In Clara’s bad dream, the house itself was bad. She walked upstairs, leaving the party of old people and cousins below, and as she did, the house got shabbier and colder. Upstairs a bunch of her nieces and nephews, at dreamy different ages, were laying around on the ratty old carpet, watching TV (eating popcorn on the couch, upside down) bickering about what cartoon show they were watching. The grownups had sent them off. “Hi Clara,” said the blonde five year old with the popcorn. “Hi, Melinda,” she said back. “Marie,” said the girl; “I’m Marie, she’s Melinda.” That’s nice, said Clara, I have to go. The kids’ eyes drifted back to the old TV, and Clara turned the corner into the hall and was immediately colder.
The kids were a long way away now, and their voices muffled; the hall seemed really narrow and too long, ugly cheap wallpaper coming off in strips under the hanging lightbulb. The closed door at the end of the hall had been badly brush-painted a sort of garish indigo, and she turned the brass doorknob and walked into the last room at the end of the wing. “It’s empty,” she thought with surprise; empty and bright through the unshaded windows, dusty, badly painted light blue and white. It was cold and it was poor and it stank of bad vibes, of fear, shame, hopelessness. The floor was out of true, not at all level, and it noticeably sagged when Clara walked over to look out the window. Sudden panic gripped her - she was going to fall! - and she got angry within the dream. It almost felt like something in the dream was trying to get under her skin, something that wanted to use the house - to use her relatives - to scare her or make her feel sad, something hiding so it could jump out at her. She was getting angry. It helped her to wake up. She woke up angry.
She dressed quietly in the early morning, pinned her key card into her inside short’s pocket, and just paused long enough at the mirror in the hall to pull her hair into a scrunchy and then… let’s just see if that ol’ human face slipped in the night she said, and spared herself a little real smile there in the hall. “Go run,” she said to herself, “Run and be strong!” She slipped out and shut the door. It was just six a.m., late September, 2022, a beautiful clear Thursday morning, and she was Clara Schiewe, young and strong and smart, a sophomore at the University of Oregon who sometimes ran west for her morning five miles, and sometimes, like today, ran east out to Glenwood and back; five miles. Why she chose to run east that morning instead of west, you could argue about, but there’s no argument that it changed her life. Maybe it was the river in view the whole way below the road, soft and quiet this time of year, with its ducks and its herons and its frogs and its big black cottonwoods and its inevitable little blue tents; for which reason she ran on the highway not the bikepath. Past the I-5 bridge, past the big new hotel, past the heavy equipment salesyard and the saddle shop, she ran smooth and easy right to the traffic light; and set back right there was the Vampyre Hotel, which happened, which began to happen because the turnaround here made the whole round trip five miles from that point, that’s important, but that meant that inevitably she would have to actually see the Vampyre Hotel which was what she had started to call it when she first noticed it: ancient flaking yellow paint, two stories, boarded windows, cyclone fence. She suddenly remembered her dream which she had not thought of all morning. Then later that night at the library she would think of it again. It was like something getting tuned up. But Clara loved the library; how could anything wrong happen there?
She’d just simply gotten tired of the computer, you know, after hours and hours? She had about eight good pages of notes, but really… enough’s enough. It was 9:00 and the joint definitely be thinnin’ out, and her one of the last. She yawned, reached around behind her, grabbed her hands and stretched, loaded chattels into the shoulder bag, logged out and decided to try a last look at the Oregon collection up on four, where she ran in to some… some guy in her way, some… galoot, was that it? What was he? Some kind of logger? Was that flannel? Poet? Was he a poet? Nice shoulder length poet/logger hair anyway she thought, and just simply hogging the Lane County collections. She glanced for the ring, no doubt a married grad student with two toddlers at home, but no. He had both long logger arms straight out - no ring - leaning on the bookshelf, caging about a square yard of titles she, Clara, was interested in, plus there was a whole set of those Lane Historical Society chapbooks he was getting his thumbprints all over. She tapped the little footstool towards him, and it just touched his Chucks and stopped. “Can I…? I’m sorry, would you excuse me, there’s just the one title… I need, so… can I just...? Get… in there for just a minute…?” He didn’t move, but he did look at her. “Yeah OK, well,” he said, “You sorta are getting in there, aren’t you? Just a moment…” He backed off a foot, taking a plain clothbound with him and started flipping through it. She bumped the stool closer. He sort of did and did not so much back further out of the space. “Well that’s it exactly,” he said, looking at the book, and now clearly just talking to himself: “Something wrong with Glenwood.” “Rotten,” she said. “You mean there’s something rotten in Glenwood.” He looked at her, then back in the book. “Rotten,” he said.
Then when she stepped up on the stool to reach the top shelf he said, “It’s not a contest you know. There’s lots of books. Here in college we usually take turns.” And he gave her a little smile to take the edge off of it. She was cute. But she wasn’t having any of that. She looked at him directly from the footstool perch: “What did you say about Glenwood?” He was intent on the book in his face, and had pushed his glasses up, and was moving his lips and she was not sure he’d heard her. “You said something about Glenwood, you said there was something wrong with it.” He shut the book softly and stuffed it in a shoulder bag. Looking down to zip it, he said, “How do you even know where Glenwood is? Where you from, anyway?” “Right, here,” she said. “For now,” and she walked off, annoyed. But there was Flannel, a few steps back. Now lines were forming, the nerd shift at the library clocking out. They were all fast, keying student codes, swiping books over scanners, beep - beep. She zipped up her windbreaker and headed out. OK, she said to herself when she saw him at the bike rack, there’s Flannel again… is this going to be a thing? They were unlocking bikes. “I’m from Tualatin,” she said, “Portland metro,” and looked at him straight, “And I’d really appreciate it if you could make any notes you need and get those books back… I’m trying to start my biblio for Dr. Johnson’s big term paper.” The guy seemed to be having a little trouble with his lock, “Hey listen,” he said, “I can scan what I need tonight and I can have the book back tomorrow; so how about that?” “Thank you,” she said. “Is that even your bike?” “Yes,” he said, “Yes it’s my damn bike; the lock’s rusty. Listen,” he said, “Buy me a beer at Taylor’s and take a minute and see if you even really need these books, cuz if not I’ll hang onto ‘em. I got Johnson for his 300 level.” She looked at him. “I don’t drink. I mean, I’m not twenty-one.” She paused. “But… you can buy me a decaf latte instead…?” She punched him lightly on the shoulder. “And then you can tell me what’s wrong with Glenwood. Because there’s a perfectly obvious vampire hotel right there on the main drag, and I don’t get it.” They were walking their bikes down 13th. He gestured into the night. “There’s more than one,” he said, “At least two I know of. It’s not vampires though,” he said. “You’re mistaken about that. It’s witches.”