The Last Meal

It was Halloween, and Lexi tasted blood. 

Her tongue played with the bump now swelling on her bottom lip, and she cursed her carelessness. Her habit of eating on the run often cost her. Dropped food, stained clothes, and bitten lips were common occurrences in her busy life, and she didn’t see herself slowing down anytime soon.

She was in the delivery business, bringing parcels and meals to every corner of her zip code. It was meant to be part-time work, a way to make a few extra bucks outside of her day job.

Then the pandemic happened.

Her day job was gone, but the part-time work exploded. Over a year later, it still made more sense to spend her day behind the wheel of her car than behind a desk.

But the schedule wasn’t great. She was usually on the road through breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and people needed to eat everyday—including holidays.

That meant on this Halloween night, Lexi was once more driving to some random destination and inhaling her to-go dinner.

The current delivery needed to go further than Lexi had gone before, to the rural area outside of her town. The roads narrowed here, and both streetlights and houses were scarce. She’d only seen two mailboxes in her last minute of driving, and the moonless skies gave no trace of the actual houses. As dense woods closed in around her, Lexi couldn’t wait for this delivery to be over.

Her phone rang just as she turned down another dark, windy lane, and she jumped at the sound. Glancing at the device mounted to her dash, Lexi saw the screen change from her GPS app to a picture of a fuzzy, orange creature.

Mr. Pretzel Pants had starred in her favorite Saturday morning TV show when she was a child. He possessed the body of a koala and the beak of a gecko, and every inch of him was the color of a pumpkin. She’d fallen in love with the little guy, and her best friend Kayla never stopped teasing her about it. That’s why Kayla’s calls were now accompanied by a picture of Pretzel Pants.

Lexi pushed the button on the steering wheel to answer.

“Hi Kayla.”

Trick or treat!

“I’m not playing this game.”

What game?

“The one where you try to convince me to join whatever crazy idea you’ve come up with for the holiday.”

I don’t do that.

“Really? What about that St. Patrick’s Day Leprechaun Race where I nearly broke my leg?”

But you looked so good in that green tracksuit.” 

“And that weird Declaration of Independence reading you said we had to do?”

That was about uniting people.

“Half the people in that room got their word wrong. That didn’t unite anything.”

I’ll admit, there should’ve been less alcohol before the reading, but it was still fun.

“For you, but I don’t think I could survive another one of your celebration ideas.”

But it’s Halloween, Lexi.”

“Yes, and people are ordering dinners from home—probably to avoid kids running around with sugar highs and people like you doing who knows what.”

Don’t you even want to know what I have planned?

“Nope. I’m good just delivering meals all night. I don’t plan to do anything Halloween-related.”

You’re a real killjoy.

“Well, at least I’m a killjoy who’ll have a few more bucks in her pocket at the end of the night and no broken limbs or hangovers to show for it.”

Fine. Have fun driving around all night, going nowhere,” Kayla replied, before the call ended.

Lexi brushed off her friend’s disappointment. Kayla would convince someone else to accompany her, and Lexi would be able to make a few more tips.

Her attention went back to the delivery. She didn’t know these roads, and her GPS app hadn’t come back on after the call. Her fingers went to the phone, trying to bring back the voice with the directions.

She knew she had to be close. This was the general area for the delivery, but Lexi had no hope of seeing house numbers with the darkness surrounding her.

She needed her app.

She tapped, slid, and swiped across her phone until she heard, “You have arrived at your destination.

Her eyes shot back up in time to see a strange shadow at the edge of her headlights, diving out of her way. In a panic, Lexi slammed on her brakes, and her car swerved until it was facing the opposite direction.

Feeling on edge, she left her vehicle, needing to know what she’d nearly hit.

To her horror, her headlights were shining on a man, now pushing himself up from the ground.

“Oh my God—are you okay?” she asked trembling. All the things she’d done wrong flashed through her mind. She should’ve just kept her eyes on the road.

“I believe so,” the man answered in a smooth voice, as he rose to his feet. 

Lexi didn’t know how anyone could sound so calm in this situation. “Do you need me to call an ambulance?”

“That won’t be necessary,” he replied before turning toward her. 

