The time is six forty-five, and your dad is due home any minute now. He’s always been a person that values punctuality. Not that there’s a particular time he has to come home; that’d be ridiculous. Still, he doesn’t like to go out for a long time without telling you. He still treats you like you’re thirteen.
“You nervous?” you ask Karkat.
His neck snaps up and he looks at you. His knuckles are fifty shades lighter than his normal skin tone – they’re clenching the armrests of the armchair so tight it’s almost like the skin on his hands will rip. It looks slightly comedic, what with Karkat being so small and all. The chair is too big for him.
“No,” Karkat replies. “I haven’t got anything to be scared of.”
He doesn’t sound sure about that.
“Imagine if he is normal, though,” you muse. “That’d be…awkward. Or something.”
“If he turns out to be normal, I’ll use this fucking stake on you,” he threatens, but it’s a bluff, as always.
You shrug. “Maybe he’s not a vampire. I mean, since when could vampires fuck with your head?”
Karkat glares at you. “You better not be having second thoughts. I didn’t go through being verbally abused by my dad for no reason.”
“Come on, it can’t have been that bad,” you say.
“He spoke in Spanish. That means bad. Half of the shit he said would get me kicked to the principle’s office. It would be bleeping like hell in a movie.”
“That’s the sort of stuff that does get you sent to the principle’s office,” you remind him. “You really should start a swear jar.”
He looks like he’s going to say something to you, but you get up and walk out of the front room door. He follows after you, anxious.
“Where the fuck are you going?” he demands.
“Standing by the front door,” you reply.
“The gym teacher would be amazed to see you take charge like this,” he mutters.
You have to admit. This is a little backwards. It’s not at all like Karkat to let you boss him around, and it’s not like you to want to order people around, either. You’re usually pretty easygoing. Maybe that’s why people have been so concerned with your change of attitude to things in general.
“Have they left yet?” Karkat asks.
It takes you a minute to process what he wants you to do, and you walk over to the window. You stare at the Striders’ house. All of the lights are off, and Bro’s (you feel stupid calling him that, but you don’t know what else to call him) car is gone, too. It’s a piece of shit. An ironic piece of shit.
“His brother’s gone out,” you tell him. “I think Dave has, too. But I don’t know.”
Karkat thinks for a moment. “We should ring on the doorbell, and if anyone answers, then we’ll leave it.”
When it comes down to it, Karkat is actually pretty smart. You have a hunch that if he was the one who suspected Dave, the whole thing would work out a lot better. You think for a moment about a world in which Karkat finds out, and persuades you. To be honest, you think that that sounds more realistic than what actually happened.
Your own front door clicks a little bit, and you both tense.
It’s just your dad.
“Oh, hello, boys, what’s going on?” he asks. “Did you want dinner?”
You groan. Of course your dad would ask that question first.
“No, Dad. Me and Karkat are going out,” you say, pointing to Karkat with your thumb. He nods.
Your dad raises an eyebrow.
“Oh God, no, not like that!” you say. “Jeez, Dad, you’re my dad!”
He stares at you both, and shakes his head. “I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.”
Karkat is bright red. He gets flustered so easily.
“We’ll be back in about an hour or two, okay?” you say.
“Where are you going?” Dad inquires.
“Uh…wandering around the streets like hoodlums? I don’t know, dad, jeez…I mean, we’re going to Eridan’s house.”
Karkat looks at you incredulously.
“Eridan? Isn’t that that rich boy from the other side of town?” your dad asks. Apparently, he’s in the know.
You nod. “Um…yeah. Him and Karkat are great friends, and you always go on about making friends with friends’ friends so you have a big circle of friends, and…”
Karkat looks like he could punch you right now.
Your dad smiles. “Okay, boys. Just stay safe.”
You wince. If only he knew just what you were getting into. Or not. That sounds stupid. You can’t really picture your dad defeating a demon from hell. Or wherever vampires come from.
“Bye, Mr. Egbert,” Karkat grumbles.
The two of you leave the house.
“Eridan? Seriously?” Karkat demands, as you walk down the path to Dave’s house.
