Mr. Avery hated the city.
He hated the crowds. He hated the
crime. He hated the liberals and the utter lack of morality.
Mr. Avery had hated the city his entire life, and now that
he was retired, he’d packed up his belongings and moved to a
small town in the countryside.
It was the perfect embodiment of
small-town America. The kind of place where everyone knew
each other’s names. It had a family-owned grocery store,
plenty of churches, and farmland along most of the roads. In
short, it held on to the values of the good old days which,
while Mr. Avery couldn’t exactly remember living in, he was
sure had once existed. And it was in the spirit of those
values that early one Saturday morning he knocked on his
next door neighbor’s door.
Now, Mr. Avery had only been able to
afford an apartment, not the picturesque little house of
which he and his late wife had once dreamed, but he saw no
reason why he couldn’t get to know the person next door.
Back in the day people knew their neighbors; they borrowed
cups of sugar and the like. It just wasn’t the same today,
and he blamed the internet for the change. (Mr. Avery viewed
the internet like people hundreds of years ago viewed the
sea: as something menacing and impossible to navigate.)
He knocked on the door and then waited.
And waited. Then he rang the doorbell, but the apartment
must have been vacant, because there was no answer. He found
himself getting grumpy. People today. Why, he shouldn’t even
have to introduce himself. Any decent person would’ve come
to welcome their new neighbor the moment the moving truck
had arrived. There was simply no excuse for the bankruptcy
of American values today.
Grumbling to himself, he set off across
the open terrace to his own apartment, but then he heard the
door open behind him. He turned around--and nearly had a
second heart attack.
It was a young person--it had to be
considering her lack of decency. She’d answered the door in
nothing more than a black silk robe. Her hair was cut so
distastefully short she could’ve been mistaken for a boy
(though in the back of his mind, Mr. Avery knew there was no
way any red-blooded man could mistake this female for the
opposite gender), and her exposed skin was unseemly pale, no
doubt owing to staying indoors and watching television all
day. It was exactly the type of person he’d expect to live
next door to in the city. The only way he could’ve been more
upset was if she’d had visible tattoos.
“What do you want?” she asked,
squinting in the morning light.
He bristled with indignity. The manners
of young people today.
“I’m Vernon Avery, your next door
neighbor. I’ve come to say hello.”
She stared at him blankly for a moment.
In the silence that followed, Mr. Avery
felt a bit silly, a feeling he didn’t enjoy. “Well then, I’m
sure we’ll be seeing each other around. Good day.”
“Right,” she replied, and then she
closed the door without so much as a goodbye.
Well. It was a shame, a darned shame
that even in a decent town like this there were people
sucking the rest of the population into a moral vacuum. He
worried for future generations, he really did.
However, as the day went on, Mr. Avery
forgot the outrage his neighbor had caused him. He went
grocery shopping at the family-owned store. He went to the
library and browsed the large print section. He called up
his son the accountant and lectured his grandchildren. The
day passed in no time at all, and after a dinner alone he
went to the church bingo night to which he’d been invited.
The people there were friendly and knew how to treat someone
who was new in town. Particularly friendly was a widow named
Louise, who dressed nicely and agreed with everything he
said. Yes, Mr. Avery was in a good mood when he got home
that evening, but that all changed when he saw his neighbor.
She was still wearing that black robe.
Were young people today too lazy to even get dressed? And
she was opening her door for a man who had to be a good ten
years older than her. Mr. Avery could hear his moral outrage
growing. What kind of woman invited a man inside at this
time of night while wearing only a robe? He had a few choice
words, but being a gentleman he couldn’t utter them. He went
to bed with dark thoughts about depravity swirling through
When he woke up the next morning and
got ready for church, he kept an eye out his living room
window to see when that man would leave. He was halfway
through his breakfast of grits when he saw him--no, wait.
That wasn’t the same man he’d seen last night.
He rose from the kitchen table to get a
better look. It was definitely a different man. This one was
younger and had piercings all over his face--something Mr.
Avery wouldn’t have forgotten if he’d seen him last night.
The woman waved goodbye to him from her front step as he
walked shakily towards the parking lot. He was clutching his
neck. It had to be one of those--whatchamacallits--hickies.
Mr. Avery couldn’t imagine what else it could be.
