“There are vampires over in dat there house. I see ‘em every night, but never in the daytime,” the old man with the weathered, almond-colored skin said to me as I exited my car a few streets off Atlantic Ave. I didn’t believe him at the time. I was visiting an old college friend I hadn’t seen in a while. He’d moved out to L.A. a year before me to become a screenwriter and ended up in North Long Beach. He loved living near the Y and being close to the freeways.

We’d talked recently, but something had changed. He was edgy and paranoid. He’d had problems before, so I decided to come and check up on him.

“I used to see him all the time. He’d come outside, help me with my groceries, sometimes play basketball with my kids, but he’s across the street at that house all the time now.” The man pointed towards the dilapidated address on the corner. Its windows were boarded shut. The yard was overrun with high brown grass and weeds. Large plastic children’s toys sat against the flaking, mustard-yellow walls of the house, a rusty barbecue grill and a dirty propane tank stacked up behind them.

“Don’t even waste your time goin’ over there lookin’ for your friend, mister. Ain’t nothing over there but trouble. Death, disease, and trouble. You walk through there and it smells of death—people lyin’ on top of one another, hungry, dirty, half-dead. Your friend is gone. Them boys that run that house ain’t done nothing but suck the life out of this neighborhood. You go in there and you ain’t gone do nothing but wind up shot or lying up in there with the rest of them.”

I suddenly realized the old man had been right.

Story by L.D. Willis
Artwork by Joshua Rayburn
Published in Book by Authors: North Long Beach Anthology, 2009