By 2:30 PM on Saturday afternoon, the cross-country bus from Los Angeles had been on the road for two and a half hours. We passengers had spent the last 30 minutes riding past patches of wild cactus, along a two-lane asphalt road through the arid Southern California countryside. Now our trip was almost over. We were approaching Sangreville.
Everything's just too strange, I, 16 year old Elaine Harris thought, as I sat beside a window on the right side of the vehicle. My mother Beth was seated beside me.
There were heat-wave mirage puddles on the road ahead. You never see that in early February on the roads back on Long Island. I was wearing shorts and a halter-top. The air-conditioning had broken down, so I was hot and sweating, in early February.
We continued along the road, which made a long, round, downward left turn, giving us passengers a panoramic view of the valley, with the community to where my mother and I were headed, more than a thousand feet below us to the left.
We drove past a large sign, beside a gravel pathway going upward on our right. The sign stated "Demons' Gateway".
I looked up the pathway to the side of a cliff, about a hundred feet above us. There I saw a gigantic cave entrance in the side of a white, limestone cliff. The walls of the cave entrance were shaped like an upside down, outward curving triangle, rising from a very narrow base, to a wide, upward curved ceiling.
Back beside the road, next to the first sign, another sign displayed the photo of an idol, in the form of a woman with a pair of outspread bat-like wings, standing with her arms spread out beside her.
Above her were the words, "Vampirania: To be Worshiped with Fear and Trembling".
I actually felt myself tremble, and my stomach felt queasy for a moment. I quickly looked away from the sign.
My mother said, "Get away from us Satan, and stay away from all of us! The Lord rebuke you! In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."
My trembling and queasiness stopped.
The bus continued its descent, and quickly reached the outskirts of the town, driving past a "Welcome to Sangreville" sign. The local Burger King franchise stood on the opposite side of the road.
That sign, I thought, should say "Welcome to Vampire Town". That is this town's claim to fame.
The bus continued on its way, and we were soon moving along Sangreville's Main Street, passing the local Movie Theater, and a nightclub called "The Bouncing Casket", among many small shops. A short distance further, along the next block, we passed a large shop with a sign above the door identifying the establishment as the "Dark Arts R Us" shop.
This town, I thought, looks just the same as the other small Southern California towns we've just driven through. Without the tropical foliage it would look like any small town, anywhere. These people moving along the sidewalks outside the shops look and dress no different than people you'd see in any other town, or city.
I wondered, how do the "Not entirely human" residents I've heard of; the ones who "...go bump in night" look, and if they really are as bad as all the stories you hear? What's even more important is how do we deal with them?
I don't want to have to deal with them! I raged silently. I don't want to have to deal with any of this! But what I do or don't want doesn't matter. I'd prayed about it. I'd asked God to keep us in Greenfield, so I could stay with my boyfriend Larry, but now we were here and I'll probably never see him again.
God's ignoring me, I thought. I haven't one good reason to expect Him to do otherwise.
About a month earlier back in Greenfield, during the first week in January, a few hours after classes were dismissed, I'd been at home, seated at the desk in my room, using my lap top computer to check out what was on the local High School's students' website. I'd logged on to a page titled "No Longer a Virgin." I scanned down the page, seeing the names and photos of a very large majority of my classmates.
Virgins, I thought, are becoming a quickly diminishing minority in the Junior Class of Greenfield High. Should I add my name to this list? I am finally qualified. Larry and I have done it, and we've both enjoyed it.
"Well it's about time Harris." My friend Grace had told me earlier that day. "Why not add your name to the list, and make it official?"
"I don't know." I spoke with uneasiness. "Some of the kids on that web page are describing all the dirty details. I'd feel very uncomfortable if I did that, and so would Larry."
"I don't know about that." Grace told me, "He's already added his name. He wrote, 'Elaine Harris has a great (deleted) and it's all mine'."
"Oh?" I forced a smile, "I suppose that is a compliment, even if it's the dirty kind, and I'm glad to know he feels that way; but I'd still feel uncomfortable if I wrote anything like that about his (deleted)."
"No descriptions are necessary. All you've got to write is 'I've done it'. That's what I did."
Okay. I thought, as I sat by my home computer. I'll identify myself as another one, among the rapidly increasing number of Greenfield High's Junior Class girls who've (deleted), but without any dirty details. I'll keep Larry's private parts all to myself.
"Elaine!" My mother's voice came through the door. "It's time to eat!"
"Be right there Mom!"
I returned my attention to the web page, and added "Elaine Harris" to the list.
Then I wrote the words, "Responsibly practicing safe sex". I did not include any descriptions; but I did add a photo of my fully clothed self with a satisfied smile on my lips.
