Archive for the writing Category

The Problem with Technology

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on July 11, 2011 by vampirony

Skovajsa, after a quick bite to eat to settle his nerves and improve his color, arrived at the Hyatt crisp and fresh from a quick toilet. He made his way calmly through the Wintergarden, perfectly tailored in a charcoal suit with maroon silk shirt and matching silk tie. He carried the bouquet of flowers under his arm and a very ancient looking wine bottle in the other, shifting the bottle under his arm as he pushed the elevator call button around four AM.

He stifled a smile as he shifted his weight. He was actually a little nervous, his feet tapping in anticipation as he balanced from side to side waiting. It had been a very long time since he’d been this close to such a boon and he’d never paid this much care to his approach. Sheer strength and ferocity usually got him exactly what he wanted. This wine and dining approach was all new to him.

He pushed the button again, tossing a casual, caustic glance at a maintenance man on a ladder just opposite him. Those beneath him didn’t deserve much more notice than that. He jumped slightly when moments later, the maintenance man as at his shoulder, his music blaring from his headphones.

“That one’s not working.”

Skovajsa recoiled, shifting the wine bottle away from the man. He wore just a non-descript gray one piece with a belt full of tools dragging him down into a stoop. His short cropped hair was mussed, and stood up on a side.

“That elevator?” The man pointed. He waited as if Skovajsa would address him. “Isn’t working.”

“Oh.” Skovajsa quickly moved around the little maintenance man to another set of elevators, pushing the button with haste.

“Um, don’t know if you want those either.” The man called to him.

“Why? It works, doesn’t it?” Skovajsa fired back, stepping inside quickly as the doors opened. The man waved as if to say more but it was lost to Skovajsa as the doors slide shut.

The maintenance man put hands on his hips, as his headphones blared R.E.M.’s “End of the World.” He looked at the elevator labels to read “15 – 21 Floors.” It wasn’t a music player connected to his headphones that he lifted up, but a cell phone. He punched a few keys.

“Yeah, he’s on his way up. Oh, it’ll take him a bit; I rigged it to go straight up to the top floor no matter what button he pushes. You still babysitting?”

On the other end of the line, a young man with silvered temples and wire framed glasses looked down the length of the bar at the blond man in the sunglasses who sat nervously waiting, listening intently to his ear bud although not having spoken a word into it. “Yeah, I’ll try to keep him distracted but he sure looks like he’s about ready to jump through that phone.”

“Whatever, Mordecai. Ritterreiter was clear. We leave that one alone.”

“Awrighty, Chain. I’ll do a smoke screen. Should confuse the other one to avoid any random encounters.” With that the bartender hung up the phone, pulled a box out from under the bar, and walked over to one of his regulars, sitting right next to the blond Viking. “Hey, Billy, have you tried these new White Star cigars?”

After which point, Billy took the proffered cigar and lit up, after being assured that he wouldn’t get in trouble for lighting up. The Blond man didn’t seem to notice anything around him, just gripped the phone he had sitting on the bar lightly. It was hard to tell with those sunglasses. After a few moments of smoking up the bar, the bartender wandered over to Sunglasses.

“You know, the bar officially closed a few hours ago. But I took pity on you; you looked like you had woman trouble.”

Jesper didn’t even turn his head to acknowledge the voice speaking to him. He wasn’t actually sitting there listening to the bartender, who decided to pour himself a tall glass of water and begin to spin some tale of marital woe.

Jesper’s consciousness was sitting in a chair across from Sophie’s bed, listening to her breathing, training his senses on anything nearby that felt or smelled or sounded Vampire. Which was why he smelled the twinge of bloody decay mixed with some musky cologne and the fragrance of lilies and roses before the elevator door alarm went off. He stood up walking towards the door to the hotel room.

Back at the bar, the bartender paused his story when he heard the cell phone in Sunglasses’ hand chirp.

“Hey, buddy, think your phone battery is going dead.”

His warning fell on deaf ears.

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“Jesper?”

Jesper’s head swiveled to the bed. Sophie was still asleep, under the covers, but her sleep became troubled. She shifted, her arms stretching out, reaching around a pillow. He paused but the smell would not be denied. His sense of smell was the worst of all his sense when he projected which meant the Carpathian had to be close.

When the elevator alarm sounded, he sped to the door, but paused before going out. He turned back to the bed. He could take her, now, run. Get her to safety. Fly her away from here, to Morena. Why had he not enlisted help from Valerian? He felt the nerves knot together his stomach as he put his hand on the door knob.

Even without the smell and the elevator alarm, he could sense the Carpathian approaching. It was time.

Except, his hand suddenly wasn’t on the doorknob anymore; it was around his cell phone. He started.

“Hey, take it easy, fella. I tried to warn you.”

Jesper stood, feeling suddenly ill. The call had been disconnected and he had been snapped back into his skin. Without forethought, the transition produced ill effects that he termed Projection Sickness: dizziness, weakness, in some cases vomiting…fainting.

He reached a hand across the bar and grabbed the bartender in a panicked grip. “What happened?”

“Erk, I tried to tell you. Your phone died.”

Jesper swayed against the bar, the edges of his awareness blurring, fraying. “No,” he mouthed, hand still around the bartender’s neck but now slackening.

“Say, you wanna call her back, you can use my phone,” the bartender added. He dragged a desk phone over and dialed, without asking for the number. “I’m getting a busy signal.”

Jesper slid along the railing of the bar, and then toppled over, hitting the floor taking a stool with him. His face smacked hard into the wood but the pain helped him cling to awareness. No, he couldn’t abandon her to her fate again .

“Sophie,” he moaned.

The bartender came around the bar and looked down at the vampire at his feet. Then he used his own cell phone only to have it go directly to voice mail. “Come on, Greg, get off the phone!”

Possession is Nine Tenths

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on July 7, 2011 by vampirony

Nick returned from a longer than expected shopping trip with bags full of goodies and proceeded to show Irina that the difference between pierogi and gyoza was a matter of language. After all, dumplings were dumplings, boiled, fried, or steamed.

And no offense to her Russian grandmother, which he discovered was actually Georgian from the city of Tbilisi, but her piergoi was crap. Boiled and tasteless, it might serve perfectly for wartime peasant folk without much access to anything but staples…but for the more adventurous and less ethnically sensitive Bellevue crowd, any food had to have the name of authenticity with a decidedly fusion blend.

By the time he was done with them, the pierogi had taken on a chipotle-infused mutton and oozed like more familiar soup dumplings. When bidden by the smell Grandmother Iron Curtain ventured out from the office, pushing Nick out of the way as she fished one onto a spoon and surely burned her mouth sampling it.

Her face screwed up, flushed, and just as Nick was certain she was going to slap him upside the head, she grabbed him in a fierce hug and streamed rapid-fire Russian in his ear. Stunned, Nick was just getting his balance back when she quickly released him, shoveled ten of the doughy pockets into a bowl and retreated back behind her calico curtain.

Irina laughed heartily, “You reminded her of home.”

“I hope in a good, pre- or post-Communist way,” he joked and scooped two platefuls for himself and Irina and then sat down at one of the Formica tables in the restaurant proper to eat. After a few moments where they both greedily slurped up the pierogi, Nick asked, “Your family been here long?”

“My parents moved to America when Oksana was just two, right after the Soviet Union fell, in ‘92.”

Nick smiled. He’d meant here as in the deli but obviously, it was a story she wanted to tell. He played along, his interest piqued, “Isn’t it a little odd to leave Mother Russia when it had finally become free?”