Just how many men had that young lady
had over last night? He decided it was a good thing he was
going to church this morning, since he’d apparently moved in
next door to a bed of sin. Why, the moment he got back from
mass he was going straight to the landlord to lodge a
complaint. A God-fearing man shouldn’t have to live next
door to this. He could only imagine what that woman was
doing. In fact, he spent most of the Sunday sermon imagining
it in great detail. He had to know what he was fighting
against, after all.
When he pulled back into the apartment
parking lot he marched straight to the office building. The
man behind the desk was the same who’d forced him through
all that horrible paperwork and given him his key, and he
greeted him with a cheery wave.
“Mr. Avery, good to see you. What can I
do for you today?”
“I’d like to register a complaint.”
The smile fell off the man’s face. “Oh.
“The young lady next door to me.”
The smile returned, dreamy and
contented. “The one in 2A? She’s such a nice girl.”
“No, that’s exactly what I’ve come to
talk about. Last night she played hostess to multiple
gentlemen callers--multiple, I tell you. It simply isn’t
decent. I demand you evict her.”
“Evict that nice girl? I’d never.”
“At the very least you should tell her
that her behavior simply won’t be tolerated. It’s
“Mr. Avery, I think you’re
“Overreacting? What kind of apartment
complex are you running?”
He stormed out in disbelief. There were
decent family men living in this complex with that foul
temptress, and this spineless man wouldn’t do anything to
protect them. Then it hit him. The man behind the desk must
be one of her callers. It was the only explanation. It was a
sordid web of lust into which Mr. Avery had stumbled, but he
wasn’t going to give up. It was his public duty to protect
those around him. That woman had to go.
For the next several nights Mr. Avery
watched the apartment next door and kept records. If the
landlord wouldn’t do anything about this, then he’d go to
the police, but not until he had ample evidence. The woman
in 2A took approximately two callers each night, one just
after dusk and one before sunrise. They were people of all
kinds, ranging from their forties to late teens. Some of
them could have passed for respectable men, but others
dressed all in black and were covered in tattoos. Why, there
were even women among them. Mr. Avery could barely contain
Once he attempted to peek through her
window to catch a glimpse of the despicable act--for
evidence, of course--but her dark curtains were always
closed. The woman was constantly locked up in her corrupt
domain. She only left her apartment once that he could see,
and she returned hours later carrying shopping bags. She
didn’t seem to have a job--or maybe this was her job. She
was a prostitute, a scarlet woman. It was the only
explanation. He felt a smile spread slowly across his
wrinkled face. The police would definitely be interested in
hearing about this.
That night he was organizing his notes
and rehearsing his speech for the police when he saw a new
man leave her apartment. Mr. Avery walked over to his window
and craned his neck to make sure the youth went straight to
his car. You could never tell with these types of people.
Dawn might come tomorrow to find the entire apartment
He had to press his face against the
glass to keep watching, but it was a good thing he did,
because the man suddenly wobbled and fell into the bushes.
Mr. Avery straightened and immediately made for the door.
The nerve of this man--he was probably drunk, and now he was
ruining Mr. Avery’s bushes. (Not that Mr. Avery tended to
the bushes himself. The rather suspicious-looking
groundskeeper did, but they were still his bushes.)
He strode down the terrace to where the
man was shakily trying to get to his feet.
“Young man,” he said. “Young man, just
what do you think you’re doing?”
He walked around to get a better look
at the hooligan and saw him clutching a tissue to the side
of his neck. Another hickie. Did these people have no shame,
displaying their horrid lifestyles for the whole world to
“Now you listen here,” Mr. Avery said.
“This is private property. You can’t--”
The tissue fell away, and Mr. Avery
jerked back a step. It was bloodstained. No, it was
positively soaking in the crimson liquid. His eyes moved to
the young man’s neck, and he saw no bruise there. He was
marred by a bite, twin pinpricks oozing blood. Mr. Avery’s
heart rate shot through the roof, and as he backed away he
stumbled and nearly fell. The only thought on his mind was
getting through his front door. He needed to be inside where
it was safe. He needed--
He slammed the door behind him, unable
to form another coherent thought. His hands were shaking as
he bolted the lock shut, and it took him several tries to
clasp the chain. Then he went straight to the kitchen and
pulled out a bottle of whiskey. Half an hour later he was
passed out on the couch in blissful unconsciousness.
