Archive for kukri

Getting the Hang of Things

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

“Now, you wanna talk right now?”

We were swinging from the cabling that Jesper had managed to wrap his injured arm around. His left held me tight against him as we dangled about six floors up from the bottom of the shaft. I was certain that the high powered UV lights were still glaring on the first floor and now that the sun had come up, I had no idea how vulnerable Jesper was.

“Well, do you have somewhere else to be at present?” He asked as the tendons in his shoulder tore audibly. “And it is important.” He seemed oblivious to the fact that he was bleeding, burnt, and hanging floors above UV lights that could seriously damage him. Not to mention that, with Skovajsa’s chamber damaged, I didn’t know of any place out of sight to stash him for the day. Or when his Rigor Dormitus would set in.

But I also noticed, with his face so close, the faint hairs that sprouted from his chin, red-gold whiskers that grew before my eyes. And his eyes had shifted color yet again, from the jasper red to a more familiar hazel that was very pleasing. His hair too, a strawberry blond. I must’ve gripped his arm around me because he gently tightened his grip.

“But you’re so injured,” I protested.

“Who, me? Naw, just a scratch…or two.” Suddenly, the skin over his shoulder seemed to percolate and then his arm popped back into his shoulder socket, raising us up a few inches. “Oh, see. Already on the mend.”

My hand went to his chest. “But…it’s full sun up. We have to get you inside.”

His smile warmed me like a sunbeam. “But we are inside.”

I didn’t really have anything to say to that and finding words at the moment, looking up at him like this, words just weren’t forming. At least, not ones that made any possible sense. What had happened with that other vampire, I didn’t need to think about right now. What I’d drank didn’t matter, the injuries didn’t hurt, even the voices of my past personas were blissfully silent, except for a few whispers that made me appreciate his lips curved in that smile.

Those lips straightened suddenly as I watched and he became serious.

“Now, Miss Quinn,” he began, getting my attention with his formality. “In light of much conversation this evening, I’ve given it due thought and have decided I no longer wish to employ you…well, you’re fired.”

My head shook. “What? What?!” I stammered, unable to draw together my thoughts. “Whatever for?”

“You are obviously a dedicated professional with high moral and ethical standards.”

Uh-oh. I didn’t like where this was going at all.

“I’m sorry. I just don’t want that to get in the way of getting to know you in a more personal way.”

“Huh?”

His shoulder snapped, the socket cracking under the strain. He was becoming heavier, his cells converting as its daily defense mechanism. As the flesh started to tear, I pointed. “Jesper!”

“Oh bother.” He looked at his shoulder and then back down at me. “Can you put your arms around my other shoulder? I am going to lower us down but I must ask if I can drop you some feet down. I’m not sure what that blinding light down there will do to my fair complexion.”

“Yes, oh, please hurry, Jesper.” I laced my hands around his other shoulder and he used the other arm to repel down the rope and jerked us to a stop a floor up. He wrapped his bad arm around the cable again and looked at me.

“This will hold us for a bit. Now, you’re sure you can handle the drop?”

I didn’t know, didn’t care. I didn’t want body parts to start ripping off of him, especially if he went into rigor. I nodded vigorously.

“Ok, grab a hold of my wrist and I’ll lower you down. Roll when you land.”

He was true to his word and after some movements that looked a lot like Cirque du Soliel, the drop was only about eight feet. I did as he asked, rolled and was running to shut off the lights as quickly as I could. I was back in a moment but he had already jumped down.

"See, I’m perfectly fine." Then he collapsed against the wall. He looked up at me meekly. "Ok, so maybe I’m not a morning person."

He then went into full blown Rigor Dormitus before I could utter a word of thanks for saving me, a word of annoyance at his firing of me, before I could hug him for everything he had done for me. As his body composition hardened, he took on the form of a beautiful red marble, the most incredibly sturdy, but heavy, form of Dormitus I’d seen.

“Aww, shit!”

“Good morning, ma’am. Looks like you could us some assistance. May I present you with my card?”

The short man was dressed in a security uniform and brandishing a flashlight. But the card he handed me was that black and white of the Gypsy Twin Irregulars, this one some German name that translated to Knight Rider. Lucy and Maurice’s group. I would have to get them to tell me everything about this evening but only after we got Jesper back home. Something told me that this man knew exactly how to do that.

“And by the way, you dropped this,” he held up the Kukri.

Jesper sat in a very pensive way but his eyes had been looking at me. I kneeled to him, caressing his marble cheek. “Getting to know me in a more personal way? Well, maybe I’ll let you fire me after all.”