“Free? Yes, for the mobsters and criminals. Not for simple people with not a lot to pay off the gangsters.” Irina looked down at her plate. “Grandmother used to tell us stories, how it was better with the Communists because at least they had a predictable system of corruption.”

“Still, you were able to leave.”

“My parents were athletes. When the system fell, there went their support. So when they could, they moved over and brought Grandmother back a few years later when I was born.”

Nick chuckled, hooking his thumb back toward the office. “Oh, so it’s your fault.”

Irina laughed, a wide smile with a gap toothed smile that reminded him of Madonna. “Sure, blame it all on me.” Then, she turned suddenly serious. “Grandmother is the best. She took care of Oksana and me when our parents died.”

“How…?”

“Car accident.”

“Ah, gee, sorry.”

“Maybe because I never knew a life without her, I just was used to Grandmother. But she and Oksana, they always fought, even when she was little. I think she was embarrassed about Grandmother and her peasant, folk ways.” She sighed. “Grandmother warned her to stay away from Him.”

Something occurred to Nick just then and he stood, grabbed his messenger bag. Irina watched him silently as he dug into the bag and fished out the rental documents for the office space. When he found what he was looking for, he asked, “This guy, Shishka? What rubbed your Grandmother the wrong way about him?”

Irina shuddered. “Big shot. Fancy clothes, cold, looks down on us. Grandmother thought worse.”

“Like worse how?” asked Nick, holding up the rental paper.

Irina hunched over her food, fork pushing a pierogi around the plate. “She called him upyr.

“What does that mean?”

She shrugged, “Bad man. It’s silly.”

“Victor Bella, that’s your landlord, right?” Nick put the rental paper down on the table in front of Irina, pointing to his typed name on the listing.

She shook her head. “I’ve heard that name but that’s not what she called him.”

“Your grandmother?”

She looked up from the paper, confused, “No, Oksana.”

Nick let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. It all made sense now.

“Let me guess. She called him Skovajsa.”

Irina nodded, dumbly.

“You want to tell me again what upyr means? It isn’t bad man, is it?”

Whether Irina didn’t answer because she didn’t want to believe it or whether she could see that Nick knew it to be true, Nick didn’t know. But he did know what happened to her sister. He grabbed his phone out of his jacket, dialing Sophie’s number only to have to leave a voice mail.

“Hey boss? We may have a teensy problem. You know the office? The one I just retrofitted for your clients? Well, it happens to be owned by one of your clients. And you’re not going to like which one.”

Even an hour later, Nick was still trying to convince Irina and her Grandmother that they needed to pack up immediately. He had to use, as his last straw, the story about how he’d seen Oksana chewing on that guy’s ear in Jerry’s. Irina still denied it and was refusing to translate things that Nick was saying to her grandmother when the Iron Curtain stepped right in front of Nick with a week old newspaper.

She spoke to him, gesturing to the picture.

“Yes, that’s him.”

“Bah!” Grandmother spat. She threw the paper at Nick and went back into the office. A zipping sound could be heard and as Nick pulled the curtain aside, he saw that Grandmother had a small suitcase out and was packing. She came out a few moments later and cleaned out the till of the cash register.

“What is it?” Irina asked, confused.

Nick stepped to Irina, showing her the photo of the businessman under the headline which read: Missing Business Man Found Mauled. She shook her head as she read it.

“Now do you believe me?” Nick yelled. He dialed his phone again, this time getting Morena’s cell number. Again, it went straight to voice mail. “Morena, it’s Nick. Where the Hell are you? I got a situation here. Call me back.” He hung up. “Dammit, where the Hell IS everyone?”

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Morena was wondering the same thing at that moment. It had been so much time she’d made it through the recorded life and times of Sophie Quinn…twice. She’d been mildly surprised that Sophie had been married so many times.

She’d tried everything she could think of to break through the door, the lock, the hinges…but nothing worked. And her cell didn’t get any signal. She’d watched the battery drain to almost nothing.

For lack of anything better to do, she’d started reading through a few magazines left in the room. She scoffed at the article about simultaneous climax and found herself nodding at the article about Marrying Mr. Wrong. It made her think of Jesper. She forced her mind to other things. Then she lay down on the exam table and while her brain turned over and over what might be happening, she nodded off.

It was early morning , 3:30AM by her watch, when her phone chirped, the battery finally giving due notice of impending shut down. She started, surprised she’d slept at all. She’d had the strangest dreams, red rivers of blood flowing down from Jesper’s shoulder as she clawed her fingernails into his flesh.

There was nothing for the cell so she turned it off. Just as she did, she felt the room rock violently.

“What the Hell was that?” She went to the door and started banging on it anew. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up and she strained for a second to listen just as the floor rocked again, almost as if something had hit it.

“Shit!”

She needed to get downstairs. NOW. Her vision focused and, as she grabbed a side of the frame with each hand, she felt this surge of pure, unadulterated power boil from within. She kicked out at the door, convinced she was going to get through it even if she broke her damn leg.

The door buckled in where her boot splintered it and the force was so strong, the lock popped out off the frame. Stunned with herself, she stood there staring. Her leg hurt like hell and some strange part of her brain realized that she had fractured her thigh but blood was already swelling there, healing her.

“Sonofa…” She didn’t waste any time. She hobbled out the doorway just as the building shook again, this time the sounds of crashing and glass shattering urging her on.

DJB: Kiss and Tell

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on June 23, 2011 by vampirony

When I first caught a scent of the Carpathian early in the evening, I had followed it out to the street expecting that a fight would ensue. I found myself facing yet another new condo complex under construction just across from the Hyatt. If its originality was already marred by just advertising luxury condos, it looked like a wine bar was nearing completion on the ground floor. Imagine, a wine bar in Bellevue. I’d have turned up my nose if I hadn’t been actively sniffing with it.

But after that first very strong whiff, the scent faded and I was standing there for far too long being buffeted by toxic car fumes. Unable to ascertain its direction further and unwilling to hunt it down, I’d taken up watch back in the Wintergarden, grabbing a magazine.

At first, waiting was a blessing. It meant I had more time to assimilate the bounty from my blood gorge the night before. I could feel my cells bathing in it. It made me feel strong, fast, nimble, lethal. In other words, I felt little like my normal self. I was a terrible vampire, in the traditional sense, and I had plenty of time sitting in the Wintergarden, surrounded by the vacuous space of modern hospitality architecture, to rue my decision of not letting Valerian help.

I wondered if my pride and anger had gotten the better of me and, in doing so, would be the worst for Sophie. Stretching out my senses, I tried to hear her, feel her but we were not that acquainted yet, not in this lifetime. When she was my Helene, I could discern her heartbeat as if it were the thundering of hooves from miles way.

I pushed those thoughts away before they dragged me back into reverie. Here I was, spoiling for a fight I did not want to have, impatiently wanting to see Sophie. But did I want her to see me like this, blood gorged eyes, barely controllable fangs? Maybe not.

After a mind-numbing article about Marrying Mr. Wrong and a rather more intriguing one about six ways to simultaneous climax that I intended to file not too far back in my mind, I really needed to see Sophie. I realized I fit too horribly close to the first article to even spare a hope of the second. When last we’d talked, we’d argued…in Turkish. The time before, I had run out of her office after collapsing in her lap. I wasn’t having a very good run.

And now that I recognized her, now that I remembered bits of our past together, it pained me even more. Not to mention the fact that I was depending on some security guard and my own limited vampire senses to let me know if Sophie was in danger.

By midnight, I’d worked myself into such a fuss, that I had to get up and stretch my legs. And then I just happened to walk past the elevator for her tower when the doors opened. And then I just happened to get into the elevator with someone else going to the twelfth floor. When we stopped on that floor, an odd thing happened.

