Archive for vampire

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.

DJB: J’Adoube

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

“I need your help.”

Morena’s response was immediate. “What can I do?”

I hadn’t asked Valerian for help. For whatever reason, I had pushed the Panic button and not followed through. There was not going to be some cleaner team of fifteen military trained Conclave sanctioned assassins coming to Seattle rid it of a dangerous Carpathian vampire. I was left to my own devices. And my own choice of allies.

I projected through the phone line. This was the trickiest bit in a Vampire’s existence, revealing one’s abilities unaltered by charm or influence to a human. No softening the strangeness. I’d been interacting with her in this way, albeit with more subtlety, since we met, most of our online interactions mixed with a bit of presence to make sure she was discreet. But not in any way she would be aware.

I came all the way through, my mental projection taking shape in her apartment moments before my bare feet felt the seam in the boards of her old wooden floor. I groaned at the effort; it hurt like Hell. My body strained as thought became form, bone, muscle, flesh. My skin sweated, my scars itched, and I felt nauseated, shaking and panting like a junkie in front of her.

She dropped her arm, still holding the phone, shock and awe written all over her face. I had just materialized out of thin air in her apartment. As much as she probably would have questions about what else I could do, this was exactly what I needed her to know that I could do.

“How?”

“Through…your phone.”

She turned her head, raising the device as if it had sprouted hair and was sending secret signals to satellites. I dropped to a knee, struggling with the aftereffects of transformation and her attention returned. She ran over to catch me before I completely collapsed. I needed to get much better at this very quickly. Like now.

“What’s wrong?” She asked.

I smiled. “I could sure use a drink.”

symbol_wedge-color

Morena set her phone down, all emotion tied down, perfectly calm, resolute.

“Camille is on her way.”

She tied her hair back. I hadn’t asked it of her. It didn’t feel right to do so.

I sat on the floor, shivering under a blanket. She’d brought me the lemons like I asked but in this state, I felt unsure of the results and wary of being knocked unconscious. It was four in the morning. Which meant it might take Camille a little while to get here.

Morena kneeled beside me, her hand on my bare shoulder.

“This would be for her,” I explained.

She nodded. “I know.”

“Then why?”

“Because she’s someone worth protecting. Like Nick is. And Camille.” She got closer. “I get the sense you’re going to need a lot more than you planned. And I don’t want to put Camille at risk in any way.”

I nodded but kept her gaze. She moved closer.

“What about the girl vampire?” I could smell the basil in her blood. My fangs grew against my apprehension. I shook.

“Lucy? She’s gone dark. I think she’s helped as much as she could. I left the kukri with Sophie.” Morena sighed as she sat down, pulling the front of the blanket down. “I’m not sure how it’s supposed to help but Lucy said it would.”

“Morena, I don’t want this.”

“I know. That’s why it’s ok.” She needed more Vitamin D in her diet. Her blood was low in it. Perils of life in the Pacific Northwest.

“It’ll hurt. I don’t have the strength now to prevent that.”

She smiled and it was the most sincere I’d ever seen her. “Good,” she said softly, her brow creasing. “I think I need it to hurt.”

With that, she eased into my lap, her arms sliding around my naked back, her head turned away, carotid artery pulsing beneath my face. I brushed my lips against her throat all on instinct before catching myself. Before the fog took over, there were things she needed to know.

“Try to stay calm. If your heart races, it’ll be harder for me to stop because of the adrenaline in your blood. Long, deep breaths.” My hand weakly cradled her head as she better positioned herself.

“Like Yoga.”

I licked at her skin. Her heartbeat remained steady. Good.

Her hands clasped together behind my back as she was anticipating her own weakness from anemia. I couldn’t help but smile. She felt it.

“What?” she asked.

She wasn’t expecting it which was what I wanted. My fangs slipped into her skin like needles, causing the smallest cry. It was almost an out-of-body experience for me; I felt such hatred for myself wash over me.

“Please,” she croaked. My anger at having to do this crashed against her and she felt it all. “Think of Sophie. This is for her.”

At the sound of her name, as the blood rushed into me, I pictured the woman I knew as Helene, gone from my world and my thoughts for so long. Too long. She sought only to help others, through all her lifetimes, the purity of her soul and her beliefs constantly challenged by the world she lived in. In this lifetime, she was Sophie Quinn, Vampire Psychologist. And she was not mine.

But she needed protection, as did her wards, one of which now trusted me beyond all else that, with this offering, I would be able to protect them all. I forced myself to relax into what I was, what Sophie needed me to be right now.

The steady rhythm, Morena’s heart pumping blood directly into me through tiny slits in her carotid. Her hands clenched, her cries becoming more vocal, and I pushed her mouth against my shoulder as I felt renewed vigor flowing into each of my cells. She bit into my shoulder hard, breaking the skin. I didn’t really know how much pain she was in and, for a little while, I lost all caring. Several breaths later, her mouth released and her cheek slid against my shoulder.

With sustenance came clarity. I needed to be careful, not to take too much. That was why we called Camille. Morena was worth more than her weight in blood in a fight to come. After a few moments that felt like forever, I felt her grip slacken around me. I retracted my fangs, licked her skin clean. The two slits were imperceptible. She lay in my arms, very quiet, her pulse a little weak but her heart strong, her bone marrow already at working to replenish. On my shoulder, the tiny break in the skin where her teeth had drawn blood had already healed. I tucked the blanket carefully around us. Unintentional and the effect very likely temporary but it would help her recover more quickly.

“Jesper,” she whispered.

“Yes?” I brushed the sweat from her brow.

She turned her head to me, eyes clear but fatigued. “Make sure Camille doesn’t feel anything.”

All new strange abilities aside, there was one thing that remained constant and I knew full well how to use that, especially after the influx of rich, strong, vibrant blood.

I am Vampire.

“Don’t you worry,” I promised her. “When I’m done, she’ll never remember she ever met a real live Vampire.”

DJB: Insults and Injurious Thoughts

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , , on May 16, 2011 by vampirony

symbol_wedge-colorValerian had once given me a protocol to use in the event and only in the event of an emergency. The protocol included a way to contact him, even in his most private chamber of his redoubt. Over the years, I suspected the technology attached to the protocol might have changed but the accessing it was the same.

An iron lockbox welded with no remaining seams covered in raised silver gilding. The silver would cause some burnt flesh to most vampires. I had chosen to keep it secret that it had no effect on me. The nature of the box was to ensure that it took quite some effort to get into.

It took me only a second to punch my hand through the box and tear into it after I’d flown back to my condo. Sophie’s reaction be damned. This was an Emergency. She was going to get herself killed. And I couldn’t let that happen, no matter what she believed.

The anger released in getting into the box calmed me enough to think about our fight. It was an old one. The book and now the old grievance, argued in the old tongue. The memories were still mostly locked away, but not the feelings, not the emotions. I hadn’t felt this on edge, this unsettled in a long while, emotions rumbling under the surface waiting to erupt. I had approached her in anger, not directed at her, but at the threat she continued to protect.

The Carpathian. When she’d spoken, I felt more than saw the need in her eyes to fix wrongs done long ago, her desperation to repair the past. I could not help her with imperfect knowledge. She did not know what to do. I had to help her see that only way out was through.

Inside the box, it was lined in black velvet with a single scrap of vellum. I fished out the ancient paper and tossed the box aside. On the paper, in simple handwriting, were a number and a location. The number was an old style phone number, from the 30’s. The location was 9 Universitat Luzern. Switzerland.

I did a quick online check and came up with a phone number. Then I used my computer to dial it. Once the line was picked up, I forced myself through the line into the room. It gave me a few seconds before I would be discovered, my form taking the time to solidify. In the meantime, while the receiver was being brought to someone’s ear to answer, I overheard the conversation.

“The child was already lost. I had to do the unthinkable to protect her.”

The voice was familiar, smoothly accented South American. But it was the voice of the reply that I well recognized. As my form materialized, my vision took shape as well. Valerian, head bowed, hand clutching something to his chest, spoke as if to himself.

“I’m still cleaning up the wrongs I did you in the past only to find troubles are drawn to you in the present."

“My Lord, we have an unexpected visitor.” Aubry didn’t bother to put the receiver completely up to his ear as by now, I had materialized right in front of him.

Valerian turned to look at me, but his mind still clung to the memories of his past. I knew the feeling and suspected more than ever that Valerian had a direct relationship with Sophie. I believed her now about her past lives. In what lifetime had the two of them met?

“Jesper. Not an unexpected surprise.” He stared at me for a moment, giving me the sense that he read me cover to cover.