I noticed that Jesper’s phone was buzzing in his jacket pocket so I fished it out. One message from Morena. I pressed a button and listened to the message but it wasn’t Morena, it was Nick.

“Uh, yeah, Jesper. This is Nick. We’re all going to die now. Hope you and Sophie survived. Nice knowing ya.”

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And Finally, Diagnosis

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on July 18, 2011 by vampirony

The knapsack with the Kukri had slipped from my hands as we landed just in front of the empty elevator shaft on the top-most floor. If you could call it a floor with its mostly bare beams covered in sheets of plywood as a makeshift floor, with scaffolds on either side, filled with tied stacks of rebar, one of them with a cement mixer that looked way too heavy to be positioned there. I looked down into the shaft and apart from wire cable running its length, there weren’t any pieces of the elevator there yet.

It made perfect sense for Skovajsa to own a building in progress; he could oversee the construction and insert anything into the specs that would help him as a safe house. It would be his fortress in the making, maybe even his bachelor pad to lure back unsuspecting victims. With or without my interference, he and Jesper would find each other; two vampires in such close proximity could not play nice.

If dawn was coming, there was only one logic place that Skovajsa was going. He jumped us down and when we hit the ground floor, he let me go, causing me to I collapse to the dusty ground. I cried as I landed on my hip, scrapping up my leg.

Well, I guess there goes the last shred of manners.

I was about to try and push Darcie out of my head when Skovajsa snatched my arm, and began to drag me to another room. This construction site was the great shell of a condo complex and I’d noticed that the front of the first floor facing the street had already been completed. A wine shop. Likely another front business of Skovajsa’s. He’d turned out to be quite the entrepreneur, rat bastard.

We moved to a back room with a strangely covered floor. Skovajsa’s head darted around the room, sniffing. Something was wrong. The floor looked a tractor trailer had just groomed it.

“What…is…THIS?!” His voice was near panic as his shoe brushed aside the layer of wood chips. If I hadn’t been in such pain and unable to feel half of my face through the bruising, I would’ve smiled. Not just any wood chips. Cedar. One of the most ancient and deadly woods for Old World vamps. Especially the youngsters.

If he was angry at the changes to the floor, there was only one word for his reaction to the opening to the floor cellar with its doors broken off their hinges: Livid. He actually threw me towards the entrance as some sort of release of his rage. Needless to say, I was prepared and landed with my arms out in front of me to break my fall. But I stayed on the floor. My head peered over the threshold down the cellar steps as he flew down into the darkness.

My eyes adjusted and I saw it was only about ten steps down, not very deep, not a tall enough chamber that he could even stand but inside, there was nothing but rubble. The broken remnants of a rather large, thick, cement structure. It looked like a jackhammer had been at it and quite recently for the amount of dust still hanging in the air.

“No! NO!” Skovajsa bellowed and as if on cue, strong lights from the ceiling of the chamber switched on, blinding him.

That was when I saw it, right at the top of the stairs, glinting under the power of the UV lights. My infinity amulet, wrapped in a single black ribbon. Lucy. I looked around the chamber that had been Skovajsa’s coffin and realized that they had destroyed and booby trapped it. He would never be able to seek sanctuary here again.

Ma petit ange. The short, stout old aunt I had been clucked in my head.

This time, despite the pain, my mouth curved in a smile as I picked up the amulet a split second before Skovajsa sped out of the blinding room, grabbing my arm with one hand, the other arm shielding his eyes. Each successive room we entered in his retreat lit up like a spotlight with those same UV lights and he shrieked in cold fury the entire way.

At the bottom of the shaft, he made a power leap and flew up from the strength of it, past the other empty floors until reaching the top, where he was snatched out of the air. One moment, I was flying up with him, the next I was watching him smack into a concrete pillar across the floor from the safety of someone’s arms.

As stunned as I was to see Skovajsa go flying, I was even more stunned as I turned my face up to see Jesper holding me, his hair flaming auburn and windswept, his eyes the color of jasper. I blinked and felt that dark presence of Valerian, the one that had protected me from the Taint, take weary steps down into the recesses of my mind as all twelve previous versions of me thrilled to see this new savior.

“Are you alright?” he asked, concerned.

My mouth moved but no sound came out. We both heard a menacing growl to which he gently set me down, stooping quickly and handing me the knapsack.

“You dropped this,” he announced before his fangs dropped, not the elegant thin ones but an entire mouthful of short, sharp teeth, like a snake.

