Archive for Vampirony

Relations in Blood

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , on March 28, 2011 by vampirony

Years in the Secret Service, hopping around the world to places like Spain, Turkey, and Pakistan to name a few, had taught Morena one valuable lesson: sleep when you can. Which isn’t to say that she didn’t require a little help now and then. But after a string of sleepless nights and equally stressful days, the clock was ticking down on her full system crash. T-Minus…right now.

She’d managed to keep it together a lot longer than what would make sense given her emotional state. But it had been those very emotions that created the need for perpetual awareness. At first, concern for Jesper had fueled the hours. Then jealousy over this crackpot wannabe shrink she’d made the mistake of contacting had become the source. Fear had then begun to creep in after the shop attack and what came after, married up with the sense of betrayal and utter vulnerability. And now, now she was just numb. Spent.

She needed her perspective back. She needed something to get her back to that office tonight for round two. She couldn’t let the errand boy fend for himself. She’d seen the way he fought…nope, couldn’t let him go it alone.

She popped a few melatonin pills, said a mental “F* you!” to the nightmares to come since the herbs gave her nasty-mares, and slipped under the covers. She was snoring within a half hour, never mind the sun streaming in from a gorgeous, not-so-sleepless-in-Seattle summer day.

As day turned to night, the sun slipping beneath the Puget Sound amidst the ferries and cargo ships, the Space Needle pointing up at a moon in first quarter on the rise, Morena’s awareness began to fuse back together, first a sense of the weight of her covers, then the briny smell from the nearby locks, and the far away buzz of traffic as the Ballard crowd began to fester out onto the streets.

So deep had her slumber been, she barely remembered any dreams at all and she stretched her limbs, her hand reaching under her pillow for the comfort of her Glock. Instead, something smooth, cold, and hard nicked her palm and she sat up with a start.

Even in the low light of her apartment, she could see the blood oozing from the gash across her hand. Flipping the pillow up, she found herself staring at a familiar looking slightly bent blade. The kukri. But how…

“Sorry about that.”

Morena started again as Lucy shrugged out of the shadows. She pressed a bandage into Morena’s palm and began wrapping a dressing around it. In an instant, Morena clearly understood Nick’s earlier anger at having his parents’ business and home invaded by her noisiness. It had been with the best of intentions. But what possible intentions could this vampire have with her?

Lucy finished the dressing and met Morena’s gaze with dark eyes that seemed bigger than her face should allow. She’d chopped her hair into a flapper girl bob, looking very much like Clara Bow. The thought almost made Morena smirk. Her ears seemed healed.

“May I sit?” Lucy asked, still holding Morena’s hand.

When Morena said nothing, Lucy took her silence as consent and sat on the edge of the bed. After a moment, Morena took back her hand, brought it to her chest, and covered it with her other hand, not wanting a repeat of the previous interaction with Lucy’s brother.

The room fell into an uneasy silence and Morena surmised that Lucy was expecting questions. When Morena couldn’t form any, or at least decide on the first one to flow from her still sleep addled mind, Lucy spoke up.

“I’m sorry about the cut but it’s the safest, best way to form a bonding.”

Morena blinked, “Bonding? What sort of bonding?”

“Between you and the kukri.”

“And why the Hell do I need to bond with a knife?” There. That was better. She was feeling more herself already.

Lucy relaxed back an inch, the corners of her mouth deepening into her cheeks. “It’s not a knife. And it’s not just any bladed weapon.”

Morena made to stand to which Lucy quickly put a hand out.

“I wouldn’t do that just yet.”

Lucy was right. The moment Morena reached full height, the sensation of a disconnection between her body and her mind hit her and she collapsed back onto the bed. Morena managed to stare down at her bandaged hand. There was a warmth trembling through the meat of her hand, moving up her arm. “What…what’s wrong with me?”

“It’s just the blood bond with the kukri. It’ll pass in a moment.”

And so as suddenly as the feeling seemed to be building up to a crescendo that threatened to engulf her arm, it crested and dissipated. “Wha..?” She threw a questioning look to Lucy.

Lucy crossed her legs casually. “Well, you don’t expect to do anything with that silly gun, do you? Just relax for a few moments.” Then she reached around behind her, producing the kukri to show Morena.

“And how is that thing going to help me with vampires?”

Lucy rolled her eyes just as Morena noticed that she was wearing gloves. When she was sure Morena noticed, she nodded. “Now are you getting it?”

“You can’t touch it? What happens if you do?”

“Hard to say, really. I’m allergic to silver, which is folded into the blade. But its effect on other vampires will be more pronounced and will vary. Legend says the kukri, once bonded by blood, protects the bearer by finding its enemy’s weakness and revealing it.”

Morena blinked at her. It was hard to tell what was harder to swallow; that Lucy was giving her a weapon to kill vampires or that this mumbo jumbo was real. But considering Jesper could emit sun beams from his eyes and Lucy here could disappear into a cloud of birds, why shouldn’t the blade work like some magic talking sword?

Lucy held it out to Morena and she took it gingerly. It was heavier than she expected as she held it in right hand, her cut hand. Funny, it didn’t hurt to grip it tight. She hefted it, feeling the weight. While a strange shape, somehow, she knew exactly how it would feel to throw it.

“Good, you’re getting the hang of it. But you’ll probably still need some training, “ Lucy stood.

Morena sneered, looking up at her, “What, from you?”

Lucy threw her a sharp look. When Morena looked back down, Snuffy, her favorite stuffed animal, a pink Easter Bunny, was in her hand. The kukri was on her desk alongside her Glock. With the clip removed. And the bullets moving around the desktop. The thought was utterly sobering. Might as well have been her head.

“Don’t mistake bravada for stupidity. You still haven’t fully seen what your boyfriend’s capable of.”

Morena took in a deep breath. “It’s not like that. Not anymore.”

Lucy relaxed, letting out a breath. “Good. Vampires make terrible boyfriends.”

Morena couldn’t find it in herself to laugh but when she looked at Lucy, she sensed the punch line hadn’t hit yet. “Oh, and why is that?”

“Because they’ll bleed you dry, given half the chance.” Lucy’s lopsided smirk belied a deeper message.

Morena didn’t want to think about that part of her acquaintanceship with Jesper. That had been quite enjoyable, on reflection. And that she did NOT want to reflect on.

“You’ll get over it. I promise you that.”

Morena stood, “Already am.” She shuffled over to her desk, lightly touching the Kukri. She noticed a box sitting on the desk chair seat. “What’s this?”

“Oh, that’s a box of the modulators. Figured you might want to carry them, just in case. Damn nuisance that I can’t figure out why Sophie’s voice doesn’t come through.”

Morena opened the box, adding idly, “Maybe because she thinks too much like a vampire.”

Lucy shrugged and headed for the door. “Maybe so. In a few days, we should start training with the kukri. With all the activity around, you should be prepared.”

“Is Sophie going to like you training me to hurt vampires?”

