It was a reckless and foolish decision, but I did it anyways.
I went to Count Straud’s dinner party. You know, the vampire who wanted to jealously kill me six months ago.
I was only there to see my ex-roommate Zell, who, for unknown reasons, had moved back in with his abusive master. I didn’t understand why, but I had a bad gut feeling about it.
Zell was greeting guests at the door, and he threw his head back with a stilted laugh when he saw me. “Benji, I thought I told you to shove off!” But there was something weird about his voice, and his eyes were dead and hollow.
“Zell,” I began. “Can we, like, talk? It’s been six months since I last saw you, and I feel like I never got the chance to-“
Zell brusquely interrupted me. “-seriously Benji, get ou-“
But then he doubled over before he could finish his thought.
I looked at the ground, my heart sinking. “Right, sorry. I get it, you don’t want to see me, but I just really wanted to- uh, Zell?” Zell was staring at me blankly.
“I just…” I paused. “I owe you an apology. To start, I should’ve never run out on you like th-“
“Actually, you leaving was the best thing that ever happened to me!” Zell suddenly shouted. “Because it meant I never had to see your ugly face again!”
“What?” I said, my voice cracking. It felt like the life had suddenly drained out of me.
“Things are so much better without you, Benji,” Zell kept yelling. “You’re awkward, you’re boring, and you make everyone around you uncomfortable all the time. I’m glad I never have to deal with you or your depressing anxiety ever again!”
“Zell,” I barely managed to whisper. “Is that really what you think of me?”
But he only laughed.
Zell had every right to be mad, but this one cut deep.
There was one weird feeling I couldn’t shake, though. I’d never heard Zell yell like that before- like he was a whole different person. So even though Zell made it clear he never wanted to see me again, I was resolved to stay at the party until I got some answers. Or at least some kind of closure.
“Caleb,” I said to our former neighbor. “Does something about Zell seem off to you? He was yelling at me earlier.”
But he only shrugged. “If I recall correctly, you abandoned him in a trailer in the middle of the desert, didn’t you? I’d be pissed off if I were him.”
So maybe Zell really did hate me. Where was he, anyways? I couldn’t see him, but I heard faint retching coming from behind a closed door somewhere…
Zell was heaving in the bathroom, hand clamped to his mouth, panicking.
“Oh… god… what did I…” he stammered to himself. “What… did I say… to Benji?” His mind was a fog and he wasn’t thinking straight. But for a brief moment, he had a lucid thought, and he stumbled out to find the Count.
“Vlad…” Zell rasped. “You promised… not to go after Benji…”
“And I haven’t,” The Count curled his lips into a sneer. “I didn’t go after Benji, Benji came to us. And you’re the one saying those hateful things to him.”
“No, stop…” Zell said weakly. “I know… it’s you…”
The Count pulled Zell aside onto the love seat.
“My sweet Zell,” he said. “You know I’m doing all this for you-“
“-don’t.. touch me… Vlad…”
The Count exhaled sharply. “All right Zell, this is what will happen. Benji is not to leave the party tonight, and you will help me trap him here, until I figure out the best way to aptly punish and dispose of him…”
“…no… I won’t…”
“Oh, but you will, child. You will hold Benji captive.” And his eyes glowed a demonic blue as they bored into Zell’s. He waved his claws, and Zell fell to his knees.
I mulled over the night’s events in my mind.
Every time I tried to talk to Zell, he would either tell me to go away or yell insults. Whether or not I deserved it, it wasn’t like my ex-roommate to yell at people. I decided, I didn’t care what anyone else thought. I knew something was wrong with Zell.
But perhaps my realization came too late,
-because suddenly everything went black.
“Oh Ze-ell,” called out the Count in an almost giddy tone. “Lock him up.”