Mia waited by the door for her friend Beth. The good-byes at the office Christmas party were taking longer than they should, but Mia was not surprised. Everyone delayed leaving with long good-byes. It was drawing close to midnight, and Mia had an early start in the morning. Her dog-walking business was growing by the day, and she had to be up early to get through all her furry customers. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to create a rainy-day savings account.
“Beth,” Mia whispered to get her friend’s attention.
Beth glanced at the door, giving Mia a cheesy grin. She was trapped. The night manager was an old friend she used to work with and hadn’t seen in a while. Mia mused that the old bat could have talked to Beth at any point during the night but chose to wait until she was walking out the door to catch up.
The work Christmas party, held in November due to time limitations, was always as festive as if it were Christmas Eve. The boss hired the back room at the local tavern, dressing it up with tinsel and baubles. With the fire roaring a mighty warmth in the fireplace, it made the room feel perfect.
Mia liked this tavern; it was one of a few in their little town, but it was the oldest and had a charming quality in its exposed beams and white-rendered walls. The owners maintained the place and kept it in the style it had been built several hundred years earlier.
Warily, Mia opened the door. Snow was forecast but hadn’t yet begun. Right now, it was freezing cold, and Mia was regretting her short skirt. It was a party; she’d dressed in something pretty, but it was a bad decision.
“Suffer to look the part,” Mia murmured before closing the door again.
All she wanted was to go home, snuggle under a blanket, and fall asleep. That was not happening any time soon. As she turned back, Mia saw Helen waving good-bye at her. Gritting a smile, Mia waved and turned to look at Beth, who was giving her an apologetic smile.
“Sorry,” she whispered. “I couldn’t get away.”
Mia shrugged as she opened the door again. Although she dreaded the bitter-cold walk ahead of her, she was just happy to be finally leaving. “I’m of two minds about leaving anyway. It’s insane out here.”
“Good grief,” Beth groaned, tugging her peacoat tighter. “You’d think after twenty-five years of living in this town, I’d be used to this.”
With a chuckle, Mia pulled the heavy wooden door shut behind them. Slowly, they walked down the steps, careful not to slip. The iron handrail was like holding ice, but Mia kept her grip tight, fearing that she’d lose her footing. She did not need to be laid up with bruises, not when Mister Wiggles was waiting for his daily walk.
Mia smiled. Mister Wiggles was the beloved corgi of her neighbor, Mrs. Dexter. She was in her eighties and struggled to get around. Walking Mister Wiggles was a labor of love—not good for the bank balance, but certainly good for the soul.
The pair walked along Main Street, rugged up against the chilly wind. Mia was grateful that she’d worn thick tights under the short skirt. It was probably the only smart portion of her outfit. Her feet were tired from the boots, the jacket was not nearly warm enough, and the strap of her bag kept slipping off her shoulder. She wondered why she bothered. It was a work function, and Helen had worn jeans and snow boots.
Inwardly, Mia mused that it was only another block before she was home again. Then the outfit would be on the floor of her bathroom, and she’d be under the deliciously warm water, washing away the remnants of a fun night.
“So, what’s the deal with you and David?” she asked Beth.
Beth felt the blush rise to her cheeks as she smiled. She couldn’t hide it any longer. Fooling around with the boss was not ideal, but there wasn’t much she could do about it now. Even if there was something, she wouldn’t want to change things.
“You can’t say anything, okay?”
“You know I wouldn’t.”
“I’m serious, Mia. I don’t want everyone thinking I’m climbing the ladder on my back.”
Beth scowled at Mia, who shrugged with a cheeky smirk. This was the information that Beth offered when she drank too much, and Mia was always on the receiving end. Beth liked being in control; she loved to have men crumbling to her oral prowess.
“Say it ain’t so,” Mia taunted.
Rolling her eyes, Beth turned back to watching the path for icy patches. “Well, I’m not a liar, so there’s that.”
She sighed, unsure of what to say, where to begin, how to make it seem like she wasn’t the kind of person that was screwing her way to the top.
Mia gently nudged her shoulder. “I’m cool, you know that. I think it’s cute. David’s a sweet guy, he’s a good boss, and he respects everyone. What’s your problem?”
“Nothing really. It’s not like I actually can sleep my way to the top.”