“You guys are friends,” you say.
You start to feel a little bit nervous as you walk up Dave’s path. It looks like a normal enough house, but there’s something very sinister about it.
It’s exactly the same as yours, in terms of building. It’s got the same amount of windows at the front, although they have blinds rather than curtains. Dave’s front yard is also void of flowers, unlike yours.
You gulp as you slow to a halt in front of his front door. You and Karkat exchange a glance. This could be it. This could be the end of your lives. You could die. Damn, you haven’t even completed BlackOps yet…
You inhale deeply, and slowly raise your hand to press the doorbell.
Karkat watches it like you’re trying to balance a cent on the one finger.
Suddenly, he whacks your hand out of the way.
“What the fuck, man?” you ask, irritated. Your concentration is broken, and the sinister aura is shattered.
“Look,” he hisses, and points at the door.
“I don’t see anything,” you reply, squinting.
“Look harder,” Karkat snaps.
You roll your eyes, and clean your glasses on your shirt. You peer at the doorbell, and then you see something. A glint of light. Barely, but surely, there’s a thin, transparent wire from just in front of the doorbell to all the way up to the weird little shelter that houses have over their doors.
“What’s this for?” you ask.
“I don’t know,” Karkat replies, “but it’s probably just one of many tripwires.”
You nod in agreement.
With no way to check if Dave’s home, you decide to go ahead with the mission anyway.
“What now?” Karkat asks.
“There’s always a window open at the back of his house,” you reply. “I don’t know what room it is, but…”
You creep around the side of his house, and end up in his garden. Compared to your dad’s garden, it’s really not that much to look at. It’s just a lawn. You snort when you imagine Dave’s ‘cool’ brother mowing the lawn, or blasting weeds with a weedwhacker. A weedwhacker from hell.
Karkat looks around, and then spots the window. “You can’t be serious,” he says.
The window is actually tiny, which makes you think that it leads to the bathroom. Karkat’s the only one small enough to fit through it.
“It’s the only way in,” you say. “I’d go through if I was as short as you. Once you do, just unlock the back door, and hey presto, we’re in.”
Karkat looks uncertain, but when you give him a leg-up, he grasps onto the window frame. If he were any heavier, he would break it. He hangs there for a moment, neither getting down nor going through.
“Come on, Karkat, Dave won’t kill you if he’s on the toilet,” you say.
“Do vampires even crap?” he asks, before falling through the window.
There’s a small thud, followed by an ‘ow’, and you know he’s okay.
You hear footsteps through the house, and that’s comforting. If Dave was home, you would’ve heard his footsteps. Unless he wears Hush Puppies, which you highly doubt.
You rub the back of your neck uncertainly. The sun’s set already, which is odd, but you try not to think about it too much. You feel the hair on your arms rise as a chill runs down your spine. You try to keep reminding yourself that your house is right next door. You’ll be safe. You think.
There’s a quiet clicking noise, and you see Karkat standing in the house, the backdoor swung open. He gestures at you to come over. He doesn’t look too shaken, so you suppose he hasn’t seen anything worth mentioning.
You walk into the house, and you bite your lip reflexively. You shouldn’t be here. This is illegal, like Karkat said when you first proposed the idea.
The door drifts shut, and you breathe in sharply.
“Got your equipment?” you ask.
Karkat pats his backpack. “Yeah.”
“Then let’s do this,” you say, trying to sound brave.
Karkat’s hand reaches towards a light switch, and you shake your head, batting his hand out of the way.
He glares at you. “What?”
“What if he comes back and notices the lights are on?”
Karkat’s glare fades a little bit. “Oh. Oh yeah.”
“Keep an eye out for tripwires,” you remind him. “And stay quiet.”
He nods, and the two of you start to explore.
You allow your eyes to adjust to the (lack of) light, and look around. The back door leads straight into the kitchen, which is a pretty normal thing for a back door to do. The kitchen itself looks normal. There’s a half eaten pizza on the table. It’s a ‘meat feast’ one. Very suspicious.
You bite back a grin, trying to stay serious, and look around the kitchen. The cupboards are filled with ready made food, but something tells you not to open the fridge. You don’t know why. You just…don’t think it’d be a good idea to open it.