Lucy opened the door, tossing a casual look back. “Don’t mistake me, Miss Fourtenay. I’m not going to train you to protect yourself against vampires. I’m going to train you to kill them. Goodnight.” And as if to accentuate her point, she exploded into a murder of crows and flew out the door, the sheer gust of flight sucking the door closed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

But she didn’t go far, up the staircase, through an open window on the landing, out into the sticky night air, to alight on the rooftop. She craned her neck to look down, standing just above Morena’s apartment window. It was risky using her powers so openly but Morena needed to know what she was up against. Her very soul depending on it.

Lucy turned and walked towards the roof’s charming garden, a few rows of raised cedar boxes, with every kind of herb growing. The summer had been hot and sunny in the last few weeks and the plants were taking full advantage. There was a quaint rusty patio set with a rocking chair and a trellis. It would suffice for her first night’s vigil.

As she approached the patio, she noticed a shadow from the trellis lengthened over the gravel rooftop. She started as a figure materialized out of the shadow and grabbed her arm.

“Maurice!”

Her brother’s face bristled with intensity, as if devouring every detail. It had been hours since sundown and she had not checked in with him. She couldn’t be sure if it was concern or anger etched into his countenance.

As he was about to speak, his eyes took in her shorn hair. “What happened to your hair?” his voice trembled in barely controlled emotion.

Her ears had healed sufficiently to all appearances but under the surface, the bruising of rapidly regenerated flesh still lingered and would for some time. With his deep breathing, controlling his anger, anger that had started to turn dark of late, she knew he could smell the blood pooling in her tissues. There was no use in lying to him. He was still her beloved brother, no matter what he was struggling to become.

“I burned my ears. Scorched them doing recon.”

He released her arm, his face falling. It took the breath from her, this sudden shift. The grouchiness she was getting used to, even the anger when it flared. But this, this was something new.

“How have I failed you so completely, dearest sister?”

She shook her head, “I don’t understand what you mean.”

When she thought he might speak, he swallowed his thoughts away. When she reached a hand to him, he turned his shoulder away, staring up at the moon. For many moments, they fell into silence and Lucy tried to reach out her mind to him, to find a shred of the bond they had shared for so long that would unlock the puzzle her brother had become. But all she felt was his deathly silence.

“Did you give her the Kukri?” he asked softly.

“Yes. And I was going to watch over her tonight. Just in case.”

He nodded. “Would that things were different and we had met her under other circumstances.”

“Life proceeds as it does, brother.”

He turned to her, his eyes gone dark. “But we should be its master.”

The shadows around the rooftop began to swirl around Maurice, as he took a single deliberate step towards her. “Come, we have work to do.”

Lucy steeled herself. “Someone should stay behind to protect her.”

“She is a Fourtenay. She can take care of herself. At least, at the moment.” Maurice put his hands gently over Lucy’s shoulders but the effect upset her more than relieved her of worry.

“But Maurice, the Kukri is new to her. What if the wound still bleeds? What if others find her? We must protect her.”

“We must protect our own. And for that, there is work elsewhere needed.” He rubbed her ear, saw her grimace. “I know what you have been stalking. You must come with me now.” The shadows began to inch up their legs as they stood there, uniting them in darkness.

Lucy tried to twist from his grip, resisting. “But Maurice, she—.”

“You WILL obey me!” Vox Compulsum shattered ceramic pots all along the rooftop. And then, the shadows made in his image roared up, consuming them entirely before dispersing into the night, leaving only an echo of Lucy’s scream.

DJB: Memoirs, Volume 3: Bad Beauty

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

Folding memories can be taxing in the best of times, depending on the emotions embedded therein. And a split-second of an image, much like a single Chinese character, can hold a multitude of meanings when removed from context. One particular memory refused to be folded. It had always been such even though the memory was over two hundred years old. When I had been human, I had been exceptional only in my ability to be mediocre at everything I tried and in my first decades of being a vampire, I had been equally disappointing.

I hadn’t become a vampire by choice so it wasn’t something I had entered into hoping it would override the days of languishing in stupefying uselessness. However I once I had come to terms with it and learned where my peculiar vampire abilities lie, I had learned to enjoy the results. The more mastery over myself as vampire, the more confident I had become…and the more I wanted to bury the weaker times of my existence.

This memory was of one of those times as a young vampire. And the only way I seemed to be able to deal with it was to pen it back into my last volume of memoirs, in third person narrative. The years had given me perhaps a chance to find something new in my recollection, something that might be useful to the now…

When Dag Jesper Bretton, vampire, had stood upon the docks in Hong Kong, his clothes in tatters and soaked, his face smeared with ash and dirt, all he could think of as the first twinges of dawn began to taint the clouds was that he wanted to get to anywhere else but where he was now. Hong Kong had been a serious miscalculation from the start. His Danish looks made him stand out in any crowd, even at night, and even his maturing cloaking abilities did not shield him here.

The local Jiang-Shi, soul vampires as he had come to know, would never be willing to share their nighttime haunts with a foreign European devil. More than once, he’d been mistaken for German and attacked as the local vampires had a particular dislike for them. He looked nothing like a German but his fair looks still seemed to elicit their strongest ire.

It hadn’t helped things that his female traveling companion had vanished days after they’d arrived. He’d admittedly been a little glamoured by the French vampiress and running away to the Orient with her had seemed ever so romantic. She’d been petite, beautiful with marble for skin and by all accounts had been duly impressed with him being many decades her elder.

It had been a harsh reminder of how horrifyingly bad his love life had always been excepting one bright spot which he even now refused to let himself think on.

The little French vampiress had abandoned him, likely tired of him in favor of some rich, exotic opium dealer. She’d talked of little else on the trek over. But then again, travelling in the night, sometimes nailed into burlap-wrapped boxes, strapped to coaches, in trains, on ships, for hours with nothing to give them peace from each other except the dawn and its insistent comatose sleep, surely that was more time together than a casual affair could bear.

“God kveld!”

Jesper raised his head at the familiar sound. He never forgot a voice anymore. So intrinsic to his survival was it that he knew immediately that it was the big friendly if slightly myopic Norwegian he’d met earlier in a brothel while trying to find his vampiress. The place, more opium den than pleasure house, was trying to cheat the burly but affable sailor. Normally, Jesper stayed clear of entanglements but when thoroughly drunk and trying to make sense of his circumstances the big Norwegian started to curse in Danish as well as Norwegian, the sound of his mother tongue had compelled Jesper to help. It had been a small matter. The Norwegian had been settled with exactly the kind of company he’d wanted.

“God kveld, Gregers.”

A smile of all his crooked and missing teeth split the Norwegian’s face. He extended a hand and slapped Jesper on the shoulder. Had Jesper not his preternatural strength, the blow might’ve landed him in the bay.

