Izzy Gaia had her life mapped out. She graduated from Smith College in the spring, and was spending the summer at home in Warwick Fall. In September, she would begin law school. After three years in law school, she would take and pass her bar, and then work for one of the large corporate law firms in New York City. It would mean having to work hard, but she would be able to live the life she wanted and even take care of her parents. They had sacrificed to put her through school and she would be return the favor.
She should have known better.
That summer, she was earning money working at Cuppa Joe’s coffee shop. Although she preferred the morning shift, her boss had talked her into working that evening.
She was alone in the shop, about an hour before closing, when the door opened. In walked a short man in a three-piece suit.
“Good evening!” She greeted him with the phoney smiled she used on customers. “How can I help you?”
He looked up at her. He had ice blue eyes the size of golf balls. His pupils were slits.
“Those are interesting contacts.”
He blinked slowly. “You smell good. Different. I like different”
The hair on the back of her neck stood on end. “That’s just the coffee. You want a cup?” She casually picked up the bat Joe kept on a shelf under the counter.
“What are you?” He asked.
He sniffed. “No. Something more.”
“If you don’t order something, you have to leave.”
“My pet died today.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I need a new pet.” He held up a leather collar and metal chain that were too large for a dog.
She decided the guy was high on something. His skin had a sickly green tinge to it. “Try the pound. We only have coffee and baked goods.”
“Are you alone?”
“No.” She lied. Her heart felt like it was trying to burst out of her body.
He tilted his head and smirked. “Yes.”
Why didn’t she listen to her mother and take those self-defense classes? Her grip tightened on the bat. She might not know karate, but she had played soft ball and had a mean swing. “Get out.”
He smiled at her.
She gaped. His teeth were all canines. “What dentist would do that?” She blurted, sure it violated some ethic clause.
“You don’t know what I am, or what you are, do you?”
“I’m a human and you’re a freak.”
“You’re a witch.” He walked around the counter.
“Hey, employees only, buddy!” She scrambled over the counter. She would need the extra room to get a good swing in.
He calmly turned around and backtracked.
His slow steady movements reminded her of a panther stalking his prey. Unlike a panther, he was enjoying himself. “Are you going to run? Please run. I’ll even give you a head start.”
Something told her that running would be a mistake. “I’m good, thanks.”
He rubbed his hands together as he steadily made his way towards her. “You’re more fun than my last pet.”
“I’m not your pet.”
“You will be. And a witch to boot.”
“Trust me, buddy, if I were a witch I’d turn you into a toad.”
He lunged at her. She took a swing and connected with his head. The wooden bat split in two and her arm hurt, but he went down.
She considered checking for a pulse, but had seen enough horror movies to know how that ended. Giving his supine form a wide berth, she made her way to the phone.
Before she reached her destination, he sprung to his feet, shaking a finger at her as if she were a naughty child. “That wasn’t very nice.”
“How are you still alive?”
He started stalking her again.
She reached behind her for a chair, hoping she would have better luck this time. She cursed her boss for guilting her into taking the evening shift.
As she prepared herself for the next round, the door opened. In walked the largest man she had ever seen in person. He had a determined look in his eyes and a sword in his hand.
Her attacker slowly turned around, sure that he would be able to handle any intrusion.
Without a word, without even waiting for the druggie to fully face him, her rescuer swung the sword, decapitating the smaller man.
Green goo sprayed everywhere, even on Izzy. She stood, shocked, staring at the body.
“Piece of advice, ghouls are nasty pieces of work. Don’t waste time playing with them, witch.” With those words, he turned walked out.
“Thank you!” She called out after him. “And I’m not a witch.”
The rest of the night was a blur. She ran behind the counter and called her boss. She then called the police. She wondered what she was going to say when they arrived. She couldn’t tell them what really happened, or even explain the dead ghoul – although it was clear he wasn’t a human. That got her thinking. If ghouls were real, it was possible she was a witch. Why hadn’t anyone mentioned it before? The only thing she knew for sure that night was the café was a mess and she wasn’t getting paid enough to clean it up.