The black of night surrounded us on all sides. Though the crescent moon was out and the stars speckled the sky, their light was blocked by the foliage of the trees, which made a seamless ceiling over us. Only the flashlights in my three male escorts’ hands did anything to break the darkness.
“Keep wavin’ the flashlights around, fellas,” the first of the three men said. “Remember, they hate the light.”
“They?” I asked. “Who are ‘they’?”
“We told ya before, in the diner this afternoon,” the second man said. “The vampires.”
“Oh, not that ridiculous story again,” I said.
“I’m tellin’ ya, it’s true,” the first said.
“Why couldn’t you make yourself available earlier, so we could take you out here while the sun was still out?” the third said in a trembling voice.
“Sorry,” I said. “I had to get settled in my new apartment.”
“No matter,” the second said. “We have an opportunity to kill some vampires tonight.”
“Oh, Jesus,” I said.
“Don’t blaspheme,” the third said.
“Don’t worry, Carl,” the first man said to the third. “We have our crucifixes, our garlic necklaces…”
“And our faith in God,” the second said.
I rolled my eyes.
Suddenly, Carl screamed.
“What is it, Carl?” the first man said.
“Jim! I heard something fly by me,” Carl said to the first man. “I felt the wind hit my face from the flyin’ thing.”
“A bat?” Jim asked, cocking his gun.
“I think so,” Carl stammered. “A vampire.”
I snorted. “Come on, guys, there are no such things as vampires. And if there were, what good would a gun do?”
“We scratched crosses on the bullets,” the second man said.
I rolled my eyes again. “Whatever; just get me to The Candy Club, OK?”
“We will, ma’am,” Jim said. “Not that we approve of…”
“Aaaah!” Carl screamed. “Unh!”
“What is it, Carl?” Jim asked. “Randy, where is he?”
“I’m tryin’ to find ‘im,” Randy said, waving his flashlight around to find Carl.
“I’m bit,” Carl groaned in a raspy voice, though I still didn’t believe a bat, or anyone or anything else, bit him.
“Where the hell is he?” Randy said, his voice now as wobbly as Carl’s was. “I can’t find Carl.”
“Shit,” Jim said. “Garlic necklaces are obviously no use.”
“Oh!” Randy yelled. “They…got…me…”
“Randy!” Jim shouted, waving his flashlight around frantically to find Randy in the dark, but never finding him.
Though I scoffed at their vampire story, I was getting scared. In the dark, in that forest we were walking through to find The Candy Club, the strip club I was going to start dancing in that night, it was easy to believe muggers or rapists could have been hiding in the bushes.
“Oh, shit,” Jim said, his voice even more unsteady that Carl’s and Randy’s put together. “They killed Randy, too. It’s just you an’ me now, ma’am.”
“Oh, fuck,” I said. “Somebody’s out here. I just felt something touch my arm as he ran by.”
“Don’t worry, Miss, I’ll protect you,” Jim said.
“No offense, but I don’t find that very reassuring,” I said. My heart was pounding fast.
We were walking slowly and as quietly as we could, listening for any sound not made by our feet squishing the grass. Jim was still waving his flashlight around, hoping to see someone.
Silence for another ten seconds.
“What’s that?” he shouted, firing his gun.
“What?” I snapped.
“I saw a bat fly by.”
“Bats aren’t the danger, Jim,” I insisted. “Thugs are.”
“Bats are vamp–Agh!” he screamed.
“Jim!” I screamed. I groped around to find his flashlight, hearing his voice wither away.
I couldn’t find his flashlight, or any of the others. I just stood there in the middle of my pitch black surroundings, without even the dimmest spark of light. If my eyes had been closed, it’d have been no worse.
I didn’t dare move, or make the slightest sound. I tried to keep my shaky breaths as soft as I could.
No surrounding sounds for at least ten seconds.
Those seconds felt like hours.
A slight whisking sound, from left to right in front of me.
I panted louder then.
Though I knew that if I’d kept walking straight ahead, I’d have gotten to the other side of the forest in a matter of minutes; but the reality that someone was there, someone who’d apparently killed my escorts, had me too petrified to budge.
Another whooshing sound, this time behind me.
I sighed a near sob; tears were forming in my eyes.
I finally took a step forward.
A hand touched my left shoulder.
I screamed, kicking and punching forward. Then, when I realized the hand was behind me, I turned around with my right fist swinging to hit whoever was behind me.
But just when my fist was about to make contact with the face I imagined I was aiming at in the darkness, I felt myself suddenly calmed, weakened, and limp. I didn’t fall down, nor did I feel drugged in any way. I was just no longer hostile or scared, for some mysterious reason.
“Come with us, Erica,” a male voice said.
How did he know my name?
“You’re safe with us, now,” another male voice, from the side opposite that of the first voice, said. “Don’t be scared.”
I wasn’t scared at all now. Why not?
I walked with these two mysterious men on either side of me through the rest of the forest. We came out of it, and now not only had the light of the moon and stars to reorient me, there was also the brightly-lit Candy Club, whose front door was about twenty feet in front of us.
I looked to my right and left to see the two men who were with me. They were young, with handsome, muscular Mediterranean looks. They were both also completely naked…and impressively equipped, I must say. Though titillated, I immediately looked ahead and away from them in embarrassment; they, however, didn’t seem to find their nudity the slightest bit of a problem. I was too shocked to ask why they were naked, so I just pretended nothing was…unusual…about the situation.
We approached the strip joint. By the front door was a large painting of a seated young woman in a black bra, panties, and stockings; the black-haired beauty’s back was to us as she was looking in a mirror, putting on lipstick. Over the painting was a sign in large capital letters: POUMTANG.
“Um, learn to spell,” I said as we walked inside. Why doesn’t it say Candy Club? I wondered.
Loud techno music was booming in the darkness. Flashing, colourful lights revealed seminude women dancing, all of them enviable in their beauty. I so wished I’d see at least a few women with physical imperfections as apparent as mine when naked. To my chagrin, I never saw any.