“Sir, he called the Luzern line.” Aubry carefully set down the receiver of a very antique phone alongside its base. The room was his private chamber, alright, but not in Switzerland. It was his castle in Prague that the number had been forwarded to. Layered in baroque opulence, Bianchi looked like some Latino Ken doll posed uncomfortably on a red velvet chair.

Valerian spun his whole body towards me and his eyes flashed black for a moment as he commanded, “What has happened?”

I felt Vox buffet against me in a way that showed me only a glimmer of the power this Carpathian held. Sophie was right. I’d seen many things in my years but beside some sanctioned combat, I’d never seen the full fury of a Carpathian unleashed. Perhaps it was easier not to know the depths of evil my brethren were capable of. It had always been easier to turn my head away, distance myself from all those concerns.

But right now, Sophie was in the middle of it with an orphan, half mad Carpathian animal and she needed help. And somehow, I suspected that this Carpathian owed it to her.

I shrugged off the Vox and commanded in kind, “Tell me about the Vampire killing in Seville.”

Valerian stared, caught off-guard. But his face sobered and he sighed.

“I’ll fetch tea, my Lord.” Aubry left the room through a curtained doorway.

Valerian spread an arm to Bianchi, “Alejandro, you’ve heard of our scribe, Jesper Bretton.”

“Si, senor. Mucho Gusto.” He stood and bowed.

My brows drew together from the formality of it. But another word from Valerian cast some light on the situation.

“Bianchi had been keeping an eye on our Vampire Psychologist when she first surfaced from her slumber. Before she had to abandon her home in Ohio.”

“Then you already knew what she was doing, what she was up to. You didn’t need me to investigate her.” It felt like a betrayal deep down. He’d sent me to do work that had already been done. What game was he playing at?

“Alejandro, perhaps you might give us a moment? Jesper has not been brought up to speed.”

Bianchi nodded simply and withdrew, leaving me with the vampire who had me spying on the Vampire Psychologist.

“You lied to me.”

“You were never told to investigate her background. Simply to learn what you could about her current circumstances.” He moved slowly over to his seat, the black dress robes encumbering his movement, weighing him down. He sank down, weary, his hands spreading over the arm rests, gripping them. He breathed heavily and he finally let me read his face. After a moment, I could really tell what was going on.

“You’re protecting her. You sent me to see that she’s safe.”

“She has a tendency to get involved in situations…beyond her capabilities.” His finger drummed on the armrest in a building rhythm. I could see the tension in him finally, as if the day had worn him down. Aubrey, as if on perfect cue, arrived at his master’s chair, passing him a cup that Valerian drunk down rather quickly. As he handed the empty cup over to be refilled, his hands had stopped their nervous movement and he’d seemed to grip himself.

“But why?” I asked.

“Because you are the only one I can trust her with.”

It didn’t make any sense. If he valued her so highly, Xi would make a better guardian. I wasn’t half the vampire in strength or speed that he was, that any Carpathian was.

“I can see what you’re thinking and it’s true. I might’ve sent a better warrior to guard her life but I couldn’t trust anyone but you with her soul.” He sipped from the cup again, then set the cup deliberately back on the saucer. “She’s at it again, trying to save another Carpathian, isn’t she?”

“Tell me about Seville.”

He set the saucer down and settled deep into his chair. “A bottle of the Taint, disguised as wine. One of my agents was sent to retrieve it, trace its lineage. Alphonso. He reported the rumor of an abomination, one taken by the Taint. The rumored seems to be true.”

“And this abomination, it was made from your own elixir. Your own blood?”

“Yes, the sins of my past.”

I stepped toward him in the room, suddenly angry beyond anything I’d felt in a long while. “Did you know it would find her? Did you?”

“No. I had not seen that.”

“And there’s no helping this thing, no way to balance it, as she would say.”

Valerian’s eyes met mine at hearing the words. “No,” the words exploding with more force than perhaps he meant. Then, more softly, “No, I know of no cure for such a creature.” He shuddered through a sigh. “But there’s no telling her that. You must know that about her. That’s not how she learns. She’s not much on talking about things, she wants to feel them, touch them, understand how they work. And so you show her, thinking it is so wholly separate from who you are and how you feel and then she’s crawled right under your armor, under your skin to where you live and breathe. Reminding you that you still do live and breathe.”

I knew exactly what he meant. She thought she knew it all, thought there was always another way, another hope, even for those whose cause was lost. But I didn’t like hearing all this from him, as if he could teach me about my Helene. The fog was lifting on a lifetime spent in spices and sand, one spent in love and loss. I may not have begrudged another for feeling some semblance of what I did for her but there was no quarter given for one who claimed to know her better.

“You wanted the recipe for some tea, Mr. Jesper?”

As I moved to take the proffered paper from Aubry’s hands, I saw a muscle twitch in Valerian’s jaw. He saw me as a tool, sent to become a guardian, that was clear enough. He had felt certain that her charms would work on a vampire like me, a romantic like me, in ways that were predictable. He was playing the puppeteer and I vowed to cut the strings the first chance I got.

“I wouldn’t take that draught just yet,” Valerian warned. “Oh, Aubry may act as if it’s nothing but you’re not ready for that remedy. He’s just angry that you violated our laws in charming him to reveal secrets.”

When I looked in Aubry’s face, I saw the fierceness just underneath the veneer. But it was only what Aubry meant me to see. If he had wanted it, there would’ve been no warning at all. I read the recipe from the paper and handed it back to Aubry, who crumbled it up into dust, eyes seething.

“I tried to explain to him how you did it to protect our mutual friend but you see, that’s the rub. If you can’t trust your friends to behave, then who can you trust?”

I straightened and bowed, “You have my utmost apologies. If you’d like to call me out, I completely understand.”

Valerian sat upright in his chair, as if strike by lightning and full of fervor. “We’ve no time for that. You have a job to do. I expect you to do it.”

I swallowed hard and then nodded. I was no match for Valerian or his horror if it came to that. And as much as I trusted that he did want her protected, I had no idea what connection lay between Sophie and this particular Carpathian. I would have to turn over a lot more rocks to find those answers.

I started to release my hold on the connection through the phone but Valerian had some parting words for me.

“If I didn’t know you better, Jesper, if I thought you had skeletons in your closet and weren’t the closest thing to a blank slate we Vampires can be, I’d think you were utilizing Sophie’s services for yourself. And I’d perish the thought.”

symbol_sun-color

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 Secret Ingredient

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

“There has to be parsley in there.”

The last thing Morena expected to be doing during a second course of Vampire 101 was challenging Jesper to name the ingredients in Nick’s gyoza recipe. But here they were, leaning over plates overloaded with the remnants of Nick’s sleepless night, testing Jesper’s super-sensory sniffer.

“You sure about that, pal?” Nick smiled, chopsticks halfway to his mouth. He proceeded to shovel noodles damp with broth so efficiently and effortlessly into his mouth that Morena didn’t wonder why entire nations found no use for spoons.

Jesper’s face screwed up in concentration. His face was right next to hers alleging that he could smell best as she released the flavors with her chewing. After getting over Nick’s gagging look and her own discomfort having a creature whose face had been even closer to other more private parts of her body, Morena had to admit this had become fun.

She sat on a floor cushion in front of the settee where Nick reclined. They had pulled over a coffee table to bear the weight of Nick’s culinary insomnia. Jesper sat in a straight back chair, wearing a tight navy short-sleeved T-shirt, dark relaxed jeans, his once-auburn now nearer to bronze shoulder length hair flared out around him in waves. The most noticeable difference? His eyes. They’d seemed grey before and now they were alive with all colors, but mostly hazel.

“Take another bite,” Jesper told her.

“Why don’t you just eat it?” she complained. She was stuffed. If she ate another gyoza, she was certain she’d pop the top button off her designer jeans.

Jesper jerked his head back, aghast at the suggestion. “Me? Oh no, I follow a strict non-vegan liquid diet.”

Nick laughed as Jesper played it totally over the top. Morena rolled her eyes and sighed, picking up one more. When she went to dip it into the soy sauce, Jesper halted her.

“Without the sauce this time, the sodium is throwing off the scent.”

As she tore the gyoza into two between her teeth, Jesper leaned in close, breathing deep. The playful look in his eyes earlier banished as he became all focus, closing his eyes.

“Now exhale at me,” he instructed, hands on his thighs.

She tossed Nick a look.

“That has to be cheating,” Nick commented.

She breathed openmouthed into Jesper’s face and he inhaled, straightening up and back away from her, eyes closed tightly.

“And that there is so gross.”