Jesper raced across the plywood floor and charged full force into Skovajsa preempting an attack. He grabbed a hold of the Carpathian and slammed him back against the same pillar, which cracked. Jesper took a hold of the rebar behind Skovajsa and began to bend it around him as he struggled. Skovajsa laid him completely out with a right handed slap and then proceeded to simply rip the rebar right out of the concrete to free himself.

Jesper got up again only to have Skovajsa attack him first, driving the piece of rebar right through his shoulder. Jesper screamed. Skovajsa had been aiming for the heart but Jesper had turned just in time. He grabbed Skovajsa by the collar of his expensive suit and stabbed him in the abdomen with the end of rebar sticking out. The speed surprised Skovajsa who backed up a step as Jesper had to take a breath to recover. He took a few short, deep breaths before he yanked the rebar out and threw it aside.

Blood was now pouring out of both Jesper’s shoulder and Skovajsa’s belly but the latter only smiled. His hands had grown into gnarled claws and he swiped at Jesper, who whirled away but a little too slow. Skovajsa swiped at the back of his neck and again at his back, tearing deep into his flesh. Jesper arched his back away then spun around, grabbing Skovajsa in a tight grip. As he grappled him, he squeezed and Skovajsa snapped his mouth full of fangs at him.

Jesper jerked his head away, which relaxed his hold enough to let Skovajsa get an arm free. With that hand, he grabbed Jesper’s injured shoulder and wrenched it. Jesper screamed and his arms fell away. Skovajsa kept hold of the arm and twisted, the sound of bones cracking so terrifying that I wanted to cover my ears. Jesper fell to his knees, but Skovajsa still had his arm.

I dug out the Kukri and felt the metal come alive in my hand. My Indian past life roared up, whispering some ancient incantation that I had no idea how related to this weapon that seemed to know me. I was beyond caring about that. Jesper was in trouble. My fingers tightened and I stepped forward to do I know not what.

Skovajsa raised his other claw to swipe at Jesper’s throat when Jesper swung his head around to look up at him. His hair to seem to catch fire for an instant and I knew what was coming.

Neilza!” Searing rays burst from Jesper’s eyes, sending a burning Skovajsa staggering back into a pile of plywood. The plywood scattered, some dropping over the edge and down into the construction site below. The scaffolding just behind the pile also tottered precariously. Skovajsa slapped at himself as his expensive silk clothes burst into flames.

“Sophie,” Jesper called, pain and fatigue etched into his voice. “Get out of here!” He struggled to his feet.

The sky was getting lighter and another real fear hit me. I needed to get Jesper to shelter and right now, but there was nowhere to go. Dangerous vampire, rising sun…this was not good.

Skovajsa grabbed Jesper from behind and crushed him, bones creaking and popping, causing my eyes to tear up from the punishment Jesper was taking. It was obvious he couldn’t defeat Skovajsa who’d lost all semblance of humanity from his face. He was all vampire now.

He tossed Jesper aside like a ragdoll and laughed, his clothes still smoking. He was indeed burned, flesh crisped all over him but it did not impede him. He approached Jesper slowly, now seemingly at a point where he felt Jesper was no match for him.

Copil. What wonderful powers you possess! But you cannot think you can defeat me.”

He picked Jesper up, slamming him up against the scaffolding, slashing at his throat, blood beginning to pump out of him. Then, in a blur of speed, Skovajsa tied Jesper up in electrical cabling then grabbed Jesper’s chin in his clawed hand.

“You cannot heal when you cannot feed,” Skovajsa spat.

Jesper was bleeding from back, neck, head, shoulder, chest, his right arm hung nearly disconnected from his shoulder, a large gaping wound right above his heart. But they all oozed rather than bleed as uch as they should. It had all seemed to take place in slow motion but the entire fight had lasted nothing more than a minute, before I had finished taking a full step forward.

The movement drew Skovajsa’s attention. “This? This is what you would have over me?”

“Sophie, Sophie, get out of here,” Jesper panted, still struggling against the wiring, his left arm flexed and pulling. I couldn’t figure it out, why he couldn’t break free. Perhaps he was too weak.

Skovajsa punched him full in the face before walking calmly toward me. He clasped his hands together, like a schoolmaster or a priest before disciplining a child. “Now you have disappointed me enough, Sophie. You will submit. All of your knowledge, I will have it. After I make a snack of this rather mundane specimen. I’d had such high hopes for him but I obviously overestimated his specialness.” He stopped in the middle of the floor, spreading his arms wide like some player on a grand stage. “You will make me the most powerful vampire that ever lived!”