Her headlights illuminated his features—curly black hair, olive skin, and deep brown eyes that oddly didn’t squint against the bright beams.

She would’ve questioned it on a normal day, but right now her heart hammered in her chest, and she couldn’t shake her worry, despite the man’s assurances.

“Are you okay, miss?” the man asked, stepping onto the road and approaching her.

“I’m not the one who was almost roadkill,” she said.

“No, but you’ve clearly had a fright. My house is up this driveway here,” he said, motioning to a lane nearby. “Perhaps a glass of water would help?”

“Look, pal,” Lexi began, her self preservation instincts kicking in, “I don’t care what almost just happened. I don’t go into strange men’s homes for glasses of water or anything else.”

“Fair enough,” he replied with a chuckle. “I guess this is where we part ways then.”

The man went to the driveway, and Lexi returned to her car. She shifted to drive, but before she took her foot off the brake, she turned on her GPS. The voice repeated, “You have arrived at your destination.” 

Lexi looked around her and then back at the screen. There was only one driveway in sight, and it led exactly where she needed to go.

Unfortunately, it was also where the man was walking.

“Shit,” she said under her breath.

Lexi knew she could head back to town, watch the man’s meal and tip be deducted from her pay, and forget this ever happened—or she could try to fix this mess. Turning to the backseat, she saw the delivery bag was still intact.

Her foot eased off the brake as she made up her mind.

Lexi went up the driveway slowly and soon caught up to the man, walking at an easy pace.

“Are you here to try to hit me a second time?” he asked, once she’d rolled down the passenger window.

She ignored his question. “You live at 119 Sycamore?”

“Why do you ask?”

“I’m here to deliver your dinner,” she admitted.

“I see,” he replied. “Well, continue on this lane for a quarter mile, and you’ll reach the house. You can give the food to my wife. Just be careful at the bend. You don’t want to tumble down that hill.”

Her tongue felt tied in her mouth, hearing his politeness and the mention of his wife. Lexi kept screwing up tonight, and her ratings on the app were going to plummet if she didn’t make things right.

She pressed on the brake. “Get in.”

The man stopped. “What?”

“Look, I’m sorry for suggesting you might be crazy or evil or something after nearly hitting you with my car. It’s been a bad night, and I’d like to make it up to you by driving you to your house.”

The man stared at her, and a chill ran down her spine. She shrugged off the feeling, blaming her frayed nerves. 

“Very well,” he replied, before making his way into the passenger seat.

They drove in silence up the hill. Lexi took the bend cautiously, and afterward, she could see the lights from the house.

“Wow,” she said, eyeing the three-story home with its floor-to-ceiling windows and wraparound balconies. 

“I tend to agree with that assessment,” the man replied. “You’ll want to drive up to the front door. The driveway makes a loop so you’ll be able to turn around.”

Lexi followed his instructions, parking her car in front of large stone stairs.

“Would you mind bringing the food up?” he asked. “I think I pulled something in my shoulder during that fall, and I don’t want to drop everything.” The man rotated the joint, and Lexi agreed to the request.

She followed him up the steps and watched as he pressed his thumb against a touchscreen above the knob. A click sounded, and the man opened the door.

“Can I persuade you to have that glass of water before you head back out on the road?” he asked.

Her hesitation returned. “I should get going. Plenty of deliveries to make tonight.”

His mouth appeared ready to argue with her, but another voice from inside the house cut him off.

“Is that dinner?” a woman with long, dark hair asked from a nearby staircase. She practically glided toward them, moving gracefully in four-inch stilettos and a skintight, red halter dress. “Thank you so much for coming all the way out here,” she added, directing her comment at Lexi.

“There’s no need to thank me,” Lexi replied in a short tone, not wanting gratitude. She handed over the bag to the woman and tried to turn around.

“Is everything okay?” the woman asked with concern in her voice. 

“There was an incident on the road,” the man explained. “I think we’re both just a bit shaken over it, but no harm was done.”

“You poor dear,” the woman said. “Come inside this instant, and let’s have a look at you.”

There was something compelling about the woman’s words, and Lexi couldn’t stop her feet from entering the house. She walked past the couple, taking in everything from the vaulted ceilings to the white marble floors.

An odd sniffing noise sounded behind her, but when she turned around, she only saw the couple smiling at her and the woman motioning for Lexi to venture forward.