“Oh wait, I forgot they moved me to a suite, guess they are doing some work on this floor. Ha ha. Sorry, buddy.”

I paused for an instant as the young man pressed the button for the 21st floor. But then I stuck out my hand to catch the door just as it was sliding shut. The man gave me a strange look.

“Beg your pardon, I just got my new room key from downstairs,” I slipped out the door without another look. No need for expending any extra Vox.

As I stood in the hallway, I realized how quiet the floor was. The man had been right; there seemed to be no guests on this floor. Save for one. I heard a faint slow heartbeat, a woman’s heart, toward the very end of the hall and I headed towards it.

I didn’t know what I would say. I should apologize. Shouldn’t I? I should tell her I would make it ok. I would tell her about the Taint, break the Conclave confidence. Then she would know why I needed to do this. She would understand.

As the room numbers counted down, I realized that she would not understand, she would not condone, she would not give up on her principles. I fervently hoped that somehow, this situation would be out of my hands. But I knew what I had to do. I had to protect her and hope for the best.

I knew her door from the sounds of her heart beating and her breathing just inside. I saw an evening paper lying there pushed partly under the door. When I picked it up, something fell out. It was a business card, with one black side and one white. On the white side, there was a single black symbol: a tied satin ribbon. On the other black side was the phrase written in white letters: “Gypsy Twin Irregulars.”

It made no sense to me so I pocketed the card and got out the card key Morena had given me. I breathed in first and knocked softly, head listening. Her breathing was even, uninterrupted by my knocking. I slipped the key in the door, watched the lock sensor light turn green, and turned the handle, pushing the door open.

There was a breakfast cart in front of the bed and the lamp beside the bed was on. Sophie lay on the bed partially obstructed from my view by the cart, outside her covers, in a heap. She was fully clothed so I stepped inside, softly closing the door.

“Sophie?”

Again, her body gave no response and I cautiously approached the bed. There was something in the way she lay that looked unnatural, like she’d fallen face forward unintended. I sat on the bed beside her, brushing her hair away from her face. Her mouth was open, pressed against the bedcovers. A sort of worry quickly overcame me but I was gentle when I grabbed her shoulders and drew her back against my shoulder. Her head lolled to the side and I used my hand to turn it toward me, all the while the sense of concern growing. Her heartbeat remained constant throughout.

I smelled around her head, her hair, and finally her mouth and something quite off struck me. A medicinal smell. Somebody had drugged her. Maybe even a poison. My head turned toward the food cart and the most obvious choice was the champagne glass, completely drained of its contents. I reached over and picked it up, putting it to my nose. Orange juice and champagne but no hint otherwise. I would’ve tried to taste it but there was nothing left.

I set the glass and looked at her again, lying limp in my arms. I laid her carefully back on the bed, warring with myself over what to be done. Her heart rate was solid…but I didn’t know if that would last. Had someone meant to knock her out or poison her? There was only one way to tell.

I leaned forward, both hands braced alongside her head, and kissed her. I couldn’t taste anything from her lips so I took liberties and opened her mouth, tongue exploring the tastes. The sweet taste of citrus made my eyes shock open with light for a moment and I lifted my mouth from hers. I couldn’t taste any poison and I immediately felt guilty. I’d wanted to do that but had not envisaged our first kiss with her unawares.

My hand turned hers over in mine, my thumb moving over her wrist, feeling her pulse. As if I needed any more assurances that she was fine. Drugged indeed, but nonetheless fine. Perhaps she’d taken something herself. Not that I believed that. The drug had obviously hit her suddenly.

But what kind of a lout was I? Under pretenses of protecting her, I had snuck into her room and then, worst of all, taken advantage of her. No, this wasn’t what my Helene deserved.

But she wasn’t my Helene. I did not know her like I had known that other version of her from years ago. And she did not know me. I was a perfect stranger who barked at her in a foreign tongue and collapsed into her lap. I claimed to want to protect her but here I was invading her privacy. I rose, tucked her carefully under the covers, pulled them up over her, took one further liberty brushing her hair carefully aside, then stood looking over her.

Would she know to call me for help? Would she even need help?

I picked up the receiver on phone by her bed. It took me a few moments to understand how to dial out, but I pressed the numbers and heard my cell ringing. I took my headset out of the pocket and put it on as I heard the call connect through. I then set the receiver on the nightstand. If something happened inside the room, I could hear it and be here straight away.

I gave her one more long look.

“Next time, Sophie Quinn, you will ask me to kiss you.”

I left her room then, slipping the card key in my pocket in case of the most dire of circumstances and headed back to the elevator to wait in the lobby. I pressed the down button and when the elevator opened, it was the same young man as before.

“You look like she said no,” he spoke.

“Huh?”

He smirked. “You know, the bar on the 21st floor is much better than the one in the lobby. Closer too for catching an elevator in case she calls you back.”

I stood there stunned while the elevator doors slide shut. Then I pressed the button up and waited for the next elevator.

Every Plan Has Its Loose End

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on June 22, 2011 by vampirony

The walk from the Hyatt over to the office only took Morena twenty minutes and it gave her plenty of time to think. And she really wished she had brought her gun. But she realized her gun was a crutch and she needed to unlearn what she’d learned about how to fight if she was ever going to hold her own against a vampire.

She recollected how Lucy and Jesper had fought and the speed alone had been insane. Before she’d even recognized an action, the two had moved on to a parry and another block. Super speed super sucked for humans to have to deal with. She wasn’t sure how a kukri was supposed to counter that.

As she approached the building from the back of the lot, the first thing she noticed was a cluster of crows around the dumpster making an insane racket. She didn’t see Nick’s motorcycle as she bounded up the stairs. At the landing, she paused with her hand on the doorknob, turning back around to look back down at the dumpster. The birds were calling up to her in perfect unison. It creeped her out.

It was no wonder. It looked like some kids had been having some fun roughing up the dumpster. It had been flipped over on its side and there were quite a few holes punched into the bottom. It was hard to tell more but the ground just there looked like someone had dug something up. She couldn’t see much better; the streetlight right over that part of the parking lot was out.

Crows? Really? When there’s a dangerous vampire that Jesper is probably fighting right now? She shook it off and went through the front door of the office.

The office was dark but something immediately felt off.

“Nick?”

She stepped lightly over the wooden floor, stopping at the desk to flip the lamp on. That was when she noticed a sliver of light from the doorway of one of the examination rooms down the hall. She put her hand in her pocket and pulled out her Asp. Her gun might be her crutch but she wasn’t stupid to not carry anything at all.

With a flick of her wrist, the Asp snapped open into a 16” black chrome baton and she slowly headed down the hallway.

“Nick?”

She got to the slightly ajar door, took a breath, and then kicked the door open, blocking the entrance, eyes darting around the room. There was a small exam light on but the room was empty. She listened quietly for a moment and then, hearing nothing but crows squawking, she relaxed. She spotted a folder sitting open on the exam table and entered the room to take a look.

It was a collection of papers that looked like Sophie’s case notes. Instead, it was some sort of timeline that looked like a record of her life. Correction, lives. Morena picked up the folder and began to read, marveling at the concept that anyone could really reincarnate, let alone remember their pasts.

She shook her head. She certainly didn’t want all that baggage to drag around. She had enough in this lifetime.

Just then, the door slammed shut and Morena jumped. She quickly crossed to the door but when she turned the knob, the door didn’t open. It was locked. A shiver went up her spine and started her scalp tingling.