There’s a distinct lack of photographs on the wall. Of course a vampire wouldn’t have photos; they don’t show up on camera. Still, Dave’s family doesn’t exactly seem like a family. You can hardly imagine him saying ‘cheese’ for the camera. There is something framed, though.
You approach it, and furrow your brow as you try to focus on it. You can’t really make out what it is. You still can’t. It doesn’t even look like anything. It’s just a shitty drawing.
You walk away from the photograph. There hasn’t been any sign of vampirism here, but there’s more than enough proof to certify that Dave’s family is really fucking weird.
You can practically hear your own heartbeat. Okay, no you can’t. But the point is, your heart is beating really fast, and it’s so quiet that there’s that ringing sound you get when you try to listen too hard.
You glance around to see where Karkat is, but he’s not in the same room as you anymore. You panic a bit.
“Shit,” you mutter, and scramble out of the kitchen.
You see a glimpse of Karkat in the living room. He’s poking around, but you can tell he’s just scouring the Striders’ movie collection. With a disapproving look on his face.
You chuckle quietly, before making your way over and –
Shit. Your foot snags on something, and you hear something creak. Karkat’s head whips around, but it’s too late. You look up, and a trapdoor above you opens. You close your eyes and prepare for…
A bunch of stuffed toys hitting you on the head? The sheer amount of the things knocks you down, but after thrashing around for a few moments, you realise that they’re harmless. They are pretty weird, though.
Karkat picks one up in disgust, and looks at it. He turns it so its face is pointing in your direction.
Its nose is disturbingly long. It kind of looks like a…
You shake your head. No.
“Fucking hell,” Karkat grumbles. “I thought you were in serious trouble.”
You hold in a laugh. “I think I was. I’ve probably been mentally scarred.”
“We’ve got to put them back,” Karkat tells you.
“Oh, right,” you say, your voice dropping to a whisper.
You feel yourself get really worried for a moment. How are you supposed to put them back? What if Dave walks in while the two of you are putting them away? This could take a really long time.
The ringing in your ears is back, and you really don’t like how quiet it is. You feel like you should get out of there, but you’re not done yet, and you don’t know when another opportunity like this will arise. Especially since Karkat has promised not to come back if everything looks a-okay.
Karkat pauses, before emptying all of the weapons out of his bag.
You stare at him, silently asking him what he’s doing.
He starts picking up all of the ‘plush rumps’, as one of their labels deems them, and putting them in the bag. For a strange moment, you think Karkat’s going to steal them, but then you catch on.
You scoop a few up in your arms, but you can’t bring yourself to think of them as simple soft toys. They’re too…weird.
Soon enough, they’re all in the bag, which is threatening to burst open. Karkat motions at you to bend down, and you do, confused.
You lurch forwards even further as he treads on your back, tiptoeing to pour the contents of his bag back into the trapdoor-room. Before the toys can tumble out again, he slams the trapdoor shut, and hops off your back.
“Jesus, Karkat,” you mutter, rubbing your back.
He stares at the trapdoor for a moment, before apparently being satisfied, and putting back all of the equipment into his bag. For some reason, you don’t feel right putting all the Jesus stuff into a bag that was filled with the plush rumps only moments ago. You have a feeling those things are used for pretty nasty business.
“Did you find anything?” you whisper.
Karkat shakes his head. You do too.
You gesture at the stairs, and you hear Karkat gulp. You approach them cautiously, and stop in front of them.
You listen for a few moments. It’s still as silent as ever, but the stairs are really dark. You’ve never really appreciated darkness.
The two of you exchange a glance, and you decide that it’s probably safer upstairs than it is right next to the front door. If Dave came in, the two of you would be busted. Come to think of it, you’re more scared of his brother. Whether or not the dude’s a vampire, you have no idea what he’s like, and if he raised Dave, well…he’s got to be pretty unpredictable.
Despite being structurally identical to yours, Dave’s house is somehow a lot more…modern. You suppose it’s because the father figure is still ‘hip’.