While short on conversation, more mutters and grunts, Jesper had been able to surmise that his assistance had been timely: Gregers’ ship was about to sail to the Americas, San Francisco to be exact. Had Jesper believed he had any other luck besides this current string of bad, he might have felt that fortune was finally smiling upon him. Gregers had noted Jesper’s keen eye and they needed a night watch onboard. With very little prodding, Jesper soon found himself onboard, glamouring the captain into strict instructions on how he must never be disturbed during the day so that his sight would be sharply adjusted for the night.

Weeks of searching for his vampiress had netted more than a few scraps with the local Jiang-Shi warlord, Teng-Wen. He’d managed to escape each time but a whisper grew into a rumor of a night banshee that was high on drugged up missionaries.

Jesper had no proof that it was Bellecroix, the French temptress, with her doe like brown eyes. But the Jiang-Shi had started to call this night banshee the Dark Pearl and since Jesper had known her, Bellecroix had never removed the string of pearls from around her neck. Yes, it was time to leave before Teng-Wen and his horror made any connection between Jesper and this Dark Pearl.

Whatever evil she had fallen under (here, the author must remind himself that Vampirism might be considered the ultimate evil incarnate), Bellecroix was beyond his reach.

Within an hour, just as dawn was breaking through, Jesper was buried deep in the bowels of the ship, huddled under tarps, living in those last moments before dawn took all his consciousness. The fear was there again, yet another place to learn, new arrangements to try and make, all on his own again. But there were possibilities too. He’d always wondered about the new world, been curious to see it but like so many vampires, the voyage itself seemed ever so daunting and unbelievably perilous. But as night watch on a boat full of the proverbial drunken sailors, this had to be the golden goose, he’s very best chance of staking a place out for his own.

In some ways, Jesper didn’t really care. The dread he was under had repeated its refrain, over and over, until it drowned out all fear and doubt: Anywhere but here.

DJB: Memoirs, Volume 3: Housecleaning

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony with tags , , , , on January 14, 2011 by vampirony

Didn’t know what happened to me, my mind was all a jumble. I had to get out of there, head bursting suddenly with places and faces and none of it made sense as to why. I grabbed the lemons. At the time, didn’t know why, just seemed important.

Grabbed the kid’s jacket and out fell the Book. Old, worn, leather, excellent craftsmanship. Fingers brushed it as if familiar. All went quiet in my mind and I remembered one singular memory: My heart in anguish as I wandered the desert alone at night. Something about blood in the sand. But the memory teased me, wouldn’t come back fully formed and the moment my skin broke contact with the book, the torrent of other lives began knocking around in my head again like so many rubber balls.

I stuffed the lemons in the pockets and I fled. Couldn’t remember how I’d wound up in such a desperate state but my impulse was to go to ground, get to the safety of my lair, try to stop the tempest in the teacup that was my skull.

I flew out of there. I never do that, not with such abandon. One moment I was standing at the doorway, the next I was at my balcony. The speed at which I had traveled only served to create more confusion but I had enough current presence of mind to push the door open and get inside.

I made my way directly to my study, pulling all my books off the shelf, aimlessly. I couldn’t focus on what I wanted but I kept searching. There was an annoying chirping coming from my pocket. I took out this cold piece of black, vibrating plastic, held it out in front of me. I closed my eyes for a moment. The memory of it was there, being pummeled by strange and grandiose vistas, snowy mountains stretching high into the sky, buildings clinging to these pillars. I pushed the mountains away, recoiled from the sands, antlers trimmed in fur and lace, dread and more dread, the smell of jasmine in her hair…

Calm returned. I opened my eyes. “Cell phone,” I spoke out loud.

The words on the screen said Morena. My brain remembered what the phone was and vaguely who Morena was but also did not want to currently pursue it. I finger hit a button to silence the machine and I looked back to the shelves of books. It looked much like the reception area mess.

The sense of now was returning to me. I wanted one of my journals which all seemed to stubbornly remain intact on their shelf. Volume One: mostly my human life and as much as I could remember of how I became Vampire. Volume Two: My wanderings throughout Europe and Asia. Volume Three: My life in the New World. My fingers went between Volumes One and Two. There was a gap of time in my recollections between the first two volumes. It could have been caused by folding memories too deeply or some injury which had taken me some time to recover from while I wandered.

But a new explanation dawned as keenly as the memory of anguish felt so deeply upon touching familiar pages of another book that looked exactly like mine. She laid here, between these volumes, the memory of her so fraught with peril that I had sought to wipe it out of existence. I had folded her away without talisman or gesture so that as I aged and folded more memories on top of her, she would be compressed into nothingness, out of my reach. Or so I had thought.

I had never once considered that the gift of a book of mine long ago would have undone centuries of forgetting. That a simple caress would replace the folding gesture that had become reflex and second nature to me. And that’s why I had run. I was not ready for any of this. The first memory to rise up out of the abyss was that of tormented loss. And with it, an insatiable panic.

Vessels within my chest contracted and when I placed a hand there, I found it covered in blood. Glancing down, I remembered the fight with her Halfling. My flight had exacerbated the injuries to full wounds that now needed attention. I stuffed a hand into my pocket, bringing out the lemon. I let my nails grow to pierce the rind and then stretched back my head, squeezing the juice into my open mouth.

Radiant light roared inside my mind before I blinked into darkness.

When I came to later, I was lying on the floor. As I shifted up to my elbows, I noticed my chest had started to heal. In all my vampire life, I could never remember healing from anything other than blood. I repeated the same with the other lemon, went lights out again.

This time, there was a brief smile of a memory there for me right before I awakened. A curve of skin. A dimple. My chest had completely healed and was now itchy with scar tissue. Scars. It felt so odd to have scars. I scratched and instantly drew blood from the purple skin. The panic began to grow. I had closed off this part of my life long ago; the muscles needed to tend to it had atrophied.

The cell phone chirped again. A message.

R u alright. U left ur shirt.

I laid my head back on the floor. She’d liked that shirt. I’d caught her eying it with keen, unprofessional interest. The panic began to ease, if just enough to let me breathe. I focused on my breath and somewhere, underneath layers of memories, I heard her voice, soft in volume but firm in belief: It’s going to be alright. I’m here to help you.

Hours have passed and I’m scribing again, sorting through the memories that have been unsettled. Some of them force me to reread my journal to fold them back but some, I leave open to me, questions suddenly raised all over again. If I cannot trust my own memories, than what does this immortal life amount to?

One thing is certain: her book is no ordinary tome. It was crafted from the best leather, lovingly made by hand with sycamore maple and vellum, the pages imbued with ink in a special process that allowed the scribe to bring the ink to rise up from the page rather than just adding ink on top of it. There was more than a little magic folded into the making of that book, straddling the edge of alchemy and science. It was intended to hold memories.

And as certain as I am that I crafted that book for her, I am unable to remember who she was to me except to know that her memory is a void in my own history. And whatever ancient science enabled the peculiar abilities of these books of mine, it was past to me from her.

She taught me to read. She taught me to write. She taught me to fold my memories. Something as simple as her mere gesture, one that I had repeated ever since in my own folding process, had broken open a torrent of disconnected memories that had been carefully stored away.