“Stupid little man, vampires aren’t alive. And that, that would be very bad for my business, betraying my clients. Not to mention bad karma.” I gripped the Kukri behind me. The sun was creeping up. I could feel it. The birds were chattering away sensing it too.

He dropped his arms. Suddenly, he’d rushed over to me, gripped me by my hair, forcing my head to look up. “As if you have a choice.”

That was when I saw it. The cement mixer. It jostled a bit as Jesper struggled to get free. Skovajsa twisted my head the other direction, taking in his bite handiwork from earlier.

“You still deny me? Have it your way. Such a nuisance that your blood is undrinkable. I so hate to waste a meal.”

The twist to my vision revealed something else. The other scaffolding. It seemed to be damaged by the impact. If a little more force was applied, oh, say like from some rolls of safety netting that were stacked just behind it, maybe it would teeter over.

He thrust his face into mine. “It’s so much easier for you to die in complete futility.”

Crazy thoughts, that some Rube Goldberg machinery would work its way to topple both scaffolds, manage to free Jesper, and allow him to get free while crushing Skovajsa. Futility indeed. Much easier to try and cut Jesper loose.

I looked Skovajsa dead in the eye. “Vasa Skoda, there are no refunds on treatment.”

He growled at me, striking me, sending me to the floor.

“You ruin it, the pleasure of killing you. You do not fear death.” He tossed a look back at Jesper. “But perhaps you just need the right incentive.” He walked a few steps, pausing to take in the sky. “I tire of this. If this one tried to save you, perhaps you would bargain for him.” Skovajsa strode over towards Jesper.

“Sophie, the Kukri. Do it now!” Jesper cried.

When I got my senses back, I caught Jesper’s gaze. His arms were burned red from fighting at the cabling but as we held that look, he started to speed up his breathing, shoring up his strength. He tilted his head back, started a primal groan that seemed to reach back through the ages.

“Skovajsa, the sunrise!” I called.

He paused but then turned, a little too nonchalantly saying, “You really think a few week rays of light would wound me?” He rushed over to Jesper, turning his head, exposing his neck. “Will you forfeit his life as you would your own just to keep your secrets?”

I stared open-mouthed. The truth was I hesitated. Maybe I would.

Skovajsa shrugged, “Very well. I’ll end him and gain his power, however meager it might be.” He then leaned into him for a bite. That one moment, everything cleared within my troubled soul. Yes, it was wrong to kill. It was wrong to take violence in hand and veer from the path. But it was also wrong not to fight for the weak, the poor, the impoverished… the injured. They deserved our stewardship, our protection, and…our love.

“Wait!”

Skovajsa turned his head as if he fully expected my interruption.

“You have a better offer?”

“More a diagnosis.”

Skovajsa looked curious, at least. Jesper had stored up his energies and was about to release it.

“You were made from the Taint, a wine infused with vampire blood. And you’re sun-starved, like many vampires before you, including the one whose blood tainted you.”

He shook his head, fully dismissive of my expertise. “And treatment?”

I gripped the Kukri hard in my hand as I stood. “Well, you’re also a fucking prick and unfortunately, there is no cure for that.” I drew back my arm and pitched the Kukri at him, willing it to take whatever course it might to save our friend.

The Point of Failure

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

The first of Buddhism’s noble truths is simply this: suffering exists. Not a particularly mind-blowing concept, considering the state of the world, and I had never had troubles with that. The next truth also had always made sense to me: suffering arises from worldly attachments and desires. Self-evident when you look at all the wars and strife caused by this guy over here wanting what that guy over there has.

Even the third and fourth truths get no argument from me: ending suffering comes from releasing those attachments and that can be undertaken through following the Eightfold Path. And like any follower of a faith, the difficulty lies in the execution.

When I’d first learned of the Path, back in my life in Darjeeling, following it seemed part of the moral duty to which we all belonged, to be right in understanding, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration. But as I came back again and again, as I understood more, as I felt I’d progressed further along the Path, certain things slipped askew.

I hadn’t needed Bruno’s nostalgic Italian vacation ad to tell me that Skovajsa was our vampire cannibal of cyberspace lore. I hadn’t even needed the vampire in question to bring up Seville. I’d known it the moment he’d given me the present and started talking about the stars and the sun.

He’d followed me. He’d seen Jesper. Somehow, he’d figured out that Jesper was worth acquiring.

This sobering thought had spun around in my head the entire cab ride back to the office in Bellevue. What did real psychologists do when one patient threatened to…uhum…harm another. I’m not sure Dr. Kaga would have any worthwhile advice for me. Slipping further off the board, away from right mindfulness.

