Tim, who was often called Timmy, was a boy between worlds. More to the point, Timmy was pretty much between everything. At 12 years old, he was between childhood and adulthood. Being a ward of the state, he and his older brother were always between foster parents. Living in “The Gap”, he was between fantasy and reality. Timmy never felt stable, never felt that sure about anything, until one day in the middle of spring when Timmy walked into his sixth grade classroom. Timmy was sure the teacher didn’t belong.
Timmy’s normal teacher, Mrs. Strangle – a pudgy middle aged woman with a beehive hairdo – was not in the seat behind the desk. Instead, behind the desk sat a young pale woman with flowing blond hair and red-rimmed glasses. She was showing her bright and shining teeth in what Timmy only assumed was supposed to be a smile. Her teeth gleamed so brightly, he wondered how long she spent polishing and sharpening them every night. Her smile conveyed no happiness to Timmy, but a sense of hunger. On the whiteboard behind her, written in a delicate hand, stood the name Mrs. Underwood. “More like underworld,” Timmy noted to himself.
Quickly, Timmy found his seat and slipped in between Tamara and Paul. They all peered at each other but none said a word, nodding in silent agreement that this situation was not acceptable. Even Crowley Middle School should have standards. One would at least expect the teachers not to look at their students as afternoon snacks. Timmy turned to Paul and mouthed the word, “Vampire.” Tamara hit his shoulder softly to get his attention and pointed at the sun in the windows to which Timmy shrugged. How should he know how she could be out in daylight; maybe she was wearing a special Vampire sunblock with SPF 1000+.
The morning class bell rang and Mrs. Underwood’s eyes popped up from her notebook. “Welcome students. My name is Mrs. Underwood. I’ll be subbing for Mrs. Strangler while she is out of town. This is my first time subbing, so I hope you’ll all be as nice to me as you can as we learn and grow through this together.” She smiled and glanced at each of the 15 students in turn. The entire class was silent. “All right. Now, take out your reading book ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ and let’s begin guided reading…”
Timmy spent his morning planing for any emergency exit strategies he and his two friends might use. Step 1: Jump from desk. Step 2: Smash windows. Step 3: Jump to tree… By the time lunch period rolled around, Timmy had 9 escape plans committed to memory. Only 2 required him to sacrifice Paul in order to create an escape route for Tamara and himself. At lunch, the three of them sat together as always. Timmy and Tamara always packed their lunch while Paul pulled up the table with one of the schools plastic trays and several unidentifiable objects he called food.
“You have to have a cast iron stomach to eat that stuff”, Timmy started into Paul as they all watched the foreign items jiggle on the tray. Timmy knew that Paul only ate the lunches because they were free. His family didn’t have much money since his father lost his job at the plant. “I guess if it doesn’t kill you, it only makes you stronger.” He tried to sound encouraging to Paul, who poked his food a few times before pushing his tray down the table.
“So, what are we going to do about… you know who?” Tamara glanced around the cafeteria.
“We can’t do anything without proof. Maybe my brother, Chance, will help us,” Timmy suggested.
“Your darling brother only has two things on his mind: Girls and getting out of Gap,” responded Tamara, rolling her eyes.
“You got a better suggestion? It’s not like we can just go around staking teachers. We need…” Just then Mrs. Underwood seemingly materialized from across the hallway. She looked right at their table, not smiling at all any longer. They all pulled their heads in close.
“Maybe she’s not the bad kind of vampire.” Paul said softly. “There have been several books out lately that talk about their kind just being misunder-… OUCH!” Both Tamara and Timmy slugged Paul.
“Don’t go getting soft just because she’s giving you that smile. She’s not going to be sparkling in no sunlight. Geez, what have you been reading!?” Timmy looked cross at him.
They looked back up from their table to where Mrs. Underwood had been looming moments before, to find the spot ominously empty. “Can you boys meet me in park after dinner?” Tamara asked. “We can work on our plans for gaining proof of Mrs. Underwood’s darker side.” Both of the hurriedly agreed to meet her while throwing away their lunches and heading back to class.
The rest of their day went by quickly. When the school bell rang, Mrs. Underwood stood up from behind the desk with her vicious grin. “Okay, children, I’ll see you all tomorrow morning. Paul, can you stay for a moment?” Timmy stared helplessly at Paul. Tamara and Paul exchanged worried looks, but they couldn’t hesitate any longer. Timmy had to nearly drag Tamara out of the classroom.
“Come on, we’ll see him tonight. We’ve got to go,” Timmy whispered in her ear as he ushered her out of the room. The normally soft sound of the clicking door behind them sounded like the latch of an iron casket.
“Yeah, okay.” Tamara twisted around and squeaked out through her already watering eyes. They both knew there would be a good chance they wouldn’t see Paul in the park that night. Every year, the Crowley yearbook had several childrens images surround by a black border as they all died from “mysterious accidents” or “rare diseases.” Timmy couldn’t help but already imagine Paul’s black bordered picture.