Morena almost choked on a laugh. “You stop it! You’d think you tried to rig this.”

Nick shrugged, “Yeah like I was totally thinking of putting crazy ingredients in there this morning as I was trying not to think of mind wrecking.” He sobered for a moment, burying his face into his bowl to try and cover it.

Morena couldn’t help the smile sliding from her face. The fear of this morning seemed so far away and yet, her hand was still covered by a bandage and she was packing Nepalese heat in her bag. The cut from the kukri had mostly healed; the bandage was more a reminder to be alert and wary. She hadn’t thought that would be to be on top of her tasting ability. It wasn’t a talent she pretended to have.

She looked over to Jesper to see if the mood shift had impacted him too to find him watching Nick very closely. Nick seemed to still be investigating the bottom of his bowl.

“Ask me, Nick.”

Nick shrugged, “I dunno. I just was wondering if you’d ever wrecked a human before.” Before Jesper had a chance to answer, Nick continued. “It’s just, it sounds so horrible. I mean, I don’t think too much of my brain. I’m not Einstein or Hermione but, it’s the only thing that’s really mine, you know. My thoughts.”

Jesper considered Nick for a moment, waited for Nick, who was lounging on the settee to meet his gaze. Then Jesper looked to Morena. She couldn’t help it. She wanted to know too. It was all fun and games, she knew, until she found out how badly her ex-whatever-he-had-been had behaved in his vampire life.

“It is horrible. Our minds, our memories in particular, are what shape us into what we are. But being what we are doesn’t come with instructions. Without proper guidance, our abilities can do a lot of damage, especially when we are first vampire born.”

“Is that supposed to be a yes or no?” Morena asked directly.

Jesper met her eyes. He lowered his eyes slowly, regret covering his face. “I’d like to be able to say no. But much of my early years I have no memory of. It happens sometimes, when there’s enough stress. I have to hope not. But I have never knowingly bound a human to me.”

“Why not? Isn’t it safer to have a companion?” Morena asked, suddenly concerned. She didn’t know his age but to think of him alone for all those years, with that horrible secret, it seemed unbearable. She had held his secret for only a few months and she found it so isolating, even with Camille sharing it.

Jesper raised his eyes to hers. “Safer for whom?”

She couldn’t fault that logic. It didn’t take the hurt away from him not sharing more about what he was truly capable of with her, but it gave her a hint of why he had kept it from her. It also let her know, all in a rush, that he never meant anything long term with her. She dropped her eyes realizing that.

“Uh, you guys want a moment?”

Morena slapped Nick’s leg and a smile crossed her face. Boy, he made her laugh. For now, that was worth a whole lot. His face was a strange mix of discomfort and naivety. He hadn’t really known what she was thinking, but somehow, he could tell she went into that darker part of her thinking, the place she normally dwelled with regards to her relationships.

He gave her a tentative smile. She’d swung by to pick him up, partly to keep an eye on him, partly to help him haul the night’s dinner. He’d managed to get a good amount of sleep, like she had, and they’d had a pleasant chat on the ride over. That was when she wasn’t hounding him about how they were possibly going to eat that much food.

“Basil!”

“Are you shitting me? How the hell do you DO that?”

Jesper grinned ear to ear while Nick filled up his bowl for the fifth straight time. One thing was for sure: that boy could eat a mean streak. “Now, for our daily double,” he added, stuffing his mouth again with rice,”how much are you willing to bet in potent potables?”

“Hmm,” Jesper thought about it, index finger to his temple, fingers curled under his chin. “A new leather jacket?”

Nick’s eyes got wide, “Well ok then.”

He was obviously pleased with himself. This one was bound to be harder than Morena believed Jesper would expect. Jesper had already returned Nick’s leather jacket that he’d borrowed last night, just like she’d said he would. He’d even apologized for racing out. There had definitely been more unease there than she was used to seeing from him but she realized this Jesper was entirely new to her. It was like meeting him for the first time, the veil finally falling away. She had to admit, with an admiring look at him, it was rather bittersweet. All thanks to Sophie.

“Where do you think Sophie is?” she asked to no one.

Jesper stiffened, noticeably.

Nick shrugged. He knew but wasn’t saying. Quite the dutiful employee indeed.

“Would either of you tell me if you thought she were in danger?” Jesper asked bluntly.

“Um, what part of her job isn’t dangerous?” Nick retorted.

Jesper fell silent.

After a few moments silence, Morena targeted her harsh tone to Nick, ”She’s with that Castellan, isn’t she?”

“That’s not what it’s called,” Nick pouted.

Morena saw the tension all over Nick’s face and leveled a seething eye at him.

“I don’t actually know where she is. She didn’t tell me, alright?”

“She said she’d be here,” Jesper said stiffly.

Morena turned back to him. “You talked to her?”

“Not exactly.”

Morena looked between the two of them and realized that no one had, in fact, made sure Sophie wasn’t doing something stupid. Just as she was going to get up in a huff, Nick fished out his phone, tapping a few buttons.

A tremulous silence fell for a moment but Morena noticed that Jesper hadn’t moved an inch.

“Who’s the Carpathian? The woman from last night?” he lightly touched his chest.

Nick tightened his lips. He wasn’t about to say a word. He was trying to be the dutiful assistant.

Morena had no such compunction. “No, there’s another one. She told me she’d never successfully treated one; that she’d been killed by the last one she treated. Are they that powerful?”

Morena saw his eyes narrow in a way that made her realize that yes, there was something dangerous lurking there. She wished she understood more. The not knowing was the worst.

“She was right. There is a lot you two must be told. Like how to avoid us.”

Before Jesper could continue, Nick’s phone chirped back. Nick hastily grabbed up the phone.

“She’s on her way back to the office. Should be here shortly,” he announced, relieved. He looked up, smile on his face. Then, casting a glance at Morena, he asked, “You going to finish that?”

She shook her head and watched him finish off the last of the gyoza with a flourish, as if moments before they weren’t all thinking Sophie was in danger. It made her smile, how easily he let go of it. She tossed a look to Jesper, expecting him to be relieved as well.

But Jesper was lost in thought, hand moving over his chest idly.

She drew her brows together and then remembered the anecdote about Vampire healing. She didn’t really want to ask but found she couldn’t help it. “So, um, did you, uh, go out last night?”

When he turned a blank expression on her, she almost lost her nerve. The memories she had of sharing blood with him involved very little clothing and very pleasant sensations. She swallowed. The last time had been about a month ago, something she had tried not to think too much about as it had rattled her in lots of ways. Enough that she had broken her confidence, taken a business card, and made a call to a stranger.

“To heal, you know,” she continued. It had been different when she’d been helping him pick willing donors. She needed to get over it, needed to hear him say that he was with someone else. It would make it easier. It really would.

He blinked, his hand stopped moving. “No.”

“No? Are you healed?”

He nodded.

“Then how?”

The smile slowly spread over his face. “I followed doctor’s orders.”

She smiled back, shaking her head.

“Yeah, two blonde co-eds and a redhead chaser.”

“Nick,” she exclaimed, slapping his leg.

“What?”

“I think I’m ready for that potent potables now,” Jesper added.

“I don’t think you are but you can try.”

“Ah, I’ll take that challenge.”

“Yes, one Italian leather jacket.”

“Oh, it’s Italian now?” Morena accused.

She watched Nick and Jesper spar verbally, enjoyed seeing this side of Jesper, even though she realized she was so not over him. But yes, she could see it. There was a bond there. She’d seen it the first night after he and Sophie had talked. And she remembered the shock of seeing Jesper curled up in Sophie’s lap last night. It was something strong and she needed to get over it. Soon.

Just as she was about to re-engage the conversation, the office door creaked open and Sophie shuffled in. They all turned to look and one look was all they needed to know where she’d been and who with. And with his usual knack for the obvious, Nick addressed it.

“Damn, boss, you look like Death warmed over!”

The Truth Will Out

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

What should have been a beautiful warm Seattle night to enjoy a breathtaking view of the Sound from the park across from Pike Place Market wound up being more an education in how public places could hide anyone. Vagrant, socialite, drunkard, hipster, tourist, mystic, killer…the naïve masses crushing themselves through the night, walking the harbor steps for a view of the pier, lights from ships bouncing across the water.

When I found the totem pole that Skovajsa had arranged as our meeting place, I found myself facing a fifty foot log of cedar rising up into the dark sky. At eye level, some sort of bird, talons up and raised, staring at me. It made me think of Lucy and her flock ability, power of transfiguration that I had never seen. Of course, in the here and now, with the memories of Valerian coming back to me, I realized that I was not fully back into myself yet. The nightmares that haunted me were images from my past that I fought to keep hidden.