I had shuffled through the door of the office expecting to put my head in my hands, maybe cry a little, and spend another sleepless night wondering what on Earth I could do about this impossible situation. I certainly hadn’t expected Morena, Nick, and Jesper bantering back and forth like school kids waiting for the school bell.

I froze.

Jesper‘s face went from smile to scowl in an instant and with a whoosh!, he was standing in front of me as if he’d been there all along. As low as I felt, with him towering over me, sniffing with barely controlled rage, I wasn’t ready to see him. And yet, I wanted to see him so much. I was horrified and glad he was here all in one untidy bundle. I wanted a hug.

“You’ve been with the Carpathian,” he seethed.

I looked up at him, no hint of professionalism on my face, just the raw, naked emotions. I knew this rage. Had seen it so often over my lifetimes. There was supposed to be a point in reincarnating, that you would, at some point, figure out how to change your fate, amend your ways, and stop making the same mistakes. I wasn’t learning the lesson. Slipping away now from right effort.

The rage slid off his face. “You’re afraid.”

“Not afraid,” I said simply, lowering my head. “I feel helpless.” Please, no crying. “I don’t know what to do,” I breathed low, so only he could hear.

He put his hands around my shoulders, his grip gentle and kind, all the previous anger a memory of some other vampire at some other time. He breathed deeply, as if trying to control the emotions, fighting what his instincts would tell him.

“You must tell me about him. I can smell death all around you.”

I shook my head a minute amount. “I can’t. You know that.”

I felt his hands tighten around me for a moment. Then, he moved his hand to lift my chin towards him. Having him so close when I really wanted him even closer, it was hard to put on any shell to ward off these feelings. My eyes sought his. There was an awareness there I didn’t expect.

“How can I protect you if you don’t let me?”

But it’s you I’m trying to protect. I wanted to tell him. I was trembling wanting to tell him. I was sick to my stomach with it. Slipping away from right livelihood.

“If I told my patients about one another, I wouldn’t be much good at gaining their trust, would I?”

He dropped his hands from me in a huff. “You don’t care if anything happens to you. You’re not afraid of that.”

“Was I when I first met you? When you threatened to bite through my arm?”

He grimaced, his words suddenly sounding foreign, “Oh but that was different!”

No different. I’m trying to help him like I’m trying to help you.”

You don’t think all the deaths, the disappearances around here are because of him?”

It doesn’t matter. I’m sworn to try and help if I can.” The calm was ebbing away, replaced with a building frustration. He was right but there was nothing for it. I was a lapse Buddhist. I preached nonviolence, balance in all things. This aberration that Skovajsa represented was a moral dilemma that my teachings had no answer for. What do you do when that which you hope to help is beyond all help? What answer do you have then? Slipping away from right action.

I had none and the only answer I knew Jesper could offer was death. Jesper stepped toward me, not as a threat but as a means of letting his will be known. I hated the posturing. It reminded me of Valerian. Kill or be killed. “He’s a Carpathian, likely an orphan. You don’t know what he’s capable of.”

That touched a nerve. “Oh, I think I am most intimately aware of what a Carpathian is capable of! More so than you’ll ever know!

Slipping further away from right speech.

He swore something under his breath that sounded Russian. Again, the awareness of what it was he’d said, of where I might have learned to speak Russian, was just outside my grasp. Like the answer to this problem.

Sophie, you’re belief in your faith is admirable,” he sighed. “But do you not consider the innocent ones you would leave behind?”

That cut deep. Ready for a salvo of bravado from him, his empathetic question cut me to the quick, left me breathless. Tears were welling. I had sacrificed everything to save the ones I loved from the harm of what seemed to be my singular destiny. To minister to the undead. To try and bring them balance so that they might be freed. Slipping away from right intention.

I would never have left my daughter if the danger to her had not been made so abundantly clear by…

“Sophie?” Jesper grabbed my arm as I swayed. No, I couldn’t go there yet. Not yet.

I looked up at him. His face held such concern; his touch was firm yet gentle. The wound was not intentional. “You want to help me?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Tell me what you know about a vampire killing in Seville.”

I’d stumped him. He swiveled his head at me, confused.

“Then there are still things that a vampire cannot tell.”

I stepped away from him.

“This is what you would ask of me.” He released his grip.