“Nick?” She knocked on the door. “Nick, are you out there?”

She was quiet for a second but couldn’t hear anything. She wrestled with the doorknob and then, unsuccessful, pounded on the door, “Is anyone out there?”

She got her cell phone out and say that there was no signal in the room. She recalled Nick being particularly proud of being able to fulfill some of the stranger requests in the exam rooms, like no wireless coverage, virtually soundproof, lightproof. It was meant to hold vampires and keep them safe. As she walked around all corners of the room and still no signal, she realized it was going to keep her in too.

She continued to pound on the door in futility for about five minutes but was already silently cursing one important point: Nick was good at his job.

“Shit! Nick!”

Birds of a Feather

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on June 21, 2011 by vampirony

Nick pulled in front of the Deli a little after 8PM. It was earlier than dusk but with the late Mariners game versus the Blue Jays, Nick wanted to skip the fray of traffic before it got into a frenzy. He figured he’d clean up some of the last remaining paperwork about the office rental and call his career as a real estate agent done. After shutting off the engine and removing his helmet, he heard some other sort of frenzy, angry birds squawking unusually loud. It was coming from behind the building.

He went around back towards where the office stairs were and saw what the ruckus was. A collection of crows had taken up residence at the dumpster and were whooping and squawking loudly. The dumpster had seemed to have seen better days, it looked dented and the ground underneath looked like it had recently been roto-tilled. He shrugged, figuring the birds were just fighting over territory, although, they didn’t seem to be attacking or addressing each other.

In fact, they seemed to be in some sort of solidarity and as he watched the separate crows all started vocalizing at the same exact time, creating some sort of crow chorus. Weird. There was a crash, like a bottle shattering back around front and, worried that someone had backed into his bike, he ran around the front.

It was the girl from the Deli and her grandmother. The grandmother had been carrying a grocery bag and it had split open, a jar crashing on the pavement. Both the girl and her grandmother were carrying too many bags apiece to do anything but set their burdens down to try and assess the damage.

Nick flipped his messenger bag behind him and trotted over to help. Within a few minutes, he and the girl had hefted all the bags inside the Deli, letting the grandmother head grumbling towards the back towards the small office, her hand to her head, without even acknowledging Nick’s help at all.

As Nick dumped the bags on the counter, the girl turned to him, suddenly shy. “Thank you for your help. It was most kind.”

“No problem,” he trailed off, at a loss.

“Irina.” She tucked her hair behind her ear, suddenly bashful.

“Nice to meet you. Again. I’m Nick.”

She averted her eyes, starting to remove items from the grocery bag. “I know,” she said quietly.

Nick had a hard time believing this was the same girl that had given him such a hard time just a few weeks before. Even more surprising was how her grandmother, aka the Iron Curtain, had transformed. He could just see through the hallway into the back room where she had put her leg up on a stool, took an embroidered handkerchief out of her sleeve, and put the cloth to her eyes.

“Is your Grandmother ok?”

Irina followed Nick’s gaze and then walked to doorway, pulling a curtain into place. She approached him slowly, arms wrapping around herself. “Grandmother is very upset. My sister Oksana has been missing for several days.” Irina sniffed and rubbed at her nose with her sweatshirt sleeve.

A sick feeling moved through Nick’s stomach. He swallowed. “Your sister? Oksana? Was she blonde, tall, short skirts?”

The hopeful face that jerked up to look at him looked familiar and confirmed his suspicions. “You’ve seen her? Where? When?”

Nick felt his mouth go dry. How do you tell a teenage kid that you suspected her older sister had joined the ranks of the undead? However small those ranks might be? Or not? Nick wasn’t sure what to say so he opted for the truth. “Sorry. It was a week ago, over at Jerry’s.”

“Oh,” her face fell. “She used to go out all the time but she’d always come home. Sometimes, she’d wake me and tell me who she met, who’d flirted with her, crazy stories. She is always struggling to fit in here in America, to not feel so much the outsider. Drives Grandmother crazy, that she is giving up her heritage to be someone she’s not.”

Nick nodded. He’d heard that argument before. “It’s not easy being first gen.”

Irina met his gaze and understood him. “But it all got worse when she saw him. After that, she seemed almost possessed to break with us.”

“Him?”

Irina pulled at the cuff of her sweatshirt. “Shishka. Our landlord. You know him.”

Nick remembered that when the Landlord had gotten mentioned before, the girl and her grandmother had become afraid. He regretted the deception.

“Look, I don’t really know the guy at all. I was just trying to show the office.”

Irina kept pulling at her sleeve. Nick worried that she’d clam up now that HE had been mentioned. She had started to gnaw on her lip so Nick took a peek into the grocery bag. “I don’t see any beets for the borscht.”

“Chjort! Grandmother told me I’d forget.”

Nick smiled, “Look, why don’t I ride down to the market and pick some up?”

Irina looked undecided. “No, that is too much. I can go.”

“Come on, it’s a ten minute trip on my bike. Besides, don’t want you wandering around alone out in the dark.” He could see she was teetering on agreement. “I’ll come back and we can have some pierogi.”

She turned thankful eyes up to him. “But I don’t really know how to cook.”

He was already heading for the door. “Don’t you worry. I know my way around a kitchen.”

Universe 1 Vampire Psychologist 0

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , on June 20, 2011 by vampirony

The first response from the Universe I received after our little chat came as a knock on my door just an hour after sundown. I had slept all through the day and awoke groggy and drooling into my pillow. I raised my head from the pillow and watched as a paper was pushed under my door. It would’ve seemed strange at this hour had I been fully in my mind.

But as I was still woolgathering from dreams spanning the centuries, I just figured it might be worthwhile to check out the paper. So I crawled out of the covers, switched the bedside lamp on, and shuffled over to the door in my premium hotel slippers, curious to see the Universe’s response to my defiance.

There was a room service cart complete with a coffee service, an ample silver lidded tray, and an orange bubbly drink in a champagne flute. Confused, I checked down both directions of the hall, seeing no one. Looking back at the cart, I saw a card and picked it up.

“Miss Quinn,

For being one of our frequent stay guests, here’s breakfast on us!

The Management”

With that, I shrugged and wheeled the cart into my room.

I got comfortably seated on the bed and uncovered the tray. Pancakes with maple syrup, scrambled eggs dusted with cheese, heart slices of bacon, a fat sausage link, wheat bread lightly toasted, and country potatoes steamed and smelled delicious as I set the tray lid aside.

The Universe had decided to respond to defiance with…breakfast. I smiled just as my stomach growled. A hot version of the most important meal of the day seemed just the thing, even if it was almost 11 PM. I was about to spear the sausage link when I took note of the bubbly orange concoction.

I took up the champagne flute and sipped it.

The Universe toasted my defiant spirit with a Mimosa. I knocked it back, felt it burn all the way down to my empty stomach and resolved to relieve the discomfort with a mouthful of banana pancake. Which I followed with that speared sausage link, and proceeded to challenge the sin of gluttony with wild abandon.

It didn’t take but a few moments before I felt very sleepy. At first, I’d thought it was all those carbs hitting my stomach like anchors showered in fairy dusted powdered sugar but after my eyelids kept drooping, it became as clear as it could in my befuddled mind that the fairy dust was not of the naturally occurring dietary kind.

With the knowledge that dumb arrogance would be trumped by belligerent righteousness, I groaned as I toppled over in bed, my whole body going numb. My eyes spotted the empty champagne glass, as if in a spotlight of a cosmic boxing ring. In this corner, the Universe, aka The Management, intended to strike back with sugary carbohydrates and spiked Mimosas.

