Archive for Vampirony

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.”

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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.

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NEW MESSAGE: Is this your guy?

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on April 4, 2011 by vampirony

From: bruno bonne(brunbon@unilu.ch)
Date: Sun, 26 Jul 2009
To: vampironyis@live.com
Attachment
: BeItalian.jpg

Tried to IM you but you’ve been offline all day. So I put one more try out there in the great wide web to see if I could catch anything on this Skovajsa and came up with this strange thing: a male actor/model in 1930’s Italy named Vasa Skoda. He was of Yugoslavian descent, apparently migrated to Italy to do advertisements for the growing interest in travel to the Mediterranean. Apparently, tans were all the fashion.

Someone at Jagiellonian University is trying to do a new history of the House of Vasa, a Swedish/Polish royal house and, well, she found his info and posted it up, trying to find any descendants.

Trippy note here: apparently, one of his few acting roles was an extra in which famous 1931 film? You guessed it, the classic Bram Stoker’s Dracula with Bela Lugosi.

I’ve attached the ad picture. Is this him? Get back to me ASAP!

-bb

Bruno Bonne Kasernenplatz 6 Postfach 74553 6999 Luzern 9 Universitat Luzern

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.