I met his question with silence. He had enough of a network to know that I was a Vampire Psychologist. He had admitted to consulting some others about me. Whether he was hiding more from me now, I had no knowledge. But I knew what his answer to my conundrum would be. And I could ill afford such consul. It would cost me my soul and make all my previous sacrifices for nothing. Slip…

He looked to Nick and Morena, who seemed frozen in space. They would not take a side now that their teacher had asserted some sort of authority. His gaze returned to me and the disappointment there caused them to flash amber. But he turned silently on his heel toward the door.

Morena stood, “Jesper, wait.”

He paused for a moment. When she didn’t continue, he walked out the door and as the door shut, a loud whoosh rattled the door.

The room returned to silence and I moved to lean against the desk, catching my breath. It was the closest I’d ever come to breaking the confidence of my practice and it hurt like Hell that I hadn’t. I surmised that somewhere in our exchange, Jesper and I were setting boundaries that would continue to be challenged. That is, if we continued to interact.

“I hate it when Mom and Dad fight.”

“You said it,” Morena agreed. I lifted my head to see the confusion on their faces. I’d seen that look before, from kids in my class in Ohio when I, the authority figure, had let them down. It was a horrible look and I felt ashamed.

“Especially in Turkish,” added Morena.

“Huh?” I didn’t know Turkish. Not that I recalled.

“At least that’s what it sounded like,” she said. Nick strode over as she continued. “You, uh, were a bit harsh with him, don’t you think?”

“Funny, you of all people accusing me of that,” I replied. When I looked up at her, there wasn’t anything mocking or sinister in her face. She waited for me to explain. They both needed me to explain.

“Right intention depends on a commitment to harmlessness. It’s one of our fundamental teachings.” I pointed to Nick’s amulet.

He held up his hands. “Don’t get testy with me. I wear this because my Gran gave it to me on my eighth birthday. I just try the best I can and figure it’ll all work itself out in the cosmic wash.”

I hadn’t realized my voice had been that way. I was exhausted, tired of not knowing what to do. And the weight of too many lifetimes weighed on me. I pinched the bridge of my nose to try and sharpen my thoughts.

“I don’t think you’re much up for teaching tonight,” Morena said.

I laughed, almost manically. “No, no you’re right about that.”

I sighed but couldn’t say more. Maybe because I was fighting back tears. My thoughts kept replaying the disappointment on Jesper’s face. This is what you would ask of me.

Morena grabbed Nick by the jacket and started pulling him toward the door, ignoring his momentary protest. “Come on, let’s give her some peace.”

I laughed again, coming a little unhinged each moment.

Nick halted at the door, “Hey, don’t you want to grab your bag?” He pointed to a small khaki knapsack tossed on the settee.

Morena took a rather long, measured look at me, hands on her hips, and shook her head. “No. Teach might find it more useful to her at this point. I suspect she’ll know just what it’s good for.”

They left without another word. It took me a few moments to sum up my evening. Bad patient left feeling encouraged that he might bind me to him. Good patient left feeling I didn’t trust him. Both trainees thinking I’m some crazed nut.

I walked over to the settee, pondering all the meditations I might use this evening to find a handhold back onto the Path. I was so absorbed in that thought that I absentmindedly reached into the knapsack and pulled out the object inside without much thought.

The Crimson Kukri was in my hand and it occurred to me that I was either going to pass this test or die trying.

symbol_dharma-color

The Theory of Relativity

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony with tags , , , , on September 26, 2010 by vampirony

For moments after Sophie and Jesper had left, the reception room was quiet, except for the sucking sounds and crinkling of the foil bag.  Morena just stared down at Lucy, marveling at how oblivious she seemed to be, how completely enraptured in drinking she had become.

“Are you gonna be ok?” Morena asked and received not even a blink of acknowledgement.

“She doesn’t say much, does she? All kick, no conversation. You two cousins?” When Morena didn’t rise to the jibe, Nick offered, from the relative safety of the settee, “Maybe he charbroiled her ears?” Morena tossed him a glance and shrugged.

But as a matter of fact, there was something a little odd about the shape of Lucy’s ears, like a piece of flesh was sticking out. Morena kneeled next to her which prompted a suspicious look from Lucy but nothing more.

Morena slowly raised her hand and touched Lucy’s hair just above her ear. When she didn’t get attacked and Lucy just turned a shoulder to protect her drink, Morena tucked the still crispy ends behind what remained of Lucy’s ear. It wasn’t flesh but a flesh-covered piece of metal, electronics to be exact.

She touched it and tensed when audio feedback was her reward. Lucy ripped a cord from behind her neck off and both pairs of inserts came out of her ears, hitting the floor.

