go away.
He’d let so many inside his home before; lured them, forced them, buried them. They’d all been afraid of Lee, once his charade was up. But this one…she frightened him.
Lee swallowed. “What is it you want?”
The laugh came drier this time, crueler, a rattling of bones. She pointed a finger that seemed to have lengthened, curved, towards his gut. “You. Bloated with all that prey,” she said. “Then I’ll wash away your stain.”
Lee shrieked an absurd logic aloud. It was the kind of cry that sometimes came from the more stubbornly hopeful of his victims. That there was still a chance this couldn’t be happening. The nightmare would be over if only the boogeyman’s bluff was called. “But the sun’s still up!”
Then he looked again to the clouds that shrouded his home. Heavy, dark. This creature’s coffin, it seemed, traveled with her. The daylight blotted out. Like it had for the ones he’d put in the ground alive.
Lee bolted, managing to latch the screen door shut before she spoke again. “Can’t barge my way in, Lee. I’ll wait here. Kill time.”
The front door stubbornly wedged against the jam. Lee wrestled to dislodge it, breathless, desperate. Then he recalled something she’d said. If they indeed had rules, these beasts of the night, or whatever form this one was that seemed born of rainfall, then he’d caught her at her own game. He looked up through the fine webbing of metal screen.
“You promised you’d leave,” Lee whispered. Then he suddenly howled, pleased with himself. “Said you’d be gone when the weather turns! Unless, of course, you’re a liar.”
“I keep my word, Lee. Though come night fall…like you …I don’t stay as nice.” In the growing shadows he could see the change coming. Her slender spine stretched taller. Clever eyes, darker.
“You’re a monster,” she said, rising to face him, her smile crooked, too long. “We’ve something in common.”
When Lee was found, it appeared he’d starved during the remarkably long rains. Still, something more than storms had made him barricade his home until food supplies spoiled and acids in his stomach ate him to death. Slowly. Painfully. Other things were uncovered, evidence throughout the house of Lee’s victims. And in the yard, where flood waters had excavated the soil. Yet not a clue as to why he became his own victim. His last.
Only a set of small, damp footprints, faint in the warming sun.
S.E. Wright lives with family in sunny Hawaii, but loves to write about things that go bump in the night. Wright is now giving her own pieces a chance after having had the privilege to work around professional storytellers in the past, providing script analysis for a literary agency and producers, and as an entertainment publicist with movie studios.
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