My powers were changing, manifesting in strange ways that threatened everything I had known for years. There was no telling how the Conclave would react to these daylight abilities, usually only reserved for our South American relations. There was heightened Vampire activity in the area that needed to be handled. Valerian and his dealings with the Conclave were becoming ever more complicated and tense.

But this woman held more power over me than I ever allowed anyone anymore and that frightened me more than all the rest.

It sent my pulse hammering. And I think I secretly liked it.

Always Have an Exit Strategy

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on December 11, 2010 by vampirony

The first time I administered the Jugular Reflex test was strictly an accident. I had lived in the hills of Darjeeling at the base of the Himalayas, completely unaware of my previous lives. My mundane life as an upper caste bride of a handsome, charming but moody older man came to a calamitous end when I had brushed the side of his throat trying to calm him during one of his increasingly common rages. He had transformed in front of my eyes, revealing gnarled hands and a mouth full of jagged fangs. He had ripped my throat open before I could move my hand.

As I lay bleeding to death in my wedding garb, the blood matching that of my hand beaded dupatta, he had sobbed over me, confessing that he was rakshasha, an ancient vampire who had always used his abilities to fight for good. He had tried to find some way to sooth his soul as he aged and became more restless. When he’d met me, he had felt calm sweep over him and proposed, certain I could calm the gathering darkness in him.

He had been right about what I had been meant to do but at the time, I had no way of forcing myself to remember my past. And it had taken more time to understand what the reflex meant in vampires struggling with age depravity. But I hadn’t understood in that lifetime. Past lives had flashed before my eyes, maybe only four of them, as my current life had bled out and I had neither time nor inclination to be able to do anything with that knowledge. There was only a moment’s fleeting remorse at not being able to help him before I passed into the unknown again.

The smell of sand, blood, and some floral perfume washed over me before I jolted back to the present, to the problem at hand. Having a lap full of Danish vampire wasn’t really my plan but something so familiar kept tickling the hairs of my neck that I literally felt frozen to the floor.

“Please…stop…”

His voice was barely a breath, not recognized by my head until after my hand had already complied. Once I stopped caressing the back of his neck, Jesper pushed himself up and off me, stumbling back into the exam table. He blinked, looking around as if he had no idea where he was or how he got there. Then he saw me still sitting on the floor and met my eyes for the briefest moment.

“I, uh, I gotta go.”

He turned, knocked into my bag, almost spilling it over but righting it before pushing past the crowd at the door. All but Lucy followed him and I heard him grumble to Nick, “Can I borrow your jacket…thanks.” Then I heard the door open, heels clicking quickly across the floor, a whoosh of wind, and a loud thump.

“Hey!” I heard Nick yell.

Lucy watched the scene in the reception area unfold while I remained stunned on the floor, hands held up in front of me. The smell of flowers threatened to pull me back into my memories. Looking at my hands, sunshine began pouring down on me and sands were running through my fingers. Far in the distance, I heard Lucy call out my name but the memories gripped me.

I was digging in the sand. Not the loving act of making the sand tomb as before but clawing at the sand with every fiber of my being. But the sand from the dune kept filling in what I uncovered. For a moment, my fingers brushed through golden hair, felt warm skin, but sand rushed over those places my fingers touched.

As I dug, cold crept over me, tightening my hands, making my fingers numb. At first, I thought it was the abrasiveness of the hot sand. But when I looked down where I kneeled, the sand was wet with red. It reminded me of sitting in the Scout, the blood flowing just the same.

I snapped back, gasping. Lucy had her arms around me, gently shaking me. I grabbed her shoulders.

“Don’t tell the others. Please.”

Heels and feet moved back toward the door. When I looked up, Nick and Morena appeared in the doorway. Lucy, without another word, gently hoisted me up and neither human noticed my fingertips pressing tightly into the vampire’s skin.

She leaned me against the exam table, where I put my hand down flat to steady myself. I didn’t look at her, afraid another memory flood might be triggered. Instead, I looked to Nick, knowing he was new and different and not connected at all to my past.

He smiled tightly and leaned against the doorjamb, “Are vampires always such dicks? He stole my leather jacket.”

“Borrowed, I think is the correct term,” Morena spoke.

“Yeah, right, borrowed.”

“He took it to cover his wounds. Why would he possibly want to keep it?”

“Well, he’s lucky it’s a balmy night. It can be a cold ride across the I-90 late at night.” Nick sighed. Then perked up again, “And did he actually poof into smoke?”

“No, just disappeared.”

“Oh.”

The light banter brought me all the way back to the current living and as Lucy sensed this, she stepped away. I glanced up at her movement and saw her pulling her hair forward to cover her burned ear. When I tilted my head, she spoke.

“I’ll be ok in a few days. I don’t think Maurice will notice it.”

I tried my voice, found it worked. “I wouldn’t mention any of this to him.”

“Who’s Maurice? Your head vampire?” Nick asked.

Morena slapped him on the chest. “This isn’t Lost Boys.” Then she threw a look at me. “They don’t have to be with their maker, do they?”

Before I could reply, Nick pointed at Lucy.

“Say, does that Maurice dude look like you?” Nick asked her.

“Why, yes. We’re twins.”

“Dude’s creepy as shit. He gave me Sophie’s cell phone when I finally made it to the Ice Lounge.”

Lucy and I exchanged a look. She and I would have to find time to talk about just how much Maurice could be called upon in my current endeavor. But not tonight. I didn’t have the nerves for it. I put a hand on my doctor’s bag, just to feel something familiar to ground me and glanced in. A smile crossed my face. At least I was getting through to him. On his way out, Jesper had grabbed a few lemons out of my bag to take with him.

I should have tried not to think about him right now but somehow, with the lemons, a more pleasing memory came into my mind. My grandmother had had a lemon tree at her house in El Cajon. I still carried seeds from that original tree with me, hoping to sometime find a climate that I could cultivate them properly. Apparently, seeds of a thought had taken root in Jesper’s mind.

I sighed. He hadn’t killed me. I’m not sure what had happened but he hadn’t harmed me in any way. That instinct of mine, from when I had first met him, seemed to be holding true. And he trusted me. Trusted me enough to take the lemons of his own accord.

“I take it class is over for the night,” Morena said when the silence had lengthened.

“Gee, ya think?”

Morena slapped Nick lightly on the arm again.

We all walked back into the wrecked reception room where I noticed the Memento was sitting on the floor just near the door. When I tossed a look back at Nick, he explained.

“Oh, I had the book in my jacket and when Glowy Vampire Guy grabbed the jacket, he touched it or something.”

“He tried to take it with him?”

“Uh, not really. It sorta tried to follow him.”

“What?”

Morena spoke up, “You probably knocked it over.”

Nick violently shook his head. “No, I didn’t. It was in the jacket, then he headed for the door, went POOF out the door, it sorta vibrated or something and flew across the room just as you closed the door.”

