Lugging several pounds of ice up the stairs for a dead girl is not an easy task; in fact, expect several bruises and a growing headache from thinking about the lecture a certain Sarge is going to give concerning his missing ice from behind the wet bar downstairs. I felt tired and suddenly the actual labor had nothing to do with it, not when there was a prediction about a former drill sergeant whirling around in my brain. With a final burst of energy, I landed on the topmost step and gasped for breath, feeling warms beads of slick sweat going down my back despite the cool temperatures our small town has been basking in lately. I made a mental note to snatch some of the frozen goods for myself to ice my shoulders; can't risk straining anything the way my baseball record is. Coach would have a fit.

I drew one more big breath and, dragging the bags with one hand, reached out to open my bedroom door which I had closed before leaving Sara alone. Knowing Sara, she would think it would be funny to climb out on my little sister's balcony and dance on the railing or something. She had done something similar on the rooftop when we were in middle school; she was suspended for a week but didn't mind because it had been in protest of the local pet shelter's euthanasia policy. Therefore, I had closed the door to be safe rather than sorry; and by sorry I meant having to explain why there was a dead body in my room to my family, town, and possibly the whole world. That was just a talk I wasn't ready to have. My thoughts were wandering so much that I didn't notice I was right in front of my room when the door bust open and nearly hit me in the face.

"There's a vampire at your window!" Sara hissed out in a whisper.

I stared at her for a few seconds and found that the only two words my brain could think of were: what now? I had no response ready for this situation. I stood there at the doorway and merely raised an eyebrow, aware that there was a pile of bagged ice slowly melting at my feet.

"Don't you give me that look!" She yelled-whispered again and punched me in the shoulder, causing me to grimace. It was like she knew that the one body part I had to protect at all costs (besides the most obvious) was the one she had to go for. "Go take a look for yourself if you don't believe me."

I sighed and was about to tell her there were no such things as vampires. However, a thought crossed my mind: if a dead body just came back from the grave, who was to say a blood sucking demon wasn't in the realm of possibility after that? I threw around some ideas in my head as I walked into my room. I doubted that garlic was going to deter a hungry monster, even if Hollywood said otherwise. Should I tackle the vamp head-on? I'm no football player; I got a hell of a pitch but no bulk to back me up in a fight. When there's a possible vampire at your window, you have to realize there isn't any precaution or procedure for that type of thing. Keeping this firmly in mind, I quickly squatted and reached under my bed, groping the dirty carpet until I felt the cold aluminum of my dented baseball bat. I pulled it out from underneath and took the all too familiar stance from baseball practice as I advanced towards the window.

I glanced behind my shoulder, glimpses of Sara's golden hair dancing in my peripheral vision. "You might wanna move back."

"Ugh. Ethan, you're not trying to be macho, are you? It's not a good look on you."

Rolling my eyes and ignoring her semi-sarcastic tone, I approached the window with as much carefully measured caution I presumed one needed to face a vampire with a baseball bat. With my forehead pressed against the cool window pane, I scanned the dark scene before me: the wind toying with the swing set in the backyard, the old oak standing guard nearby, and no vampire in sight. I internally thanked my lucky stars that I didn't have to die by fangs tonight.

I sighed in relief and turned from the window and back to her. Her big blue eyes stared back at me, wide in concern and fear. Her hands were clasped together at her heart and for a split second I forgot she couldn't feel her heart beating. Actually, she looked more alive than I had ever seen her. I couldn't help but notice that although she was missing a rosy blush at her cheekbones, she managed to look very delicate, very frail. Her blue lips were chapped but pouty; had I ever noticed that before? I shook my head, trying to clear all the brain fog that had suddenly sprung up and struck me dumb. "Sara-"

She gasped and pointed to the window, her other hand flat to her chest in an expression of fright. "It's right there! It's beady little eyes are aimed straight at my throat!"

I tightened my grip on the bat and was about to swing at the window when Sara's words processed from my ears to my neurons. "It wouldn't matter if it came at your throat; you're dead."