That's all that's necessary. I thought, and uploaded my entry onto the students' web page.
At the dining room table, my mother and I sat down to a dinner of macaroni with meatballs, sausages and tomato sauce, along with onions and garlic.
Two weeks earlier, my father David Harris had been killed in a traffic accident. I don't want to say any more about that. Repeating any of the details is just too difficult for me.
My mother worked as an office secretary at Greenfield High School, but without my father's income, things were going to be very difficult for the two of us alone. My mother was looking around for a better paying job. I thought I should be getting one myself for after school, but she didn't want me doing anything that might interfere with my studies.
This evening, when the meal was finished, she made an announcement.
"Elaine. Today I received a phone call from your Aunt Josephine. She's a member of the Sangreville California School Board. She told me that in about a month, there will be a job opening at the local High School. She says it comes with a much better salary. She's arranged to have the position kept open for me, if I want it."
I asked, "There's a job for you in Sangreville, California? 'Vampire Town'?"
"I asked your Aunt Josephine about all those stories you hear. She says they are greatly exaggerated. I told her that I'll accept the position."
"You'll accept the position?" I thought of Larry. "We're gonna be moving? To Vampire Town?"
"That's right." She told me, "People in the Town Government are trying to work out an agreement, between the live people and the vampires, which they hope will assure that everyone there, both the living and undead, will be reasonably safe. That will include you and I."
That night I prayed to the Lord.
"What's going on?" I asked, "You've got my Mom and me going to Sangreville, California of all places? 'Vampire Town'? It's supposed to be another Sodom and Gomorrah. Are you punishing me for doing it with Larry? But we're being responsible, and practicing safe sex. Every other girl in my school does it with her boyfriend, but you're not sending any of them off to Hell Town!"
While we remained in Greenfield, I didn't pray to Him again.
When the bus finally arrived at the Sangreville Bus Station that Saturday afternoon, both my Aunt Josephine and my Cousin Diana Sheridan were waiting to greet us. As we loaded our bags into their car's trunk, I noticed that my Cousin Diana, who was my age, had a pair of anti-biotic bandages on her neck.
They drove us away from the Bus Station, going through downtown Sangreville, to their home in a residential neighborhood, on a street named Kennedy Drive. It was a two-story house with a neatly trimmed lawn and front porch.
As soon as we arrived, we took our bags up to the rooms where we'd be staying as guests, until we found a place of our own to live.
After my mother and I unpacked, we went back downstairs and sat outside on the porch swing with my Cousin Diana and Aunt Josephine. As we were talking and pleasantly reminiscing, my mother spoke to my cousin.
"Tell me Diana. What happened to your neck?"
She shrugged. "It's just a hickey. I got it from a boy I was making out with last night."
Aunt Josephine spoke with a smirking tone. "My daughter Diana here's been making out and getting hickeys regularly for the past few months." She chuckled, "And she actually expects people to believe that she's still a virgin."
Diana scowled with annoyance. "No I don't Mom! I am a normal, healthy 16-year-old girl who effs; like most 16 year old girls who aren't losers! And I'd rather be known as a skanky slut, than as a loser. I'm sure Cousin Elaine here was effing with boys regularly back on Long Island. You were, weren't you Elaine?"
I nodded and said, "I wasn't a loser or a skanky slut. I only did it with my boyfriend, and we always practiced safe sex. What every girl should be doing, while engaging in..."
Diana went on, "That's what I do. That's what every girl at school does; and that's something that the School Board and the parents of all us skanky sluts approve."
My Aunt Josephine then told me, "Be careful with the boys you'll be doing it with here Elaine. It's obvious that they can be kind of rough."
Now my mother said, with an equally smirking tone, "Well, like my daughter Elaine just admitted, she was doing it with her boyfriend, regularly and safely for the past two months, right up until the night before we left; but he was always considerate enough to never give her a hickey."
I said, "Considerate?"
"Well I liked knowing that my daughter was doing it with a gentleman. I hope the boys who you'll be doing it with here, will be just as considerate."
"Mom." I told her, "He wrote on a student's website 'Elaine Harris has a great (deleted), and it's all mine'. Just how considerate is that?"
Aunt Josephine said, "I've read similar comments about both my daughters, on more than one local students' website. In this town, those kind of comments are regarded as compliments."
Diana shrugged, "The boys you'll be dating here are no different than they were back where you were living Elaine, whether your dates are alive or undead."
"Undead?" I asked, "You date vampires?"
She nodded, "That's how I got this hicky. Me and Paula'll talk to you about it later Elaine."