I made my way over to the book.

“It did not fly across the room. That’s impossible,” she argued.

“How the Hell would you know? You were looking outside. You had your back to it.”

“It’s just a book. Books don’t fly across rooms unless someone throws them.”

“Look, do you really think I need to make this shit weirder than it already is?”

Morena was just about to start in again when Lucy asked, “Sophie?”

I leaned down to the book, careful not to touch it. Jesper had inadvertently touched the book. And it had moved. Moved towards him.

That sealed it. There was no more doubt. As sure as I was of Nick’s newness in my history, I was just as certain of my prior acquaintance with Jesper. Somehow, somewhere, he and I had met before, the tale of which was hidden somewhere in the pages of the Memento, pages kept currently hidden and protected between hard leather covers.

I flipped open the top cover. Nothing more happened. I started slowly flipping through pages.

“What’re—?” Nick started.

“Don’t you ever stop talking?” Morena asked.

Lucy chided them both quickly back into silence, a small twist of Vox in her reply. “Shush.”

With her voice, pages seemed to flip on their own, her and Maurice’s page wavering aloft for a moment before flipping one more forward. I knew this page, its edges well worn. It was the same page the book had flipped open to when I’d first arrived. Jesper’s page. Something told me the story on this page could not be revealed unless both he and I wanted it to be.

Time for another email to Bruno, the current guardian of the Memento. There were secrets here that needed telling before someone else was lost to this lifetime.

Right to the Jugular

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on October 30, 2010 by vampirony

“Ahhhhhh,” was all  the sound Jesper could manage pulling his bottom lip up over his bottom teeth.

“Ok, done,” I said stepping away. I took note of the measurement and wrote it down, amazed.

“So?” he asked rather tersely, fangs still fully extended and pinching into his chin slightly.

“Six.”

“Six?” his eyes widened, almost impressed.

“Centimeters, I’m afraid.”

“Oh.” He suddenly looked deflated.

“Yeah, I know. Disappointing.” I paused to take in his suddenly sullen mood.  “It’s only a full four centimeters longer than any other vampire on record.”

He shrugged before he caught it. “Wait, just how many vampire fang measurements are on record?”

I smiled. “I’ll never tell.”

The examination had gone well with more surprises than I could swat a stake at. And he endured it all with only a mild irritation and mostly a bemused grimace. There was one more test. I rarely got comfortable enough with a vampire to do it. But it only made sense to try.

Whatever his disposition, he was quite a troubled vampire with abilities he didn’t understand. The sooner I tested his control, the better I’d be able to prescribe some remedy.

He caught my hesitation. “What now?” his arms tensing as he held the edge of the exam table. His chest wounds still showed no sign of healing however he’d showed no signs of needing to feed either. His fortitude was remarkable. On top of all the other test results I’d need to pore over later.

It needed to be done.

“Why do you suddenly look like neither one of us are going to enjoy this next test?”

I let out the breath I was holding and reached my hands out towards Jesper’s neck. He grabbed both wrists immediately, as if aware of what I intended. But the look of caution in his eyes had nothing to do with him warding me off. Well, not in the way I was used to.

He held my wrists for a few breaths more and after I didn’t struggle against him, he simply released his hold and lowered his hands back to the table. Another deep breath, this time from both of us, almost simultaneously, and I put my hands gently around his throat.

At first he froze but the blood vessels beneath my hands thumped like timpani. His eyes rolled back into his head and he collapsed off the table, on top of me, letting out a moan on the way down.

I gasped as I landed on the floor in a thud, Jesper on top of me. Somehow, I had managed to keep one hand on his throat, while the other had tried to absorb some of the fall. My hand had moved to the back of his neck, rubbing along his skin, which felt prickly. Almost sparky.

It was called the Jugular Reflex test. Much like the Patellar reflex test in humans, it showed a reflex arc of vampire sorts. Vampires of all types were very sensitive around their throats and I had developed a rough scale of a vampire’s inherit protectiveness from attempting to touch the throat of said vampire subjects. I had been killed twice administering it thus I reserved it for my most dire or perplexing cases.

As I was about to say something to him, I thought better of it, moving my fingers again, up into his hairline at the base of his skull. He moaned again and curled up into my lap. Like a cat. And his breath sounded like he was…purring.

In that moment, with his whole body curled on top of mine, my hand at the back of his neck, he was completely defenseless, either unaware or unable to protect himself.

This was a serious problem for which I had no solution.

So stunned was I that when a knock to the door came and it suddenly opened, I made no attempt to move from under Jesper. Which offered the line of observers, Lucy, Morena, and Nick behind, a rather compromising view.

“Well,” Nick quipped, after a stunned silence washed over everyone. “I guess the lovebirds are getting along just fine.”

The Theory of Relativity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucy smiled. “Anti-Vox Compulsum Modulators.”

Morena just blinked.

“Noise-cancelling earplugs?” Nick asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m not sure I should say.”

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

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

Lucy looked at Morena.

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

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

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

“I don’t know.”

“You obviously think something,” Nick prodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morena looked back at Nick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Accidents

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , on August 14, 2010 by vampirony

“Do you need blood? Like right now?” I asked Jesper once he settled on the examination table. To get him here, it had taken multiple assurances to those left in the waiting room that I knew how to handle this and would take care. Of myself, I’m sure.

Lucy barely registered anything since she was replenishing herself; she was blood-zoned. Nick seemed to just accept that, for the most part, I had this. Before class, I had given him the Book to start reading through since much of my Vamp notes were scribbled in there along with the recollections.

It was Morena that looked at Lucy and then Jesper and then me. But before she could make the leap, I had flippantly said, “Let’s take care of that scratch, shall we?” and escorted him to one of the newly finished rooms.

“No,” was his simple answer and he took off the ruined shirt I had liked so much. I looked at those holes in his chest and marveled. He gave me a faint smile. He knew I didn’t believe him. But this was part of that game called Trust. And to receive, one must give. Or maybe he was shy about being exposed.

I looked down at the table. I should be thinking about what methods I knew to close up a wound like that. Blood. Whether some stitching would help close it. Blood. Maybe just a bandage.

A hand covered mine, warmer than it had a right to be. Jesper bent his head, trying to catch my gaze as I was zoning out.

“You seem distracted.’”

It had been only a short time ago when another vampire had spoken those same words to me during a session. But that was where the similarities stopped. I raised my gaze to look up at Jesper. He sat on the examination table, shirt off, two large gaping holes in the middle of his chest, bending his torso so as to better meet my gaze, his left hand covering mine, brows lowered in consideration, maybe even concern.

I must’ve looked shell-shocked. In the other room, another vampire, my long lost ward, was nearly burned to a crisp by a power I had never seen and two humans were trying to make sense of the dark and dangerous world that they had someone found themselves in. I’d had a game plan and it ended up with two injured vampires, one dazed human, and one that wanted any excuse to fire her pistol.

Moment of doubt? You bet.

His fingers curled around my hand, drawing my attention back down. He was looking down too.