“Shit,” was all I could manage before I fell back asleep.

57 Channels and It’s So On

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on June 20, 2011 by vampirony

Just after sundown, Alex the night guard had sat behind his close circuit TVs in the Hyatt Regency’s security office watching while Morena talked to a tall, athletic-looking, fair-haired guy wearing shades in the lobby. He had smirked, wondering who Corey Hart was, wearing his sunglasses after dark. After a few minutes, Morena had quickly turned and exited, like she was in a hurry. A few moments later, the tall guy had made his out of the lobby towards the hotel bar only to come back about twenty minutes later, looking rather nervous and, well, shifty.

Alex had once been one of Morena’s students in her Personal Protection Pistol Class that she had taught at the Bellevue Gun Club. Honestly, he’d signed up because one of his D-Day Reenactment buddies had told him this total babe was the teacher. Within ten minutes of the class, she had a smart ass student flipped over on his back near to kissing her boots, while she spun and shot off a perfect round. Hot for Teacher had never been so true but she turned out to be a cool chick, great at what she did and appreciative of his former turn in the Service.

Not that they hung out. But once and awhile, he’d run into her at the range and she always said hello. Not interested but hello. That was fine with him. He appreciated the honesty and not being treated like a pariah. So much so, he liked to keep an eye out for her, go out of his way to walk her to her car when it was late, opening the door when she was hauling her rifle case in.

There was a rumor that she was not only ex-military, ex-Secret Service, but also that she was ex-CIA. Or maybe not so Ex. She kept a network that was for sure. He’d heard that bust up at her bar in Ballard a few days ago hadn’t even been written up because she still had friends in the Force. So it wouldn’t have been unheard of if she’d come and asked him for a favor.

What had been intriguing was that his supervisor at his security firm had beat her to it, telling him that she would be seeking him out tonight, even switching his work location to make sure he was working the Hyatt. Occasionally, his firm did fill in work when companies had temporary security needs or training.

This landed him perusing Hyatt security cameras and wondering who this fool in the shades was. That wouldn’t be a hint of jealousy, would it? Crazy. The dude had kissed Morena on the cheek before she stormed out.

Hmm, this guy’s bad news. Looks like he’s waiting for something.

He was about to get on his cell and call in when the phone rang. It was his supervisor.

“Hello?”

“Sidewinder, time to report in,” the voice said.

“Oh, yeah, there’s this jerk off loitering about. Is this your guy? You want me to send Rob and Brock down?”

“Was he with Morena?”

“Uh, yeah but she left–.”

“Then no. He’s not our guy. He’s fine. Brock’s got road duty and Rob, well, he’ll be busy later. Send up the gift.”

“The gift? Now? It’s not morning.”

“Now, Sidewinder.”

Alex shrugged. His supervisor also did reenactments but always for the Axis side. Still, the guy had a lot of street cred and had helped him out with shifts and things for awhile. He was one to be trusted.

“Ok, Ritterreiter, I’m on it.”

He hung up his cell phone and picked up the house phone. “Yeah? Hospitality?”

The Running of Errants

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , , on June 19, 2011 by vampirony

The vampire Skovajsa, once the human called Vasa Skoda, was having a very frustrating night. Although not know for his patience, he had decided that the bonding of this human Sophie Quinn deserved a bit of wooing. She obviously wanted more than just a simple generic trinket of diamonds that he’d picked up in a pinch from a nearby jeweler. The song had lied. Diamonds were not best friends to all girls.

His own pride also dictated that anything belonging to him would wear his unique style. That was why he’d arranged to have a special piece made with what he considered his symbol, a crown, joined with what seemed to be hers, an infinity symbol.

He’d noticed the amulet around her neck when they’d first met, assumed her vampire male had given it to her. It was said that sometimes it was better to acknowledge a woman’s ex, even as he was meant to be replaced by one older, stronger, more worthy. It would be so obvious that she was choosing the best once she compared the paltry leather strapped silver amulet to the magnificent piece that Skovajsa intended to give.

So on this night, before he finally made her his, bonded her to him for all times and gained the valuable information she contained in her passably tolerable visage, he would appeal to her romantic side with offerings of gold, jewels, flowers, and, at the end, wine. The special wine. His own blood.

He admitted to what seemed to be butterflies of anxiousness. His last episode in bonding, however inadvertent, had ended…poorly. The creature he had begun with, while beautiful in form, had lacked considerably in lifeforce, essence, style. Not that this human Sophie had any discernible style. She seemed to favor the same jeans and t-shirt only opting for chino shorts in this latest heat wave.

And frankly, her form was underwhelming by modern standards. Short, doughy, curves in the wrong places…brunette. Her one redeeming physical feature was her very long statuesque neck. And her blue eyes were a sort of pretty. But he’d seen the remarkable nature of the ultimate makeover on many television programs and was convinced that once undertaken, she would not degrade the impact of his flawlessness. After all, style could be applied, substance need to be intrinsic.

And what a wealth of knowledge she was. Rumors abounded on her reincarnated lives, lending her centuries of vampirical experience. She would help him greatly, help him find others of worth so he might expand his capabilities.

But it demanded the right touch, the right offering. And so instead of heading straight to her hotel room, 1234, of the Hyatt, he headed into downtown, needing to run a few errands, the first picking up his “Crowned Eternity” necklace at Gilbert’s Jeweler’s, near Pioneer Square.

Which was where things began to go wrong for Vampire Skovajsa. As he entered the shop after hours at his appointed time, the dark curly haired woman behind the counter was not as he expected. He approached while she continued to jabber away on her cell phone, while blaring music in her other ear.

“Oh my God, I can’t believe he said that. That’s ridiculous!”

Skovajsa put both hands on the counter, straightening to full height and impressiveness. He reminded himself that he needed to remain calm tonight, of all nights. It would not serve to lose his cool in front the human Sophie and he had noted that his calm, once lost, was nearly impossible for him to recover.

Excuse me,” he said, pushing just a little Vox in it to gain her attention.

The tousled haired woman stuck her finger out at him. “Just one second.” For a blink, he didn’t know if she’d said it to him or her phone. Then, she tapped an earpiece on her other ear and the music leaking out of her ear reduced to a dull hum. She twisted the phone receiver from her mouth and settled her dark almost black eyes on him.

“Can’t you read the sign? It is after hours. Unless you’re this….” She glanced down at a guestbook in front of her, finger tracing the page. “Victor Bella?”

“Yes, I am. I’m here for my package,” brow furrowing. The Vox didn’t seem to work although he wasn’t at all practiced in using just hints of it.

The dark haired woman, perched on a stool and strangely dressed for the weather in a black turtleneck, gave him the once-over with her eyes, hovering just at his waist.

“Hmm, I’ll say you need to a pick up for your package.” Then she spoke back into the phone. “What? Oh no no no no. That’s just wrong. You tell that fuckin’ little fish faced rat bastard—“

“Ma’am, I really am in a bit of a hurry.” He suddenly felt unwell. It was really bright in the small store. The lights were blaring at him and reflecting off of all the glass and mirrors. He was suddenly sweating in his leather jacket, blinking his eyes.

Ma’am, who you calling ma’am? Alright alright, if you’re going to just keep interrupting,” she said. “Tommy, I gotta go. Yeah I know, some dude that couldn’t be bothered to keep normal hours. Yeah, call you in a few. Buh-Bye.” She smacked the phone down on the counter and slide off the stool. Then she stood there, tapping long fingers on the glass. “Well?”

Skovajsa was confused, digging a finger under his collar. “I’m sorry, who are you? Where is Mr. Gilbert?”