They made it outside. Timmy headed to the bike rack as Tamara sulked to the parents’ pick-up area. He nodded goodbye to his friend but couldn’t get any words to come out of his mouth. He reached down and spun the lock to 7-10-56, the birthday of his idol. He got on the bike and peddled to the only place he could think to go; the local coffee shop where his brother Chance worked.
Timmy dropped his bike outside the glass window and burst through the doors. The patrons cringed at him as he flooded the dimly lit room with afternoon sun. He ran up to the barista station, accidentally bumping into a mountain of a man. “Sorry, Mister.” He only looked up for a second at the man with saggy white hair as long as Santa Claus, who was holding his iced coffee. “Chance! I need your help!” Chance looked up from the register and rolled his eyes. Timmy knew that look. Chance had never believed hm about all his “wild” stories about the residents of Gloaming Gap. They had both been placed in Foster Care here when Chance was 12 and Timmy 7. Timmy thought Chance’s disbelief was due to Chance already being nearly an adult, accepting the “most logical” explanation, rather then odd possibilities.
“Make it quick, little man. I’ve got orders to fill and a stockroom to count tonight before I can leave. So, unless you are on the brink of death, maybe you should talk to Todd and Linda.” Chance continued making the order in his hand while looking down at his already perturbed little brother.
Timmy bent over the counter “We had sub today: Mrs. Underwood. I think she’s a vampire, and she may have already killed Paul!” Timmy knew before the last words slid out of his mouth that this discussion was pointless. The look on Chance’s face only confirmed it. “You never believe me!” Chance walked to the edge of the counter.
“Order for Mr. Arctor! Monster Double Drip!” He placed the 48 ounce cup of steaming caffeine on the counter then looked down at the 12 year old. “Seriously, dude? I’ve told you! The postwoman is not a werewolf, the diner’s cook is not a shapeshifter, our foster dad is not a grave robber, the mayor is not hiding a secret government conspiracy with Dave’s Auto service and Tire to do alien autopsies in the back part of his garage, and your substitute teacher is not a vampire!”
Chance’s words drove him from the store and onto his bike. He was nearly to the park where he would wait for Tamara. As the Sun faded into the distant mountains, the sprinklers in the park clinked on, and the smell of wet grass filled the air around him. As the lights flickered on, his eyes were drawn to the mass of bugs zipping around each of them. Dark spots darted from light to light eating the bugs. Usually, Timmy liked watching the hungry bats eating the bugs, like some kind of all-you-can-eat buffet, but tonight it just didn’t sit right with him. He heard soft footsteps behind him from the park entrance. “Tamara?” he called, but the only response was the soft splashing of the ducks settling in for the night on the pond next to him.
Timmy spun around looking for what could be causing the continuing footsteps. The hairs on his arms stood up as he glanced up toward the lights and bugs. There was Mrs. Underwood, walking down the light post as no normal human could. “You can run. I don’t mind a little exercise before dinner.” She laughed. With legs like jelly, Timmy couldn’t move. His fear wouldn’t allow him to turn his back to this beast of a woman, and yet he knew if he stayed, he was as good as dead. “Wipe the dumb, confused look off your face. I overheard you at lunch. Your friend Paul was a little weaker than I had anticipated and didn’t tell me where you were meeting before we finished our own little lunch meeting. I just happened to be in the coffee shop when you were talking to…Chance, I think his name was? You were so upset you didn’t even see me sitting in the corner. Too bad you talked to him about me. I guess he’ll be my dessert.”
Timmy’s mind was on fire as he reached down, grabbed his bike and threw it at the now eye-level Mrs. Underwood. She jumped and avoided the bike hitting her as Timmy turned and ran toward the pond. Mrs. Underwood landed right in front of him, her lily white hand wrapped around his neck before he could take two steps. Her jaw seem to unhinge and Timmy glimpsed her four fangs. He thought to himself how funny it was that movies got it wrong, and oddly became upset that this should be his last thought, as he felt her fangs against his neck, beginning to clamp down. His muffled scream couldn’t seem to get past her iron grip on the front of his throat.
Suddenly, Timmy was thrown to the ground, his screams released, yet it wasn’t his voice he heard ringing in his ears. Mrs. Underwood’s voice echoed throughout the night. Timmy could make out Mrs. Underwood’s body twitching and thrashing next to him. Blood was gushing from her chest as a foot of broken tree limb protruded out. Above Timmy, stood a man directly haloed by the playground light.
“Shit, she got you, bro!” It was Chance’s voice. “When you left, I saw her snake out after you and knew she was after you.” Chance laid his hand on Timmy’s face. “You’re burning up. Crap, I don’t know what to do…”
Timmy veins boiled like they were trying to find a way out of his body. All he could think to say to calm Chance was, “I guess we don’t have to worry about adoption now…” Chance only cried more, tears landing now on Timmy’s face.
In a dim circle of light lay the quickly decaying corpse of a vampire; Chance, mourning the loss of his seemingly deceased little brother; and Timmy, the boy between worlds.
Jason Deeds resides in Willow Street, PA. He is a stay at home parent who loves exploring the world through his children’s eyes. You can visit his writing website at www.jasondeeds.com.