“What?” Lucy shouted, crushing her foil bag into a tiny ball in her hand. The wounded vampire girl then fished another out of her bag and began sucking it down.

Morena stared down at the device. When she didn’t respond to Lucy’s remark, Lucy glanced down at the floor. She stopped feeding, sighed deeply, setting the pouch down.

“Oh. Those. Sorry, were you trying to say something?”

“What are those?” Morena asked, now fascinated by all things Lucy.

Lucy smiled. “Anti-Vox Compulsum Modulators.”

Morena just blinked.

“Noise-cancelling earplugs?” Nick asked.

Lucy half turned towards him.  “Simply, yes. But specifically calibrated to a vampire’s control voice: Vox Compulsum.”

Morena picked them up in her hand. They looked just like ear buds with an extra thick cord but the wiring had partially melted. “Shame.”

“Oh, not really. I have loads of them."

Morena threw her a look of amazement. “Really?”

Lucy seemed more chipper and her skin less discolored with every moment. “Yeah, I get them from a manufacturer in Taipei. I buy in bulk.” She sighed. “Still haven’t figured out why some human voices don’t make it through, though.”

“So you couldn’t hear Sophie tell you Jesper was a friend?”

Lucy’s eyes went wide. “She said that? Oh boy, no wonder I’m in trouble.”  She dropped her head but Morena saw the furtive glance she cast toward the hallway where Jesper and Sophie had gone. “I hope she’s right about that. I’ve never seen any vampire like him before.”

Morena cast her own glance at Nick, who asked the question for her. “What do you mean?”

“I’m not sure I should say.”

Nick huffed, “Look, Sophie set up this class so we humanoids could learn about vampires and be better prepared. I hardly think she had this in mind but it’s probably been the best for us. Sure beats trying to decipher that book of hers.”

Lucy’s newly regrown ears perked up. “She gave you the Book?” To Nick’s dumb nod, she nodded herself. “Well, that certainly settles things. She has given you the book of her past lives and experiences. If she has trusted you with that, than I am to trust you too.”

Lucy looked at Morena.

“Um, I tried to save her life once? Badly, I know. But maybe, if I knew more, I might be successful.” It was more a question.

Lucy nodded again, her eyes straying to the hallway. “What do you want to know?”

Morena shifted her weight slightly to half-turn. “Right now, I want to know why you seem so intent on the hallway. Is Sophie in some kind of danger?”

“I don’t know.”

“You obviously think something,” Nick prodded.

“Vampires heal serious wounds only through consuming their food. In my case, blood.”

“Yeah, you both got your licks in,” Nick quipped, trying to lighten the mood. “So?”

She answered with a question. “How much blood do you think I just had?”

“Could you ask a grosser question?” Nick blanched.

Morena shushed him before turning her full attention to Lucy. “Maybe a pint? Why?”

“Each foil pouch holds 10 ounces and it took almost two full pouches before I began to regenerate. It will likely take me several weeks of heavy feeding to fully recover from both blood lost and cell damage done.” She then tossed a stern glance at the hallway. “How long do you think it’ll be until he needs to heal?”

Morena looked back at Nick.

“When you say you’ve never seen a vampire like that, you mean the high beams, right?” Nick asked.

“Well, that’s another thing entirely. Even without that, if I’d known a vampire could sustain that much damage and be seemingly immune to silver, I wouldn’t have attacked him by myself.”

Morena swallowed, her stomach churning. Her eyes locked with Nick’s.

“Maybe we should check on the happy couple,” Nick said.

Lucy picked up the kukri from the floor. “I would heavily suggest it.”

“Great,” Morena agreed. “You go first.”

Vampire Practicum

Posted in Vampirony with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2010 by vampirony

I’d like to be able to describe firsthand what a well-trained, well-motivated Carpathian half vampire looked like attacking a 500 plus year-old vampire of questionable origins and mysterious new issues but I didn’t actually see anything.  Best I can figure, Lucy attacked, Jesper stepped to while pushing me back out of the way, and the next thing I saw was Lucy flat on her back on the floor, missing her weapon.

I think I yelled, “Don’t hurt her!  She’s one of mine.”

I finally saw what manner of weapon it was when Jesper turned back towards me.  It was a gleaming silver short spear two feet of which were sticking out of Jesper’s chest.

“One of your what?” he asked, voice clearly elevated but strangely, much less strained than expected.  What with a silver spear sticking out of his chest and the vampire girl that attacked him doing a flip up from prone like I’d seen in many Jet Li films.