She tilted her head, “Mr. Gilbert spent the last five days straight fashioning your, uhum, package, the last two nights of which he spent refashioning part of it to change moons into that boneheaded ‘8’ symbol because somebody didn’t like his original design and changed his mind last minute. So Mr. Gilbert spent some quality time with Mr.’s Beam and Bitters and went off to bed.”

“I see.” He looked up at the ceiling lights, blinking furiously. “Have you changed your lights recently?”

“Why yes, Mr. Twenty Questions. Just got them installed today. They use natural light to better show off the brilliance in the diamonds, best in the Emerald City.” She laughed. “But yeah, they can be a bit much. Why don’t you put these on?” She reached plastic glasses that looked like Roy Orbison’s sunglasses to him and he gladly put them on. While he still felt uneasy, the light wasn’t directly in his eyes and he felt better for it.

She waited for him to respond. He waited for her to do something. “Am I supposed to say something?” Really, human females were so tiresome to predict.

“A claim ticket would be nice. And your ID. I don’t mind handling Mr. Bella’s package but would like to make sure I give it only to him.” She smirked as if she’d made some sort of joke.

“Oh,” he got his wallet out and produced his ID, handing it to her.

She lifted it up so it was aligned to her view of his face. “Not a very good picture, is it?”

“What?”

“No one’s driver’s license picture is any good. I think they practice taking bad photos at the DMV. Ok, your claim ticket?”

“But you already know that I am..Viktor Bella. You should just hand over my package.”

Her hand went to her hip and she leaned forward, all slender 90 lbs of her. “Look, pal, my uncle didn’t spend forty years sweating in cramped dirty musty basement cupboards of New York giving his hand toiled artwork away for free out of the goodness of his heart. The store policy on your receipt clearly states both ID and claim tickets are required for pickup.”

Skovajsa the Vampire could feel calm ebbing away as his cool dissipated under the premium lights of the store. Harridan. He took in a deep breath, ready to unload a torrent of Vox right in her face when she spoke again.

“Unless, of course, you have your receipt.”

He huffed the air out. Where had he put that? In his preoccupation of the last few days, he realized that instead of filing his receipt away with the rest of his financials, he’d left it in his wallet. He fished it out and handed it over, one eyebrow raised to see what else she would throw his way.

She unfolded it carefully, raising the ID in one hand and the receipt in the other, examining. Then, a shriek rang out, causing Skovajsa to jump back from the counter.

“BARTY!”

She lowered the paper and ID, gave him a shrewd look, and tossed her head around. “Barty! Customer here for a pickup!”

A muffled sound was heard from beyond the showroom towards the back room. What shuffled through the door looked like half man, half metallic spider with crutches and braces everywhere on its 4 foot minus frame. “Yes, miss?”

“This kind gentleman is here for his package. Go fetch it.”

The man named Barty looked utterly confused and nearly incapable of movement. “Um, name?”

“Yours, mine, or the customer’s?” the woman replied snidely. “Look, it should just be on the back desk. Uncle Gilbert made this after hours appointment special.”

Barty’s head turned as far as it was able to the back room while his bottom lip jutted out in a way that suggested he didn’t quite know where the package was. And as Skovajsa was about to pitch a fit of his own, the woman flew after the retreating Barty, her white sparkling flip flops making as much racket as she was chattering after him as the two employees went into the back to find the necklace.

Skovajsa decided patience could be found when someone serving his own interests was verbally flogging a fellow human as savagely as the woman was doing to Barty. So he waited and nearly an hour and a half of his patience which involved minutes of finding the right package (after two wrong ones were offered), inspecting the workmanship (which was excellent, by any judge of taste), having to try several of his credit cards while the Versa machine went down, then the computer, then the cash register locked, finally paid off as he made his way to the door and was about to step out when the woman called to him one last time.

“Sir!”

“Yes,” he tensed.

“Would you like complementary gift wrap for that?” She smiled. “Any special lady deserves extra special presentation.”

Skovajsa sighed and resolved to the next half hour of selecting just the right presentation. It was the gift of a lifetime and he couldn’t explain how the exasperation resolved into pride and anticipation with his elegantly wrapped, one of a kind offering.

He was so satisfied with himself that he thought she couldn’t possibly refuse him. As such, he was later than he’d wanted, now staring at midnight, and he was about to skip the flowers part of his offering when he ran right into Mariner’s late night game traffic. With the crowds, there was no direct way of getting Eastside without being seen or messing up his perfectly coiffed hair, so he called the specialty florist to rouse her from bed.

Strangely, she was perfectly agreeable to opening up for him at the late hour so he turned his black Escalade down Alaska Way towards lower Queen Anne. It wouldn’t get him out of the city sooner but he might as well use up the time while the traffic cleared to improve his case. Of course, his florist Vicki kept insisting in adding these ugly pussy willow stems to the bouquet and seemed to have installed the very same Diamonique lights in her store so he kept those ugly Roy Orbison glasses in place, even as they seemed to hum a bit.

Another hour lost but with a gorgeous bouquet of lilies and roses, and yes, the damn pussy willows that he intended to yank out on his own but traffic had cleared and he used all 403 horses in his Escalade to cruise across the 520 bridge. He was feeling relieved as if this evening had been some sort of trial and he had survived it with his calm intact.

Until, that is, the red and blue flashing lights jumped into his rearview just as he was taking the Bellevue Way exit. Skovajsa the Vampire, having lived for many years had never received a speeding ticket or parking infraction of any kind so gave himself a calming breath as the cop approached. He had to say, he was little impressed with the figure approaching. The man was smallish and his pants seemed quite ill-fitting. It actually made him smile, almost as if it was some sort of jest in this night of all nights.

The officer approached sideways and did not exactly step up to the window as Skovjasa lowered it. “License and registration, Mister.”

Skovajsa, full of humor and pride from knowledge that this fellow would be easy prey to the Vox, had thoughts that maybe he’d make this fool dance the jig down the centerline in the middle of traffic.

Aren’t you a little short for a state trooper?” he remarked, Vox issuing with vigor from his voice.

The officer stepped up to the window, facing him with dark aviator sunglasses and these odd earpieces that seemed familiar, before flashing him full in the face with some sort of halogen torch that seared his eyes, making them tear up.

“Laugh it up, jackass. Now hand me your license and registration so I can properly write up your ticket for going forty over the speed limit and talking back to an officer of the law.”

No, this night was not going as Skovajsa had planned. As he got out his wallet, it was only going to get worse as he realized the woman from the jewelry store had never handed back his ID. The officer appended driving without a license to the ticket with a smile and a relish, seemingly as impervious to Vox as everyone else he’d had contact this night had been.

Perhaps it might make more sense for a bite to eat to settle himself. He began to look at the officer in a new light.

“You do realize that this registration is three months expired?”

His fangs began to extend all on their own. “No, officer.” His hand moved to the door handle.

Just then, a road construction crew with a portal light generator pulled over on the opposite side of the off-ramp and the crew began to unpack, the lights shining right into his windshield, causing his to shield his eyes, removing his hand from the door.

“Sonofabitch!” The officer called over to them. “You can’t just set up like that without a flagger!” The officer tossed his id and registration into the car, tearing the ticket off the pad and tossing it in the window as well. Then he took several steps back, across the pavement. “Oh, Hell! Move along, move along!” The officer waved at him angrily to get out of the way.

Skovajsa, assessing the situation, realized with so many witnesses and his recent spat of luck, maybe he should take this opportunity to consider his errand run concluded and get moving towards tonight’s goal. So he put the SUV in drive and got the hell out of there.