“This didn’t quite go as you planned, I gather.”

I couldn’t even manage a laugh at the complete absurdity of that comment. But I realized he didn’t know how any of this was supposed to work. This was only our second official session. And our first session wasn’t in any way something I would deem as standard.

“No. I would never introduce two vampires like that. Or put two humans in harm’s way of that interaction.”

His grip tightened for a moment. “Three.”

I looked up at him, questioning.

“You didn’t include yourself. You could’ve been hurt far worse than you were." He paused. “I’m not quite sure what that was that I did.”

And there it was in his face, his own self doubt. His eyes slide to the floor for a moment as he took a deep breath. I wrestled with what my appropriate response should be. This so wasn’t like any other consult I’d done before. He lowered his guard in ways that lowered mine but still managed to tell me almost nothing. I should be finding ways of building up a professional dialog between us so he would trust me with his fears, open up, allow me to help him.

Instead, I squeezed his hand in return to encourage him.

“I don’t know what’s happening to me,” he whispered. “First the dreaming, then the waking during the day, now this.”

It was the slightest thing, like a switch turned on in some dark room in a very old unkempt and untidy building in a decaying ghost town hidden away in the woods. Suddenly there was purpose, decision, forethought…light.

My back straightened slightly and my demeanor made a shift. It wasn’t Shields Up per say. Just the focus shifting away from what I wanted, needed to what needed to be done.

“You’ve never shown that…that power before?”

"No,” he said softly still lost in his own mind. But he was Vampire; it didn’t take him much to notice the difference in me. He raised his head slightly which allowed me to straighten up completely. Our hands lost touch as if nothing had happened. “Never.”

“Do you remember what you said?”

“Um, funny, I can’t.”

“It was Russian.” I stepped away from the table and went over to the cabinet, pulled out my standard examination bag. I brought it over and set it on the table next to him. Then I stared at his chest. “Does it hurt?”

A confused look furrowed his brow before he glanced down at his chest. He seemed to have forgotten all about the two holes in his chest that showed no signs of healing. No bleeding either. “Barely notice it now. It hurt a lot at first.”

“Good, that’s pretty standard. Your brain can more effectively turn off pain receptors where needed.” I opened the bag and started pulling out a few objects: measuring tape, a strip of Velcro, a small jar of cornichons.

He watched me patiently. “You’re not going to make me eat those, are you? I think the lemon was quite enough.” He smirked. It was good to see him so bemused with me, especially after we’d just been so, ur, intimate, a few moments ago.

“No.” I grabbed the notepad out of the bag and jotted down a note. “I’m more impressed with your complete lack of allergy to silver.”

“Oh. That.”

“Ever had a problem with it?”

He scrunched up his face in a way that was, frankly, adorable. “Um, not that I can remember currently.”

I smiled. Vampires had particularly keen memories, when unfolded. It was time to impress upon him that this really wasn’t my first rodeo. “Do you use a journal or a talisman to fold your memories?”

“I’m sorry.” It was like I had slapped him awake. I had caught him off-guard.

“Vampires jealously guard their memories but also need a way of folding them away for safe keeping to leave room for more current ones. Most vampires use either a writing method or a prayer method, like rubbing a talisman, to gain the focus to fold the memories in their minds with a mental key that they can use to unlock later.”

His face went blank. “That’s a very closely guarded secret of our kind. Where did you get that information?”

“The same place I found out about how different vampires are allergic to different metals.” That stirred a nightmarish thought in black velvet that I cast aside. “You obviously are not bothered by silver, which is very unusual. If you had been allergic, Lucy would have –.”

“I suppose yes, she might have killed me.” A look passed across his face that assured me otherwise. If Lucy had been any greater threat, she would be dead right now. As it stood, she was probably still alive by his intention because of her obvious bond with me. And perhaps, by happy accident, because I had gotten in the way.

I put down the book and took up the measuring tape, not wanting to think anymore about anyone’s death. Mine, his, or Lucy’s.

He continued, “Are you examining me?”

I sighed, “Well, yes. How else am I to diagnose what is happening to you?”

He seemed disappointed. “Oh. I just thought you wanted me with my shirt off.”

I still blushed. “Come on,” holding up the measuring tape.

“And what do you hope to measure with that? Before you answer, it is a bit chilly in here.” He paused for a moment. “But if you keep leaning in like that, I don’t think that’ll matter.”

In any other circumstance, with any other vampire, I would’ve jumped back once he’d called attention to the fact that I was leaning against him and reaching up with the measuring tape towards his mouth. But I was already well aware that Jesper was not like any other vampire.

But the tape did make him uncomfortable. He tightened his lips even as his instincts flexed his fangs out slightly. I tried to get the tape aligned but he moved his head away.

“Come on now,” I said, lowering the tape. “Fang out for me. I need to measure.”

“No.”

“Why not?” I put a hand on my hip. This sudden shyness about I Am Vampire was startlingly endearing.

“Why does the length of my fangs have to do with anything?”

I scratched my brow. “Historically, vampire strains have been hidden in everything from local legends about demons to kung fu movies about hopping corpses. I never know what reference material is going to equate to some yet-to-be-determined strain of vampire. You are unique. Your strain isn’t likely to be in the Vampire Encyclopedia.”

He crossed his arms. “Even if there were such a book, why would my strain help any of this?”

I couldn’t tell if he was being obstinately charming or charmingly obstinate. If he was truly worried about my cataloging him, he hid it well under very normal self consciousness.

I spoke in my most professional and serious voice. “I won’t tell anyone what I learn or use that information in any way without your consent.” I put my hand to my talisman since he still seemed dubious. “Jesper, I promise.”

His eyes fixated for a moment on the infinity symbol over my neck. It was a classic subtext, one that he must be well aware of. An offer of blood (my throat) if I broke my vow. His eyes flipped up to mine again.

“Well, ok. But can’t we start with some other test? I don’t fang out, as you say, on command.”

“What? Like foreplay?” I joked before I could filter the thoughts and therefore words out. Blushing again.

“You don’t like foreplay?” He looked amused and surprised all at once.

Oh so not professional. Damn him and his facial expressions. Most vampires looked like they had too much Botox when they spoke, with immovable faces. I tried to hide my reddening face. Stupid, he could not only see but smell, almost taste the blood rushing into the capillaries in my cheeks, face, now neck even.

I handed him the pickle jar. “Here. Open this.” He did so without issue and idly set it back down on the table, lid loosened but not off. I paused to write that down. “Pull this apart,” handing him the Velcro. He examined it for a moment, ripped it apart gently, paused to stare at me, then set each strip separately also to the side.

I grabbed the box of flat toothpicks out of the bag and “accidentally” dropped it on the floor. When he moved to get off the table to pick them up, I gently pushed his chest to stop him and watched him settle back on the table with a shrug.

“Ok, now fangs.”

