by Megan M. Davies-Ostrom
Like moths against a window, that’s how the dream began. A touch, a dusty whisper, the fluttery feeling of something brushing at the back of her mind.
Dark eyes in a cold, pale face. A sweet, hollow voice calling her name.
When she woke, it was with a feeling there was something important she’d forgotten. Moths, she thought, as she returned Paul’s sleepy smile and kissed Michelle’s sweaty, toddler curls. Touch their wings, and they’ll leave a bit of themselves behind.
Isobel didn’t have time for strange dreams. Younger than she felt but older than she cared to admit, she was at an age women’s magazines called ‘hard’. Every day was a marathon starting at five and ending whenever she and Paul fell into their oft-invaded bed. Every day there was some new pre-teen catastrophe. Jada couldn’t find her hockey uniform, Sam had a project due, like, yesterday, and Michelle would only eat blueberry muffins. Yesterday’s favourite carrot ones were ‘gross’. And that was just the mornings. Then there was work, laundry, groceries, and bills. Life was a bright, warm, sticky whirlwind that never ended.
Odd dreams could wait. Like the broken, powdery bodies of the moths she found on the window sills in the summer, she brushed it aside.
“Isobel.” The voice caressed her mind like the edge of a papery wing. The lips from which it fell were a colourless cupid’s bow marred only by the teeth that flashed when he smiled. So very many teeth. So very sharp.
“Isobel, do you remember?” The voice was strange and familiar, just like the smooth, pale face. “Do you remember what we talked about, all those years ago?”
Isobel woke with a gasp and lay still, her heart pounding. The room was cold, dark, and silent. There was something beside her–a shadow in the shadows–leaning close, brushing her face with fluttery fingers.
“No!” She shot upright, arms flailing. Her blows struck empty air. Beside her, Paul snored on undisturbed. Sweat traced an icy path down her back, and something pattered at the window like wings against glass.
She stood at the window, held in dreamy paralysis. Please be a dream, she thought. That pale face, an oval of white suspended in the darkness, looked up at her from the toy-strewn yard below. Ice-chip eyes, sharp and glittering. Sharp teeth between full lips.
“I’m so cold, Izzy, and you’re so warm. I’ve come like I promised. I need you.”
I know you, she thought, heart pounding. I know I do.
Tim, Isobel realized, as she brushed her teeth the next morning. The face in her dreams was Tim. Her childhood friend, who’d acted out, been kicked out, moved to Toronto, and disappeared in their last year of high school.
Oh, she’d missed him. Tim, who’d called her Izzy. And who’d loved vampire novels even more than she did.
Vampires; the thought left a cold, unsettled feeling in her stomach. Because the real Tim had never been so cold or hungry.
When they were awkward, unpopular teens, she and Tim had yearned for ageless immortality. To drink life, but not live. To be beautiful, their bodies starved to lean, blemish-free perfection by that bloody transformation. To be sensual but sexless. Desirable, dangerous, untouchable. Un-teasable. Vampirism was the perfect escape from adolescent pain. They’d fantasized about being turned and promised if either of them ever was, they’d return to share the gift.
But that was before. Before acne faded, hormones mellowed, and she grew up. Before university, and Paul, and her beloved, sticky, chaos-and-kisses children. Before she came to accept the curves and imperfections that made her a woman, mother, and wife. Sure, life was hard, sometimes. She was tired, and so was Paul, and the only couple-time they got was falling asleep on the couch together while watching television. But it was also bright and warm, and it fit around her like a blanket. Nothing like the empty depths of Tim’s new eyes.
Vampires aren’t real, she told herself, as she tucked garlic under the bed and on the window sill behind the curtains. It was fiction, just an allegory for sex, for god’s sake. But when they went to bed that night, she snuck a knife into the room while Paul was in the bathroom, and hid it beneath her pillow, because the gap between real and not real was as thin as a moth’s wing, and just as fragile.
Moth wings at the window and a pale, beautiful face in the billowing darkness.
“It’s time,” the voice whispered.
This isn’t real. That’s what she wanted to say.
“You can’t come in,” is what she said instead. Her voice shook. “I haven’t invited you.”
“I don’t need an invitation. What we shared is enough. You were my best friend, Izzy. The only one I trusted, the only one who loved me for who I was. When your heart touches someone like that, you leave a little bit of yourself behind. I’m sorry I took so long to come back for you.”
“But I don’t want it anymore, Tim!”
He was next to her, and his eyes were filled with cold and endless hunger. The room was dark and silent. No snores from Paul, no sleepy murmurs from the children’s rooms down the hall. A moment frozen.
She swung the hidden blade, Tim grabbed her wrist, and the knife fell from fingers gone numb. He bent toward her, and she pulled away. His grip was iron and ice.
“No, no, no! I was only fourteen. Please, I didn’t understand what I was asking! It got better.”
“I know, Izzy. But a promise is a promise. And I’m so lonely. It will hurt, but only for a moment.”
There were teeth, and pain, and then nothing but cold. It stole the warmth from the world, and left her on the outside looking in, fluttering against the windows, searching for the light.
Megan M. Davies-Ostrom is a Canadian author with a penchant for literary horror and apocalyptic fiction. Her work includes both Adult and Young Adult fiction. She is a member of the Canadian Author’s Association. Megan lives in Ontario with her husband, daughter, and two (strange) cats. When not writing or working, she can usually be found running, reading, watching horror movies, or playing board games.
Read Megan’s story, “Blood, Ashes, Wine” in issue 6.