The officer watched Skovajsa race away and picked up not his 2-way but his cell phone. He dialed a number and paused, waiting for the call to connect.

“Yeah, Ritterreiter, package is coming your way.”

Sunglasses at Night

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on June 13, 2011 by vampirony

The sun had been full down for fifteen minutes. Morena, decked out in all black, elbows resting on the top of a counter, except for the electric blue of her earphones stuffed into her ears, checked her watch one more time. One of the hotel staff stared at her from reception. The sound of Lincoln Park blared from her headphones. She turned her eyes to him just as he thought to go speak to her about it. She raised an eyebrow at him as if to say, “Yeah? Come try it.”

She frowned, checking the time on her phone, about to text, again, when she finally spotted Jesper striding towards her from across the hotel lobby. His movements seemed tight, controlled, like some sort of caged animal. There was an aura around him that almost looked like the heat coming off scorching pavement.

It was the blood doping. He’d explained. He’d be at maximum capability stuffed to the proverbial gills with fresh blood. A lot of it hers. And it had hurt like hell. Still, it made him damn sexy to look at. Except he had to lose those ridiculous sunglasses.

He paused next to her, seemingly taking in the lobby while she remained, holding up the counter as it were. She studied him, wondering what else got revved up by that much blood in his system.

“It’s the bite, you know.”

“What?”

He turned his head towards her. “I can see the way you’re looking at me. Sense it. It’s just a side effect of biting my shoulder, drawing blood.”

She lowered her elbows off the counter but remained where she was. “Sure. What’s with the sunglasses?”

He stared her in the face and lifted the shades to show her. The iris of his eyes was a golden red color.

“Oh.”

He dropped the shades back and place and turned his head.

“She had any visitors?”

“Naw, no one’s gone up or called her room. Alex, the security guard on duty, woulda called me if so.” There was something in the way his head was turned, the look on his face; it was like he was only half paying attention. “What?”

He turned his head slowly to her. “Listening.”

“For what? You couldn’t hear her from here. She’s on the 12th floor.”

Morena saw his eyebrows go up and down.

“You are shitting me, right? You can hear 12 floors up right now?”

A smile crept across his face. “Just this floor. And maybe one more up. Or two.”

Morena stared for a moment. She wasn’t sure what she would’ve done if, per chance, this nasty vampire dude had shown up. She’d given the Kukri, the only weapon she knew of that could help humans deal with vampires, to Sophie. She’d even decided that carrying her piece actually made her react in too human of a way and left it at home. She thought she might felt naked without it, especially after having a good portion of her blood drained the prior night.

“How are you feeling?” Jesper asked, as if reading her damn thoughts again.

She felt wonderful. Like she had just done some amazing cleanse and all the bad juju had been drained out of her and was being replaced by the bright, shiny, new. She couldn’t help flash him a smile.

“It’s your marrow. You’re feeling it regenerate your red blood cells.”

“Way to spoil an oh so fresh feeling.”

“When the cells regenerate—“

Morena held up her hand. “God, Soph was right. Once you guys start talking, can’t shut you up.” Before he could interject anymore vampire wisdom, she fished an electronic card key out of her skinny jeans and handed it to him. “Room 1234.”

He smiled. “Thanks. I got this.”

It took Morena a moment to understand what he meant.

“No, seriously, I got this.”

He put it all into the look that passed between them. Whether it was because this had now turned personal between him and Sophie, or because he would likely be fighting another vampire, he didn’t want Morena involved further.

Her face showed her disappointment. She was in this with him. She wanted to see it through.

“Nick. You need to make sure he’s safe. Watch over him. I’ll take care of Sophie.”

It took a moment. From inside, there was this thread that wanted to follow him anywhere in the world that he might lead. It was the bite. She knew that. Residual influence from direct contact with his blood. Whatever he had taken from her in blood, he had kept his promise. There was no binding in it, no charm, no intended influence. He had further seen to it that Camille didn’t even remember what had happened or that she had ever thought vampires existed.

But then there was Nick. He probably would be rolling into the office at any moment with no clue what Hell was about to be stirred up in Downtown Bellevue. For Jesper was convinced the Carpathian would attack this evening and he had done everything to be prepared. And now, it was time for her to play her part.

She nodded, stuffing her hands in her pockets. He exuded such vampiric strength and confidence; she had no doubts that he could handle whatever Bad Vamp could dish out. But still, you never knew what could happen in combat.

As she was about to say something, to reach out to him, he stepped to her and kissed her check.

“It’s going to be alright.”

She nodded, her eyes getting misty. Then, before a tear escaped her eye, she turned on her heel and heading out into the night.

Jesper took his cell phone out of his pocket and proceeded to send her an email. It would probably take a few minutes to get to her but, by then, she would be able to do nothing to change his fate.

Morena,

If I fail, it was not because of you. If he finds you, severe the neck, clean through. Then cremate the body, to be sure. Do not bury anything but ashes.

I was not deserving of such a friend.

-J

He caught a scent on the air. It was time to go. It was time to fight.

Remembering How It Started

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , , on June 12, 2011 by vampirony

October 1883 Darcie Sherbourne meets Lord Percival Valerian. February 1886 She dies.

Late Fall 838 A young Darjeeling woman of the aristocratic caste meets a Rakshasa prince, becoming engaged weeks later. Early Spring 839, day of her wedding, she dies.

There were memories floating around, still unbound to a life, still as of yet unidentified in time. Some, more terrifying than others. Thick, rusty chains and screams echoing in a damp, stone dungeon, somewhere, sometime in Paris. The sounds of sheep bleating in the morning mist, before the heat of the day. Yards and yards of raw silk bundles stretched out before my bamboo cane in Japan. The sporadic memories that welled out of me all started from a single spring.

Late summer, 2006, a small community college in Ohio, a woman recovering from a tragedy sneaks into a special lecture for an advanced comparative religions class. Dr. Kaga, a world renowned expert on religious meditation, PhD in Cognitive Psychology, was speaking on internal alchemy, the Taoist practice of developing the mind and spirit for immortality. He led the half full lecture hall in a series of breathing techniques which left most of the students becoming very sleepy and yawning.

I, on the other hand, had collapsed in the back of the room, not to be found until after all the students had left and Dr. Kaga was collecting his things. He had heard my cell phone chirping. He had kindly helped me into a nearby chair and assured my panicked husband Dan that I would be safely sent home.

“Do you remember what happened?” he asked me.

“I’m sorry?”

“What were you doing when you collapsed?” he asked politely. He reminded me of someone I knew. But that would be impossible. Maybe someone I knew from a movie or television show. This was before I knew of my pasts.

I touched the back of my head, feeling for a bump. “I was doing your breathing.”

“Would you mind showing me? Those techniques are not known for causing young ladies to faint. Perhaps you were not exhaling properly.”

It was an odd request but as I was a student on scholarship taking a few summer courses and sneaking into much more expensive talks, the least I could do was humor him. So I began to breathe and black closed in on me once more.

When I came to, I was on my back again, this time with my legs raised up in the chair I had been previously sitting in. When I tried to sit up, Dr. Kaga gently pushed my shoulder back to the floor.

“I’ve called an ambulance. They should arrive shortly. Have you had a head injury recently?”

I broke out into a cold sweat. “Please, please no more doctors.” I agitatedly kicked the chair away and tried to get to my feet.

Relax,” he said.

I want to see no more doctors,” I hissed back.

