by Theresa Cartier
The sound the shovel made when it hit the object was somewhere between a thud and a chink.
“What is it, Izzy?” said Luke.
I used the shovel blade to brush the loose soil off the surface. “Looks like expensive wood grain,” I said. “Mahogany or cherry with a glossy finish.” I squatted to get a closer look. Tracing my finger around the edge, I felt something metal, like a hinge. “It’s a box!”
“Cool,” said Luke. “Buried treasure.”
“If it is, a vegetable garden seems like a weird place to put it.” We’d been digging out the wild onions and garlic to make room for tomatoes and peppers.
Luke took the shovel from me and tapped the box with it. “Huh. Does that sound hollow to—?”
I him cut him off. “Did you hear that?”
Luke tilted his head. “Sounds like it’s coming from underneath us,” he said. Then his eyes widened. “It sounds like a voice!”
I dropped to my knees and knocked on the box. “Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?”
Luke knelt down next to me and we began digging frantically around the edges of the box with our hands.
“Hang on!” I yelled. “We’re getting you out of there!”
Finally, we’d cleared enough room around the lid that Luke was able to curl his fingers under the lip and pull up.
We both jumped when we heard a high, squeaky voice. “Is that garlic? Fuck! Close the lid before I puke!”
Luke and I froze.
“And it’s the middle of the goddamn day,” screeched the voice. “Aagghh, it burns! Close the fucking lid!”
Luke yanked his hand away and the lid snapped shut like an alligator’s jaw. “Geez, what an asshole.”
“Yeah,” I said. I pitched my voice loudly enough that the occupant of the box could here. “We were just trying to help!”
“Screw him,” said Luke. “I’m starving. Let’s go clean up and make dinner.”
We brushed the clots of dirt off our knees and went inside.
After dinner, we went back to check on the freak who was half-buried in our garden. There was no moon so it was quite dark. Still, we could tell from the empty blackness inside the box that whoever, or whatever, was in it had gotten out.
I walked a few steps and looked around. “Where do you think he—Ugh!” I tripped over something about the size and of a large ground hog. Two hot pinpricks of pain flared around my ankle. “Ow!” I yelled. “Something bit me!” On pure reflex, I kicked against the pain and heard something land a few feet away from me.
Luke pulled me up from the ground. “Are you okay?”
I rubbed my ankle. “Yeah, I think so.”
“Let’s get you inside and take a look,” said Luke.
As he led me back to the house, we passed in front of the garage and triggered the yard light. I had to blink a few times before I could believe what I was seeing.
It looked like a doll, but as it walked closer to us, there could be no mistake.
“Holy shit,” I yelled. “It’s a vampire!”
“Fuck me,” the creature cried in return. “It’s giants!”
The three of us stared at each other in shock. Then Luke said, “We’re not giants, dude. You’re just really small.”
“Are you serious?” squeaked the vampire.
Luke shrugged. “Afraid so.”
The vampire let loose a string of face-melting profanities, ending with “—fucking gypsy curse!”
Sometime later, the three of us were sitting at the kitchen table. Luke had lifted the vampire onto the booster seat we used when my little nephew came to visit. Under the light of the slowly spinning ceiling fan, I was able to get a better look at our undead guest.
An angry red stripe ran across his face where he’d gotten burned when Luke opened his coffin. Aside from that, he was pale and pudgy, with an unfortunate case of male pattern baldness that he’d tried to hide with a comb-over. He wasn’t fooling anyone.
His clothes were the requisite crushed red velvet and black satin, accessorized by laced boots. In a million years, that outfit wasn’t going to make him look sexy, which was kind of sad given the whole immortality thing.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
The vampire looked hurt. “What’s wrong with Valentino?”
Luke shrugged. “It’s kinda douchy.”
“I think it’s cute,” I said to Luke. “Let’s call him Teeny.”
The vampire put his head in his hands. “This is a fucking nightmare.”
“So what will you do now, Teeny?” I asked. “Do you have someplace to go?”
“Not really. That garlic-infested shithole with my coffin is the closest thing I’ve got to a home.”
“Well, you can’t stay there,” I said. “I need that space for my tomatoes.”
The vampire bared his tiny fangs in anger. “Then what am I supposed to do?”
Luke steepled his long fingers under his chin as he considered the problem. “I’ve got it,” he said. He walked over to the junk drawer and pulled something out. “Izzy,” he said, “I know it’s only been a few months since we lost Tucker, but…”
He held up a dog leash attached to a choke collar.
The vampire screamed and made a desperate leap off the booster seat. He landed on all fours and scrabbled toward the door but it was no use. Luke slipped the choke collar over his head and pulled up on the leash. The collar tightened around his neck like a noose.
“Welcome to your forever home, Teeny,” said Luke.
His smile was the stuff of nightmares.