She felt her legs move further into the house, despite an uneasy pressure growing in her stomach. A quiet voice in her mind told her to return to her car, but the voice was gone the moment the woman wrapped a hand around her waist and led her into a dining room. 

This room had the large windows Lexi had seen from her car. During the day, the view must be breathtaking, but right now, there was only darkness outside. A futuristic light fixture above the table allowed Lexi to see the room.

Every piece of furniture was gray, angular, and cold. Her eyes studied the chairs at the table. With low backs, no cushions, and metal spikes for legs, Lexi didn’t know how they could possibly be comfortable.

“Have a seat,” the woman said.

Finally, Lexi felt her voice return. “I should be going. I don’t want to interrupt your dinner.”

“You’re not,” the man replied from behind her. 

The woman chuckled in reply, and Lexi thought she was missing the joke. 

“You are dinner,” the woman clarified.

Before she could fully process the words, Lexi felt a sudden pull on her arms, and she was no longer standing. Instead, she was sitting in one of the chairs, facing the dark window.

A rush of wind swept by, and Lexi could no longer move her wrists or ankles. She looked down to see them tied to the metal legs.

“What the hell?” she muttered, pulling at the ropes, but there was no give.

“This isn’t hell,” the woman said from right behind Lexi’s chair. “It’s just the Appalachian countryside. Isn’t that right, my darling?”

The question was directed at the man, who was now sitting at the head of the table, watching them both intently. “That’s exactly how I describe it, beloved.”

“People know where I am,” Lexi said, her voice quavering. “And your information’s on the app. You won’t be able to get away with whatever this is.”

The woman gathered up Lexi’s hair and dropped it over her right shoulder, leaving the left side of her neck bare. “She thinks we’ve never done this before,” the woman said.

“And she clearly doesn’t know how easy it is to manipulate one of those apps,” the man added, before pulling Lexi’s phone out of his pocket. Somehow he’d taken it from her and unlocked it. She could hear the click of buttons as he tapped away on the screen. “No one will find her for days, and I’ll make sure they won’t be able figure out her last stop.”

Her body shuddered as she tugged against the ropes. She tried pushing her feet against the floor to knock the chair back, but the woman put one of her hands on the chair and stilled the effort.

“You can’t do this,” Lexi cried out, tears forming in her eyes.

“It’s already done,” the woman said coolly. 

Lexi looked at the window in front of her, seeing her reflection in the darkened glass. She hyperventilated as she watched the woman’s reflection move closer. The woman’s mouth was open, and the barest outline of fangs could be seen along her teeth.

Lexi closed her eyes, just before her neck was pierced. There was sharp pain at first, then a throbbing ache when the woman’s mouth clamped down and sucked against her skin.

Prickling sensations moved across her fingers and toes.The disturbing stings felt like the digits were falling asleep, and Lexi could only assume it was from blood loss. How long would it be before the feeling crept over the rest of her body?

The woman’s lips moved away from her neck. Liquid spilled down to Lexi’s collar bone, before a wet tongue pressed against the droplet and swiped back up to the bite.

“Her fear is delicious,” the woman said. “Are you sure you don’t want a taste?”

“I’m enjoying watching you eat,” the man replied.

The woman’s mouth returned to the abused spot for another round, but a knock at the front door stopped her.

“Help!” Lexi yelled with what strength she had left.

The woman released a frustrated groan before covering Lexi’s mouth with one of her hands, and the man went toward the entrance.

Lexi tilted her head so that she could glimpse the front hallway.

There was a tall, blonde man at the door, who appeared to have a warmth that her captors lacked. Hoping he wasn’t another blood sucker, she tried to let out a muffled scream.

It was enough to catch the blonde stranger’s attention. He looked up at her.

“I’m so sorry, Beth,” the newcomer said to the woman, and Lexi felt her hopes shatter. “I didn’t know I was interrupting your dinner. I just wanted to talk to you and Sam. I can come back after you’ve let her go.”

Lexi stared at the blonde, wondering if she’d heard him correctly.

“Damn it, Jack,” the woman—Beth—said. “I can already feel her calming down.”

“But you guys always let your human victims go,” Jack replied. “You’ve told me that before.”