He started and sat up bolt straight in his seat. I stopped struggling, realizing that I felt awful, my head was splitting open and nausea welled up. Purse strap wrapped around my wrist, I clamored to my feet, forgetting my backpack, and made a quick exit to the nearest bathroom, just outside the lecture hall. I threw up in the nearest toilet and then spent a few minutes chilling my fevered brow on the outside of the bowl while it flushed.

Feeling marginally better, I made my way to the sink, rinsed my mouth out, and then splashed my face with some water. I popped a couple of breath mints into my mouth, and then fished my makeup bag out of my purse. As I searched for my powder, Dr. Kaga opened the door a crack and called to me.

“Is it ok to come in?”

“Yes.”

He stepped inside, walking with great quiet and care toward the sinks to stand just behind me. I’d made it to applying lip gloss before he uttered another word.

“Do you remember anything you said while you were under?”

“Excuse me?”

He took a measured step towards me. “I don’t want to alarm you. Nor would I like you to faint again. Especially since I cancelled the ambulance request. But you were not speaking English before. It was Japanese. Do you remember that?”

He stood close, just behind me. I think he was readying himself to catch me if I fell again.

“Don’t be ridiculous. I substitute teach Spanish at the school sometimes but I don’t know any other languages besides that.”

He caught my eye in the mirror in a way I’ll never forget, his whole demeanor becoming calm and soothing, like a confessor or a priest. The palm of his hand touched the middle of my back, not with pressure, but just touching there, offering support, understanding, solace.

I felt a panic rise up.

He said something in what I assumed was Japanese. But it sounded foreign.

I shook my head.

“May I?” he pointed to my makeup bag.

I nodded, not even knowing what I was giving him permission to do. I just stood there, his right hand against my back, his left digging in my makeup bag, my left hand holding the lip gloss cap, my right holding the gloss halfway to my parted mouth.

“Sometimes, it’s better to let other parts of the brain work on a problem for awhile.” He brought out the eyeliner pen, the kind with an end like a little paintbrush. He took off the cap and handed it to me as I set down the lip gloss cap in the sink.

He stretched my left hand with the eyeliner pen out and touched it to the mirror while my eyes were riveted to his face. He was humming. Or maybe singing. I could almost make out the words.

“Did you really cancel the ambulance? No doctors are coming?” The eyeliner pen moved against the mirror as he stepped back, just his right hand still on my back. My head turned to follow him, my body remained straight forward.

He had the kindest eyes and a very nice baritone. His lips started to move into words and he seemed to finish a verse before assuring me. “Yes, no doctors.”

My right arm dropped the gloss into the sink and rested there.

“But you’re a doctor.”

“Not that type.”

“I suppose you’re going to tell me I’m crazy too.”

His eyes flicked to the mirror and then the most genuine smile formed across his tan, wizened face. “No, I believe you are most sane, Ms. Quinn.”

“You just met me and I fainted in your lecture. Because of breathing. Why would you think that?”

“Because an old soul reaching forward into a new life is a very rare and beautiful thing, Ms. Quinn. It should be cherished and nurtured so that it may come into its full bloom. But sometimes, it needs quiet to lose itself enough to be heard.”

He gestured to the mirror and I turned my head back to see black eyeliner arranged in a most beautiful design. And my left hand holding the pen.

“Wha—What does it say?” I asked in hush tones.

As it turned out, Dr. Kaga hadn’t known exactly either. It had taken his expert several weeks to decipher. But in the end, it hadn’t mattered too much. The dam had been cracked and Dr. Kaga had been able to help me control the damage by lowering the proverbial reservoir of water. Weeks of narrative therapy let some of the most pressing memories out while allowing me to sketch others into existence, making them available for translation.

By the time the winter had arrived and I couldn’t drive the hundred miles to school every day, Dr. Kaga and I had developed on online correspondence, sending me the translation of what I wrote along with the description on how old it was.

An expert in Japanese writing identified the early kanji characters phrased with some local Japanese spoken influence and dated it circa 410 CE. Kofun era, when it was rumored that writing first began in Japan. It was the earliest identified memory I had from all those we freed that autumn.

There were two books most important in my life. The first was the Memento, its format dictated to me when I gained possession of it sometime after all that. There were the fact pages, scribbled notes over the years. Stories and myths here and there. Then there were the more emotive pages, like Lucy and Maurice’s. But timelines, dates, descriptions of who I was when I met them, no, that wasn’t in there.

That information lay in my case notes; simple leather bound volumes of ruled paper. The first volume started as the record of my narrative therapy which I had extended to include my own treatment of vampires. In two years of searching for clients and doing what I could, two years of my own stories had gone ignored. Somewhere along the way, I’d forgotten what had kept me sane. It was the ability to let the memories out to blossom.

So I wrote an entry in my notes, one just for me, only about me. It began like this:

July 26th, 2009

Not able to divine treatment for Case #13-4, afraid this is a lost cause. The paradox of how to save a vampire may be to let another perish. Discovered today I know Turkish. Perhaps the recent memories of spices and sand came from that place. Must remember to investigate.

Realize these feelings for Case #13-5, Jesper, run deep. We have met before. God help us both stick around long enough to remember it.

And it was at that moment, I took particular notice of the Kukri that Morena had left with me. It was as if the thing held itself up and said Hi! Remember me? I picked it up and felt a queasiness move all through me. It was obviously an anti-vampire weapon. It was ridiculous to think I would have a use for it.

No, the absurd thing was that in this case I was beginning to believe the most heartfelt and profound action would be no action at all. To let the Universe have its way with me, bend me to its needs and whims.

You hear that Universe? I’m not going to fight you. You have me in an untenable position. Instead of moving a piece, I prefer to let my clock run out, force you out of hiding your purpose.

It was about that moment a cacophony of crows could be heard outside. It raised the hairs on the back of my neck so that I went over and opened the door, looking out. Under a streetlight, I could see a crowd of them fighting around the dumpster toward the back of the lot. There seemed to be about twenty of them. Almost four and twenty.

Hmm, but no pies. I put my hand to my throat and remembered that my necklace was still missing. I’d given it to Nick to give to Lucy when she awoke from her Rigor Dormitus. It seemed an age ago. It was just one week. I should call her, make sure her ears were healing.

I closed the door, went back to my desk, and a memory came back to me. When Lucy was little, she would leave me gifts on days when I had to be awake during the daylight hours. She’d hide it somewhere I could find it and wrap a black ribbon around the gift so I would know it was from her. A silver spoon. A posy of lilac. She was my dark little cherub and I could always count on her leaving me something. She’d once found a knife bayonet in the forest and wrapped it in a black lace ribbon.

In a way, I wondered if the Kukri was from her, via Morena. Except no ribbon. I wondered if she’d forgotten all about that or folded the memory away. It seemed such a small thing to remember. Like a lover’s kiss hidden behind a veil.

I wrote both memories in the case notes. Then after a quick text to Lucy, I managed to down a few bites of the food that Nick had left behind. An inscribed anti-vampire weapon. Turkish fluency. A vampire orphan.

Maybe he wasn’t responsible for the killing around here. Maybe something else was going on. Maybe there was another vampire involved.

The crows made a bunch of noise as if to argue that thought. I wasn’t in a position to know. I sighed. I hated waiting as much as I hated failing. But there was nothing for it. When one has no clear action to take, the only action is stillness.

I packed the kukri with me, tossing it into the same non-specific bag as I’d found it along with my case notes and my laptop. Back at my hotel room, I started a hot bubble bath, took as much Melatonin as was safe, followed by one of the little bottles of merlot in the mini-fridge, soaked until I felt drowsy, and slid into Egyptian cotton sheets that reminded me of nothing.

Alright, Universe, your move.