You find yourself holding your breath, and you don’t know why.
You creep up the stairs, Karkat close behind you. When you step on the sixth step, it creaks so loud it feels like the entire world can hear it.
Both of you freeze, and your eyes squeeze shut instinctively, hands raised above your face. Karkat nudges you, and you look back at him. He jerks his head forward impatiently, and you shudder, moving on.
You’re finally off the creepy-as-fuck stairs. If Karkat goes down first, you’ll warn him about the stairs. Being first is kind of intimidating.
You wipe your forehead. Oh, gross, you’re sweating. You’re clammy, actually. A cold sweat. Are you really that scared?
“Come on, John, this was your idea,” you whisper to yourself. “Man up.”
Upstairs looks just as normal as downstairs, except all of the doors are shut. Part of you freaks out about that, but you reason that it’s normal. There are only four doors. They’re probably all bedrooms. You don’t shut your own bedroom door, but you imagine that Dave is probably more concerned with privacy than you are.
You notice that Karkat has gone down the other side of the hallway, so you decide to turn left. There’s only a little bit of hallway left, leading to one door completely isolated from the others. Great. Why did you have to get stuck with the scary door?
You check for tripwires, but there aren’t any. There’s no excuse not to open this door. Your hand slowly reaches for the doorknob, and it wraps around it, twisting slowly, hesitantly. Your eyes shut again, and you find yourself whispering “please” repeatedly.
Since when did this get so serious?
You sigh with relief when you see that the most frightful thing in the room is a toilet. It’s only a bathroom. A second bathroom. There are only two people in this house.
“Rich bastards,” you mutter.
You don’t have time to wonder what exactly it is Dave’s brother does. Karkat’s screech pierces your ears and the silence, and you slam the bathroom door shut, sprinting the short distance over to where Karkat is.
He’s standing in front of an opened door, and he’s shaking, his back turned to you. You relax slightly when it hits you that he’s okay, just visibly shaken. You’re shaking too.
“What, what is it, what happened?” you ask, wrenching him back towards you, so he faces you.
He shakes his head, but his pupils are still slightly dilated. “I…fuck, something hit me in the face.”
“A doll-thing, it’s creepy as fuck,” he mutters.
You blink. “You scream like a girl.”
He scowls, bending down to pick something up.
“You would too, if this came flying at your fucking face,” he snaps, shoving the puppet in your face.
You stumble back, because damn that thing is scary.
It’s a marionette, you think. There are no strings. Its face is an ashen white, and there are two creepy red circles painted onto its cheeks. It’s kind of like a hamster in that big-cheeked respect. Its grin is pretty weird, too; a big white one with one gold, shiny tooth. Its getup is slightly ridiculous, but its eyes are the creepiest things you’ve ever seen.
Ice blue, big and round and way out of proportion. Three painted on eyelashes are the finishing touches. This thing is fucking terrifying.
You shudder, and take it gently from Karkat, as if moving it around too much would bring it to life. You look around, trying to figure out where it came from. The most important thing is leaving things exactly how they were when you got there. That’s a lesson your dad taught you. You never suspected it would be so important.
“It was probably on top of the door,” you say, and gently put it up there.
“How do you know that?” Karkat asks.
“Typical prank. Always works,” you answer.
“Obviously,” he states. “Why d’you think it’s there?
“I don’t really know. I guess it was probably a prank by Dave or on Dave.”
“It’s not funny,” Karkat comments.
“The prankster reaps the benefits. Always.”
“Shut up, John.”
You don’t argue. You don’t want to be any noisier than necessary, and to be honest, you really think you should go. As in, now. It feels like Dave could waltz in any second, and then you’d…
You picture it in your head. Two boys missing. Your dad would come looking for you, definitely. Then he’d ‘disappear’. And then all of your friends…
You shake your head. You’ve come too far to have regrets. You might as well search this room quickly and get out.
You instantly realise that this is Dave’s room. There’s a fancy Mac in the corner, and you roll your eyes. Typical. You also see a few papers lying around, some with notes, and some with those weird characters he draws. One of them looks a bit like you. You haven’t seen that guy before.