Mia nodded in agreement. Beth was as high as she was ever going to get. She was the day manager of the convenience store; it was the highest position in the place without actually owning the shop. Beth had the job long before David bought the place, so it was obvious that their blossoming relationship had nothing to do with her job.
“You don’t have to say anything to anyone. It’s your business, and that’s the end of it. Although having your bestie onside to squash rumors is a brilliant idea. The fee I charge is to be the matron of honor, okay?”
Beth chuckled, nodding.
“Sure, if we get there, it’s done.”
They stopped at the intersection, and Beth’s shoulders slumped. The lights were out again, making the walk down her street dark and dangerous. It was lucky the town was so boring that nothing bad ever happened.
“You know, I’ll wait here,” Mia said. “Turn your front light on when you get in.”
Beth nodded, hugging Mia. “It was wild tonight. See you Monday, bright and early.”
“You got it, boss lady.”
With another chuckle, Beth crossed the road and waved good-bye. Delving into the darkness, she walked quickly to her terrace house. Keys in hand, she opened the door to the warmth of her house and looked back at Mia. The solitary figure waited patiently as Beth turned on the light.
Mia waved and then began the walk home. Her step was quicker than usual. Mia would prefer to take it easy on the frosted sidewalk, but it was late, she was tired, and she desperately craved a warm shower.
Hearing a twig snap, Mia stopped and looked around the lonely street. There was nothing but the road, flanked by shops with tenements above.
As her quivering word echoed through the empty street, Mia began to back away. There was no obvious figure, but Mia knew she was not alone. There was someone else out there. Her heart raced as fear began to grip her. Adrenaline surged, and her eyes darted around the area.
Turning, she faced a wall of a body that towered over her. The figure was fast in his movement, swooping down to take hold of Mia. Tilting her body, the figure leaned his head down and bit Mia’s neck. His hand covered her mouth, muffling her screams for help.
Pain ripped through Mia’s body, the tears fell freely. She screamed as she tried to fight off her attacker, but he was stronger and his grip was tight.
“Sleep, child,” the man whispered.
Her gaze rose to the pale figure, who had bright aqua eyes. The attacker looked at her with mirth, his deadly smile tainted by her blood.
Slowly, darkness consumed Mia, taking her from the waking world.
When Mia woke, she was incredibly warm. The room was dark, and instantly, she knew she was not alone. Gasping with fright, Mia sat up and tried to move.
“Easy does it,” a man whispered.
“Get away from me.”
“Hush—don’t make the vampires come. We’re all humans in here.”
Mia’s fear turned to tears. She could see a little but only the rough shapes of bodies, she felt them shift as the other captive moved closer.
“Where am I?”
“This is the holding cell,” the man said softly. “Everyone’s still sleeping, just you and me awake at the moment. I’m Ken.”
“Mia. What’s going to happen to us?”
“Dunno, but I figure that we’re being taken to wherever it is that the vampires hang out and…” He sighed, feeling the anger and sadness fill him. “I think we’re going to be food.”
Mia sobbed softly, wishing she had taken a different route. It had only been a short walk home from the party, and it was one that she did all the time without fear of what was lurking out there.
Tonight had been different, though. She was dead; Mia was certain of it.
The cell door opened, and a flaming torch illuminated the area. Mia looked up at her captor, seeing the same stark blue eyes and annoying smirk.
“Two awake in here, Romos.”
“Bring them out—they can go in with this lot,” an unknown voice barked.
“You two, get up and follow me.”
Mia’s legs shook as she stood.
Ken helped her stand, scoffing. “Be brave, Mia. It’s not a great end to our lives…No, I reckon it’s a shit end to our life. Don’t listen to me. You can be scared if that’s what you want. Personally, I plan to soil myself at the end to make a lovely mess for them to clean up.”
Mia giggled, wiping the tears away. The image of a vampire covered in feces was incredibly funny despite the fear she had inside.
The vampire looked at Ken with mild disgust. “Can you really do that?”
“Bite me and find out, asshole.”
The vampire growled, shutting the cell door with a thud.
“You’ve got quite a mouth on you, human. Better learn to shut it or you’ll die faster than you should.”
As he walked ahead of them, the vampire didn’t see the curious looks Mia and Ken exchanged. They didn’t know what was ahead of them, but maybe it wasn’t death.
Standing by the open door, the vampire tipped his head.
