Today’s story, Samantha Jasinski’s “Undead Trials,” is our third prize winner in the 2019 Voorheesville Short Story Contest. Our judges found Sam’s vampire story well paced and interesting. We know you’ll enjoy its spookiness as much as we did!
When I woke up, I was lying face down on my grandma’s old Persian rug. My eyes widened with disgust as I realized that I had drooled while I was asleep. A huge, wet slime puddle pooled at the base of my pointy chin. I groaned with pain as I slowly rolled onto my back and felt that both of my oddly large legs had fallen asleep.
“How long have I been asleep?” I ask myself sitting up. I rub my eyes with my spiney hands, making sure not to poke my eyeballs out with my sharp nails. I began to suddenly feel very uneasy, as I heard a faint rustle behind me.
“Wow, it’s about time you woke up. You almost beat Uncle Vlad’s nap record of fifty three years, eight days and nine seconds.” My strong willed sister appeared behind me, without a sound. If I had been alive, I’m sure my heart would have stopped from the pure shock. I snarled and grabbed my sister’s ankle, yanking her down besides me.
“Listen hear Edmunda, you’re gonna tell me how long I’ve been asleep.” I threatened, staring her down with my fiery, orange eyes. Edumnda rolled her eyes at me, and kicked my hand off her.
“Well last time I saw you awake, you were crying while holding your girly-teen magazine and crying,’Why can’t I be as cool as Steve Irwin!’”. I felt an immediate wave of shame come over me. Before I could ask another question Edmunda had disappeared in a puff of purple smoke. Dumb little sibling ruining my visions of being an adventurous human man. I’m so sick of living in this dark, decrepit town that’s full of cranky old blood suckers telling me not to dye my hair blonde.
I quickly get up from the Persian carpet and wipe the thick layer of dust off my back. I always feel so tired having to stay in my grandma’s worn down mansion. Each wall has a depressing painting of each one of my family members, making it impossible to have any privacy in this place. All the walls and furniture are the same shade of dirt and it looks like a interior designer had a mental breakdown in here.
I slump out of the room with the drool stained Persian carpet and drag my feet to my room. Kicking the door open, I hear a sharp “crack” come from its dusty frame. Great, another thing that needs fixing in this dingy place. Apart from the black paint on my door, I was allowed special permission to paint my room a color I prefer. A beautiful, deep green welcomes my eyes as I step in. The scent of pine wafts around the space, and I close my eyes, embracing the fresh feeling. I picture myself alone in a forest, with tall, spiky pine trees all around me. Flowers line the bushes to my sides and the sky is crimson with the sleepy sunset. I deeply exhale and open my eyes again, looking at the white sheets on my bed. Each is neatly folded and gently pressed onto the other, with soft, puffy pillows at the head of the bed. The sight is so peaceful that I lunge and fall unto the squishy mattress, clutching the sheets close to my face.
“I’m so sick of this death and depression.” I whisper looking up at my bonsai plant, who carefully sits on my nightstand.
I’m forcefully pulled out of my daydreams as my grandmother bursts through my door.
“Umi!” She screeches, grasping her Persian carpet in her wrinkly hands. My hands grip on my sheets harder with sudden fear.
“Now grandma, I didn’t know I was gonna be asleep for that long.” I begin to try and defend myself with a shaky voice.
“Shut it Umi, I’m sick of you daydreaming everyday and sleeping your immortal life away! You think this is what your Mother would have wanted? You to be a spacey leaf boy who ignores his family responsibilities?” My grandma’s eyebrows furrow with anger, and I can tell she only speaking half of her mind. My orange eyes begin to burn with tears. I know I shouldn’t tell her how I feel. I know my Mother would be disappointed with my decisions. I know she’ll kick me out of this place with no regrets.
All of a sudden my eyes stop their burning sensation.
“Getting kicked out?” I think to myself, my tense body relaxing. Getting kicked out would mean I could leave this stuffy mansion and explore the human world.
“You know what Grandma? You have bad taste in color and I’m tired of living in this stupid, blood sucking town where the sky is black and everyone mopes around with lifeless faces! I want to live with life! Everything around us is dead! There are no plants outside, only ashes and squealing little bats. I want to experience the feel of cool air on my face as I climb a tall mountain, or the feeling of swimming in a lake with living animals in it!” My words fall out through my pointed teeth, and my face begins to warm. My grandma looks at me with a bewildered and hurt expression. Her fists clench around the carpet and she rips the coarse fabric in half. She takes two aggressive steps toward my bed and I quickly sit up, hoping her anger would grant me freedom. Her face is contorted with clear anger, and I brace myself for any punches. She reaches out to my face and gently cups her hand around my cheek. I look up at her, and see her bright red eyes brimming with tears.
“My little Umi, you’re just like your mother.” She sighs and wipes a tear off her cheek with her opposite hand continuing, “This darkness and death is who we are. We are undead creatures Umi, we are not meant to be among the living. We’re meant to eat living things, including those people you want to be with. Do you have any idea what they will do to you if they find out what you really are?” Her voice quietly shakes with sadness. I raise my hand and grasp unto her cold fingers that craddle my face. I take a deep breath in before taking my grandma’s hand and bringing toward my chest and placing it over my heart.