“That was your idea of foreplay?” He rolled his eyes. As the long, thin, elegant fangs slid down from his mouth, he said, with very little impact to his speech, “I will remember to teach you a few things about that if given half a chance.”

“It’d better be more than half,” I idly commented as I again leaned forward with my measuring tape.

What the eyes can’t see

Posted in Vampirony with tags , , , , on August 4, 2010 by vampirony

I didn’t pass out this time.  Things had just gone dark.  Bully for me.  I felt my eyes blinking, but I couldn’t see anything.  I only heard a muffled scream, smelled something burning, and the scuffling of shoes.  Beneath, I felt a body, presumably Lucy’s, struggling against me.  Just as I was rolling off of her, hands grabbed me firmly and I was clutched to a very warm, firm chest.

A collective gasp and a whimpering.

“Is everyone ok?” I called out, loudly, over compensating for my impairment.

No one spoke and there was silence for a breath as a thumb and forefinger cupped my chin and gently pulled my head back.  My eyes followed the movement although they still saw nothing.  I was blinking a lot, my eyes watering.  Instead of fighting the position my head had been moved to, I relaxed into it.  I felt strangely comforted where I was, on the floor, in this warm embrace.  It must have been Nick and I put my hand out to pat his chest in thanks.

Part of my hand slide into a strange depression that was slick with something.  My hand didn’t recoil from it, moved up along a throat, thumb reaching up until, Ouch!  Something pricked it.

I brought my hand back, was about to put my pricked thumb into my mouth when a vice-like grip grabbed my arm.  At the same time, a low, menacing ringing began in my ears.

“Don’t,” I heard Lucy say.  Her voice sounded strained and she was panting.

“What’s going on?” I asked, confused.  “Someone tell me.”

Then the fog over my eyes started to lift and I was staring up into Jesper’s worried face.  His fangs were still exposed; it was what I had pricked my thumb on.  At first, it made sense to me that Lucy warn me from putting my pricked thumb in my mouth.  Many vampires excrete anti-coagulant and paralyzing agents in their saliva, sometimes in massive doses.  But as I took in more of my immediate surroundings, I realized she hadn’t been talking to me.

With his fangs extended (I’m not sure how fully), pushing just over his bottom lip, holding onto me after just pricking my thumb, Lucy had moved over to us, grabbed my hand, and had the kukri in hand, ready to deliver a killing blow to Jesper’s neck.

He ignored her completely, continuing to look at me until my vision cleared and I held his gaze.  His eyes were normal again.  Hazel, definitely.  With green flecks.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

I nodded.  Why was he so warm?  Those narrow fangs, I’d seen them on two separate occasions with two different lengths.  How long were they?  They were almost pearlescent in color.  Were they hollow?  I went to move my hand and realized someone still held me by the wrist.

I turned to look at Lucy.  The outer edges of her body and some of her hair were badly scorched.   She was shaking from the effort of maintaining her defenses.  

“Oh my god, what happened?”  I slipped out of Jesper’s hold and gently cradled Lucy’s face.  She struggled against me at first.  “Oh for heaven’s sake, Jesper won’t hurt me.  And he was trying not to hurt you!”  I looked back at the kukri nearly against Jesper’s completely immobile body.  He didn’t want to provoke her any more now that I was out of his hands.

I slapped her arm away.  “Bad girl!”

“Tante!” she complained, lowering the curved blade before letting it clatter to the floor. Her skin had crisped all along the outer edge of her arms, her hair was smoking.  Whatever had hit her had only hit an outline of her.  She was trying to heal, her skin smoking now, but the effort was turning her skin ashen.

I looked around for Morena to help to find her aiming her Glock just above Lucy’s head, two steps away.  I let a breath out in exasperation.

“When are you going to learn, Morena, guns don’t kill vampires.”

She lowered her gun and shrugged.

Turning back to Lucy, “Do you still carry?”

She was trying very hard not to scratch but was rubbing at her burned ears.  Her lovely long hair would have to be cut.  “Yes, in my backpack.  I think it fell over there.”  She waved toward the bookcase.  She cast a wary eye to Jesper who hadn’t stirred.

“I’ll get it,” Morena said.  She turned toward the bookcase. “Shit.”

“What?”

She hurried over to the bookcase and pulled Nick ‘s torso out of the chaos of books and papers by his shoulders. We had all forgotten about him. My breath stuck in my throat until I saw him come around.

“Nick?” I queried.  Morena put a hand to his head, with a certain amount of care. There was a story there that I apparently hadn’t heard.  Or maybe the same haplessness that endeared him to me was working on her.

He blinked a few times and then spoke. “Huh.” Then he pulled his arm out of the debris and with it, Lucy’s backpack.

Morena couldn’t help a genuinely tickled smile from covering her face, as she gave his hair a tousle. Hapless, maybe to some eyes. But one thing was certain, things only went so wrong for Nick Sakaki.

“Hey, watch the ‘do! Takes me hours to attain that perfect mix of Pattinson-McAvoy bed hair.”

Morena helped Nick out of the heap while I also stood, carefully standing in between Jesper and Lucy. Jesper mimicked my action and stood as well while Lucy just watched us.

After settling Nick on the settee, Morena brought me the backpack, casting a spurious eye at Lucy who’d become perfectly still. She was starting to go into a healing shock, her body shutting down in order to regenerate. I quickly searched the bag and found one of the foil liquid pouches. Dropping the bag, I snapped the straw off and stabbed it into the foil bag.

Lucy greedily grabbed for the pouch and I felt Jesper take a step forward behind me. He could smell it too. Lucy began sucking at the straw like a thirsty kid at recess, the dark red liquid pulsing through the straw into her mouth. Her fangs slipped out from under her tightened lips, a reflex to the liquid coursing into her.

“What is it?” Jesper asked from behind me, a hint of revulsion in his voice.

“Dude, Capri Sun for Vamps!” Nick filled in.

I smiled. “Exactly.” I think these guys were getting the hang of this.

Vampire Practicum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I needed to end this.  Now.

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

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

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

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

And it was frustrating him.  I had to help.

“Lucy!  Stop!  He’s a friend!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Neilza!”

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

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

Class is in Session

Posted in Vampirony with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2010 by vampirony

Whatever expectations I had in seeing Jesper the vampire again, he certainly shattered them.  First, he was exactly on time.  To the dot.  Secondly, he was taller than remembered.  Much taller.  And it unnerved me just as much as his charcoal grey knit turtleneck that his physique seemed to be trying to tear itself out of.

Dumbfounded is I think the exact word to describe me standing in the doorway, staring up and up at him.

“Ah, Miss Quinn, uh Sophie.  I hope I’m not late.”

Shook my head mutely.

“Well, I do like to be punctual.”  Nearly rakish smile suddenly muffled into sheepishness as he laughed.

Nod my head slowly.

“Just a little vampire humor.  Break the ice.”

“Uh-huh.”

Still standing in the doorway, he let his eyes peer in through the halfway opened door I still barred him from entering.   “Look, Sophie, I would like to apologize to Morena personally, although how she would ever agree to see me again, I have no….”