“In there. Romos will give you clothes to put on.”
Mia was even more intrigued as she stepped into the small room. It was wall-to-wall stone, filled with men and women dressed in clothes that were vastly different from anything she was used to. They all looked like medieval peasants.
Romos held out an outfit to Ken. “Leave all your things in those boxes and put this on. Hurry up.”
Ken took the items and ventured to the other side of the room. Mia walked over to the vampire, who was waiting impatiently with a heavy frown.
“I don’t have any dresses small enough for you. How old are you, child?”
He grumbled under his breath, rummaging through the boxes.
“You’ll have to dress in men’s clothes. Take these.”
Romos handed the items to Mia. She took the items and found a place to dress while listening to Romos complain to the other vampire that he’d picked a small human. Mia didn’t enjoy hearing they’d earn less money for her in the auction, which is what this seemed to be.
“The joy of being thin,” Ken murmured.
Mia nodded quietly. She didn’t strive to be thin; it came naturally. Her adoptive parents had always assumed she was like one of her birth parents, but Mia had no idea.
Stripping out of her boots, tights, and skirt, Mia pulled the pants on and tied the string. They were light and thin, a soft, brown color that matched Mia’s hair.
All dignity was thrown out the non-existent window as she removed her blouse and pulled on the loose cotton shirt.
“It’s called a chemise,” Ken said as he pulled on his shoes.
Mia looked curiously at him.
“I have a passion for medieval England.”
“This must be lots of fun for you then,” Mia muttered.
“Well, kind of. The whole death thing is a bit of a drag. How’s your neck wound? Mine’s still aching.”
“Yeah, it still hurts.”
Somewhere in the depths of the building, a gong echoed. Romos moved to the door, pushing his underling away.
“Make yourself useful and check on the other humans.”
Mia finished dressing with the odd pair of socks and what looked like handmade leather shoes.
“Humans,” Romos began. “You are about to be taken to the auction house and sold to the highest bidder. Behave yourself, do not fight us, and your death will be quick. Single file up the stairs and wait next to the guards.”
Mia was last out of the room, reluctant to leave despite not wanting to be anywhere near the place. She looked around the odd room and knew that she was not in her quaint town anymore.
The walls were reminiscent of a castle; the stone floors were covered in hay. A flaming torch sat against each wall, the room’s only light source.
As she approached the doorway, Mia looked at her captor. The rough features worked well on the vampire, though Mia would never admit that out loud.
Like her abductor, this vampire had bright blue eyes. They stared at her, humor filling his features quickly.
“Child, you will earn us the least amount today. You are nothing but skin and bones. Are all humans as malnourished as you?”
“I eat perfectly well, thank you very much.” Mia snapped. “What rubbish is all this anyway?”
The vampire tilted his head, assessing the sprightly yet frightened creature.
“This is the human market. We cross the dimensional void to remove humans from your world so that no one in this world knows what is going on. No fear of the authorities, no loved ones searching for you, no risk of getting caught. It is a system that has worked for hundreds of years. Go, child. Climb the stairs and accept your fate.”
“Not a child,” she grumbled as she passed the vampire.
Catching up to Ken, Mia climbed the stone staircase to another small room. On the other side of the area was an opening with a guard standing by it. Beyond the opening, Mia could see the stage where the other captives were being auctioned.
It was over before it had even started; the young woman struggled as she was dragged off the stage.
A vampire walked into the room, glancing around at the captives.
“They’re in the mood for the weak,” the vampire said, turning his beady eyes to Mia. His spindly finger pointed at her, then curled as he beckoned her to him. “Come here, you wretched creature. You will be our moneymaker this fine morning.”
Mia turned and looked at Ken, giving him a grim smile.
“Well, thanks for the company. Enjoy filling your pants later.”
Ken chuckled with a smug nod. “Will do.”
Mia walked over to the crooked vampire, then felt his cold, wrinkled grip wrapped around her arm as he dragged her through the door.
“Keep your mouth shut, stand still, and accept this cannot be changed.”
Even though she was dragged out onto the stage, there were no blinding lights to make her squint—just a sea of faces salivating at the sight of her.
Mia’s heart raced as she looked around the vast room. It was packed tight with vampires who were all bidding on her. The price kept going, and Mia wondered why they found her so enticing if they thought she was weak. Did it mean that she couldn’t resist as much as the others, or was it that she could be easily overpowered?