“Yes, but not until we’ve savored every ounce of fear we can drain from them,” Beth explained. “You have no idea how good adrenaline tastes, and now this human is ruined. There’ll be no more fun for me tonight.”

Beth released her grip on Lexi and moved to sit on a chair next to her.

“I can place another order, sweetheart,” the man named Sam suggested.

“No,” Beth answered. “I’ve had enough, and I’m sure if Jack needs to talk to us about something, we may as well let him start now.”

“Thanks, guys,” Jack said with a goofy smile on his face, as he moved into the vampires’ dining room and took a seat across the table. 

Lexi didn’t want to hear whatever Jack had to say. She wanted to be out of this place.

“You’re letting me go, right?” Lexi questioned Beth shakily. “That’s what you just said and what he just said.”

“We can’t let you drive until at least thirty minutes have passed,” Sam answered. “You’ll be our guest until then.”

“I don’t want to be your guest. I want to get the hell out of here.”

Jack spoke up. “Do you want me to drive her home right quick?”

“No,” Beth answered. “We have our own way of doing things, and we stick to them. Now get on with whatever you have to say.”

“Okay…I…well I think it’s finally time for a rebranding,” Jack said.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Beth said.

“Hear me out,” Jack insisted. “Look what happened to vampires after—”

“Don’t say it,” Sam interrupted. “You know we don’t mention that book in this house.”

“Right…sorry. I won’t say it, but I think you know my point,” Jack continued. “I think we’ve got to change this werewolf nonsense.”

“You’re a werewolf?” Lexi couldn’t stop herself from asking.

“Not exactly,” Jack said, his eyes cast downward.

“So what are you?” she asked.

“Go ahead and show her,” Sam suggested. “It’ll be easier than explaining it.”

“Fine,” Jack said, before removing his shirt and boots clumsily. His shy, awkward behavior didn’t match his muscular arms and six pack. 

Lexi stared at him, curiosity replacing her fear.

Then Jack’s pale skin transformed into blonde fur, he grew a foot taller, and his face became more like a gorilla’s.

“So, yeah,” Jack began, his voice the same even in his changed body, “I’m Bigfoot.”

“What?” Lexi asked, expecting something more like a wolf. “But you’re not even connected with Halloween.”

“Exactly,” Jack said. “That’s what we’ve got to change. We’ve got to move people away from those fictional were-beasts to something that actually exists.”

“Look, Jack,” Sam interjected. “We know how upsetting tonight is for you, but you’re not alone. Plus, you’ve got a huge following in Canada.”

“It’s not the same,” Jack sighed, leaning his large, hairy elbows on the table and resting his head in his hands. “No kid wants to dress up as Bigfoot for Halloween, and nobody even knows that we can look human some of the time.”

The doorbell rang, and all eyes turned to the front hallway.

“Now who is it?” Beth asked.

“Well, I may have texted a few people about where I was headed tonight,” Jack admitted.

“Great,” Beth replied, not hiding her annoyance.

“Can you let me go now?” Lexi asked, but the others ignored her, and the vampire Sam left the room once more.

Lexi heard the door open. 

“Hello, Zeph,” Sam said.

A male voice with a British accent responded, “Good evening, Samuel. I hope you and Elizabeth are well.”

“We’re fine. We’re all in the dining room with Jack.”

“Marvelous,” the newcomer replied before entering Lexi’s line of sight. He was a dark-skinned man with a bald head and a fancy blue suit. “Have you already managed to resolve our tall friend’s dilemma?” he asked.

“Not yet,” Sam replied, before moving to close the door.

“I wouldn’t do that,” Zeph said. “I saw another one of our acquaintances following not far behind me.”

“Jack, did you invite Pansy?” Sam yelled down the hall.

“Of course, I did,” Jack answered. “It’s Halloween. It wouldn’t be right to exclude her.”

“Fine,” Sam said, as he and Zeph entered the room. “Just help me keep her away from the human. You remember what happened last time.”

“How can any of us forget?” Beth questioned.

“What’s Pansy?” Lexi asked, her fear returning.

“I’m Pansy, you brat,” a rough voice with a New York City accent said from behind her.

Lexi turned her head to look up at whatever new monster had entered the room, but she didn’t see anything.

