Todd was hoping that Hayden was still around and hadn’t snuck off into the night as he drove past the thick bushes and massive trees that outlined Hayden’s remote plot of land. He wasn’t too eager to face Hayden on his home turf. He glanced across at Sam, who seemed to be having his own doubts—judging by the amount of squirming he was doing in his seat. They drove up to the house that stood silently waiting for them.
A warm wind was rustling through the leaves of the tall trees that shrouded the bleak house. Low-hanging limbs swiped at their legs with their long, skinny fingers as they walked up the gravel path. The wind blew leaves in circles around their feet, trying to slow their ascent up the steep stairs. They crunched through the fallen leaves to reach the front door.
Todd couldn’t locate a bell, so he rapped loudly with his knuckles. There was no answer. The door began to drift open on its own. A long, dark hallway gradually came into view. Rare masterpieces lined both walls, starkly illuminated against the muted walls by bright spotlights suspended from high above.
The deafening silence felt alive and heavy—as if someone was there with them waiting, but not yet willing to reveal himself. A cold draft hit them. In the translucent stream of air, Todd could see shadowy forms fighting against each other, struggling to break free. “Are those vampires caught in the wind?” asked Todd, beginning to regret his decision to enter the house without sufficient back-up. “Did you notice those strange forms floating in the air?”
He continued, “I’ve never seen anything like that before.” Not hearing a response from Sam, he tried to downplay his concern a little. “It could have been just an elaborate illusion.”
When Sam still didn’t respond, Todd turned around and found him standing as still as a statue, eying the flow of air with fear in his eyes. “Sam? Are you still with me?” Sam didn’t answer or move a muscle.
Todd knew that he had to continue on with the search—with or without Sam. He called out Hayden’s name, his voice echoing down the empty corridor. Still no one answered.
He followed the faintly lit hallway until its end, where it opened onto a huge oval-shaped ballroom. He stood in the center of the room in the bright light cast by the enormous crystal chandelier. The light reflecting from the hanging crystals shot colorful prisms of light across the multitude of artwork all around him. Hundreds of statues by eminent artists were haphazardly scattered about the shiny marble floor; the walls were decorated with priceless paintings in massive frames.
He wandered through the ballroom and recognized Rembrandts, Picassos, and even Renoirs, filling every available space on the gilded walls. At the back of the room, he noticed a circular staircase with elaborate gold railings, leading up through the ceiling to the floor above.
“There are no other rooms on the main floor, so we might as well check upstairs.” Surprised to hear Sam’s voice, Todd spun around to find him standing right behind him. Todd slowly nodded his head in agreement, even though he suspected that this was what Hayden expected them to do next. It was almost if Hayden had put out a sign that read: “Stupid human vampires! Come up my staircase at your own risk!”
As soon as they began to climb the stairs, the air turned colder and more frigid.
Now, let the games begin.
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