Morena opened the door wide behind me.  I just stared.  He was taller, wasn’t he?  And his hair, was it always so golden?  What color were his eyes, blue, green, I couldn’t quite remember?  His voice….aaaarghhhh!!!  Frustrating, this damn attraction.

“Hello, Jesper, good of you to come,” Morena said, without any such distraction.

“Morena,” he said surprised.  “I know I have a lot of explaining to do…”

She kicked the door wider, “Then come explain it to us.”  She then turned on her heel and heading back to the far wall, cross her arms and leaning a shoulder against it, daring him to enter.

He turned back to me.  “Will you invite me in?”

Our gaze met and suddenly he knew that I knew that invitations aside, any vampire could walk into any home unbidden.  And that awareness prompted the corner of his mouth to turn up.  He was testing and teasing me.

“Oh, come on in.”  I managed, now turning surly from wanting to do something so entirely different with him at this moment.

As he glided by me, he dropped his mouth near my ear and whispered, “Is it right to keep that one to ourselves?”

He was right of course and his reminding me of the reason I had gathered all us together at my office worked like throwing ice water with fire sand on me.  Time to get my head back in the game and go to work.

But before I closed the door behind him, my attention was draw for a moment by a cacophony of birds in the sky:  several starlings overhead were badgering a bald eagle.  Yeah, the national symbol bald eagle.  It was the first one I could remember seeing…in any lifetime.  And it seemed to be quite harangued by the inky black birds.  Whether a dispute over territory or food, the eagle seemed to be moving off to fight another day.

I shut the door behind me and looked over this motley crew.  Morena, leaning against the wall and trying very hard not to look at Jesper.  Nick, sitting on the settee with a laptop, ready to take notes.  Jesper the vampire, who took in every corner of the room before leaning back against my desk.

I walked to the whiteboard we’d put up in the front of the room and took up a marker, just to have something to grip.  “First off, vampires do not require your permission to enter a place.”

Nick sagged, “Oh, really?”  He started typing frantically.  “I was kinda hoping that one was true.”  He threw a spurious look at Jesper but said nothing else.

Jesper folded his arms and revealed more well-defined guns than I’d previously noticed.  Biceps were a failing of mine.  I took the cap off and wrote on the board, stabbing it as I did.  Something was different about him like I hadn’t quite met him before.  It was bugging me that I couldn’t figure it out.

I turned toward him with the question in my throat but paused.  Wouldn’t Morena notice too?  I mean, she’d been with him for longer than I.  I mean, been with him.  A-hum.  I felt my face flush.

“Yes?” he asked since I was staring right at him.

“Would you like to say something before we begin?”

“Um, no.  Let’s just see where this leads.”  His face became suddenly impassive and I could tell the guard was going back up.  His arms tightened, his neck muscles twitched in alert.  So strange how he’d gone from totally relaxed to alert mode.  When I looked back at the others, his eyes did another scan of the room, as if he sensed something.  But nothing was there and he settled his eyes on Morena for a brief moment for returning them back to me.

Senses.  Perfect place to start.

“First off, it is true that vampire senses are sharper than almost any other creature.”

Nick typed and then stopped.  “Wait, there are other kinds of creatures?”  There was an edge of panic there.

Jesper shook his head once.  “You have no idea.”

“Nick.  Focus.”

“Sorry.”  He thought for a moment.  “So what, like, hearing, seeing…smelling?”

“You might want to have a little less mirin in your udon,” Jesper suggested.

Nick didn’t blink.  “Yeah, it was too salty too.  I need to talk to Khang about that…Wait, you can tell I had udon?  That was two days ago!  You shitting me?”

“He can smell it in your skin, your blood,” I explained.

Morena and Nick looked ready to bolt.  I needed to bring this back a piece.  Jesper was a particularly old vampire and very special…in many ways.  Using him as a prime example would just not do, in any regard.

“Not all vampires have senses that…sharp…”

“Or discerning…” he added, causing me to throw him a glare.  He was preening over there, like some high school jock showing off his letterman jacket.

“But these are the basics you need to always remember so you don’t ever try to, well, trick a vampire.  He will be able to sense it.”

“Not to mention the fact it’s just rude,” Jesper added for color.

Morena, who had started biting her lip, looked like she wanted to say something.

“Morena?  A question?”

It drew Jesper’s attention.  She tossed her eyes to him then back at me, uncertain.  “What…what about healing?”

Jesper’s head turned back around but showed his displeasure.  He and I had not yet discussed the vampire attacks I’d suffered and as far as he knew, Morena had not been harmed.  I think the simple fact that he hadn’t approached her sniffing like a guard dog showed that the twins were able to mask their smells and auras quite effectively.

I ignored him.  “Vampires are difficult to injure.  But I don’t want to start there.  That’s not the point of this session.  I know of all this may seem unimaginable, overwhelming, and frightening.  And you need to know what you’ are dealing with.  But not to fight back, not to injure, but to keep yourselves out of those situations.  Most vampires are hard to provoke because using their abilities makes them vulnerable to disclosure and they prefer to stay hidden.”

Morena shook her head violently.

“I know it may be hard to believe but if you don’t walk into their lairs, if you avoid them, if you deal straight-forward with them, like you would a bear or a tiger in their element, you can stay safe.  And that’s what I want.  I want you all to know enough to be able to avoid confrontations.”

Jesper looked even more uncomfortable, his eyes shifting around, but his body was completely still.  I should have known this class would’ve had this reaction on him.  Unsettling to hear yourself described like a wild animal.

Morena and Nick looked unconvinced.  “Ok, some basics.  Let’s cover what vampires can’t do.  There’s actually quite a lot that has been ascribed to them that’s false.  Invisibility, turning into a bat, flight…”

Jesper perked up.

“What?” I asked.

“Oh nothing.  Just…interesting…that last bit.”

Then his lips curled in a smile.  I crossed my arms, annoyed.

“If you’ve got something to add, please, go right ahead.”

“I didn’t say a word.”

“Vampires can’t fly.”

“Yes, you’ve made that abundantly clear.”  I couldn’t put my finger on Jesper’s behavior.  He seemed bemused by my vamp facts, but every so often, he’d obviously stretch out his senses and go still as a statue, as if picking up a threat.  But right now, there was no threat, not exactly.  His eyes were boring into me.  And they were starting to glow.

“Oh, shit.”

He unfolded his arms, dropped his smile and took a step towards me.  “What?”

He was standing facing away from the others, luckily.  When I began to shake my head, my mouth falling open at his eyes changing color, he suddenly was at my side, his arm reaching out for mine, concern all over his face.  I’m sure he meant to lightly grasp my arm to force me to look at him, nothing intended.  But that’s not what the murder of crows that suddenly descended on him thought he intended.

“Get away from her, you basilisk fuck!” Lucy spat as she materialized in mid-kick, wielding a sharpened spear, aiming it right for Jesper’s heart.