“Down here,” the voice said, and Lexi’s eyes followed the sound.

There on the floor, no taller than the chair, stood the last creature Lexi had expected.

“Mr. Pretzel Pants?” she said in disbelief.

“My name is not Pretzel Pants!” Pansy snarled, before leaping onto Lexi’s knees and slapping her in the face.

Up close, Lexi could see this wasn’t the playful, gentle creature of her childhood. Pansy had teeth shaped like razors, long claws, and pure anger in her eyes.

“I should pull your tongue out for saying that name,” Pansy threatened, pointing one of her curved talons at Lexi’s face. 

“None of that, Pansy,” Beth said, before pulling out a chair for the newest arrival. “The human’s not worth it.”

“You sure about that?” the orange demon asked.

“I’ve had to clean up after you before,” Beth answered. “I don’t feel like doing it again tonight, especially not in my own house.”

Pansy and Beth took their seats, and Lexi looked around the room in bewilderment. 

“Is something the matter, human?” Zeph asked from across the table.

“I think I’ve come up with the only reasonable explanation for all this,” Lexi answered. “I was in a car accident, and I’m either dead or hallucinating.”

“That’s what you think’s going on?” Bigfoot questioned, with his large, blonde eyebrows furrowed. 

“Nothing else makes sense,” she replied. “If this isn’t death, then it must be a concussion or some serious painkillers making me see a creature feature around this table and a psychotic version of my childhood hero.”

“Mr. Pretzel Pants was your childhood hero?” Jack asked.

“Say that name one more time, blondie,” Pansy growled, and Bigfoot shrank back in his chair. 

“I’m just not buying this,” Lexi said. “Why would a bunch of monsters get together on Halloween to discuss their issues? This sounds more like a concussion than real life.”

“And the bite on your neck?” Beth questioned, gazing at her hungrily.

“Probably an injury from whatever accident I was in. It’s just my brain dealing with whatever trauma I’m going through.”

“Anyone think the human wants to go through some more trauma?” Pansy asked.

“Stay where you are,” Beth warned the orange creature.

“So how can we make you believe that we’re more than a head injury, human?” Zeph asked her.

“Why would you want to? What does it matter what I think?”

“I consider your words a challenge. Do you even know what sort of creature you doubt me to be?”

“No, but that doesn’t make you any more real than anybody else here,” Lexi answered.

“Very well, I wish to prove you wrong,” Zeph replied. “Anyone else interested in joining me?”

“She’s no use to me or Sam as food now, so we may as well have some other sort of fun with her,” Beth said.

“I’m in,” Jack said. “It gives me a chance to work through a few branding ideas I had.”

“Pansy,” Zeph began, “what about you?”

“It’s Halloween—what the hell else have I got to do?”

“I’ll start then, and human, you can try to guess what I am,” Zeph said. “Our first topic shall be food—what we eat regularly and what we prefer to eat. My kind doesn’t have to eat, but we can partake in whatever we like. We periodically have human blood and flesh, but only when we’re turning someone or celebrating something.”

“How is she supposed to guess what you are from that?” Sam asked. 

“I’ll offer more clues as we go, but given that you’ve spoken up, why don’t you answer for your kind?”

“I already know they’re vampires,” Lexi said.

“Yes, but that doesn’t cover everything about us,” Sam replied. “Human blood is our preference, but now that we live in modern times, we mainly survive off animal blood and save human blood for special occasions.”

“But how do you get away with it?” Lexi asked. “You weren’t exactly subtle with what you did to me. If you’re not killing your victims, how do you stop them from posting on social media what you are?”

“Like this,” Beth said, pricking one of her fingers and rubbing a drop of her blood against Lexi’s neck. The throbbing died away, and her neck felt like nothing had happened.

“So you can heal people?”

“For the most part,” Beth replied. “You’ll be tired tomorrow, and I wouldn’t suggest you operate heavy machinery anytime soon.”

“But how do you keep them quiet?” Lexi asked. 

“The same way I talked you into coming inside the house tonight,” Beth answered, locking eyes with Lexi. “Vampires have the power of persuasion. You felt it, didn’t you?”

Lexi nodded dumbly, before Beth looked away, and her senses returned.