Sara hopped on her tiptoes, squealing and wringing her wrists. "Would you forget about my situation and kill the vampire already?!"

I rolled my eyes and focused on my mission: kill the demon. I took a warm up breath and turned, surprised to come face to face with a pair of bright amber eyes staring back at me.

The impulse to swing was strong but I resisted when my sense of familiarity hit. I laughed as I realized who it was and tossed the heavy bat to the side, much to Sara's horror.

"Ethan, you maniac!" She yelped. "Don't give up on life yet! You're so young!"

I shook my head and unlatched the lock on the window. "It's not a vampire, Sara, trust me." I lifted the glass and invited the cold breeze in, instant goosebump weather filling my small room. A fat furry being slunk into my arms and shivered, trying to soak up some of my body heat for itself. I let it loose on the fluffy covers of my bed which it immediately sunk its claws into and purred happily. I slammed the window shut and locked it, in case a real vampire showed up. I just can't put it past the universe to not throw crazy curve balls my way anymore.

"Happy?" I turned back to Sara, whom had had her eyes closed the whole time. "Sara, did you see your so called vampire?"

"I can't." She whispered. "It'll steal my soul."

"That's a camera myth, not vampire."

"Are you sure? I like my soul. It smells like strawberries."

"I'm sure."

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Okay. I'll trust you, Ethan. But if I end up strawberry-less, you'll never hear the end of it."

"I'm fearing for my life as we speak." I said dryly.

Sara slowly lifted her left eyelid to sneak a peek at the window. "Where is it?"

"On the bed, purring." I answered.

Her face had 'you're crazy' written all over it till she looked at my bed; then her face lit up like a kid on Christmas morning with a brand new game system under the tree. "Kitty!" Sara promptly skipped over to where Peaches was now making herself comfortable with my freshly washed pillowcovers. I was probably going to choke on cat hair tonight. Great. Then again, I'm about to go to bed with a dead girl in my bathroom. A few stray cat hairs really are the least of my worries right now.

Sara's pale blue fingers stroked Peaches' ears, eliciting happy cat noises from the orange lump. "What's her name?"

I headed back for the bags at the doorway. "Peaches." I grunted while pulling the ice inside and shutting the door with a soft kick.

She giggled and continued to shower Peaches with affection. "Well, she certainly is very sweet." Plump paws swung in the air at Sara's wiggling fingers. "Oh my Cthulu, she is the cutest fatty ever."

"Just be careful not to overstimulate her," I said. "She gets grouchy when people play with her too much." I finally made it to the bathroom! I almost wanted to high five myself from excitement. I just had to pour this ice in the tub and I could call it a night. A weird and insane night but a night nonetheless; my whole being screamed for rest.

I had just opened the first bag of ice and was about to start pouring when Sara yelled back from the next room. "Careful not to what?"



A squeal, an angry meow, and a loud crack echoed through the room, followed by a furious pounding of paws on carpet. and Peaches ran out the door and down the stairs with Sara's right hand.

Sara looked down at her right arm and I followed her line of vision. There was no blood, just a trail of thick, cream-colored goo slowly oozing out. The smell of meat, like that of a fresh kill at a butcher shop, permeated the room. My stomach flipped uneasily as I realized the aroma was coming from Sara.

"You should fill the bathtub with ice and get in." I immediately walked to the door, eager to get away all of a sudden. "I'll get your hand. Peaches is probably hiding under the couch in the den."

Sara's reply was a pregnant pause, followed by a quiet and neutral "Okay."

I didn't need to be a mind reader to know that Sara had seen my disgust at what she had become written all over my face. An uncomfortable lump rode its way down my esophagus and into my stomach, content to make itself quite at home. I shook off the feeling and took the stairs two at a time; I could apologize after I caught the furry hand thief. I made it to the bottom of the staircase and did a quick person inventory. Judging by the distinct Journey music softly flowing from the basement, Mom was doing laundry. She could be down there for a while. I stepped into our kitchen, a small, neutral-colored square barely big enough for the four of us at dinner time. The window in front of the sink overlooked the backyard, which Lily was currently pulling the dandelions from and setting them onto the deck for who knows what reason. Figuring it was safe, I made my way past the carpeted living room, Mom and Sarge's room, and down the basement stairs towards the den once more. This was Peaches' favorite spot in the summer because the den was nice and cool due to being underground. Also, the den had a big comfy couch that no one but Sarge was allowed to sit in but Peaches knew to take advantage of it when he was out with his buddies.