The next morning when the sun rose he
found it harder to be afraid. His stark terror of the night
before was a memory, like a dull ache where a sharp pain had
once been. He was still afraid, but now he was angry, too.
That vixen was biting people--biting! His mind went to
dangerous places, to ideas he’d never dared before indulge.
First an old Dracula movie, then one of those new crime
shows on TV about serial killers. That woman wasn’t just a
threat to morality--she was a threat to his life and that of
his neighbors. If there was any time to call the police, it
He went straight to the phone and
dialed the number. A few seconds later he was explaining it
all: the men coming and going at all hours, the bloody
bites, the scandalous robe. By the end of his report he was
shouting, and the woman on the other end actually had the
nerve to tell him to calm down. She promised that two
officers would come by to check it out, so he parked himself
on a chair by the window and waited for their arrival.
It took them two hours to come--two
hours! But they finally came, and Mr. Avery watched from the
window as they knocked on the door and she answered it. A
brief conversation followed, and she invited them inside.
Mr. Avery felt a righteous swell of satisfaction within him.
Finally she would get what she deserved. They’d search her
home and find who knows what. Blood maybe, or evidence of
Satanist rituals. She’d be sent to jail. Maybe he could even
testify in her trial. His head spun with excitement. He’d
barely lived in this town for a week, and already he’d made
it all that safer for its residents.
He was imagining the story this would
make at next week’s bingo night when the officers came out
of the apartment--smiling. It was like someone had punched
him in the gut. He stared in disbelief as the woman waved
them a cheery goodbye and they departed. They weren’t taking
her downtown or anything. He couldn’t understand what had
They were in on it. They had to be.
She’d seduced them, or maybe they’d already been accepting
carnal favors from her. What was the world coming to when
you couldn’t even trust the police?
He’d have to confront her himself. It
was the only way. If the police and authorities wouldn’t
take care of this, then it was up to him. Someone in this
country had to stand up for what was moral and just.
He’d finished off the whiskey last
night, but he had a six-pack in the fridge, and he drank a
whole can in several quick gulps. He would have set out the
door right then and there, but a nagging feeling in the back
of his mind caused him to grab the old cross hanging on his
He stormed outside and banged on her
door, righteousness flowing through his veins. She opened it
a moment later, hair tousled, eyes bleary. Her robe was
about to fall off, its half-open front revealing pale
breasts and legs.
“What do you want?” she groaned.
“To tell you that we don’t want your
She rolled her eyes.
“I’m serious, missy!” And he waved the
cross at her.
She knocked it out of his hands with a
force that sent it shooting out of sight. He stumbled back
and tripped, falling painfully on his backend.
“Demon!” He scrambled back across the
floor. “Devil woman! Witch!”
“No, stupid.” She grabbed the front of
his sweater and lifted him to his feet. “Vampire.”
He didn’t get a chance to scream. He
barely got a glimpse of her fangs before she plunged them
into his neck. But he was glad she did, because once she bit
him everything got better. He was hazy and warm, safe as a
child in his mother’s arms. All the aches and pains of his
aged body disappeared, and it was like he was floating in
the clouds. He couldn’t imagine why he’d been so frightened
It was a dream he didn’t want to wake
up from, but all too soon she dropped him roughly and spat
onto the floor.
“Ugh,” she said. “You taste like…old
She wiped her mouth and looked at him,
and he remained perfectly still under her gaze. For a moment
it seemed like she didn’t know what to do with him.
“Okay. Here’s the deal.” She crossed
her arms across her half-exposed chest. “I don’t like you.
You’re ugly and nosy and you smell like soap. So you’re
going to move away. I don’t care where you go--you think of
somewhere nice. But you’re not staying here.”
Her gaze, unquestionably the most
horrible thing he’d ever seen, softened, and she sighed.
“Here’s hoping the guy who moves in
after you is cute. Now wash up and get some rest. You’re a
He slumped towards his front door and
heard her help up the man from the bushes. Once inside he
cleaned himself off, changed into sweats, and collapsed into
bed. He had a big day tomorrow, so he needed his rest. He’d
decided to move to a retirement community in Florida. He and
his late wife had once dreamed of living in the sun.
Besides, he didn’t want to cause any trouble for the young
lady next door.
She was such a nice girl.