“Some vampires are better at the skill than others,” Sam added. “My wife is masterful at it. By tomorrow morning, she’ll make you forget you ever came here.”

A feeling of disappointment swelled inside of her, but Lexi shook her head at that foolishness. They were illusions, and this was all just a dream. It didn’t matter what she remembered once she woke up to her real life.

“Bigfeet are pretty much omnivores,” Jack offered. “But we don’t go after humans for food.”

“That’s not what I heard,” Pansy countered, folding her orange arms across her chest.

“Most of us don’t eat humans, but there are exceptions to every rule.”

“And?” Pansy grilled Jack. 

“And what?”

“What about those Bigfeet that mate with humans? I heard they feed off their humans.”

“It’s a bonding process,” Jack said. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand, Pretzel Pants.”

“Why you little loser!” Pansy shouted before jumping up in her seat.

“That’s enough from both of you,” Zeph interrupted. “Pansy, sit down and tell us about your eating habits.”

“Why? This is pointless. She won’t even remember in the morning.”

“This is as much for the human’s benefit as it is for ours. I believe it’s helpful for our kinds to better understand one another.”

“Fine,” Pansy said. “I’m a meat eater, but I don’t settle for just the blood like those kids over there.” She gestured toward the vampires. “I get my fill of blood during the process, but it wouldn’t be enough for me on its own. I go for the good stuff—the bone marrow.”

Lexi felt bile rise in her throat. “Human or other animals?” she asked hesitantly.

“Human when I can get them,” Pansy replied, licking her orange lips.

“How are you the star of a children’s program?”

“Deniability,” Pansy answered.


“If people see some bizarre, orange creature in the woods or in some neighborhood, they’re going to call animal control or the cops. But if they see a TV show character running around, they think some kid’s playing dress up or that their eyes are playing tricks on them. They don’t think twice about it. Why do you think vampires got Stoker to write that book or Bigfeet got those werewolf stories told about them?”

“We didn’t ask to be associated with wolves,” Jack replied.

“But the point’s the same. Your kind was associated with a fictional character, and that helped protect you. My kind wanted the same thing, and that’s how the TV character was born. The rest is history, and I don’t have to worry about killing everyone who sees me anymore.”

“That sounds like a good thing,” Lexi commented.

“Yeah, now I only kill humans when I’m hungry,” Pansy added, her round eyes turning to Lexi. 

She was glad this had to be a hallucination. The ropes were still tight around her, and she wasn’t sure another creature in the room would help her if Pretzel Pants became violent.

“Let’s move on to the next topic then,” Zeph said, and everyone turned back to him. “Unless the human already has a guess as to what I am?”

“You’re missing too many screws and zippers to be Frankenstein’s monster, so no, I don’t have any guesses yet.”

“Very well,” Zeph replied with a smile. “Next question—when was the last time any of you turned someone?”

“Far too long,” Beth replied, entwining her hand with Sam’s. “But I think it would be entertaining to have a third vampire in the house again.”

“The things we could do, beloved,” Sam whispered, as he kissed the back of Beth’s hand.

“Do you two ever stop?” Pansy asked, before she made a retching noise. “For me, it’s been about fifteen years. Being called Pretzel Pants is annoying, but everything else is a perk. Nobody messes with our kind, or else they get their bones snapped in half.”

“Lovely, Pansy,” Zeph said. “What about you, Jack?”

“Well, my kind don’t turn humans often, so I…I’ve never done it before. I know how to, I’ve just never found someone who wanted to be a Bigfoot who wasn’t born to it.”

“Understandable,” Zeph replied.

“And what about you, Zeph?” Lexi asked. “When did you last turn someone?”

“The early 800’s.”

Surprised by the date, Lexi asked, “Are you the oldest one here?”

“Yes,” he answered. “Now can you guess what I am?”

She tried to think what might be older than a vampire, but her brain felt tired. Lexi shook her head, unable to make a guess. 

“Let’s move on to my last topic then,” Zeph said. “What was your most memorable Halloween?”

“It was 2002,” Pansy replied immediately. “That was the year the show came out. I spent the whole night walking the streets of New York and having people wave at me like I was normal. I even had two tasty humans that night. Boy, did they wish they hadn’t tried to mug a TV character.”