Mia looked at the room where the other captives were waiting; she could see Ken watching with his own fear. He was no small boy, but a young man who looked like he played football. Not overly muscular, he was fit and would probably give an unsuspecting vampire a hard time with little effort.
Mia jumped when the vampire whacked the gavel on the lectern, yelling out that she had been sold. Filled with fear, Mia turned to the corner of the stage, where a vampire approached. At the bottom of the stairs was a table, another vampire seated behind it with several guards protecting him.
The vampire was paying for Mia.
“When the payment master nods at us, you must go down the stairs and with your new owner. Do not give us any trouble, creature.”
Mia noted that a lot of money had been handed over to the payment master, who was tucking it into a metal box. He looked up and gave them a firm nod. It was done.
Her legs felt like jelly as she crossed the stage. Mia had no idea why she was so accepting of her fate, but she was. Of all the things that she didn’t know, there was one that she did. This was not Earth.
The vampire that now owned Mia took hold of her wrist and dragged her through the door. She winced at the bright light from the sun when they emerged from the dark building. Much to her annoyance, the vampire was not burning in the sunlight. Mia assumed that the rest of the vampire lore would be wrong as well, so she wasn’t about to start searching for a cross or holy water.
Mia quickly looked around, trying to scope out the land. It looked a lot like Earth, with green grass and verdant trees, stone paths, and dirt tracks. Mia mused that Ken would love to see this and would definitely be in his element when he saw the buildings were a lot like those in medieval England. She also thought it was a shame he wouldn’t live long enough to enjoy it.
Mia didn’t care for any of it, preferring to find a way home. It was going to be a difficult task considering that until today, she didn’t know that any other worlds exist aside from Earth, but she’d try. All she had to do was get away from the vampire.
Forced to wait at the edge of the path, Mia watched as a horse trotted down the dirt track. Behind it was a vampire in a small carriage, directing the horse to slow down.
“Get in, sit down, and keep your mouth shut. If you scream, the guards will take you down. If you scream during our journey, I will break your neck. Is that clear, human?”
Mia’s tone was heavy and resigned. She hated the fact that this was what she had to accept. Fighting back was not an option. She could struggle, but then she’d be dead faster.
Mia climbed up onto the carriage, sitting down before the vampire got angry at her again. He joined her, then took the reins. With a flick of the reins, the horse began to move, and Mia was on the road to death.
It seemed like half an hour later when the vampire turned into a small cut-out in the stone fence. A little cottage awaited them and, for Mia, an unknown future. Would she survive and be fed on as he pleased, or was it death for her?
Slowing the horse and carriage, the vampire climbed down and held out his hand to Mia. She reluctantly took it, feeling the soft, cool skin against her palm.
“Do not move.”
Mia stood in the shade of a large tree, watching the vampire as he freed the horse and pushed the carriage into the barn. The horse was moved into the paddock, and as the vampire shut the gate, Mia took in a deep breath.
She’d done as he’d demanded, with the hope he’d be pleased with it and grant her a little leniency. It was a long shot, but Mia thought it was worth it.
As the vampire closed the gap between them, she noted that there was still a heavy scowl on his face. Mia wanted to know why he was angry but didn’t ask, fearing the answer he would give.
Taking her wrist, Mia was dragged into the house. There were no conversations or discussions about life in this house. The door was barely shut when he lunged at Mia.
Her back hit the wall; dust plumed around her. Mia screamed as the vampire bit hard. He didn’t feed for long.
The vampire stepped back, frowning as the blood swirled around his mouth. His lips were coated in Mia’s blood.
Tears streamed down her cheeks as she waited for the second attack. It never came.
The vampire let out a gargled groan and began scratching at his tongue. His eyes rolled back as his body collapsed.
Mia stared at the lifeless body on the floor at her feet. Warily, she reached a foot out and gently kicked his leg. There was no response, so Mia lowered to her haunches and shook his body. There was still no life in the vampire.
“He’s dead,” she whispered.
Mia smiled until she remembered that she wasn’t on Earth anymore. Trapped in a foreign world, with no one she could trust or that she actually knew and no idea as to how she would get home again. She had no clue as to how she would cope in this world, but Mia knew that no matter what, she would give it her best shot. Come hell or high water, she would survive in this world until she figured out how to get home.