Depending on the vamp, wooden stakes may or may not do anything at all but huge holes in one’s chest, that normally slows a guy down, at least for a bit.  Jesper turned as if it were nothing; grabbed it with one hand, ripped it out, and swung it in front of him.  Not at the advancing Lucy, I might add, just in front of him to ward her off.  Then he threw it on the floor.

She kept moving, her face all fanged out, reached behind her back and tumbling for the spear, while Jesper moved to stay in between us.  The movements were just blurs to me most of the time, but time started to slow down, making their actions more distinct.

It wasn’t some special ability I’d been granted; it was the adrenaline pumping through my body, making everything run in slow motion.  Unfortunately, I was in slow motion too.  By the time I got to speak again, Lucy had resumed her attack with spear in right hand, a new strangely bent long bladed and very shiny shorter weapon in her left.  A kukri. 

The sense of profound dread settled over me like a oppressive cloud.  I couldn’t allow that weapon to touch Jesper.  Somehow, I just knew it.  Just at this point, maybe six seconds into things, Morena made her first move, reaching behind her back for her gun.  But I knew by the time she drew it, this might very well be over.  Class turns into Practicum just like that.  SNAP!  Nick, thankfully, had flipped over the back of the settee to hide this one out.  Good kid.  Smart too.  He knows better than to take up a profession without skills.  But he was throwing a look towards Morena, one I’d take no time deciphering later, and was clearly going to head her way.  Crap!

I needed to end this.  Now.

Jesper was, as he should be, one step ahead of me.  In Vox Compulsum, he commanded, “Stand down.”

Nick and Morena froze in that unnatural way when their bodies and minds have been disjointed from action.  They wouldn’t fall over, merely powerless to do anything.  For a moment, I had thought his plan had backfired as Lucy pushed through the Vox as if it were nothing.  Later I would get it: He meant it to be broadband, to catch everyone in the room, even me, especially in the event anyone else, namely human, thought they should get in the middle of two vamps fighting it out.  ‘Cause that would be stupid.  Sign me up.

But for some reason, Lucy was unaffected and I, well, Jesper hadn’t known the Vox didn’t work on me either.

I scrambled across the floor, trying to find my legs and then my feet, all of which was taking too long.  Strangely, Lucy and Jesper dodged and parried like matched sets, he could obviously overpower her at any moment but she was just capable enough to keep him from disarming or grappling her.

And it was frustrating him.  I had to help.

“Lucy!  Stop!  He’s a friend!”

I wasn’t exactly sure of the sentiment but at this moment, Friend might have way more weight than Patient.  Especially given my current client list.  Will all the crazed vampires in the Seattle metropolitan area please stand up and be counted?

Lucy ignored me as if she’d heard not a word.  She feinted and whirled a spin kick at Jesper’s chest, catching him off-guard because of his injury.  She must have seen him favoring just enough.  But I didn’t have time to be impressed.  The one good thing about how good a fight she put up was it forced Jesper back towards me, by which point I could stand.

I felt rather than saw Jesper sense this, this feeling of alarm coursing through him (was it flowing through me too?), dividing his attention just as the spear came in again.  He turned toward me, I think to again get me out of the way, felt the spear puncture his chest again, thought better of pushing me, and focused all his energy on Lucy, slamming her with both palms, keeping the spear from penetrating further.  He hadn’t had the time to pull his punch and Lucy went flying.

She crashed into the bookcase next to Nick’s leaning body, then disappeared in a poof of black smoke.  Jesper’s command would not let Nick get out of the way.  Two entire shelves of books went flying and hit him, dropping him in a heap to the floor. 

I finally was going to get my chance to break this up.  Jesper moved his head for an instant to me and I saw his eyes were glowing with that strange amber light again.  I hesitated.  Something tugged at a memory.  Distant sands, mosaic tiles, strong coffee, call to prayers.  I stepped toward him.

He hesitated too, too long to prepare a more subtle defense against the sudden reappearance of crows solidifying into a two handed swipe with the kukri.  I know what it looked like to see death through decapitation flying on glossy raven wings because I was standing right in front of it.

“Neilza!”

Behind me, I felt rather than saw light, a wave of it, carried almost like Vox Compulsum, crash into me flowing all around me and hitting Lucy wherever I didn’t give her cover.  The force of the strange light smacked me hard into her and instead of my normal fading black circle of consciousness, this time light seemed to burn me up from the outside in.  All the while my neck at the base of my throat was burning.

I closed my eyes with the impact and felt dark, cold sand between my fingers, underneath my nails as I dug.  Then everything went familiarly black.