"Peaches," I called, turning on the light switch. "Come here you demon cat.."

Light bathed the dim space and gave the big screen T.V. a glare. The floor was a dark wood, making it a perfect marker to judge if Peaches was here or not; her claws clicked across the floor when she walked. I gave the wet bar in the corner a quick check, even looking in the cabinets. No luck. I got down on my knees and did a look around under the couch. Sure enough, a pair of amber eyes stared back at me.

"Peaches, get out of there." She meowed in response and I heard her gnaw on something. I felt a sickened chill run up my spine at the realization that that something was Sara's hand. I had a horrible thought float into my head: if Peaches eats some of Sara's hand, will she turn into whatever Sara is? I began to break out into a cold sweat and swung under the couch in an attempt to wrench the hand away. "No, Peaches! Stop eating human flesh!"

A growl, a sharp sting on my hand, and quick clicks blurred together. Peaches hadn't been happy about my little rescue mission and scratched me as deeply as she could before running off. I ran my hand under some cold water at the wet bar sink and ran up the stairs after the little monster. I was panting by the time I was at the top, unusual for me after only a little spurt of speed. I must be exhausted, mentally and physically. I did just agree to house a dead girl for an unspecified amount of time only to chase her hand moments after. Things make a lot of sense when put into perspective.

I took a deep breath and glanced around as I walked through the house. The radio was still on in the laundry room and Lily had moved on to the neighbor's yard to play with the little girl next door. No sign of Peaches, however. I raked my hands through my hair, desperation beginning to set in. Just as I was about to have a break down, I heard Sarge's car pull up into the driveway. My heart crawled up in my throat and then crashed into my lungs. Mom and Lily had little chance of running into Peaches; the little furball wasn't too fond with girls for some reason. Unfortunately, she liked me and she loved Sarge. Peaches loves to greet him by rubbing against his legs when he walks through the door. I couldn't even imagine the look on his face if she did that with a deceased human hand, however.

I ran into the living room, toward the front door in a last ditch attempt to distract Sarge but it was too late. He beat me to it and was immediately greeted by Peaches who ran out from under the couch, still clutching Sara's hand in her mouth. I stood there, frozen and with my mouth agape. Sarge hadn't looked down at Peaches and noticed my shocked expression.

"What's wrong with you, dipshit?" Sarge wasn't the most pleasant person to be around. I shook my head and stared at him instead, glancing at Peaches every split second and hoping she would scram soon. Maybe he wouldn't notice at all..? "Where's your mom?" He grunted, holding a greasy newspaper.

"Laundry room." I muttered.

He unzipped his brown jacket, grabbed the lighter out of the pocket, and threw it on the couch. "Don't you got some homework to do or something?"

I shrugged my shoulders on purpose. I wanted to irritate him like he did me. I found everything about him annoying; his raspy smoker's voice, his standard Army buzz cut, his plain clothes, the way he mocked me whenever I moped about losing a game to a rival school.. the list goes on. My blase reaction inspired pure rage within him and I silently chalked up a win on my side on my mental chalkboard. His face turned red and he was just about to let me have it when it happened.

Sarge got so mad that the newspaper he'd been holding slipped out of his grip and near his feet. He crouched, snatched it from the ground, gave Peaches a quick pet and was about to storm out of the room when he did a quick double take at what Peaches was chomping on. Time stopped and I couldn't breathe as I watched Sarge's eyes almost pop out of his skull. Finally, he reacted.

"Mariam!" He shouted for Mom. "Bring me my medication! I'm having a flashback!" Sarge ran into the kitchen and down the stairs into the laundry room. I heard him say, "I just saw the fucking cat holding a human hand!"