You shake your head. There’s no way it’s you.
You and Karkat carefully browse through things, and you open his wardrobe. You don’t know what you expect to find. Narnia? No. There are just a lot of clothes in the thing. You shake your head, shutting the door.
You walk over, and your leg hits something. You curse quietly, stumbling forwards. Your hand hits something else, and you could’ve sworn you heard a clicking noise, but you draw back from the cause of the pain in your knee. It’s just his bed.
“Oh my fucking God,” Karkat says, and you turn around.
He slowly picks something up, and you struggle to focus on it. It looks like a shirt.
There are butterflies in your stomach, but they’re not the nice kind. Your heart is in your throat and it feels like your limbs have turned to Jell-o. You really did not expect this.
The shirt is absolutely drenched in a dark red liquid, and the faint smell of iron only seals the fact that it’s blood. It’s crumbling off the fabric slightly because it’s drying.
Karkat’s lower lip trembles. You make eye contact with him.
You have never been so scared in your entire life.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,” he hisses.
“We’ve got to get out of here,” you say urgently, trying to be brave. Your voice wavers.
You both dash towards the stairs, but then you hear it. The front door rattles.
You are screwed. You are so, so screwed. How could you have thought this was a good idea? Idiot, idiot, idiot John!
You don’t want to risk going into an unexplored room.
You and Karkat run back into Dave’s room, carefully shutting the door.
You make for the wardrobe, but Karkat shakes his head and dives under the bed, rolling against the wall. You look around, panicking.
“Bro?” you hear Dave call.
The sixth stair creaks.
You have no choice but to join Karkat under the bed, this is so fucking stupid, this is—
Karkat slams his hand over your mouth, and your quick breaths become non-existent. Karkat follows suit.
Dave’s door is pushed open.
“Fuck,” he hisses. He must’ve come across that puppet-thing.
“Fucking Cal,” he repeats, and you see his pale hands pick the puppet (‘Cal’) up.
You turn your head quickly to stare at Karkat, only to find him giving you exactly the same look you’re giving him. It’s the “what the fuck are we supposed to do” look.
You see Dave’s feet tread along his floor, and he starts to hum some sort of song that you’ve never heard in your entire life.
He shuffles around, and it hits you then that he might not even leave the room, because he said something about not watching TV much in class once, he could just stay in his room all the time, and of course he doesn’t sleep, oh no, wait, yes he does, but fuck, he won’t sleep during the night…how does he even come into school, why doesn’t he burn the fuck up—
“Oh, Egbert,” he sighs.
You freeze up. Oh God oh God oh God oh God oh G—
There’s a small clicking noise, and you realise that he’s putting on sunglasses. The ones you gave him.
“Oh,” he says.
You see him shift backwards a bit, and you know he’s bending down, he’s going to see you, he’s going to see you, fuck, fuck fuck…
You screw your eyes shut tight, but you don’t feel any pain.
You open one eye to see Dave picking up the bloodstained (soaked) shirt.
“Why can’t a Laundromat do this shit,” he mutters.
He walks off, out of the room, and you hear the bathroom door shut.
You and Karkat glance at each other. It’s now or never.
You scramble out from under the bed, adrenaline pumping through your veins as you practically fall down the stairs. Your heart is pumping so fast that you think Dave will be able to smell his equivalent of dinner—
You run out of the front door, Karkat right behind you. He shuts the door quietly, and you swear you’ve never run so fast in your entire life.
You run over to your house, and fumble with the keys.
“Come on, come on,” you mutter, and you burst into your own home, slamming the door shut behind the two of you.
Karkat collapses against it, sliding right down until he’s a little ball at the foot of it. He brings his knees up to his chest, and buries his head in his arms. You hear quiet sniffling sounds, only barely audible above the sound of your dad’s favourite television programme.
You don’t know what to think. You were so excited for this possibility, but now you want anything but the reality of what you’ve just discovered. You don’t know what to do.
You also don’t know that the clicking noise was the sound of Dave’s camera taking a photo of Karkat Vantas standing in the corner of Dave’s own room at seven forty-five this evening.