A satisfied, yet startling, grin appeared on Pansy’s face, putting her sharp teeth on display.

“What about you, Jack?” Zeph asked. 

“It was before…well, before the movies and books we don’t talk about. There was the occasional wolf-man back in the day, but now they’re everywhere. One of these days, I’d just like to see fewer wolves and more Bigfeet.”

“It’ll happen, my friend,” Sam said. “Just give it time.”

“Thanks, Sam,” Jack replied. “What about you and Beth?” 

“We like the tradition we started last year,” Beth said, gazing at Sam while her hand stroked his leg. “We draw in a human to this new estate of ours, scare the devil out of them, and drink down a few tasty rounds.”

“Then the fun continues for us until just before dawn,” Sam added, cupping Beth’s cheek.

“Because you turn to dust in the sunlight?” Lexi asked, not understanding the large windows.

“That’s a human misconception. It’s not the light—it’s the radiation,” Sam answered. “If we have enough of a filter on the glass, we can watch any sunrise. But a cloudy day outside would still burn us.” 

“That just leaves you, Zeph,” Lexi said, turning to the mysterious creature.

“Actually, I want to hear your answer to the question, human,” he replied. 

“But my answer’s just a boring human one.”

“I still want to hear it,” Zeph said.

“Okay,” she replied, thinking back to prior Halloweens. Her childhood had been filled with freezing cold nights, where she’d worn a coat over her costume, or times when she overate candy and felt horrible the next day. 

In her adult life, there had been work and sometimes a horror movie or two, but no special Halloween moments came to mind—despite Kayla’s best efforts.

Then it came to her.

“Middle school—I was too old for trick-or-treating but not old enough yet for anything cooler. My best friend was spending the night, and we decided to teach the bullies in my neighborhood a lesson. They had a treehouse at the end of the lane. My friend and I went to check it out that night, and we found that the guys were gone, probably picking on smaller kids. So we stocked up on toilet paper and covered the treehouse in it. The place was a mess, and we got out of there just in time. I remember running and ducking as their bikes were pulling onto the lane.”

“Toilet paper, huh?” Pansy questioned. “That’s right up your alley, isn’t it, Zeph?”

“What do you mean?” Lexi asked.

“It’s a clue, rather crude, but a clue all the same.” Zeph said.

“Toilet paper?” Lexi repeated. “Wait, you’re a mummy?”

“Guilty,” Zeph answered. “Thank you for letting the sphinx out of the bag, Pansy.”


“So your game’s over then,” Lexi said. “I know what you are now.”

“Yes, but I’ve yet to answer that final question,” Zeph replied.

“Okay then,” Lexi began, “what was your favorite Halloween?”

“This one,” he said seriously.


“Tonight represents the first time I’ve shared stories with a human in quite some time, and I’d like to mark the moment by giving you a choice, if my colleagues are amenable.”

“What choice?”

“Well, you know what we really are, and we now know something about you. If my friends agree, we’ll permit you to choose one of us to turn you into a supernatural being, or you may return to your human life and forget tonight ever happened. Is everyone willing to accept this arrangement?”

“We are,” Beth responded for herself and Sam. 

“I guess so,” Jack stammered. “Like I said, I know how to turn someone, but only if they’re willing.”

Zeph then turned to Pansy, “What about you? Would you be willing to turn this human into one of your kind?”

“You’ve got to have nerve to be one of my kind,” the orange creature said. She paused, staring at Lexi, before continuing, “But if the kid chose to be like me, I guess that’d prove she’s got something.”

“So there you have it,” Zeph began. “You can either ask one of us to turn you, or we can send you home.”

All eyes in the room were on Lexi. She felt her heart pounding and her chest rising and falling as she breathed—both signs that she was human and alive, and somehow she knew she wasn’t hallucinating.

She looked at the others, considering what they’d told her. Then her mind turned to her life back in her apartment and behind the wheel of her car. 

A clock ticked on the wall behind Lexi, marking the passing seconds. 

Taking a final, steadying breath, she said, “I know what I want to do.”

One year later, it was Halloween, and Lexi tasted blood.

© Virginia Gale, The Last Meal, and, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and owner is strictly prohibited.

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