Ghosting. That’s when a woman you’ve taken out suddenly disappears. No texts. No calls. Not even the dreaded “let’s just be friends.”
Ariel had ghosted me.
I hadn’t heard from her since the night we met. Her Tinder account had disappeared. No more pictures of her jet-black hair and skin as white as the dating app’s background.
I went to the art studio where she worked evenings and the owner hadn’t seen her since the night she spent at my place. The night before I woke up to an empty room illuminated by the dawn.
I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I was certain the door’s deadbolt was still locked.
I hadn’t noticed the two scabs on my neck. Damn bedbugs. Part of life when slumming in the bohemian part of the city.
I headed out late that day. I turned the corner after ten blocks and the Cathedral came into view.
And the burning started.
An allergic reaction from the bedbug bites? I turned around. I had Benadryl back at my place. The sensation subsided as I rushed home. Don’t chance anything.
I reached for the medicine cabinet and saw the tiles of the bathroom wall reflect in the mirror — through my transparent forearm.
The two scabs pulsed as I grasped my translucent limb.
The blankets over the windows barely banished the sunlight. The invading photons found their way into every corner of my apartment and made navigating the decrepit place a painful task.
I reviewed my computer tablet as I sat in the closet. Vampires organized themselves into covens: groups that either killed their victims or turned them into vampires. I wasn’t dead — so logically she wanted me in her coven.
Assuming that vampires were logical.
My research didn’t say how long the transformation would take. But the notes suggested that she’d return.
And when she did, I would have to kill her to stop the transformation.
The obese clerk gave me a dirty look as I walked into the Home Depot at 8:55. Closing time in five minutes.
I met his glaring eyes. I wondered how he’d handle my situation. I imagined him waddling his fat ass to the subway as his skin grew hot in the dying sunlight.
I made my way past him to the dowel rods.
I rooted through them until I found one made of ash. The preferred wood for staking vampires.
The blubbery clerk rang me up. He mumbled a joke about getting the five-foot long piece of wood onto the subway. I ignored him and walked out into the invigorating night.
Getting the dowel rod onto the empty subway was easy.
I guessed that it would take thirty minutes — at most — for me to saw and whittle the rod into several stakes.
I was certain Ariel would be visiting tonight.
But I was wrong.
Cobb promptly knocked at the strike of nine. I only knew him enough to know I didn’t like him.
I checked to make sure his cash was on the table as I grabbed the doorknob.
I twisted the knob and Cobb rushed in. He tried to make small talk. “You look terrible, man! You’re so pale! You OK?”
I looked down as my stomach rumbled. I grunted towards the money.
I heard the bills crunch as Cobb shoved them into his pocket. I heard his duffel bag plop onto the table, followed by a zipper and a thud.
“Over-under sawed-off Mossberg,” he said. “Serial number’s off. Might have a body on it.” He paused.
I didn’t look up.
Another thud. “Box of shells.”
I muttered an acknowledgment. Cobb blabbed something about a pleasant business exchange.
The door closed behind him.
I pulled a knife from the drawer. I grabbed a shell, cut its plastic hull, open and spilled the shot pellets into the trash.
Thirty minutes later I had the Mossberg rigged as a stake gun. Each barrel was packed with a sharpened stake and a blank shell. Good enough to take out a vampire from fifty feet away.
I put on a long ratty coat. I shoved the remaining blank shells and stakes into the coat’s inside pockets before heading out into the night.
The burning began when I was blocks away from the Cathedral. I doubled over in agony. I stumbled away and the searing pain dissipated.
The sun would be up in an hour.
I clutched the shotgun beneath my coat and turned away. No sign of Ariel. Another night of no success leading into another day of watching my reflection disappear. Of scratching my whitening skin. Of running my fingers over the fangs growing in my mouth.
I hoped my tongue wouldn’t burn if I tried to pray.
And if I die before I wake,
I ask the Lord my soul to take.
I couldn’t hold food down anymore. Or stay awake past dawn. My reflection was only a wispy outline in the mirror.
And no Ariel. Would she show up after I became like her?
Why did she swipe right? Was it her idea of a sick joke — putting a desolate vampire into the world?
I wouldn’t get to rid the world of a vampire. Instead I’d be adding one.
Not a pleasant thought, adding to the sum of evil in the world.
I angled the muzzle of the Mossberg against my sternum so that the stake would have a clear path.
This could keep me out of the afterlife. So I prayed that my spirit could haunt Ariel.
It was time for me to ghost her back.
Jeff Racho earned degrees in engineering, law, and business from Notre Dame, Villanova, and Cornell. He is a patent attorney and practices in the fields of intellectual property and startup company law. His stories have appeared in Aofie’s Kiss, The Sci Phi Journal, Stupefying Stories, and The Arcanist. He can be reached for comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.