I seldom thought back on how I’d become aware in this lifetime. It was still too painful to remember all of it beyond what Skovajsa’s attack had forced me to relive. But my crisis in this life had connected me back with lives that had come before. But still, mostly snippets and fragments had emerged over the last two years. Even now I had to admit how little I knew of the Memento itself, how it had come into my possession, how its magic had been forged.

Had I invented a reality to cover over those gaps, much like Skovajsa had? Were our struggles so very different, trying to understand what we were and how to become that next thing, the next step in our evolution? Looking up at the pole, towering over me in the dark, I realized that the dance was over. I needed to push Skovajsa, challenge him to know what he was really about, whether I could really help him.

I turned away from the totem pole and felt Skovajsa near. He kept his distance, observing me from across the street. He still wore his dark long jacket and once he could tell I’d seen him, he strode over. Interesting. He seemed intent on not frightening me.

I met him halfway, where we’d be full under street lights.

“Thank you for meeting me here,” he said, voice even and calm.

I simply nodded.

He reached out a hand to touch my cheek and I stepped away. Flashbacks of that hand wrapped around my throat were all too recent. He dropped it, immediately stuffing both of his hands in his pockets.

“Shall we walk?” he offered.

“Ok,” I said. As long as it’s within full view of everyone else in the whole of Seattle. And maybe even a few spy satellites. I wasn’t going to take the lead on this. He’d called this meeting. He needed to explain what he wanted.

It took him awhile to get going. In fact, we’d reached to the end of this stretch of safe walkway before I halted us. “Look, Skovajsa, you called this meeting.”

“Yes, I thought we might talk.”

Um, right. It was talking to a brick wall, all six plus feet of it. The tension was getting to me, especially since I was getting his back currently as he looked around. But I needed to give this one more chance. I needed to be sure. It was for a life’s work undone.

“I’m listening,” I said, my tone blank.

He turned toward me, a look of compassion and regret on his face. “I have committed an offense. I have not treated you with due respect and I apologize for my short sightedness. You are a woman of great worth and understanding. I see that now.”

O-K. If the hairs on my arms would just sit down, maybe this wasn’t going to be too bad.

“You see, I do not trust easily. My life has been full of strife and death. I have been hunted, even by own kind. And humans,” he paused, looking away, suddenly pensive. “Well, they seem to stick around for more than they are wanted, for their own ends. It is why I have had so few servants.” He looked down at me again. “Finding a companion, it is difficult for one such as me.”

Lost, misunderstood, confused?

“Someone of talent, knowledge, and strength of character and purpose to match my own power and resources is…rare indeed.”

Oh, sorry, egotistical, maniacal, sociopathic.

He reached a hand into his coat and thirteen lifetimes stood up in me, ready to scream in one voice for help. But instead, he retrieved a velvet rectangular box, holding it out to me. “Please. A token of my apology.”

I was about to halt him with my hand but one of those voices, a young bride from Darjeeling, bade me give in for a moment, to not tempt the beast when it was most contrite. I took the box and opened it. Even under the dim glow of street lamps, the diamond necklace glittered shamefully. Oh, shit.

“Skovajsa–.”

“Please, you must hear me. I feel if you give me the chance, you may come to see that our lives might be bond together in perfect circumstance. If I might just be allowed to give you the stars, you might yet bring me the sun.”

My eyes darted up. The sun. My blood ran cold. What possible reason could a vampire like him want with the sun? He had learned to speak in metaphor. My talent and knowledge, his search for a companion. This was something I never expected. Skovajsa didn’t want to kill me. Far from it. He wanted to bind me to him, to use my knowledge for his own purposes. Perhaps to hunt down other vampires.

The Sun. Jesper. Somehow, my instincts told me, he knew about Jesper. I didn’t know how or for how long. Had he read my thoughts? Was that yet another talent vampires of which I had been unaware?

He put his hands over mine to close the box, pushing it gently to me. I blinked very slowly up at him. My mind ground to a complete halt and the very worst that could possibly be had come to fruition.

“Skovajsa, you are not the vampire you say you are. I do not know how you were truly made but your life story seems a contrivance to make up for being abandoned by your maker.”

This made a dent in his temperate manner. His eyebrow twitched but he slowly smiled to cover it.

“I can try to help you, help you try to recover your story, your memory…as your psychologist.” Then, I pushed the box back into his chest. He let me draw one hand back, but he gripped my left before I could get it back safely. He stared down at the box.

“What do you mean, you think my story is a lie? That my struggle…that it has been a lie?”

He let go of my hand as if I’d hit him. His words should have been filled with hurt, anger even. But they fell flat and devoid of anything resembling humanity and all the gracelessness of pure, raw emotion. It was as if someone was typing in the words and Skovajsa the mannequin spoke. He was either buried so deep underneath the lies he’d told himself or the man he’d once been no longer existed at all.

“I have no doubt you have struggled. But I can only help you if you want to know the truth. If you really want to know yourself.”

He held out the box again, as if diamonds really were a girl’s BFF. I stepped away.

It was heartbreaking, in a way. He wasn’t Valerian. He wasn’t fighting to maintain himself while I tilted the world on him. I could see he just didn’t understand this rejection. It didn’t fit. But nothing showed in his face. But the gears must have been turning.

“You will…try to help me.”

“As your psychologist.”

He gazed into my face again, his impassive. “You’ll help me…uncover my story.”

Something felt off, like he was backing me into some corner that I couldn’t see. “You wanted to know yourself.”

He looked down, dropping his arms to his sides. “Yes. I said that.” He straightened up to full height. “I have many holdings, pretty houses, stores, nice things. Cars, furs, jewels. You would not be wanting for anything. Perhaps in time, when you know me better, you will change your mind.”

Damn, if he wasn’t persistent.

“No. I won’t. I want to help you. But not like that.”

His body relaxed all of a sudden, as if I’d given him exactly what he wanted. “Well, I will just have to find some other way to convince you. While we continue our treatments, of course.”

Not only was he not listening, he wasn’t going to take no for an answer. He’d made up his mind. I hesitated. It might make more sense to stall him into thinking we were good until I could figure out what to do next. But he was Vampire; he had it in his head that I would make a great addition to his many holdings. Being used for my knowledge was something that Valerian had once warned me about.

If you are not protected, you will become a pawn.

I nodded. “Right. I’ll contact you for your next appointment time. In a few days. Good night.” I began to walk away.

“Sophie.”

It was the first time I remember him using my name. It chilled me. I wanted to scour my ears. Was there just a little Vox in there?

“You turn down the finest jewels. What gift would be more appropriate for my…psychologist friend?”

I’d turned down the nearest thing a vampire gave to a marriage proposal and realized that this was by far one of the most dangerous and unhinged vampires I’d ever met. There was no doubt now. Skovajsa was the Vampire Cannibal I feared. I was stalling for a plan, for something brilliant to come to mind.

“Don’t suppose you have any fine wine?” I quipped.

“Certainly.” He smiled. “Something just perfect for the occasion. A very rare old vintage Sherry. I just recently got it for a steal from a collector in Seville.”

Remember what I said about fearing a smiling vampire?

DJB: Memoirs, Volume 3: The Look of Things

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on April 17, 2011 by vampirony

“Sure,” was the length and breadth of her response to my text.

It didn’t leave me much to go on, which troubled me some. I scratched at my chest, my scars prickling under my shirt. It took me a while to notice that Conclave had gone suddenly quiet, as if the conference call had been dropped.

I pitched forward at my desk, realizing that I was no longer actively projecting into the room where the others had gathered. Someone had called this emergency session to talk about some slight somewhere or something. I had to admit a failing on my part as Conclave scribe that I hadn’t been paying much attention.

As I peered into the room, trying to re-establish what was happening, I saw a form move in front of the camera. A laptop was usually setup on the far side of the room where I could see everyone assembled and easily project myself without getting in anyone’s way. It tended to unnerve some of the others when my projected self interfered in their space.

The form was Valerian, clearly seated in his chair on the dais. He raised an eyebrow at me and blocked the entire room from my view as I heard the heated conversation continue in the background. But before I could grasp the thread, Valerian spoke, his voice low, just for me.

“You look a little different today, my absent-minded friend.”

“Huh?” I was scratching at my chest again. I made myself stop.

He didn’t say more, just slowly sat back out of view.

That is an insolent allegation–.”

I pushed my awareness back into the room just as Valerian, just behind my left elbow, spoke up.

“Considering that the focus of the allegation has not appeared to this conclave, perhaps it would be better to reserve these proceedings for a better time.”

