Matching smiles. Two boys and a girl. The boys stood behind the girl, who was sitting. Behind the boys, a middle-aged couple. The strong familial resemblance drew attention to itself. Again, Frank found himself gazing at the photo sitting atop his roommate’s desk and feeling envious.

Things would have been so much easier. So much struggle, so much hardship could have been avoided if only I had that.

A distinct knock at the door interrupted his thoughts.

“It’s open!”

The door opened and a familiarface—bespectacled and topped with an abundance of brown, curly hair—appeared. Frank recognized his friend Lucian.

“Got a delivery for you,” Lucian said. Frank noted the confidence with which his friend spoke English and thought that if not for his Romanian accent, Lucian could easily pass for American.

Frank drew his attention to the package Lucian held at his side. 

Lucian entered the room and sat the small package, neatly wrapped in brown paper and tied up with a string, on the night stand next to Frank’s bed.

From behind his textbook, Frank rolled his eyes.

“Now’s a bad time. I’ve really got to study.”

Lucian smiled. “Ivan said you’ll get three times your regular payment for this one. But it needs to be delivered tomorrow at seven-thirty p.m., exactly. He emphasized that.”

“Three times?”

“That’s what he said.”

“Hmm.” Frank thought of his mounting debt; studying abroad had not been cheap. “How far is it?

“It’s a three-hour train ride to the village of Orlat. He also said the house is impossible to miss.”

“Orlat? Never heard of it.” Looking downward, Frank rubbed his chin. “Alright. Let him know I’ve got it.”         

Lucian laughed. “Good man! And hey, the train ride will give you time to study.”

“Yep,” Frank replied flatly.


Bringg! Bringg! Zina picked up the phone.

“Admissions. This is Zina speaking,” she said.

“Yes,” a throaty voice replied, drawing the word out.

Zina suddenly felt tired. She blinked a few times and rubbed her eyes. She took great pride in both her work and her position of relative authority. Her instinct was to ignore this sudden fatigue until she could take a break and to maintain a professional poise until then. She just hoped the call would not last very long.

“What can I do for you, sir?” she asked and then stifled a yawn.

The odd voice on the other end replied, and with each uttered syllable, Zina’s tiredness grew closer to exhaustion. The voice stopped and whomever it came from hung up. Zina’s eyes widened and her breathing quickened as she somehow realized that whatever was causing her condition would not cease until she had done what the voice had commanded. She did not understand how this could be and lacked the energy to question or fight whatever force compelled her.  

As swiftly as she possibly could, given her current state, she got up, located the form for student Frank Dade, stamped it ‘Withdraw due to medical or personal issues,’ and then returned it to its filling cabinet. As soon as she sat back down, her fatigue lifted and any recollection of what had transpired left her just as quickly.


Frank entered a car near the middle of the train bound for Orlat and was astonished at what he saw. Carved paneling adorned the walls, lush curtains framed the windows, and ornate pendant lights hung from the ceiling.

He headed to his seat and found that it was quite comfortable. In accordance with its surroundings, it was amply padded and upholstered in a dark mahogany corduroy. This opulence struck Frank as odd considering the train’s lack of passengers; there was only one other person in the car with him. 

Sitting a few seats ahead, this person had sparse, chalky white hair.

The train began to move.

Frank brought his hematology textbook from out of his knapsack and picked up where he had left off. He spent the next hour reading about conditions of the blood. At about the fifth re-read sentence, he decided that it was time to rest his eyes.

He leaned back against the headrest, folded his arms, and quickly fell asleep.


Frank felt wakefulness return. He must have been more tired than he’d realized as it seemed as though he’d only gone to sleep moments before, but the bitter taste in his mouth told him he’d had a decent nap. He rubbed his eyes with his palms and yawned. He then opened his eyes and jumped at the sight of a glowering old man.

“Can I help you?” Frank asked in a tone that was equal parts surprise and annoyance.

“Don’t think I’m so easily replaced,” the old man said, pointing a crooked finger at Frank. “I’ve procured for thirty years, and I still have more years left in me!”

Before Frank could reply, the old man turned his back to him and returned to his seat near the front of the car, looking back only once to flash a quick scowl.

“Okay,” Frank said to himself, bewildered.

The last few minutes of the ride passed without further event, and as soon as the train came to a stop, Frank grabbed his things and departed, eager to make his delivery and return to campus as soon as possible.

Exiting the train, Frank took in just how small Orlat was. The village consisted of a handful of nondescript, one-story buildings on either side of a lone cobblestone road that began a couple yards away from and ran perpendicular to the railroad tracks. The road ran at a slight incline and terminated directly in front of a Victorian mansion, which was mostly violet and absolutely in need of a fresh coat of paint.

That must be the house.

The train whistle broke his assessment of the impressive, albeit past-its-prime, structure, and he turned to watch the train depart. As the train began to move, the old man came to a window and glared at Frank.

What an odd person.

With the package under his arm, Frank began to walk toward the mansion.

The sun was setting, and he felt grateful for the street lights that lit his path. As the sunlight diminished, he realized that these lights and a porch light at the mansion were the only electric lighting in view. Every window was dark.

Frank quickened his step.

As soon as he reached the mansion, he hurried up the porch and, after scanning for a buzzer and failing to find one, knocked on the door. 

A moment passed, and then the handle began to turn. The door creaked open to reveal the package’s recipient.

The recipient was a tall man with a bald head, large pointed ears, and sunken eyes that were a solid pale yellow except for the pupils. He wore a dirty and dark-brown suit that contrasted sharply with his ashen skin.

Frank shrieked and turned to run, but before he could take a single step, the man was upon him. The man gripped Frank’s left shoulder. Frank tried, in vain, to break free.

The man grinned. “My package,” he said, and his voice drew Frank into a stupor. He plucked the package from Frank’s right hand and carelessly tossed it aside.

“Home delivery is something I could really get used to,” he said before sinking his fangs deep into Frank’s neck.


A distinct knock at the door disrupted Gregory’s thoughts.

“It’s open,” he said.