(c) Kelly Shew
Faint sounds of a string quartet wafted gently through the museum. People milled, talking in muted tones. Rubies and diamonds flashed and sparkled next to rhinestones and paste. Business casual mixed with tuxedos and ball gowns.
The marble floor of the entryway reflected the lights of the chandeliers. Gigantic twin staircases curved to the second floor, where an elaborate throne was placed. It was an ornate object, covered in gold and encrusted in jewels. The seat and the back were upholstered in red velvet. Many people gawked at the throne, admiring it as part of the exhibit. A few thought about sitting on it for a photo op. The dead eyes of nearby guards quickly changed their minds.
This was the first year that the Thanksgiving Day exhibit had come to Dartmouth Falls. The entire city was buzzing about the exclusive showing. A select number of people had received an invitation to what would surely be THE cultural event of the decade. They had been looking forward to this night for months, excited at the prospect of being able to lord it over friends and family.
Throughout the museum, leggy blondes in short black skirts were conducting tours. Men pretended to pay attention, nodding and saying, “Um-hmm,” while trying to sneak a peek down the guides’ low-cut blouses. Women stared in fascinated horror at the displays.
Crystal vials of holy water nested in vintage leather cases next to hand carved stakes. Crosses made of everything from simple, rough wood hung next to those made of precious metals. Display cases held hundreds of silver daggers. Pistols with silver bullets sat proudly next to small axes. Weapons used for vampire hunting, some dating back centuries, were displayed, an honored history of the always prepared.
It was approaching 11 o’clock in the evening. An excited buzz began to ripple through the crowd – their mysterious host was finally here! People streamed towards the entryway, jostling for a good position to see. Covered from head to toe in a dull black cape, a man stood near the throne. His hood was up so that only the barest glimpse of skin could be seen. By the time the clock began to chime the hour, almost everyone was in the main hall.
“Welcome, new friends! I am so glad that so many of you were able to join us this night! I hope you have been enjoying the exhibits. I have spent many years collecting all that you see here and take great delight when others appreciate it. As your invitations suggested, we will be having dinner at midnight. Please continue to enjoy yourselves until then.” He carefully lowered the hood and sat on the throne, smiling as he gazed around him.
People began to quietly disperse throughout the museum once more. A few glanced over their shoulders at their benefactor. He sat with his hands folded, surveying the crowd. Muted chatter began again. The talk turned from the fabulous display of antiquities to what they could expect for dinner.
The orchestra began playing a sprightlier tune and the atmosphere took on a festive air. Champagne was flowing freely, circulated on golden trays by tuxedoed waiters. The noise level rose from soft murmurs and hushed chuckles to hearty tones and raucous laughter.
The antique grandfather clock in the entryway began to chime midnight. With the first peal, doors around the museum opened, and black-cloaked figures silently crept into the rooms, spreading throughout the crowd. They wore their hoods up, covering their faces underneath.
As the last chime faded into the night, their host stood once more. Around him, the hoods of the cloaks were removed, revealing pale faces with blood-red eyes. Grinning inhumanly, their host proclaimed:
“And now, old friends… we feast!”