Across the room from me was a very young looking Latino, wearing chinos and a white sports polo shirt with short cropped sun-streaked brown hair, more modern day soccer player than vampire. But his jaw was set with selfless resolution. And he stood alongside a very old friend to the Conclave, Imperius from the Jaguar clan. Imperius was no vampire, but had been a vampire servant from his Roman days, then traveled as a monk throughout Europe. He’d been a servant for so long and his bonded vampire had been so ancient that when his master had to be killed due to insanity, Imperius had survived on. It was a bit of a miracle that no one could still explain.

Xi, current member of Valerian’s staff although originally from Teng-Wen’s Jiang-shi horror, had stepped down from the dais, as if advancing on the Latino. His long dusty black locks were bristling, the tattoos over his naked torso rippled with magical intensity. It had been his voice that Valerian had forestalled. With his clenched fists and forward posture, he was a hair’s breadth from disobedience.

Imperius set his shrewd eyes to studying Valerian. He’d been old before Valerian had been human born. There wasn’t much that passed his notice or reasoning among vampire affairs and he had very deftly helped the South American contingent carve out equal rights among the vampire Conclave, including this particular privilege of direct access. No other horror would allow anyone but the leader to directly address Conclave. But the South Americans were different in many ways and we’d all chosen to respect that in their one small request for fear of the bloodbath that might follow denial.

“And when might young Bianchi, who’s already traveled quite far in service to the Conclave, get his satisfaction?” Imperius asked, suspicious.

Valerian stood, a signal this Conclave was at an end. “When the vampire in question can be found.”

The Latino Bianchi stepped forward, “I only wish to be heard, Lord Valerian. We in the southern provinces believe in your wisdom handling threats to all vampire society, regardless of their source.”

Xi made the slightest inhalation in temper but before breath escaped his lungs, his lips and jaw clenched shut tight and he began stepping back heavily, up the steps of the dais, behind Valerian. His eyes darted to his master but no other part of his body moved. He became a glorious statue of a warrior, frozen on the precipice of attacking. It was the first time in a long time I’d seen Valerian have to reign in one of his own at Conclave. His kindred were among the most obedient, mainly because they had been hunted the most throughout the ages and relied so heavily on him for their continued existence.

His full expression was hard for me to see from my vantage but his sharp face was dented in a pained smile.

“But of course. We shall adjourn from this larger group to talk it over.”

Valerian stepped down the dais towards the Latino vampire, his robe falling thick and dark around him. When he reached Bianchi, he put an arm around the boy, leading him away, with Imperius hesitating behind. For all his power and darkness, there was something so fatherly about that arm that it beckoned me forward.

“So, scribe, how will you record this session? I fear there was more unsaid than you could hope to surmise.”

I hadn’t realized I had pushed further into the room, some fifty feet from the laptop. Imperius looked at my projected self as if my presence were commonplace. Absent-minded indeed. Valerian was right; I wasn’t quite in control of body or spirit at the moment, both wanting to be elsewhere. But there were too many questions in the here and now that were hinted at, most of them from our appointed leader himself.

“What did the boy mean ‘regardless of the source’?” I asked, still looking after Valerian.

“Hmm, he refers to the Taint.”

I turned my head toward him. I was familiar with the blood cleansing programs. Valerian had just returned from one not long ago and had still deigned to meet with me about Sophie. I now knew he had been drinking pine needle tea as a restorative. I kept away from the cleansings as I had never had the thirst for gorging as some had, even though I understood the necessity of the process. But some programs devised more recently hadn’t always used such a direct approach.

“Yes, what of it?”

All manner of vampire concoctions had once been tried to affect a larger group of people without exposing vampires to direct blood consumption. All attempts had significant side effects moving Valerian to discontinue them and every unintentional spawn had been liberated. He’d had to argue very vigorously with Shadria and Galscythe, ministers of the programs, to revert to vampire individuals doing the direct cleansing, volunteering himself to start. They had not seen a few errant orphans as being statistically significant even after one had murdered a school bus full of children in Argentina.

Horrific as it had been, they had still thought to refine, not end the practice. Valerian wanted it eradicated immediately and every potion, powder, or bottle collected and destroyed. Their disagreement had come to combat in the Conclave chamber, Shadria calling Valerian soft in his concern for the humans and weak for his fear over a few fevered and wild offshoots. Before that day, the list of punishable offenses in vampire society included only two: Endangerment of vampire society and interference in another vampire’s horror or territory.

That day, Valerian in his swift and utter defeat of Shadria, a vampire two hundred years his senior, had added another. Children of any kind were untouchable. Of course, he explained that infanticide was a great threat to our treaties and our secrecy and therefore violated the primary law. But the ferocity with which he had physically mutilated Shadria and mentally wrecked her in unknowable ways gave rise to suspicions of his exact motives.

Imperius chewed the side of his beard, looking much the portly monk, still in his old traveling robes. “Valerian promised Jaguar clan that he would destroy every remnant of Taint from the Earth. It’s rumored a few still elude him, that his agents work even now to recover them. But Jaguar clan remembers how he fought with honor to protect all vampires from ultimate ruin and avenged the defiled children of the Argentines.”

“Yes, he’s become quite the family man.”

“Hmm, “ Imperius scoffed, slapping air where my chest would be. “You might ask Xi how he feels about his adopted father right about now.” He took his leave.

He was right of course but this interaction had revealed something a lot closer at hand. As I looked down at my chest, the V neck shirt hinted at something strange beneath, something Valerian had tried to hint at earlier. I pulled down the fabric at the neck and noticed that my projected self had an unblemished chest, even as I felt my real chest still itching. Somehow, my projected self was the old one, not the one with a few new scars that Valerian had woken from reverie in the laptop conference call.

I must not fear

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on April 3, 2011 by vampirony

I woke early evening after being hunted and tormented in nightmares brought on by too little sleep and too much melatonin. How quickly I had moved from the troubles of the dreaming, sun-endowed vampire Jesper to the more sinister evils of the Carpathian cannibal Skovajsa. Something about it all just seemed so off.

How much of it could be explained by his not having known his maker, not having a mentor to work him through the process, I wasn’t sure. The very survival of a newborn usually demanded a maker, a parent to provide for and protect, especially in the cities. The era of bloodbaths and the countless missing peasants whom no one noticed was over. Even if a newly made hunted the homeless, someone would take note.

And then there was Skovajsa’s textbook story that seemed all too…textbook. But he seemed so proud of it, so caught up in it. Never mind his aggression; he’d already shown him himself perfectly capable of violence with little regard to the fact that it was uncivilized.

No maker, a back story that reeked of a Bela Lugosi film, the emotional depth of a teaspoon, and the vanity of male model…it went without saying. I was afraid to see him. Afraid for my life. I was ashamed of it. I’d lived lifetime after lifetime, becoming acquainted the my many selves, knowing that because I fell so far from perfection, so far from being able to give up that which might free me from mortal concerns that I was doomed to be reincarnated again.

But it wasn’t the life that I feared losing…it was what was left behind. The mystery of a dreaming vampire and his glowing eyes. Just the thought that my going out to meet Skovajsa tonight might mean that last night would be the last time I saw Jesper curdled the blood in my veins. I’d lived so many time that the loss of my own existence no longer phased me. But the loss of his, the sheer impossibility of ever connecting with him again the way he was right now, warm, funny, vulnerable, and so very very intriguing; it terrified me beyond all else. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the thought because my heart finally ached not to be parted from him, not just yet.

Maybe he felt the same, maybe he was just his positive vampire self, taking advantage of the situation to his own ends. I had never cared that my emotions be returned in kind. The fact that I had them for once…finally…after feeling so bereft of emotions for so very long. The emptiness, the void was suddenly bursting with this all-consuming fear and I was shaking in my damp sheets, clutching my arms around me.

He was everything that Skovajsa was not. I knew Skovajsa was bad news. So why would I even consider going to meet him?

There was a Carpathian long ago that I had tried to help. I had been fascinated by him, fallen in love with him, and watched him slip from my grasp as his imbalances had turned his interest in me to obsession, his love into fear, my refusal to be turned into hate, my attempts to minister to him twisted into ridicule of him, contemptible conceit. In the very end, his very love for me had been my undoing. I hadn’t seen how far he’d gone into this madness, hadn’t been aware or prepared.

My failure had cost me my life. It had been the last time I remember feeling anything more than fondness for someone, excepting, of course, my daughter.

