After a few nights in to work on her newest blog post, Calista finally emerged from her house to explore another venue. It was yet another karaoke bar – they seemed to be popular in her weird town – and she was actually looking forward to getting out and socializing. This bar was an instant hit: Calista found many women there who were happy to share their fashion opinions, talk about their favorite stores and brands and even pose for some pictures, allowing Calista to share them on her website. One woman claimed she saw Calista a few nights before at the love festival, and Calista turned bright red. “Oh, that was a mistake. Such a traumatizing experience. I met the guru,” she spoke, and the woman almost jumped backward in surprise. “You met the guru? No one meets the guru. He must have sensed you or something,” she replied. Calista tried to stop herself from shaking. “Sensed me? What do you mean?” she asked, not sure if she really wanted to know the answer. The lady shivered. “Calista, there is magic in this town. I’m sure you’ve noticed. A lot of weird things happen here, and they’re not even all linked with the guru,” she confessed.

Calista pushed for more details, but the woman quickly found an excuse to run off, leaving Calista without answers. She wandered over to the bar to get a drink, and settled next to a lonely looking woman who didn’t seem interested in fashion, but who appeared friendly nontheless. Calista smiled. “Lots of mystery in this town, huh?” she said, hoping to immediately steer the conversation to where it left off with the lady she was previously speaking to. The woman giggled and nodded. “Oh, you have no idea. You’re new here, aren’t you?” she responded, as the bartender took their drink orders. Calista nodded. The lady smiled mysteriously. “There’s mystery, magic, magical creatures… this place has it all. The rumors you’ll hear are all true, I can confirm it. I know it sounds unreal, but this entire city is stuck in some sort of weird, spiritual and magical energy,” she explained. Is she high? wondered Calista, trying not to stare at the woman too awkwardly.

The woman frowned. “A lot of rumors go around here. I sound insane, I know, but you should believe me. This town is… well, it’s haunted. It’s full of strange occurrences. There’s some good, some evil, some in between. And there are creatures. They hide in the dark and no matter what others tell you, no matter how hard they try to convince you otherwise, trust me, they exist,” she insisted. Calista had no clue how to respond or react; she sincerely thought this woman was too drunk or on too many drugs to know what she was talking about. Soon enough, after downing her drink in just a few gulps, the woman left without another word, leaving Calista alone to relax with her thoughts. What is with some of these people? Why are they so convinced that magic exists? She was still freaked about her encounter with the guru, and though she decided that it was all random coincidence, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something felt off – and a little too real.

She tried to return her focus to her fashion, and waited for someone else to take the empty seat next to her. A stylish looking man arrived, sat down in silence and waved at the bartender. He seems fashionable, thought Calista, as she slowly turned her body toward the man, ready to introduce herself.
The man warmly responded to Calista’s introduction and happily answered her questions. He told her about the best stores for men, the hottest trends and his favorite places to hang out with friends. He called himself “metrosexual”, was in between relationships and welcomed Calista to town. “You seem too normal to live here though, I’ll admit,” he stated a little while later, as Calista ordered her second drink. Oh no, not another one who thinks this place is haunted.

She decided to dig deeper. This man, up until moments ago, seemed perfectly sane and not ready to jump into a conversation about the paranormal; what would change that? “What do you mean by too normal?” she questioned, trying not to sound impolite or offended. The man shrugged. “Well, you don’t appear to be obsessed with magic and magical creatures, for one. Nor do you seem to be a magical creature,” he replied simply. His words came out of his mouth so easily that Calista felt confused. How does he even consider himself normal? She frowned. “I am most definitely not a creature of any kind. Those don’t exist. Why would people be obsessed with things that don’t exist?” she wondered, sipping on her drink. The man looked over at her and raised his eyebrows. “Calista, you told me you live in Forgotten Hollow, correct?” he asked quickly. She nodded. “That place is full of creatures. Haven’t you noticed? There’s a whole bunch of weirdness going in that neighborhood,” added the man.

Calista rolled her eyes. “I haven’t seen or encountered a single creature. Weirdos and strange people, sure, but they are all over this town,” she claimed, staring at the man. He blinked. “And you never thought, not even once, that those weirdos could actually be creatures? What do you think made them so weird?” he interrogated. Calista chuckled. This conversation is what’s weird; this is getting absurd! “Look, creatures aren’t real. My wine, right here, in my hand, is real. I am real, you are real. But creatures? No. I think you’re confused, and so are many people in this town. That crazy guru included,” she argued, seriously fed up with being told lies. The man suddenly smiled at her words. “What? Why the hell are you smiling?” she yelled.

The man’s smile only deepened. “You’ll understand soon enough, Calista. You call us all weird and strange, but wait until you realize that we’re all right. You’ll see,” he clarified. Calista laughed, not sure if the man’s words were a threat or just a way of warning her of what was to come. “Oh, sure, and just what will I see?” she demanded, prepared to hear about scary monsters that walk around at night. The man’s smile disappeared. “Vampires. The creatures that roam around in Sim City are vampires, Calista. Mysterious, blood-sucking fiends, some are secretive and keep to themselves, and some… are a little more on the evil side. Luckily, we don’t encounter the latter so much,” he admits. Calista put her hand over her mouth to stop her laugh from being too loud.

Vampires? You mean, like the ones in books and movies? Those things that drink blood and kill people, and we have to use crosses and garlic to eliminate them?” she asked once she had her laughing under control. The man stood up and went behind the bar, approaching the bartender as he whispered something in his ear. The bartender nodded and reached for something underneath the bar. It was a strange, purple bottle of something called “plasma”. “That is what the ‘good’ vampires drink. Ask any bartender in town, they’ll show you. There are only a handful, but they do exist,” explained the man. Calista stared at the bottle, and her face turned to fear.

The man appeared worried, seeing Calista’s fearful face. “You have every reason to be worried, but at the same time, you shouldn’t show it so much. They are all around, but they won’t harm you without warning. Nor will they drink from you without your consent. You should probably do some serious reading about vampires, Calista,” he advised, as the bartender nodded discreetly. Calista gulped. She wasn’t sure if she could believe these men, yet something in the tone of their voice felt real. “You guys are pranking me, right? Let’s fool the new girl in town into thinking there are vampires in town, see how she reacts? Gonna film it and put it online or something? I’m not that gullible,” she exclaimed, a little bit of anger creeping into her voice. The man and the bartender exchanged a glance. “We’re not trying to trick you. This is no joke. Vampires exist, Calista,” spoke the man in a serious tone.

Calista looked between the two men and gulped again. Why do I feel like they’re not lying? And why do I suddenly feel like the guru wasn’t lying either? She blinked. “So, uh, where can I find some good and legitimate books about vampires?” she asked quietly, hoping no one overheard her. The man wrote down the name of the local library and a specific librarian to request. “That, or you can order them online, too. Whichever you feel more comfortable with,” he spoke as he handed her the piece of paper he wrote on. The bartender then leaned in slowly and stared at Calista. “You can read, but honestly, the best way to understand a vampire is to speak with one. Meet one for yourself,” he whispered. Calista leaned in as well, getting closer. “And just how do I do that? I don’t know how to recognize them,” she whispered back. The bartender raised his eyebrows. “You live in Forgotten Hollow. Your neighbors are vampires,” he said softly, as he walked away to serve other customers, leaving Calista alone with her jaw dropping. I live next door to vampires? And I am only finding this out now?