“You think that we’re undead creatures Grandma, but when I think of exploring the world out there I feel alive.” My grandma shuts her eyes and slowly nods her head.
“Go then Umi, you’re only young for seven hundred years and then it’s all downhill from there. Plus you’ve already slept away thirty two of those years so I’d get going.” Her somber face turns into a bright smile.
My violent stained nails dug into my backpack filled with pine scented candles. I made sure to stay in the shadows of my town, not wanting any of the villagers to see me leaving. The smell of fresh baked worm bread filled my senses as I began to walk past each bakery that lined the streets. I look past the taunting stores, and the heaviness of my bag reminds me why I’ve decided to leave that comfort. Several of my neighbors walk past me on the darkly-light street, their fingers lifting towards me as if to ask why I had my backpack. I pick up the pace, I don’t want any unnecessary encounters from these blood sucking weirdos.
Finally reaching the Main East Gate, my eyes widened with fear as a group of skeleton soldiers stood watch at the entrance. Without thinking about it, I pressed forward, staring the soldiers in the eyes… Or lack thereof. I confidently inhale and flash my sharp toothy smile.
“Well well gentlemen, I cannot express how happy I am to see each of you protecting our East Main Gate!” Each of the five skeletons turns to look at me with this stupid blank gazes. They all have this cracked, ancient armor that clings to their weak, rotting bones. What are these skeletons trying to protect? My smile drops from my face as one of the soldiers steps forward and points a rusty spear toward my face. I can hear the creaking of their bones as they make any movement, and the sound sends shivers down my freakishly large spine.
“What’re you doing here Umi.” The skeleton’s words are cold and unmovable, making my muscles twitch uncomfortable.
“I’m so happy you’re asking.” I remain a strong hold on myself. “I was given direction by my grandma to leave this town.” The soldier tilts his head, a loud crack momentarily breaking the silence following my words.
“Why would she want you to leave this town? You’re Umi, you can’t even go to Bat Flight School without crying like a little gourd baby.” My jaw clenches and my fists tighten around my backpack’s straps. I feel so sick of feeling like I have to explain myself to each monster I meet.
“Backoff you skinny twig boy.” Each of the skeletons snarl at my words and begin to angrily come toward me with their spears in hand. The main soldier lunges and before the blade can pierce my skin, I’m up in the air staring down at him.
Despite my normally long and lanky form, I was an extremely small and delicate little bat. My wings fluttered above the angry soldiers, their spears whizzing past my tiny body.
“Oh yeah, look who’s crying now!” I yell at the skeletons, making my way over the sturdy, metal gate. Their grunts and shrieks become distant hums as I gently move my body with the current of the wind, drawing closer to the ashy hillsides. Every piece of land here is covered with this grey and black dust, accented with scraggly thorn bushes that litter the ground. Their thorns point up at me as I gaze down on them in my small mammal form. I look back at the gate, realizing I suddenly felt a few pounds lighter than before, despite not being a full size vampire.
“My pine candles!” I screech, my tiny bat nails curl into a fist of rage. “I guess I really am going to be alone on this trek.” I sigh and reminisce on the sweet scent of those pure, green candles.
Slowly, I lower myself to the ground amongst the dust and scrawny twigs. With a hazey, black puff of smoke my body shapes back into its normal state. Being surrounded by just the dust, dead bushes and ominous hills makes my skin feel colder than it already is. I’m so isolated from the rest of the world, yet I’m not more than a few miles away from everything I know. I’m not even sure how to escape from this ashy wasteland. My mind begins to swirl with ideas and possibilities of what might happen. I begin a steady jog, trying to focus on the task at hand. The misty purple sky above me feels like a heavy weight on my shoulders and I try to ignore the red sun that hides behind smokey tufts of clouds. As I being to pick up my pace I see the hills sharpy inch forward and point down. My eyebrows furrow with confusion and I come closer to the sight. I stop dead in my tracks and the dust picks up behind my feet, clinging to the fabric of my pants. I glance down at my pointed shoes, dirty and no longer a pristine shade of burgundy. Past the tip of my shoes, the land crumbles down into a massive abyss. A thick layer of fog covers the open space, and I can’t make out how far down it is. The abyss stretches on all sides of the hills and taunts me to turn back and go home.
I spin around on my heels, my back facing the giant trench. The wind begins to pick up, blowing the foul ashes across my face and past my eyes. My heart sinks into my chest and my mind swirls with the aggressive winds. I see my grandmother’s tender face with tears spilling out of the corners of her eyes. I can remember Edmunda teasing me about my obsessions with plants and the color green. I had left all of my loved ones and family just for a small hope of finding life in a dead world. I turn back to face my lost hope, feeling the wind harshly scrape against my shoulder blades. I take small steps forward until the tips of my feet meet the edge of the hard earth. I can hear the fog calling my name, beckoning me to explore what I don’t already know. My body suddenly feels light, I quickly spin around again to have my back face the abyss that mocks me. I dig my nails into my skin and allow my muscles to loosen tentatively. As I lean backwards and lose contact with the ground I see the faint outline of Edmunda running towards me, my backpack of candles clenched in her hand. She yells out my name in panic, but I can already feel the wind brushing my hair up into my eyes, drowning away the sensations of the world.