One dark night in London in 1883, I met a vampire named Valerian, in the flat of a Mr. Roland Emmerick, during a meeting of the Ghost Club, an organization founded to investigate spiritualism and science in a quest for knowledge. While women were not allowed in the Ghost Club officially, having a strange aptitude for reading people’s past landed me an audience in the club as a medium.

Valerian, who must have been already over 400 years old by this time, was investigating this club for what threat it might have against him and his kind. I suspect he had already started a horror of his own and wanted to see about setting London up as his home. He cut quite an impressive visage; tall, dark, and handsome with angular cheeks and deep set blue eyes.

Whether he was actually attracted to me physically or rather some of my comments had piqued his interest initially, he knew well how to mete control of his abilities to charm and attract. It had caught me off-guard. What was worse was that as we began to talk, the wall between my professionalism and his, well, vampire nature, slipped seamlessly away. He led me to a quiet corner of the room to share a brandy with him. Since most of the assembled might disapprove of such a strong drink for such a gentle lady, I agreed, thinking, mostly, that it would settle my nerves.

It did. It emboldened me, matter-of-fact, into revealing what I suspected of him.

“A vampire? Surely you are letting these zealots of the supernatural influence you,” he joked, but a darkness crept over his face.

“Zealots they may be but the fact remains, you are a wolf in sheep’s clothing, testing the shepherd’s flock for your own designs.” I took another sip. “It speaks of your refinement, maturity of one of your kind. The fact that you can meld so well in such animated company further demonstrates your power and capability.”

“If I were sufficiently capable, as you suggest, wouldn’t I be able to charm you into thinking me just a man having an entrancing conversation with a beautiful and yet enigmatic woman?”

“Lord Valerian, as you have already been made aware, I have supernatural tendencies of my own. Though, this brandy helps me to confess, I feel the power of your sway most strongly. I do hope you will not take advantage of a lady who only seeks to offer up her abilities for benefit of others.”

“You can rely upon me, sweet lady, to take the utmost care with your person. Although, I too must confess myself strangely held captive like no time in recent memory. If we were to pretend, for a moment, that I was this, uh, creature of which you speak, what special skills might you lay upon my person?”

Looking at him coyly, drunk off brandy, “I would help you find the balance which you seek.”

He guffawed heartily. But as I remained steadfast in my gaze, he face sobered into incredulity. “Let me make sure I understand you. You believe that I, a stranger that you have just met for all of an hour, am unbalanced?”

As I held his gaze with my own, I watched it sneak under his armor and behind those dark blue eyes, there was a tremor. First, it was a flash of anger and he seemed about to bolt. The room was heading with incense and some other odor. Pipe smoke filling the room and the brandy like liquid courage in my veins, I moved to ease his mind, putting my gloved hand out.

I misjudged my mark, my hand landing not on his arm as intended. Instead, it fell upon his upper thigh.

His eyes flashed and his mouth dropped open just enough that I clearly saw his fangs snap out. It would’ve been quite acceptable, maybe even expected of him, a gentleman, to recognize a lady out of her depth, too much in the drink, and in danger of, perhaps already sullying her reputation.

He was old enough, mature enough, powerful enough that my small slip of propriety should have been nothing to him. Even as Vampire, such a touch, such a conversation, should have done little to move him from his plan. But I got to him that evening, just as he had got to me and we were staring at each other, as if suddenly both naked.

He wasn’t without any subtleties. He leaned forward, letting the fabric of his jacket drape over my arm so that no casual observer might notice where my hand lay. The room was stifling, my head began to swim, and I surmise now that it was in no small measure because he lost control of his abilities. I dropped my brandy glass and put my other hand to my head before fainting away.

The rest I know from Emmerick who told me later how Valerian gathered me up in his arms, declared that I had just had a powerful psychic fit in reading his future and that he would return me home posthaste in his carriage.

When I came to later, my head was resting against his shoulder in the carriage. But contrary to what could have been, he had taken no other liberties, both of his hands rested on his walking stick. As I stirred, opening my eyes, he spoke.

“I must apologize. There must be some truth in your words for only if I were not quite right would I take such a risk and spirit you away from that assembly.” He took a long, slow breath. “But I find I cannot be parted from you just yet.”

I lifted my head, felt his being all throughout me. I put a weak hand to my throat.

He noticed the movement. “No, I have not bitten you…yet.”

“You’ve done far worse.” I spoke softly. Without a bite, it could only mean that his sheer power alone had been brought to hear. He’d charmed me, nay, perhaps even worse than that, he’d entranced me. The pull felt so strong, I had to clench my hands to keep them from him.

He turned to look at me. Instead of a jaunty smile, there was regret and a sheepish look. His fangs peeked from under tightly drawn lips. “I did not intend it.”

I should’ve been fighting with all my remaining strength against him, to get out of his carriage, but I believed him. I read in his eyes the truth of the situation, that it was almost a reflex; he was Vampire and he must keep what was his. And somehow in that drawing room, I had intrigued him enough, shocked him enough, that it had forged some bond.

“Perhaps, my lord, if your mind was put at some ease, you might be able to relinquish your hold.” It was like gasping in air to make any sense, no matter how he was to be believed. I tried not to fight it, that could only led to wrecking of my mind especially if, he had no control over this binding that had happened.

He smiled without mirth, moving a hand to take my chin gently in his grasp. “And what possible ease could I find in your presence, when you look right through all four hundred thirty three of my years and make me feel like a schoolboy scraping my knees at the altar of a divine?”

I couldn’t think past the current moment. The only thoughts that seemed to make any sense were to give in enough that we both might have some ease. With shaky fingers, I undid the top buttons of my collar. His fangs grew involuntarily at revealing my neck to him. I blinked my eyes shut, wanting to dive headlong through this moment so I might find a way back out the other side.

He moved to wrap his arm around me, tilting my chin with his hand. Besides the bumpy nature of the carriage, once I was completely in his hold, I was no longer jostled, his strength so complete that I felt like I was floating.

His thumb moved over my cheek causing me to open my eyes to him again. There was a question in his gaze. “You think this will break my regard for you?”

“Yes,” I breathed. Arrgh, I just wanted him to hurry!

I could feel my veins throbbing in my whole body, heart thumping just for him. If this didn’t work, I’d be lost.

“My lady,” he whispered, eyes still searching mine. “What is your name?”

“Darcie Sherbourne,” I replied simply.

“Darcie Sherbourne,” he tried the name on his tongue, head leaning over me. Then Lord Valerian, loyal lieutenant to Stephen the Great, Prince of Moldavia, who fought to repel the Ottomans during the Battle of Vaslui in 1475, ancient vampire, gentleman and scholar, professed his own prescience.

“You will be the death of me.”

Then he bit me.

“““““““““““““““““

I was in no way ready to meet Skovajsa. I was too vulnerable. I realized I was still willing to give Skovajsa a chance because of my past with Valerian. But Valerian had killed me. Our bond had been broken in one way in that carriage and forged in another. And it been the undoing of us both.

The twins might be my biggest regret but Valerian had been my ultimate failure.

And here I was, afraid of losing this life more than any other I could recall, stepping into a cab at half past 10PM to meet the vampire fraud in the heart of downtown. As I settled into the seat, my phone buzzed in my pocket.

A text. From Jesper.

Got yur message. See u later?

Nothing in this life was ours to keep. Everything we acquired, every happiness we managed, only moments on loan to us. The trick was to accept those moments as gifts and linger over them only for a moment, not to clasp them tightly until they turned to dust.

Sure, I texted back. I leaned my head back in the cab, watching the water of another lake fill my view. This moment, right now, with my heart beating warmly in my chest with relief, this moment I would savor.

Something about frying pans

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

Nick arrived home to his parents’ place above their restaurant GoButa in the International District several hours after midnight and sat in bed, reading from the back section of the Memento, what Sophie called the “Vampire Factbook.” The large vellum pages held a small tight script that gave up secrets about familiars, ground tombs that gave birth to newly made vampires, and, most frightening, unbound vampires. Unbound vampires were ones made by mistake and the vampire maker, for whatever reason, was not there to help mentor the newborn into the Vampire world. According to the book, unbound vampires almost always went rabid and wound up causing terror.

Nick shuddered and typed a few more notes into his laptop. The image of the blonde vixen vampire from the bar came into his mind and would not go away. Inspired by that fear, Nick flipped through the pages, looking for hints, tips, tricks, anything on how to actually kill a vampire. Just as he was beginning to get frustrated, he stumbled upon what appeared to be an obituary page. It listed vampires (presumably) and the manner in which they had died.

Beheading, infernos, sunshine, massive blood loss. So the movies are true?

The movies never mentioned vampires with laser beam eyes. Strangely, for as much as gentleman vampire Jesper seemed powerful, he seemed ok. The petite girl Lucy, she was a conundrum. She seemed to not really be one of them. At the same time, the thought of her sucking that blood down creeped him out. He’d never hear that sucking sound and the crinkling of the foil package again without cringing. He wondered where it came from. The blood inside.

Again, the blonde appeared in his mind and he remembered her businessman companion. Nick read the section of Vampire Influence. Twice. Memorized it and then typed it into his laptop. The idea of a vampire “wrecking” his mind, well, he never would have believed it until he’d made eye contact with the blonde vampiress. It was the merest feeling of his body disconnecting from his will and it was scarier than shit. He didn’t want to be a vampire. He was too much the foodie.

Her eyes. Pools of obsidian. And did she make that businessman her food, her slave, one of the unbound? Did she wreck his mind?

By the time the fish monger arrived at the back door of the restaurant, Nick had the kitchen in a frenzy of activity. He stopped kneading yet another batch of soba noodles to sign for the shipment and went back to work, ignoring his elderly parents entering the kitchen and staring at him. His forearms were sore from rolling the dough out over and over but his mind was finally clear.

Cooking calmed him. It was the only thing in this world that he was a natural at, from his earliest years. He first cooked up omurice, an omelette with fried rice, since he’d skipped dinner. Turned out, he wasn’t very hungry. He rolled up his sleeves and got the mill out. He needed to work on something involved, something that wouldn’t go to waste and that would benefit the restaurant.

He started making soba for the next day’s service. After an hour, he felt his worries slip away, if not entirely, at least to the back of his mind. The action of rolling the dough out, folding, and rolling again had a calming repetition that he lost himself in.

Right before the fish monger had shown up, he started working on some sata andagi, Okinawa donuts. The smell of the fryer made him think of all the mornings he’d woken up to that smell, bounding down the stairs to his mother at the stovetop. She would slap his fat fist away from the stove as he tried to sample freshly drained treats.

By the time he’d moved on to pork-filled gyoza, his mother was there, standing just inside the kitchen door, watching. She’d seen him do this before, with a new disappointment, stress, or strife. In the past, a strict word about waste or the mess would be enough to chastise Nick, set him back to rights having exorcised his demons. Her eyes took in the sheer volume of his labor and assessed that no words she knew would quell this, his latest worry. It must be great indeed.

Now she walked over to him as his father started the chores of the morning. She put a hand on his shoulder and handed him an envelope. He wiped his hands on a kitchen towel before taking it. He opened it and removed a check from inside. It was made out to him for more money than he’d ever made in such a short stint, barring, of course, that one summer in Alaska. His mother asked him a simple question.

“For school?”

“Yes, Mom.” He stuffed it into his back pocket and rolled out a few more rounds for filling. But the thought was there, niggling at him. If I live that long.

His mom said nothing, just put on her apron beside him and started to package up his excess of energy. When she opened the back door to start with the deliveries, she started to discover a tall, dark haired woman standing there.

“AY!”

Morena grimaced, putting her hands up. “Sorry.”

The sound drew Nick’s attention and he threw a look over his shoulder, rolling pin still working. When he saw Morena, he whirled, angry. “What are you doing here?” he demanded.

His mother began to chatter at him in Japanese and he responded back, equally upset. He stormed over, arguing with his mother whose eyes kept darting from Morena to her son. She finally wandered away in a huff, still mumbling, and then sent a final volley back at him as she went through the kitchen door.

Nick threw his head back Morena’s way. The calm he had labored for hours to achieve shattered.

“Didn’t mean to frighten her,” Morena said.

“What is the matter with you people? Don’t you know it’s rude to just show up at someone’s house?”

Morena looked, for a moment, like she was about to get her own dander up but she swallowed it. “I’m sorry. I thought we might talk.” Then, her eyes went past him, assessing the state of the kitchen, before returning to his upset face. “I couldn’t sleep either.”

All anger fled out of him. She was some Amazonian warrior goddess in black heels, battle hardened and able to dispatch a room full of thugs with her pinkie toe and a beer stein. If she, of all people, couldn’t sleep after that night, what nightmare was he really living in?

“Come on in,” he spoke as he turned and went back to the table where gyoza waited to be filled.

Morena stepped gingerly into the room, her heels making no sound on the concrete floor. Her eyes roved what he had done and she watched after he began spooning a ground meat mixture onto round dough, one by one, following up by folding the dough over and sealing them up.

“How did you find me?” Nick asked while he continued his work, as if it were an afterthought.

“Oh, I have some friends still in the force.” She stared at the table, her face impassive but her eyes watching.

“So let me guess, you searched out the Sakaki’s that own restaurants in International District?”

She looked up at him. “No, I had them run your plate.” She seemed aloof and nonchalant.

He stopped working and looked up at her, his lips pursed against another harsh comment. He struggled with it for a moment and then, thinking of the terrors he’d already witnessed, the danger he’d likely already subjected his family too, he let loose. “This is my home. More importantly, it’s my parents’ home. And their business. Their livelihood. You shouldn’t have invaded their privacy, and mine. It’s…” he struggled for the word. He remembered what the vampire had said about tricking a vampire. “Rude.”

He met her eyes and found a flaw in the impenetrable nature of her gaze.

“I was worried about you.”

Nick, caught off guard, took up a towel and began to wipe his hands. He let his mind think all sorts of things about trickery, deceit, wrecking. But he couldn’t hear it in her tone. He looked up at her again as she sighed, her gaze falling to the floor.

“I’m worried about both of us,” she said. “I haven’t slept well in days.”

“Well, he’s your boyfriend; surely you knew all of that stuff already.”

Her face went all quiet. “No.”

Nick considered her for a moment and then took up a pan of the gyoza. He walked over to the large refrigerator, opened it up, and slid the gyoza pan on one of the open racks.

“And he’s not my boyfriend. That’s…over.”

He turned back to her, closing the fridge. Did she look forlorn? Afraid? Regretful? Fooled?

“Well, in that case, I recommend we both have plenty of questions to ask him tonight when we go back. After, of course, we both get some rest.”

She lifted her gaze to him. He couldn’t tell what she was thinking except to guess that neither one of them could step out of this now if they tried. He might be a coward and inept at fighting and, well, just an overall nice guy in a wicked world, but if he needed to interview a vampire in order to learn how to protect himself, then that what was what he’d do.

She nodded, with a half smile on her lips after a moment and began walking to the back door.

“I do have a question for you.”

Morena stopped her exit, turned back to him. He looked sheepishly around the kitchen, the piles of gyoza, the oodles of noodles, and a huge pot of soup stewing.

“Do you suppose Vampires eat real food? I expect we’ll have extras for tonight.”

The Fetching of Far Flung Familiars

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

I’d been scribbling down notes for what seemed like hours last night, in between drafting text messages to Jesper to check in on him after he went radio silent. I should have been focusing on eye beams that torch vampires. Or vampires that curl up in your lap like kittens. Ok, scratch that, I won’t think about that. But every time I tried to focus on what happened, I had one thought:

He took the lemons.

And I’d wind up smiling like a moron.

Great, what was this helping!

I wrote down phonetically what he had said before going all Cyclops on Lucy. Maybe my downstairs neighbors could translate for me. I didn’t trust my Russian. It was too rusty. So rusty, I couldn’t quite remember how I’d learned it.

And then there was the vamp in a lap. I’d been killed twice giving that reflex test and to have that reaction…with Jesper…well, just having Jesper in my lap. My cheeks started to flush. Embarrassment or something else. Um, yeah, something else.

Snap! Broke my pencil lead. That’s when I noticed I’d been clutching the pages of the Memento so tight, my knuckles had gone white while I was scribing. The page I’d been writing on all these random thoughts turned stormy. That is to say all the graphite from the words I’d written had gather on the page like storm clouds.

I straightened and relinquished my grip on the book and pages flew until it stopped with a loud SLAP! It was that page again. His page. Even the book was aware I was writing about him, thinking about him. I pushed the book aside and grabbed a notepad from my desk, drawing Nick’s attention.

He was milling around, cleaning up the bookshelf. I’d asked him twice to go home. He refused, said he was too unsettled to drive. Which was a truth wrapped in a lie. Morena had had no problem waving a hand in sayonara saying she needed to get some sleep. I’d let Lucy leave, taking the Kukri with her, even though she had seemed hesitant.

But Nick was worried about me. And as the minutes ticked by and I scribbled notes in ink on a legal pad and heard only silence from my cell phone, the earlier elation devolved into worry and then into fear tinged with resentment.

He’s a big vampire; he can take care of himself.

He had curled up in my lap, utterly defenseless.

Whatever this is, I’m sure he’s seen it before and knows how to deal.

He admitted he didn’t know what was happening to him.

Ancient, powerful, seductive vampires like him, their motives are their own, any gentleness or openness is not usually without some aim. Even the slightest gesture, like holding one’s hand, could be for another purpose.

He had begged me to stop, as if he had no control over himself anymore.

Ummm, I got nothing.

Why or how a vampire would respond that way was beyond me. But I needed to track it down. Long, long fangs, longest on record, impervious to silver, super speed, knows Russian. Maybe a Russian strain? Then, there was the searing ray that had coming from his eyes, burning Lucy to a crisp. Coupled with dreams of the Sun…it was hard to know where to start.

I threw a furtive glance at the Memento. It was again keeping its secrets from me. But maybe it had secrets that only its Guardian could tell? I jumped online and found Bruno offline. I typed him a quick note, in the utmost urgency, and then proceeded to start trying to cross reference symptoms on that largest of Vampire encyclopedias: the World Wide Web.

“You know, Fetch is a much better way of doing multi-word searches on a topic.”

I jumped. Nick was looking over my shoulder. “Sorry, “ he apologized and moved away.

I watched as he headed back towards the door. He pulled back the curtain and peered outside. Tonight, he’d been under a cascade of books, stunned by vampire fight club, and witnessed his new employer in a compromising way with an undead client. And had what I was suspecting was a favorite rite of male youth passage stolen by said undead.

And then there was that tousled hair bit, that unguarded moment between Morena, a woman of little affection and much angst, and him. As well as what could only be deemed a stream of playful banter. Hmm.

“You and Morena seem to be getting rather chummy. Want to talk about it?”

He didn’t miss a beat, nor turn from the window as he retorted. “You had J. Crew Vampire in your lap. Wanna talk about that?”

“I suck at this, don’t I?”

He gave a laugh and looked back at me. “Suck? Really?”

I was about to launch into some sort of apology and decided it was too late in the evening to approach anything remotely appropriate. Instead, I said, “Why don’t you go home, Nick? I’m sure you can see to the rest of this in the morning. That is, if you decide to come back.”

He grabbed his bag and just as he was about to pass my desk, he stopped and picked up the Memento. When I said nothing, he slipped it into his backpack and headed for the door. He opened it, threw furtive glances around outside before turning back towards me.

“Are you kidding? After what I know now, I’m thinking this might be the safest place in Seattle. But next time, maybe we can start class with the Cliff Notes version?”

I smiled. “Good night.” And then he left.

The chirp from my laptop woke me several hours later. I started as a single sunbeam fell on me from the curtain Nick had left aside last night. There were no vampires in danger here now. But after a night delving into Russian folklore and Djinni, my dreams had landed on a strange meld of Rasputin and Raskolnikov. And a singing rat.

The chirp was insistent. For the barest of instances, I thought, well, hoped it might be Jesper but then I realized my stupidity. It was full sun up; he would be deep in rigor dormitus (had to keep myself wondering what form he took when in that state.) We also had yet to exchange online personas and I vacillated between thinking having each other’s cell numbers was more or less intimate.

It was Bruno.

U there?
Am now. Questions about the Book.
Got some other news too.
You first.
Ok. Been scouring chat rooms for any word of your Skovajsa.

I shivered at the thought that the Carpathian was mine in any way. At this rate, I probably wouldn’t be hearing from him anytime soon.

Nothing yet although a lot of talk recently about Vampire Cannibals. Some of the more plebian societies are warning members about accepting new members, especially since an incident in Seville.

Along with any subculture of substance came the pretenders. With such myths of immortality and power ascribed to vampires, there have long been societies of humans that would try to claim that birthright, oftentimes in complete ignorance that the creatures actually exist. So they have their dark parties, pass around fake fangs, wear yards of black velvet and, on occasion, drink blood from some utterly benign source. Most Vampires avoided the vampire subculture like the plague; too many fickle fanatics with dreams of power and hunger and glory. They usually turned out to be easily offended or grossed out. I knew of one case where a real Vampire was rejected from entering a vampire club because he wasn’t goth enough.

What happened in Seville?
There were a series of attacks on members of various so-called vampire covens. Many of the groups started to advise members to keep from congregating.

Yet another inaccuracy between the little ‘v’ and big ‘V.’ Vampires do not name their familial groups after witches. They use the term ‘horror’ in part to keep themselves as separated from that human fantasy culture as possible. This isn’t to say that Vampire devotees aren’t frequently found from that group. Like I’ve said before, familiars and companions are a tricky lot. Sometimes, it’s better to just start fresh, with someone who isn’t quite looking. But it doesn’t prevent Vampires from slumming.

Was a profile ever distributed?
Typical Carpathian. What’s interesting is that on a few monster chat rooms, I saw similar posts, seeming to corroborate. Members were disappearing. Then, there’s a series of reposts of the same story: a so-called familiar was going to meet his vampire lord and stumbled upon his lord fighting with another vampire. But by the account, it seems like this familiar’s lord was the real deal.
The Vampire lord was slumming?
Apparently, and fought with this other vampire of Carpathian description. Now here’s the interesting bit: the eyewitness says the Carpathian bested his lord and then ‘feasted’ on him.

I blanched.

You mean to say he really ATE him?
Unclear. But the post was repeated, reposted verbatim so many times in these message boards, blogs, and chatrooms, I’m having a devil of a time hunting down the originating post.
How on Earth did the familiar escape?
He seems to have been saved by a hunter. And now has turned unfriendly now that he’s seen the true nature of the beast.

I sighed. This was so not good news, it undid any success I might have felt from a lemon or two changing hands. Creature hunters, some ordained by various churches, were one of the reasons my job was made more difficult. Instead of trying to help creatures exist alongside humans in managed co-existence, hunters set out to exterminate.

In my experience, they didn’t care who or what got in their way and they had led to as much of the vampire expansion as any other cause. The only reason why Vampires had sought out to create hordes of their own to protect each other is that Hunters usually didn’t last long and where they might be resistant to a particular beast, another would typical come along and resolve them.

A couple of options occurred to me. If I could track down the hunter that had witnessed the fracas, I might be able to figure out whether this Vampire Cannibal was Skovajsa. Conversely, if Skovajsa deigned to meet me again, I might probe his recent history to see if there was any correlation. Neither scenario was particularly safe. I probably had more enemies in the Hunter ranks than in the Vampire ones. It was also possible to try and track down the familiar, perhaps if I could find out which Vampire had been consumed.

Most vampires stayed close to the ground that made them. The process of transformation was slightly different for each vampire but it almost always involved “going to ground,” burying themselves up while their cells converted or whatever other term you wanted to use. The earth became the chrysalis and whether just emotionally or in practicality, Vampires liked to stay close to where they were vampire born.

It had been too many years since my last map of worldwide vampire activity had been updated so it would take some time to try and track the Vampire of Seville.

Anything else there?
Yeah, do I need to cover up my tracks on this? Cannibal vampires creep me out.
No, just don’t do anymore looking. You’ve done enough. Now I have some Book questions for you.
I won’t have to crawl up into the belfry, do I?
Probably not. Ever known the Book to have a connection to anyone other than me?
What, you mean, like the maker or something?

It was something I had never considered. Someone had to have made the Book. Nick had claimed the book had flown across the room after Jesper had touched it. Maybe Jesper had a connection to the book’s maker. While that thought certainly might explain the Book’s strange behavior, I tried to wrap my mind around it’s significance. This bond I had with the Book, it was so intimately the home of my deepest thoughts, secrets, years of memories, the thought that someone else might connect with it…should be deeply unsettling. A hundred times more than someone reading your diary, without your knowledge. And yet…

Do you know who made the Book?
I’m sure I could find that out. Seems rather simple.
Ok, do. I suspect I may not be the only one with a connection to the Book. Maybe I’m not the original owner.

Bruno sent a quizzical smiley my way. Yeah, it seemed farfetched but at this point, after a night of sunbeam eyed vampires and flying books, I didn’t have a lot of disbelief left in me. Not where our Vampire Jesper was concerned.

I signed off with Bruno, who was up late himself and grabbed for my phone. There was a single text message and I sting of nervous excitement whizzed through me as I looked it up. But it wasn’t Jesper apologizing for missing my text and confirming that he was retiring in the comforts of his home. It had been sent in the earliest hours of the morning, before sun up.

Meet me this night. We should continue getting to know each other. -S

It was Skovajsa and like it or not, he was willing to meet me again. And it scared me to death.